happy applesRecently I discussed my take on sugar vs. artificial sweeteners.  “Sugar in the Morning..” was originally posted Sunday, May 19th.

If you use sugar substitutes, this article might be a worthwhile read.  “CSPI Downgrades Splenda from “Safe” to “Caution.”  This can be found on http://mercola.com

I realize the reputation sugar has earned.  No, it is not an innocent bystander–and we all want “healthier” alternatives for our sweet tooth.  However the jury is still out for me, regarding substitutes.

This article suggests options as well as “take the test” to recognize if you have an allergy to artificial sweeteners.

Dr. Mercola includes an interview (15 minutes) with a colleague, as well as one suggestion as an alternative.  Stevia is mentioned; not Truvia.

Thoughts? Comments?  Your experience with sweeteners?  Let me know.  Contact me at serrenity.c@gmail.com



yoga female on topSo you are bored with your routine, collection of workout DVDs, and/or your results are at a standstill.  Maybe you have hit a plateau; maybe your body is just tired (see “If this isn’t part of your routine, you may be wasting your time”).

This video may provide that kick in the glutes you’re craving.  However…..these routines are not for the faint of heart, and definitely not for everyone. 

Few of these routines would be suitable for my clients.  Few if any are suitable for the general public.  Yet if you are looking for alternatives to dumb bell work, without joint issues, and in peak condition–take a look.  The participants are shown performing these routines without a trainer.  However you may want to consult one, for proper form.


All for now.  Keep up and keep at it.

Questions? Comments?  Contact me at serrenity.c@gmail.com






eat it upYou are what you eat.  Most of us have heard this reiterated since childhood.  We’ve probably put it to use ourselves, in an attempt to discourage “unhealthy” eating habits.

Why we eat, is just as important as what we eat. 

You are on your way home from work, which happens to be a 90 minute commute.  Today traffic is being rerouted, bypassing your exit.  Your little one should have been picked up 15 minutes ago, and the sitter wants to know “how much longer?”   Your eldest son has football practice, and is now contending with the sitter for you to pick up his call.  Your husband is also waiting to be heard, but his call gets dropped.  You finally make it off the expressway.  Your husband called back, and is on his way to the sitter.  Your son phones again–but this time it’s to tell you football practice is Thursday; today is Tuesday.  You actually get a unemcumbered trip home.

Even if this isn’t quite your life–you get the idea.

Now perhaps you have had a late lunch, even munched on that “healthy” snack while sitting in traffic.

Yet what will most of us do within the next 30 minutes?  Forty percent of us caught in this or similar scenarios, will stop at McDonald’s, Burger King, Brown’s Chicken, or whatever franchise is nearest and dearest.  A portion of this forty will order take out.  If you are not part of that percentage, there is a sixty percent chance once you arrive home, one of your initial actions will include opening the refrigerator; even if you don’t have to prepare a family meal.

Sound a little more familiar?

Women are usually portrayed as the poster children for emotional eating.  Starting in our teens (and often earlier), we develop a love-hate relationship with food.  Yet if we take a second look at the above scenario, this could have been Dad–caught in the same situation.  Who’s to say his actions wouldn’t include a trip to Burger King or Popeye’s?  Maybe, maybe not.

While our emotions may not be gender biased, perhaps our reaction to them, is.  Either way, taking a step aside as well as one back, is the best way to assess the situation.

While I am not an emotional eater, I fall into the category of emotional non-eater or faster.  If I am truly stressed, I can go for days without eating.  However once the circumstance is resolved, the “flood gates open.”  Also, if I find myself hungry before bedtime, I CANNOT go to bed that way.  There are few circumstances I find worse, than laying in bed hungry.

Before I find myself post-stress, I know I must prepare.  Easy access is key.  Keeping cereal bars low in fat & sugar, and other snacks in the house that will not translate into pounds on my body, are part of my preparation.  Once I feel able to eat a meal, the idea is I won’t want to drive to the nearest rib joint or fried chicken place (though these are always a temptation).

For me, assessment and planning are tantamount to staying on track.  Recognizing my triggers, then preparing for them before the deluge ensues, is part of my plan.

Many ideologies and theories exist on emotional eating.  None of them mean much, unless you realize what is happening, and find a suitable solution.  Hindsight may be 20/20.  Yet that hindsight comes with a cost.  It may mean the difference between the 20 lbs you gain, or 20 lbs you won’t have to lose.

All for now.  Keep up and keep at it.

Questions?  Comments?  Contact me at serrenity.c@gmail.com




bra Happy Father’s Day!  Whether this is your first or your 61st, enjoy; and take a much deserved bow.  Also, take a break–because this one’s for the “girls.”

LADIES–this is a topic I’ve wanted to address for sometime.

Most of us at one time or another, have struggled with the “girls.”  Whether you are an A, B, or double D, bras can be, shall we say– a pain in the glutes (will tackle that area in another post).  If you are a runner, step aerobics enthusiast, or engage in any activity where your chest gets more attention than your intellect, you need a decent bra.

SPORTS BRAS–separating the A student from the D–and beyond.  Take a look at http://womensrunning.competitor.com. “Gear: Girlfriend’s Guide to Sports Bras.”

If you are more generously endowed, you’re probably pulling in “double harness.”  Yes, I’m speaking from experience.  Working out at a co-ed gym, I’ve become quite creative in anchoring and camouflaging.  Running my favorite trails incurs the same preparation.  The above article separates the “straight A‘s” from the major Divas.

One more I found helpful.  http://running.about.com. “How to Choose the Right Sports Bra.”  This addressed something I’ve experienced, but thought it was my imagination.  I never thought about a sports bra infringing upon my breathing capacity.  Yet when I saw this, it validated what I suspected.

The sports bras cited in these links are not inexpensive.  The recommendation in one states that after 72 washes, it should be discarded.  Well….that could be a costly proposition for a woman working out 5-6 days a week.

What works for me?

I am a major Diva.  Running, INSANITY, hot yoga, as well as the other routines I use, have not changed that.  Frequent exercise has had a major impact on the rest of my body–save one, well literally two.

For me, wearing two sports bras isn’t really an issue.  BUT, they have to be in the right combination.  If I wear two racer back styles with equally matched support, I find my breathing and my running are compromised.  However, I’ve found pairing a lighter support polyester with wide straps, with a medium support racer back, works well.  The wider strap I use as my base layer, is similar to the genie style bra.

Have a favorite brand?  Any advice from my A, B, or C students?  Double Dutch and Frankly Fabulous–I’d like to hear from you too.

Be sure to check out my ABOUT page.

Questions or Comments?  Contact me at serrenity.c@gmail.com

hair out of H20You’ve been hitting the gym, pavement, and/or the DVD workouts 5-6 days a week.   If this statement falls into the category of “things that make you go huh?” this post is not for you.

However if you are working with a high intensity routine most everyday, you may be wasting your time.  UNLESS you are inserting a recovery day.

Recovery days are essential.  They are the “pause” if you are in a state of constant “play.”  Exercising everyday at moderate to high intensities, you will burn caloriesYour body will also demand more calories.  Translation?  You will want to eat more food.  Yet this isn’t unusual, nor does it necessarily mitigate your workout.  It simply means your body requires additional fuel for additional work.  It can become a problem though, if you are overdoing either.

Sore muscles or DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) may be an expectation if you haven’t worked out consistently.  If you have overextended yourself or tried a new routine, it also maybe the price.  Yet if you have trouble staying awake by midday, achy muscles are a constant companion, and headaches are becoming a part of your post-exercise routine–you are overdoing it. Yes, these symptoms can be attributed to dehydration (more common than you realize among the diligent).  Hydration issues aside, if these sound familiar or persist–slow down.   A check-up may not be bad idea either, if you have not had one.  Your body at this point, is not making a polite request.

RECOVERY–What does it really mean?

Recovery days run the gambit–just like sports.  They mean different ideas to different athletes.  If you are an avid runner, a recovery day may be a “recovery run.”  Check out http://running.competitor.com.  “Workout of the Week: Recovery Runs.”  I found this article very useful, providing insight into recovery as well as running past fatigue.

If the thought of running makes you run the other way–recovery could be that “day off.”  Working towards constructing that chiseled physique?  Check out http://2buildmusclefast.com. “Importance of Rest and Recovery in Muscle Building.”  This should be of particular interest to bodybuilders.  Why?  In part, the article stresses the need for rest, if you want to become sculpted faster.  No rest, no gain, appears to be the theme here.

What if your workouts are here, there, and everywhere?  Not a problem–here are a few suggestions from my “toolbox.”

If you’re a consistent follower of my posts, you realize my workouts vary:  running, INSANITY, gym, hot yoga, as well as ballet inspired.  Because of this, my recovery needs vary as well.  Therefore, a day off for me, literally is “a day off.”  While my teenage son may be into recovery runs (he runs cross-country & track), running is no longer my only form of exercise.  It once was–and still remains my favorite.  However, because my body started to “maintain an even strain” unless I upped my mileage, I had to find something else to get the results/weight loss I once derived running.

Recovery first and foremost–has to entail adequate hydration as well as nutrition.  You will not achieve your goals without either of these.  Yes, eating to fuel “your habit,” is a balancing act.  If you take in more calories than you’re burning, you will gain weight.  And, it may not be the muscle hypertrophy for which you are striving.  My advice?  Start with adequate hydration.  See my post “Not enough? Too much?  A little guidance please…”  Once these needs are met, realize your body is going to demand–not request–higher quality food.  While potato chips, ice cream, and French Silk pie may not be totally eradicated from your thought process, they will not fuel your transformation.  Therefore, be prepared.

On my high intensity days (hard/long run, INSANITY, hot yoga) my drink of choice is electrolyte replacement, supplemented by H20.  My meal?  ONE–not all, of these days includes a meal I really really like.  Otherwise, I make sure I have plenty of salads, fixings for fresh tostadas, chicken breast, & roast beef around.  I am not a fish eater or a vegetarian; nor do I have any plans to become either.  Therefore, my meal plans/snacks include protein in the form of chicken, roast beef, some pork, legumes, or protein bars.  Vegetables, especially snow peas, green onions, mixed frozen, broccoli, and carrots are usually found in my fridge.

Lower intensity days (ballet inspired workout, light run, run/walk) H20 is my drink of choice.  Meals are lighter; and usually DO NOT include a splurge on these days.  My philosophy is lighter workout, lighter food.  While I haven’t the scientific data to purport this rationale, it works for me.

Whether you lift, run, dance, kick a soccer ball, walk, or are a diligent chair exerciser–keep it up.  Keeping it up however, means keeping your body from giving up.  Giving it the rest, hydration, and nutrition it requires are ALL part of RECOVERY.

All for now.  Keep up and keep at it.

Be sure to check out my ABOUT page.

Questions?  Comments?  Contact me at serrenity.c@gmail.com


rain invading pondSpring has sprung in Chicagoland–or at least a reasonable facsimile.  While we could complain about below normal temperature, most of us choose to enjoy–and delve back into our favorite 3-5 month outdoor activity.  We may be a city divided in baseball allegiance by Cubs and White Sox (as a proud south-sider, I love the Sox–it’s go go White Sox and WHOEVER plays the Cubs) but most are aligned in their feelings about the seasons here.  Two of them to be exact; winter and construction..

With warmer weather (sort of) upon us, hydration becomes a key concern.  How much H20 should I be drinking?  Should I “load up” before heading to my favorite trail?  Do I really need a sports drink?  Should I be replacing what I lost post-exercise?  How much should I replace?  Should extreme heat be avoided when exercising outdoors?

Simple questions–diverse answers.

Water is essential to sustain life.  Few if any living organisms are able to survive without hydration.  Most of us grew up and still believe, 6-8 glasses of H20 a day is requisite for healthy living, as well as weight control.  Recent thought however, has cast some serious doubts on this.  There are also exceptions to the “more is better” philosophy of fluids.

One of those exceptions is chronic renal failure patients.  Fluid restriction for them is part of everyday living.  Without properly functioning kidneys, H20 as well as fluid based foods are always carefully measured.  Their hydration is a balancing act; too much (in part) means difficult breathing, elevated BP, and additional time on dialysis.  Too little means dehydration; like anyone else.

Too much H20 consumption can result in hyponatremia.  This term really translates into “dilution of sodium” in circulating blood volume.  Signs and symptoms can be easily overlooked.  However, there are ramifications for ingesting massive quantities of fluids.  They range from the mild (bloating, stomach upset, and discomfort with activity) to the extreme (brain swelling, elevated BP, & reduction of sodium sponsored electrolyte function).

Too little fluids, especially in extreme heat, also has dire consequences.  Elevated body temperature within itself is a concern.  Think in terms of your car.  There are many parts which enable it to run.  However, if the engine overheats–you have serious problems.  Likewise, if your brain overheats…well you get the idea.

The American College of Sports Medicine Certification Review, suggests the following:  400-600cc (14-22oz) 2-3 hrs before exercise.  During exercise, 6-12 oz is recommended.  For every pound of body weight lost post exercise, you should replace 16-24 oz per lb (it is suggested you weigh yourself pre-exercise, then post.  This will help you determine future fluid replacement goals)


Depending upon the activity, sports drinks are usually recommended for higher intensity exercises.  They are also recommended when exercising on very hot days.  Because they replace sodium, potassium, and glucose, longer duration activity such as long distance running and cycling, are among those where sports drinks are indicated.  These guidelines, like fluid suggestions, are also found in the ACSM certification review.

CONTROVERSY:  Drink it when you need it–no more no less.

There is a school of thought which states something quite astonishing:  Drink when thirsty.  That’s it.

http://fitness.mercola.com  The article is entitled “The Serious Problem of Overhydrating in Endurance Sports.”

I do like this article–yet as with any post, I must include my findings.

My exercise routines run the gauntlet.  Because of this, my hydration needs do as well.  What works for me is workout specific.  For example, if I am doing one of the INSANITY routines, I usually consume a small-regular bottle of a sports drink during the workout.  H20 works as well, but I feel more energized to do this routine with electrolyte replacement.  I don’t usually “load” ahead of time–and I drink H20 when thirsty afterwards.  If running or run-walking a 3-5 mile trail, I begin a 32oz sports drink (I’m not fussy about brands).  Since I don’t carry any fluids with me, I take a few more sips before heading out.  Once I return to my SUV, I normally finish the bottle.  Humidity and extreme heat, mean I finish half of the bottle if not more–before getting on the trail.

Hot yoga and ballet style workouts for me mean different hydration.  Hot yoga in particular, I find particularly grueling on electrolytes.  Since I break a sweat without much effort, a room at 98-105F even loosely packed, will have me pouring.  I start hydrating the night before, for a 9:30am class.  I start with about 1/2 a H20 bottle that evening.  In the morning, I will finish it, then “lock” or supplement my fluid intake with 1/4-1/2 of a 32oz sports drink.  I easily finish that bottle during a 70 minute class.  I carry a cooler with me, and before leaving the lot, I have started on my second bottle of electrolyte replacement.  That may mean any of the “smart H20” or sports drinks.  I usually finish about 16-32 oz before late afternoon.   The ballet style workouts I use, while difficult, are usually H20 only for me.


True enough–most of us are tougher than we realize.  A cooked brain however, doesn’t really care how far you can run, or how fast you bike.  If you are experiencing headaches, light-headedness, and feel overheated without sweating, it’s disconcerting; and dangerous.  Yes, I was “one of those” who felt invincible.  Quite humbling when someone has to wait with you, or go for H20 while you sit on the side of a trail.

My thoughts on hydration?  You must know how to interpret your body’s language.  It speaks to you all the time–but do you know what it is saying?  Just as thermostats in most households read between 55-95F, we realize that 75 in one home–could easily feel like 85 in another.

Need specifics?  Check out http://sportsmedicine.about.com.  “What to Drink for Proper Hydration During Exercise” offers helpful, straightforward guidelines.

All for now.  Keep up and keep at it.

Questions? Comments?  Contact me at serrenity.c@gmail.com

yoga female on topThis was posed by one of my clients.  However, I have omitted his final thought completing this question.  I like to keep the blog family friendly.

A former runner in his 20s and 30s, he was now 64, forty pounds heavier, taking anti-hypertensive medication.  Unfortunately, he was told to find something other than running to lose weight.  That recommendation took its toll on his perspective–but the fact remained, he still needed to exercise.

Being a runner myself, I had to try to put on “his shoes.”  It would hurt me–if I were unable to do something I’ve always enjoyed.  Yet as I have discussed in previous posts, I now know there is more to fitness than just one routine.  It really does take a village.

“Do I really need this crap?” (I’m paraphrasing)  He asked me this once we completed our walk on the trail, and while I demonstrated variations on plank position.  “I can do the dumbbell work.  But I don’t see the point in this ‘bear your own weight’ crap.”

The nurse in me doesn’t easily acquiesce to demanding males–primarily because of my experience with physicians  (I’ve met my share of demanding female ones too).  They don’t walk on H20, and while they may head the team, they are still part of one.  However, the trainer in me is a little more understanding–especially because of the clientele with which I work.  “Well I guess not.”  “Good,” he shot back, and started towards his Jeep.  “Unless…” He continued his pace without turning.  “you’d like assistance everytime you want to put on your pants.  How do you feel about toileting yourself?  Cleaning yourself afterwards?  Did you want to continue to do these independently, or pay someone to do them for you?”  These questions seemed to halt his trek back to his SUV.

Weight bearing, like range of motion exercises, are part of “the essentials” for activities of daily living.  Most of us take for granted the ability to sit on a toilet, take care of our needs, then get up.  Do you realize how much joint action as well as ROM is required for this?  Dressing yourself can be a workout of epic proportion; even if slightly impaired.  Ask anyone who has suffered traumatic brain injury, stroke, or living with arthritis.  See what they have to say.

We all take independence for granted.  As Americans, we believe it is a right.  However, most of us realize freedom–as well as independence–isn’t free.  Maintaining an independent lifestyle requires due diligence, just like freedom.

So what happened with my client?  We sat down for nice long “heart to heart.”

“You really do need this ‘bear your own weight’ crap,” I said.  And just like him, I didn’t paraphrase either.

What is the current thought regarding weight-bearing and stretching exercises–even if you are arthritic?  Do it–but there are certain types which are better than others.  Take a look at http://arthritisconnect.com. Check out yoga for arthritis.  As always, check with your medical professional first.

Like your ability to sit, then stand at will?  Want to maintain that?  Add a few squats (start with 5-10) to your routine.  A kitchen chair will do for this:  Hold your arms straight out in front of you.  Pretend you want to sit; but don’t do it.  “Sit” then stand.

Want more of a challenge?  Same kitchen chair required.  Hold your arms straight out in front of you.  Cross one leg over the other; foot on opposite knee, forming a figure “4” with your legs.  Squat then raise.  How about a little upper body work now?

Your equipment?  You guessed it–that same chair.  You want to avoid slippery surfaces for this exercise.  Face seat of chair.  With hands on opposite sides of the seat, assume a plank/push-up position.  Start with 5-10 of these.

Need more ideas?  Help getting started?  Limited mobility?  Always check with your physician for recommendations first.  Then call me.

Questions? Comments?  Contact me at serrenity.c@gmail.com