Quote of the Month

Motivation is what gets you started.  Habit is what keeps you going.

Let’s break up the key words from this quote…

Motivation: the psychological feature which pushes or arouses one to take action towards a desired goal

Habit: an acquired pattern of behavior that occurs automatically

We all go through our spurts of being extremely motivated…to somewhat motivated…to “I don’t even want to get out of bed this morning.”  However, the more we are able to have consistency with our motivation levels on a day to day basis, (motivation levels being high, not low obviously), the more likely all those good habits that you’re trying to instill, will stick.

An study by  Phillippa Lally & colleagues from the Cancer Research UK Health Behavior Research Center which was published in the European Journal of Social Psychology found that it takes an average of 66 days to form a new habit.

66 days… might sound like a short amount of time to some…and to others, it may sound like an eternity.  Regardless, here’s what I would suggest doing in order to stay motivated and allow those positive changes you’ve been making to become secondary nature.

1. Make a goal list.

Don’t just say to yourself what your goals are going to be.  Set aside time and make a detailed list, listing short term & long term goals.

2. Put or keep this list someplace where you will see it everyday.

Getting that constant reminder daily should help you stay on track.

3.  Recognize your own success.

If you are trying to stop drinking soda and go 7 days without having your normal lunchtime diet coke, take a second and give yourself a pat on the back.  Positive reinforcement is a good thing.  If you don’t have someone else telling you nice job, you definitely need to be taking the time out and telling yourself that.

4.  If you have one “off” day, don’t fret.  Instead, take time, refer back to your goal list and have an “on” day tomorrow.

We all have our day to day stressors that sometimes make us want to throw in the towel & quit.  It’s how we react to these situations that tell us a great deal about our character and how successful we actually will be in using our motivation to drive and create good habits.

Stay focused, disciplined, and especially motivated, and the good habits your create will take you a long way!


Improving Recovery Between Workouts

Regardless of the type of training you are doing, the rate at which you recover is crucial to making progress within your training.  Say you have a great workout session but fail to take care of yourself in the minutes, hours, days (well hopefully you’re not waiting days in between workouts) after, you’re simply setting yourself up for disaster.  Just exactly how big of a disaster we’re talking about though will depends on your goals and the type/intensity of training you are doing.

For example, if your goal is weight loss and you do not take proper care of yourself during your recovery periods, chances are you will not see the results you’re wanting.  Remember, during a training session you are not making gains.  Instead,  your body is basically being broken down (as broken down as microscopic tears in your muscles). This is why it is what you do during your recovery period that determines the gains you actually will achieve from your workouts.

Let’s switch from your average person wanting to lose weight to your seasoned endurance athlete.  If recovery is not taken seriously here, this could end up being extremely detrimental to the athletes’ health as well as performance.  If you’re putting in 13 hours a week, you’re obviously going to need to be sure you are extra strict with your recovery time so that you are able to continue on at the level optimal for competition.

So how can you help to improve your recovery between workouts? Follow this checklist.

Recovery Checklist

  1. Proper Nutrition:  following a workout, you have a 45 minute (tops) time frame to properly replenish glycogen stores & promote protein synthesis.  What you want: most studies show that a carbohydrate/protein combination is superior in stimulating both glycogen replenishment and protein synthesis to either a carbohydrate or protein supplement alone.  Proper re-hydration would be included here as well.  Not only drinking lots of water, but making sure you are getting electrolytes will be crucial for recovery. Note* amount of food & water would be dependent on goals and intensity of workouts.
  2. Get Adequate Rest: 7-8 hours of sleep is ideal.  A lack of sleep adds extra stress to the body, creating a release of the hormone cortisol.  Cortisol is a catabolic hormone (meaning it breaks things down).  Cortisol is also released during exercise (how much released is dependent on exercise intensity). Higher levels of cortisol are associated with some protein degradation (or breakdown) in the body and we do NOT want to break down protein.  Therefore it is important that cortisol levels are controlled.
  3. Foam rolling: This will help promote blood flow as well as aid in reducing restricted movement due to tight/constricted  fascia.
  4. Massage: Find a massage therapist that you trust & if possible try to make seeing him/her part of your normal routine.  Every week is certainly ideal, but if that’s not an option at least opt for once a month.  Your body will thank you!  
  5. Compression sleves/tights: If you’re an avid endurance athlete, chances are you’ve heard of compression gear, and/or probably (well hopefully) own some.  Compression sleves/tights are used to help promote venous blood return.  This helps legs recovery faster from say a long run/bike.  Partially due to gravity, blood tends to pool in the lower extremities.  Our soleus (or calve muscle) is often referred to as the body’s second heart as it acts as a pump to facilitate blood from our lower extremities back up to the heart.  Therefore compression around this area, will promote even more venous blood return, allowing for wastes & by-products to be eliminated at quicker rates.

Hope this helps! : )

Vegan Burgers too Delicious to Resist

Although I’m not vegan, I will say I do enjoy eating vegan here & there.  Therefore, regardless if you are vegan or not, if you enjoy eating healthy, I HIGHLY SUGGEST you try making these burgers.  You won’t be disappointed.

What you need:

  • 15oz can of black beans, dried & rinsed
  • 3 sweet potates, cubed (skin on)
  • 1/2 cup fresh corn
  • 2/3 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 large garlic gloves (finely minced)
  • 1/2 cup cooked quinoa
  • 6 tablespoons rolled oats
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Let’s get cooking:

Once you finish cooking the quinoa & sweet potatoes, preheat the oven to 375 degrees

  • Mash half of the black beans in a bowl until paste-like, then add in the rest & give a light stir/mash to combine
  • In a large bowl, mash the sweet potato (each cube should be mashed, but not creamy)
  • Stir in the salt, pepper, cumin, oregano, coriander, chili powder, cayenne & olive oil to potato bowl
  • Mix in onion, garlic, corn, black beans, quinoa, sunflower seeds & oats until combined
  • Form patties (roughly 1/2-3/4 inches thick) …should make about 8 patties
  • Place each patty on a lightly greased pan & bake on each side for 15 minutes
  • Remove from oven & serve (I like using sesame Ezekial bread as a bun) …garnish to taste as well!


From dinner to breakfast…

You’ll surely have leftovers so why not carry this healthy dinner onto breakfast?

Heat 1 vegan burger on a skillet on medium heat

Crack 2 eggs in a bowl, add in a splash of almond milk, & mix

Combine into skillet with vegan burger until eggs are scrambled in with the burger & enjoy!

Happy, healthy, eating! : )

Create a Balance Between Water & Electrolyte Levels to Avoid Dehydration

With it being summer in Chicago, it’s hard not to want to spend every waking moment outside.  The beaches are full of Chicagoans trying to soak up as much vitamin D as possible, many spending hours in the sand playing volleyball, as well as many just lounging in the parks.  Regardless of the time of day, the bike paths are always full of riders, runners, and walkers.  While this weather may be giving you that extra incentive to get outside and get active, just make sure you are staying properly hydrated as dehydration is very likely to occur when the weather gets this hot.

dehydration: the loss of fluid from the body

In this case, the concentration of the body’s electrolytes are extremely affected resulting in major fluid imbalances.  Sodium & potassium are the electrolytes in our bodies that are most commonly talked about.  When we exercise, we sweat, resulting in a loss of sodium & potassium.  A muscle contraction needs calcium, sodium & potassium to be present.  If these levels are low as a result of dehydration, muscle contractions will be weakened. In order to maintain normal electrolyte balance, these electrolytes need to be replenished.  Fresh fruits & veggies are typically great sources of electrolytes as well as electrolyte-enhanced sports drinks.

Good sources of potassium include

  • bananas
  • apricots
  • grapes
  • cantaloupe
  • berries
  • avocado

Good sources of sodium include

  • bell peppers
  • celery
  • sweet potatoes
  • pineapple
  • cantaloupe

If you are dehydrated or have some type of fluid/electrolyte imbalance & are aware of your body you may feel some or all of the following symptoms…

  • dry mouth, lips
  • dizziness, fatigue
  • increased core body temperature
  • increased heart rate
  • decreased urine output
  • darkened urine

Drinking water is very important, but it’s also very important to realize that too much water with too few electrolytes can also impair body function & performance.

When choosing food/drinks to aid in replenishing electrolytes, be smart.  By this, I mean don’t rush to the store & buy as much gatorade as you can possibly stock up on.  For most people, I would suggest replenishing the body with more fresh fruits & vegetables (some of the ones mentioned above would be a great start) and lower calorie electrolyte enhanced drinks.

For example, gatorade is high in calories, as well as sugar… if weight loss is your goal & you are watching calories, I would suggest you opt for a calorie free electrolyte enhancer such as Nuun. These are light flavored tablets that you can toss in your water, let dissolve & drink.  What I love most about them is that they contain no sugars or carbs & taste amazing.

In addition, if you can tolerate the taste (I’ll be honest, I can’t), coconut water would also work as a great substitute to your higher calorie higher sugar content electrolyte drink.  Coconut water has a high potassium & mineral content, as well as no fat & low amounts of carbohydrates & calories.

There are tons of ways to replenish your electrolytes & create a better fluid balance in your body…eating fresh fruits, veggies & consuming electrolyte enhanced drinks are just a few examples. 

Now get outside, get active, but be sure to stay hydrated! : )

Increase Shoulder Mobility & Stability

Our shoulder joint is the most mobile joint in our body.  Unfortunantly, with lots of mobility comes lots of instability, making our shoulder joint one of the most unstable joints in our body as well.  To get a better idea, think of  your shoulder joint as a golf ball sitting on a tee.  Just as only a tiny portion of that golf ball is actually touching the tee, only a small portion (1/3 to 1/2) of the head of the humerus is actually in contact with the genoid fossa, therefore making this joint very unstable.

Making up our shoulder joint, we have 3 bones:  the clavicle, humerus, & scapula.  Inside our genohumeral joint lies the labrum, which acts to deepen the joint as well as aid in stability.  Numerous ligaments & muscles (specifically our “rotator cuff muscles”) aid in stabililty of this joint as well.

When getting your shoulder joint healthy or maintining the health & function of your shoulder joint MOBILITY COMES BEFORE STABILITY.

Exercises to increase shoulder/thoracic spine mobility:

  • Foam Roll T-Spine (mid-back)
  • Foam Roll Lats
  • T-Spine Rotations (Openbooks)
  • T-Spine Rotation + Arm Sweep

Once mobility is achieved, more focus can be put into stability.

Exercises to increase shoulder stability:

Farmers Walks:  Start by picking up 2 Kettlebells, one in each hand.  Upper body focus: Stand tall, thoracic spine should be extended so chest is up.  Squeeze the shoulder blades together.  Lower body focus: Squeeze your glutes therefore tilting your pelvis posteriorly and engaging your core.  I always tell my clients to imagine a string is pulling them from their head to the ceiling so lengthening of the spine occurs.  Head is back (in line with spine) & chin slightly tucked under.  From this position, start taking SMALL, SLOW steps.  Steps should be small & slow so that you are able to focus on all of the previous cues I just mentioned.  The weight should be HEAVY.

Turkish Get Ups:

Kettlebell Overhead Walk: Kettlebell is raised overhead, bicep in line with the ear, arm ALWAYS straight.  If you can’t keep your arm staight, take the weight down.  In this position, “pack your shoulder” as you walk with the kettlebell overhead.  Again, walk slow with smaller steps than you typically would if you were walking normally.  Be aware of posture here as well.   T-spine should be extended & chest up.

Feel free to shoot me an e-mail if you have any more questions on this topic or the exercises listed! : )

Commit to be fit.