Saturday, December 27, 2014

Free Zumba Classes for 2015


Zumba classes Sunday afternoons in January

Are you looking for a group to motivate you to maintain your workouts, challenge your fitness level and to just have fun with? It's been proven that people imitate the behaviors of the groups they spend time with. What a great idea to spend time with people who model healthy lifestyles. Try something new in 2015, add variety to your workout program and meet new people.

January 4, 11, 18, 25

12 - 1 pm

Bring water, towel, family, friends & kids!

Taught by my friend and colleague JoDee Geryak
AFAA certified and Zumba certified instructor at the Burbank YMCA

Classes are absolutely free!

Classes will be held at St. Francis Xavier Church
Holy Cross Hall
3801 Scott Road, Burbank

Friday, December 19, 2014

Merry Christmas!

 Merry Christmas! 
Thanks to all of you in my blog, private training and group fitness community, who have helped make 2014 a fabulous year for Priority Fitness Burbank. 

I've had a wonderful time getting to know some of you better and walking through your fitness journey with you. It's great to see progress and have fun working out together. 

Looking forward to many more times of fun and fitness in 2015. This winter be ready for TRX training, Pilates Fusion classes and semi-private training opportunities. Don't miss out on the fun!

Friday, December 12, 2014

12 Days of Christmas Workouts

What better way to stay healthy during the holidays than challenging yourself with 12 Days of Christmas Workouts. The plan is this: Choose 12 activities for the 12 days before Christmas. Take your current workout schedule and mix it up a bit. Make it FUN, include friends & family and enjoy the physical exercise. Begin on Saturday, December 13th and complete your twelve-day workout on Wednesday, December 24th.

Here are some ideas:

 *Hike with a friend in Stough Canyon or Wildwood Canyon
 *Ice skate at City Hall or Pickwick
 *Take an evening walk to see Christmas lights
 *Try a different class at your gym or try a new piece of equipment
 *Swim at Verdugo Pool (it is heated)
 *Do 12 push ups, 12 burpees and jump rope for 12 minutes
 *Play an outdoor game: basketball, soccer, bocce ball, just get moving!
 *Go horseback riding near the Equestrian Center
 *Do the workout circuit at Johnny Carson Park
 *Play golf at DeBell Golf Course. Try the 9-hole course, if you are short on time.
 *Jog & sprint the track at Burbank or Burroughs high school
 *Play tennis at Brace Park tennis courts
 *Run the bleachers at one of the high schools or parks. Add pushups & tricep dips.
 *Walk the dog at Brand Park. Try the hills behind the park.
 *Jog 12 blocks, run 1 block, repeat
 *I will do a Christmas Step class at the YMCA on Friday, December 19th. Join us!
 *Roller skate at Moonlight Rollerway on San Fernando Blvd in Glendale
 *Do yoga at Golden Road Brewery on Saturday from 9 - 11am
 *Play Frisbee Golf at DeBell 9-hole golf course
 *Join my YMCA class on Thursday, December 18 for our 30 minute 12 Days of Christmas Workout. I might even sing!
 *Walk, jog, roller blade or bike on Chandler Bike Path. Go all the way from the beginning by Toys R Us to the end in North Hollywood and back for almost 6 miles.

You get the idea. Create your own personalized 12 Day Challenge. Don't overwhelm yourself by adding too many new things. This is not the season for that! Enjoy moving and celebrating life this Christmas season.

When you decide on your 12 Days of Christmas Workouts, share your plan in the COMMENTS below and afterwards let us know how it went. I would love to hear your creative ideas.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Holiday Workouts To Go

Holidays often mean traveling. Traveling often means airports and long car rides, gluttony and immobility. Taking time out every day to get in some intentional exercise can help keep you sane (or at least semi-sane). Plan ahead and take exercise clothes to account for the weather of your destination.

Create a routine - With the freedom of a relaxed schedule, it's easier to think that you'll work out "in a while". Try putting on your exercise clothes when you first get up and go out to explore whatever area you are in. Maybe getting in an after-dinner jog sounds better. Whatever you choose, stick with your travel routine.

Exercise is time for you - It's great to connect with family & friends but all that togetherness can be overwhelming at times. Your exercise routine can be the calm time in the day that you need to decompress and pump up some feel-good endorphins.

Figure out some no-equipment strength moves - Find a park bench for pushups and tricep dips. Try walking lunges and wall sits. Crunches are an easy addition to your routine. Plan ahead. Pack bands or a balance disc. They take up little room and can add intensity to your travel workout. (You probably don't want to bring the huge dumbbells like in the photo above.)

In a hotel, you can use the exercise room, of course, but also think outside the box. The stairs offer a great cardio workout (watch out for housekeeping staff). Try incline pushups, tricep dips and staggered squats on the stairs. Finish with some cycles and you are done!

Enjoy time away. Enjoy time with family & friends. And Keep Moving!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Do I Need New Workout Shoes?

How often you replace your workout shoes depends on your body, activities and shoe type. As a general rule, shoes should be replaced every six months if you wear them four or more times per week. Larger people should replace their shoes more frequently, as should people who sprint or do high-impact cross-training. Lighter shoes may wear down faster.

To prolong the life of your shoes, keep multiple pairs in your closet, each for a different terrain or activity. Don't take walks in your running shoes or lift weights in your trail-runners. Switching shoes this way may also help guard against overuse injury.

Pay attention to how your shoes feel when you put them on. "When your shoes start feeling 'flat''s time for a new pair." says podiatrist and distance runner Jamie Mieras. Make sure to get fitted with a shoe that is correct for you. Different brands run narrow or wide. Some have more cushioning in the heel or the ball of the foot. You may need a specialty insert to customize the shoe for your foot. A comfortable shoe is essential to motivate consistent workouts. You won't get out there if your feet hurt!

Choose a specialty running shoe store. The staff will custom-fit you according to the activity you enjoy and frequency of your workout. They will take into account any pain or fit issues you've had in the past and will choose some styles for you to try on. The staffer will watch you walk, run or jump and help you decide on the right shoe for you.

Give yourself a healthy gift this Christmas or ask Santa to put a new pair of workout shoes under the tree this year!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Gratitude is Good for your Heart

Thankfulness can improve your spiritual and physical health and it may even keep you from having a heart attack. You may exercise faithfully and eat a balanced diet but the absence or scarcity of gratitude can interfere with your ability to experience life at its best.

Anger, resentment and sadness elicit the production of stress hormones which are known to harm the cardiovascular system. These feelings stimulate the release of pro-inflammatory chemicals called cytokines. Widespread inflammation is the basis for the development of heart disease, as well as chronic pain, cancers and depression.

Gratitude, forgiveness and love increase the production of beneficial chemicals, like serotonin, which result in a sense of well-being and can ease inflammation, allowing for a stronger, healthier heart. There is new evidence to show that thankfulness can improve blood flow to the heart as well as positively affect a portion of your DNA, the telomeres, that help you live longer.

Everyone experiences negative feelings but what you do when they crop up is up to you. Choosing to let go of the negative thoughts is a pro-active way to be rewarded with happiness and improved physical health. Don't worry if appreciating the goodness of life doesn't come naturally to you. The more you try to be grateful, the easier it will become.

You can journal your grateful thoughts, announce them to your co-workers and share them with your children. Make a game of it with your family, finding one thing to be thankful for each day. The result can be a healthier heart and body and a happier mindset.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 14, 2014

How to Eat Fewer Cookies Without Even Trying

Researchers have noticed that "it's easier to change your eating environment than to change your mind". In other words, it's not you or your willpower. You can arrange your surroundings in a way that encourages you to eat less and eat healthier.

In a post-party experiment, researchers covered half of the leftover food with clear plastic wrap and half they covered with foil. Within two days, all the leftovers in see-through wrappings were gone, while most of the food in opaque wrappings were still there <10 days later. The good news is this works as well for carrot sticks as it does for cookies. If you can easily see them, you'll eat more of them. So the healthier a food is, the clearer the packaging should be.

Think ahead to Thanksgiving. Choose to arrange healthy appetizers in easy-to-see places. You can still choose a treat or two (I love Brie!) but make healthy choices accessible. Prepare a few low-fat, high fiber side dishes to accompany the traditional dishes. Make it easy to choose well.

Think ahead to post-Thanksgiving leftovers. Do you want second helpings of green bean casserole and pecan pie? Perhaps one serving on the special day is enough. Dispose of leftovers, give them away or freeze them to have at a balanced meal later in the month. If you can't see it, it will be less tempting.

Display the good stuff, hide the "bad" stuff and enjoy success this Thanksgiving while you Enjoy Your Food!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Burn Fat Before you Feast

Did you know? More Americans participate in races on Thanksgiving Day that any other day of the year! Join the crowd and start your holiday on the right foot by participating in the Burbank Community YMCA Turkey Trot. This family friendly 5K/10K race is open to runners, walkers and stroller-pushers. Costumes welcome! There is a Kiddie Run and Fun Zone for the little ones. In addition, you get a long-sleeved race shirt to exercise in all around town throughout the year.

The Turkey Trot is a great Burbank community day with people from all areas of city life coming together to get their sweat on before sitting down to dinner. It's fun to see so many friends gathered for the event. John and I will be power walking the 5K course. Don't miss my turkey feather headband!

See you there! Pre-register today to save $5 at

Monday, November 3, 2014

Pre-Holiday Boot Camp

The LAST mini-Boot Camp session for 2014 begins THIS SATURDAY November 8. The session includes a free personalized exercise and nutrition plan to help you work hard and stay healthy from now until the New Year without the dreaded 5 - 7 lb holiday weight gain. Partner with a friend and set yourself up for success this holiday season with a fun and energizing workout. Contact Ann now to sign up.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Fall Soup Strategies

Fall is here (at least it is cooling down at night!) and that always makes me think of soup. Everyone who knows me understands I do not like to cook but I do like to eat healthy food. I have two easy "go-to" soups that I like to make every couple of months. They are very similar - I just change up the seasonings - and I can freeze them to pull out for simple dinners and lunches.

I really do not like to follow a recipe. I guess I just feel like it takes too much time to measure everything. Here is how I make lentil or split pea soup.

1 bag gray green lentils OR split peas
1 potato - leave the peel on if you use organic
1 onion, sliced in chunks
Some chopped garlic
a handful of baby carrots
salt  - about a teaspoon

I fill the big pot about 3/4 full of water and dump everything in. I know the cooks out there are gasping in horror. But you like to cook and I don't and this actually does work.

I bring it to a boil and simmer it for about 40 minutes. You just want to make sure the vegetables and lentils are soft.

Then I add seasoning. Sometimes I want a curry flavor. Last time I had fresh savory. You could try sage or thyme. What flavor does your family like? I always add fresh ground pepper.

Put a couple of cups of the soup in a blender. Put the lid on, leave the center section off and cover with a clean cloth, then blend the soup. Pour into a second bowl or container. Do this until all the soup is smooth. If you have an immersion blender, use that.

Divide into BPA-free plastic containers according to how you will use it. I usually fill one large container for a dinner and then divide the rest into single servings for lunches. Label the container. It might not be recognizable in the freezer.

To use, take it out of the freezer the night before, thaw in refrigerator. Pour/dump the soup into a saucepan and heat on low. You can microwave, if you want. You might want to add more water if it seems too thick. Taste it to see if it needs more salt. Easy dinner prep! Serve with whole wheat pita, rolls or cornbread.

Vegan, no cholesterol, no oil, low sodium, gluten-free, dairy-free - and easy. What more could you ask?

Happy Autumn and Enjoy your Food!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Boot Camp Bounce

Great fun and exercise last Saturday at Fall Boot Camp!

This week at Fall Boot Camp I added a rebounder mini-trampoline to the circuit. Participants bounced, or rebounded, during the first circuit section. Then I tilited the trampoline up sideways and we used it as a total body cardio/strength tool by twisting and throwing a medicine ball against the flat surface. By using different equipment and movements each week, we "confuse" the muscles causing them to work harder, burn more calories and develop faster.

Check out my blog from April 18th on rebounding. Urban rebounding is a unique way of jumping on a mini-trampoline. It is a fabulous workout that can add high intensity to your exercise program without high impact. In addition, this form of exercise can stimulate the lymph system and challenge your core strength as you balance on the trampoline.

Next Saturday we will rebound again and add unique strength moves with the jump box. Join us next week for the second session of the two-week Fall Boot Camp.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Fall Hiking in the Foothills

We have a fabulous, free resource right in our hometown. The city of Burbank maintains two wonderful hiking trails in the foothills which connect to longer trails that can challenge all hiking levels. Now that the weather is cooling a little bit, it is the perfect time to explore the heights of the Verdugo Hills and become familiar with Stough Canyon Nature Trails and Wildwood Canyon. Always hike with a partner and carry water.

My post from January 18 gives you an overview of the two main trails, directions and hiking suggestions. Today I want to share three group events centered on our local trails. It's been proven that people imitate the behaviors of the groups they spend time with. What a great idea to spend time with people who model healthy lifestyles.

The Verdugo Hills Community Hike and Trail Run is November 8 at 8:00am. This annual event offers two different starting points and challenge levels. Partner with a friend or two, enjoy a morning hike and breakfast refreshments at Ridge Trail Summit. If you would like to join my walking group, Smilers, for the hike that morning, email me here and I will send more information. For general information and to sign-up for the community hike visit

Weekly Fitness Hikes leave from Stough Canyon Nature Center every Tuesday at 6:30pm. Hike length and difficulty may vary and usually lasts 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Call to confirm. 818-238-5440

Full Moon Evening Hikes celebrate our skies and our hills. Since the moon's cycle is a little different each month, the date, time and location of the hike may change. This would be a wonderful family hike that could provide an opportunity to teach your children a little about astronomy. Call to confirm. 818-238-5440

Have fun hiking in Burbank!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Halloween Candy Horrors

October is here and that means Halloween. Halloween means candy - and lots of it. When you are on trick-or-treat duty, it's hard to resist dipping in, but those fun-sized bars can add up to hundreds of calories. Here are four tricks to fend off those little treats:

Put empty wrappers on display. A Cornell University study found that people who left these visual reminders ate nearly half as many candies as those who tossed them out.

Don't buy your favorites. Stock a treat that you don't particularly love, so you won't be so tempted to go overboard.

Promise yourself a future treat. In exchange for avoiding the candy you don't really like, promise yourself that you will get to eat a fun-sized version of the treat you REALLY want at another time. And then keep your promise!

Hide the candy. Use an opaque container with a lid to stow your stash so you won't snag a piece each time you walk by. Make it more difficult to get to the candy so choosing one piece is a conscious choice.
You can be successful in conquering your sweet-tooth this Halloween. Identify the cues that lead to nibbling Halloween candy, make a plan and follow through! As always, Enjoy Your Food!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Fall Boot Camp Coming Soon!

Moms, this is your chance to make time for yourself and prioritize your health. Ask Dad to take the kids to soccer this time or carpool with another mom - she can drop off, you can pick up. There will never be a time when the kids will not have some activity. Make a plan and join us! It's fun when you work out with friends.

The first Boot Camp was so amazing that I have chosen to offer another Boot Camp mini-session in October. I mentioned it in my blog a couple of weeks ago and was confused on dates so please note the date change below. We will meet earlier this time and it will be cooler for our workout. I am looking forward to working with returning students and welcoming new participants.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Brain-boosting Benefits of Exercise

We all know that exercise improves our cardio-vascular efficiency and our muscle tone. But does it improve brain function, too?

A recent study suggests that exercise can re-wire the brain and train it to ward off the effects of stress. In the May 10th blog, I wrote in more detail about this benefit. Here I will remind you that regular exercise provides an instant release from stress. In addition, Princeton researchers recently found that stress-related activation of neurons in the hippocampus actually disappeared after the subject ran when they wanted to during the six week study. The brain was conditioned so that it did not produce the stress response. Sounds like just what we need to deal with LA traffic!

Exercise has been shown to make us smart. Working out increases production of a brain chemical that multiplies the connection between brain cells. This communication in the brain is what increases intelligence. Work up a sweat and stimulate those synapses.

A recently discovered substance, irisin, is produced by muscles during exercise. This component fights obesity by burning calories throughout the body. It may also slow aging of individual cells. An additional study showed that exercise reduced brain deterioration by 50% in 300 senior adults. Slowing aging and brain deterioration can help ward off strokes, a major contributor to dementia.

Regular exercise at a moderately vigorous intensity can reduce stress, improve intelligence and slow brain aging. Maybe I won't have to do those Sudoku puzzles anymore!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Back to School Boot Camp Success

Today we concluded the first-ever Priority Fitness Burbank two-week Boot Camp mini-session. The Back to School Boot Camp was an amazing success. The participants worked hard to burn calories, gain strength and they had fun. Each week I offered different cardio circuit options for fun and intensity. We did one Tabata HIIT section every time to get our bodies working at their highest intensity. We did some individual strength exercises focusing on form. We did some partner strength training for fun and variety.  We even got to try some really effective TRX exercises.

Plan to attend the Fall Shape Up Boot Camp mini-session October 11 and 18 at 8:30am. This can be the booster you need to continue the exercise schedule you started this school year. The class will be limited to 8 participants to allow for individual attention to form and modifications for all levels.

Looking ahead, I plan to offer a Prepare for the Holidays Boot Camp mini-session November 8 and 15. Get motivated to maintain your weight and stay in shape during the holiday season this year.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Effective Training in Less Time

We all seem to be chronically short on time. Recent studies have shown that High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is twice as effective as sustained moderate intensity workouts. With HIIT, you can get an effective cardio workout in less time. For example, you can choose to do 20 minutes of HIIT instead of 60 minutes of jogging. That is good news for the time-challenged. Be aware, these studies have been done with young, healthy populations. More studies are needed before the format can be recommended for all populations.

HIIT means working very hard for a few minutes with rest periods between sets. You should be a little out of breath after each interval. For example, you might sprint for 1 minute and jog for 2 minutes, then repeat. Or you might do squat jumps for 20 seconds and move side to side for 10 seconds, then repeat.

When compared with a jogging exercise routine, those doing interval training have doubled their endurance, improved their oxygen use and strength by more than 10% and their speed by at least 5%. Intense bursts of activity are precisely what the body needs to build stronger muscles. These intensity intervals help the body to convert one type of muscle fiber to another type that uses oxygen more efficiently and is capable of exercising longer. HIIT creates a higher metabolism that can last for several hours afterward. The body will continue to burn fat and calories during this time.

You have the opportunity to try some High Intensity Interval Training at the Back to School Boot Camp. The group had a great time this week exercising with partners and moving through the circuit. Join us next week or look for new Boot Camp dates in October and November.

Priority Fitness Burbank - Helping you prioritize fitness in your busy life!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Fitness Questions Answered

How can I motivate myself to work out after taking the summer off?

Resist the urge to go full tilt right away. You will be sore and discouraged and you will tend to give up on your workout plan. Try this plan for success.
Set no more than one exercise goal a week. Having too many goals reduces by half the likelihood of achieving any of them.
Make it easy. Perhaps walking the dog for 20 minutes three times a week. Or doing 10 squats and 5 push ups when you get out of bed in the morning.
Join the Back to School Boot Camp mini-session with Priority Fitness Burbank. Those who partnered up or worked out with others were 33% more successful in than the group who tried to go it alone.

Can I use exercise to spot-reduce?

No. Although you can firm specific ares with strength training, you can't target where you burn fat; it tends to come off all over. However, your mid-section is more metabolically active so it's often the first to go when you exercise. Good news for abs! Not so much for your tushie.

I worked super hard at the gym yesterday and I am sore. Is it OK to exercise anyway?

If you're really sore, take a break. If it's more mild to moderate pain, get back at it, but go easy - walk, do some light biking, swim laps, do restorative yoga. Activity will loosen your body and help move the lactic acid out of your muscles. Ask your special someone for a little massage and ice the sore area - no more than 20 minutes at a time. You will be ready to hit it hard again very soon.

Are there any cheater ways to flatten abs?

No. The core muscles must be worked just like any other part of your body. Make sure you use good form to flatten the abs as opposed to training them to stick out. Better posture will always help make your abs look flatter.  
Work on a strong core, good form and beautiful posture by joining a semi-private Pilates class forming this fall at Priority Fitness Burbank.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Back to School Boot Camp

Summer vacations are over and it's time to return to our regular workout schedules. Back to School Boot Camp can give you that boost you need to jump back into your fitness routine. It's easy to commit to two Saturday mornings for this mini-session. The one-hour session includes it all - cardio, strength and stretch - in a positive atmosphere of friends sweating it out together. Don't miss out!

Pilates Classes Forming Now

Pilates will strengthen your core, improve your posture and enhance your flexibility. Partner with a friend or two and customize a class time that works best for you. Or pick a time that fits your schedule and I will match you with a class member. Try a before-work time slot, perhaps after school drop off or fit in a noontime workout. Semi-private training gives you individualized attention and saves you money at the same time.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Grand Opening Celebration

We had a wonderful celebration of my newly completed workout studio this past Saturday. Dozens of friends gathered to see the studio, enjoy healthy treats and toast the bright fitness room. I introduced the new Boot Camp series for September and shared information about the upcoming Pilates classes forming for the Fall. (More information on the classes to follow in upcoming blogs.) Many people commented on my homemade healthy muffins. They don't include any oil or butter at all. One person said they tasted too good to be healthy. There were so many recipe requests that I have decided to post it on the blog below.
If you are gluten-free, please try this recipe with the flour you normally use and let us know how they turn out. It would be nice to have that option, too. Have fun baking and Enjoy your Food!

Bran Flax Muffins 
1-1/2 cup unbleached white flour
3/4 cup flaxseed meal
3/4 cup oat bran
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
1-1/2 cup carrots, shredded
2 apples, peeled & shredded
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
1 cup nuts, chopped
3/4 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix together flour, flax seed meal, oat bran, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl.  Stir in carrots, apples, raisins (if desired), and nuts.  Combine milk, beaten eggs, vanilla. Pour liquid ingredients into dry ingredients.  Stir until ingredients are moistened.  Do not over mix.  Fill muffin cups 3/4 full.  Bake at 350˚ for 15-20 minutes.  Yield: 15 medium muffins.

Notes: To make flax seed meal, grind flax seed to powdery consistency. I ground oatmeal in place of the oat bran. I used half the amount of organic honey instead of brown sugar. I substituted soy milk for dairy milk. I substituted whole-grain flour for the white flour.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Diet Soda Sugar Shocker

Sugar is fast overtaking fat as a threat to your heart according to new research in JAMA Internal Medicine. In the study, people who got 10 to 24% of their calories from added sugar were 30% more likely to die from cardio-vascular disease than those who consumed less. Many of us consume this added sugar in the form of soda & sugary drinks. Sugar may increase inflammation as well as raising blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Added sugar can lead to obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

Yikes! So you should reach for that diet soda, right? Nope. Diet soda drinkers face many of the same health challenges as sugar drinkers in addition to a host of other dangers. Not only that, diet soda has been shown to cause weight gain.

An American Journal of Public Health study shows that people who sipped diet beverages consumed, on average, 91 more calories per day than those who didn't. This may be because artificial sweeteners can alter the brain's sweet sensors, making them a less reliable gauge of energy consumption. Artificial sugar may interfere with the body's natural ability to estimate calories based on how sweet a food is. Diet drinkers may feel less full and end up eating more food. Altering the brain's perception of sugar may increase a person's appetite for sugars causing additional consumption of sweets.

What are options for satisfying soda substitutes?

* Flavor water with lemon, mint or a splash of 100% fruit juice

* Carbonated water, flavored or unflavored, unsweetened.

* Unsweetened hot or iced tea. Try brewed green tea for added health benefits.

* Coffee - acquire a taste for unsweetened coffee. Avoid sugary coffee drinks.

An occasional frappuccino or real sugar soda is a fun, sweet treat. As a regular practice, make unsweetened drinks your primary beverages. Stay hydrated and Enjoy your Food!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Truths About Strength Training & Abs

At one time or another most of us wonder how to get amazing-looking abs. Here are a few truths that can help fine tune your strength training routine and give you the tools to make progress toward the abs we want to see.

Truth # 1
You can't reshape the formation of your abs.
If you have uneven rows of abdominals, this is what you will have all your life. No amount of exercise changes ab formation.

Truth # 2
You cannot build showy abs (abs that have clearly defined rows of chunky muscle) by performing a truckload of ab exercises.
Exercise, especially cardio is good, but to get abs that show, you need to eat clean. No junk food. If you try to get abs from exercise alone, you are doomed to fail.

Truth # 3 
Waist size is governed by the width of your rib cage and hip bones.
Even if you remove all the fat from your mid-section you will not obtain a wasp-like waist if your skeletal structure is such that it dictates otherwise, You can improve your abs, however, with a healthy combination of exercise and diet.

Truth #4
An overweight, pear-shaped woman who desires to make big advances in her physique must use weight training in addition to cardio.
To exercise only with cardio will merely reduce overall body weight. She will end up with a smaller version of a pear-shaped body. Weight training will do the shaping.

Few of us are totally happy with the cards that Mother Nature has dealt us. But we all do the best with what we have. You can make amazing changes in your body with the proper use of weights, cardio and clean eating. Keep up the good work!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Restaurant Menu Strategies II

In May, I posted a few strategies that can help you navigate a restaurant menu to make good choices for your body and your health. This week I will share three more fat traps to beware of when eating out.
Veggie Entrees
A vegetable entree sounds virtuous but they can also be bad news. Note the ingredients in your main dish. How much cheese is included? Is the dish fried? Chefs tend to use more oil in vegetarian dishes to make up for the missing fat in the main ingredient. Next time, stick to veggie entrees made with cauliflower, sweet potatoes or parsnips which absorb less fat than eggplant and mushrooms. Ask how the vegetables are prepared. Grilled and roasted are good. Ask if the soup is made with a vegetable-broth base or with heavy cream.

Small Plates
The plate is smaller, there is less food on it so that should equal less calories, right? When you share a bunch of tapas, it's easy to lose track of how much you've eaten. Psychologically, you don't feel full the way you do after finishing a meal off a single plate. Plus many small plate offerings are fried or drowned in oil. Next time, stick to 2 or 3 small plates per person and include protein, vegetables, and carbs. Making it a balanced meal will help you feel more satisfied.

Gluten-Free Desserts 
It is actually common for people to assume that gluten-free means healthy. In fact, gluten-free desserts (or mains) are often just as decadent - or more so - than their gluten-containing counterparts. Some chefs use more sugar or fat to offset changes in taste and texture, while others use dense nut flours, which are more caloric than the grain variety. Next time, remember that a piece of cake is a piece of cake, whether it's gluten-free or not. It's a treat that should be savored. If you are gluten sensitive, look for desserts that are naturally gluten-free such as meringue and sorbet.

Be empowered to make informed choices. Delight in the time with your friends and family. And always, Enjoy Your Food.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Stretch, Relax and Meditate

The Stretch & Meditation class was fabulous last Wednesday evening. We were able to stretch our bodies and quiet our minds while enjoying the cooling evening breeze. The music and scripture helped to center us and left us very relaxed. One participant said, next week she plans to jog over to class and then, after she is totally relaxed, stroll home while soaking in the evening and her surroundings. Such a great idea!

I just read in the paper this morning that a new study says meditation, the practice of “quieting” the mind, goes a long way in relieving stress, even when it’s done in small doses.

There are three more Wednesdays of class in July. Some openings are still available. I hope you can take advantage of the opportunity.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Fun Tools for Functional Fitness

Three weeks ago, I introduced information about functional fitness. This type of workout uses more complex, integrated body movements involving coordination, balance and brainpower to complete the exercise. I discussed some of the advantages of this workout style two weeks ago. Today, I want to share a few fun workout tools that might be used in functional fitness.

Many functional moves are performed on an unstable surface. One example of this is a stability ball, also called a Swiss Ball, a physio ball, or an exercise ball. Lying prone, supine or laterally on the ball causes the core to engage in each movement and recruits multiple muscles with each exercise.

The Bosu is another tool that creates an unstable surface. Squatting, lunging, sitting or standing on the rounded top adds challenge to each move. The Bosu can be combined with handle bands or Pilates Balls to recruit coordination as well.

Plyo Boxes vary in height and are typically used for plyometric and jumping moves. I have a bright green plyo box in my workout studio and will use it as part of the Back To School Bootcamp in September for killer cardio moves.

Kettlebells are more unstable than a dumbbells because all of the weight is below the handle. This means you have to use more balancing muscles to control the movement.
I'm looking forward to using these tools and more to help you get a killer workout in a shorter amount of time while improving balance & coordination and challenging all the large muscle groups . 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Workout Studio Progress

We have been steadily working on the exercise studio in my home. The bright orange & green colors exude energy. The jump box is painted and ready to go. The dimmable light is perfect for working hard to push the limits or relaxing and stretching. The mirrored wall and retro chrome oscillating fan are next on the list and then we get to the fun part: choosing more equipment for variety and challenge. No machines in this room. I always like to focus on Functional Fitness. We will host an Open House soon to celebrate the official opening of the exercise studio.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Advantages of Functional Traning

Last week, I introduced information about functional fitness, the hottest new exercise trend in 2014. This type of workout uses more complex, integrated body movements involving coordination, balance and brainpower to complete the exercise.

One advantage of functional fitness is that you can work every muscle in a shorter amount of time. We are all in a hurry and looking for an efficient workout that hits every area of the body. Each functional exercise targets multiple muscle groups and requires them to act as stabilizers or prime movers, in their turn, throughout the move.

A functional workout improves balance and coordination. Improved balance will enhance sports performance, such as water-skiing on the weekends, as well as everyday function, such as leaning over a wall to pick up your child's lost ball. Coordination also improves sports performance, such as kicking the soccer ball with your kids, and helps prevent those crazy accidents involving spilled coffee.

Another advantage of functional fitness is that you can do it anywhere: at home, in the park, or in a small workout studio. Expensive, space-hogging machines are not required to get an amazing workout that challenges your cardio fitness and muscle strength.

Finally, functional fitness is a brain & body exercise. Instead of sitting passively on a machine, you must understand the exercise, be aware of the body part it is focusing on, pay attention to form and connect with the muscle pattern. Your brain is engaged and working the entire time you are exercising. This is a wonderful break from thinking about home and work issues and it stimulates the synapses in your brain to extend and grow on new pathways.

Functional fitness is an amazing way to get the workout you need to challenge your body.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Cutting Edge Workouts with Functional Traning

Is this machine extinct? Functional fitness is the new exercise trend in gyms nation-wide. In a previous post in February, I wrote about the three main approaches to strength training. Foundational fitness is represented by work on machines, such as Cybex machines, in a gym setting. Here, muscles work on a fixed path focusing on one muscle at a time. Fundamental strength training is performed with free weights and less body support. This requires multiple muscles to work together. Functional fitness facilitates freedom of movement and uses unstable conditions that require all your muscles to function as a unit, as they do in real life.

A 2008 study found that exercisers using a free-form cable machine became 58% stronger than those doing similar moves on fixed-path equipment. Functional strength equipment requires you to move in all sorts of directions, which means your body must recruit both the primary muscles and stabilizer muscles to keep the load traveling in a certain path. William Kramer, Professor of Kinesiology at University of Connecticut, says, "It's a more complex movement than doing an exercise on a fixed-path machine, involving more coordination, more body parts and more brainpower to direct all that action."

The good news is you can get rid of the machines completely. Doing toning exercises without any form of machine will give you similar advantages to those in the afore-mentioned study. On the downside, going machine-free calls for more know-how on the exerciser's part. And if you don't understand what you are doing, you can increase your chances of getting hurt. Kinesiologist Paul Juris points out, "Anything that involves more of the body and incorporates more dynamic elements, like waving battle ropes or swinging a kettlebell, may put you at a greater risk for injury if you don't know the proper technique." Your best bet is to build your skills in a small group class or invest in a session or two with a personal trainer.

The bottom line: If you are looking for a way to challenge your body and see changes in your fitness level, ditch the machines and mix up your routine.

Next week: Advantages of Functional Fitness

Friday, May 30, 2014

Restaurant Menu Strategies

We all enjoy eating out and usually peruse the menu looking for healthy choices. Now and then we can get confused about what the best choice might be. Here are a few tips on restaurant fat traps.

Olive oil for dipping
While EVOO is heart healthy, most people go overboard, soaking up as much as a tablespoon - or 119 calorie's worth - with each chunk of bread. Next time, drizzle a little olive oil onto a small plate and add balsamic vinegar to dilute the fat and pump up the flavor.

Chopped Salad
The word "salad" makes it seems light. But because everything is so finely diced, way more fits in the bowl. Chopped salads can contain upwards of 700 calories. Next time, order a regular tossed salad instead. Avoid toppings like crispy Chinese noodles, dried fruit and other high-calorie options. Get dressing on the side along with a few lemon wedges. The lemon can make a little vinaigrette go a long way.

Sweet Potato Fries
Sweet potatoes are a superfood. But when cut into strips and deep-fried, their redeeming qualities are diminished. Plus, many restaurants overdo it on the salt to balance out the vegetable's sweetness, bringing the sodium up to 800 milligrams compared to 40 milligrams for regular fries. Next time, be aware that gram for gram both types of fries contain the same number of calories. Sweet potatoes do have more fiber, calcium, and vitamin A so they are your better bet. Keep portions in control. Have a handful and share with a friend.

Grain Mains
Farro, barley and bulgur are good sources of protein and fiber. But the ratio of grains to veggies is often way out of whack. These dishes are listed as salads but they are more on par with a plate of pasta. Next time, Grain salads tend to keep well for a couple of days. Eat half and save the rest for later. Or ask the waiter to bring out half your order on a bed of mixed greens and have the remainder boxed up.

Share relaxing restaurant meals with family and friends. You can make informed choices and enjoy your food!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Is This Chair Deadly?

The latest science on sitting comes as a shock to most people. A stream of research suggests that the other 23 hours when you're not exercising are crucial in dictating how healthy you are.

A 2010 study of 123,216 people found that the more leisure time spent sitting, the higher the risk of premature death: Women who sat for more than six hours a day were 37 percent more likely to die prematurely than those who sat for less than three hours, no matter how much other physical activity they got.

A survey of almost 3,500 people indicated that sitting can effect your happiness. Non-occupational sitting time - watching TV, using the computer at home, or driving - was negatively associated with mental well-being.

Those who sit more than four hours a day were found to be significantly more likely to have a chronic disease such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

LifeTime Fitness program manager Jennifer Keskey concludes that "Movement during the day is almost more important than the time people spend working out with us."

You work out every day and you eat healthy but you work at a desk all day. In the evenings, you drive kids to activities and then collapse on the couch for TV time. How can you fit more movement in your day?

First of all, don't ditch the workout. The high intensity cardio and strength training are beneficial in multiple ways. I've enumerated those in previous posts.

The key is being aware of how much you move and working to sneak in small amounts of movement throughout the day.

* Get up from your desk and walk to the farthest restroom in your building.

* Walk to lunch. Or walk around the block or in the air-conditioned mall during your lunch hour.

* Drop your kids at practice and then walk around the field. No, you don't have to get sweaty again. A stroll is fine.

* Park in the spot farthest from the entrance at Costco and Target.

* Walk around the block after dinner. Take the dog, he'll love it.

* Adopt a hobby that requires movement. Knitting and script-writing are great but they are sedentary. What about darts, archery or lawn bowling?

* Technology can help. Fitbit and Nike Fuel Band will alert you if you have been sitting for 45 minutes.

Do you have other ideas for sneaking in bits of movement during the day? We'd love it if you would share them with us!

Be aware of your activity level, keep moving and be healthy.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Power of Exercise to Protect Against Stress

Stress is associated with just about every chronic disease we know. In addition, it may be responsible for encouraging addictive behaviors, sleep disruptions and unhealthy eating habits. Not only that, stress can add to your waistline. Stress elevates cortisol levels which, in turn, appear to cause the body to store additional abdominal fat.

The latest research reveals that exercise may be the most effective antidote to stress. Scientists found that "brains on exercise" morphed over time into a biochemically calm state that remained steady even when the subjects were put under stress. This discovery may indicate that cardio workouts actually remodel the brain to make it more resistant to stress hormones. As the brain changes, it seems to take more and more stress to trigger the fight-or-flight syndrome.

How does a cardio workout cause the brain to change? Exercise helps the heart pump more blood to the brain. More blood & oxygen leads to better-nourished brain cells overall. In addition, a vigorous workout causes brain cells to become more active and boosts the production of a protein (BDNF). This protein's role is to fortify the brain cells to prevent them from breaking down when exposed to stress. Exercise has been shown to lead to an increase in BDNF production.

We know your morning boot camp or evening jog produces stronger muscles and a more efficient cardiovascular system. Now we know that it also protects your brain from actual physical damage and infuses your brain with the protein it needs, resulting in that biochemically calm state and a more relaxed attitude toward life's many stressors.

Make exercise a priority this week!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Priority Fitness Burbank is now on Facebook

Priority Fitness Burbank is on Facebook! This business page will make it easier for you to refer friends to a specific post, to find information on rates, and to keep updated on upcoming special events and package deals.

Check it out at

Be sure to "Like" the page and share with friends.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Your Body's Reaction to Soda

Minutes after you take your first sip, your body goes into a sugar-induced upward - and the downward - spiral. Here's what happens:
10 minutes
A 12 - ounce can of soda delivers about 10 teaspoons of sugar. Normally you'd gag on such intense sweetness, but phosphoric acid mellows the sugary flavor.

20 minutes
Your blood sugar spikes. The liver reacts to the glucose in your bloodstream, storing as much as it can, but it's soon at capacity and most of the sugar is converted into fat.

30 minutes
Caffeine begins to effect you. Your pupils dilate. Your heart and respiratory rates increase. Your blood pressure rises, causing your liver to release even more sugar into the bloodstream. If your tired, you won't feel it. Caffeine blocks the brain's enosine receptors.

40 minutes
Dopamine levels rise abnormally, turning on the pleasure centers in your brain and creating a revved-up "high" similar to the one produced by amphetamines, cocaine, and heroin.

50 minutes
The diuretic properties of caffeine make you visit the restroom. The phosphoric acid in the soda binds to calcium, magnesium, and zinc in your body. These nutrients are flushed away, too.

60 minutes
A sugar crash hits you - hard. You're left feeling cranky, sluggish, thirsty and ready for another soda, especially if it's diet. The artificial sweeteners used in diet soda affect the addiction centers in the brain.

As the weather heats up this summer, make an educated choice about what you drink. Water is a great choice. Try flavoring it with sliced cucumber, mint, lemon or lime. Iced tea can be healthy if you don't add sugar. Green tea has been linked to protection against diabetes, heart disease and obesity. It might slow the growth of cancer. I brew a gallon of green tea at a time and enjoy it all day long. I have developed such a taste for it that I crave it over most other beverages.

As always, Enjoy Your Food!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Exercises to Increase Bone Density

In general, activities that involve impacts with the earth, such as running and jumping, are the most effective way to improve bone health. They create ground-reaction forces that move through your bones and stimulate them to "remodel" themselves and add density. They also entail strong muscular contractions that tug at and slightly bend attached bones, redoubling the stimulating effects of the exercise. Weight training does contribute to higher bone density but impact activities show better results.

How much force is needed to stimulate bone growth? One study found that women between 25 and 50 who hopped at least 10 times twice a day significantly increased their hip bone density after 4 months. For active aging exercisers, walking may be sufficient if it is speedy. One study found that post-menopausal women who walked briskly at least four times a week had a much lower risk of hip fractures than women who walked less often, more slowly or not at all.

Researchers found that odd impacts, created when you move in a direction other than straight ahead, can initiate remodeling throughout the hip bone and spine. Side to side and backwards motion can benefit bone density. Tennis, soccer and playing tag with your kids all involve directional change that can stimulate your bones with odd impacts.

Strive to include weight-bearing activities that subject your bones to stress in your workout week. Plyometric movements in boot camp, basketball in the driveway or jogging with your dog all contribute to bone density. If you exclusively cycle or swim, both non-impact sports, add a couple of days of impact exercise or weight training to your program.

Enjoy moving and keep your bones healthy!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Advantages of Urban Rebounding

Urban rebounding is a unique way of jumping on a mini-trampoline. It is a fabulous workout that can add high intensity to your exercise program without high impact. In addition, this form of exercise can stimulate the lymph system and challenge your core strength as you balance on the trampoline.

One major advantage of rebounding is the apparent low level of trauma to the musculoskeletal system. Even so, a study performed by NASA has shown the magnitude of the biomechanical stimuli is greater with jumping on a rebounder trampoline than with running. Urban rebounding can burn more calories than jogging for a comparable time. You can get the heart-rate boosting benefits of a jog without all the pounding.

Another advantage is that the lymph system is stimulated. The vertical motion experienced when rebounding allows the opening and closing of the one-way valves through which lymph flows upward toward the neck. The lymphatic vessels run up and down the body, and the fluid flows toward the neck, so this up and down motion is ideal. As we bounce up, gravity is eliminated for a fraction of a second. As we land, the G-force is doubled and internal organs are put under pressure. Rebounding increases gravitational load, so every cell in the body is stressed in a good way. Research indicates that bouncing just 5 minutes on the trampoline circulates the lymph system one full cycle. The lymph helps detoxify the body, allowing for recovery and healing. Rebounding can also enhance digestion.

Urban rebounding can improve coordination and balance. Working the lower body and upper body on opposite planes stimulates neuroplasticity in the brain and results in improved coordination. The core must be engaged while bouncing, resulting in stronger muscle tone and better posture. The unstable surface of the mat challenges balance for the entire workout.

Always rebound safely. If you have an unstable knee or hip joint, use caution when rebounding. Landing on the flexible surface of the mat may cause unintended rotation and exacerbate the injury. Choose a high quality mini-trampoline with covered springs or bands. Make sure to keep the feet on the mat and not step on the springs or bands.

I teach an Urban Rebounding group exercise class at the Burbank YMCA the first Friday of every month. I hope you can join us sometime. It is an amazing workout and loads of fun.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Maximize the Elliptical Trainer

Sometimes your schedule causes you to miss your favorite class at the gym and you find yourself in the cardio machine room, dismayed by the thought of a boring workout. Or you are nursing an injury and want a workout with less impact on knees or other joints. Or you just want to mix up your regular workout plan. These tips can make your time on the elliptical trainer interesting & effective and make the time fly by while you burn calories and strengthen muscle.

Bun Burner: When striding forward for the entire exercise time, the quads are often more developed than the back of your lower body. To activate the glute muscle and maintain muscle balance, reverse your stride. Drop the hips and steady the body in a lower position. Pedal backward, pressing the heel through the rotation.

Up Tempo: For beginners, aim to get the heart rate to 75% of its maximum. Experienced exercisers should aim for 80- 85% of their max. Try increasing the resistance on the machine in short, 5 minute segments with 1 minute recovery periods.

Mix It Up: Change resistance and speed throughout the exercise to keep the mind and body guessing. Try to shift focus every 2 - 3 minutes.

*Try striding forward then shift to striding backward.
*First push with your right arm only, then the left.
*Sprint for 45 seconds with hands on hips.
*Pull with the arms instead of pushing.
*Squat throughout the stride.
*Do hill sprints - Stride as fast as you can for 30 seconds, starting with medium resistance.Recover for 30 seconds. Each minute, increase resistance until you reach maximum.

While using the elliptical trainer, keep a tall posture and always maintain a bend in your knees and elbows to prevent injury. You can burn up to 512 calories an hour and challenge your body with a great workout anytime with an elliptical trainer.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Help! My kids want to go to In N Out......

When we are trying to eat clean and maintain a healthy lifestyle we are often put in situations that challenge our eating habits. What options do we have?

If you know you will be stopping at a fast food restaurant with family or friends, one option is to plan ahead. I see two ways to approach this:

1. Carry your food with you. You will stay on your plan and not be tempted to make bad food choices. If you can't carry your whole meal with you, snack on healthy items like almonds or baby carrots at the restaurant and then eat well at home.

2. Plan your food intake for the whole day, eating low-fat, high fiber foods at your other meals and make healthy choices at the restaurant.

Sometimes the fast food stop is not anticipated. We can still make better choices. Healthy choices can look different for each person. For example, a vegetarian would look for meatless menu items. A gluten-free person would choose to avoid a hamburger bun. All diners should focus on items that are broiled not breaded or fried. Dressings can be served on the side and used sparingly. Sometimes there are salad offerings. I think everyone knows that french fries are not a healthy side dish!

One easy choice to make is at the beverage bar. Choose water or iced tea. When a person eats a high cholesterol meal, tea actually helps counteract some of the unhealthy effects of the food. The liquid sugar choices offered at the beverage bar can cause dangerous insulin spikes and create havoc in your body. Artificial sugar in the diet drinks can cause your body to crave even sweeter foods leading to a vicious cycle. Avoid them.

About a month ago, I went to In N Out with out-of-town family. It's one of the highlights of their trip and I was happy to share it with them. Right now, I am trying to eat gluten-free so I chose the lettuce-wrapped burger (protein style). I got my iced tea to drink and I chose to have the french fries. I made a rule for myself a couple of years ago that I would only eat In N Out fries. Since I only go there a couple times a year, that works well as a special treat. I will admit that I have strayed from my rule recently so I need to get back on track. The day that I have fries, I try to eat well for the rest of my meals.
Sometimes our lives get crazy and fast food is the best option for the moment. Be realistic as you journey through the seasons of your life. And remember... 
Enjoy your food!