Sunday, February 28, 2010

Pool Workout! Just in time for Spring!

If you know me, you know that I swear by the pool and water workouts. If you are a fellow water exerciser, you can probably relate when I say, there are few things that compare to the feeling you experience after a good workout in the water. There is something very tranquil and purifying but at the same time there is always a sense of accomplishment that comes along with it. It’s like an instant detoxifier for the body and the mind. I often do my best thinking underwater, it has become my new religion ;)

For those of you who haven’t yet made the plunge into water exercising (no pun intended), I urge you to try it. I know it can be intimidating and even nauseating at first, trust me, I used to cringe just walking by the pool. The idea of getting in, feeling cold, getting wet and tooling around without the slightest clue as to what I was going to do in there was not a likely option. But injury forced me to come to terms with my dysfunctional relationship with the pool and I forced myself to ‘plunge in’, and experiment with walking and jogging in the water.

To make a long story short, I am now one of the biggest advocates of swimming and aqua running. It is something that improved my fitness level so drastically that I now incorporate it into my regimen at least once if not twice per week. I could write a whole book on the benefits of the water and write endless pool running workouts, so please let me know if you are interested, I can provide you with a few (see for an example).

However, this article is in response to a friend who wrote me recently. As many of you know, whether you are a recreational swimmer for exercise, training for a triathlon, using swimming as an alternate workout to help your running or simply just trying to get in shape and take off a few pounds – swimming endless mundane laps can be boring. AND to further that, while you will be able to improve your endurance over time, you are not likely to get faster unless you can get in some more targeted workouts.

Below is a great example of a swimming workout I do frequently. You can manipulate the number of lengths in each portion of the workout depending upon your level, time available and length of pool. This workout is based on a 25ft pool.


-Jump up and down in the water a couple times to get wet and get the blood flowing.
-Swim 2-4 laps easy (or 4-8 lengths: I count a lap as swimming to the end of the pool and back)
-Kickboard Drills: 1 lap flutter kicks
-1 Lap: Use Buoy (if pool has it) between legs and just swim with arms


5 -10 by one lap hard (as fast as you can go for one lap) with 30 seconds to one minute of recovery between each lap

Cool Down and Drills:

Two easy laps to recover
1 Lap of Breast Stroke
2 laps of flutter kicks with kickboard
1 Lap of double stroking with arms (meaning take two strokes with left arm, then two strokes with right side)

You’re Done!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ultra Low Calorie Dessert - Too Good to be True!

And the Bonus: It only takes two minutes to make

 This is one of my absolute favorite desserts. I am usually very skeptical of light, low cal or fat free desserts, I usually think they either have a funny taste or simply are not satisfying. This dessert proved me wrong! In fact, it is so good that people often ask me for the recipe with no idea how easy and ‘light’ it is. This is one dessert I would have no doubt about serving at a party or bbq, I guarantee the compliments will flow!

The best part is that there are so many variations that will totally change the dessert, so you never get bored!


Amanda’s Pudding Mousse Pie


 2 Pkgs Instant Fat Free/Sugar Free Vanilla Pudding

2 Cups Skim Milk

1 tub Light Cool Whip

1 Tablespoon Vanilla

1 Graham Cracker Crust

Combine milk, pudding mix, vanilla and half the tub of cool whip. Mix thoroughly.

Pour mixture into crust and top with remaining cool whip.

Optional: Add slices of banana or crushed Oreo cookies on top.


Make it a pumpkin mousse pie by adding half a can of pumpkin (can easily buy this at any grocery store), and sprinkle the top with cinnamon

Use chocolate pudding instead and add a crushed up ‘skor’ chocolate bar to the mix

Use cheesecake instant pudding mix to make it a cheesecake pie







Monday, February 15, 2010

The ‘Running Hills’ Workout

Looking for a great workout to mix into your routine? This is something that will most definitely strip calories and fat, both during the workout and for hours after. BUT, this workout stems from my running days, and is something I highly recommend if you are looking to become stronger, leaner and faster. Whether you are training for a marathon or just simply love the purity of sport and physical exertion, give this a try.

Where: Can be done outside or on a treadmill (I always prefer outside to the treadmill, but it’s not for everyone).

For those of you who aren’t ‘runners’ you can do this on a bike, or you can power-walk the hills.


If doing the workout outside, you will need to first find a hill. I recommend a medium-sized hill to start. A medium hill is one that takes between 30 to 90 seconds to run up. This length of hill is a good distance for the 5km –half marathon runners, because it combines the benefits of short intervals with the stresses on local muscular endurance and tolerance of lactic acid. The energy source is both aerobic and anaerobic and you will experience the build up in blood lactate as you go further up the hill.

Regardless of the hill you choose, the key here is to make sure it’s either long enough or steep enough that you are totally spent at the top and need to recover. In my training I typically use a hill that takes me roughly 90 seconds to 2 min to run as hard as I can to the top. To mix it up, some days I use a shorter hill and add more repeats, and some days I use a longer hill (2-3min) and simply do less repeats.

On the treadmill, I recommend trying a steep incline, as steep as you can handle for 90 seconds.

Clearly your pace will slow down on the hill but the key is to try to get up as fast as you possibly can. Yes, your thighs, bum and lungs will be burning, but you will feel amazing at the end AND for those of you who race, you can count on your times improving substantially. Don’t fear those hills – let them be your strength!


Sample Hill Workout Plan


1-2 Mile: Warm Up Run

1.5 – 2 min: Run as hard as you can up the hill (as much incline as you can handle for that duration on a treadmill – start with a 4% gradient and increase)

Run back down the hill (or run easy for 2 min). Enough to get your heart rate back down.

Do 4-6 hill climbs

1 Mile Cool Down Run


I encourage you do try different lengths of hills, some weeks try shorts hills, some long and some medium, the benefits from each are quit different.

For the athletes out there, I’ve highlighted a few of the key benefits:

·       helps develop power and muscle elasticity

·       improves stride frequency and length

·       develops coordination, encouraging the proper use of arm action during the driving phase and feet in the support phase

·       develops control and stabilization as well as improved speed (downhill running)

·       promotes strength endurance

·       develops maximum speed and strength (short hills)

·       improves lactate tolerance (mixed hills)


And for those looking for aesthetic results: Running Hills on a consistent basis leads to drastic weight loss and toning effects (especially for the hips, butt and thighs)!


Have fun with the Hills!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Cheating Out Calories – 5 Easy Changes for Big Results

If you are looking for a few simple substitutes you can make on a daily basis to cut calories and trim up your waistline, here are my top five ways to easily cut 200-2000 calories a day!

Beverages! So many people consume a significant amount of calories in beverages alone. For some, simply switching drinks will greatly reduce overall calorie-intake and help shed unwanted calories with such a minimal sacrifice.
For example, let’s say you drink a glass of orange juice with breakfast, a coffee with cream, a vanilla latte in the afternoon, a coke or bottle of juice in the afternoon and a glass of wine or 2, plus a glass of milk in there somewhere, this is easily 1000 calories or more!!
I recommend drinking water or seltzer with breakfast and lunch, and having an orange over a glass of orange juice (at least you get substance and it’s less calories!). Switch from whole or 2% milk to skim, and use milk in your coffee instead of cream (this will actually make a significant difference over time).
To make my wine last longer I add a little soda water, or alternate between sips of soda water and sips of wine.
Of coarse you can easily switch to diet drinks with zero calories, however, these drinks contain aspartame and sweeteners that slow your metabolism and actually make you crave more sugary foods – causing you to overdo it later.

Skip the ‘treat and coffee’ or switch to a granola bar (unless you are at your ideal weight than enjoy to your hearts content). But if you are serious about losing weight, stay away from the cookies, donuts, muffins and other treats they place at the local Starbucks and alike. These ‘little snacks’ – easily pack in more than a meals worth of calories without filling you up. The sugar is likely to make you crash and become hungry later. I often NEED to have something with my afternoon coffee, so I’ve recently started eating chocolate peanut granola bars by quaker, just enough chocolate and ‘treat-ish feel’ for a third the calories.

Substitute your morning bagel or muffin for an English muffin or regular sliced bread. Bagels and muffins are dense and easily range between 250 and 550 calories, not including the butter, cream cheese or whatever you put on them. If you do choose a bagel, I recommend cutting it into three rather than two halves. They are so thick, this can easily be done. Also, try switching from butter or cream cheese to a lighter version, or fruit spread.

SALADS!! These are one of the biggest mistakes people make. They think they are doing themselves a favor by having a salad, but these salads often have more calories than a full-on cheeseburger and fries. It is all about what you put in the salad. Adding loads of ingredients such as meat, cheese, nuts, raisins, eggs, dried fruit, olives and dressing is a dangerous idea if you are trying to shed pounds. Monitor what you put into it, just a little lean meat such as ham or turkey and skip all the cheese, nuts etc.
Try to keep it a true ‘garden salad’ (lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, celery, broccoli) with a serving of protein if it’s your meal (an egg white or two, or some lean meat) and a light sprinkle of oil and vinegar for taste.

Sauces and Soups: Unless it’s a special occasion, I recommend avoiding all heavy or cream based soups and sauces such as alfredo, cream of broccoli, clam chowder etc. A white sauce or soup usually means it is shooting your calorie count for the day right off the charts (as tasty as it is). I recommend opting for broth-based soups and red sauces, like marinara.

These are very small and easily attainable changes that add up to big results. This is by no way a diet; it’s a simple lifestyle change that can help you in a significant way.

It may be that a few simple tricks is all you need!

Monday, February 1, 2010

High Intensity Interval Training ( HITT) – The Efficient Workout!

Ahh time always seems to be at a shortage when it comes time to squeeze in exercise. BUT, we are all busy and some weeks are harder than others to ‘fit it in’. So, if you’re wanting to know how to stay fit in minimal time, I always advocate High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).

As per my article from October .HIIT is very intense, challenging spurts of ‘cardio’ for short durations. This type of training is tough because it is very hard and ‘uncomfortable’, but the benefits are so great that dedicated people everywhere consistently challenge themselves in this way to reap the results.

I have several examples on my blog, but it is important to keep changing up your workout, to keep your body guessing and your mind from getting bored.

If you are running, think of sprints. All out, maximal effort for
20 seconds to a minute. A couple of examples of workouts you can do on
the treadmill, on the bike, or running outside.

8-10 min OR 1 mile Warm Up

5 to 10, 20 seconds sprints. If you are just starting out, begin with
5 sprints and each week, add 1 sprint to your total count
(20 second sprints should be all out, so push it)

Rest 30 to 90 seconds between each sprint

You can treat the treadmill as a track-

2X 400 (1 lap around a track or .25 on the treadmill(approx 60-90 seconds)

Rest 2 minutes

2X 200 (half a track lap, or .12, or .13 on the treadmill(approx 20-30 seconds)

Rest 1 minute

Try this out, it is a great workout. Yes, if done right it IS hard, but
you will be done your intervals in 15 to 30 minutes.

Happy Sweating!