How to Stay Healthy While Working Out


Wow, is anyone else still recovering (mentally and physically) from that nasty cold and flu season we just had?  I haven’t been sick since the week after Christmas, but I felt like germs have been surrounding me everywhere I went the past few months!  I saw runny noses and heard people coughing everywhere I went.  And I know a lot of people who are members of the gym I work at ended up missing quite a few workouts due to these resistant germs.  So I thought I’d share with you some ways to stay healthy in a gym atmosphere.

Fuel your body.  Step one is to make sure you are fueling your body, not only with good sources of energy, but also eating a variety of foods to make sure you load up on all of the good nutrients.  And make sure you are fueling your body with plenty of water.  Immunity boosting choices for foods and drinks include garlic, ginger, turmeric, citrus fruits, green veggies, almonds, and green tea and are great foods to add into your diet regularly.  If you keep your body fueled with healthy foods, then when sickness hits, you’ll be better able to fight off the bad!

Use the provided spray.  Your gym should have some kind of sanitizing spray available for you to wipe down your equipment.  If you are unsure, wipe it down before you workout as well as after.  You may want to bring your own mat to classes like yoga or Pilates.  Just be aware of common places where people may place their hands and be sure to wash your hands when you are done.  It’s also nice to wash your hands before your workout as well.

Cover any cuts or broken skin.  This is a pretty good rule in general when going out into public.

Use a clean towel and don’t share it.  This one seems like pretty common sense, but it’s a good reminder.

Bring your own water.  If your gym has a drinking fountain you normally use it may be wise to bring your own water (or two) so you can avoid any accidental germs passing while you are just trying to get a drink.

Make sure your gym is clean and has good ventilation.  There are many reasons why a clean gym should be important to you, but avoiding germs is at the top!  You’ll also want to be sure there is plenty of good ventilation.  Ask if windows can be opened or fans turned on; even if it’s not possible, it’s worth asking!

Disinfect your gym bag regularly.  This is one people tend to skip, but it’s important to keep all those things clean and germ free.  Plus, do you really want to carry around a bag that stinks of sweat and dirty feet?

Avoid touching your face.  Use a towel to wipe sweat away, but try to avoid placing your hands on the floor or equipment and then directly on your face.

If you are already sick try to avoid class settings where you’ll be packed in tightly with others.  Be kind and give others space and be sure to really clean your area when you are finished.  Even if the doctor has cleared you as no longer contagious, others don’t know that and may get a little freaked out.  If you are still contagious and spreading germs, skip the gym and rest!

Stay healthy my friends!

Fitness, Food and Nutrition

Plant Nanny: An App Review

Lately I’ve been on a kick of downloading and trying a variety of health and fitness apps. Some I download and delete almost immediately, others I keep for a while before deleting and some I’ve kept for quite a while and don’t plan on deleting. Plant Nanny is one I plan to keep!

The basic idea of Plant Nanny is to water a plant by tracking the water you drink throughout the day. You can set your amounts as well as notifications to remind you to drink. You also get to pick the plant and as you grown your garden you can “buy” cute pots or special plants with the seeds you harvest.

For me, I am set at drinking six 15oz bottles of water a day. This actually puts me slightly over what I personally need, but it still works. So each time I finish my water bottle I “water” my plant. If I have a day where I don’t drink much (or forget to check in on the app) my plant will get dry and eventually die.

At first I thought this was a perfect idea to help people keep track of how much water they drink daily and encourage them to drink enough. The more I used it, the cheesier it felt, BUT I kept using it! It’s easy for me to say I get 80-90oz of water daily, but if I don’t keep track I guarantee I won’t get close. So even while I feel the general concept is still pretty cheesy, it works for me.

Review Breakdown:

Ease of use: 10/10

Reminders/prompts: 10/10

Look/feel: 9/10

Overall: 9.5/10

Fitness, Life and Happiness

The Mental Aspect of Weight Loss

Wow, I can’t believe it’s already 2018. There’s so much that happened in 2017, both personally and in the world. One of the biggest things is that I’m going through some medical stuff- nothing major, but a side effect is possible weight gain so I’ve tried to be on top of my workouts and diet. In December I wanted to lose the 2 lbs I’d gained since starting the treatment. That was my months goal. But December came and went and my weight remained the same. At first I felt upset with myself for not being able to drop those 2 pounds, but I stopped and took a second to think about why.

The very first thing I realized is that I was feeling a little down. I was worn out mentally and even when I was doing my workouts or eating fresh, my mind wasn’t completely there. I wasn’t as driven or as excited. It became easier to slack off in my workouts, to snack on some cookies late at night. On top of it all I caught that nasty bug which kept me out of work one day, so I was stressed trying to catch up on everything while still resting enough to get better.

So, even though I still want to lose those extra couple of pounds (I realize it’s a small number and I shouldn’t obsess, but I’d still like to work on it), that’s not my goal for January. Instead I’m focusing on my mental health. I’m checking in with myself regularly, eliminating sources of stress, letting go what I can, and taking some time for myself. Because here’s the thing- I know the weight loss will come, but it’s going to be a heck of a lot harder if I’m not in a good place mentally.

I hope 2018 brings everyone a happier and healthier life, both mentally and physically!


3 Vital Pieces of Equipment for Your Workout Bag

Here are the three, most important things I have in my workout bag. Are you ready for this? Seriously this is ground-breaking.

1. Clothes

2. Shoes

3. Socks

Ok, but really what are the three absolute most important things to keep in you bag?

Why don’t we twist that question just slightly and you’ll get your answer: “What three things that if I didn’t have them would stop me from working out?”

There you go, there’s your answer.

To be absolutely fair, my real list looks more like this:

1. Clothes. Most days I pack a bag and bring it to work with me. I wear nice, business clothes to work and if I forgot my workout clothes there’s a good chance I’d just go home.

2. Hair tie. Some people can manage it, but there’s no way I could do a solid workout without pulling my hair back. Luckily for me the gym I work at had a stash of hair ties just for this reason.

3. My phone/a book/something to distract me. As much as I enjoy working out, I’d get pretty bored without something to distract me- music, a tv show, a book (during cardio), etc. I could probably workout for a little while, but no way I’d get a full workout in unless I was super motivated and focused that day.

So here’s the moral. Yes there are absolutely important things to keep in your workout bag (I mean have you ever worked out without socks!), but everyone’s needs are going to be different. Some people have to have their headphones, others won’t even think of working out without a change of clothes for after. Whatever your needs are, make sure your workout bag meets them, otherwise it’s just too easy to say “oh I don’t have ______, guess I can’t workout today.”


When to Sweat

A question I hear quite a bit is when is the best time to exercise.  People want to know what time of day they will get the best results from their efforts.  Great news- this is a pretty basic topic. Are you ready for the simple answer??

Whenever you have the most energy. Simple as that. I’m not going to tell you that if you want to gain more muscle you should work out at a different time then if you want to lose weight. I’m just saying that you should take advantage of when your body naturally feels the most energized. For me the ideal time is between 9 and 11am. I like to be fairly lazy in the early mornings, but start to lose energy (very slowly) after about noon.

Now here’s the problem. I work Monday through Friday during my optimum energy. That’s great for work, but it also means most of the time I end up having to workout between 5 and 7pm. That’s not my lowest energy part of the day, but it’s still not my highest. But when I’m working out on Saturdays, Sundays and even holidays I make a point to be in the gym by 9:30am.

So, while figuring out the best time for you to exercise may be simple, making that time actually work for you might not be. What do you do? You find the best alternative. Here are a few things to consider:

1. When your body is the most naturally energized (duh, I already said that).

2. When are you least likely to succumb to excuses?  Some people like to workout in the morning, before their brains can even tell them no. Others like their lunch hour or right after work. So the question is are you willing to wake up early or will you just hit the snooze button most mornings? Are you going to eat your lunch at your desk and head to the gym on your lunch hour or will you blow it off? Will you run after work or will you decide you had a hard day at the office and should just go home and drink some wine? Pick the time you’ll go the most!

3. Your schedule. Now obviously you have to consider work, school, kids, etc. when you decide when to workout. You can’t just tell your boss “I’m going to come in everyday at noon, because I have to workout mid-morning.” I mean unless your boss is ok with that, in which case let me know and I’ll send a resume. But seriously, we all have tons of things scheduled into our lives already and while working out should be a priority, it can’t always be #1.

4. Your workout schedule. So now that you have a rough idea of what days and time work, it’s time to actually tackle your workout plan. What are your goals? What do you like? If you like taking fitness classes start there. Find a gym or facility that offers classes that work with your schedule. That may fill your schedule fine, or maybe you’ll need to supplement with your own workouts. How many days a week do you want to workout? When are your rest days? For me, my goal is 5 days a week and I try to workout Monday-Thursday and I pick either Friday, Saturday or Sunday for my 5th workout. This also gives me flexibility, like on the first Tuesday of the month when book club meets I have that as my rest day and I workout twice on the weekend. 

Just like with everything else I seem to talk about, when to exercise is very individualistic. You may be different then your partner or you work friend and that’s ok. You just have to take advantage of what works for you, otherwise life and excuses will get in the way of your goals.

Fitness, Food and Nutrition

Inspiration Cycling 

Health and wellness can be exhilarating, but it can also be exhausting. One week (or day) you’re feeling on top of the word- your sleep is on point, you have energy to take care of literally everything you need done, you love the way your clothes fit and people notice. But then suddenly you get a couple of nights of bad sleep, you skip a workout (or two), you eat a “cheat meal” (or five), you find yourself wanting a nap at 10am and you just don’t feel like you’re making any progress.

I get it! It’s so easy to fall off track and once you’re off, your couch sounds way more appealing than 60 minutes at the gym. For me inspiration comes in cycles. I get things rolling, get my workouts on track, start watching what I eat, commit to my bedtime routine and I’m unstoppable! I start to feel great, I notice small changes in my body, I gain confidence.

But every time something gets in my way, breaks the cycle and throws me off track.  For example, at the beginning of 2017 I lost 3 lbs. of my extra 7-8 that I had gained from stress eating in November and December. I was pumped! I was working out 7 hours a week, keeping an eye on the foods I was eating and it was exciting. The three pounds came off fairly easily and I had no reservations about losing the last five.  But then I picked up an extra shift at work… my work week jumped from 50ish hours to 56+ and suddenly I had to rethink my schedule. The added night of work made me exhausted the rest of the week and by the time the weekends came around I didn’t have the energy to make up any missed gym hours. I hit a bump and I let things get out of control.

After a few weeks of skipping workouts and indulging in too many burgers I vowed to get back on track. And I did… for a while. But then one week I had to cover some extra shifts and I skipped more workouts. I stopped checking my measurements because they were always disappointing. I spent my Saturdays sleeping in instead of hitting the gym. I fell into an uninspired cycle and no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t find that one thing to bring my passion back. I let things ride for a little, tried to take the stress off.

And then suddenly, one day I felt like running instead of being lazy on the elliptical (and by lazy I mean low resistance and slow pace). I ran two miles and felt great! I came back to the gym after teaching and worked out for another 30 minutes. I went home and ate an awesome high-protein chicken salad I made and crawled into bed before 9pm. I was back.

Until I got the flu. I was home sick from work for a full day so when I came back I had 9 hours of work to make up. Plus, I had zero energy! That evening I forced myself to ride 30 minutes on the recumbent bike, but even that was hard for me to finish. This flu was no joke. Even though I was only “sick” for 24 hours I couldn’t eat more than 900 calories for almost a full week! My stomach was in knots and all I wanted to do was lay down. I forced myself to eat nutrient and calorie dense foods (think avocado) and rest when I could, but I also kept workout out. I modified greatly, and couldn’t workout for more than 30 minutes, but I knew if I let the routine lapse it would be worse.

So now I’m three weeks removed from the flu and this Monday was my first day feeling inspired again. I look back on the past four and a half months and I’m proud that I still see progress and that I learned from each stumble (like how many hours of work I can realistically handle). Was I perfect- no. Did I stick with it- ultimately, yes.

I see so many people come through the doors of this gym and they usually come in with high inspiration and big goals. Every single one of them stumble at some point, but at least half of them push through and find that inspiration again.  The great thing is that the more you feel that inspiration and passion the easier it is to get it back. You remember and crave that feeling so when it does come back you take full advantage. We’re humans and life can throw us some crazy curveballs, but we know what we like and we like what feels good. It feels good to be inspired, it feels good to be healthy, it feels good to like the way our body looks.  

Just remember, whether you are in an inspriation cycle or not, you are still important. You are not a failure. You can still change things. Don’t ever give up!

Fitness, Food and Nutrition

Getting Back on Track

This weekend, after working so hard on focusing on me and my health, I went a little crazy.  I had a good friend in town for a few days, and while we spent one day exploring the waterfalls of Yosemite, most of our activity was based around food.  There were ice cream sundaes, treats, chips, beer, and more food than I tend to eat.  Don’t get me wrong, I had the opportunity to say no at times, but more often than not, I chose to indulge.

Now it is Tuesday and I am feeling sluggish and tired.  My whole body feels “salty” and I know that it’s time to get back on track.  Sometime life throws us a curve ball and we find ourselves making choices we know we shouldn’t normally make.  This can be okay if we limit these choices.  Be warned- the more poor choices you make, the harder it will be to get back on track.

Here is a quick list of tasks I will be working on to realign myself and bring my health back to the front.

  1. Drink water!  I know that I did not consume as much water as I normally consume, but I don’t think there was every a day a fell below 64 oz.  I know that I need to replenish and cleanse my body and the easiest way to do that is water!
  2. Plan.  I am a big planner.  I like to lay my week out in front of me to be sure I get everything done I want to get done.  This week I will be focusing on when I can get my workouts in as well as planning food daily.  I rarely plan my food intensely, instead I choose to think carefully about each meal choice before I make/buy/consume it.  For example, after eating yesterday’s lunch (delicious) I made the conscious effort to adjust my dinner intake and boost veggies while limiting fat and sodium (which my lunch had been a little high in).
  3. Grocery shop.  My house is a little bare, as I just spent a week house-sitting, followed by moving homes and then a visitor.  I don’t have my usual food choices readily available and that needs to change.
  4. Take some me time.  This is the biggest one for me.  I tend to overwhelm myself by packing my weeks full, making it hard to focus on me in any way.  I have a busy week  and I need to remember not to wear myself out!  In my planning I will include at least 15 minutes of some real, solid me time (meditation, reading, playing with the dog outside, etc.).

Focusing on these four things will help me start to refocus.  The biggest problem I see with people trying to get back on track is they tend to do all or nothing.  After a weekend of overindulgence they limit themselves to salads and water and commit to working out every day of the week.  This creates dramatic ups and downs in their health.  Sometimes we need to slowly get back on track, and often in doing this we end up getting there faster than we expected!


Fitness, Food and Nutrition

Sports Drinks: Performance Enhancing or Damaging?

Over the past few years my experience with student-athletes has expanded (primarily high school aged, but also younger).  These individuals can be so complex your begin to lose your mind.  At this age they are still growing and need vital nutrients to support their growth.  They are also facing body-type issues and stereotypes that can damage them both mentally and physically; and with their hormones they begin to focus their attention on others and how others perceive them.  As they reach high school specifically, they begin to experience new independence as well as rebellious tendencies.  Add on to these normal teenage health concerns pressure both physically and mentally of sports and you can see how things can get confusing!  I have found the best way to address this group is to focus on one topic at a time, and quite possibly the most popular is sports drinks.

**To be clear this will focus on sports drinks (Gatorade, Powerade, etc.) not protein shakes.  That is a whole different can of worms.**

Sports drinks were originally made to help athletes replenish both water and vital electrolytes lost during extreme physical activity.  The idea being that high level athletes are losing so much sweat (water + electrolytes) that it can be hard to replenish these nutrients quickly using food and water.  They combined these items into a beverage form making them easier to consume (especially during activity).

Well, that all sound great, but in the process of creating a tasty and efficient beverage, those who make sports drinks added in some items that are not as beneficial as the water and electrolytes.  First off, many sports drinks are loaded with sugar.  While this can be a beneficial boost for athletes who are depleting their carbohydrate stores and need added energy, the amount of sugar is often excessive and definitely unnecessary for those who are not high level athletes or exercisers.  Even the initial boost of energy provided by the sugar will end quickly, due to the fast metabolism of the sugar, ending in low energy and blood sugar.  Excessive amounts of sports drinks, prior to competition can be equally as dangerous because the extra sugar can cause the body a struggle with blood sugar that could result in loss of consciousness among other things (scary!).

Also, many of the well known brands do not contain enough electrolytes to really balance the body out.  They may contain plenty of sodium, but not enough potassium.  The build up of sodium can put stress on the kidneys and ultimately result in kidney stones.  Sodium and potassium work together in the body so when they are out of balance they aren’t as efficient.  Excess sodium and limited potassium will not help the body function after a sweaty competition.

Citric Acid can be another concern, especially if someone is consuming sports drinks regularly.  The acid can wear down the enamel of teeth.  Think of people who drink sports drinks regularly, add in other sources of acid in the diet and you can see how the damage can add up.  Especially if those consuming the beverage are children, who are already at a high risk for tooth decay.

Not all sports drinks are bad for you!  In fact, there are many brands out there working hard to provide a quality beverage choice.  My biggest point here is that if you are inactive, a causal exerciser, or even a regular exerciser you DO NOT NEED sports drinks.  Maybe if you take a HIIT class outside in the heat of the summer you will need one of these drinks to quickly replenish you, but that’s not an everyday event.  Think of football players who practice in full pads, twice a day, followed by weight lifting, in the summer… are you sweating like they are?  Are you fighting a fire, in the forest, with complete gear plus extra packed on your back, in 90+ degree weather?  There are cases where instant hydration is necessary, and I recommend to those in these situations to choose their sports drinks carefully, but these are not regular cases.

It comes down to what I always say- focus on real foods!  This means real drinks as well.  No artificial color or flavors!  Think about what you are putting in your body.  What is your goal with this food/drink?  What is it supposed to do?  Do you need it?  What are the benefits?  Consequences?

Pay attention to what goes in your body and your body will thank you!




Social Support: How You Can Use the People in Your Life to Benefit Your Health Goals

Social support is often the least talked about component of health, specifically for those who are trying to lose weight.  Sure we talk about workout buddies or accountability partners, but when we get down to the nitty gritty social support can be the one thing truly holding you back from your goals.

Let’s start by talking about what social support looks like.  The first level of social support you want to consider is made up of those people who are around you the most and are the most important to you.  Think family first.  Your spouse, partner, children.  Roommates/housemates can often be included if you spend a significant amount of time together.  These are the people we surround ourselves with daily and whom we love (or at least really like).  This is often the hardest social support level to deal with as a health professional because we aren’t going to tell you to get a divorce or kick your kids out of the house just because they don’t provide the best social support.  The next level includes friends and co-workers, otherwise known as the people you see regularly for significant periods of time.  You may not see them everyday, but you see them or interact with them at least 4 days of the week.  These can be a little easier to deal with, but still pose issues when they provide poor social support.  Finally, you have to consider those around you that maybe you see less often, but have an impact on your health.  For example, a monthly hiking group, Weight Watchers meeting group, or maybe you have a group of couples who go out every Friday night for dinner and drinks.  These people have an impact on your health, good or bad, and can often be called upon for social support.

As I mentioned above, just because someone does not provide social support does not mean you have to kick them out of your life, however you should take note of where your best and worst social support comes from.  Try answering some of these questions:

Do the people you spend each day with (think at work, home, etc.) follow healthy lifestyle habits like exercise, healthy food choices, etc.?

Does your spouse or partner follow healthy lifestyle habits?

Do the people you live with often bring home foods that are considered healthy or good for you?  Do the people you live with often bring home foods that you purposefully try to avoid consuming?

Do the people you live with or work with plan activities that support your health goals?  Do the people you live with or work with plan activities that interfere with your health goals?

When you want to workout or go for a walk or hike, is it easy to find someone to join you?

At work, do your coworkers often bring in treats like cookies and donuts or have dishes of candy available?  Do your coworkers often bring in health food choices to share like fruits or vegetables?

When you go out to eat with others do you choose a “healthy” restaurant?  When you go out to eat do the people you go with order health foods?

Are you a member of any clubs, groups, or teams that meet regularly for sometime of physical activity (think hiking, recreational sports teams, etc.)?  This does not include membership to gyms/health clubs.

Are you currently an *active* member of any gyms or health clubs (include gyms, Jazzercise, yoga, etc.)?

When you talk about your health, fitness, and general wellness goals how do the people around you respond?  Do they share information with you or offer emotional support?  Do they talk negatively about their experience with lifestyle changes?  Do they even acknowledge your decisions?

Now looking back at these questions can you pinpoint your strongest supporters?  You should focus on increasing interactions with those individuals when you are trying to make lifestyle changes.  If you do this, you won’t have to consciously avoid situations that provide poor social support because either you just won’t have the time or you’ll feel strong enough to ignore the poor support.  The best thing you can do for yourself is to surround yourself with people who support and inspire you regardless of your goals.  This will make any change in your journey easier.

Good Luck!


The Lactic Acid Myth and How to Reduce Post-Workout Soreness

Lactic acid is used in many biochemical processes in the body, but it’s commonly known for making you feel sore.  I remember in elementary school hearing that my muscles where sore due to the lactic acid build up from overuse.  I’m sure many of you have heard the same thing.  Is this true?  Most scientists have decided that it’s not lactic acid causing your muscle soreness.

Lactic acid is produced from pyruvate during metabolism and exercise.  The concentration only builds when the rate lactic acid production is higher than the rate it is being removed.  During power exercises, when demand for energy is fast and high, lactate is produced at a faster rate than it can be removed.  To simplify?  When you are working out so hard that you can’t get enough oxygen into your system, lactic acid builds up.  This lactic acid build up does give you that burning sensation in your muscles, but it is completely removed from your muscles 30-60 minutes after your workout.  Since you don’t feel that soreness in those 30-60 minutes lactic acid can’t be the culprit.

A more popular theory for your sore muscles is “microtrauma”.  This is the idea that you overworked your muscles, causing damage to the fibers.  As time goes on, the damaged muscles become inflamed and they release chemical irritants which can bother your pain receptors.  In addition, this inflammation swells the muscle tissues, adding pressure to the pain receptors as well.  It’s like a double-whammy to your muscles.

Whenever I’m sore I have to remind myself to keep my muscles moving.  I usually go for a walk or a leisurely bike ride to “work out the soreness”.  This movement has been shown to restore your muscles to their natural state, but don’t try overworking them again, since they are still recovering from the damage.  Some people use anti-inflammatory medications, stretching, sports balms, or hot tubs/saunas to alleviate the soreness, but your best options comes from prevention.  Make sure you warm up properly and stretch your muscles before a workout to prepare them for the activity you are about to do.  Also, gradually increase your muscle strength and endurance to keep from getting as sore.  And finally, a go to for me, stay hydrated during and after your workout.  Keep your muscles and body replenished and you likely won’t feel as much irritation after a workout.