gymIf you ask me, I prefer to actually go to the gym. It allows me to be focused on my workout without being distracted by other things I may need to get done. But having a home gym can be a great option for people who are disciplined enough to workout at home and who have the space for some minimal equipment. I’ve been asked what basics I would recommend in a personal gym by several people just starting to collect workout accessories. Here is what I have come up with:

  • Cardio Equipment – treadmill, elliptical, Stair Master, stationary bike. Choose whatever one you know you will use most. Even if you currently get most of your cardiovascular workout done outside, inclement weather can ruin the best of intentions.
  • Exercise ball – they are inexpensive, accomadating for numerous activities, and can substitute as a bench. Be sure to get the size rated for your height, and keep them away from household claws and teeth (they don’t burst but they can crack and lose air).
  • Yoga mat – whether or not your house has carpet, do you really want to consistently lay your sweaty back on it?
  • Dumbbells – They take space but I find a range of 4 or 5 sets can get you through what you need. Depending on your ability you might start with 3 or 5lbs and include up through 15 or 20lbs. You can also get interchangeable dumbbells. They are more expensive but give you the ability to progress without purchasing heavier sets.
  • Resistance Bands – An easy and inexpensive piece of equipment. They come in different rated strengths and can also be purchased with handles that make them interchangeable.
  • Mirror – One of the most important parts of exercise is doing it right. Even a cheap mirror can help you to see if your form is correct. Your goal should always be to lift evenly and build symmetrically. Tough to do if you can’t see what you are doing.

Expensive equipment is not really necessary when building your own home gym. However, if you are looking for more costly equipment, check out Craigslist or used fitness equipment stores. Many people buy brand new equipment with great intentions but never use it. Some will even give it away for free just to get it out of their house. Of course, every home gym should be tailored to those who use it. But it doesn’t have to be an expensive proposition. Start with a few basic pieces and add as needed. And don’t forget to watch for sales at sporting goods stores around January, when everybody starts a new resolution……

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I used to take it personally when my clients didn’t see their desired results. My first thought was always: “What could I have done different?” There finally came a time when I realized that their success was directly related to their own commitment level. I am just the coach and teacher. They are the ones that must learn and grow.

So when I do have a client that finds success, it is a moment worth celebrating. Having attained some major health and weight loss goals myself, I understand what it takes physically, mentally and emotionally to overcome those obstacles that can keep us down.

May I introduce Megan. Megan is a 30 year old professional that came to me with the eagerness to look good at her own wedding. Megan wasn’t completely out of shape when she asked me to train her, but she wanted to look her best in her wedding dress (as is most every woman’s dream). We made some changes across the board and Megan is very happy with her success. I asked her to answer some questions that might help others who have a quest for change.

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Megan November 2012 when she first started working out again.

 

 

 

1. Q: What made you decide to make a change? What convinced you to hire a trainer?

A: I had been trying to make changes for a long time and follow different routines. I had a hard time following through though. So I decided to hire a trainer for accountability. I wanted someone else to help me stay accountable for doing the hard work.

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May 2013 at Engagement Party

 

 

 

 

2. Q: What would you say was the hardest part and how did you overcome it?

A: The hardest part was getting honest about the shape I was in and feeling so out of shape during workouts. I overcame this obstacle by hiring a trainer because having someone next to me, encouraging me to push myself was a crucial part of my growth. With a trainer next to me, I couldn’t just give up and go home when it got hard and I felt so disappointed in myself.

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September 2013

 

 

 

 

 

3. Q: What are you most proud of? What do you plan to do to keep it up?

A: I am most proud of the changes that have happened in my relationship as a result of my new consciousness about my eating habits and activity level. My husband (that is fun to say :-) ) and I have made changes in our lifestyle as a result of the changes I was making individually. He noticed my progress and started to ask more about what I was doing to make changes. He then started to implement those changes for himself and has lost 30 pounds too! Also, I have been working hard to acknowledge feelings when they start to bubble up and I talk to my husband about them, instead of going to get frozen yogurt to cover up feeling stressed or sad.

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What I appreciate most about training Megan was that she was realistic about her expectations. She realized that exercise alone would not take her directly to her goals. But eating right, strength training, cardio, and finding the right people to support her day in and day out would. Doing the right things consistently will get you exactly where you want to go.

Congratulations to Megan and her new husband. I am so proud that I could be a part of stepping into your new life!

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One of the biggest changes I made in my health transformation was increasing my protein intake. It’s a nutrient that is more important than most people understand. Whether you add a protein shake right after your workout or increase your consumption of meats and other proteins during the day, there are many benefits to add more grams of protein into your diet.

1. TISSUE REPAIR: Proteins are the building blocks of muscle. You need the right ingredients to grow and repair muscle tissue. The amino acids contained in protein are just the component to do that for your body. Even if you are not trying to build more muscle, these are necessary to just maintain what you do have. Protein also help to build skin, nails, hair and cartilage.

2. IMMUNE SYSTEM: Your body needs a certain balance of amino acids to stimulate and maintain your immune system. With even just a 25% reduction in adequate protein intake your immune system can be compromised.

3. VITAMINS & HORMONES: Protein sources can contain vitamins and hormones that aid in your body’s functioning and also in digestion and utilization of other nutrients.

4. SATIETY: Protein metabolizes slowly leaving you feeling fuller longer. Studies have also shown that it helps in suppressing food intake at your next meal.

5. INCREASED METABOLISM: With the increase of muscle comes your body’s need for more fuel. The more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism. While this is not permission to eat whatever you want, it is a benefit of helping your body learn to consume more and utilize its own fat stores as fuel.

While eating too much protein can have the same side effects as eating too much of any nutrient (namely fat storage), many people discount the benefits of protein and instead focus on carbohydrates and fat. Always remember, balance in all things. Take time to educate yourself on your own food consumption and whether or not your diet is truly benefitting your health.

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muscle egg

Eggs are a complete source of protein. But for some, egg whites are a better option. If you’re tired of the flavorless egg whites, there’s another choice: MUSCLE EGG.

Muscle Egg is a pasteurized, flavored egg white that contains no fat and no cholesterol. It comes in Original, Organic, Vanilla, Strawberry, Chocolate, Chocolate Mint, and my favorite Chocolate Caramel. You can also add other flavors to the Original, Organic or Vanilla.

So far I have scrambeled it, cooked it like an omelette (tastes like a crepe) and drank it straight. Because it is pasteurized it is safe to drink like a shake. The nutrition facts are similar for every flavor.

Chocolate Caramel Egg Whites

Ingredients: Pasteurized egg whites Natural Flavors Cocoa (processed with alkali) Xanthan Gum Konjac Gum Sucralose

Nutritional Facts: Serving Size: 1 cup (237mL) Calories: 130 Total Fat: 0g Cholesterol: 0g Sodium: 399mg Total Carbohydrates: 5g Protein: 25g

 

It tastes great, puts a different taste into egg whites, and contains less calories than a whole egg. A gallon runs about $40 plus shipping.

Note: Muscle Egg comes frozen and once thawed, should be consumed within 40 days.

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clock-midnight-webBesides money (which isn’t a good excuse anyway), the number one excuse I hear for people about not getting fit is that they don’t have time. That excuse angers me slightly, as we all have 24 hours a day. It’s how we choose to spend it that makes the difference. So don’t tell yourself that you “don’t have time.” If anything, you should say: “I don’t choose to take the time.” Sounds more appropriate and self accountable right?

I totally get having a busy lifestyle. I have 5 kids, a job, I compete, plus a myriad of other things that moms do. But I also realize that we were only given one body. And unless we take care of it, that body may or may not allow us to do all the things we want to in this life. Let’s think of it this way. If you don’t make yourself a priority, why would anyone else? When you respect yourself and your time, others will do the same.

That being said, I’ve learned that there are things you can do to help make your health a priority. I’m all about being time efficient and learning not to talk yourself out of a trip to the gym. So try these tips:

1. Plan yourself into your schedule. Use a planner and consider your gym time or bike ride (or other physical activity) an appointment. The act of writing it down will make it a legitimate activity. When others try to schedule something in that time slot, you can make them aware you already have an appointment scheduled. Give that time the same importance you would a doctor’s appointment or a work meeting.

2. Be prepared. Bring your workout gear with you. Go right after work or on your lunch break. If you can avoid going home and getting distracted by other activities you are more likely to get a workout in.

3. Find a workout buddy. Whatever activity you enjoy, there will be others who enjoy it as well. If someone is waiting for you, you are much more likely to show up. Plus you each now have a built in cheerleader. It’s always great to know that someone else shares similar goals.

4. Have a plan A and a plan B. Nothing ever goes exactly as planned. From a sick child, to a last minute scheduled work meeting, things can change at the drop of a hat making your originally scheduled workout impossible. Having an alternative plan will help make the frustration dissipate. You might have to change the location or the activity, but you will still feel good about fitting your health in for the day.clock

You are the only one who can make yourself a priority. And don’t believe for a second that you aren’t worth it….YOU ARE! Respect yourself, your time, your life. Be a good example for family and friends. And don’t make excuses. Your body is perishable. What will you choose your shelf life to be?

 

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gym etiquetteBoth new gym goers and veteran’s alike should be up to date on gym etiquette. New comers because they don’t want to seem uneducated about the routine, and those that have had regular attendance…because they should know. Spending about half my daily life at a gym has taught me, however, that more common sense and more attention should be paid at the gym. I frequently see people do the same silly stuff over and over again. And let’s be honest, just because I work there doesn’t mean I should have to clean up after you. I already chose to have 5 kids of my own….

This is by no means a complete list. But look it over and see how well you take care of your duties at the local gym.

1. Wipe down your equipment – Those towels or wet wipes are placed strategically around the gym for a reason. No one wants to touch someone else’s sweat. It doesn’t take that long and I’m sure you appreciate that others clean up after themselves as well. There are already enough germs to go around.

2. Don’t hog the equipment – More than once my blood pressure has gone up beyond acceptable as I wait for the one piece of equipment I really need to finish my workout. 35 minutes later when some jerk is texting and doing his umpteen millionth set on the Smith Machine, I’m ready to throw a dumbbell at his head (not really…..ok yes, really).

And a word to Cross Fitters….nothing against the way you lift, but taking up 5 pieces of equipment at the same time makes it really hard for anyone else to get anything done.

3. PUT YOUR WEIGHTS AWAY – Yes, I’m yelling that. You got it out. Put it away. Why should someone else clean up your mess? Not to mention, it lets people know you’re done with that piece of equipment and they don’t have to guess if someone is still using the bench press.

4. Come prepared for the gym – There is something to be said for wearing appropriate clothing, using deodorant and not coming in primed to compete as Miss America (read full face of makeup – there’s a difference between coming in after work and coming in ready to date).

5. Be kind to the equipment – I realize you pay to use it. But good equipment is expensive and there is a right way and a wrong way to use it. Not having to constantly replace equipment can help your gym afford new equipment as well.

6. Don’t scare people with noise – Some grunting is totally okay. Screaming because you’ve put twice the weight you should have on the Leg Press…is not and it scares other gym goers. Same can be said for dropping the weights. Plus it loosens the nuts on the dumbbells and cracks the metal.

7. Have some common courtesy – Don’t stand directly in front of the dumbbell rack so others can’t grab what they need. Don’t use the Squat Rack to do curls. Don’t stare at others until they get creeped out. Don’t have a half hour conversation on your cell phone. Don’t come in and take up equipment just sitting and talking to your buddy.

Did I cover it all? Maybe, maybe not. But these are the ones I see offended on a daily basis. Sometimes I roll my eyes. Sometimes I actually say something. But as a full fledged adult (yes I checked on that) and consistent gym attender, I feel everyone there has a duty to behave themselves. Enjoy the gym. But let others enjoy it too.

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cravings-home-heroScenario: You walk into a convenience store and your stomach reminds you it’s been awhile since you’ve eaten. You know it’s difficult to make a good decision when A. you’re past hungry and B. you’re in a convenience store. So you wander over to the section that seems to be better than most…the protein bar section. Which bar should you choose? Which one doesn’t taste like chocolate chalk, make you feel heavy and give you the protein and nutrients you need without filling you full of sugar? Most likely none of them. To be honest, you might as well eat a Snickers.

Most protein bars are just glorified candy bars. If you look at the ingredients and the nutrition labels, they are full of sugar and preservatives, not to mention extremely high in calories. While protein bars are not something I believe you should be eating on a daily basis, they do serve a purpose. And I have found one that I think is finally worthy of mentioning.

It’s called a Quest Bar. It comes in flavors from Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough to the newest Raspberry White Chocolate. Each contain between 170-210 Calories for right around 20 grams of protein. While most of the carbohydrates they contain are from nuts (be aware if you have nut allergies), they are gluten free and very low sugar; most containing between 1-3 grams. And all are very high in fiber.

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For a protein bar they taste great, have quite the variety of optional flavors, are one of the healthiest I have found and aren’t slathered in melt-able chocolate. As for price, they are very reasonable. Here are the prices I have paid so far.

Super Supplements: $2.49

GNC: $2.84

Complete Nutrition: $2.99

luckyvitamins.com: $2.15

They are also available from the manufacturer: www.questproteinbar.com for $2.39. Not all stores carry all flavors. You will find the most options online, but obviously need to pay shipping.

I have tried all but a couple flavors. My least favorite was Chocolate Peanut Butter, which was surprising as that is one of my favorite combinations of flavor.

So if you are in need of a quick and easy choice that won’t completely go against your healthy lifestyle, these are a really good choice. Try one and let me know if you don’t agree.

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If you crave sweets as much as I do, you know it’s difficult to stay away from your favorite goodies. And sometimes the call of sugary confections gets to be overwhelming. Here are a few ideas that work for me when I need something to make my sweet tooth happy:

sugar-free-twin-pops1. Sugar Free Twin Pops: Those colorful popsicles from our youth have come back in a healthier style. Although limited in it’s variety of flavors, this 30 calorie treat can help take the edge off a craving and make you feel in full fledged summer mode. Popsicle brand also makes a sugar free option. Beware of the packages that say “No Sugar Added.” That does not mean the product is sugar free.

extra gum2. Sugar Free Gum: I used to think if gum didn’t taste minty, it wasn’t gum. That was before I discovered Extra Dessert Gum. While they discontinued my favorite flavor (Strawberry Shortcake…I even ordered some off Ebay), chewing these treat emulating flavors can help put those taste buds on Cloud 9. I’m not so thrilled with the Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream flavor, but the Lemon Bar and Raspberry Vanilla Cupcake flavors have made it into my bag of tricks.

ghirardelli-midnight-130834-in23. Dark Chocolate: Okay people. Now I’m talking DARK Chocolate. Anything under 68% is not considered dark chocolate in my book. Even 72% is pushing it. The darker the chocolate, the less sugar it contains (be sure to check fat content, less sugar does not mean less fat). I put a bar of 78%-86% dark chocolate in my freezer. One square usually takes away the Chocolate Monster running around in my head. And freezing it requires that I eat it slowly.

strawberry-sf-jello4. Sugar Free Jello: So many flavors to choose from. Easy to make. And it’s inexpensive. From experience, I prefer to make it from a box. The premade product isn’t as satisfying and the texture difference gets to me….

 

 

sf slurpee5. Sugar Free Slurpee: Yes, 7-11 carries a sugar free version! There’s usually only one flavor and, of course, 7-11 is the only place that carries it. And if your 7-11 is like ours…..half the time the machine doesn’t work. But I love having an option for those days I feel like I need an extra treat.

 

Emerald-Cocoa-Almonds-chocolate-fix-under-150-calories-pg-06-full6. Vanilla Almonds: Emerald Nuts makes 100 calorie packs of almonds in several flavors. I prefer the vanilla or the cocoa dusted ones. I am willing to spend a little more on the prepackaged ones so that I don’t overeat out of the bigger jar. Each package contains about 1g of sugar.

Note: Beware of all the 100 calorie snack packages that are full of sugar. Less of the product doesn’t always make it healthy. Most contain gluten as well. If you are trying to stay away from refined sugars and enriched flour, these products should not be on your okay list.

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2413417-weights-dumbells-in-the-gymWhat’s a split? It’s how you break down your workouts for the week in strength training. Ideally you want to work every muscle group every week. So your split may come down to how many days a week you choose to make it into the gym. My split looks like this:

Day 1: Back

Day 2: Quads

Day 3: Arms

Day 4: Hams and Glutes

Day 5: Shoulders

Day 6 & 7: Rest & Recovery

Yes, you will notice I don’t work chest. I don’t currently need a focused chest day. I also do abs every day that I lift.

Your split should be determined by your goals and also how heavy you are lifting. I would not recommend working an upper body muscle set on the same day you do an intense leg workout. Legs require an immense amount of energy during a workout and redirecting blood flow to your upper body after the fact can make you nauseated and decrease the effectiveness of your entire workout. Can also lead to overtraining.

If you need to fit your split into 3 days a week you may organize your split like so:

Day 1: Chest, Shoulders & Triceps

Day 2: Legs (quads, hams & glutes)

Day 3: Back, Biceps & Abs

Also note that a full body routine is not a bad idea. It just requires a different approach. Full body exercising is best done when using light weights and high reps. It keeps your heart rate up and can be good for toning or just for a routine change.

Whatever you choose to do, it should work for your time you have available in the gym and help push you toward your goals. Happy lifting.

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I have proclaimed myself as the queen of getting a good deal. Why not make my dollar stretch further? I have 5 kids. Getting my money’s worth is a priority to me. And with my choice to compete comes an expensive budget that includes a hefty amount for supplements. I take everything from Vitamin C to BCAA’s and protein powder. Last month GNC asked me how much I spend on supplements each year. I don’t even want to repeat the number that it came down to.

Last night I found a website that carries many of the products that I use, in the brands that I use…..at a great discount. It’s called luckyvitamin.com. I hopped on there to find my husband a supplement that several companies stopped making. What I found was a great price on multiple products we use or need. Examples:

BCAA’s by Jarrow Super Supplements: $12.36 luckyvitamin.com $8.86

Quest Bar Super Supplements: $2.59 GNC: $2.84 luckyvitamin $2.15

Blender Bottle blenderbottle.com: $8.99 luckyvitamin $6.99

And of course, since it’s out of state for me, there is no tax and if you spend $49 or more….no shipping. The site was easy to navigate and they ship within 2 business days of your order.

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