Archives for March 2012

Six Exercises That Will Get Your Arms Ready For Summer Tank Tops

You Only Need 10 Minutes a Day To Get Your Arms Ready For Summer 

If you’re spending most of your workout time on cardio exercise like walking, running, biking or swimming you may be neglecting your arms.  Every year at this time I spend a little more of my workout time focusing on upper body exercises so that I’m ready for tank tops when the day comes to bare arms.

Summer Ready Arms

The following six exercises will get your arms, shoulder, chest and upper back ready for skimpier summer clothes.  You’ll need a set of dumbbells that weigh at least five pounds each – heavier is better – and 10 minutes a day for six weeks.

1.)  Bicep Curl

We’ve all done this exercise.  The key to doing it so that it’s effective is 1.) use an adequate amount of weight. If you can do more than two sets of 12, the weight is too light, and 2.) don’t lift the elbow on the curl.  Pretending your elbow is glued to your waist as you lift the arm will prevent utilizing  the shoulder muscles.

Use a heavier weight for the curl

Take care not to lift the elbow on the curl.

2. Tricep Kick Back

Another common exercise when done correctly can develop the back of the arm.  Use a bench so that you can bend from the waist and work against gravity.  Make sure you don’t swing the arm from the shoulder.  Again, as with the bicep curl, the elbow stays at the side.

Bend over from the waist and work against gravity.

Push the arm away from the elbow rather than swinging from the shoulder.

3.  Lateral Shoulder Raise

You may need to lighten up the weight for the lateral shoulder raise.  At least at first until you build strength in the shoulder.  Take care not to lift the weight higher than the shoulder.

This picture shows the exercise from a sitting position. To better incorporate the core, stand up.

This shows the lift 3/4 of the way to the top position. Take care not to lift higher than the shoulder

4.  Shoulder Press 

Work arms one at a time or both together.   Push the arm through a full range of motion with a weight that you can lift for 10 – 12 repetitions.

Use a weight that you can only lift for 10 – 12 repetitions.

Push through a full range of motion.

 5.  Upper Back Fly

 The key to a successful upper back fly is to use the back muscles, not the shoulder.  Unlike a lateral shoulder raise, the lift comes entirely from the back.  Focus on squeezing your shoulder blades together instead of raising the shoulders.

Standing or sitting, lean over slightly from the hips.

Think of squeezing the shoulder blades together. Lift with the back not the shoulder.

6.  Chest Fly

The opposite of the upper back fly.  This exercise focuses on the muscles in the chest.  Again, think of pulling the weights together using the pectorals (chest) muscles rather than the shoulder.

Lay on a bench so you can work against gravity. Release the weights out to the side.

As you pull the weights together think of the chest muscles as the primary movers.

Workout Basics – Do the series of exercises every other day for six weeks.  Use weights that are heavy enough that you can do two sets of 12.  When you’re able to do more repetitions, increase the weight.


It’s Time To Tell Your Inner Critic To Put A Sock In It

A ‘Silence Your Inner Critic’ Tweet Gets Me Thinking 

I follow Web MD on Twitter and today they tweeted about their new blog post on the importance of silencing your inner critic. The blog discussed how relationships can be strained when one person constantly talks negatively about themselves or refuses to accept even the most minor compliment a partner sends their way.  I don’t think that being our own worst enemy is just bad for relationships. It’s bad for every aspect of our life.

Are you too hard on yourself? Flickr photo by Untitled Blue

I caught on to how common it is for people to be unreasonably hard on themselves when they are trying to lose weight once I began wellness coaching.  Inherently when clients come into the session they start pouring out their heart to the coach about everything they didn’t accomplish over the past week.  I’ve heard everything from “I ate a whole bag of potato chips,” to “I didn’t make it to the gym once this week.”  Sometimes it’s just a blanket statement.  “The week was a mess.  I didn’t do anything I said I was going to do.”

Because this is so common, the coaching course I took taught us how to stop this head on:  Always start the session with a positive inquiry.   For example, “Tell me about the best thing that happened to you this week.”  The inquiry isn’t about what they did or didn’t eat or how much they exercised.  If the client wants to talk about their daughter’s surprise when she got a puppy for her tenth birthday they have the freedom to do that.

How To Be Your Own Best Friend

The self-help book of the 80's

The concept of ‘being your own best friend’ has been around for decades.  I remember when the self-help book “How To Be Your Own Best Friend”  was popular in the 80’s.  Twenty plus years later you can still buy it at

Being our own best friends sounds like a good idea, but how many of us practice it?  I wasn’t very supportive of me this morning when a friend who is training for an Ironman competition in August invited me to join her and another friend, who is training for an Ironman competition in November, for a 10 mile run on Saturday.  Wow!  I’ve been invited to run with two iron-women athletes.  I should have been ecstatic!  But I wasn’t.  Instead my brain lit up like a switchboard with negative self-talk.  I’m too slow.  I’ll hold them back.  I’ll get tired.  I’m better on my own.  If I go they’ll see I’m not on the same level they are.

I didn’t realize what I had done it until I started checking tweets and found the Web MD blog.  So, now that I realize I have a habit of doing this – and I suspect you do too – and the consequences of doing it on a regular basis are pretty damaging, what do I intend to do about it?

Put A Sock In It 

I did some exploring on the topic of silencing our inner critic and here’s what I’ve learned:

Self-Criticism Is Hurtful – Unrelenting Self-Criticism goes hand in hand with depression and anxiety.  A study done by Dr. David M. Dunkley, a psychiatrist at Jewish General Hospital in Montreal, found that people that were the most self-critical are:

  • The most likely to be depressed and to suffer from eating disorders.
  • Often fearful that their colleagues (and maybe their friends and family too) will find out who they really are, not who they are pretending to be.
  • Following the belief that if they don’t beat themselves up they won’t be successful. I guess we think that to keep ourselves from slacking we have to kick our own butts from time to time.

It’s Not Inevitable – There are four action steps that we can do to change our negative self-talk behavior.  We can:

  • Make a conscious effort to monitor our thoughts and write down self-criticisms in a journal.  We should make a note of the situations that trigger the negative self-talk.
  • Evaluate our judgments and decide if we’re being fair to ourselves or if we’re holding us up to a higher standard than we do everybody else.  Also, let’s give ourselves a break when something happens that we have no control over.  Not everything is our fault.
  • Keep a list of our achievements and occasionally look back and review our accomplishments.  Write down “I hand washed my car and all of the windows at my house on Saturday”.  Leave off “I ate a bag of potato chips last week”.
  • Learn to recognize the difference between healthy, constructive change-talk and condemnation.  Calling ourselves names is destructive condemnation.  Saying, I’ll do better tomorrow is constructive.

We’re Trying To Keep Up With The Kardashian’s – Robert L. Leahy, a psychiatrist and director of the American Institute for Cognitive Therapy in New York, says “We have expanded what we expect of material success and physical appearance so that it’s completely unrealistic”.   I think there is enough fodder in that statement for an entire blog post.  It certainly summarizes why we fall into the trap of being so hard on ourselves.  We’re trying to keep up with the Kardashian’s.

No doubt social media plays a role in this.  As much as we love Facebook, we all have a ‘friend’ that posts non-stop about the amazingly awesome life they are living which makes us wonder what we’re missing.  Pinterest takes it to the next level with the boards of glamorous home furnishings, rock-hard sweaty  bodies, creative crafts that I have no clue how anyone has time to make, and dishes with ingredients in them I can’t pronounce that apparently someone out there is preparing for dinner every evening.  This ‘expanded expectation’ provides us with even more reasons to berate ourselves when we begin to suspect that we’re not measuring up to the trumped up fairy tale everyone else seems to be living.

Behavior Change 101

If we are going to alter the way we talk to ourselves we will need to apply the same principles we do when we set out to adopt other healthy behaviorsSMART goal setting, journaling, focusing on the best thing that we did instead of our failures, and allowing ourselves the same room for error that we permit the other people in our lives to have.

I’ll get us started by throwing down the gauntlet:  I plan to run with my iron-women friends this weekend.   I promise not to call myself slow, weak or lame. When I get home I’ll write down the best thing that happened during the run.  I may even blog about it.

What’s your action plan for defeating your inner critic?

Karen’s Incredibly Quick and Nutritious Green Smoothie

Ingredients for an incredibly delicious green smoothie

Get Your Five A Day The Easy Way

How many times do you take fruit to work and not eat it?  Or have plans to make a salad for dinner but run out of time?  Even those of us with the best intentions have trouble getting all of the fruits and vegetables – and more specifically the nutrition that they provide – every day.

This smoothie recipe is so quick and easy you can make it in the morning to drink on your way to work, or put in a cooler and have it later in the day. I peeled the banana and kiwi and threw them along with all the ingredients in a smoothie maker and turned it on.  From start to finish it took me about five minutes.


1 kiwi
1 banana
1 ½ cups frozen fruit
*I used a mix that had strawberries, mangos, peaches
4 cups raw spinach
¾ cup almond milk
*substitute skim or soy milk as desired

Put all of the ingredients in a smoothie maker or blender and mix.


You could easily substitute the fruits I used for your favorites, or put in whatever you have on hand.  I used spinach for the greens, but kale, bok choy, or even green and red leaf lettuce will work. If you use different ingredients each time you make the smoothie, it will change the nutritional value enough that you’ll get a good variety of vitamins and minerals.  

Not only is Karen’s Green Smoothie incredibly quick and amazing, it’s also delicious and loaded with nutrition.

Green Smoothie

I put I put all of the ingredients in the Calorie Count and nutritional analyzer and here are the results:

Nutrition –  Serving size – 862 g; Calories 382; 13 Calories from Fat; Total fat 1.5g; Trans fat – 0; Cholesterol 5 mg; Sodium 201 mg; Total carbohydrates 86.7g; Dietary Fiber 11.9 g; Sugars 58.1 g; Protein 13.8 g; Vitamin A – 246%; Calcium 46%; Vitamin C 511%; Iron 25%

Nutrition Grade – A – The analysis reported that it is low in fat, sodium and cholesterol and high in dietary fiber, calcium, manganese, magnesium, potassium, riboflavin, vitamin B6 and very high in vitamins A and C.

Do you have a favorite green smoothie recipe?

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Be Careful What You Wish For: 5 Things You Should Know About Qnexa

Which one is the magic pill?

A New Diet Pill Is Pending Approval By The FDA

The latest diet pill that promises to melt fat has finally been ‘tentatively’ approved by the Food and Drug Administration and will be hitting doctor’s offices soon.  Once approved, Qnexa will be the first diet pill to receive FDA endorsement in the last 13 years. No doubt there will be plenty of people asking their docs to write a prescription for Qnexa.

Qnexa is an appetite-suppressing drug developed by Vivus, a California pharmaceutical company, that contains phentermine and topiramate.  As with any diet pill there’s good new and bad.  Here are five things you should know before asking the doctor for a prescription:

  1. Not all that long ago, Qnexa was denied approval by the FDA because tests showed there were too many side effects associated with it.  The side effects included suicidal thoughts, heart palpitations, memory lapses and birth defects.
  2. In the test trials that have been done on the drug, there were five heart attacks among the people that took Qnexa.  There were no heart attacks in the group that took the placebo.
  3. One of the main concerns with the drug is that it contains Topamax.  The side effects of Topamax include the tendency for pregnant women to give birth to children with birth defects.  The most common defect is cleft lip.
  4. There is a long history of safety problems with diet pills once they hit the market and are used outside of the pilot group.  Diet pills like Fen-phen seemed like a good idea at one time.  The manufactures of Fen-phen have now settled a class action lawsuit for 3.75 billion after the drug was linked to heart valve disease.  Remember, if you’re one of the first to receive Qnexa, you’ll really just end up being part of a large test group.
  5.  The FDA, maybe against their better judgment, may end up approving the drug because they are under pressure to find a remedy for the obesity epidemic the nation is faced with.  A Senate appropriations committee has asked the FDA to submit a report by the end of this month with a plan for the development of new obesity treatments.

Why It’s So Difficult For Diet Pills To Obtain FDA Approval

The Fen-Phen debacle may be a big reason why it’s hard for new pills to receive the FDA seal of approval.  Fen-Phen is a combination of two weight loss supplements:  Fenfluramine (Fen) and Phentermine (Phen).  Both ingredients were approved by the FDA; Phen in 1959 and Fen in 1973.  While the FDA never approved a supplement that contained both ingredients, doctors began prescribing the ‘cocktail’ to their patients with good results and seemingly no side effects.  In 1996, 6.6 million prescriptions for Fen-Phen were written in the U.S.

It took only a year for the magic pill with no side effects to come under fire.  In the summer of 1997 the Mayo Clinic reported an alarming number of occurrences of heart-valve disease.  All of the patients that the Clinic saw for the heart-valve issue had something in common. They had all taken Fen-Phen.

Heart-valve cases related to Fen-Phen continued to be reported to the FDA.  The FDA eventually issued a Public Health Advisory advising people of the risks of taking the diet pill combo and asked manufacturers to voluntarily withdraw Fenfluramine from the market.  Phen is still on the market, continues to be prescribed by docs for short-term treatment of obesity, and is making a re-appearance in Qnexa.

Is This One Approved?

The Difference Between FDA Approved Supplements And All The Others

Non-FDA approved diet pills are the ones that are sold in abundance at the local drug stores, Wal Marts, and weight-loss clinics.  These supplements have varying levels of effectiveness and numerous side-effects.

You’ll recall that just a few months ago the FDA issued warning letters to companies selling over-the-counter HCG weight loss products.  The FDA stated that the manufacturers made unsubstantiated claims about the product’s ability to help people lose weight safely. The HCG diet is based on a 500 calorie/day diet and an injection of the hormone HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) that is produced by the human placenta.  I wrote about the risks of HCG in a post on December 8, and you can read more about it here. There have been many risky weight-loss scams prior to HCG and there are many more to follow.

The combination of the FDA being under pressure to approve a diet aid and the never-ending desire for a pill that will help people that have tried and failed in their attempts to not only lose weight, but keep it off, may be factors that will lead to the approval of Qnexa. Only after it’s approved and has been widely used on the market by the general public will we be able to determine its effectiveness and decide whether or not the side effects over-shadow any weight loss benefits that occur.

If you’ve followed this blog and have read some of other my posts about fads that promise to ‘melt fat’ or ‘torch calories’, you know I won’t be cheering on the FDA to put Qnexa on the market.  I think if we’re all ready to be honest with ourselves, we know that the only way to lose weight and keep it off is to change our habits.  Moving more and sitting less, keeping our portions under control, eating more fruits, and vegetables, and eliminating heavily processed foods from our diet isn’t exactly magic, but it’s what works.  We don’t need another pill.  We need the motivation to put down the cookies.

Most People Want More Time. I Want More Years.

Add Years To Your Life With These Nutrition Tips

A recent study by the American Heart Association found that 80 percent of the Americans surveyed struggle to eat enough fruits and vegetables, get enough exercise, or brush and floss their teeth on a regular basis.  The reason?  They don’t have the time. We all wish we had more hours in the day.  But, I wonder, even if we could add a few hours here and there, would we use that time to take better care of ourselves?

Ninety percent of the AHA respondents that were surveyed did express a desire to improve their health.  If you’re one of the 80% – or know someone who is – you can jump start your nutrition goals by joining the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, “Get Your Plate In Shape” campaign.

                    Fill your plate with fruits and vegetables.

National Nutrition Month 

March is National Nutrition Month and the Academy has a web site that provides tons of resources to motivate you and your friends and family to make some changes that will improve your health.  Making changes to your diet today might not add hours to your day, but it very well may add years to your life.

Here are some steps you can take right away to “Get Your Plate In Shape”:

  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.  The more colorful your plate, the healthier it is. Making a salad with bright green and purple lettuces in place of iceberg, for example, will considerably increases the nutritional value.  If you need an idea for something easy and nutritious, click here for a delicious Asparagus Salad recipe.
  • Make at least half your grains whole.  Try some whole wheat pasta or brown rice in place of white for a more nutritious meal that’s higher in fiber.  This Pesto Pizza Salad recipe uses a whole grain pita as the crust.
  • Switch to fat-free or low-fat milk.  Switching to 1% or fat-free milk gives you a double bonus.  Not only is the fat and calorie content lower than in regular milk, the calcium content is higher. Using skim milk in coffee drinks can reduce the calories and lower the risk for osteopenia.
  • Vary your protein choices.  We tend to think that the best source of protein is meat.  But beans, lentils, nuts, seed, tofu, eggs and fish are all high in protein and other vitamins and minerals.
  • Cut back on sodium and empty calories that come from solid fats and sugars. Sodium, fat and sugar and abundant in processed foods. Reading food labels and trying to stay with foods that have five or less ingredients on the label is one way to avoid all three.
  • Enjoy your food but eat less.  Americans have been super-sized for so long it’s hard to know what a true portion is. Check out portion control and size guide from Web MD.  You can print the guide and put it on your refrigerator or keep in your wallet to use when you’re away from home.
  • Be physically active.  Add ten minutes of physical activity to your day and work your way up from there.  Two and half hours of physical activity a week is recommended for adults.  Children and teens need 60 minutes or more a day.

By incorporating several of the items on the bulleted list, you’ll be on your way to making some positive, healthy behavior changes and you won’t have to spend a lot of time.

Additional Resources

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has additional resources including printable PDFs on a variety of topics:  Power Up With Breakfast, Smart Snacking for Adults and Teens, and Healthy Eating On The Run, plus family friendly games, videos and quizzes.

Share the tips and resources for National Nutrition Month by tweeting or sharing on Facebook or Google+.

A Week In Review. Random But Important Stuff That Everyone Should Know.

From LSD to the Dreaded Pink Slime.  It’s Been A Week!

Some weeks are crazier than others.  I’ve learned so much this week that I can’t possibly write a detailed post about all of it.  I’ve decided to share some of the most critical information about a lot of different stuff with links to the articles so you can read the slimy and gory details for yourself.

Guinness: Thick, velvety, frothy and Irish! Flickr photo by KellBailey

Guinness Irish Stout- Let’s start with the highlight of the week and save the bad news for later.  It’s St. Patrick’s Day!

I celebrated a little early by meeting a couple of close friends for happy hour yesterday.  As I was driving to the place where we to meet up for cocktails, the radio station had the local beer distributor in the studio and they were talking about Guinness.

The knowledgeable beer guy said that Guinness in the can was the absolute best.  (Once it is correctly poured into a glass of course.)  Guinness puts a little widget in each can.  This widget has a tiny hole in it.   When the can is sealed and pressurized the air in the widget is compressed so that when you open the can, the widget aerates the beer making it more flavorful.

So we celebrated by enjoying a rich, frothy, flavorfully aerated Guinness last night in honor of St. Patrick.  The Guinness web site describes the beer as ‘velvety’ and ‘bittersweet’.  I agree, which brings me to my next amazing discover.

LSD Is Being Used To Help People That Suffer From Alcoholism – LSD, you know, the psychedelic drug that was popular in the 60’s, now shows promise of helping people that misuse alcohol.  Researchers have found that a one-time use of LSD can reduce the cravings for alcohol for up to a year.  Apparently the LSD provides the user with insights into their behavior, helps them become more self-accepting and initiates a motivation to change. The original research isn’t new, but was conducted in the 60’s and 70’s.

It’s estimated that more than 12 million people in the U.S. suffer from alcoholism and many don’t respond to treatments that are currently being used.  The good news is the results of the randomized trials that were done 40 years ago are now being re-analyzed in hopes of finding new options.  A re-evaluation of the studies done in the 60s and 70s may open the window for new, more effective treatments today.

Burnt Out and Emotional Eating In Women – The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that women who are burnt out at work don’t just eat when they are hungry.  They eat when they are stressed, anxious, or depressed.  The findings were based on a study that involved 230 women ages 30 – 55. All of the women were employed.

Surveys, using self-reported data, showed that 22 percent of the women had ‘some degree of work burnout’ and that as a group, they were more prone to emotional eating than the women that were not suffering from work overload.

The study did not find that the emotional eaters were overweight, but cited that people that have a habit of reaching for food for reasons other than hunger often don’t eat the most nutritious foods, and have more of a tendency to gain weight over the years.

This seems like a perfect opportunity for companies and organizations to develop strategies to reduce job burnout, which will result in long-term benefits for both the women and their employer and makes a case for importance of workplace wellness programs.

Here’s One For Men – Research done by the Harvard School of Public Health shows that drinking one soda pop a day can increase the risk for heart disease by as much as 20 percent in men.  A study done on 43,000 men showed that men who drank soda had higher levels of triglyceride blood fats and proteins in the blood – both which are precursors for heart disease – than men who did not.

The research on the 43,000 men was done over a 20-year period.  The soft-drink industry argues that the study is bogus and the increase in heart disease among the soda drinkers could have easily been caused by other unhealthy lifestyle behaviors over the 20-year period.  No doubt we’ll be hearing more about this since it seems the debate is far from over.

The Infamous Pink Slime – I’m sure you’ve all heard about the recent findings that the pink slime is just absolutely everywhere.  It’s in the McRib, school lunches, and even in the meat that we buy at the supermarket.

What exactly is pink slime?  An “ABC World News” report by Jim Avila, says that Gerald Zirnstein, a former meat inspector for the USDA describes pink slime as ‘amonia-treated sludge that consists of meat scraps and unusable parts of a carcass’. Zirnstein no longer works for the USDA and grinds his own beef at home.

Let’s End On A Positive Note.

Which Cities Wear The Most Green – It may be too late to travel for an all-out St. Patrick’s Day celebration this year, but here’s some ideas if you want to plan a get-away

Chicago – One of the best cities for the wearin’ of the green.

for next. Hotwire has compiled a list 10 U.S. city’s that do it up right for St. Patty’s Day.  They are:

  • New York City
  • Philadelphia
  • Chicago
  • Los Angeles
  • Phoenix
  • San Diego
  • Boston
  • Houston
  • Columbus
  • Indianapolis

A couple of those are well within my reach for next year without the cost of an airplane ticket.  But for this year I’ll be celebrating at a local fund raising event, wearing the green and possibly enjoying one more can of Guinness or maybe a homemade Shamrock Shake!

Make Your Own ‘Lighter’ Version of McDonald’s Shamrock Shake

Minty Breath Might Mean You’re Indulging In Shamrock Shakes On The Sly

Save Some Calories and ‘Extra’ Ingredients When You Make Your Own Shake

Seasonal, Minty and Hard To Resist

Every morning on the way to work I hear the McDonalds Shamrock Shake commercial where the husband/boyfriend/whatever gets out of the car and the significant other is upset because she can smell mint on his breath.  He stopped at McD’s and got a Shamrock Shake.  But, oh, wait!  He bought a Shamrock Shake for her too.  Crisis averted! He really does love her after all.

Believe it or not, advertising is so effective that I’ve been craving a seasonal, once a year Shamrock Shake. Before giving in, I thought I would try making my own, which turned out to be delicious.  It was even better than McDonald’s.  I used four ingredients.

Shake Ingredients:
Vanilla Ice Cream – 4 scoops (about 2 cups)
Skim Milk – ¼ cup
Green food coloring – several drops
Spearmint or Peppermint Extract – ¼ teaspoon

Mix it all together in a blender, or smoothie maker, and enjoy.  It’s easy and would be a great treat for a St. Patrick’s Day party for kids or adults.

Is My Homemade Version Healthier?  You Decide.

A McDonald’s medium, 21ounce shake has 740 calories, 18 grams of fat, 240 mg of sodium. Here’s the list of the ingredients:

Vanilla Reduced Fat Ice Cream: Milk, sugar, cream, nonfat milk solids, corn syrup solids, mono- and diglycerides, guar gum, dextrose, sodium citrate, artificial vanilla flavor, sodium phosphate, carrageenan, disodium phosphate, cellulose gum, vitamin A palmitate.

Shamrock Shake Syrup: High fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, water, sugar, natural flavor (plant source), xanthan gum, citric acid, sodium benzoate (preservative), yellow 5, blue 1.   — from the

My version would be about 540 calories, 20 grams of fat and 200 mg of sodium.  I saved 200 calories and a little sodium.  That’s a plus. Using a low-fat ice cream would have helped out quite a bit in the fat category. I also feel okay about missing out on all of the extra artificial ingredients tool. The minty fresh breath is a bonus!


Tell-Tale Signs That Your Obsession With Tracking Has Gone One App Too Far

Tracking Options Are Endless – flickr photo by Dru Bloomfield

‘More’ Tracking – A Virtual Monster

Modern technology has created a virtual monster.  Or maybe what I really mean is, modern technology has virtually created a monster.  Trackers.  Does anyone know anyone that is not tracking something with a Smartphone, iPhone, iPad or computer?

I’ll be the first one to say that if you set a goal – for example – to put more steps in your day – you need to know how many steps you’re taking now.  It’s the old “if you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there” adage.

Plus, the word ‘more’ is ambiguous.  The definition of the word ‘more’ is “an additional quantity”.  So, in the example of taking ‘more’ steps, ‘more’ could easily mean ten. Taking ten more steps won’t have much impact on our overall health. Tracking steps with a pedometer would help you see if you’re taking enough extras steps to make a difference.

More Is A Popular Word

As a wellness coach, I hear the word ‘more’ everyday. “I’m going to drink more water.”  “My goal is to eat more fruits and vegetables.”  “I’m going to the gym more this week.”  My response to all of those statements 100% of the time is, “How much more?”

Using My Fitness Pal or one of the other popular systems is the obvious way to track how successful we are at doing more.  Putting the data in a gizmo to track your workouts, water consumption, or calories is okay.  But are you able to recognize when you’ve become more concerned with the tracking than you are in reaching the goals?

Tell-Tale Signs You Have A Tracking Obsession

You’re Cheating The System (and yourself) – When people start using a calorie counter they put in their weight and their desired weight. The app calculates how many calories they should eat daily to reach the desired weight.

I’ve noticed that when people first start using the app they put everything they eat in.  After awhile only some of the foods go in; others don’t make the cut. There are plenty of reasons for not including everything.  Maybe you just forget, or ate such a little bit of it that it didn’t really count.  Or – here’s a big one – you had such a bad day that you just couldn’t bear to admit to yourself – or the phone – that you really ate all of that!

The day that you are no longer putting everything you eat in the tracker, is the day that the tracker has lost its effectiveness. When you have to cheat to reach the calorie goal for the sake of the tracker, it’s time to give it up and find a new strategy to assist with calorie and portion control.

You Continue To Track Even Though You Never Meet The Goal – Let’s say you have a goal to eat five servings of fruits and veggies everyday and decide to use an app like Munch-5-A-Day.  The first three weeks you had a success rate of between 65 and 75%.  Now you’re at week six and still only eating two or three servings a day but, you’re still tracking everyday.  Is the tracker helping?

Using a phone app is like a lot of things. It’s a novelty and increases our awareness. Over time we lose interest in it and it’s no longer useful yet we continue to track.  Just because you delete the app from the phone doesn’t mean you have to give up on reaching the five-a-day goal.  You can find other things to do that will keep you motivated.  ‘Like’ Five-A-Day-The-Fun-Way on Facebook.  Updates will automatically land in your Facebook News Feed with ideas on ways to add fruits and veggies to the dishes that you’re already preparing.  It’s a helpful reminder that eating five a day doesn’t have to be a chore.

You Rely On A Tracker To Guage Your Exercise Intensity – There are some fancy, high-tech pedometers on the market that will track every step you take along with how many calories you burn when you take them.  If you’ve purchased one and it’s helpful in increasing your motivation to exercise and pushes you to increase the duration and intensity of your workouts, keep it up! At the same time, proceed with caution.

How many calories a person burns doing specific activities is based on Basal Metabolic Rate which is as individual as your fingerprint.  We’ve talked about this before.  If you don’t trust me that determining BMR is a complex, scientific calculation, take a look at Wikipedia’s article on the subject.  To accurately determine your BMR, you first need to have your RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate) calculated.  There are ways to get this done so that the results are accurate, but putting data in a phone app isn’t one of them.

If you’re using an app to calculate calorie expenditure, keep in mind that it is an estimate and should not be used as a free pass to eat as many calories as the calculator says you’ve burned.  The best way to gauge exercise intensity is still perceived exertion.

You’re Obsessed With Tracking But Your Goals Elude You – If you’re tracking every breath you take and every move you make, you may be headed towards an obsession.  It may be time to take a break from the tracking – at least for now – especially if the tracking is no longer helpful in getting you to your goals.

Motivation is a moving target.  Your strategies to stay engaged and enthused about a healthier lifestyle need to evolve as you reach your goals and the subsequent plateaus.  Put down the phone and engage the right side of your brain.  Create a colorful, non-virtual vision board that outlines your goals.  If you’re totally addicted to using on-line tools, you can create your vision board in Pinterest.  You can also check out some of the other amazing and inspiring boards while you hang out there.  I have a feeling finding the pictures and arranging them on the board will inspire you as much as putting stats in the phone does.

Sometimes To Go Fast You Have To Slow Down

Sometimes Less Is ‘More’.

Tracking calories, exercise, water, etc, may be one piece of a very large puzzle.  If tracking is used as a means to an end it can be helpful.  Keep in mind the end goal is long-term behavior change, not keeping up with the tracker.  When the habit of putting stuff in the phone no longer affects change, it becomes a waste of time.

Lifestyle change is a marathon, not a 100-yard dash.  It requires considerable training that’s fraught with trial and error, starts, pauses and maybe even some temporary stops. You’ve got to learn to pace yourself so you can make it to the end of race. Is there an app for that?

Download a Free Workout Music Re-Mix From GNC

Download GNC’s Live Well Mixtape For Free

You can download GNC’s Live Well Mixtape for free at GNC Live Well Blogs.  The mix has 50 minutes of workout re-mixes produced by DJ Japancakes. I downloaded the mix yesterday and listened to it today.  It’s good!  Definitely worth the two minutes it takes to follow the link and download.

The link will take you to Soundcloud, a sharing site for musicians.  It reminds me of Flickr, the photo sharing web site that allows people – like me – to download photos for my web site legally for free.  FYI – not all of the music on Soundcloud is free and not all is downloadable.

Live Well Mixtape

The songs on the Live Well Mixtape are all remixes of some top 40 songs like Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody to Love”, Michael Jackson’s “I Want You Back” and Kings of Leon’s “Sex on Fire”.  The mix won me over because it includes one of my favorite songs, “Take Over Control”.  Most of the music is mixed at 132 beats per minute.

Finding workout music that is motivating is a never-ending quest that we all go through.  As a fitness instructor I’ve had access to the best of the best workout mixes – although not free – that I’ve purchased from Dynamix, Power Music and John Sines 32 Mixes.

Let’s face it.  Music gets boring after a few listens.  I tune in to top 40 radio on my way to and from work which is about 45 minutes each way.  I hear the same songs over and over.  This week I’m hearing Flo Rida’s “Good Feeling”, Kelly Clarkston’s “Stronger” and   Lmfao’s “Sexy and I Know It” every time I’m in the car.  As much as I like Bruno Mars and Maroon 5, I really think I will lose my mind if I hear “It Will Rain” or “Moves Like Jagger” one more time.  Top 40 radio stations wear these songs out!  No way can I have the same songs on my iPod or workout playlist.

The Live Well Mix is a nice change.  Some of the songs are new to me.  The songs I do know are re-mixed in an interesting way so that they didn’t sound like the radio version I’ve heard a million times.  Did I mention, it’s free?

Where Else Can You Go To Download Free Music?

I’ve been through the Limewire phase.  After Limewire was shut down I tried Frostwire but it’s full of spammey, virus infected downloads.  I’ve given up on the junk that comes from those venues.  Let’s face it.  The days of free music are gone and rightfully so.

I created an account on Soundcloud.  When I get a chance I’ll browse around and see what else I can find that’s unique and won’t leave me reaching for the skip button after the first eight counts.

Inquiring Minds – Check Out The GNC Mix And See What You Think.  One word of caution.  I became overly curious about DJ Japancakes and thought maybe they would have more mixes that I would like so I ‘Googled’ to find their site which I did while I was at work. When I clicked on the ‘About’ page of DJ’s site my computer went crazy with some spam ware junk.  It was so bad I had to call our IT department to get me out of it.  I’d steer clear of Japancakes if I were you.

The Five Running Blogs I’ve Picked To Help Me . . . . . .

.   .   .    .    .    .     .      Reach My Half Marathon Goal

Illinois Half Marathon Here I Come! – I finally registered for the Illinois Half Marathon which takes place on April 28.  Since the first of the year I’ve been trying to decide if I really want to commit to running a half marathon in April and was secretly hoping that the event would fill up and I’d end up in the 10K again. I ran the 10K last year without difficulty and totally enjoyed myself.

Now I have to get busy with a training program that will get me from where I am now – decent runner, but nothing special – to being able to run the 13+-mile event with relative ease.  I’m not interested in having to stop and walk, except during a water break, or being sore for a week afterwards.  I want to run the event, and not come in last. On the other hand, I don’t want to have to spend hours training for a two hour run. Is this too much to ask?

Here we are after the Illinois Marathon 2011.  The post tailgate was super fun! 

Running Addicts – I know plenty of running addicts.  You probably know a few too.  Some of my Facebok ‘friends’ are addicts. Every Facebook status they post is about running.  They post pictures of their running shoes, share their running distances with times, and inspirational quotes and pictures about running.  I’m not one of them.  I’m not addicted to running.  I have too many other things I like to do.  I know if I’m going to be competitive at all at distance running I have to commit to the training which frankly I’m not excited about.

Lots of running addicts have blogs that are all about  . . . . . you guessed, it . . . . running!  There’s no way to know how many of these themed blogs are out there, but it’s in the hundreds or thousands. I’ve scoured Healthcare College’s list of the top 100 running blogs for 2011. I think that getting a little love from a few of these runner/blogger addicts might be just what I need to keep me motivated to train for the race in April so I’ve picked out five to follow. My picks are:

1. ) The Running Moran – Here’s a guy with a sense of humor. Some of his blog posts remind me of the Facebook statuses I mentioned earlier only he blogs in more detail.  Check out The Running Moron’s post about the new shorts he bought for his birthday.  Poor guy.  I don’t feel too sorry for him though.  The Running Moran is #15 in Blog Ranks RSS membership category.  Keep up the cute blog posts, Moran.  I’m counting on you.

2.)  A Case of The Runs – Again, it looks like this is a blog will take a light-hearted approach to running which is exactly what I need.  I don’t need a coach or someone to tell me all of the things I’m doing wrong and therefore that’s why I suck.  I already know all of that. Julie is a half-marathon girl and has some pretty good times listed on her Un(der)trained Melody post.  I’ll see if I can get somewhere near one of those times in April. (Yeah, right).  I just need to keep smiling and I think Julie will help.

3. ) Morning Runner – I’m a morning runner so that’s why I picked this blog to follow.  Plus I like the recipes that she includes with pictures. Morning Runner is a little ahead of me with the whole speed/distance thing though.  In the post, Pacing Your Long Run, she’s talking about 18 miles at a 8:50 minute/mile pace.  Looks like this ‘morning runner’ has some catching up to do!

4.)  Running With An Attitude – I’ll be totally honest.  The reason I picked this blog is because it looks like the posts are updated almost daily and they are short.  Sometimes short is good.  If I can get some inspiration in a couple of minutes, I’m good with that.  Michelle, the blogger (and runner) with an attitude plans to complete in nine runs this years.  Three of those are half marathons. That alone is inspiring! I think Michelle and I are going to get along nicely.

5.)  Shut Up and  Run – This is #100 on the list of Top Running Blogs for 2011.  Being 100 is very awesome.  It means you beat out whoever is 101 and made the list.  This is one serious runner who went from zero to 23 miles without messing around with half marathons and the other stuff that usually comes in between.  I can tell she has an attitude too.  A positive one that I know is going to influence my ability to get up on cold, dark mornings and get outside and RUN!!

I’ve pleased that I’ve found a way to combine two things that I love (kind of ) to do.  I love to blog, read blogs, follow blogs, and read the ‘About’ pages of the blogs I discover and follow.  I love (kind of) to run.  Or at least I plan to by the time April 28th is here and the starting gun goes off for the Illinois half.

Do you blog about running or do you have a favorite one that you follow?  Please share. I need all the help I can get!