Monthly Archives: July 2013

My Happy Place

Everyone has a ‘happy place’. It might be the mall, the beach, the Starbucks on the corner, or a favorite restaurant, but mine is our garage! I transformed this space into a gym, but it’s not JUST a gym, it’s my Contempo Rockin’ Disco Gym.

Isn’t a Gym a Gym?

The answer is no. I love to work out. It’s my passion! But every gym isn’t my happy place. Every gym is just a place. My Contempo Rockin’ Disco Gym is a place too, but it’s also a state of mind.

My Contempo Rockin’ Disco Gym brings me a sense of peace, joy, exhilaration and euphoria that really can’t be explained or adequately described. It makes me feel strong, confident and invincible, even at 5 a.m. after I’ve just crawled out of bed. It does not judge, criticize or intimidate but leaves me feeling powerful, serene and tranquil all at the same time. How does it do that?

My happy place has been years in the making and has three main parts.

First, it’s the actual space.

Contempo Rockin' Disco Gym

Floor Space It’s not fancy. It’s a garage. But it feels happy and it fits its name. The walls are light blue with accents of red. The blue is calming and the red makes me feel bold and fierce. I’ve found you can be all of these at the same time IF you’re in your happy place.

ClockMy favorite decor is the red clock from IKEA. This one piece put the ‘Contempo’ part in the name. I think it’s cute and it makes me happy. Enough said.

My happy place is ‘Rockin’ because of the fun music which blairs from my iPod. I love 70’s, 80’s, all the way up to current tunes and even remixes. Pretty much anything that’s fast and motivating.

My happy place is ‘Disco’ because of the lights and disco ball.

And of course, the equipment makes it a ‘Gym’.

Second, it’s my continual love and desire to improve my workouts and myself as a knowledgeable trainer. This is where I create, and most importantly put into action, all the things I learn about new trends and exercises. How does it feel? How can I modify? How can I make it just a little bit tougher. It’s all in the way my tired and sweaty body feels when the workout is over, and I think, ‘Yeah, that felt good!”.

Third, and most importantly, it’s the people who I train in my happy place that make it even happier: the one on one time, the laughs and the groans, the ‘I can’t do that’ to the ‘Yes, I did that!’, the joy I feel when someone pushes out one extra rep than the time before, and the confidence they gain with each visit. There is no disappointment or failure in the Contempo Rockin’ Disco Gym. There is only comradery, growth and empowerment.

It’s true that my surroundings first initiated my happy place feeling, but what goes on in my mind and the way it makes me feel while I’m there is really what makes it special for me.  The mind is a powerful thing, and calling on the visual of my Contempo Rockin’ Disco Gym can transport me to my happy place whenever I need to go there!

Thanks for letting me share my happy place with you!

I would also like to thank to my husband, Wayne, who gave up his man space and allowed me to create something that is mine. And many thanks to everyone who visits me there. You make my life full of purpose. My happy place has many guests!

Have a wonderful day, everyone! And go visit YOUR happy place!

All About Vitamin A

Vitamin A – How Much Do You Need?

Vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin. If you’re like most Americans, you get an adequate amount in your diet. Like other fat soluble vitamins, the majority of your body’s vitamin A is stored in the liver and released into the bloodstream as needed. Once you establish your fat soluble vitamin stores, you can go up to months at a time without consuming more.

The RDA for Vitamin A:

  • for males 14 and older – 900 micrograms RAE
  • for females 14 and older – 700 micrograms RAE
  • for pregnant women – 770 micrograms RAE
  • for lactating women – 1,300 micrograms RAE

Why is Vitamin A Important?

Vitamin A is crucial for vision, for maintaining healthy cells (especially skin cells), for fighting infections and strengthening the immune system, and for promoting growth and development, including maintenance of healthy bones.

Sources of Vitamin A

Dietary vitamin A can come from both animal and plant foods.

Vitamin A in animal products

Vitamin A comes from animal food sources in the form of retinoids. These foods include:

  • Liver and fish liver oils (i.e., cod liver oil)
  • Milk fat (as in whole milk, butter, egg yolks and other dairy products)
  • Foods fortified with vitamin A: margarine, some breakfast cereals, reduced fat milk

Your body absorbs about 75% of retinoids consumed in the diet.

IMG_3746

Vitamin A intake comes from fruits and vegetables in the form of carotenoids. The best sources of carotenoids are dark green, yellow-orange and red fruits and vegetables.  The body converts the colorful pigments into Vitamin A once eaten. Carotenoids are called provitamins because they don’t actually become active vitamins until your body absorbs them.

Beta-carotene (the yellow-orange pigment) produces the most vitamin A of any of the carotenoids, about one-third of your total vitamin A. The body absorbs provitamins less efficiently than the retinoids found in animal products.

Some good sources of carotenoids:

  • Sweet potato – baked in the skin
  • Carrots, cooked
  • Collards, cooked
  • Spinach, cooked
  • Pumpkin, cooked
  • Cantaloupe
  • Melon
  • Tomatoes
  • There are numerous others, just think yellow, orange, red and deep green

A few minutes of cooking breaks down some of the chemical bonds in food. This helps release carotenoids and makes them easier to absorb in your system. For example, you will absorb about 2 times more nutrients from a cup of slightly cooked spinach versus 3 cups of raw spinach. Be careful not to cook it too long, however, because the longer you cook it, the more vitamins you lose.

Other Cool Facts About Carotenoids

  • They are antioxidants
  • They boost your immune system
  • They can reduce risk of age-related degeneration of the eye and risk of cataracts
  • They can reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease
  • Dietary fat, protein and vitamin E enhance carotenoid absorption, but dietary fiber reduces its absorption

So be sure to eat your yellow, orange, red and deep green fruits and vegetables!

Vitamin A Deficiency

Dietary vitamin A deficiency is rare in North America and western Europe, but is the leading cause of childhood blindness worldwide. Also, vitamin A deficiency has been shown to slow growth and development and leads to bone deformities.

In the United States, those at risk for vitamin A deficiency include:

  • Newborns (due to lack of vitamin A stores in their liver)
  • Those with alcoholism or liver disease
  • Those who suffer from fat-malabsorption syndromes
  • Those who suffer from anorexia nervosa
  •  Those with an inadequate intake of zinc (which is required for the body to use Vitamin A efficiently)

There are various symptoms of vitamin A deficiency, but if caught quickly they can be reversed.

  • Vision: Night blindness (the inability of the eyes to adjust to dim light or to regain vision quickly after exposure to a flash of bright light) is an early symptom. If the deficiency worsens color blindness and then permanent blindness can result.
  • SkinYour skin cells are the first line of defense protecting your body and they are destroyed and replaced rather quickly. Vitamin A is needed for this rapid cell turnover. Signs of vitamin A deficiency show up early in the skin.
  • Other CellsVitamin A deficiency can disrupt the cells ability to produce mucous.  This particularly affects the mouth, respiratory tract, urinary tract and male and female reproductive processes.  Also, if the affected cells are located near sensory receptors, you can lose your sense of smell and taste.
  • Immune Function: Vitamin A deficiency leaves a person highly susceptible to bacterial, parasitic and viral infections. People with severe vitamin A deficiencies have such impaired immune systems that simple infections can be hazardous.

Too Much Vitamin A is Toxic

It’s highly unlikely that you will overdose on vitamin A through your diet alone. A healthy diet is rich in a variety of foods and by eating many different things you will help keep all of your vitamin levels in check.

The potential for overdose increases, however, as more and more people are taking megadoses of nutritional supplements. (I’m not talking about everyday multiple vitamins, but extreme doses of Vitamin A in supplemental form). Ninety percent of the body’s vitamin A supply is stored in the form of a retinoid in the liver. (The remainder is stored in fat tissue, the lungs and kidneys).  A healthy liver can store up to a year’s supply of vitamin A, but taking large doses of vitamin A supplements can exceed this capacity and lead to toxicity.

Overindulging in vitamin A supplements is dangerous.

Toxicity Symptoms

There are a wide range of symptoms which can be short term or long term, including fatigue, vomiting, abdominal pain, bone and joint pain, loss of appetite, skin disorders, headache, blurred or double vision, eye damage, swelling of the brain, psychiatric changes, osteoporosis, hip fracture, liver damage, coma, and so many more.

Vitamin A and Pregnancy

Birth defects can occur if vitamin A is taken in excess during pregnancy, especially if taken two weeks prior to conception and during the two months following. Pregnant women should take prenatal supplements containing beta-carotene as the vitamin A source and avoid retinol. Even retinoids taken for acne (both topical and oral) should be avoided at this time.  Because even the topical Retin-A absorbs through the skin and accumulates in fat stores, this type of treatment should be discontinued long before pregnancy.

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Source:

Insel,P., Ross,D., McMahon,K., Bernstein,M., Nutrition Fourth Edition. Burlington: Jones & Bartlett, 2013

 

“Did You Know?” – Fun Facts about Health and How your Amazing Body Works

Here are some fun topics for conversation at your next cocktail party! Well, maybe not, but read on and you’re sure to learn a thing or two!

  • America’s most commonly consumed grain product is white bread
  • America’s favorite meat product is beef
  • America’s most commonly eaten vegetable is the potato in the form of french fries
  • A 12 ounce soft drink contains 10-12 teaspoons of sugar
  • Americans, on average, consume 103 pounds of sugar per year
  • Most brown sugar is really white sugar with molasses added for color and flavor
  • Prolonged Vitamin A deficiency can cause permanent blindness
  • Rice is the only starch that does not cause gas
  • The brain is 60% fat
  • Collagen is the most abundant protein in people and animals and gives skin and bones their elastic strength
  • You have almost 10,000 taste buds in your mouth. In general, females have more taste buds than males
  • When at work or play, muscles prefer to use glucose or glycogen for fuel.  This is stored carbohydrate
  • Your brain’s preferred fuel is glycogen (stored carbs) too!
  • When at rest, muscles prefer to use fat for fuel
  • Saturated fats are solid at room temperature. Butter is a great example
  • Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature, like oils
  • Dietary guidelines suggest you consume less than 10% of calories from saturated fatty acids per day. When you have a choice, choose the liquid fat over the solid fat for heart health
  • Fiber is an important part of your diet but your body can digest very little of it
  • Brain freeze, (that sharp pain in the mid-frontal part of the brain when you take a big bite of ice-cream) is caused when cold substances touch the back part of the palate, causing blood vessels to constrict (tighten). About 1/3 of the population experiences this.

Facts about the Stomach

  • Alcohol is absorbed directly from the stomach, so if you’re going to indulge at that cocktail party, be sure to eat something first. If your stomach is full, alcohol will be absorbed more slowly
  • The stomach empties in 1-4 hours depending on the amount and types of food eaten
  • Carbohydrates speed through the stomach in the shortest time, followed by protein and then fat. Therefore, a high fat meal will sit in your stomach longer
  • Digestion is started, but not completed in the stomach.  The stomach digests only 30-40% of carbs, 10-20% of protein and less than 10% of fat

Facts about the Small and Large Intestine

  • Digestion of fat, protein and most carbohydrate is completed in the small intestine
  • The small intestine packs a gigantic surface area into a small space. The length of the small intestine is about 10 feet long, but because of its many wrinkled folds and fingerlike projections, its absorptive surface area is more than 300 square yards, or the area of a tennis court!
  • Substances take 3-10 hours to journey through the small intestine
  • The large intestine is 5 feet long
  • Substances travel through the large intestine at a much slower rate:18 – 24 hours

Take Care of your Liver!

  • The liver is a detoxification center and filters toxic substances from the blood
  • The liver is a chemical factory, performing over 500 chemical functions to keep your body running smoothly
  • The liver is a warehouse that stores vitamins, hormones, cholesterol, minerals and sugars, releasing them to the bloodstream as needed

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Sources:

Insel,P., Ross,D., McMahon,K., Bernstein,M., Nutrition Fourth Edition. Burlington: Jones & Bartlett, 2013

My Favorite Way to Work Out and Why! (With Bonus Sample Workout)

Take it from a former Cardio Queen, walking on the treadmill or doing your Mama’s old school aerobics is not going to change your body.

Don’t get me wrong, any activity is a good thing. Any activity will burn calories. But if you’re going to put the time in anyway, why not make it really count?

The key is to burn calories during your workout, and also change your body composition, (build muscle) so that your body runs more efficiently and burns more calories all day long.

My Experience

I’ve worked out my entire life. Before I was a fitness trainer or even a fitness enthusiast, I was a cardio junkie. My vice was high-impact aerobics. I didn’t like lifting weights for a couple of reasons. First, I had no idea what to do. Second, what little  experience I did have reminded me that after I lifted weights, I felt pain. That was enough for me to avoid any kind of resistance training completely.

I will never forget the summer I put in about 5 hours per week in aerobics class and then couldn’t fit into my jeans after Labor Day. I was sure I was at least maintaining, but some how I had gained  weight. That was it! Time to get serious!

How I got started

When I truly got serious about transforming my body into what I hoped would be a fat burning machine, I started working with a personal trainer.

I did’t know the proper way to do anything, so I thought this was a great way to go. If you want to see results from your workouts, form and accountability are key. And with someone watching your every move, you can’t get away with anything. That is exactly what I needed!

How Long did it Take to see Results?

The first couple of weeks were pretty brutal.  My muscles had never been worked like this before. After I regained use of my noodle legs, I started feeling stronger, powerful even. I loved that feeling. I began seeing results in myself in about 2 months and others started noticing in about 3-4 months. That’s pretty amazing considering I had been reigning the cardio kingdom for a few years and I saw absolutely no results.

Fitness is my Passion

I was so excited to see results in myself that I decided to become certified so I could help others.

Over the years, my fitness plan for myself and my clients has evolved as I learn what’s new in the industry. I always use myself as the guinea pig, and if I like what I’m feeling and seeing, then I bring it to my clients.

My Favorite Way to Work Out

Finally, we get to it!

My two main goals with every workout I create are:

  1. Burn as many calories as possible during the session
  2. Focus on strength exercises to build lean, body transforming muscle. This muscle will help you burn more calories all day long.

If you compare how many calories you burn during an hour of weight lifting vs. an hour of running, running will win hands down.  Cardio does burn mega calories while you’re doing it, but traditional cardio isn’t going to build up the lean muscle you want.

In designing workout programs, I include a cardio element to ensure the heart rate is always up. The increased heart rate will help you burn more calories during the workout session and the strength exercises will build up muscle so you continue burning more all day long.

20 Minute Workout Plan

There are so many articles, trainers and opinions regarding the best way to work out. Who’s right? Well, a lot of people! There is no ‘right’ way to get there. There are numerous avenues to get you from A to B. The key is to find something that fits in your life. You have to like it.

I like variety and a fast pace. Can you complete your strength training for the day in 20 minutes and get results? Yes! This is your starting point. You can add on later when you’re in beast mode.

Planning your Workout

There are 4 categories below. This is not an exhaustive list. It’s very basic. But you can create an effective workout with these exercises. I encourage you to add your own!

If you have a question on form or how to perform a certain exercise, google and YouTube are great sources.

Total Body Cardio Exercise (Choose 1)

  • Jumping Jacks
  • Squat Jumps
  • Burpees
  • Jack-Push-Climb (3 exercises put together. Start with a Jumping Jack, hop down to a pushup position and do one pushup, finally, still in the pushup position bring each knee into the chest for a mountain climber. Hop back to your feet. That’s one rep)

Lower Body Exercises (Beginners don’t use weights) – Choose 2

  • Squats
  • Lunges – You can choose which type: 1) Stationary, with up and down motion, 2) alternating forward lunges, 3) alternating backward lunges, 4) walking lunges
  • Curtsy or Bowler’s Lunge
  • Lateral (Side) Lunge

Upper Body Exercises – Choose 2

  • Bicep Curls
  • Tricep Dips
  • Overhead Press – hold weights at shoulder level and press straight up overhead – advanced add squat to this making it a total body exercise
  • Lateral Raise
  • Row

Total Body/Core – Choose 2

  • Pushups
  • Cable Rotation
  • Wood Chop
  • Pull ups
  • Plank to Pushup (Begin in pushup position, go down to plank position on forearms, go back to pushup position. That’s one rep).
  • Renegade Row (alternate rows from plank position)

Write down your exercises, but in the order below.  I’ve also included my exercise choices:

  1. Total Body Cardio – Burpees
  2. Upper Body – Bicep Curls
  3. Lower Body – Squats (holding weights in each hand)
  4. Total Body/Core – Pushups
  5. Lower Body – Curtsy Lunge or Bowlers lunge (with weights in each hand)
  6. Upper Body – Dips
  7. Total Body/Core – Renegade Rows

Do 8 Reps of each.

Only rest after an entire round. Do as many rounds as possible in 20 minutes.

If you’re advanced, you can increase the time to 25 or 30 minutes, OR choose a number of rounds, say 8 – 10, and continue until the number of rounds are completed.

If you’re a beginner, start with no weight for the lower body exercises and light weights for the upper body. Concentrate on getting your form down first. Then add the weights.

The point is to keep your heart rate up the entire time. Challenge yourself! Be creative and add your own exercises, alternating between upper and lower body.

Another consideration: Try to include at least one exercise where you rotate (cable rotation, wood chop, adding an upper body twist to your lunge) and at least one exercise where you move in a lateral (side to side) direction. (This would include side lunges or curtsy lunges. You can also add motion to your squats by walking in a lateral direction.) This will ensure that you’re training in all 3 ranges of motion equally: forward and backward motion, side to side movement and rotation. Life calls you to move in all of these directions. You should train this way!

Just Keep Moving!

This is my favorite way to work out because you get strength and cardio all at once. Boom, you’re done! I still love doing cardio and dedicate a couple days a week to just that, but I add this type of workout in about 3 times per week.

Try it, you might just love it!

You are a Calorie Burning Machine!

Have you ever wondered how many calories you burn during the day, and how? Working out is a great way to help ensure you burn more than you consume, but your workout is only a small portion of your entire day.  What about the rest of the time? Do you burn calories watching tv or sleeping?

You may not realize that your body is like a fiery furnace which burns calories each day, all day long.   While working out and other physical activity helps maximize this burn, it really accounts for only about 15-30% of the calories you burn in an entire day. Your actual burn through activity depends on your exertion level, fitness level and many other factors.

So how does your body burn the remaining 70-85% of calories each day? How can you maximize this? (And YES, you can make your body burn calories more efficiently!)

What is Metabolism?

The standard, scientific definition of metabolism is, “All chemical reactions within organisms that enable them to maintain life.” What?

Simply put, metabolism is the process by which your body converts what you eat and drink into energy.

Your Body needs Energy for 3 Primary Purposes:

  1. To maintain the ‘hidden’ basic functions in the body such as breathing, blood circulation, repairing cells, adjusting hormone levels, etc.
  2. To power physical activity
  3. To process the food you eat

A Closer Look at #1 – This is called your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR)

  • You burn the most calories during the day with no effort at all!
  • Resting Metabolic Rate or RMR is the total calories burned by maintaining a heartbeat, breathing, maintaining body temperature, etc. It includes only the calories you burn at rest.
  • RMR accounts for 60 – 70% of your total daily calories burned

RMR is Different for Everyone

  • RMR can vary as much as 25% among different people, mostly because of differences in muscle and organ mass
  • Resting muscle requires a lot of energy to maintain itself. It is more metabolically active than fat and makes the greatest contribution to RMR
  •  75 – 80% of your RMR is determined by your muscle mass…do you see a pattern here?
  • Women have lower RMRs than men
  • During sleep, RMR falls by about 10%

A Closer Look at #2 – Physical Activity

  • Your body burns calories during all types of physical activity including exercise, sports, work, leisure activities and everyday activities, even fidgeting and keeping good posture!
  • Physical activity accounts for 15-30% of total daily calorie burn
  • This is where most people focus on burning calories
  • Fit people can exercise with greater intensity and duration, burning more calories overall

A Closer Look at #3 – The Thermic Effect of Food (TEF)

  • You burn calories by eating!  Chewing, swallowing, digesting, absorbing and metabolizing the nutrients you take in is called the Thermic Effect of Food (TEF)
  • TEF peaks about 1 hour after eating and lasts approximately 5 hours
  • Protein maximizes TEF – it takes more energy to digest
  • TEF is lowest for fat – it doesn’t require much energy to store excess dietary fat as body fat
  • TEF accounts for about 10% of your total daily calorie burn

Burn More Calories!

If you are currently working out, excellent! Please continue! And if you don’t currently have an exercise program, you should begin!  In either case, you should focus your workouts on increasing muscle mass, which will, in turn, maximize your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR). Muscle is the best fuel to feed your fiery furnace!

Remember, your RMR accounts for 60-70% of your total daily calorie burn.

Muscle is your most metabolically active tissue. Not only does it create all calorie burning movement, but it requires a lot of energy to maintain itself.

Increasing your muscle mass burns more calories at rest and at play.

Burning more calories at rest? I like that!

How Do You Gain Muscle?

The best way to gain muscle is by adding resistance training to your workout schedule. I would suggest doing some sort of resistance workout 2 to 3 times per week to start.

What is Resistance Training?

Resistance training or strength training are collective terms for a variety of strength-building exercises that make use of resistance to grow muscles. There are many ways to do this!

  • Body weight exercises are a great way to start, especially if you’re new to exercise.          Body weight exercises include pushups, pull-ups, sit-ups, squats, lunges, plank, etc. where you use the weight of your own body as the resistance.
  • Lift weights
  • Use resistance bands
  • TRX

There are so many more options!

Happy Lifting!

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Sources:

Insel,P., Ross,D., McMahon,K., Bernstein,M., Nutrition Fourth Edition. Burlington: Jones & Bartlett, 2013

BJ Gaddour, Metabolic Training Certification, 2012

“Metabolism and weight loss: How you burn calories”, Mayo Clinic Staff, http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/metabolism/WT00006