Thursday, July 8, 2010

Reason To vs. Excuses Not To

In life, people have contrasting attitudes: those who find reasons to do things and make changes, and those who find excuses why they cannot. These behaviors apply to many aspects: willingness to try new things, tackle one's fears, travel to new places, change habits that can be detrimental, even take care of one's health (you knew I'd get around to that one).

As we age, our fitness declines unless we do something about it. So you can either sit around listing excuses why you can’t get off your butt or you can do something.

“I can’t do that,” “My shoulder/knee/back hurts, “ “I don’t like to workout,” “I don’t have time,” “I’m too weak,” “I’ve got better things to do,” “That makes my heart beat fast,” “I don’t like to sweat,” “I’ve got arthritis/high blood pressure/ insert condition here.’’

“My reunion/son’s Bar Mitzvah/best friend’s wedding is coming up,” “Doc said do something quick,” “Tired of gaining weight each year,” “Run a 5K,” “Garden without hurting my back,” “Keep up with my grandkids,” “Fit in my skinny jeans again,” “I’ve got arthritis/high cholesterol/insert condition here.”

Every one of us makes excuses. I’m no exception. I once believed I couldn’t ride a bike because I had bad balance or run because my knee would hurt. I thought I wasn’t athletic because I couldn’t throw or catch a ball. But time and age can put things in perspective.

In order to save my sanity while working at my first job in NYC, I discovered swimming at the Y around the corner (much cheaper than psychotherapy). Years later, I got postcards encouraging fundraising for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in exchange for training to complete a triathlon or ride a bike century. To celebrate my mother-in-law’s 5 years cancer-free from non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, I raced in her honor. Suddenly I had REASONS TO rather than EXCUSES NOT TO.

To this day, my reasons to train to improve my strength, flexibility, balance and aerobic endurance are so I can ride my bike and swim in the lake. Not, as some people believe, because I “love working out.”

Everyone’s got good reasons. What are yours? Please share them.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Oops - Link not linking

To donate to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Brain Tumor Center, try this link:

Setting Goals and Getting There

People often comment that, as a trainer, I must love working out for its own sake. While that may be true as far as riding my bike outside, it’s definitely not the case with running or working out inside the gym. Even trainers need a kick in the butt. To get myself back on track after brain surgery, I set a goal of running the More half-marathon on April 25. That looming date has helped motivate me to run longer and longer distances (even though I don’t enjoy running), and luckily I have some friends on Team MissFit who are making this journey with me. In addition to improving our fitness, we’re doing it to raise money for brain tumor research at Sloan-Kettering, which also adds plenty of inspiration. To make a donation (no amount is too small), go to

It’s not the workout, but what it can do for you, that provides incentive to get and keep you working. To insure this is happening, I recommend you set a personally-motivating goal and do what it takes to get there. It’s best that the goal is more than a number on the scale. There’s much more to fitness and health than weight. In fact, many higher-than-average-weight people are in better condition than their thin counterparts. Ultimately, as we age and live longer, health and physical fitness become even more important than a number.

What should your goal be? It’s different for everyone. One client who recently started training wants to look better and fit into her dress for her son’s bar mitzvah. She’s on her way. Another would like to play better tennis without getting injured, so she’s developing her flexibility and endurance to do so. Other players have told me they’re in awe of how powerfully she hits the ball.

I met one client while swimming in the pool who first hired me to give him swim technique instruction and eventually started core and body-weight training to improve his strength in and out of the water. I encouraged him to sign up for an open water swim in the Hudson, offering to swim with him since he was fearful of his first outside distance swim. We trained in the Hudson close to home and then went to NYC, where he proceeded to kick my butt in the water (which I knew he would).

There are, admittedly, scores of people whose goal is to lose weight. But a good trainer can help you find more than just that reason to work hard. One client lost then gained weight many times in his life without keeping it off, so this time it was my job to not let him self-sabotage. I tried to keep him off the Doritos, but as I wasn’t with him 24-7. Thus, his workouts needed to be challenging. I could tell he became more motivated the more difficult the exercise, and I often related movements to outdoor sports he enjoyed, such as kayaking and skiing. He mastered the “circus trick” and some Bode Miller-like balancing work. Once, after kayaking around lower Manhattan, he remarked that he could really feel that our core training had made a difference. If he’d miss a few weeks because of vacation or work, he’d feel the difference, and then work harder to get back up to speed.

The goals you set need not be gargantuan, as these examples from real life attest. Fitting into a bathing suit or having plenty of energy to keep up with the grandkids are goals exercising can help you achieve. A 5K run or a 10K walk are just as valid as running a marathon. Don’t just set it and forget it. Do what it takes to get it. And you will most likely lose weight and inches as you’re doing it. If you think you can, you can.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


Finally getting back to the MissFit Blog I started a few years back on Crotonblog. Here it is again. Feel free to comment and ask any questions - I'm here to help.


One of my clients told me she has problems starting her workout when she’s not with me (pretty typical). It’s not that she doesn’t want to workout or not remember she needs to do it; it’s not that she doesn’t have appropriate equipment at her home; it’s more of a motivation disconnect and a need to find enough time to get a “real” workout in.

I can relate to these difficulties. When I’m training clients at the gym, or going from house to house, I don’t have an entire hour or even half-hour to fit in a "real" workout. But does a workout have to be lengthy to be effective? No. Not if you're really challenging your whole body.

While training, I often demonstrate proper form for a plank or push up and get a few in myself. Yet for me, that’s not workout (I’m used to it), though it’s better than sitting in a chair facing a computer all day. Whenever I can find a spare 20 minutes, I try to make that 20 minutes work, choosing exercises I cannot perform for that many reps, functional exercises that challenge multiple muscle groups (it’s like multi-tasking) and those that also challenge my endurance (both muscular and aerobic). I also move quickly between the exercises, so there’s no wasted time and alternate between upper and lower body movements and core-focused exercises so there's less need to rest than when you're doing as multiple exercises on only one body part.


Another technique to save time and get results is to use higher weights that stress your muscles more so you can’t perform that many reps. The April 5, 2010 NY Times reported that to “tone and tighten,” people should use weights they can only do about 8 reps with. They will not get “too big,” unless they’re eating a high-calorie diet. So grab the larger weights, do what you can (with proper form, I should remind you) and you’re reached muscle failure (what you need to do to see results) more quickly.


The best way to get fast results is to use your own body weight. So a 140 lb. woman would be getting an appropriate workout for someone her size, as would an 200 lb. man. She wouldn’t need to lift as much weight as he does, but they would both be getting the challenge they need. Doing body weight exercises (such as the most well-known, the pushup) also challenges your core muscles (as long as you are keeping a neutral spine and using your abdominal rather than your back muscles). The TRX trainer is a great aid for people of all abilities to create appropriate and challenging body weight training exercises. Here's a link to find out more:

Fitness Anywhere: Make your body your machine.

To learn the proper techniques to get results and keep motivated, contact me, MissFit, at