Category Archives: strength training

New Strength Training for Beginners Class! Saturdays at 9:30.

You know you’re supposed to be lifting weights, but need help getting started? This class is for you. I’ll make sure you know basic exercise names and that you’re using proper form, and introduce you to different types of gym equipment. As the weeks progress, you’ll find your coordination will improve, and you’ll be able to use different muscle groups within a single exercise to make your workouts more interesting and challenging!

Contact me for details, or sign up via the Classes tab on this website. Can’t wait to get you STRONG!

Strength Training for Beginners Series! Contact Me to Register.

You know you’re supposed to be lifting weights, but need help getting started? This series is for you. I’ll make sure you know basic exercise names and that you’re using proper form, and introduce you to different types of gym equipment. As the weeks progress, you’ll find your coordination will improve, and you’ll be able to use different muscle groups within a single exercise to make your workouts more interesting and challenging!

Contact me for details, or sign up via the Classes tab on this website. Can’t wait to get you STRONG!

Strength training for beginners… & thinking about going veg?

It’s so cliché, but this is the perfect time of year to think about making a big change. Sometimes we just need a flip of the calendar to switch us into a new gear! If you know you need to lift heavy things once in a while but have no idea what to do with a set of dumbbells, I’m offering a 6-week workshop this January just for you. It won’t be easy, but it will be basic. We’ll take the time to correct form and make sure you’ll know how to venture into the free-weights area of your gym by February.

And if you already do plenty of exercise but need a little tweak to your diet to make a change, try going meat- and dairy-free. Or at least eat less of them. You think you can’t live without cheese, but guess what, not only can you live, but you’ll live longer. And much happier. There are so many (SO MANY) reasons to let go of those animal products, and your weight is only the tip of the iceberg. Don’t be fooled by the meat and dairy lobbies that try to brainwash you into thinking you need animal protein to be healthy. Educate yourself about the benefits of a plant-based diet. I’m not saying it’s all or nothing. But trust me: eat more plants.

If you follow me on Instagram (@karenthefitnessgirl) you’ll even find a weekly menu, complete with recipe sources, that shares what our family is eating…posted in time for you to hit the grocery store before the week begins!

The Skin You’re In

You know how you start worrying that your brand-new house will one day start showing its age the moment you move in? Of course not! You revel in the new-house smells, the extra space, the tiny quirks…because it’s yours, all yours.

So why would you behave differently about your new body? If you’re just starting on your weight loss journey and seeing some progress, you might be noticing that there’s skin hanging where there used to be more “filling.” So it’s natural that you are going to start worrying about the saggy skin. But don’t jump the gun. It’s not necessary or useful to worry about the next phase of the game yet. Continue to focus on your weight loss, and look at the loose skin as a badge of honor. Who made that fat disappear? You did!

One thing to keep in mind is that it’s much healthier to lose weight slowly. When you lose slowly, say 1 pound a week, maybe 2 some weeks, your skin has an easier time adapting, and you are much likelier to keep the weight off long-term. Slow weight loss means you’ve changed lifestyle behaviors, like reducing sugar, beef, processed foods, fast-food, etc., instead of trying a fad diet like juicing for a week. It takes patience to lose the right way, but it’s worth it because it will last.

When it’s been a while and you’re still keeping up with your new healthy lifestyle, okay, maybe you can think about what to do next to tighten up the skin. Our skin is elastic, full of cells, and grows and shrinks over time to fit our body size(s). Given time, maybe a couple of years, your skin will begin to shrink back over your new body. The older we get and the longer you’ve been heavy, however, the less elasticity the skin has. You can help the process along by drinking plenty of water and eating a proper diet, and also—very important—strength training to continue developing lean muscle. So far it’s still all in your control, and you’ll still be seeing that healthy slow progress.

Surgery is an option if you get all the way to this point and you’re still carrying too much loose skin. But please keep in mind that while you’re recovering from this intense procedure, you won’t be able to exercise, and you can easily lapse into those old, poor behaviors. Think about how much better you look now, loose skin and all. See what you’ve accomplished already? Don’t worry about the next step until there’s something to worry about. Use that energy to go grab another workout!

How Deep Is Your Love?

You’re a really great person. You do everything you can for your family. You work hard at whatever you do, you are there for your spouse and your kids, you know they know how much you love them.

But if you aren’t taking care of YOU, you’re not doing enough.

I could end this right here by saying: What good are you to your family if you drop dead of a heart attack that you absolutely could have prevented?

If you really, truly love your spouse and your kids, your parents and your friends, you will get up out of that chair and go take a walk. You will quit that smoking nonsense. You will eat more spinach and less fried chicken. You will just say no to soda. If you don’t, you’re just plain selfish. Yes, selfish—because if you don’t take these simple measures seriously, you are basically telling your loved ones that you care just a tiny bit less than 100% about them. You don’t care quite enough to ensure you stick around—without being a burden on them—as long as possible.

It’s February, not too late to get your resolutions in gear, and also the month when we celebrate love. Think hard about the people you love (hopefully you’re including yourself here), and think about all you do for them. You would do anything for them, wouldn’t you? So get the help you need to make yourself a healthier parent, spouse and friend. Show them how deep your love is.

Go ahead. Be lured by the clean slate.

This is the time of year when you should feel motivated and energized, pumped up by the promise of a fresh start and all the sweet wonderfulness that your resolution successes will bring. If you don’t feel that, you might want to take a look at why.

I know resolutions aren’t for everyone—and actually I think that’s a good thing. I always say that resolutions can be made any day of the year. But you can’t deny that clean slate that January 1 offers. There’s just something about starting a new year that makes even the non-resolution-makers feel like making a fresh start.

If you aren’t moved by that feeling, aren’t remotely inclined to try a little harder, then ask yourself what’s going on inside. What’s dragging you down and allowing you to live the Groundhog Day kind of life?

If it’s the drudgery of your job, maybe it’s time to start looking for a new one, or maybe take a class to learn a new (and hopefully marketable) skill. If it’s the morning routine of getting your kids up and out the door (I don’t choose that one randomly), do some research or have a family pow-wow and come up with ways the morning can be made more enjoyable (or least less horrible!).

And wait for it: Try adding exercise to your life. The hamster wheel you feel like you’re on might release you if you have the bounce in your step, the extra burst of confidence and energy that can only come from 30 minutes of exercise every day. I am so confident that you will be a happier—more resolute—person, I’d be willing to bet you on it. You will never, not ever, regret exercising. And it truly might be that one thing that will make aiming higher in a new year seem like a great idea.

The key to a longer life? You may be standing on it.

You know what’s scary? Not being able to rise from the sofa without pushing off with your hands. Did you know that strong quadriceps can equal longer life?

Your quadriceps—or quads—are the large muscles on the front of your thighs. You use them whenever you move, but especially for climbing stairs, walking, and pushing yourself up out of that chair or sofa. When your quads are strong, you will more easily climb stairs without losing your balance, but when you do slip on a pebble and falter, they’ll likely be the muscles that save you from falling. So when the quads are weak, you are more at risk for falls. You’re also more likely to spend too much time sitting. And of course too much sitting leads to weight gain… and we all know the downward spiral that can lead to in the body.

People who are more mobile tend to live longer, and with weak quadriceps muscles you’ll be less mobile. It’s tremendously important to work the muscles in your legs so you can stay active. Try sitting on a bench and coming to an upright standing position without moving your feet—do it 10 times or so until you feel a burn in your thighs. (Make sure to keep your knees over your ankles, never over your toes!) Squats and leg presses are excellent exercises for your quads, but be sure you ask a professional or friend who knows proper form to show you how to perform the exercises before you try them. It takes some work to stay healthy, but it’s worth it!

Down, but SO Not Out

It’s not easy to admit that my body is getting older. I subscribe fully to the truth that age is only a number, otherwise meaningless. I put my body through workouts now that are possibly tougher than some of the ones I did 20 years ago. And yet, I am learning I am not invincible. To be fair, I wasn’t invincible 20 years ago either. But at least back then I wasn’t expected to realize that.

Last week I strained my back—that’s where this is stemming from. It wasn’t too terrible—I could still walk and drive, I wasn’t confined to the sofa—but I was debilitated. I couldn’t pick up my son, or the cat fur I saw on the floor. Worse, I couldn’t work out. It was highly frustrating. I felt like I could see my body changing before my eyes, and then realized it had only been 2 days since I’d last exercised.

The very first thing I did when it happened was some light but consistent (hourly) stretching so my back wouldn’t just stiffen up. Getting into the stretches hurt a bit, but the stretches themselves felt wonderful. I used a cold pack and tried to lie still a while. Then I went to see an RN who’s also a personal trainer. She said, “You know why they sent you to me? Because I’m going to tell you to take the advice you give your clients every single day!” I really don’t know why I paid for the visit. I dish it out all the time:
1. Rest and ice. Just for a couple of days! Come on!
2. Ibuprofen for the inflammation—regular doses, don’t be afraid to take the meds.
3. Stretch, stretch, stretch! One yoga class a week will not suffice!
4. Vary your workouts. Too much of any one thing will almost certainly result in injury of some variety.

Just days before my strain I had been noting to myself that I had been doing almost exclusively high-impact exercise of late. My schedule has been keeping me from my usual lower-impact choices, like spinning, and we’ve been doing lots and lots of extra walking with this beautiful weather—to the point that my feet have been hurting a little. So I actually rode the bike at the gym one day—something I never do because I think it’s boring, and used the elliptical-style machine—ditto about the boring—and then, bang! The next day I bent over and my muscle spasmed and my body said, “too little too late.”

I am so grateful that my injury wasn’t as bad as I know some back injuries can be. Three days after it happened I ran in a neighborhood race. I attribute my quick recovery to all the work I do to stay strong in my legs and my core—they came to my rescue! And I took this surprise pain as a clear sign that I need to start treating my body with even more care. I don’t plan to ease up on my workouts, but I absolutely need to balance the running with the spinning and swimming and strength work, laying off from all the pounding of running to challenge my body in other ways to give my back a break. I think I’ll also take this as a sign that it’s time to start getting regular massages!

I’m an active person, always have been, and sharing the passion is what I live for. But that doesn’t mean I’m above routine aches and pains. It’s time to admit that I’m only human, and that while exercise fixes most body issues, it can also cause some—if we’re not careful.

Are You Brave Enough to Be a B Student?

My right quad is a little trembly but I’m holding my triangle pose patiently as my yoga teacher takes a moment to adjust a new person in class. I take my eyes off myself in the mirror for just a second, glance around the room at some other nearby triangle poses. It’s funny—I’m impressed, but it’s not the poses of the seasoned yogis that catch my eye. What I like to see is someone who knows when to hold back.

It is in our nature to want to please the teacher, or at least follow the herd, and by this I am referring to all those times when the instructor says, “Don’t continue to the next part of the exercise until your body is ready for it,” yet five people who are clearly not ready for it continue on anyway because everyone else is doing it. The person who impresses me, who I want to send a secret smile, is the one who doesn’t move on past her current level—who is working very hard at the level she is now, and knows that when she is ready, she’ll know it, and will try to move forward then.

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This is a digression but I promise it will make sense in a minute: I am so into Neil deGrasse Tyson right now—the brilliant and multitalented astrophysicist who is hosting the new series “Cosmos.” I like him because he’s smart and passionate about his interests, but I really like his insights into how to be a better person. For example, he says to teachers: Don’t take credit for your straight-A students—straight-A students were going to get all As with or without you. But if you have a B student and lifted him up to an A student, then you can be proud of that accomplishment. In other words, pay closer attention to those B and C students, because they need encouragement where the A kids already have it.

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If you’re a “B student” in your weight-lifting class, hold your teacher’s attention by trying your hardest as the B student you are. Let those heavy-lifting, perfect-form A students do their thing—admire only long enough to know that it’s in your power to get there, too, with hard work and consistent progress. But a good teacher will see your efforts, and encourage with gentle tips, or nudges to push harder when you might otherwise be nervous. Be proud to be a B student, determined and working at the level appropriate for you. It’s safer, it’s likely to pay off, and it’s impressive.