Archives for May 2013

Challenge Yourself With A New 40 Min Total Body Strength Workout

Building strength while elevating the heart rate means you’re burning calories and fat while you increase lean muscle mass.  It’s a win, win.

You can be one of the first to try BeFit’s 40 Minute Total Body Strength Mobile Workout – Circuit 1.  This workout has some challenging moves for lower body, upper body and core minus the intricate footwork some workout programs require you to learn.

Ten minute workouts are excellent and effective when you’re short on time, but sometimes you need a little more.  Now – as we head into the season of bare legs, shoulders and abs – is one of those times.

Be Fit Go

I did this workout this afternoon and loved it.  Especially the core segment at the end.  If you have a five or six pound medicine ball for the core work you’ll see your results sooner.  You’ll also need a set of dumbbells at the weight of your choice for the strength moves.

Why A 40 Minute Total Body Workout?

Here are three reasons, although there are plenty more.

1.  Ideal for Fat Loss – For people looking for fat loss, a full body workout is ideal for losing weight.  By elevating your heart rate while building strength and lean muscle tone, your body will burn a ton of calories. You’ll keep your workouts fresh and motivating by mixing up your routine.

2.  Increased Recovery Rate – By doing a full body workout, you give your muscles maximum recovery time by taking at least one day off between each full body workout. A reason some people do not progress in their workout program is because they aren’t recovering from session to session.

3. Lower Time Commitment  – If you’re too busy to hit the gym four times a week, a full body workout program will be great for your schedule. Since full body workouts can be performed over just two or three days a week, it gives you more time to fulfill your other obligations. Even if it takes slightly longer in the gym to complete, it will save you time on a weekly basis.

For the complete 40 Minute Total Body Strength Workout, click here.

Make sure you subscribe to this site or ‘Like’ my Facebook page so you’ll know about the latest BeFit workouts as they are released.  I’ll be posting a quick review and link to the workouts as they become available.

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Workout Music To Get You and Keep You Motivated

Music.  Who can work out without it?  It is the secret sauce to staying motivated which means we’re always looking for new music to fuel our workouts.

Did you know that there are web sites that supply an almost unlimited supply of workout music that you can download or stream?  Some are free; others charge a minimal monthly fee.

1.  Pod Runner – The free version allows you to download, sort, search and play mixes from  The paid version adds ‘beat shift’ that allows you to play any mix at a selected speed.  The archives has a variety of fixed speed mixes ranging from 125 beats per minute (BPM) to 185 BPMs and varied speed mixes from 130 to 175 BPMs.

Pod Runner is the creation of Steve Boyett, a Disc Jockey that’s played Hollywood and Vegas clubs. He bring the club’s house music to you with these dance beat selections.

Flickr photo by caitysparkles

Flickr photo by caitysparkles

2.  Motion Traxx – The workout music mixes at Motion Traxx, designed by a fitness music expert, deliver maximum motivation and enhanced performance for runners and exercisers.  There are over 100 free tracks to choose from.  In addition to the freebies, there are premium mixes that feature coaching from elite fitness instructors.  Plus you’ll find several categories of mixes including treadmill, half marathon, interval training, walking.

The site was created by Deekron, also known as the Fitness DJ who is a life-long athlete.  Deekron has created music for leading fitness brands including Gatorade and Asics and has been sought out by fitness icons the likes of Patrick Goudeau, Petra Kolber and Amy Dixon to provide them with music for their classes. Listen to clips before you download at Motion

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Whole-Grain Pancakes

I’ve tried several whole-grain pancake recipes and this one is my favorite.  It comes from a Good Housekeeping Light and Easy cookbook that my daughter gave me for Mother’s Day.  They were easy to make and didn’t make you feel overly full like some pancakes have a tendency to do.

Pancakes with bananas

You may want to double the recipe if you’re serving a crowd.


1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups skim milk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

(*I added a tablespoon of ground flax seeds – optional)

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Running Without A Goal Is Like Reading A Book Without An Ending. What’s The Point?

Pick a race.  Any race.  A 5K, mini-tri, or half Ironman.  There are hundreds to choose from at this time of year.  Now go ahead and get signed up.  It will automatically increase your motivation to run, swim, bike or all three.

It’s hard to get up everyday and hit the pavement or pool without a goal.  Signing up for an event to compete in forces you to put your money (and pride) on the line.  It’s called putting some skin in the game.  And it works!  You’ll be less likely to skip your workouts or hit the snooze and more likely to set goals to increase your distance and speed between now and race day.

Why Race?

The popularity of 5Ks, half marathons, sprint tris and half Ironman events has exploded over the past several years.  They draw amateurs, athletes and everyone in between.  Once you complete your first event, you’ll get ‘race fever’ and there will be no stopping you.

There are so many reasons to join the millions of people that participate each year in races.

1.  It’s Social – You make new friends and travel to fun places.  Here’s a picture of me and my pals – some old and some new – before the Hot Chocolate 15K in Chicago last November. We had a fun time in Chi Town the evening before the race and did a little shopping after the race before heading home.

my kind of town

2.  Finish Line Rush – Nothing compares to the feeling of accomplishment when you cross the finish line.  My daughter and her friend like to do mini-tris.  They recently did one in Southern Illinois that was a 400 yard swim, 14 milk bike and a 5K run.  Here they are cheesin’ for the camera before the race.

Mini Tri A & A

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Why You Should Learn To Love Coffee

If you love coffee, recent research simply reaffirms what you already know. Coffee is good for you.  But, if you find the hot, bitter beverage – which many people claim smells a lot better than it tastes – hard to swallow you might need to consider finding ways to acquire a taste for it. (A simple, skinny frappe recipe at the end of the post will help you get started.)

The proven health benefits that can be gained by drinking a couple of cups coffee every day are remarkable and continue to grow. A lower risk of developing primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), an autoimmune liver disease, can be added to the list. PSC is a disease that leads to cirrhosis of the liver, liver failure and biliary cancer.

A study led by researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN  looked at 1,334 patients from 2002 to 2012. Of the test group, 530 had primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC), 348 had PSC and 456 were in a healthy control group.


On average, patients with PSC had 50 cups of coffee a month and had been coffee drinkers for half of their lives.  Participants that did not have PBC or PSC reported that they drank an average of 78 cups of coffee per month and had been coffee drinkers for nearly two thirds of their lives.

The results indicated that drinking coffee was linked to a lower risk for PSC.  Drinking coffee was not, however, associated with a lower risk of developing PBC.

Prior studies show that coffee protects the liver from the harmful effects of alcohol by reducing  levels of the liver enzyme gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT).

Coffee Is Good For More Than Your Liver

And coffee doesn’t just help keep your liver healthy.  Research has revealed that coffee drinkers benefit from a whole slew of perks that includes a lower risk for developing diabetes, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, basal cell carcinoma, and depression.

One study showed coffee drinks have a significantly reduced risk of developing mouth and pharynx cancer.

“Coffee is one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world, and contains a variety of antioxidants, polyphenols, and other biologically active compounds that may help to protect against development or progression of cancers,” the study’s lead author, Janet Hildebrand, said in a society news release. “Although it is less common in the United States, oral/pharyngeal cancer is among the 10 most common cancers in the world. Our finding strengthens the evidence of a possible protective effect of caffeinated coffee in the etiology and/or progression of cancers of the mouth and pharynx.”

Many of us can’t imagine a day without java so getting two or three cups in before noon isn’t a problem.  If you’re not a fan, you might think drinking a cup of coffee would be no different than taking a large dose of medicine.  Adding creamers, sweeteners, and spices can make coffee more palatable to non-coffee drinkers, but these add-ins often come with additional fat and calories.

Iced Caramel Frappe

Try this tasty iced coffee drink for a healthy dose of antioxidants and polyphenols that won’t wreck your waistline.




1 cup of strong black coffee, chilled
½ cup of skim milk
2 tablespoons of low-fat caramel liquid coffee creamer (or your favorite flavor)
1 tablespoon of chia seeds


Put all ingredients in a blender and mix until smooth.  Add ice until you get the drink to the consistency you like.  Experiment with coffee creamer flavors to add variety.

What’s your favorite low-cal coffee beverage?

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Post Workout Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie

Peanut butter and bananas are good post-workout snacks.  Put them together in a blender with some skim milk, ground flax seeds and ice and you have a creamy drink loaded with potassium, protein, Omega 3 fatty acids and calcium.

This smoothie is also a quick on-the-go breakfast drink for kids of any age.


1 ripe banana
2 tablespoons of peanut butter
½ cup of skim milk
1 tablespoon of ground flax seeds
½ cup ice (add more if needed)


Put all ingredients in a blender and mix until smooth.  Add more ice if needed.

Banana Smoothie in Blender

I added another half cup of ice to make it cold and hydrating.  You could add additional peanut butter or protein powder as well.

Banana Smoothie

Nutritional Information:

Makes 1 serving:  Calories 376; Carbs 43g; Fat 19g; Protein 14g; Sodium 206mg; Sugar 18g

We make a lot of smoothies, but this may very well be our favorite.  The texture was perfect.  It was smooth, creamy and filling.  The peanut butter gives it a rich flavor that you don’t find with fruit smoothies.  You can add strawberries or other fruit for a variety of flavors.

What’s your favorite smoothie?

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The Healthiest People Embrace Optimism

“To see things in their true proportion, to escape the magnifying influence of a morbid imagination, should be one of the chief aims of life.”
— The Map of Life, William Edward Hartpole Lecky

I subscribe to daily quotes generated by The Happiness Project and this quote by Lecky landed in my inbox today.  I thought this was a funny coincidence because I’ve been spending some time exploring my own psyche and my sometimes undeniable tendency to drift over to the side of pessimism particularly when I’m extremely short on sleep which happens to be the case this week.

Are you an optimist, pessimist or somewhere in the middle? I put myself somewhere in the middle.  I’m not a Pollyanna nor am I Woody Allen, the comedic pessimist known for the famous quote, “ More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness, the other to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.”

Now that’s pessimism.

Our outlook on life in large part is due to genetics.  But, negative thinking can also be a habit that with practice we can change.  When it comes to longevity, better health and an improved sense of well being, making the choice to walk on the sunny side of the street will pay off.



People that are optimist are inclined to anticipate the best possible outcome and to believe that we live in the best world possible.  Because of their positive outlook, optimists tend to be more resilient to stress, have more appropriate coping skills, and are more likely to practice a healthy lifestyle.

One study that followed a sample of males and females between the ages of 65 and 80 found that optimism was correlated with health behaviors such as not smoking, moderate consumption of alcohol, and engaging in regular physical activity.

Another study examined 545 males between the ages of 64-84 for fifteen years.  The results showed a direct correlation between dispositional optimism and death for cardiovascular diseases with a reduction of 50% of the risk of cardio-vascular death in the optimistic individuals.

Yet another study looked at 100,000 women and found that pessimists had higher blood pressure and cholesterol, while their optimistic counterparts exercised more and were leaner.  Lead researcher Dr. Hilary Tinkle, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pittsbugh said, “The majority of evidence suggests that sustained, high degrees of negativity are hazardous to health.”

In some cases, however, optimism can reduce an individual’s perception of reality leading them to participate in risky behaviors such as smoking.  These unrealistic optimists tend to have an “it won’t happen to me” attitude that can back fire on them.

But overall, those of us that tend to see the world in a positive light have a better quality of life, are better able to adapt to an ever-changing environment, and are able to develop coping strategies to eliminate and manage stress.  Plus, optimists are more successful in changing habits and behaviors simply because they believe they can.

Bad Habits of Negative Thinkers

Pessimists may not even recognize that they spend most of their time engaged in negative thinking patterns.  Some signs that you may sabotaging yourself with negative self talk are:

  • You magnify the negative aspects of situations and filter out anything positive that happened.
  • You personalize bad situations and blame yourself for anything that goes wrong even if what happened is well beyond your control.
  • You anticipate a catastrophe.  As soon as you’re out of the bed in the morning you begin to imagine everything that bad that could happen to you.
  • You see everything in black and white.  To you a situation is either all positive or all negative when in fact most situations are a mix of both.

Even if you have a tendency to polarize, magnify, personalize and catastrophize, with a little brain training you can develop a more optimistic disposition.

Train Your Brain

Recognizing that you practice negative self talk is the first step to optimism.  Deciding you want to change your thought patterns is the second and there are a number strategies that you can use to develop a habit of positive thinking.


Here are a seven strategies to get your started:

  1. Positive affirmations – Subscribe to daily affirmations through a web site like Everyday   It only takes a couple of minutes to open the affirmation, read it and think about it.  Do it first thing in the morning and set the tone for a positive day.
  2. Practice gratitude – People that express gratitude are happier and healthier.  Keep a gratitude journal and write down one thing that you are grateful for each day.  At the end of the week review what you’ve written.  To read more about the impact gratitude can have on your health, click here.
  3. Positive self talk – Do you spend your day engaged in repetitive negative thoughts and self-criticism?  This can be detrimental to your health and is worth changing.  Begin by catching yourself when the negative cycle starts and cut it off.  Replace the negative thoughts with ones that are hopeful and optimistic.
  4. Get Plenty of Sleep – Studies show that people that don’t get enough sleep are prone to negative thinking and depression.  If you’re short on sleep, practicing positive affirmations, and engaging in positive self talk will be even more difficult.  Try and get at least seven hours (although eight is ideal) of sleep each night.
  5. Exercise – Physical activity gets our mind off of our problems, and the endorphins that are released when we exercise are natural mood enhancers.  When you work hard enough to get your heart rate up you’ll feel more energetic and find that you are more in control of your life.
  6. Optimize Your Levels of Vitamin D – Make sure you are getting adequate amounts of Vitamin D through natural sunlight or supplementation.  People that are D deficient tend to have a lower immune response to common viruses and stress and can feel tired, achy and depressed.  If you suspect you might be deficient in the sunshine vitamin, ask your doctor for a simple blood test.
  7. Laugh – There’s a reason the boxed DVD sets of comedies like Friends, The Office, and Everybody Loves Raymond are so popular.  They are good to have on hand on days when you can’t see anything funny about the world.  Watch one of your favorites for an instant attitude adjustment.

Developing a sunny outlook may take some time if you don’t have a natural pre-disposition towards optimism but acquiring the habit of positivity is critical to both your physical and mental health.  Your life will be more enjoyable and you’ll be better able to handle the everyday stressors which contribute to the health benefits of being an optimist.

Over To You

Are you a pessimist?  Optimist?  Somewhere in the middle?  What’s your secret to staying upbeat even when things don’t go as planned?

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Be Fit’s 20 Minute Cardio Power Debuts Monday.

People don’t always have an hour to spend exercising or have access to a gym. You don’t need either with the new 20 Minute Cardio Power program from Liongate’s Be Fit.

On Monday, Lionsgate will be premiering an all-new, BeFit Go video, BeFit Go | 20 Minute Cardio Power.

Be Fit's 20 Minute Cardio Power debuts Monday

Be Fit’s 20 Minute Cardio Power debuts Monday

The 20 Minute Cardio Power workout is an intense, calorie blasting cardio circuit workout that boosts metabolism through a unique combination of exercises that include ski jumps, air squats, and jumping lunges.

Why Cardio Power?

The Cardio Power program will give you results in just 20 minutes a day.

Increased Heart Health

Your heart is a muscle just like any other, it needs to be worked to become strong. By getting the heart pumping at a faster rate on a regular basis you will keep it in shape and healthy.

Increased Metabolism

The more intense your cardio session, the more noticeable increase you will see in your metabolic rate. An increased metabolism means an easier time maintaining your weight, or even losing weight!

A better life!

Performing cardiovascular exercises changes the hormonal profile in your body by releasing “feel good” hormones called endorphins, which block pain and enable you to experience euphoric feelings. People who partake in regular cardio exercise often have a better outlook on life because they’re getting the stress-relief benefits from these hormones.

Be Fit has replaced Exercise TV by offer a variety of challenging workouts from fitness icons like Denise Austin, Jillian Michaels, and Mary Helen Bowers for free!

To start the Cardio Power program and to see the other workouts from Be Fit, click here.

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 I am not an affiliate of Lionsgate Be Fit. 

Greek Style Chicken Recipe

The Greek Style Chicken is yet another delicious recipe from Skinny Kitchen, which just happens to be my new favorite skinny recipe site. We had this for dinner the other night and the family loved it.  The left-overs make a healthy brown bag lunch and warmed up beautifully the next day.

Greek Chicken

Ingredients for Roasted Potatoes:
1 pound mini red potatoes or small red potatoes cut in fours
¾ tablespoon olive oil
Salt and fresh ground pepper

Ingredients to Marinate Chicken:
1½ pounds chicken breast tenders, boneless, skinless
2 fresh lemons
Salt and fresh ground pepper

Ingredients for Greek Salad Salsa:
2 cups grape or sugar plum tomatoes
1½ cup cucumber, peeled and chopped
1 orange or yellow bell pepper, trimmed and chopped
½ cup scallions, chopped, use white and green part
⅓ cup Lite Caesar Dressing or Light Caesar Vinaigrette
2 tablespoon lemon juice
¼ teaspoon dried oregano

Ingredients for Topping:
⅓ cup fat-free feta cheese
8 Kalamata olives, sliced

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The Best Way To Motivate Someone Isn’t With Words

Do you ever have the urge to tell your work out buddy that’s trying to encourage you with phrases like “keep it up” and “you’ve got this” to shut the you-know-what up?

You would think that having a fitness partner that tries to motivate you with encouraging words would help you work longer and harder.  But, recent research shows that verbal encouragement isn’t all that helpful and may even be de-motivating.

Brandon Irwin, assistant professor of kinesiology, worked with researchers at Michigan State University on the study “You Can Do It: The Efficacy of Encouragement in Motivating the Weak Link to Exercise Longer During an Online Exercise Video Game” to determine how to increase motivation during physical activity. They learned that individuals do tend to work out longer when they are with a partner that is perceived to be more skilled than they are as long as they keep the verbal cues to a minimum.

Quite please

Less Is More

In a separate study, 115 participants were told to do planks for as long as they could.  One group of participants were told they would be exercising with a partner who was slightly better than them.  The partner was a looped video recording.

The other group was also told they would be exercising with a partner that was slightly better than them.  In this case the partner was also a recording, but for this group the partner provided verbal encouragement.

The researchers were surprised to find that the group that did not receive the verbal motivational cues exercised longer.  They expected the opposite would be true.  The conclusion is that when you are exercising with someone that you know is slightly better than you and they keep verbal encouragement to a minimum you are motivated to work out longer.

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