Let’s take the guesswork out of this..

alone on a swing

This is a re-blog which was originally published in November of 2013.  Many of my readers found this helpful at the time.  If you are struggling with “the numbers” including the scale, this may help.

Here is something you may have heard about, but never used.


Training heart rate is something you may want to consider if your weight loss is stalling.  Getting the most from your workout, once you know your THR, helps with intensity.  Before I get into that, let’s debunk what THR is not.


Heart rate maximum is 220-age.  This number supposedly represents the highest rate your pulse should be while exercising.  The reason I say supposedly, is because it is still just a number.  I exceed mine regularly, before breaking a decent sweat.  Depending upon how aerobically fit you are,  it may need adjustment.  Heart rate max is a starting point; a way of deciphering your THR.


Figuring out your THR is pretty easy.  Start with 220-age.  This gives you your HEART RATE MAX.  This number is then subtracted from your RESTING HEART RATE.  Resting heart rate is just that; your pulse while doing nothing.  You may use your carotid (pulse on either side of your neck) or your radial (pulse found on thumb side of your wrist).  Use you index and middle finger to check your pulse; never your thumb.  Take your pulse for one full minute.

Your result from this subtraction is your HEART RATE RESERVE.  This number is now multiplied by desired training intensity.  Let’s say you want to work out at the high-end of “moderate intensity.”  This number is around 55%.  Your result is now multiplied by .55, then added to your resting heart rate.  This result is your THR.  Sound confusing?  Let’s clear that up.

Example–50-year-old female, who wants to work out at low-end of “high intensity.”  This intensity is represented by 60%.  Her resting pulse is 78.

220-50=170 (heart rate max)

170-78=92 (heart rate reserve)

92 x .60(training intensity)=55.2 (round to 55)

55 + 78(resting heart rate)=133

133 to 134 would be the THR (training heart rate) for which she would aim, if she wanted to work out at the low-end, of high intensity.

Let’s look at this same woman; however this is her “moderate intensity” day.  Low end of moderate intensity is 40%.  Her age is still 50; but her pulse today is 72.

We start with 170, because this is 220-her age(50).

170-72(resting heart rate)=98(heart rate reserve)

98 x .40(intensity)=39.2 (round to 39)

39 + 72=111

Her THR  for moderate intensity is 111-112.

This formula is known as the KAROVONEN Method.  It uses percentages (40-85%) of heart rate reserve, rather than just a heart rate max.  It also enables you to tailor your workout intensities, toward your target heart rate.  This might help you achieve your weight loss goals, by adjusting and varying your intensity.

In its entirety, the formula looks like this:

HRmax-HRrest=HRR(heart rate reserve)

[HRR x training%] + HRrest = THR(training heart rate)

If you have any underlying cardiac conditions, or just getting started, check with your medical professional before embarking on any exercise routine.

Need further help with THR, HR max and intensity?  Contact me @serrenity.c@gmail.com

Keep up and keep at it.


Inventory Control

facing the scale Inventory Control.  It’s a term I normally associate with retail.  However, it does speak to, as well as hold value for those of us outside this world.  But what does this have to do with health & fitness?

A scale, as much as we may despise it, does have merit.  I do not advocate it as the be all end all in weight management.  However, it’s one of the most objective tools we have in our arsenal combating the battle of the bulge.  Yet if this is going to be the most objective piece of equipment I use, it has to be one that encourages, not discourages.  A scale which simply spits out a numeric value when I step on it, to me, is useless.  Really worse than useless.  It can be downright depressing.   Yet a scale which differentiates between muscle mass, fat, and bone–well that can be motivating.  Now I can measure progress.  How much fat am I losing?  How much lean muscle am I contributing to this process?

Tape measures can be useful as well.  Though if your goal is thinning your thighs and you start to build muscle, the tale of the tape may not tell the whole story.  Again, selecting the proper criteria to evaluate your results, is as important as the routine or program itself.  Why stick to something if you aren’t getting what you want?  And why use arbitrary measures to evaluate unique and specific goals?  It may not add up; at least not in your favor.

So what exactly do I mean, when I speak of weights & measures?  Measuring out each spoonful or morsel I plan to eat?  No, not for me.  That becomes too tedious too quick.  Counting calories?  Yes, but I’ll speak to that later.  Rather, I ask my clients to consider not just what they eat, but from what they eat.


Taking someone under your wing to embark them on a lifelong fitness and nutrition change, is a phenomenal responsibility.  I don’t take it likely.  Nor should they.  It is for that reason, a questionnaire is part of my inventory.  Really it’s their inventory.  Questions I ask regarding intake are as follows:  Do you consistently eat at the same time each day?  Do you work a set schedule?  Swing shift?

Now for what may seem almost nonsensical.

From what you do you eat most often?  Paper plates? Styrofoam container?  Ceramic dishware?  Glass?  Are your utensils plastic or silverware?  Lastly in this series, do you know the size of the dishes from which you eat most often?

Why does any of this matter?

As I’m sure you’ve guessed from the last question, size does matter.  I recently compared plates received as wedding gifts when I was married, with plates from a line from a prominent chef.  I could easily sit the former, with at least an inch diameter difference, inside the latter.  If your focus is portion control, this is a major game changer.  As far as the paper or plastic dilemma, if you routinely chow down from something other than dinnerware, eating can be construed as just the next thing to do.  One that is not necessarily satisfying, enjoyable, or satiating.

Before you protest, think about it.

I realize there is host of paper products to mimic dinnerware.  And with kids, it’s just easier.  I get it.  But there is something to be said for taking the time to sit down to breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  Is this always possible?  Of course not.  I’m a nurse, I know that better than most.  But I also know that taking the time to invest in a meal, is an investment that pays back.  Your memory becomes full and satiated–not just your gut.  And that is just as important as caloric intake and exercise–combined.  When you can recall/construe your eating experience as positive–not just one focused on carbs or lack thereof, or just “feeding” you are changing your mind, not just your body.

That change is a step forward to the sustainable.  And a step off of the merry-go-round of diets & exercise routines which end up by the wayside.

So what about calories? Carbs? Gluten? Protein? Strength training? Cardio?  The end of days?

Well with the exception of the latter, I can help with that.  In former posts, I give my take on gluten-free and high protein diets.  Exercise routines and what I feel works, can be found in my archives as well.   Caloric intake I believe I’ve tackled, but will go into more depth–next post.  The end of days may be in sight however, for diet and exercise as most have to come to know it.

All for now.  Keep up and keep at it.

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

Focus on what you can, not what you can’t..

never too old to runI’ve often wondered how people choose a form of exercise.   Are they reminiscing, wishing to recapture their glory days?  Perhaps they ran in high school.  Maybe they played college and/or pro ball.   Maybe it was 2am, and that term paper with annotated bibliography was beginning to ramble.  And those size “small” yoga pants? They have somehow morphed into a size XXL.  Taking a much overdue break, they only thing on is infomercials.  Infomercials promising to take you from your double XL, back into a REAL size small.  You get the idea.  There’s only one problem.  Well more than one.


I like variety.  Variety in my workout routine is tantamount.  Running though, is where I find my way back.  The furthest I’ve ever ran is 10 miles. I’ll remember that day as long as I live.  When I’d finished, a little voice told me “this is the furthest you’ll ever go.”  It turned out to be right.  Fast forward a bit, and I found myself picking up weight because I wasn’t running as much as I once did. So enter in a plethora of workouts from INSANITY, to ballet inspired exercises, to PILATES w/bands, hot yoga, etc.  You name it, I did it.  And it WORKED.  I found myself with better muscle tone than running ever gave me.  But somewhere down the line, something else happened–a bulging lumbar disc.  And sciatic flares which range from tingling, to burning, to numbing down the length of my right leg; often reaching my 2nd toe.  They are at their most aggravating about a week to 10 days before my menses.  So what does that mean to my workouts?  More to the point, what does it mean to me?


Many of us deal with issues ranging from bulging discs to knee issues, to ankle problems, etc.  But what I’ve found, is that these declarations won’t emancipate us from what needs to be done.   Whether it’s tennis elbow or cardiac rehab from an MI, results don’t come from declarations of   ” I have this or that..”  They come from doing.  That being said, doing just any form of exercise is not the way.  I can attest to that.  So what is?

FUNCTION,  FORM, and that nasty little N-word–NUTRITION.  There, I said it.


When I begin MY PROGRAM with a client, is doesn’t start with exercise.  Anyone at any time can You-Tube myriads of exercise routines.  Fitness trackers abound which help you track your steps, tell you if you’ve been sitting too long, or when to move.  Diet plans are not in short supply either.  Everyone has his or her own pet project or advice on what works, what doesn’t, while promising this is the “last diet you’ll ever need.”  They may be right; but chances are, they’re wrong.  Why?  Simple–they don’t have YOUR BODY.  You have your body.   The responsibility is squarely on your shoulders to seek out what works and what doesn’t, and what probably never will.   So this is where I begin–when those who come to me, are at their end.  But more to the point, I begin with intake; an inventory of what THEY ARE IN TAKING.

Is there more to it than that?  Yes there is.  So stay tuned..

All for now.  Keep up and keep at it.


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



True or false-the maybe of plateaus

reflecting in chair We’ve all heard of them–even stated “I’ve hit a plateau.”  Stagnate, nothing is working.  I’m doing everything right.  Well–maybe.

When someone says this, I can empathize, but not actualize.  Let me explain.  Cue in one of the rules of physics.  “For every action, there is an equal & opposite reaction.”  That doesn’t mean positive or negative. It’s just one of those “facts” here on planet earth.  It is also reason one for my insistence on food diaries.  And yes the old fashioned, hand written kind.

ACCOUNTABILITY is more likely Kinesthetic

Why?  Not real sure.  It seems to follow that when something is hand written, it becomes actual–actualized & realized.  The latter says it all.  If you take time to record your movement-exercise, what you ate afterwards, as well as what you were snacking on while binge watching political skulduggery, you may find that wasn’t your only BINGE.

EXERCISE is exercise–not really

True enough, exercise is movement.  Your activities of daily living (ADLs) are considered movement.  But most of us want more–we want shape, tone, definition, and of course muscle.  For me, I would add elongation w/accompanying definition.  Whatever you crave from your exercise routine–ask yourself “Am I getting it?”  Believing you’ve hit a plateau means THAT routine is no longer delivering.  It may have taken you into a smaller dress size, but may fall short in fine tuning.

TIME OUT to tune in

Mindfulness & meditation are often used (and overused) catch phrases without delivering specifics.  Each one of us is responsible for acquiring our own insights into these.  No one can really tell you how, when, or even if to do this.  We are each accountable for our own mindset.  The takeaway however, is that your ARE ACCOUNTABLE for it.  Sowing to mindlessness reaps its own ramifications–in excesses beyond overeating.

My own delve into this was through hot yoga–and not just an exercise class aka “yoga.”  That was the gateway.  Developing a practice of my own helped me with both meditation & mindfulness.  So it was a two-fer for me.


If you are bored with counting every carb, shuffling through your cardio, or your grunt & fart routine at the gym, CHANGE IT.  With the advent & explosion of home workouts–from hip-hop to ballet, PILATES to YOGILATES, its easy to find that change.  Also consider trying something you may have been afraid to do.  It doesn’t mean you stick with it.  It just means you’ve tried it. For some it may be CROSS FIT. For others, learning to dance is enough to induce Metamucil-like results.  Whatever the case, doing the unexpected raises heart rate, and stimulates receptor sites in your brain BECAUSE YOU ARE DOING SOMETHING NEW.

Need a few more reasons to explain why you’ve plateaued?  Check these out.


Keep up and keep at it.  Need a little more in-depth advice?

Contact me at serrenity.c@gmail.com




Feed or Fast?

eat it up  Recently, a client asked about intermittent fasting.  “Do you think it’s a good idea?”  My reply was “that depends.”

I’ve read some of the literature on fasting as a way to curb appetite, and of course lose weight.   I’ve also seen some conflicting programming on this topic.  There is a school of thought which believes you should eat within an hour of getting up.  Conversely, there are those which believe you should tighten your window of eating.  According to this, breakfast should be somewhere between 11am and 12pm.  Your last meal should be no later than 5pm.  While neither of these approaches represent a real fast, they may hold some promise for those struggling with weight.


I’m not convinced this is for everyone; especially if you are taking insulin or on an oral diabetic agent.  If you must take medication with food, again, I don’t think this is your option.  My own delve into this however, taught me a few things.  One insight was this:  as children we are taught to control bowel and bladder.  These are base functions; and there are many a time we put off using the washroom at the first sign of urgency.  Appetite is also a base function.  And yes, often we cannot eat when we want.  If we can though, is it possible to delay that desire?  It is, and can be a teaching tool as well as an exercise in mindful eating–as opposed to the mindless eating many of us indulge.  Controlling an appetite can be likened to controlling bowel and bladder.  Though you may not have thought about it that way (or wanted to), they are both an exercise in self-control.


Maybe.  I’m not a psychologist.  So this is purely my perspective.  From what I’ve seen there is a link.  More to the point, I believe once there is a change in consciousness, a change takes place in your life.  However, you have to start somewhere.  For those New Year New You believers, know that all the exercise gurus and personal trainers online, in person, or on DVD, will do nothing for you–until you REALLY WANT IT.  Really wanting something involves sacrifice, introspection, and cultivation.  Many of us have in some form or another, wanted to further our education. What did that involve?  Staying up late, even though you had to work the next day?  Saying “no” to a splurge, maybe even what seemed like a necessity, at the time?  Perhaps parties, bridal and baby showers passed you by.   The list could easily go on.   The introspective part of you may have questioned your decision.  Yet if you persisted and really wanted your aspirations, you cultivated–you nourished your desire.  Hopefully you saw it come to fruition.  Again, the question had to be “How bad do I want it?”  And it had to go beyond the New Year New You cliches.

So whats my take on intermittent fasting?  It’s a tool, like anything else in your weight loss toolbox.  Again if you are on medication, diabetic, or have any questions, you should check with your nurse practitioner or MD.  However, experimenting with what makes you full, keeps you fuller longer, or simply asking yourself “do I need one more bite?” are part of the introspective process.  Yes this takes time to cultivate; and involves a bit of self-sacrifice.  You are making an investment.  But just like education, once you have it, no one can take it away from you.

All for now.  Keep up and keep at it.

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















Be like…

fitness model male  Chiseled cheeks, bulging pecks, core to die for.  Who doesn’t want that?  For women, a slender and small waist is what most want. Definition is on everyone’s wish list.  Many of us differ, and I would most definitely decline the newest rage; big bass.  Never desired the apple bottom–but to each her own.  Getting my sweat on at my favorite gym, I notice a few things.  Most of the trainers, male for female, really show little differential.  Not just in the way they train, but in the way they look.  Now that for me, is a problem.  It should be for you too.


How many of you, if working with a trainer, found that most of their routines focus on machines, ropes, burpees, free weights, and a litany of other torture tactics they favor?  This is fine, if you’re looking to be a reasonable facsimile of THEM.  Which in many cases, not all, means CONTRACTED.  Your forte doesn’t have to be fitness to understand. Have they ever talked about lengthening, or ECCENTRICS?  CONCENTRIC exercises shorten and strengthen; which is needed to build muscle and burn fat.  BUT ECCENTRIC exercises–those which lengthen and strengthen, is equally important.  And this goes for men as well as women, but it’s the latter who usually desire longer, leaner muscle.  Men focus on power and strength.  But how many of you really want that hunched, shoulder elevated look, when standing? If there’s no balance in your routine between eccentric & concentric exercises, that may be your future–if not your now.  It doesn’t have to be that way.

VARIETY–not just the spice of life, but essential to your routine

We all have routines we enjoy.  For some this means running, others the gym, others still yoga, Pilates, ballet, or a combo platter of the all of the above.  I’ve always loved running, but there came a time when it didn’t always love me back.  Enter in my delve into the world of Pilates, ballet inspired exercises, and ESSENTRICS.  If you’re unfamiliar with the latter, take a look-see.  Originally billed as CLASSICAL STRETCH w/Miranda Esmonde-White, these exercises do more than just lengthen out contracted muscle.  They can help you do & do more of what you enjoy.  Another tip?  BIKRAM yoga.  Bikram yoga for many, is considered the original hot yoga.  How does it differ from other types of yoga?  The room is heated to about 105 F.  The same sequence of 26 postures is repeated in every class.  While this may seem counter-intuitive to variety being the spice of life, it really is a “reset.”  A reset which like Essentrics, can enable you to continue with your favorite form of exercise.

While it is true a body in motion tends to stay in motion, it is equally worth noting this.  Repetition without re-calibration can breed contempt.  And not just your contempt for the exercise, but your body’s contempt for it as well.  This can manifest in a number of ways.  From overuse syndrome, to some muscles becoming more tense while others are underused, it all adds up the same–too much of one thing, and not enough of the other.

So if your personal trainer, favorite form of exercise, or New Year’s resolution has become battle fatigued, set it or him/her aside.  Do your homework, and rethink your training techniques.  If you’re not seeing the results you want, it may be your exercise guru doesn’t know how to get you there.  Or perhaps your routine will not yield what you long to see.  Either way, “being like,” isn’t being you.  You can be your own worst enemy or best friend.  If the latter, investigate these suggestions.  You will find your routine less routine, with energy and refinement you believed were from a bygone era.

As always, check with your nurse practitioner or MD before you make that commitment.  New Year New You is overrated.  The Old You may need some adjustments and fine tuning, but that’s what people like me enjoy doing.

All for now.  Keep up and keep at it.

Need help?  Contact me at serrenity.c@gmail.com

This is getting confusing…one last word

I'm not the enemyHigh protein low carb diets are reaching epidemic proportion.  And yes, there is a reason I’m borrowing this phrase.  From sugary snacks touted as “high protein, low carb,” to ridiculous amounts of meat only consumption, it’s time to put forth a few facts.  Then, you decide.

Have to preface this with a disclaimer.

As a former dialysis nurse, I am somewhat reserved and dubious about protein intake; especially HIGH PROTEIN INTAKE. True enough, most reading this are not in renal (kidney) failure. Protein must be moderated for those suffering from renal insufficiency. However, it makes me consider the overly paraded cascade of high protein consumption.


Creatinine is a test used to diagnose renal (kidney) function. It can be increased in those who ingest large amounts of meat. Yes, it is only elevated slightly and can be transient–but my question is this. What happens if it is continually elevated, because that’s the majority of the person’s diet? Can the kidneys keep up with this demand?


Blood, Urea, Nitrogen (BUN) measures the amount of urea and nitrogen in your blood. So what’s that supposed to mean? Well, urea is the end product of PROTEIN metabolism. During a meal, protein breaks down into amino acids. In your liver, these amino acids are catabolized and free ammonia is formed. These molecules combine and form urea, which is deposited into blood, and given over to the kidneys to excrete (rid themselves of). Again, if this is 60-70% (or more) of a person’s diet, now what?

(Source: Mosby’s Manual of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests–3rd edition)


I did preface this with my bias. Of course protein diets will help with weight loss. So will smoking. For years women swore by smoking to curb their appetite. Many still do. And while I’m really not trying to compare the two, there is an article which does.


No, I’m not a vegan, nor do I plan to become one. My palate expresses no desire for bean paste or tofu. I love my chicken, ribs, and steak. BUT, this does not represent my primary or elevated intake. Fish? Forget it for me. I hate fish. However, with the advent and subsequent takeoff of high protein diets being touted, it raises questions. Sure there are other sources of protein; never said there weren’t. But HIGH protein with mitigated or very low carb ratio, can and does have consequences. Many of them numerous, and beyond the scope of what’s discussed in this blog. Need a little more convincing? Ok.


What I’ve always taught, both patients and students is this: Be mindful not just of outcome, but of rationale (the “why” and reason behind an action) Rationale for me, must represent all of the following–cause, relationship, and effect. Yes, these diets will cause you to lose weight. Yes, that is your desired outcome. But what of the other components; relationship and effect?

You be the judge.

The above is a re-post of something I published earlier in the year.  However, I couldn’t think of a more fitting conclusion to this series.  Pulling back the curtain on the latest fad or craze, never gets old.

All for now. Keep up and keep at it.

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