Archives for September 2012

Butt Shaping Exercises, A Give-Away You Can’t Resist, and Two Thumbs Down for Junk Food. It’s Friday. I’m In Love.

It’s Friday. I’m In [Link] Love.

Friday.  The best day of the week and I have links that you will love.  Thumbs up to military retirees, Mayor Bloomberg, Gaiam Fitness, George Takei, and a mommy blogger that loves wine.  It’s Friday.  I’m in [link] love.

It's Friday, I'm In Love.

Retired Military Officers Want Junk Food Out of Schools – What’s in your child’s school lunch?  If retired military officials have their way it will undergo a drastic make-over.  “Three-quarters of those ages 17 to 24, or about 26 million young people, cannot serve in the military, a quarter of them because they are overweight or obese, says retired Air Force lieutenant general Norman Seip, a spokesman for Mission: Readiness.”  Seip and a group of retired military personnel think that improving the school lunch programs is a good place to start in combating the child and youth obesity epidemic. Read the full article here.

New York City Hospitals Cracking Down On Junk Food – The school lunch program isn’t the only menu under ‘review’.  In New York City, public and private hospitals are the most recent target of Mayor Bloomberg’s anti-obesity campaign.  If the mayor gets his way, a vending machine filled with candy bars and a cafeteria menu that includes an order of fried chicken will be a thing of the past in hospitals in the Big Apple.  Mayor Bloomberg is getting plenty of flak for this recent healthier-hospital-food campaign which comes on the heels of the gigantic soda ban controversy.  The full article from The Associated Press is here.

The Couch Potato Workout – If you have time to watch T.V. you have time to exercise.  In fact, why not exercise while you watch your favorite shows?  The couch potato workout (click here for link to the video) shows you how you can get in 18 – 20 minutes of exercise during screen time.  For even more tips on making the most of screen time, check out a recent article I wrote on the topic here.

Five Butt Shaping Exercises From Fitness Magazine – Fitness Magazine shows five exercises that will help you tighten and tone your tush.  I can’t think of a reason why you couldn’t do these in front of the T.V. too.  For those of us that sit at a desk for most of the day, we should be doing specific exercises to prevent the sprawling behind syndrome that is the result of being in a chair for several hours at a time.  Check out the exercises here.

Gaiam TV Giveaway – Over at Cranky Fitness Crabby is giving away a three month membership to Gaiam TV which, by the way, I subscribe to and can tell you that it is a quality streaming Internet channel that has a huge library of exercise DVDs.  Along with fitness DVDs, Gaiam has an abundance of wellness videos that focus on meditation, inner exploration, inspiration and the connection of mind, body and spirit.  Three months of free streaming  – which Cranky is giving away – will give you a chance to try it out before you commit to a subscription. Check out the details for the give-away here.

The last two links aren’t related to health and wellness, but are just for fun:

Cloudy With A Chance of Wine – Dani Ryan is a blogger that left the corporate world to be a stay-at-home mom.  Dani describes herself as a high-strung introvert and social media junkie that likes to drink wine and watch trashy reality TV. (What’s not to love about her?)  Her blog is witty and broaches a wide range of subjects – from condo living to PMS to the trials of being a stay at home mom – but not in typical mommy blog style. Check out Dani’s blog at: Cloudy With A Chance of Wine.

George Takei Facebook Fan Page – You may already be a fan of George Takei’s Facebook fan page. (He has 2.7 million.)  If you’re not a fan you should be. For a daily dose of pure fun in your Facebook news feed, ‘Like’ his page (click here) and participate in the absurdities that follow.

 George delivers these funnies daily.  On good days you’ll receive two or three.

Happy Friday! 

I love link love Fridays because I have a tendency to get lazy by the end of the week and this allows me to pass along some great stuff without doing too much work.  I hope you enjoy the links.

Be Social.  Share!

Workout Like The Stars: 10 Minute Circuit Workout From Heidi Klum’s Trainer

From Cameron Diaz to Heidi Klum.  You Can Workout Like The Stars (kind of).

A few weeks ago I happened to land on the YouTube video of the Cameron Diaz leg workout.  In the workout Ms. Diaz’s trainer, Teddy Bass, takes you through a 10 minute leg workout that makes you glad it’s only ten minutes.

I did this workout in my class and Holy Cow! By the time the ten minutes were up, our legs were screaming.  We did use a 5 pound weighted ball for the workout, which is not used in the video.  Here’s the link to video at FitSugar TV.

I’m always on the lookout for the latest, most effective workouts.  I surf around: Collage Video to Be Fit to Workouts on Demand to Victoria Secret’s model workouts. I’m a workout DVD junkie that’s picky and hard to please.  But, I’ve found another workout I think you’ll like. I’ve embedded it below.  It is the Victoria’s Secret Model 10-Minute Fast-Blasting Circuit from Fit Sugar.

The workout was created by Andrea Orbeck, celebrity trainer.  Heidi Klum is one of her clients.  Andrea takes you through a one minute cardio segment followed by a standing butt-burning exercise.  The challenge is to go from the cardio drill to the standing, controlled strength move.  I think that if you wanted to use a set of 5 or 6 pound dumbbells, or weighted ball for the upper body moves Andrea wouldn’t mind.

There are a variety of workouts at FitSugar:  Bikini Abs, Madonna’s Arms, Sexy Bikini Body, and Booty Boot Camp which are all ten minutes.

The ten minute workout isn’t new – remember Tony Horton?  But it does seem to be gaining in popularity. You don’t need a gym membership or an hour to get an awesome workout.  Check out FitSugar and the 10 minute workouts.  If you have 30 minutes, there’s nothing to stop you from doing three!

Don’t Worry.  There’s More 

If you like free workouts on YouTube you might be interested in the following articles:

Is It A HIIT or Tabata Workout, And Which One Is Better? (10 minute Tabata workout included.)
Seven, 10-Minute Workouts Reviewed Just for You (links to all workouts on YouTube.)
The Seven Best Totally Free Workouts On YouTube (some are longer than 10 minutes, but all are worth checking out.)

Don’t forget to share the workouts with friends and fam using the ‘share’ buttons below.

High Protein White Bean Oatmeal Smoothie: Breakfast In A Glass

Two Breakfast Options For Busy Mornings 

Mornings are a rush.  Not just for me, but for you too.  Once again I’ve been trying to find the ultimate post-workout smoothie that will give me the energy I need to be productive until lunch time without a lot of fuss.

White bean oatmeal chocolate smoothie

Adding white beans to smoothies has been around for awhile.  Now everyone is adding oatmeal.  What if I made a white bean oatmeal smoothie with a dab of Greek yogurt, a little almond milk and fruit?

I decided to try it and come up with two White Bean Oatmeal Smoothie recipes for you to try.

The first one calls for:

  • One cup of Greek yogurt (130 calories)
  • One cup of white beans (220 calories)
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 1/2 cup of old fashion oatmeal (150 calories)
  • 1/4 almond milk – you can use skim or soy milk if preferred (20 calories)
  • 1/2 cup frozen fruit or berries (40 calories)
  • Ice (the smoothie is thick so don’t skip on the ice)

White bean oatmeal smoothie basic ingredients.

White Bean Oatmeal Smoothie Ingredients 

Blend together and add a cup or more of ice.  I found the ice improves the texture and flavor.

 This smoothie is about 520 calories, has a substantial amount of protein from the beans and yogurt, and is very filling.  I drank half of the smoothie – one cup – and froze the remaining portion to have tomorrow when I’m rushing out the door.

In the second recipe I put all of the same ingredients in the smoothie maker, but replaced the frozen fruit with frozen bananas and added a tablespoon of sweetened chocolate.

Tip – there is no need to throw away bananas that are slightly ripe.  Peel them, cut them in quarters and place in a freezer bag and toss them in the freezer.  They are great additions to smoothies when you don’t have fresh bananas on hand.

Exchange the fruit for frozen bananas and a tablespoon of sweet chocolate mix.

Nutritional Benefits

One cup of white beans has about 17 grams of protein.  FAGE Greek yogurt – which is the kind that I used – has 23 grams of protein in a 6 oz. serving.  A half of a cup of oatmeal has 2 grams of fiber.  The combination of the beans, yogurt and oatmeal make these smoothies a high protein, high fiber breakfast that will restore muscle tissue, and rehydrate you after a workout.  The best part is they will fill you up so you’re not wondering what you’re going to eat next.

What’s your go-to breakfast in a hurry?

Is The Key To Exercise Motivation On Pinterest?

he Motivational Quotes and Pictures on Facebook and Pinterest
Move You To Action?   

I have a question for you: Do fitness boards on Pinterest motivate you to exercise?

If you’ve joined Pinterest and are following fitness boards you’re seeing a lot of motivational posters like this one:


And this one.


And maybe even this one.


These have started filling up my news feed on Facebook as well.  Tons of people hit ‘like’ and ‘share’ which keeps them moving along.  I don’t usually share these types of posts unless I see one and I just can’t resist, as was the case with this one:

A Question In Need Of An Answer

Here’s my question to you (and I hope you’ll respond back using the comment section so I will be closer to having an answer to my question):

Do these motivational pictures really motivate anyone into action or have any impact on behavior change?


Have they reached such a level of over-saturation that you just scroll past them without reading them?


Are you like me and see people in the pictures that are in such amazing shape and doing crazy athletic things that I know I’ll never be able to do – like in this one . . . . . .


. . . . .that I figure I might as well lay back down and watch one more rerun of Law & Order?

I’m absolutely serious when I tell you that this is a question that has plagued me ever since they began to take over Facebook.  Are these motivational to you?  Do they inspire you achieve things that you didn’t think you ever could?

The art and science of motivation is something that I aspire to learn more about each and every day.  That’s why I need your help.  What motivates you to do more?

(Note – all of the pictures were added to this post using the embed feature available on Pinterest. Is that legal?)

You Deserve More Than A Spongy Lean Cuisine For Lunch! Five Tips For Monday – Friday Lunches.

The Secret to Portion Control and Better Nutrition: Make A Little More For Dinner and Pack It For Lunch. 

If you’re making a habit out of eating a Smart One or Lean Cuisine for lunch, you can do a lot better.  While these heat-and-eat meals aren’t the worst options for a quick lunch, they come in right behind Ramen noodles and the Burrito Supreme on the Taco Bell’s Fresco menu with too much sodium and preservatives and not much in the way of nutritional value.

At work the employee lunchroom is lined up at noon with people waiting for a microwave so they can warm up their ready-to-eat foods.  The finished product is  a meal that would make me a little less hungry for about 20 minutes.  I would be scratching around for something else to eat before I had a chance to throw the microwave-safe container away.

A leftover Tilapia filet, grilled veggies, and a whole wheat wrap will make a delicious lunch tomorrow.

It’s Not Even Close to Rocket Science

Fixing a lunch to take to work that is low in fat, sodium, and calories, yet is high in nutrition, satisfying, and filling, is easier than you think.  The key is to add a couple of extra portions to whatever you’re making for dinner so that you can take a serving for lunch the next day.

If you eat a meal for lunch that is tasty, and not loaded with sugar, sodium and preservatives, you will feel better throughout the afternoon and not succumb to the cravings that hit around 3 p.m.

Five Easy Ideas For Lunch That You Can Prepare The Night Before

1.  The Big Salad – When you make a big salad for dinner make one for your lunch the next day at the same time.  You can purchase a salad keeper that has a separate compartment for the dressing for about $7. It’s worth the investment. A generous serving of salad with a can of tuna, chicken breast or a boiled egg will provide an abundance of vitamins and minerals that will keep your energy up throughout the afternoon. Check out a recipe for a yummy asparagus salad here.

A container that keeps the salad fresh in the fridge until lunch the next day is a $6 investment.

2. Mix and Match – Toss together brown rice, or whole grain pasta, with steamed broccoli, olive oil, seasoning, and a source of lean protein.  Salmon, tilapia, and tuna are good choices.  This can be stored in the fridge overnight and heated up alongside the Lean Cuisines and Ramen noodles in the break room at lunchtime.  Using different types of pasta, seasonings, veggies and protein will keep this interesting and can be an option at least two days a week.

Broiled Tilapia is perfect for a wrap or mixed with brown rice and veggies.

3.  Soup – Soup is one of the best choices and so is easy to make ahead and plan for extra servings.  Vegetable chilies, minestrone, and butternut squash are some favorites that are easy to make and delicious warmed up. Add a whole wheat roll or tortilla and you have a meal that’s warm, satisfying, and rich in nutrients.

4.  Wraps – Chop up cucumbers, peppers, mushrooms, and combine with chopped chicken, ground turkey, fish or tofu. Add a drizzle of flavored olive oil or healthy salad dressing and wrap in a whole-wheat tortilla. There are a ton of ingredients that will work.  If you stock up on fresh vegetables at the grocery you can create something different each time. Raw veggies work as well as those sauteed for a couple of minutes.

Chop up extra veggies tonight so you’ll have a wrap for lunch tomorrow.

5.  One pot meals -One pot meals can be a timesaver when you need to prepare dinner for the family.  They also make a hearty heat-and-eat meal for your lunch the next day.  For a delicious Braised Beef & Mushrooms recipe from click here. Eating Well has several healthy one-pot meal recipes that can be modified for the crock-pot.

Making extras servings of whatever it is you’re cooking for dinner and putting it up to have for lunch the next day is the best way to guarantee that you will have a satisfying mid-day meal.  Plus, it will help you exercise portion control at dinner.  Before you begin eating, take out a serving and put it in a container – preferably one that can go from refrigerator to microwave – and put it up.  Knowing that you have it to look forward to the next day will prevent overeating.

What’s your favorite left-over lunch?


Miles for Mesothelioma 5K Race and Fun Run/Walk in Alton, IL

I’ve been asked to spread the word about a 5K race to help raise awareness for mesothelioma that takes places in Alton, Il on Saturday, September 22..  Please let your friends know about the event (for which there are some really good prizes) by using the share buttons at the bottom of the post

Miles for Meso 5K

Miles for Meso is a 5K race and fun run/walk for mesothelioma awareness and research.  Presented by the Simmons Firm and coordinated by the Metro Tri Club, the race seeks to bring local communities together and support research, institutions and advocacy groups in the shared fight against mesothelioma. 100% of the proceeds benefit mesothelioma research.

Event Details

The event will be split into two separate events.

  • The Age Group 5K event, geared toward amateur and recreational runners and the 2K Fun Run/Walk will take place at 8:30 a.m.
  • Professional athletes from across the country will compete in the Elite race that begins at 9:30 a.m.


Awards will follow the Elite race at 10 a.m. Awards for the men and women’s elite races are as follows:

  • 1st Place – $1500
  • 2nd Place – $750
  • 3rd Place – $500
  • 4th Place – $250

Cash prizes will be given to the top three non-elite 5K winners as well:

  • 1st Place – $250
  • 2nd Place – $150
  • 3rd Place – $100.
  • All registered participants in the 5K, and 2K events will be eligible for three $100 drawings!

Registration Deadline

Registration for the event ends on September 18 at 11:59 p.m., and won’t be available the day of the race for elite runners.  For a direct link to Registration for the event click here.

Event location

The race will take place at the Simmons Firm, across from Marquette Catholic High School on
 One Court Street, Alton, IL

Mesotheliona is a rare cancer linked to exposure to asbestos that has no known cure.  To learn more about the courageous people affected by mesothelioma, click here.

I am not affiliated with the Simmons Firm but wanted to help spread the word about this race for a cause.  Please pass it on.

Eight Tips That Will Help You Achieve Your Running Goals.

The Only Speed I Worry About Is My Own
And Other Things I’ve Learned Since I Ran My First 5K. 

Last month I started the annual Couch to 5K running program at work for my fellow employees.  They are now in week five and I’m getting positive feedback as they start to realize that having a training plan is the secret to success.  Each week they turn in a sheet that verifies that they’ve completed their workouts.  It’s an accountability method that seems to help.

I did my own run this morning with my marathon runner buddy.  We’re training (again) for the Hot Chocolate 15K in Chicago on November 4th.  Last year we were focused on making sure we could complete the distance.  This year we’re focused on improving our time.  Funny how things change!

Will Spinning Class Make You A Better Runner?

It was not that long ago that I ran my first 5K.  Even though I’ve been a fitness instructor and have taught classes for years, running is a different animal.  So much of what we do in class is based on shorter bursts at a higher speed and the crowd expects to do some butt toning and core work before the class ends which can limit the gains made in the way of cardio endurance.

My good friend and Iron Woman, Mary, often wears her Garmin during class and most of the time she is above her ideal ‘training for endurance’ heart rate zone.  How much teaching – or taking – group fitness classes conditions us for distance running can be debated at another time.

The  years of teaching and taking spinning, stepping, kickboxing, and boot camp classes, certainly made me  fit enough to go out and run a couple of miles, but I was in the same place as everyone else when I decided I wanted to participate in longer races where the energy expenditure is different. Turning your feet over and over at a consistent (and decent) pace for an hour and a half requires both physical and mental stamina.

Now that I’ve been working to improve my pace I always seem to be thinking this should be easier for me than it is.  But then I remember where I started and how far I’ve come, and I’m here to tell you, if I can do it so can you.

Here’s a short list of some of the things that I’ve learned over the past two years since I embarked on my so-called running carrer:

Running speed limit for all of us.

1.  Music – I love music.  I love to run to music.  I’m a fitness instructor so working out to music is ingrained.  When I’m on my morning commute I listen to a top 40 radio station and jot down songs that I want to add to my playlist when I get home.  Having a variety of upbeat songs makes the running easier.  Today I heard the song Finally Found You by Enrique Inglesias.  Tonight when I get home I’ll download it and add it to my iPod.

2.  Friendship – I have a friend that depends on me to run with her and provide motivation so she can improve her running. I do my best to give her the support she needs.  She does the same for me.  I’m not sure how well either of us would do without the other.  If you can find someone with similar goals, make them your best friend forever and hang onto them for dear life.  They will keep you running through utter darkness, icy rain, excessive heat, and an occasional hangover.

3.  I Think I Can – If you are someone that can go out on a run and not have the little voice in the back of your head talk to you about how tired you are or how good it would feel to stop and walk, then you don’t need to keep reading this post.  There is nothing you can learn from me.  If you’re like most of us – normal that is – you have to keep pushing that voice down.  You may have to silence it each time you run. I don’t have a super secret technique for some mental imagery that makes the voice magically go away.  I simply say to myself, “You are not stopping.” “ You will keep running.”  “Keep turning the feet over.”  It’s not fancy, but it works. I know positive self-talk is important, but this is more of a “you’re not stopping so shut the you-know-what up” speech.

4.  Only Compete With You – Occasionally we will add a couple of runners to our group of two.  Most of the time they are people that have been running for years and can go farther, faster than I can. I can stick with them for a few miles, but before long my pace is off and I start to feel discouraged so I let them slip away.  The truth is they needed someone to help motivate them to get started and I was happy to help.  I don’t allow myself to feel defeated because someone who has been running marathons for twenty years is better at distance running than I am.

5.  Synergy – If there is a running club in your area, connect with them for occasional events and group runs.  Being around other runners and listening to them talk about their challenges, accomplishments and even injuries will help you realize how normal your experiences are and that in itself is motivating.  You may even find a mentor or running buddy.

6.  Cross-Train – Do something besides run. Too much running can lead to stress fractures, overuse injuries and burn-out.  On days you don’t run, incorporate strength training, yoga, Pilates and core work.  You’ll be refreshed and stronger for the days that you are out hitting the pavement, trails or treadmill.

7.  Keep Signing Up For Races – Nothing gets me motivated to compete with my own distance and speed more than signing up for a competitive race.  I just signed up for the Hot Chocolate – Chicago – and knowing that it is coming has perked me up.  I’m ready to set a new pace goal and am anxious to work towards achieving it.

8.  Be Patient – Going from Couch to 5K to 10K to half marathon and eventually a full marathon – if that’s your goal – takes awhile.  Depending on how much time you have to train, it may take a couple of years.  Set your goals and enjoy the process of achieving them. “Patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success.” – Napoleon Hill

There’s no reason to work to achieve an arbitrary goal because that’s what you see someone else doing.  Figure out what it is you can and want to do, and then get to work on doing it.  The only speed limit you need to break is your own.


If You Knew That Lifestyle Changes Could Prevent 50% of Cancers Would You Change?

What Impact Does Lifestyle Have On Cancer Risk?  Maybe More Than You Think.

If you really believed that you could cut your risk of cancer in half by eating more fruits and vegetables, less red meat, and getting adequate amounts of exercise, would you do these things?

According to the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) World Cancer Congress 2012, more than 50% of cancers could be prevented if people would implement what they already know about prevention.

Graham Colditz, PD, Dr. PH, from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, reports that in the next 15 to 20 years a large number of cancers could be prevented if lifestyle behaviors improve.  That’s not to say that other higher-cost interventions wouldn’t still be critical for early diagnosis such as colonoscopies and mammograms.

Swai Fish and Grilled Asparagus

Smoking Is Still The Mother Of All Carcinogens

Dr. Colditz says that one third of cancers in high-income countries are caused by smoking.  Another 20% is the result of high body max index (BMI) and obesity.  If, as a population, we are able to reduce BMIs to healthier levels, the incidence of cancer could be reduced by approximately 50% over a 2 to 20 year period.

Poor diet and lack of exercise are each associated with about 5% of all cancers.  Dr. Colditz believes that the incidence of cancer could be reduced by 50% with improvements in diet and by 85% with increases in physical activity over the next 5 to 20 years.

The study also mentions the three main viruses associated with cancer: Human papillomavirus and hepatitis B and C.  Widespread infant and childhood immunization programs could eradicate these virus-related cancers in 20 to 40 years.

The Anti-Cancer Diet

These are pretty startling claims!  But even skeptics don’t have anything to lose by a change in diet and increasing physical activity to 30 minutes at least five days a week.

Foods that are on the anti-cancer list are vegetables that contain flavones and indoles such as cabbage, broccoli, kale, turnips, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts.

Fruits and veggies that contain Vitamin C are also believed to lower the risk for some cancers.  The top ten vitamin C-loaded foods are:  red and green hot chili peppers, guavas, bell peppers, fresh herbs (thyme and parsley), dark leafy greens, kiwi, papayas, oranges, and strawberries.

You don’t have to eliminate fat from your diet, but studies show that animal fat can increase the risk of breast and colon cancer.  Fats that come from vegetables –like olive and canola – are healthier and can actually lower your risk for heart disease. Just by swapping red meat for poultry and fish at least twice a week, you can make a difference in your overall health.

Strawberry Kiwi Salad

Take some time to shop the produce aisle at the supermarket and get creative with new recipes that include different fruits, vegetables and seafoods.  The picture at the top of the post is a meal I prepared using Swai fish (broiled), and fresh asparagus sautéed in olive oil and garlic.  Toss a fresh, delicious salad using spinach, romaine lettuce, strawberries, mandarin oranges and sliced kiwi for a side dish that’s loaded with vitamin C and other antioxidants.

Now that you know that lifestyle changes can prevent 50% of common cancers, will you change?

Source of lifestyle and cancer study:

Ballet Beautiful: The Dance-Inspired Exercise Program That Creates A Longer, Leaner, Stronger Body

Get The Body of A Dancer With The Ballet Beautiful Workout

Runners, athletes, CrossFit addicts and people that are new to exercise can benefit from the Ballet Beautiful Total Body Workout method.  New from Lionsgate’s Be Fit Channel, the Ballet Beautiful Total Body Workout is a 60 minute, six-workout collection that consists of a bridge series, abs, inner thighs, outer thighs, arms, and a standing dance-inspired segment.

Ballet Beautiful is not your killer, Ripped in 30 workout. But, in its own way is challenging and works on muscles using techniques that most programs do not. I certainly came away from the experience with complete awe, respect and admiration of Mary Helen Bowers, creator of Ballet Beautiful.

Train like a ballet dancer with the Ballet Beautiful Total Body Workout

Mary Helen Bowers and Ballet Beautiful

The Ballet Beautiful workout was developed by Mary Helen Bowers, a former member of the New York City Ballet and founder of the Ballet Beautiful method.  Bowers began studying ballet at the School of American Ballet in Manhattan at age 15.  She joined the New York City Ballet at age 16 where she stayed for ten years.

She currently owns and operates Ballet Beautiful where she offers both group and private training. Bowers created the Ballet Beautiful workout to “polish and sculpt her own form as a professional ballerina.”

Mary Helen is a celebrity trainer and coached Natalie Portman for more than a year to prepare her for her role as a ballerina in the movie the Black Swan.  Natalie’s dedication to her role as Nina and Mary Helen’s ballet workouts transformed Natalie into a graceful silver screen ballerina. Black Swan was nominated for five Academy Awards and Portman won the award of Best Actress for the film.

Why is this important for you to know this before you try the Ballet Beautiful workout?  Because, if you’re like me, when you push play on Part One – the Bridge Series – and Mary Helen Bowers appears, unless you too are a ballerina, you will probably think, “Oh no! I’ll never be able to look or move like that!” The strength, flexibility, and grace of Mary Helen might take you back for a minute.

The fact that 99% of us that are going to do the Ballet Beautiful workout don’t look or move anything like Mary Helen doesn’t mean we can’t benefit from the ballet method.  In fact, once I got done with the bridge segment – which was a challenge – and moved onto the abs and inner thighs I found the moves to be doable and effective even if I wasn’t executing each exercise perfectly.

Here’s the trailer for the Ballet Beautiful DVD that will give you more of an idea of the flow of the program.

Fitness Trends Come and Go

CrossFit is insanely popular as is P90X2 and Insanity.  These workouts focus on burning fat with over the top cardio bursts followed by muscle building sets that focus on strength training using equipment or body weight exercises.

Ballet Beautiful is at the other end of the fitness trend and falls more in line with workouts like The Barre, yogalaties, and the various of yoga methods that are popular with celebrities like Jennifer Anniston.

If you’re a fan of the fast and furious workouts – CrossFire, Extreme Shred & Shred and Turbo Kick – there is a place for the Ballet Beautiful workout in your line-up.  This ballet inspired workout will help you lengthen, strengthen and tone on days when you need a break from the higher-intensity workouts, and may reduce the risk of injuries that high-impact exercises can set you up for.

If you’re already a fan of ballet-style workouts, yoga or Pilates, you’ll love the challenge this six workout DVD provides and the smooth, easy delivery of its creator, Mary Helen Bowers.

Ballet Beautiful is on sale at Amazon for $12.99.

I’m anxious to know if you’ve tried Ballet Beautiful and what you think.  Please share in the comment box below.

What Role Does Genetics Play In Athletic Ability?

Tip-Top Shape But Still Second Place. I Was Always Close But No Cigar

One of my closest friends recently completed the Louisville, KY Ironman competition.  Not only did she complete it, she finished fifth in her age group!  Mary and I have been working out together for years.  About ten years ago, as the boot camp wave swept the planet, we were team teaching a military-style workout on Saturday mornings at the Y.  It was a workout-‘til-you puke class and we had a large audience of participants that ranged from athletes to the soccer moms.

Mary and I would set up suicide drills – among other things – in a large multi-court gym.  She and I would race side by side.  We are the same age, about the same size, did almost identical workouts each week, and both had a fiercely competitive spirit.  Every time we raced she beat me.  Not by a few feet, or even inches.  But her hand would touch down on the wall a fraction of a second before mine every single time.  It wasn’t long before my goal for Saturday morning was to get to the wall sooner, do one more push up, or complete a jump rope drill faster than Mary.  If I ever did that I don’t remember it.

So the question lingers.  Why?  Was it the super foods she was eating, vitamins she was taking, electrolyte enhanced water she was drinking?  What was she doing different or better than I was that gave her the edge?

DNA Strand

Olympic Athletes and Genetic Advantage

More than 200 gene variants have been associated with athletic proficiency.  Did you know that the ACE gene, which is tied to endurance, and an alternative copy of the ACTN3 gene, also known as the “speed gene” is found in nearly every male Olympic sprinter ever tested?

Finnish athlete Eero Mantyranta – winner of seven Olympic cross-country skiing medals – carries a mutated EPO gene, which increases hemoglobin levels thereby increasing the blood’s ability to carry oxygen.  This gene mutation elevates his oxygen-carrying capacity by 25 to 50 percent.

Juan Enriquez and Steve Gullans – two biotech leaders at the Excel Venture Management in Boston – wrote, in an article for Nature, that tuning into the Olympics allows us to watch “a showcase of athletes born with genetic advantages.”  Enriquez and Gullans believe that athletes that did not win the ‘gene lottery’ should be allowed to ‘upgrade’ through gene therapy.”

According to an article in HealthDay, “Genetics and athletics experts fear that the 2012 Olympic Games may be the last without competitors secretly hinging their gold medal hopes on gene doping.”  In gene doping athletes would modify their own genes so that they would be more competitive in sports.

Robert Kersey, director of Athletic Training Education Program at California State University in Fullerton, believes that the “pressure to win, twinned with monetary pressure from corporate sponsors, will combine to make gene-doping irresistible to some world class athletes.”

Apparently Olympic athletes and experts believe that the ‘gift’ so-called ‘gifted athletes’ possess is good genes.

Nothing Outshines Solid Training, Good Nutrition and A Positive Mental Attitude

I suspect that most of you reading this aren’t world class athletes, but rather individuals that, like me, that get frustrated when you get beat by someone that does not have any visible advantage yet they have an edge over you.  Genetics may in part be the link to their success and if they are training hard and eating well, you are, by nature, at a disadvantage.

In this case our response must be to become even more disciplined about our training, nutrition and mental focus.  We will have to get serious about the factors that we can control to make up for those that we can’t.

Eating a well balanced diet so that the body has fuel for the training as well as the competitive events, avoiding dehydration and electrolyte depletion, and applying goal setting and mental imagery techniques will go a long way towards making up for what you might be genetically lacking.

I may never be able to beat Mary at a suicide sprint drill, or come in fifth place in my age group in an Ironman, but in no way does that mean I’ve failed unless that’s the way I choose to see it.  As the coach of my daughter’s high school soft ball team would say, “It’s a mental game.”

“You have to win in your mind before you win in your life.”  John Addison

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