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.



Yes, you can enjoy all of the holiday parties and stay on track! Here’s how…

by Kara Glasco, MS, RCEP, HFS

The holiday season is upon us with holiday parties around almost every turn.  This time of year can be challenge, not only to our stress levels, but to our waistlines as well.  Even the best intentions can take a downward spiral with decadent food, tempting desserts, and flowing beverages.  Follow these simple pre-party tips and tricks and keep your dietary habits on track.

 One of the easiest ways to keep your diet on track is to plan ahead and “save” your calories for the party foods.  One or two days before your party, start cleaning up your eating and “bank” your calories for the party.  Try to shave 50 – 100 calories per meal such as omitting creamer in your coffee, omit cheese on your sandwich, avoid dessert, and stay away from alcoholic beverages.  Another option is to avoid carbohydrates a few days before the party because you will most likely be tempted with simple carbs at the holiday party.  Have a large veggie loaded salad for dinner or only fill your plate with lean protein and vegetables at lunch and dinner.

Another pre-party solution to keep your diet on track is to eat something healthy before you go to the party.  Eat a small salad, serving of vegetables, or a few ounces of lean protein one hour before leaving.  The fiber and protein will keep you fuller and hopefully make you less likely to binge eat.  Also drink plenty of water the day of your party because dehydration can often resemble hunger.  Drink a glass of water and, wait 20 minutes, and see if you are still hungry.  If you are not hungry after 20 minutes, you were most likely dehydrated. 

My final few tips include pre-party exercise and what you wear to the party.  When it comes to burning calories, every little bit counts!  Take every flight of stairs you come across, go for a quick walk at lunch, or do a few sets of squat or lunges at home before you leave for the party.  Exercise will increase your daily caloric deficit making those extra party calories less disastrous to your waistline.  As silly as this seems, I recommend wearing a form fitting outfit to the party.  Loose clothing tends to make us feel less guilty about binge eating; don’t we all wear sweatpants on thanksgiving?  A tighter outfit may inspire you to eat a little less and stick to your healthy habits a little more. 

Let’s face it, even the most dedicated can’t resist all those yummy holiday goodies.  Plan ahead with all of these simple strategies and you’ll be thankful you did.      

Sweat-Fest Ride

A cycling workout that promises to leave you in a puddle beside your bike!  (It’s been road-tested by some of my favorite class participants and they loved it!) If you don’t have access to an indoor cycling bike you can use a regular stationary bike, but you may have to skip the standing positions.  The music offers something for everyone.  So, download the tunes, get a towel, fill your water bottle and get going!

Warm Up: “Colorful” – Rocco Deluca & The Burden 3:06

“Soak Up the Sun”  – Sheryl Crow 4:53

1 minute seated flat

30 second standing climb

1 min. seated flat – add a gear

30 second standing climb

1 minute standing climb – add a gear

30 second seated climb

“Play Ball” – AC/DC 2:47

30 Second seated climb

20 Second break away sprint

30 Second seated climb – add a gear

30 Second standing climb – add two gears

20 Second break away sprint

30 Second standing climb – add a third gear

“Pump It” – Black Eyed Peas – 3:33

15 Seconds seated sprint, 15 seconds off

30 Seconds seated sprint, 15 seconds off

45 Seconds seated sprint, 15 seconds off

60 Seconds seated sprint, 15 seconds off

45 Seconds seated sprint 15 seconds off

30 Seconds seated sprint 15 seconds off

“Livin’ in the Future” – Bruce Springsteen 3:57

Tabata Drills 8 X 20 secs. heavy climb 10 secs. off


“Postcards from the Past” – Billy Idol 4:21

30 Second seated climb

30 Second standing climb – add a gear

30 Second standing climb-add cadence&attack hill

30 Second seated sprint


“Shake it off” – Taylor Swift 3:39

8 counts seated – add a gear every 30 seconds

8 counts standing

X 3 mins.

“Drop It Low” – Kat DeLuna 3:46

Big Climb – 1/2 gear up every 30 seconds.; cadence to tempo

1:45 mins. Seated

1:45 mins. Standing

“Bringing back the Sunshine” – Blake Shelton 4:01

Chase Downs – 10 sec. headstart/20 sec. peleton chase down

Repeat 6 to 8 times

Cool Down & Stretching:

“Touch the Sky” – Julian Lennon 4:25

Hit the shower…you are done!



Spooky Song List

If you are looking for a little motivation just in time for Halloween, check out this song list that will keep you smiling and get your heart pounding…BOO! Scared ya didn’t I?

Warm Up: Monster Mash – Bobby “Boris” Pickett & The Crypt-Kickers

Psycho Killer – Talking Heads

Werewolves of London – Warren Zevon

Bad Moon Rising – Creedence Clearwater Revival

Ghostbusters – Ray Parker Jr.

Purple People Eater – Sheb Wooley

Witch Doctor – Sha Na Na

Thriller – Michael Jackson

And, for your creepy cool down: “I Put A Spell On You,” Annie Lennox

Sometimes, It’s not WHAT, but WHO you know that matters

I just signed up to complete a 5k race with a friend of mine,  It was her birthday wish so how could I refuse, right? It’s a fantastic way to spend time with a dear friend, have some fun and contribute to a great cause all while being active! But, it is so much more…

Signing up for this race, got me thinking about how fortunate I am to have friends that lead an active, fit lifestyle. In addition to teaching Yoga and Cycling, I am part of a group of women who, most weeks, meet to run together. We joke and call ourselves a social group that has a running problem, but what a great way to combine fitness with friendship.

Some of my friends are professionals engaged in the business of fitness and wellness, like me, but others are people who are whole-heartedly committed to living a healthy life. Many of my best, most supportive friendships, have evolved through some type of fitness activity or class. It is a bond forged in sweat!

Through this network of fitness friends, I have attempted new and challenging activities (Surf Yoga, Ocean Kayaking, triathlons). All things I probably would have never attempted on my own. I have also received support while injured and encouragement when I was not motivated.

One of the most powerful benefits to maintaining my fitness friendships has been accountability. My friends will not let me fall into a sustained, sedentary lifestyle or unhealthy eating habits. They are reliable resources for nutritional news, the latest fitness trends and apparel loves and loathes. When we are out for drinks or dinner my friends set good examples by ordering a healthy meal, asking for something to be prepared in a more healthy way or sharing a totally decadent dessert, limiting my (temporary) calorie backslide.

So, the moral of this post is, surround yourself with active friends! You will gain more than you can imagine and not a single pound.  The old adage is true, sometimes it’s not what, but who you know that matters most.

Everyone in the water!

With Labor Day weekend coming up and the last of the summer cookouts, are you thinking about heading to the pool or the lake?  Here is a quick swim workout to kick off the fun BEFORE you have that burger.  It will help you shred some calories and get your heart pounding! (Hint: this workout also works with timed intervals of 30 seconds to 1 minute instead of meters.)


Warm Up: 5 to 10 minutes

2X50m freestyle

2X50m backstroke

2X50m breaststroke

2X50m freestyle


4x50m kick (kickboard OR on back hands together above head)

4X50m freestyle with fingertip touch

4X50m kick (kickboard OR on back hands together above head)

4X50m Pull (use Pull Buoy)


(15 seconds rest between each sprint)

4X50m freestyle

4X50m backstroke

4X50m breaststroke

Cool Down:

2X50m freestyle

2X50m backstroke

 Now go enjoy that burger, hot off the grill!