Fitness plateaus–guest article

From time to time, I will be posting guest articles.    The following is by Paige Johnson, a personal trainer which wrote to me some time ago, requesting a spot on my blog.  If you have hit this proverbial wall, as many of us do & have, this may help. 


So you’ve committed to changing your unhealthy habits and working out. Your diet is on point and the workouts are a regular part of your week. At first, the changes to your body are obvious, and people are noticing — until it happens. The weight loss comes to a screeching halt, but you are still working just as hard! You’ve hit a fitness plateau and it feels like you’ve hit a brick wall. Here are some tips to kick start the positive momentum and tackle the plateau.

Give yourself credit for the meaning of a plateau

When the results slow or stop altogether it is easy to feel let down or like you have done something wrong. In reality, the plateau isn’t a sign of you doing anything wrong. It’s a positive sign that your efforts are becoming a part of who you are. It is a sign that you have changed your overall health level and your body is making adjustments. It is a new normal for you and your body is in balance.

Get F.I.T.T.

According to the American Heart Association, the best way to break through a fitness plateau is to use their F.I.T.T. System to mix things up. F.I.T.T.= “…frequency, intensity, time and type.” Changing one or more of these components of your workout routine can mix things up enough to jumpstart the changes you are looking for in your body.

An example of a change that can have a big impact is looking at what types of fitness you are focusing on and adding a bigger variety. If you are doing a lot of running, add in some weight training for strength. Adding cardio to a workout week that is mainly weight-focused can have a similar boost for change.

Build in rest and recovery and keep things fun

When you made a commitment to get healthy, you may have gone all out and skipped a simple bit of down time to let your body recover. It is a misconception that if working out 5 days a week is working for you, then working out every day will work even better. It is possible to train too much if you are expecting change rather than just maintaining a certain level. Adding in time to rest and get adequate sleep to let your body recover can actually help to prepare yourself to improve. Like your body, your brain needs maintenance too, so opt for natural sleep, rather than using sleep aids, which can be addictive. Your body and brain will thank you, and you’ll be ready to tackle your next workout.

Rest and recovery are essential aspects of avoiding burnout. If you overdo it in your workouts, you may get tired of what you’re doing and start taking shortcuts more often or skipping days you would normally hit the gym. Another aspect of avoiding burnout is keeping things fun. Try new forms of working out each week or seek out other ways to spice things up. For example, you might take your dog with you on a hike or try a Krav Maga class with a friend. When a workout is fun, you’ll actually look forward to doing it, and that’s a great way to keep yourself on track.

Change small things to see big results

Changing too many things at once may not give your body time to adjust and make changes. It is better to change a few things like doing a larger number of reps at a lower weight than your regular lift for several weeks, Not only is it suggested that you make small changes, but it is also good to give these changes time to work. You may not see immediate jumps in progress but over a few weeks the momentum will show again.

Measure and celebrate all types of progress

Workouts or new fitness goals are usually tied to a certain magical goal of losing a certain amount of weight or something that is pretty easy to measure. Focusing on just the numbers associated with weight loss can be frustrating if you stop seeing the pounds fall off. As you workout, your body is going through a variety of changes that go well beyond just the number on the scale. Start to look at things like body measurements, changes in muscle tone, higher endurance, and other changes you will see with improved health. There is a good chance you are still seeing changes, just maybe not the number on the scale.

Taking the time to do things like a selfie each week to track visible changes can do a lot to boost your mood and keep you motivated. You may find you are still making progress, just in a different way.


Where are we at here?

A question worth answering…where are we at here?

We’re standing on the precipice of spring.  Everywhere trees, shrubs and flowers are making their presence known.  Question is…are you?

If you read my last post (I know it was a ways back–February) I asked a question which may have challenged your beliefs.  More to the point, it was a statement; asking you to step beyond believing that your body governs your life.  You govern your life; not your body.  So if you had time to think about this, it’s time for the next question–where are you at?  Changes you wanted to make–have you made them?  Are you still looking at food as the enemy? Was exercise a beginning practice, but now seems to have come to an end?


This is the motto on everything pertaining to my business.  From business cards to banners to the sign on my SUV, this is the mantra I infuse into everything I teach, train, & do.  And while in the previous paragraph I ask questions which look at physical aspects, it initiated with changes you wanted to make.

Yet all too often, those changes are more like wishes.  Wishes & changes are not always synonymous.  Change comes from the root; something within you says it’s time.  And no matter how often you fall, fail, deviate or disappoint, resolve picks you up.  It plants your feet firmly on the path again.  Wishes are desires. While they may put you on the path, they seldom keep you there.  Wishes won’t wake you 90 minutes earlier in the morning to work out.  Wishes will say–maybe someday.  Someday my prince will come…..perhaps he will.  But even if he does, a wish won’t keep him.


I’ve been writing this blog for over five years now.  My focus has expanded, hence LIFE TRAINING W/CRYSTAL from PERSONAL TRAINING W/CRYSTAL. I’ve tried to inspire, and along the way explore what few in this field do.  Yes, partially because of my nursing background.  But mostly because of the difficulty many face disseminating the volumes of narrative out there.  Some of it is worthwhile, some, not so much.

As someone who has been writing for some time, I’m pleased to announce I’m doing my 1st health & wellness expo.  So in person meet & greet, here I come…

I will be at HOUSE OF HOPE on April 29th.  752 E. 114th St, Chicago, IL.  The Health & Wellness Expo runs from 4:30-6:30, followed by a Gospel Concert.  Attendance is anticipated to be anywhere from 500-800+.  And that’s just for the expo!

If you are in or around the Chicago-land area, stop by.  Even if we don’t meet, there will be a wealth of information and demonstrations on hand to captivate your attention.


All for now,  keep up and keep at it.



What is health? Answering the question by changing the narrative

nude male turning

What does it mean to be healthy?  Ever considered this?  Not what it means to your doctor, significant other, or parameters set forth for a heart rate or BP.  No, what does healthy mean to you?  The answers, if you ask enough people, can be as numerous as the stars in the sky.

But I’m not asking them.  I’m asking you.  What is health?  Does it have a poster child?

We are now firmly planted in land of New Year, New You resolutions.  Perhaps you joined a gym.  Or returned to one.  Maybe you resolved to try something new in the fitness department.  Or, nutrition is topping your list this year. There can be little dispute if any of these are uppermost in your mindset.

And yet, if you don’t have a clear picture of what that “healthy lifestyle” looks like to you, how can you attain it?

Since I’ve asked this question, I’ll be the first to answer.

For me, health and the issues of life are not the sole property of the body.  Life, or consciousness governs the body, the body doesn’t govern life.  Think about that for a moment.  I know I had to, and for more than a moment.

If you tell your hand to wave, does it not respond?  Or if your thoughts drift in the middle of the workday, are you not the one to bring them back to the task at hand?  What does that?  The obvious answer would be your brain.  Right?  Sure, but what directs your brain to do this?  Your consciousness.  Therefore what you take into it, is what you will get out.

If you allow yourself to be blotting paper for every new fad, angle, exercise routine, vitamin trend, etc. what will you get?  If you haven’t established within yourself, a clear picture of what YOUR HEALTH looks like, what will you get? Now that’s a question worth answering!

The New Year should be about a New You.  But shouldn’t that New You be more about gaining insight and understanding, before you embark on a quest that leaves you floundering?

No one will be the beneficiary or the unwitting recipient of undermine but you.  Before this happens, or especially if has happened before with your resolutions, its time to put a picture to it.  And it shouldn’t be one dictated by a size, magazine cover, or exercise trend.  And while healthcare providers may have their idea of what this entails, in the end, they’re not the one doing the work.  They’re not usually sweating alongside of you during that last turn around the track, staring at a plate that looks half empty rather than half full, or to the contrary, putting on a dress that no longer requires the extra firm version of SPANX.  No, as a nurse, I can tell you we look at lab values, parameters for heart rate, respiratory rates, & BP.

However, because of my decision to work at the opposite end of the spectrum (from acute/chronic to now wellness/prevention), I see such delineations differently.  They tell one part of the story–like a prologue.  It’s you who really writes this story, and dictates the epilogue.


All for now.  Keep up and keep at it.

Questions? Comments?  Contact me at

Are you doing this?

recovery needed“What am I doing wrong?  Will this bulge ever budge?  I’m on the treadmill/trail for almost 45 minutes 3x a week!” Or “I exercise 4x week.  Why am I not seeing results I want?”

Does any of this sound familiar?  If so consider this:  Is your workout ramping up your appetite?  The answer is a resounding yes.  If your body is doing more work, it wants more fuel.   The question now becomes, what fuel are you feeding it?  Consider this as well.  Are you eating past your workout?  If your fuel exceeds the calories expended, again, the answer is a resounding yes.

I’m not happy about this woman’s plight.  However, it does speak to out fueling your exercise leads to weight gain.

So what’s the point?  Why should I even bother exercising?

To begin, there are more reasons to exercise than to lose weight.  While that may be the most popular, it shouldn’t be the exclusive.  The list is exorbitant and exhaustive for reasons to add exercise to your life.  However, for me the most important is a feeling of well-being.  As a nurse, you may wonder why this tops my list.  The answer is simple.

Regardless of why you are told to become more active, or even the dreaded “you need to lose weight” from a healthcare provider, it will matter little to you.  It will matter little because unless it feels right, you may start but you will STOP.  Even those who’ve suffered MIs (myocardial infarction–heart attack), been told insulin dependency is imminent, or that their life depends upon their weight loss, have stopped.  Why?  It wasn’t for them.  You would think it would be, but it wasn’t.  It was for someone else–MD, spouse, vacation, size 2 red dress….you get the idea.  Furthermore, they didn’t realize that as weight comes off, it may not always be a positive experience.  Everyone emphasizes the positive–feeling slimmer, better about yourself, etc.  But what you may go through on the way to that “new you,” isn’t all unicorns and rainbows.

I began with speaking to my experience why I exercise regularly–a feeling of well-being.  That is so, and I stand by it.  But it doesn’t mean I haven’t had my own ups and downs, even on the same day!  The key is finding what you  want to do, not what someone else says you should do.  That’s their idea of exercise, not yours.  Yes, there are certain types of exercise designed to get results you desire.  And isn’t that what it’s all about?

If you hate running, why start? (though I did at first, and now I like it)  If you abhor going to the gym, why go?  You may start, but you will STOP.   With the plethora of classes, You-Tube videos, DVDs and online classes, the choice is yours.

Yet the questions remain…how do I start?  How do I keep from overeating, or past my workout?  And if I’m investing all this time in a workout routine, I don’t want the scale moving in the wrong direction.  How can I avoid that?

I can help.

New year new you?  Maybe.  But along the way, let’s change your mind–not just your body.

All for now.  Keep up and keep at it.

Questions?  Contact me at

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

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

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