The Buddy System…not just for kindergarteners

Kara Glasco, MS, RCEP, HFS

Trying to lose weight and get healthy can often seem very isolating. After all, our friends and family can’t lose the weight for us. Creating and maintaining a healthy support system of family and friends can often make or break your fitness commitments. Using a support group will not only help you stay motivated, but will impact your relationships in a healthy way. Your support system can involve exercising with a partner, hiring a personal trainer, or taking group exercise classes. Another great way to build your support system is to find a local group that shares similar fitness interests. Great examples include joining a yoga studio, taking salsa lessons, or joining a rec league. Make sure whatever activities you do are enjoyable and build variety into your workout routines. Being open to new forms of activity will keep your workouts exciting, help you meet new people and can be done with the whole family.

When exercising with a partner or trainer, I suggest you fully divulge your goals and fitness aspirations. Your partner will be able to ask you about your progress and hold you accountable for your goals. Schedule exercise sessions with your workout partners, and make sure you have a reminder system in place. Most people are less likely to blow off their workouts if someone is waiting for them and will be disappointed if they don’t show up. Guilt can be a powerful workout motivator! Your workout partner will also be your alert system for when you are slipping on your goals. Often times we have a hard time looking at our actions in a truthful light. Tough love might be needed whether you realize it or not, and both of you will be there for each other when there are setbacks. Also when working out with a partner or group, determine what motivates you to keep going. Some people love competition and need it to reach their goals. Others find competing with the group demoralizing and detrimental for their progress. Try to only compare yourself to your own standards since everyone’s bodies and fitness levels are so different.

Getting your family involved with your healthy lifestyle is one of the most rewarding ways to create your support system. Children are like sponges, modeling the behaviors they watch their parents doing. Modeling healthy behaviors will not only improve your children’s current lives but will serve them for many years to come. A great way to include your family is to have each member suggest a healthy meal or activity each week. We all had a sticker charts as kids, and we would get a sticker for every good behavior (brush your teeth, make your bed, or do your homework). Why not make a healthy chart to get the kids involved! Every time you do a specific activity such as take a 20 minute walk, try a new vegetable, or eat a healthy snack check it off the list. Once you complete the list, do something rewarding with the family. Make your reward a healthy activity so your progress isn’t hindered. Good examples are taking a family cooking class, playing baseball in the park, or trying a new sport such as paddle boarding.

Family can be extremely supportive when trying to get healthy, but I hear all too often family members unintentionally sabotage good intentions. As you progress along your journey do not be afraid to make sacrifices and just say “NO!” to temptations. Your friends and family might find it strange at first, but do what you have to do to stay on track. If you are giving up an unhealthy habit, odds are your entire family should be giving it up too. If Fridays are always your takeout pizza night, switch it to homemade fajita night with everyone helping cook. If you have a weekly movie night with hours siting on the couch then switch it to game night and get the family moving. Whatever happened to soccer in the backyard or kickball in the cul-de-sac? Now it seems every activity is done seated using your two thumbs. GET MOVING! GET OFF THAT COUCH! GET YOUR SUPPORT GROUP INVOLVED! Everyone will be healthier and happier in the end.

BFF bikes

Who’s counting?

Kara Glasco, MS, RCEP, HFS

One of the easiest ways to make sure you are achieving your health and fitness goals is to track what you are doing. Keeping a log of your activities and food consumption will help you understand why you are or aren’t achieving your goals. Tracking your habits will help you take an honest look at your successes, failures, and results. If you gained a pound this week, look at how many times you went to the gym or how many servings of desserts you had. If you lost a few pounds, what made the difference? In addition to tracking your food and exercise, I suggest you track your sleep patterns and how you feel each day. Sleep is incredibly important for weight loss, greatly impacts your metabolism, and can also affect your work and exercise performance. Evaluating how you feel each day allows you to examine daily patterns and habits. Did you eat enough calories, did you exercise too long, did you drink enough water? All of these factors will affect your health and weight loss goals. Today’s technology, smartphone apps and fitbits make it unbelievably simple to record your daily food, exercise, and sleep habits. 

Looking at your week as a whole will also help you identify positive or negative lifestyle trends and indicate areas that need work. If you didn’t accomplish everything you wanted to, your weekly log will help you understand why. Getting up 30 minutes earlier could give you time for packing lunches or eat a healthy breakfast. If your goal was to accumulate 70,000 steps by the end of the week (10,000 per day is recommended) which day did or didn’t accumulate that? Did you have tons of meetings? Did you take the dog for an extra-long walk? Without a log, you wouldn’t be able to track these valuable pieces of information.

Using a weekly log will also help you plan ahead for your workouts making them much more effective. If you have a day with unlimited workout time, schedule a longer cardio session or a cardio and weights combo workout. If you only have 30 minutes, try a quick weight training session or group exercise class. Weekly logs will also allow you to build variety into your workout plans making exercise more fun.

I also use my exercise and food logs as plan ahead tools for the upcoming week. Each week, I review my upcoming activities, pencil in my workouts, and plan each week night meal. I generally do all my food prep on Sundays such as making a few days of lunches and cleaning all my fresh produce. Cleaning all your produce ahead of time will allow you to quickly make a fresh and healthy meal. A fridge full clean fresh produce will hopefully inspire you to grab a healthy snack when the munchies hit rather than the empty carbs in the pantry. I also plan out my weekly dinner menu making sure I have all the needed ingredients. Planning your weekly menu ahead of time greatly decreases cooking time since you will not searching for each ingredient.

You can also use your weekly log to help you plan for a behavior change. Examples of behavior changes include going to bed earlier, making healthy snacks to keep at work, walking an extra mile with the dog, just to name a few. I suggest you add or change one new behavior per week. It can often be overwhelming when we try to change too many things at once. By selecting one thing to change per week, it will easily be identifiable if the change worked or didn’t work and why.

Below is an example of a weekly log that tracks nutrition, exercise, sleep, and any other things you are working on that week.  Download the log, print it out and use it or find an electronic version (like Lose it!) you like.  Be sure to make comments on your day to give yourself extra insight for your behavior changes. I hope all these tips and tracking log information will help inspire you to make and stick with new healthy behaviors.


Striving for Progress!

ByKara Glasco, MS, RCEP, HFS

For most of us, the New Year spawns new commitments to health, nutrition, and overall wellness.  As the newness of your resolution starts to fade, the hard part begins.  How do you actually stick to those health goals you set in January?  Finding the motivation and dedication to adhere to your goals can be absolutely overwhelming.

As a fitness professional, I know the fitness trends and can set my calendar to them.  January brings out all the “I’m finally doing it this year” exercisers, and by march at least half of exercisers have given up.  May causes a short burst with bathing suits season approaching, but that only last for a month or two.  Another burst comes in September when all the kids are back in school and worn out parents finally find time for fitness.  So how do you avoid the year long ebb and flow of most exercise routines? I will be highlighting simple steps below and in my upcoming articles to help you all year long.

It is so exciting to see changes in your body as you progress through your exercise and nutrition plans.  It can be extremely discouraging when everything comes to a grinding hault.  Being patient is something many people struggle with, afterall we are a “right now” society.  With today’s technology everything is right at our fingertips.  Now if only our metabolism could catch up to our smartphones!

Being impatient can be devastating to your accomplishments and lead you very far away from the bandwagon.  Haven’t we all said “Well I ate that pizza for lunch so I might as well call the whole day a cheat day.”  It takes time and commitment to make healthy a habit, and most of us haven’t lived our entire lives that way. It will take weeks, months, or even years to truly adapt a healthy lifestyle.  Concentrate on one meal, one workout, one day at a time to prevent impatience.

Changing your habits is HARD with all the distractions of work, family, and kids.  Try not to dwell on your failures because everyone takes a step backwards now and then.  See your failure as a learning opportunity so you won’t make that mistake twice.  Do your best to eliminate the source of temptation or problematic behavior.

I have a weakness for potato chips, a full on, I will eat the entire bag obsession.  Therefore, I don’t allow them in my house and I don’t go down that aisle in the grocery store. Also, visualizing yourself overcoming your obstacles can help you get back on track.  If your goal was to complete a specific exercise or resist a specific temptation visualize yourself doing what you want to do.  Imagine yourself completing that third set of pullups or saying no to the birthday cake at the office party.  Behavior changes are not only physical but psychological as well.  Psych yourself up for success!

When you find yourself being impatient with your health goals I suggest you stop and recognize your current successes.  Acknowledge all the small steps you are taking to reaching the end goal.  For example:  You want to lose 20 pounds, but you are not there yet.  Don’t be discouraged you haven’t seen the big 2 – 0, and concentrate on the progress you are making.

  • You brought a healthy lunch of protein and veggies three times this week
  • You avoided the doughnuts at both meetings this week
  • You made it to the gym an extra night this week
  • You lost another pound and you went to the next belt loop

Those are some serious accomplishments deserving a ton of credit!  Once you made a few successes go ahead and build on them.  Take your lunch a fourth day, workout on the weekend, take a 20 minute walk on your lunch break, every little thing counts!  When you do something great for yourself it is ok to give credit where credit is due.  You are making progress so go ahead and pat yourself on the back or tell a friend how awesome you feel.  Being healthy and achieving your goals big and small is so brag worthy.

Kara’s Basic Weight Workout

Bodyweight Exercises –  Hold each for 30; 8-12 reps; 1-3 sets
















Hip raises






Modified push ups








Band Exercises – 8-12 reps; 1-3 sets 

Band Chest Press/Band Row






Band Bicep curls/Band Squat presses/ Band Pulldown








I hope all of my strength training information (click on the “Motivation” tab above) and exercises will motivate you to begin a new routine. There is no need to be afraid to start weight training. Everyone, I mean EVERYONE has started where you are right now and worked their way up. Make sure you also do something you enjoy because if you don’t like you probably won’t do it. Exercising with a friend, spouse, or your kids may also help you stick to your plan. As with any routine, don’t forget to be patient. You didn’t develope your current body in a day, so strength training changes won’t be seen over night. Hang in there, it will be worth in the end!

Source: American College of Sports Medicine. Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2006, p. 22-23.

Weight, What?

How to incorporate a basic weight lifting routine

by Kara Glasco, MS, RCEP, HFS

Ask any person with a fitness resolution what their goal is and the answer is always the same,  “I want to lose weight, get toned, shrink my midsection, and get healthier.”  Cardiovascular exercise has its place in every fitness routine and weight training is equally important for your health.  Strength training allows you to achieve your toning and weight loss goals more effectively than cardio.  There are many different physical and psychological reasons why strength training is so important for the human body.   Strength training reduces the natural age-related decline in muscle mass and bone density.  Toning and sculpting your muscles can also improve body image and self-confidence.  Lastly, being strong just makes life easier!  Heavy groceries, hard yard work, moving clunky furniture, NO PROBLEM!  I always laugh when a pet store clerk asks if I need help carrying the 80 pounds of dog food in my cart.  I respond “no thank you, I lift weights,” and proceed to tuck 40 pounds under each arm.  Wouldn’t it be exhilarating to do almost anything you want to with ease?  Strength training can get you to the, “no help needed, I’ve got this.” kind of life.

What is Strength Training?

Strength training, also known as weight lifting, requires your muscles to generate force in order to overcome a set resistance.  Resistance can be in the form of weight machines, resistance bands, free weights, or even your own body weight.  Many female clients often worry about “getting bulky” when beginning a strength training program.  The hours in the gym and amount food you would have to eat to look like those women in magazines would be astronomical.  It is almost impossible for the average woman to get bulky and pack on the muscle weight.  The first 8 weeks of a strength training program does not change a person’s strength or muscle size at all.  Sounds crazy right!  The body makes neuromuscular improvements not actual muscle changes in those first 8 weeks.  The nervous system becomes more effective at recruiting muscle fibers making your muscles work more effectively.  In addition, you are building the stamina and force capacity of your tendons, ligaments, and joints.  Your body is working smarter not harder.

Are there any reason why I shouldn’t strength train?  After almost 10 years in the fitness industry, there isn’t a single reason why someone should not be strength training.  I have strength trained clients hundreds of pounds overweight, those with brittle bones, clients needing joint replacements, children, pregnant women in their third trimester, and even people in a cast!  If you have a broken arm, you still have another arm and two legs right?  Your age should NEVER be an excuse not to strength train.  My oldest client was a 99 year old woman who exercised every day and lifted weights.  She survived a broken hip at age 97 and was fully recovered within a year.  If that isn’t a testament of the power of strength training then I don’t know what is.

Boost Your Metabolism

Once you stop cardiovascular exercise, your calorie burning potential drops drastically and returns to baseline within ten minutes.  Strength training allows you to burn calories up to 36 hours after your workout due to muscular rebuilding.  I do admit the calories burned per hour after strength training may be modest, but when you multiply it by 36 hours the calories can become significant.  I imagine my muscle cells to be like Pacman, constantly eating, constantly searching for more dots.  Our fat stores provide the never ending source of “dots” for our Pacman muscle cells.  Even if we haven’t eaten recently, the worn out muscle cells will burn stored fat to remodel and repair the damaged cells.   Rebuilding our muscle cells requires a lot of energy (in the form of calories), which causes our resting metabolism to increase.  This means you are burning more calories per hour even while you are doing nothing.  Sounds like a bargain to me!  Some studies estimate that every pound of muscle increases your resting metabolism by 30 – 50 calories per day.

Before You Start

Strength training can be done in your local gym or even in the comfort of your home.  I always recommend consulting your doctor before you start any new exercise routine.  If you decide to take the home route, I recommend buying some inexpensive exercise equipment.  Most of the equipment can even be stored in your luggage so exercising while traveling is possible.  Each of these items will cost around $20.00 and can be found at any local store.  For your home gym I suggest you purchase:

  • A set of resistance bands (light, medium, and heavy resistance)
  • Yoga mat
  • 2 sets of dumbells (8 – 15 pounds) on lighter and one heavier set
  • 55 cm physioball or stability ball
  • jump rope

Ready, Set, SWEAT!

If you click on “Workouts” at the top of the page,  I have listed some great exercises you can do at home using your body weight or set of resistance bands.  Any of these exercises can be made harder by adding repetitions, doing multiple sets, or increasing your holding time.  Try to hold the first three bodyweight exercises for at least 30 seconds.  Resistance bands can also be made more difficult by stepping farther away from the band’s start point.  Gradually increase sets and reps to prevent muscle stiffness and excessive soreness.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends performing strengthening exercise two days per week on nonconsecutive days.  Perform one to three sets of 8 – 12 repetitions per exercise for novice to intermediate exercisers.  Aim for 8 to 10 different exercises targeting all major muscle groups.  Make sure to incorporate upper body, lower body, and core exercises into your routine.   Click on the “Workouts” tab and check it out!

Boxing Blitz!

Looking for a kicked up workout you can do anywhere?  Add the theme from “Rocky” to your iPod and look no further!

Warm Up: 1 minute each
Jumping Jacks
High Knees
Turkish Getups (3-5 each side)

Workout Round 1 (30 secs. – 1 min. ea.)

Sumo Squat with Cross Punches
Jump Rope
Elbow Plank Up Downs (Alt. L/R lead)
Jump Rope
Crab toe touch
Jump rope
Round House Kick (30 seconds ea. Leg)
Jump Rope
Single Leg Deadlift Plank Walks
Ice Skaters bob & weave

ACTIVE Rest 1-2 minutes (walk around)

Workout Round 2 (30 secs. – 1 min. ea.)

Sumo Squat with Upper Cut Punches
Jumping Jacks
Elbow Plank Up Downs (Alt. L/R lead)
Jumping Jacks
Crab toe touch
Jumping Jacks
Round House Kicks (30 seconds ea. Leg)
Jumping Jacks
Single Leg Deadlift Plank Walks
Ice Skaters bob & weave


New Year, New You Part Deux!

Starting a New Fitness Plan

Part #2 – cardio edition

by Kara Glasco, MS, RCEP, HFS

This year you are determined to lose the weight and get rid of the body fat. You are committed to making this a lifestyle and not just another yearly resolution. You followed steps 1 – 4 stated in my previous article: identify your goals, determine what was realistic, assess your health status, and stock up on appropriate exercise gear. Now it is time for step 5, the part where you go out there, sweat, get stronger, feel better, and find that inner healthy you.
As an exercise professional I hear very similar questions from new and returning exercisers. What kind of cardio plan should I follow? Can I do cardio every day? How many days per week should I do cardio? How intense and how long should my workouts be? I will answer all of the questions in the article below with a little bit of science and many simple ideas.

What is cardiovascular exercise?

Cardiovascular exercise, also known as aerobic exercise, is any sustained activity that requires the body to increase heart rate, breathing rate, and oxygen delivery to working muscles. Cardiovascular exercise can be done in many forms including a variety of outdoor activities. The most common forms of cardio are running, cycling, swimming, and walking. Other forms of cardio can include physical labor such as gardening, cleaning house, or shoveling snow. Cardio can also be achieved through sports related activities such as skiing, tennis, snorkeling, or even dancing. Whether it is the great outdoors or a gym setting, cardiovascular exercise can easily be incorporated into your daily life.
Aerobic exercise improves your lung capacity, can decrease bad cholesterol levels, reduces your blood pressure, and increases your resting metabolism. Cardiovascular exercise has been shown to lower your risk of disease such as heart and lung disease. Studies have also shown that people with higher aerobic levels have a lower risk for type 2 diabetes. In addition, aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease anxiety, decrease depression, and increase a person’s ability to live independently. With all the different ways to do cardiovascular exercise and proven health benefits, why not get started today!

Before You Start

There are a few things to mention before jumping into your first cardio session. Proper nutrition is always essential when preparing for any workout. Make sure you are well hydrated, eat a snack at least one hour before exercise, and avoid caffeine before your workout. Appropriate food consumption prevents low blood sugar levels that can cause symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, and fainting. I always suggest that my clients consume at least 100 – 200 calories before moderate or intense exercise to prevent any unwanted symptoms.

Many people enjoy exercising outdoors, and I would like to highlight a few simple tips before heading outside. Environmental factors such as extreme heat, humidity, air pollution, and roadway traffic can affect your outdoor workout. Check the forecast before heading outside to determine the best temperatures to exercise. Also try to exercise when traffic is lightest for safer roadways and lower air pollution levels. During the colder months, dressing in layers allows you to stay warm, and layers can be peeled off to prevent overheating.

Ready, Set, SWEAT!

Chances are you have heard people mention warming up before exercise and cooling down after exercise. Warming up is important to increased blood flow to working muscles, readies your nervous system, activates the metabolic system, and decreases injury risk to muscles and ligaments. Cooling down gradually lowers your heart rate, breathing rate, and body temperature, which is extremely important for anyone with a health conditions. I recommend warming-up and cooling-down for 5 – 10 minutes at a light to moderate pace using any cardio of your choice.
Enjoyment is the most important part of any cardio session. Running and jogging tend to be a “love it” or “hate it” form of exercise. Personally, I’d rather have a root canal than go for a jog! I prefer to ride a bike, swim laps, or do the elliptical in the gym. Running is a very popular cardio workout because it is inexpensive and only requires a good pair of shoes. Running can essentially be done anywhere at almost any time. For my avid runners, I always suggest finding a safe and well lit area that has few chances for injury. One of the best places to go for a jog is on a track at your local school. Most school tracks are measured so you will know the distance you completed. School tracks are also free of rocks and debris and most are made of a rubberized material making jogging easier on your joints.

So to answer the questions above, I have included the current recommendations from the American College of Sports Medicine.

What kind of cardio plan should I follow?

There are probably a million different cardio plans out there endorsed by celebrities, doctors, athletes, and fitness professionals. It can be difficult to decide which plan is right for you with every plan claiming 100% success and outstanding results. Rather than selecting a fad plan, keep it simple making sure it can easily fit into your schedule. Choose activities you enjoy that won’t affect any underlying health conditions. If you are a novice exerciser start slowly and gradually build up. Set a modest exercise goal such as 10 minutes or ½ mile. Try to increase a few minutes or tenths of a mile each session. Listen to your body, it will tell you when you are pushing too hard or when you can do a little more.

Can I do cardio every day or how many days should I do it?

Aim for aerobic activities 3 to 5 times per week. If you are doing light to moderately intense cardio then go ahead and do it on consecutive days. If you are doing moderate to highly intense cardio, exercise every other day. Your muscles and joints will need at least a day to recover from the stress and strain. Make sure you include at least two FULL rest days per week when starting a new routine. Your body will need enough time to recover in order to see the results you desire.

How intense and how long should my cardio workouts be?

Your intensity should be based on your current fitness level and exercise goals. For most people, aim for at least 30 minutes of a moderate intensity exercise. If you are unable to do a full 30 minutes then try to doing three 10 minute bouts. If you goal is weight loss, I recommend 30 – 45 minutes of aerobic exercise. Once you have reached 45 continuous minutes, increase your intensity. I would never recommend doing more than an hour of cardio due to do the added wear and tear to your joints. After 1 hour of exercise the cost outweighs the benefits. You should strive for a QUALITY workout and not a QUANTITY workout. To judge if you are a moderate intensity do the “talk test.” If you can say a sentence and not much more then you’re probably working hard enough. If you can tell me your entire life story with every flowery detail, KICK IT UP A NOTCH!!!!

It can be daunting decide on what cardio plan is right for you. Think about your cardio routine as building a foundation for your fit lifestyle. You can’t have a sturdy house without a strong foundation. Select a cardio plan that is fun, easy to do, fits into your lifestyle, and keeps you motivated. I like doing a variety of cardio machines such as the bike, elliptical, and rower for 10 minute intervals. I can maintain a higher intensity since my intervals are shorter. I also don’t get as bored because I am not stuck on the proverbial hamster wheel for 30 straight minutes. If the gym isn’t your scene, head outside and get active. Any form of cardiovascular exercise counts towards a healthy lifestyle. I hope all of these tips for starting a new cardio plan will inspire you to start exercising today.


American College of Sports Medicine. Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2006, p. 22-23.

New Year, New You…Kara Tells You How!

Five Steps to Starting a New Fitness Plan

by Kara Glasco, MS, RCEP, HFS

The holiday season is over with all the indulgences behind you and now it is time to tackle that infamous New Year’s resolution.  Many American make a fitness resolution to get back into shape, lose those unwanted pounds and to improve their health.  I encourage you to make not just a resolution, but a commitment to make healthy a way of life.  Like any major behavior change, committing to a fitness plan involves many steps.  I have highlighted things to contemplate below, which will hopefully help you keep your resolution and stick to your health goals all year round.

Step 1:  Identify your goals.

Although it may seem like the easiest step, identifying your fitness goals can often be very difficult.  Your fitness goal should be “S.M.A.R.T”, which stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.  Simply stating that you want to lose weight isn’t enough because the goal is not fully defined.  Below is an example of a S.M.A.R.T goal, and any goal should include something you enjoy doing so you stick with it.

Specific:  Lose 10 pounds

Measureable: Weekly weigh-ins on Fridays

Achievable: 1 – 2 pounds per week is considered safe weight loss for most people

Relevant:  Take group exercise classes because you enjoy them and the group setting is motivating

Time bound:  Achieve your goal in 2 months

Step 2: What is realistic?

Once you have set your S.M.A.R.T goal now it is time to determine if your goal is realistic.  Consider your ability to make a commitment by evaluating things that may affect your dedication such as children, schooling, and job demands.  Finances are also extremely important when figuring out your desired fitness plan.  If specialized exercise (swimming, Pilates, dance fitness such as Zumba) are your thing, you must consider how much it will cost to have access to these types of exercises.  At home DVDs are also another option, but some people find DVDs are not as motivating as a group exercise or gym environment.

Other things to consider are how many minutes per day, days per week, and time of day can you exercise.  All of these will factors will affect your exercise performance and how quickly you achieve your goal.  For those who only have a short window to exercise such as 20 – 30 minutes, I recommend increasing your exercise intensity.  Running a little faster, increasing your level on the elliptical, and selecting heavier dumbbells will all increase your exercise intensity.  If you can workout 4 to 5 times per week, shorten your exercise time to prevent excess soreness and fatigue.  Time of day can greatly affect your workout.  Personally, I am a night owl so exercising in the morning for me would be a complete waste of time.  In addition, my body works best after a few meals so that I have enough fuel to sustain my routine.  Evening workouts also allow me to consume enough water during the day keeping my muscles fully hydrated.  I would recommend exercising at different times during the day to see what feels best to you.  You might find that cardio in the morning is a great way to “wake you up” for the day and improves your mental clarity for work.

Step 3:  Assess your current health status.

How old are you? Are you injured?  Are you post-menopausal? Do you have arthritis?  Are you a Type 2 diabetic?  All of these factors will affect your ability to achieve your fitness goals and may increase the time it takes to achieve your goal.  Always consult with your doctor before starting an exercise regimen, and make sure any medications you take will not affect your ability to exercise.  It is very important to consult your physician if you have not had a physical in the last year.  You may have an underlying condition you are unaware of that exercise may worsen.

Step 4:  Get the gear. 

The most important piece of exercise equipment that you must have before starting any new exercise routine is a GOOD PAIR OF SHOES!!!!  This is one of my biggest exercise pet peeves.  Please, please, please do not try to workout in the same shoes you mow the grass in or had for the last 10 years.  Think of your shoes as the foundation of a house.  If the foundation is worn out then there will be cracks in every level of the house.  Clients often complain about knee, back, or hip pain after exercising.  My first questions are how old are your shoes and how many miles did you put on those shoes?  Shoes are like car tires; the tread will wear out and affect your exercise performance.  If you are an avid runner then you need to change your shoes every 6 to 8 months.  The average exerciser will probably need to change their shoes every year depending on how often they workout.  I also recommend having a professional running store assess your feet to determine what kind of shoe you need.  The technology in running shoes is amazing nowadays with so many different types of fabrics and support systems.  Shoes can now correct for pronation, stability issues, arch problems, and have a wide variety of cushion options to accommodate for your joint needs.  Lastly, any new exerciser should AVOID the barefoot shoes especially with higher impact cardio such as running.  Barefoot style shoes have their place in the fitness world, but I would reserve those more for weight lifting and more advanced exercisers.

Step 5: Time to exercise!

You’ve checked stages 1, 2, 3, and 4 off your list so now it is time for stage 5, EXERCISE!  So where do you start?  My favorite adage for beginner or returning exercisers is to “do a little and see how you feel in the morning.”  We’ve all done it, did a little more than our bodies could handle in the gym, and paid the price with super sore muscles.  You know, when your arms hurt so bad washing your hair is painful!  Or when the sight of a flight of stairs makes your legs ache even more than those squats!  That is not our goal here.  We want you to experience a little stiffness, mild soreness, and the overall feeling that you’ve done something in the gym.  Many new exercises will experience mild soreness after a short duration cardio workout such as walking on a treadmill for 20 minutes at a moderate pace.  If you don’t experience any soreness within 36 hours after your workout, then you know you can handle a little more next time.  I would recommend increasing only one thing at a time.  Increase one and ONLY ONE of the following: exercise time, distance, speed, resistance level, or machine programs.  I will cover more exercise progression in the articles on starting a cardio routine and starting a weight training routine.

By following the steps above and setting a S.M.A.R.T goal, you will be able to achieve that New Year’s resolution.  Start small when making goals and edit your goals along the way as you need to.  Just remember we are all human, slip-ups are normal, and don’t beat yourself up if you get derailed.  You can do it!


Start working towards your 2015 fitness resolutions in 2014

Holiday Party Tips to Keep You on Track in 2014 – Part 3

by Kara Glasco, MS, RCEP, HFS

The holiday season always seems to create an abundance of food and a scarcity of free time to exercise. In my first article I mentioned that every bit of exercise counts and accumulating exercise throughout the day can help keep your holiday waistline in check. As an exercise professional, I hear it all the time “does 10 minutes of exercise really make a difference?” I am here to tell you, YES IT DOES!

Most nationally recognized health organizations state that you should exercise at least 30 minutes at a moderate intensity most days of the week. Well, during the holidays you might not be able to allot the time it takes to get to the gym, change clothes, exercise, shower, and go home. However, you might have 10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes during your lunch break, and 10 minutes when you get home to do a few exercises. In a study conducted by the Department of Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Ulster at Jordanstown, researchers examined the effect of stair climbing on cardiovascular fitness and blood cholesterol levels (1). The study had female participants climb 199 steps five times and repeated the exercise five days per week. It took participants approximately 10 minutes to complete the five rounds of stair climbing (1). The results showed that the stair-climbing participants increased their cardiovascular fitness and decreased the LDL cholesterol levels (1). So, ten minutes of exercise five days per week does make a positive impact on your health!

Body weight exercises are a great way to burn extra calories with no equipment needed. My favorite and essential four exercises that every client should do are: squats, lunges, push-ups and pull-ups. Depending on your fitness level, these four exercises will be enough to keep you in shape over the holidays. When trying to burn the extra holiday calories, think about using the largest muscle groups in your body and utilizing as many joints as possible. For example, a body weight squat involves the hip, knee, and ankle joints and activates every lower body muscle as well as your core muscles. Talk about bang for your buck!

If body weight squats are too easy, add some weight to it. If you don’t have dumbbells at home, then grab whatever heavy item you have around your house. Try filling a milk jug with water, put can goods in a back pack, hold your toddler while you do squats, anything can work! Here are some great exercises you can do at your desk during the day. Any of these exercises can be made harder by adding repetitions, doing multiple sets, or increasing your holding time. Gradually increase sets and reps to prevent unnecessary muscle stiffness and excessive soreness.








• Leg extension holds








• Body weight squats or squat holds









• Standing calf raises








• Standing lunges










• Standing leg kickbacks








• Tricep dips using your chair









• Pushups against the wall or your desk








• Scapular retraction

My final tip is to add exercise and steps wherever and whenever you can. Take the stairs at the office, park your car farther away when shopping, or use a basket instead of cart when getting a few items at the grocery store. Every single calorie counts during the holiday season. One of my favorite things to do during the holidays is to throw a yummy treat in my oven and exercise while it’s cooking. (Now, I don’t expect you to exercise the entire time the 3 hour turkey is cooking). For example, I made Christmas cookies last night and I climbed my stairs at a moderate pace for 8 minutes while they were baking. By the time the cookies were done, I was sweating and had burned off at least one of the small snowflake sugar cookies. I hope all of these nutrition and exercise tips I have highlight will help you have a happy and healthy holiday.

Source: 1. Boreham CAG, Kennedy RA, Murphy MH, Tully M, Wallace WFM, Young I. Training effects of short bouts of stair climbing on cardiorespiratory fitness, blood lipids, and homocysteine in sedentary young women. Br J Sports Med. 2005; 39: 590-593.
Br J Sports Med 2005;39:590-593 doi:10.1136/bjsm.2002.001131 Original article Training effects of short bouts of stair climbing on cardiorespiratory fitness, blood lipids, and homocysteine in sedentary young women 1. C A G Boreham1, 2. R A Kennedy1, 3. M H Murphy1, 4. M Tully2, 5. W F M Wallace2, 6. I Young2 + Author Affiliations 1. 1Department of Sport and Exercise Science, University of Ulster at Jordanstown, Newtownabbey, Co Antrim, Northern Ireland, UK 2. 2The Queen’s University of Belfast, Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK.  Abstract Objectives: To study the training effects of eight weeks of stair climbing on VO2MAX, blood lipids, and homocysteine in sedentary, but otherwise healthy young women. Methods: Fifteen women (mean (SD) age 18.8 (0.7) years) were randomly assigned to control (n  =  7) or stair climbing (n  =  8) groups. Stair climbing was progressively increased from one ascent a day in week 1 to five ascents a day in weeks 7 and 8. Training took place five days a week on a public access staircase (199 steps), at a stepping rate of 90 steps a minute. Each ascent took about two minutes to complete. Subjects agreed not to change their diet or lifestyle over the experimental period. Results: Relative to controls, the stair climbing group displayed a 17.1% increase in VO2MAX and a 7.7% reduction in low density lipoprotein cholesterol (p<0.05) over the training period. No change occurred in total cholesterol, high density lipoprotein cholesterol, triglycerides, or homocysteine. Conclusions: The study confirms that accumulating short bouts of stair climbing activity throughout the day can favourably alter important cardiovascular risk factors in previously sedentary young women. Such exercise may be easily incorporated into the working day and therefore should be promoted by public health guidelines.

And, the holiday eating continues…

Holiday Party Tips to Keep You on Track – Part 2

by Kara Glasco, MS, RCEP, HFS

In my first article (scroll down) I mentioned some helpful tips to get ready for your holiday party.  Exercising beforehand, modifying your diet a few days before, and eating a snack before you go will prevent unwanted holiday party weight gain.  You’ve planned ahead, are in the healthy eating mindset, and now what do I actually get to eat?  Follow these helpful tips and tricks and you’ll be able to navigate any holiday party with ease.

One of my favorite holiday party tricks is to survey the food first and decide what you really need to eat and what you really WANT to eat.  After you find the foods you just can’t live without, think about if you could make a healthier version at home and is it something you can eat all year round.  If your neighbor makes the most unbelievable chocolate truffles only at Christmas time then go for it!  But, if you know Aunt Ruth’s meatball recipe and can substitute lean ground meat then make it healthier at home.  Next, fill up your plate with the healthy options such as vegetable crudité or protein options such as shrimp cocktail.  After you finish your first plate of healthy options, take a break, and then fill up a smaller plate with the must have foods.  If you must have a creamy dip then use vegetable as scoopers instead of bread or crackers.  Another easy party tip is to bring your own healthy party platter.  If everything is a calorie bomb then at least you’ll be able to enjoy something healthy and nutritious.

Next I would like to highlight some of the best and worst foods that you might encounter at your holiday party.  I’ll let you know what to avoid and what to pick instead.

Worst Party Foods:

Appetizers: Anything wrapped in puff pastry; Fried foods such as coconut shrimp; Creamy dips such as spinach artichoke or crab dip
Desserts: Pecan pie, cheesecake, fudge, anything covered in icing
Beverages: fruit juice punches, eggnog, hot chocolate, heavy dark beers

Best Holiday Foods:

Appetizers: Hummus or salsa dips, chicken skewers, shrimp cocktail, most protein based options
Desserts: fruit based desserts, dark chocolate options, smallest portion sizes, pumpkin pie (remove the crust for an even healthier option!)                                                                                           Beverages: Mixed cocktail with soda water and liquor, Glass of wine, light beer, low fat eggnog (store bought or homemade)

My final tip for the holiday season is to try not to drink your calories.  Adult beverages contain tons of sugar, are empty calories with no nutritional benefits, and eventually get stored as belly fat.  If you must have your holiday beverage, try to avoid something else such as dessert.  One shot of liquor has 80 calories, a glass of wine contains 120 calories, one beer has 150 calories or more, and eggnog is a killer at almost 400 calories!  Think of all the healthy and nutritious food you could put in your body for 400 calories, that’s LUNCH!  I hope these holiday party tips and tricks will help you navigate your holiday parties this season and stay on track.