Ladies…Don’t be Afraid of Lifting Weights

If I had a dollar for the number of times I have heard “I don’t lift weights because I don’t want to be big and muscular”, I would be a rich woman! I’m here to tell you that you will NOT get big by lifting weights.

Have you ever said this?

“I get bulky when I lift weights.” Or “I need to lose weight so I only focus on cardiovascular exercises.” Or “Lifting weights is for bodybuilders.”

At one time I thought that too. But as I have learned more about exercise and the many different types there are to benefit your body, weight training is one of the key workouts that will help you burn fat and stay lean. The more muscle you put on your body, the more calories you burn at rest. Meaning that, while you are not exercising, your body burns more calories. Plus, the more muscle you have, the less fat you have on your body.

You do not have to lift heavy weights and you do not need to lift weights everyday, but incorporating weight training a few times a week is essential to a fit lifestyle. And the great part about weight training is that you will never get bored. You can try weight machines, dumbbells, kettle bells, barbells with weights, or you can simply use your own body weight. If you are intimidated by weight lifting, have a personal trainer show you some simple exercises you can add to your regimen. Or try a weight training class. Our gym offers Body Pump, which is a full body workout with weights. And you control the amount of weight you want to use.

I like to work on different muscle groups throughout the week. I will do a short 20-30 minute weight routine after my cardio session so I can concentrate on 1-2 muscle groups. It’s best to work out larger muscle groups first, because you can lift the heaviest weights and get an overall harder workout. Start with back and shoulders or chest and back.

Back – overhand pull ups, wide grip pull downs, seated cable rows, bench rows
Chest – bench press, incline bench press, chest fly, cable fly, push ups (on floor or elevated surface)
Shoulders – overhead press with dumbbells, upright rows, lateral raises

You can work on your biceps and triceps on the same day because they are a smaller muscle group and fatigue easier. Try bicep curls, preacher curls, alternating concentration curls for biceps and cable press, overhead press, chair dips and push ups for triceps.

Do this workout for 2-3 weeks then switch it up. Try back and biceps together and chest and triceps together.

But ladies, I implore you, do not use the 3 and 5 pound dumbbells (unless you have never lifted a weight ever). When you are performing 10-15 reps of an exercise, the last few should be difficult. If you get to 15 reps and are not straining, up your weight!

When I trained for my figure competitions, I was lifting heavier than I ever had in the past. And I got leaner than I have ever been. So I’m here to tell you that lifting weights does not make you bigger. It makes you stronger!

Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments you may have!

Looking Younger: What’s the Real Secret?

In the past six months, I have noticed an increase of compliments regarding my age. I don’t feel like I’m trying to look younger. I’m comfortable with my age and generally happy with who I have become. But I must admit, with my mid-30s birthday just two weeks away, I’m pretty taken back by the recent comments that some people think I’m in my 20s. The first couple of times I heard it, I laughed it off. The next few times, I was extremely humbled. Now, I have started to question what could possibly be fueling the sudden flattery. Although I cannot confirm that any of the following are to blame, I have compiled a list of 10 things that may be secrets to looking younger.

1. Avoid Alcohol and Tobacco
I don’t smoke or drink alcohol. Smoking causes narrowing of the blood vessels, which can deprive the outermost layers of the skin of oxygen and nutrients. It also damages collagen, causing wrinkles. Likewise, alcohol can be dehydrating to the skin. This can affect the absorption of vitamins and nutrients that the skin needs as well.

2. Protect Your Skin
Sun damage can cause often irreversible damage to our skin, like brown spots, lines, and uneven skin tone. Tanning actually speeds up our body’s wrinkling process because ultraviolet light damages elastin (the skin’s fibers). I have fair skin that, after “a good burn”, would tan nicely. Many Memorial Day weekends, I would endure a second-degree burn in order to achieve and maintain a “beautiful” bronze glow throughout the remainder of the summer. It dawned on me several years ago that I was increasing my already high risk of getting skin cancer if I continued this cycle. I now use SPF 30 sunscreen and protect my face with hats, while relying on sunless tanners, self-tanning moisturizers, and bronzers to add subtle color to my skin.

3. Stay Hydrated
I love water, so when I decided to give up drinking sodas, it was an easy transition. About two years ago, I went one step further, limiting my consumption of milk, juice, and decaffeinated coffee & tea. Most days, I drink more than the daily recommended 64 ounces of water. It not only helps moisturize your skin but it cleanses your system as a whole. It not only helps you look younger, but it will help you feel younger too! I know there are a lot of people who generally do not like the taste of water. There are many enhancement options now, like MiO and Crystal Light Pure, that provide flavor options. Find one that is tasty to you and drink up!

4. Skin Care
I have dry, sensitive skin. Many products that are common favorites break me out. One well-known skin care line even caused chemical burns! With organic products becoming more and more popular, I started looking to more natural products in hopes of finding a good fit. I ended up finding two items that I feel contribute to my youthful appearance.

Ponds Cold Cream – yes, that stuff your grandma used to slather on her face at night. I know… I felt really old purchasing it at first too. But it truly is a great product for those of us who have dry, sensitive skin. The primary ingredients are Mineral Oil and Beeswax, which act as both a deep cleanser and a moisturizer. My face feels so soft after using it.

Bare Escentuals – I am in love with the mineral foundation! I was the girl who would buy the cheap drugstore foundations, usually whatever was on sale. I tried liquid, pressed powder, and cream-to-powder and could never find the perfect fit or the right shade for that matter. The older I got, the more I branched out trying more expensive department store foundations. No matter what I used, I always felt like my skin looked worse with the foundation than without. I was tired of spending money and went back to the cheap liquid. If nothing looked good, at least I would spend as little as possible on it. Last summer, my best friend convinced me to try BareMinerals. She explained that consumers no longer had to purchase this product online (and be sucked into the manufacturer’s automated ordering plan, which discouraged me from ever trying it) because it has become widely available. She took me to Sephora inside our local JCPenney, where I was perfectly matched to my shade. (I guess that wasn’t too hard. I’m pale; they sold me fair. Ha!) What I love about this product is: a little goes a long way, it doesn’t magnify pores or fine lines, it can be mixed with the BareMinerals bronzer to create a natural-looking tan, it’s quick to apply, and it covers really, really well. You can literally build your coverage. On most days, I just quickly brush it over my face to even my skin tone. Other days, I need full coverage. All it takes is a few more swirls of the brush. So easy!

5. Hair Tips
I have gray hair. There, I admitted it. Actually, white may be a better description. It isn’t a strand here or there either. Most of it around my face is completely without color. When it first started turning (when I was in my mid-20s, thanks to my thyroid disorder) I tried to embrace it. That didn’t last long. I spent years trying to mask the white hairs with an overall boxed color similar to my natural color. I ended up having to touch up my roots every 3 weeks and I just felt like my hair was boring. Thankfully, I have an amazing hairstylist who recommended highlights. I was skeptical at first. Chunky highlights have never really been my thing. I’m not certain they’re even trendy anymore and I wasn’t so sure how they would mask the patches of white hair around my face. To my surprise, she never had plans of putting in obvious highlights. Instead she created the most subtle and natural-looking color by mixing two different shades of blonde. She also cut in long, whispy bangs. They were cut far enough back that, when worn down, I couldn’t see any white hairs peeking through! I do think they add to a more youthful look too.

6. Say Goodbye to Bad Carbs
After my dad’s heart attack and my mom’s diabetes diagnosis, I have learned to cut back on bad carbs. I avoid added sugar and white starches like bread, pasta, rice, and refined grain. There are many healthy advantages to removing these items from your daily intake, but sugar bonds with protein which ultimately can cause wrinkles. And I feel less sluggish without bad carbs.

7. Follow the Trends
I have a bad habit of wearing the same glasses frames for years. It saved money just to switch out the lenses regularly. This year, I decided it was time for my old, worn metal frames to retire. I found some new ones (almost identical) to replace them, but my brother suggested I choose a pair of frames that were a little more trendy. Having no clue how to step out of the box, I enlisted him to help select something outside of my norm. I ended up with brown tortoise shell and purple plastic frames, that have a unique shape to them. I have since noticed a lot of younger adults wearing similar styles.

8. Less Stress
Everyone has stress. Some is unavoidable. But I decided last year that I would eliminate all of the stress that I could control. I put a lot on myself by filling my schedule too full, making poor choices (like credit card debt), and trying too hard to please others. Not only do I worry less now, but studies have shown that being more relaxed can make you look younger!

9. Plenty of sleep
There is such a thing as beauty sleep! Although I am guilty of burning the midnight oil some nights, overall I try to get at least 6 hours sleep. Geoff Wright, an expert in chronobiology (the study of the body clock) and director of The Hair And Beauty Partnership in London, states: “There are set times when our body clock dictates that various processes take place in hair and skin. From 8pm to 11pm is the time for hydration and stimulation, while 11pm to 3am is the time for nutrition and regeneration, and 3am to 5am is the time for resting. When we are asleep, our cells rebuild and repair themselves (the growth hormone functions only at night). If you don’t sleep, this function is impaired.” So lack of sleep or even poor-quality sleep can, in fact, make you look older.

10. Smile!
Although I’ve been told that I do it too much, I believe it does wonders for you. Not only does it use fewer muscles than frowning, but you feel and look better as a result. Who knows, it may even make others feel better too!

Livestrong Review

I am simultaneously ecstatic and embarrassed right now. I just registered on Livestrong.com! Am I the last human to learn about this website?

Let me first clear up the embarrassment part. I am not ashamed of signing up. I am, however, ashamed of just now finding out about what all Livestrong has to offer. I have used the website multiple times in the past to look up nutritional facts, specifically when I was on another well-known program. I never once stopped long enough to realize that Livestrong offered just as much as the other program, and more!

Fast forward to today. I’m about a week behind schedule in training for an upcoming 5K. It has been a couple of years since I’ve participated in one, and although I downloaded the Couch-to-5K app for my iPhone, I haven’t been persistent in using it. I have studied fitness and nutrition long enough to know that, to be my healthiest, I need to incorporate more than just running into my training regimen.

I sat down here at the computer and asked trusty Google which apps were the best, well-rounded heath apps available. In a matter of minutes, I found myself on Livestrong.com. After just a few clicks, I was ready to register. Once I was logged in, I was in awe. This has to be one of the coolest sites I’ve seen.

Here is where the ecstatic comes in. Livestrong is a support community, a library, a medical advisor, a trainer, and a personal assistant all in one! At your fingertips, you have access to nutritional facts of nearly every food item sold in most supermarkets, an array of exercise routines, countless recipes, an allergy center, meal trackers, and one of my favorites… local certified loops. Yes, you enter you address, and Livestrong.com can tell you the calculations and whereabouts of a nearby route! When I entered my zip code, I found a 10K bike loop, a 5K running loop, and a few 2- and 3-mile walking loops. Amazing!!

In most sections of the website, we as members can add information too. If there happens to be an item not listed in the nutritional information section, we can add it. The same goes for recipes, and even creating a new loop. The site even has a social media aspect to it, where you can share information, successes, frustrations, photos, or questions with other Livestrong members.

Both the website and the app are very user friendly. The app includes:

MyPlate – meals, snacks, water intake, and workouts tracker
Diary – a list of daily and monthly calorie intake and recorded weight
Progress – three easy-to-read graph for weight, calories, and nutrients
Community – similar to the Twitter app, chat with fellow members in an open feed or privately message a particular person
and More – help center, menu for your account information, and Livestrong.com’s Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.

There is a Lite version of the app, which is free, but I chose to spend $2.99 and download the full version. With the website requiring no cost to register… a one-time fee of $3.00 is nothing in comparison to the competition.

Whether you’re trying to lose weight, need a place to keep up with your activity schedule, or training for an event, I highly suggest checking out Livestrong.com. It’s a well-rounded, convenient, informative, and supportive community!

When It Comes to Exercise, Variety is Key!

If you’re just starting an exercise program, trying to lose a significant amount of weight, or just trying to get rid of those last few stubborn pounds…the solution is the same. You need variety in your workouts.

There are 3 types of cardio:

Steady state (also called fat burning or low heart rate) – This is where you exercise at a low intensity with the purpose of burning your fat stores. This is best done first thing in the morning before you have eaten. Depending on your age and resting heart rate, you can determine your “fat burning target zone”. My heart rate has to stay between 125 and 135.

Interval training – the fastest and most effective way to burn calories. This is also the best cardio for what experts call the “afterburn”. Meaning your body continues to burn calories after you have finished exercising. Interval training consists of a 5-10 minute warm up, 20-30 minute interval workout, and a 5-10 minute cool down. You can do this on the elliptical, step mill, treadmill, or bike. The goal is to go hard for a short period of time, then recover for the same amount of time (or just a bit longer). I have done sprints on the treadmill, running as fast as I can for 1 minute, then recovering at a jog pace for 2 minutes. I have also used the elliptical machine for interval workouts, going hard for 1 minute, recovering for 1 minute. You can also do shorter bursts of intensity – go hard for 30 seconds, recover for 1 minute. Pick the machine that works best for you. And remember, this is not supposed to be easy. I am usually out of breath by the end of my intervals. I suggest doing interval workouts twice a week. Although they are key for torching calories, they require the most recovery. So alternate interval workouts with steady state cardio.

Medium intensity – basically a cardio workout in between steady state and interval training. You need to get your heart rate up, but not as high as interval training. When I need medium intensity cardio, I usually run outside or on the treadmill or use the step mill. I can increase the speed if I need to, but I can also back off if the workout is getting too intense.

It is also important to vary your workouts week to week and month to month. If you do the same cardio and weight routines week after week, your body gets conditioned to those exercises. You need to switch it up because the more variety you incorporate into your workouts, the more you can challenge your body. Different exercises work different muscle groups and it’s important to use them all. If you’ve never tried Spin or Zumba, give them a whirl. You’ll be amazed when you are sore in places you aren’t accustomed to!