Arms for Days

Happy August! I’m happy to say I wrote a blog post for every week day throughout the month of July. I’m back and trying to be as consistent as possible. And now…

Have 20 minutes and a pair of dumbbells? You can crush this arm workout.

Many clients come in complaining about their arms, particularly the underbelly. Some of this loosens with age, or in my case, weight loss (from being stretched for so long), but it is not impossible to tighten up everything.

When I say arms, we aim to target the biceps, triceps, and shoulders. Chest and back would still be considered upper body, but I will provide a nice push/pull workout another day.

Here is a quick routine to follow to get the arms you desire:

Front & Lateral Raises

Yes, perform both in sequence. Enjoy the burning sensation in your shoulders.

Plank Shoulder Taps

Holding a plank is hard, now add some movement. To keep too much pressure off your shoulders, lean back into your heels, keeping your hips down. Trying hard not to rock your body, lift one hand to the opposite shoulder, alternating.

Hammer Curls to Shoulder Presses

The trick with any form of bicep curls is to keep your arms close to your body and keep everything still, except for the forearms. Don’t rock your body back and forth. If you do, the weight is too heavy and not hitting the intended target.

High Curls

I enjoy this exercise because I can see the muscles pulsing as they get to work. Also hits those shoulders for the double whammy.

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Tricep Extensions

Again, keep everything steady except for the forearms. Elbows nice and tight, as well.

Tricep Pushbacks

Bend the knees, drop your hips and butt to maintain a nice, flat back, and slowly press your arms behind you as far as you can while still keeping proper technique. Do not swing your arms, it won’t be as effective.

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If you have a lighter pair of dumbbells, 5 pounds each for example, perform each exercise in 3 sets of 15 repetitions. Rest for 30 seconds per set before moving onto the next, OR perform circuit style and rest for 1 minute after each set.

If you have a heavier pair of dumbbells- and I would encourage you not to be afraid of lifting heavy weights- try 3 sets of 10 repetitions each.

Don’t forget that leg day will follow….

The “Cheat Meal”

Another week, another 2 pounds down. Feeling strong!

One thing to keep in mind about Weight Watchers or healthy eating in general, is that it’s not so much a temporary fix. I know people like quick fixes to lose weight fast, but sustainable weight loss requires a lifetime of choices.

This weekend, I went to the beach with family and had an indulgent meal followed by an ice cream. I don’t eat that way every day, but once a week makes a big difference in my perspective.

Eating real food with few fake or shady ingredients is important, but if you enjoy something, it should never be off limits. You just have to learn how to eat them in moderation. Easier said then done, but do something long enough, it does become habit.

Just like I need a rest day once a week, I also need a meal or two where I’m not counting calories or points, or wondering the ratio between carbs, proteins, and fats. Sometimes that meal turns into a week of meals, but know it’s never too late to return to healthier ways. Being super restrictive leads to resentment, which blocks success.

I don’t know if we should label anything the “cheat meal” because ice cream for me is just as important to my diet as baby spinach. I eat a lot more baby spinach per week, but it keeps me determined and successful. Referring to something as cheating provides further negative connotation to food, which our society does not need. We need to stop shaming people based on their habits, but try to promote better habits. Eating, for me at least, is an enjoyable part of life, whether it’s breakfast in the middle of a hectic morning or Thanksgiving dinner. I enjoy it now more than I did when I was obese and eating a lot more. Part of that is I’ve come to like cooking, but another part of it is coming to accept the fact that we need food to live.

I’m not a proponent of many diets, fasts, or cleanses (although different things work for different people). Learning to eat real food most of the time just has better lasting effects and makes you feel better inside, which is most important.

Keep being you!

Perfect Summer Weekend

Hi! I hope the weekend was glorious! We had great weather all the way through, even though rain was threatening on Saturday.

After work on Friday, I fit in a sweaty total body workout with a little dose of cardio at the end. When I got home, my sister and her family came over to hang outside and I got some quality auntie time.

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I was woken early and abruptly on Saturday by a cat who was ready to seize the day, but once I set him loose, I fell back asleep until almost 10am. I guess I needed my rest!

When I was up for good, I started the day with two poached eggs on a whole wheat toast and a big bowl of watermelon.

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As I digested and hydrated, I watched an episode of Safe on Netflix. I started it on Thursday and was dismayed that I only had time to watch one episode. I was hooked from the start!

I tore myself away from the screen long enough to crush a 3.1 mile run. It was super hot, but my usual trail is shadowy and there was a nice breeze to guide me through. My legs felt strong!

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Upon my arrival home, I jumped in the pool to cool down- much needed- and dived into this Greek salad with chicken. Perfect fuel to re-energize. It looks a little bland because of the blanket of dressing, but I promise there was a load of veggies underneath, including baby spinach, bell peppers, carrots, cucumber, and tomato!

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My mom and I went grocery shopping in the afternoon to prepare for the week- lots of healthy choices! On Weight Watchers, it’s good to mix things up so we don’t get sick of certain foods and turn to less than great options.

I settled down to finish Safe- there were only eight episodes- and was sad, but satisfied when it ended. I sort of predicted the ending by the penultimate episode, but I wasn’t disappointed.

For dinner, I grilled up some shrimp in blackening seasoning, lime juice, teriyaki sauce, and sriracha and they were so good! I threw them atop two corn tortillas with bell peppers, broccoli slaw, and a dollop of sour cream mixed with the same ingredients as the shrimp. Note to remind myself to do this more often, maybe with Greek yogurt! Such a little detail added so much flavor to my meal! I also had a few chips to round out my meal.

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I assume this meal would pair well with cold beer or a tequila beverage of some sort, but I was saving my extra calories for some Saturday night ice cream! What can I say, your girl’s got a sweet tooth.

The rest of the night, I watched the Red Sox and played hard with my main dude. He’s been very busy lately and is constantly on the prowl. Of course, I mean the Sim-dude.

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On Sunday, I was up early to hit the beach! We got breakfast to start off the day. Two eggs over easy with whole wheat toast and a big bowl of fruit. My mom shared a slice of bacon with me too.

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My favorite part about the beach is going in the water. It was chilly, but the waves enticing, and we stayed in for quite awhile twice.

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I think that’s actually a person’s Shoulder and not my thumb. And no visit to the beach is complete without some ice cream. It’s all part of healthy living!

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Food for Friday

It’s Friday and it’s time for the Friday Food Round-up! How are you feeling? Eat well this week? Sleep enough? Fit in some exercise? Hopefully all those answers are yes, and now we get to enjoy the weekend!

Breakfast

I made bagels from Skinnytaste that were 3 points on Weight Watchers! 3! The base is Greek yogurt and though my mom didn’t love the texture, I thought they were tasty. I dipped the first one in some peanut butter.

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Because the way I assembled them were too thin to cut, I dipped them into two over-easy eggs.

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I need simple and satisfying breakfasts at work, so I’ve been on a huge peanut butter stuffed pita kick as of late. With banana or other fruits is particularly delicious.

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Sometimes a girl just wants some eggs and toast.

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Lunch

I started off the week with a huge salad full of fresh veggies, grilled chicken, and some nuts for crunch.

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One day I stuck with leftovers for lunch, but the next day, I made this tuna salad with greek yogurt and mustard. Red bell peppers, carrots, and celery rounded out the dish.

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Since I work late Thursdays, I made a significant lunch of whole wheat pasta, grilled shrimp, and veggies.
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Dinner

The first dinner of the week was this blackened salmon dish with spinach rice, roasted bell peppers, and broccoli.

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Blackened scallops on a bed of spinach, peppers, carrots, and nuts.

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Chicken cacciatore with whole wheat pasta, bell peppers, and asparagus.

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A beautiful salad with veggies and grilled chicken.

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Have a spectacular weekend!

Guest Post: Cait

If you read yesterday’s post, you’ll know I like to refer to myself as a runner, but my friend Cait is an actual, competitive, marathon runner. She inspires me to hit the pavement and keep going, even when my body disagrees and was kind enough to answer some questions about running and her passion for fitness with us.

Thanks, Cait!

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Can you give us some background as to why and how you started running?

When I was about 5 years old I started running the Town day road races with my family.  Soon after that it became a hobby that me and my dad did together.  We would do weekend runs together and Christmas morning was always a fun run.  Next I started my first team in elementary school, and the rest is history.

Why running?
Running is the easiest way to get a quick workout in and you only sneakers and an outfit, and if you need a watch.  Other than that its simple, you just go out your door and explore.
How do you prepare for runs? Whether it’s race day or just a casual jaunt?
Race day and a casual run are completely different preparations for me.  A causal run I just get dressed and go out my door. But a race preparation starts really when the entire training starts, hydration, nutrition and sleep. Typical day of prep would include a bagel with cream cheese a coffee and apple juice, and depending time 2 hours before I run I would have a power bar and some water. I additionally 1 hour before race time will start to stretch and warm up.
What have been your greatest achievements with running?
My greatest achievement would be finishing the Boston marathon, or should I say swimming! (A/N: It was pouring the day of the marathon this year!)
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What was running the marathon like, both physically and mentally?
Besides training your body to run for 4 hours, the hardest part was getting over the fact that you are in pain and you are tired.  If running a marathon was easy, everybody would do it.  It takes mental and physical strength that will push you past your limits, and you truly find out what your body is capable of.
Are there any negatives or downsides to running you’ve felt over the years?
I ran competitively for 12 years so there are deff some negatives.  Injury’s will pop up but you can bounce back, the biggest challenge i have faced would have to be the mental burn out. Over training is a common you can experience mental fatigue.
How was it being a collegiate athlete?
Being a collegiate is something I am so happy I was able to do.  I loved being able to compete and miss being able to toe the line and feel the adrenaline pumping.  I wish I could do it all over again.
How have you made the transition from collegiate athlete to casual runner (if you can call it that)?
Transitioning from a collegiate runner to a casual runner was a weird experience.  I didn’t know when to start running again after my break and so I ended up just starting to sign up for 5K’s and half marathons and then some how I got a number and ran the Boston Marathon.
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Any suggestions and advice to offer those who are looking to get into or improve their running?
One thing I would say is to be proud of yourself for getting out there, it is an amazing feeling when you suddenly feel yourself getting better. It is also a great stress reliever so that is a plus.

Love Letter to Exercise

It was the summer before my senior year of college and I had no idea what to pursue in my professional life, but I knew I did not want to present myself to the world in my current condition. I was obese, self-conscious, and overwhelmed. Rather than sink further into this black hole, I decided to pull myself out of it.

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After work, every afternoon, I put in 15 minutes on the clunky elliptical we had in the basement. I blasted music and endured it. As the days and weeks passed, I started putting on episodes of favorite shows, like Friends and Golden Girls, and worked until the end. It wasn’t long before I realized how much I enjoyed the effort, the slick sweat and short of breath feelings grew addictive.

I could go for an hour, playing with speeds and intensities. I was losing weight and I felt good about myself for the first time ever. I was in complete control, pushing my body to limits I thought I would forever detest. My body craved more. After my elliptical session, I would do sets of jumping jacks and started lifting the light weights we had lounging around. By the end of the summer, I was more determined than I had ever been in my life and I knew I would keep going once I was back in school.

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At my college, there were two gyms- one in the main building of campus and the other in the basement of a dorm. I loved both, they became safe spaces of comfort. Lifting weights awakened my body in new ways. I’d feel sore the next day, but it was a result of achievement rather than a painful deterrent. I had no knowledge about how to lift weights, no idea what exercise worked what muscle group, I just tried what I saw other people in the gym doing, or what I read about online.

In these days, I racked up one-two hours every day at the gym. It’s not what I recommend for everyone, nor something that is doable for busy people, but it was my saving grace. Gone was the anxious girl who ate her emotions. I found my strength.

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February of that year, I decided to tackle the treadmill. Growing up, I loved playing sports, but I hated to run. I started at 30 minutes, walking for 4 minutes and running for 1 minute in 5 minute increments. By Red Sox opening day that year, I took my runs to the outdoor track down the street and was running 3-4 miles at a time. I was a runner- and that is not something I offer lightly. To this day, I am not quick or smooth or a model of running perfection by any means, but I can run for miles and I will never forget what that means to the girl in the summer of 2011.

By graduation, approximately one year later, I was 100 pounds down, exercising six days a week and maintaining much healthier (and happier) eating habits. I was sad to be leaving school, but I was excited to see what the future held. That is not to say that I didn’t struggle after. I’m still confused as to what to do in my professional life in many ways, but that is the product of living.

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But this journey that I continue on, allowed me to be okay with putting myself out into the world, to experience and experiment. I tried several different jobs and trusted my instincts enough to walk away from something that wasn’t right for me. I studied to become a personal trainer and help others who struggle like me or just need a little guidance and push. I moved to Los Angeles to pursue my dreams and listened to my heart when I knew it was time to come home to my family.

My life is not perfect. I am not perfect. I eat too much, I have a lazy exercise day or choose to gasp- take two days off from the gym sometimes- but mostly, I’ve maintained these healthy habits. Eating is a large part of losing weight and maintaining a healthy life, but exercise was my gateway. Without it, I would not have the strength to endure, two of my favorite words.

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Exercise is my time. No matter what, I will always have that hour in my day that I take for myself. It doesn’t have to be a full hour, it doesn’t have to be a perfect mixture of cardio and strength training, and it doesn’t always have to be crushing and exhausting.

Embrace the messiness of fitness- the sweat, the confusion, the pain, the results. It does wondrous things for the body, physically and mentally.

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WW Problem: Going Out to Eat

In my second week of Weight Watchers, I’m down 1 pound.

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I knew I wasn’t going to lose another 6 pounds because that would be a lot after one week of changes. This is more consistent with what a person should aim to lose weekly. Also, I indulged in some pizza and Chinese food this weekend, not a weight loss winning combination, however delicious.

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My workouts have been consistent. I stick to a six-day plan, 3 days of strength training with harder, shorter bursts of cardio like jump roping and spinning, with 3 days of running.

I’m trying to be better about cooking at home on the weekends more often. This is difficult when it’s busy and I’m out and about. I’m pretty good at identifying what’s good to eat on menus, but I always find the healthy stuff is better when I make it myself.

Salads for instance! I went to a restaurant Friday night with my parents and because I wanted some chips and salsa, opted for a grilled shrimp salad. There were five tiny shrimps, lettuce, tomato, and a bunch of onions (blech!). It’s disappointing when you get something unsatisfying for a meal, particularly when you’re paying for it!

On Saturday, my friend and I split a small pizza with a large salad for lunch and then split some Chinese food dishes for dinner. The food itself is indulgent, but we also tried to manage the portions. Still, I want to try to stick to one indulgence on the weekends- at least in one day!

I also went out to eat on Sunday afternoon, which Weight Watchers builds into the plan, but I counted all my extra points for Saturday and didn’t want to go too crazy. I had a salad with grilled shrimp (much better this time) with a cup of soup and one roll because hey, it’s Bertucci’s and their rolls are amazing. I only had a small bite on Sunday for dinner because it was filling though.

I think the important mental note to take away when you’re trying to eat better or following something like Weight Watchers is that healthy living is something you want to be doing consistently. If you like to go out to eat, do so, but also learn to choose those indulgent favorites as a treat, rather than the norm. One meal does not a diet break, but if you view these changes as temporary, your mind will set back to old habits.

Plus, cooking at home can be fun!