Monday, January 31, 2011

$*&)%$)!! My Mom Emails Me

This weekend my mother sent me an email which she had received from a friend, who had received it from another friend.  It was entitled, "Dr. Oz On Eating Fruit."  Mother is cautious about the emails she sends me about fitness and nutrition, she gets a lot of these things from her friends.  But this one made a lot of sense to her and she thought I might find it very interesting.

Oh, I found it interesting, all right.  First, the way it was displayed on the page didn't have any of the hallmarks of a marketing email format one would expect of Dr. Oz, fabulous television personality and remarkably level-headed health advisor to millions. 

Second, it was full of misinformation.

After reading it all the way through, and then huffing-puffing-snorting a bit, I went to Dr. Oz's website to see if this attribution was correct.  Sure enough, there were no articles or discussions on his website which matched the content of this email.  Check out when you get a chance yourself, there's a great deal of quality content and Q & A there.

Then I spent some quality time on the phone with my mother, and dissected the email with her so she could learn more about what nutritional approaches are appropriate for her conditions. 

Check The Sources.  If you get an email that isn't from Dr. Oz, or Dr. Jones or Dr. Doolittle for that matter, but claims to be approved by that individual, double check that attribution.  For instance, when I forward information which I deem valuable from Dr. Mark Hyman, I usually include the direct link to his website so there's no confusion about the source.  Verify.

Here's some of the info my mother sent me... with my commentary IN ALL ITALIC CAPS.  Enjoy the lunacy.  BE WELL! TJ

"We all think eating fruit means just buying fruit, cutting it up and popping it into our mouths. It's not that easy. It's important to know how and when to eat fruit.

What's the correct way to eat fruit?


"Eating fruit like that plays a major role in detoxifying your system, supplying you with a great deal of energy for weight loss and other life activities.


"Let's say you eat two slices of bread, then a slice of fruit. The slice of fruit is ready to go straight through the stomach into the intestines, but it's prevented from doing so."  (ALL CARBOHYDRATES HERE.  THE SIMPLE PROCESSED CARBOHYDRATE IN THE BREAD WILL DIGEST PARTICULARLY FAST, AND SO WILL THE FRUIT.)

"In the meantime, the whole meal rots and ferments, and turns to acid. The minute the fruit comes into contact with the food in the stomach, and digestive juices, the entire mass of food begins to spoil." (THE LAST TIME I CHECKED, YOUR STOMACH IS AND SHOULD BE AN ACID PIT. FOOD GETS CHURNED ABOUT AND BEGINS BREAKING DOWN THERE. FOOD DOESN'T "SPOIL" IN YOUR STOMACH IN THE PRESENCE OF FRUIT ACIDS, AS IF YOU LEFT IT ON THE KITCHEN COUNTER FOR A WEEK.)

"When you need to drink fruit juice drink only fresh fruit juice, NOT the concentrated juice from the cans. Don't drink juice that has been heated. Don't eat cooked fruit; you don't get the nutrients at all. You get only the taste. Cooking destroys all of the vitamins." (NOT ALL OF THEM, AND NOT COMPLETELY.  GIVEN A CHOICE BETWEEN NO FRUIT OR COOKED FRUIT, HAVE THE COOKED.)
 "Drinking Cold water after a meal = Cancer!"   (OMG, SERIOUSLY???)

"Can you believe this? For those who like to drink cold water, this applies to you. It's nice to have a cold drink after a meal, however, the cold water will solidify the oily stuff that you've just consumed, which slows digestion." (OK. POP QUIZ.  HOW HOT IS YOUR MOUTH? AVERAGE 98.6F DEGREES.  HOW HOT IS YOUR ESOPHAGUS?  AND YOUR STOMACH, THE AFOREMENTIONED ACID PIT? RIGHT, HOTTER.  SO HOW COLD IS THAT WATER GOING TO STAY AND FOR HOW LONG?  ANSWER: NOT LONG ENOUGH TO HARDEN ANY FATS IN YOUR STOMACH.)  "Once this 'sludge' reacts with the acid, it will break down and be absorbed by the intestine faster than the solid food. It will line the intestine. Very soon, this will turn into fats and lead to cancer. It is best to drink hot soup or warm water after a meal." 

Update 2/20/11:  According to Ayurvedic medicine, drinking iced water during a meal slows the "digestive fire."  No mention of turning stomach contents to sludge or fat into cancer.  However, Ayurvedic does promote non-iced water during and after meals as a digestive aid, and suggests optimal meal composition as two thirds solids and one third liquid. 

Monday, January 24, 2011


I can’t even really believe that Jack LaLanne has passed away.  You know what they say, though, it isn’t a matter of if, it’s about when and how.

Ninety six years is a good ripe age, and he enjoyed a very high quality of life. 

I remember so clearly watching Jack LaLanne’s television show when I went to visit my grandmother’s house.  It’s not clear to me why we never watched in our own home, maybe I was in school or someone in the house who was older than I took charge of the boob-tube when his show was on.  Sometimes I’d exercise along with him and sometimes, ironically (though I was too young to know I was being ironic), I’d just lie on the floor and listen.

It would be overreaching to say he was an inspiration to me in my choice to lead an active lifestyle, or to pursue a career in fitness education.  But he was wonderfully handy to point to as living example of what one can accomplish with disciplined exercise and healthy eating.  It is no small feat for a man in his 80’s to swim across San Francisco Bay, towing several of his closest friends behind him in a row boat.

Jack didn’t drink coffee, but he did partake of red and white wine.  So, a toast to the memory and the mission of Jack LaLanne!  May his words, deeds, and spirit be inscribed in the book of life.

Here are a few of Jack’s words of wisdom:
  • Anything in life is possible and you can make it happen.
  • Your waistline is your lifeline.
  • Exercise is King, nutrition is Queen, put them together and you’ve got a kingdom.
  • Don’t exceed the feed limit.
  • The food you eat today is walking and talking tomorrow.
  • Ten seconds on the lips and a lifetime on the hips.
  • Better to wear out than rust out.
  • Do – don’t stew.
  • People don’t die of old age, they die of inactivity.
  • First we inspire them, then we perspire them.
  • You eat everyday, you sleep everyday, and your body was made to exercise everyday.
  • Work at living and you don’t have to die tomorrow.
  • I can’t die, it would ruin my image. [Whoops.-JO]
  • If man makes it, don’t eat it.
  • If it tastes good, spit it out.
  • What’s it doing for me?
  • Your health account is like your bank account: The more you put in, the more you can take out.
  • If one apple is good, you wouldn’t eat 100.
  • It’s not what you do some of the time that counts, it’s what you do all of the time that counts.
  • Make haste slowly.
  • Eat right and you can’t go wrong.

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Magical Marathon

High fives at the finish!

Fair warning, this is a long post.

I planned on a winter marathon, and by golly I worked my plan and planned my work and ran that baby.  If you've not completed or competed in an endurance event before, it's hard to understand why one would put oneself through the arduous training, the black toenails, the mysterious aches and pains, the conscious eating... and the fear of doing something wrong along the way to foil the plan. 

Talking in the gym about the marathon training with a runner friend of mine, someone piped in, "Oh, I hear that marathon running is very bad for your heart and your knees."  Well, each of us has a different body and mine tolerates long distance running fairly well.  It's not for everyone.  I've read the research about the impact of marathoning on the body.  Proper long term training, proper nutrition, and adequate rest are essential to minimizing heart damage, orthopaedic damage, any injury.  As usual, safe progressions and good biomechanics are the keys to proper training.  It also helps if running feeds your soul, as it does mine.

Every minute of every day is a risk.  We wrap ourselves in a blanket of some kind of security and then, as my friend Ellie likes to say, we tip our horns down like a bull and just go.  The reward at the end, the sense of being able to do something you were not entirely convinced you could, is a great feeling.  To top that off, Disney World Marathon is a huge fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and it certainly feels good to make that contribution.

Once upon a time I was convinced I could never run a marathon.  Then again, I was at one time certain I would never run more than five miles.  Then I went to New York City to witness my friend Ellie (the aforementioned bull) run the marathon to mark her 40th birthday.  I was completely enthralled and ultimately the idea took root in my noggin that I could marathon, too.  Ellie is also a client (with asthma) who went from walking to running to marathoning in about 5 years of training -- you get the idea, she's a driven sort.

Disney World Marathon, January 9, 2011.  Orlando is not supposed to experience 40 degree temps, but it did.  I once swore never to run a marathon with more than 10,000 entrants, but I did.  My running buddies from New York and I were slated to run together, but we didn't (though we did fuel up together the night before :-).  I trained to be able to finish the marathon in 3 hours 50 minutes, but I didn't.  All of this made it an exceptional day... and it was a terrific experience in spite of all those shifted expectations!

Race day is a good day to let go of expectations.  Stay positive but go with your gut.  Sixteen weeks of plenty-difficult combinations of speed, tempo, and distance running workouts through Georgia heat and Georgia rain and Georgia snow (!) leaves you marathon-distance ready.  But every day is a new day, every race a new logistical experience.  Seventeen thousand runners need to be delivered to one start line a full hour and a half before the race begins so the roads on the course are not clogged with vehicles.  Disney did its level best to distract us all from how little fun there is to be had in that part.

An hour and a half of standing and shuffling in 40 degree temps and you can't feel your feet for the first four miles.  At least, that's what happened to me.  No feeling in feet = no keeping race pace.  Just one of those things.  When I saw how slow my time was for the first 5 miles compared to my race goal, I decided it to leave it be.  I was afraid of turning an ankle on those numb feet, and cranky about training all those weeks alone and then racing alone even while surrounded by 16,999 friends I hadn't met yet.  I couldn't make up that time and stay on pace the rest of the run and have any fun.

In letting it go, believe me, there was a lot of fun to be had!  It's Disney World, for crying out loud!  There was actually a young spectator on the course, around mile 11, announcing over and over, "this is the Magic Kingdom, the happiest place on earth, why aren't you all smiling?"  LOL!

Some people run with iPods and MP3 players.  Maybe because I'm a musician, I have songs in my head, and some very specific songs that help me keep my race pace. So I don't partake of the iPod.  But Disney has live musicians and musical accompaniment to Disney costumed characters and recordings blasting nearly every single mile along the way.  The volume control in my head can't compete with that.  And then there's the theme parks...enchanting, engaging, all those words Disney loves to use in its marketing messages.  Was I tickled pink when I ran through Cinderella's Castle?  You betcha.  Did I get a kick out of Lucille Ball's commentary on the street in Disney Hollywood?  Abso-tively-Posi-lutely.  The green Army guy from Toy Story was a raging riot -- who wants to race by and miss anything!??

For the first time in my marathoning history, which began in 1999, I didn't hit the wall.   I had the energy to sing along and "arm-dance" while I was running to "Whip It" at mile 9 and "Sweet Caroline" at mile 21.  Felt so good at the finish I started disco dancing, right after the high-five with Donald Duck.  Even with the frozen start, I was well fueled and well hydrated and thrilled to feel like I coasted through the 26.2, compared to previous marathons.  Though I shared hugs and thrills with pals Diane and Jerry among the roadside spectators at mile 21, I still couldn't find my friends in the throngs at the finish.  But my family found me dancing around at the finish line and it was amazing to share with them.  My dad was particularly overcome, because he always wanted to try to run a marathon and never did.  He's to blame, his are the legs I inherited.  Running with him when I was a kid allowed me to put off the chores at home with mom, but the thinking time and physical outlet for stress made me an addict.

Ever goal oriented am I, and I have the Savannah Rock and Roll Marathon in November to look forward to.  When you find a training scheme that works, you can't help but to do it again!  But for now I'm happy to rest and heal a little, get back on my bicycle without fear of screwing up some running schedule, and forgive myself for not making my goal of 3:50.  Color me Coral -- the nail polish shade that's covering my black toenails!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Mindset Matters

This published in the journal Psychological Science:  "In a study testing whether the relationship between exercise and health is moderated by one's mind-set, 84 female room attendants working in seven different hotels were measured on physiological health variables affected by exercise. Those in the informed condition were told that the work they do (cleaning hotel rooms) is good exercise and satisfies the Surgeon General's recommendations for an active lifestyle. Examples of how their work was exercise were provided. Subjects in the control group were not given this information.

Although the subjects’ actual behavior did not change, 4 weeks after the intervention, the informed group perceived themselves to be getting significantly more exercise than before. As a result, compared with the control group, they showed a decrease in weight, blood pressure, body fat, waist-to-hip ratio, and body mass index. These results support the hypothesis that exercise affects health in part or in whole via the placebo effect."

So if you believe it, you can be it.  To me, an important factor coming out of this study is the external motivation of information and specific examples of how the subjects' work was exercise.  That information was transformed into an intrinsic perception that they were getting more exercise than before.

I would love to get my hands on one of those exceptionally comprehensive charts that documents the k/calorie per hour and metabolic equivalency figures for activites from archery to standing in the kitchen cooking, and from bathing to dancing the twist.  And I when I do, I will give copies to all my clients so they can see how much exercise they are getting everyday, and so they can be mindful of the difference their everyday movement can make.  In addition to their regular exercise, of course.  And I'm going to swipe that little plaque my father kept on his desk at IBM for 32 years which read:  THINK.  And I'm going to wear it around my neck every day to work.  (You may not believe me... just you wait....)  Then we’ll all think ourselves to healthier bodies!

Be Well!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Staying Active-It's Not Just for Physical Therapy Month Anymore!


October was National Physical Therapy Month.  As part of Spine & Sport’s observance there were regular Facebook postings encouraging family-oriented physical fitness and wellness activity.  There is no longer any doubt, at least from a research-based health perspective, that exercise is medicine.  Movement has a healing effect on all of the body’s systems.

There is no such thing as a perfect month of the year, nor day of the week nor time of the day for that matter, to get moving.  There may be optimal times in your schedule, or when the weather is particularly nice.  But I encourage you to increase your daily activity, the time spent on your feet pumping your legs.  And I beg you to incorporate at least 2 or 3 days per week of vigorous exercise or sport into your life.  It will improve the quality of your life, your outlook on life, and the spring in your step.  Do it with your family and you will instill in your children a lifelong appreciation for play, sport, and the amazing capabilities of their bodies.

Example from Trainer Jane’s life story:  My father jogged 3 times or more a week, beginning in the early 70’s, right around the time Nike sneakers first became widely available.  I chose to go with him to avoid doing chores around the house, I’ll admit it.  Since I wasn’t particularly good at any of the sports my brothers participated in, it was something special my Dad and I could enjoy together.  Although I fell out of the habit in my teens, there came a time in my life when I wanted to get active again and the nostalgia I felt for running brought me back.  And I have since had the distinct honor of teaching dozens of others to enjoy running, anywhere from 2 to 26.2 miles.  Thanks, Dad.

Here is a wonderful fitness event in which the whole family can participate.  It’s Savannah’s Annual Turkey Trot.  If you are in town on Thanksgiving morning, this is the place to be seen, my friends!  Here is the website link for more information:

It’s got everything from a Diaper Dash to a walk to a 5K run.  It’s good for you and your loved ones and for the local chapter of the United Way.  It’s a perfect way to build a hearty appetite for the traditional Thanksgiving feast (as if anyone needs helps with that).  For you turkey eaters, it’s the perfect balance to the tryptophan-feuled lethargy you’ll experience after the big meal!  If you plan on giving back to the community even more that day by volunteering to deliver Thanksgiving meals or staffing a food pantry feast, the Turkey Trot will get your legs and lungs all primed and ready for the good work to follow.

Oh, yes, and I just happen to specialize in helping people finish 5K runs.  Doesn’t this sound like a fun goal?  No, it is not an oxymoron to refer to a run as fun.  Just try it, you’ll gain a whole new perspective on the holiday season and on having an active lifestyle your whole family can enjoy.

A Little Departure


A little departure.  Five years ago this week, Harlan walked into the upstate New York fitness center where I worked.  You will read herein how he still considers himself “stiff as a brick.”  Not so much. 

When we started working together, he was very inflexible, and had significant postural imbalances.  Harlan was able to do only 4 or 5 exercises, mostly stretching, during a workout session.  Truly all his body was able to handle at age 67.  He could barely put on his socks, even while sitting down.  He could not kick himself in the fanny, so tight were his quadriceps.

Harlan and I worked together for 3 ½ years to change all that.  As fitness changed his life, his spirit changed mine in a profound and wonderful way.  Reverend Harlan is one of the most irreverent clergy members you will ever meet, and is blessed with wit, vigor, humor, kindness, and poetry in great measure.  Ask him to quote Hafiz.  And you should see his garden!  Pastoral!  Anyway, his posture, balance, flexibility, grace, height, strength… all improved.  Wish I had the before and after pics here for you, oh well. One-hour-metabolic-circuit-training-muscle-burning-core-bracing workouts have been routine for Harlan for a couple of years now.  He’s unstoppable.

All of my clients honor me with their trust and friendship.  Thank you all for your commitment, faith, and great efforts.


They come in the morning, grumpy and grim
But at least they are fit, at least they are trim.
Some come here later, even after noon,
And believe it or not, some enter by the light of the moon.
They all come, as God is my witness,
Because they no longer “fit in this”
Or in that, whatever the garment
And have taken the last sarcastic comment
From spouse or lover or friend,
And vowed to themselves, ‘THIS IS THE END’.
For some, who are slow, it takes a long time,
Their bodies and souls to meticulously realign. 
And the really gnarly ones, the crusty and peevish old guys
Well, it takes years to reform, reshape, and maybe resize.
Frankly, there are some who prove our worst fears,
For them, if at all, the transformation will take years.
Sadly, when these old duffers sign up, the staff heaves a collective huge sigh,
For they know that to help them, some staff will probably have to actually die.
Yes, as the trainers collapse and their corpses are stacked,
In loving memory on the wall is hung a huge plaque.
The inscription reads, IN LOVING MEMORY OF JANE who is gone (to Georgia, not dead yet!-Ed.)
 IN LOVING MEMORY OF ASHLEIGH who has also moved on, (to Washington, not dead yet either!-Ed.)
And the old fart has changed hardly a bit
He’s still stiff as a brick,  has lost almost all of his wit,
Now the staff gasps as with pity they cry out “Alas, how can it be?
Will he also do in the lovely one, the one they call Stephanie?
Certainly that young man, the one they call Evan,
Will know, working with him, that’s he’s clearly not in heaven.
 Although I’ve no doubt caused the staff many frustrations and tears,
They have been steadfast and tenacious, and they have been that now for FIVE years.
So while I’ve caused you, no doubt, much pain and much strife,
You in return have improved my quality of life.
No longer is Plaza Fitness a program to get through,
But a way of life, a weekly plan my being to renew.
Week after week after week this I keep repeating
This appointment for abuse and for the beatings.
Still, to all who have each week my person to endure,
Of this dear people, you can always be sure:
The exercise and workouts have enhanced all my days,
And for that I extend to you my thanksgiving and praise.

A Really Cool 10

Dr. Elizabeth "Doll" Miller completing her 60 mile run
on her 60th birthday, while fans await at Humane Society

Dr. Elizabeth “Doll” Miller of Savannah is an accomplished ophthalmic surgeon, and a mountain climber, and has completed several Ironman triathlons and marathons.  She’s also a dog lover.

About a year ago, she decided to conduct a fundraising event on behalf of the Humane Society of Savannah to coincide with her 60th birthday.  In “Doll-land,” evidently, that meant she was to complete an epic feat of endurance.

Friday, October 1st was Doll Miller’s 60th birthday.  She ran 60 miles Friday, all in one fell swoop.  She even fell at the end, tripped by her own doggie, but she swooped back up with a smile on her face and went on to announce that $65,000 had been donated in honor of the event.


I had the great good fortune of watching her very closely, running just behind her, for the last 10 miles of her feat.


After work on Friday I heeded a call from the fine folks at Fleet Feet Sports to cheer Doll on somewhere along her route.  I parked at the McQueen Island entrance to the rails-to-trails path that heads out toward Fort Pulaski.  Mile 35.  The support vehicle from Fleet Feet Sports arrived shortly thereafter, and I had a chance to chat with Robert Espinoza, FFS owner/race director/running advocate extraordinaire, about Doll.  He was clearly impressed by her performance.  Along came a young man named Billy who intended to run along with Doll to keep her company and keep her spirits up.

When Doll arrived I wished her a happy birthday and passed along the good wishes of a couple of my clients who are also her patients.  She smiled graciously while stretching and gulping down some diet soda.  Doll is one heck of a great runner.  She was less wobbly at 35 miles than I am at 20.  I kicked myself for not having my running togs with me so I could join in for a few miles.  It is so inspiring to be around individuals who, while they clearly get a charge out of pushing their own limits, are prepared and propelled to give so much of their energy to benefit others.

Wheels in motion.  Clear the schedule for the day.  Get the gear.  Get the hubby to drop me off at mile 50, then pick me up at mile 55 and get on with the day.  Join in the reverie a little, make a donation, keep Doll’s mind off the pain.


Did I ever meet some great people!  Doll’s friends John and Heather and Spencer and Mark are amazing athletes themselves and it didn’t take them long to convince me to hang with them for the rest of the ride to the finish.  Distance runners are an amazingly warm, fun, sharing group of people.  Doll took off her iPod and just wanted to hear our chatter and banter, whether she could contribute or not, to keep her mind busy while her legs and lungs stayed on task.

Yeah, and by the way, Doll was still less wobbly at 50 and 55 and 60 miles than I am at 20.

There were just a couple of poopy-headed drivers out there who were uninformed about the 60-on-60 event, who were less than considerate about the one and a half feet of roadway we encroached upon.  Shoulders, Savannah, we need shoulders on the roads.  Do you have any idea how hard it is to run on a rumble strip?   I think that’s the only thing I heard Doll complain about, running on the rumble strip.  She was limping, her left Achilles tendon was visibly inflamed, it was more than a little warm out, but not a negative word from her about any of that.

But the overwhelming support of cheering clutches of fans and drivers yelling, “Happy Birthday!!” out their car windows was incredibly infectious and energizing!

How cool to bear witness to such a milestone in one woman’s life and in one great community… well, really, two great ones:  The pet rescue community; and, the running community.  I tell you, that was a really cool 10 miles.

Congratulations, Doll.  You are a great role model.

Take Your Genes For a Walk


More great news under the heading, “Healthy Activity Research.”

You can blame your body on your genes.  Or you can move beyond your genes… with physical activity.
British research published last week in PLoS Medicine tracked the physical activity of over 20,000 individuals, and also studied and scored each subject on a dozen genetic variants associated with a likelihood of obesity.  The researchers concluded activity can reduce the genetic risks toward obesity by 40%.

WOW!  Now imagine if you add the positive impact of clean eating to the physical activity… oh my, all power you have to do all this good for yourself!

The researchers also commented that a brisk 30 minute walk or bicycle ride is an appropriate level of daily activity to enjoy these benefits.  Notice the frequency there, it says DAILY.  So, as they say across the pond, get up off your bum and get your body moving to help avoid all the health risks associated with obesity.

Ready to get that good walk in?  Perhaps you’ve been fortunate enough to be able to walk for almost your whole entire life.  So this shouldn’t be a problem, right?  Well… you may need to re-learn a healthy way to walk.

Watching people walk around Forsyth Park and Daffin Park and along Tybee Beach does MY heart a ton of good, I tell you.  It just makes me smile.  Unless you are the person who is staring down at your toes the whole time, with your head dropped forward as if you’re about to fall asleep with your chin on you chest.  Let’s see some good posture out there, people!  My clients hear this directive all the time, “Head-Up-Chest-Up!”

Ever try to walk with a book balanced on top of your head?  You are supposed to balance your skull pretty directly on top of your neck.  When it’s hanging forward, the muscles along the back of your neck and the top of your back have to work really hard to keep your head from toppling clear off the front of your body.

That poor walking posture has serious consequences for your spinal health, from the top of your neck to the very bottom of your tailbone… and can have a negative ripple effect on the comfort and performance of your shoulders, hips, knees and feet.

Try this on your own… stand with your back to a wall, with your heels planted about six inches away from the wall.  Now lean your tailbone, shoulderblades, and back of your head against the wall, leaving your feet out where they started and your knees unlocked.  There should be a little space between the back of your waist and the wall, and also the back of your neck and the wall.  This is referred to as neutral spinal alignment.  If any part of your back, neck or shoulders hurt getting into that position, get to a physical therapist and learn how to stretch, stabilize, and strengthen the muscles supporting your spine to maintain your proper posture.  If it doesn’t hurt, practice walking around feeling as though you are standing with your back against a wall in this neutral alignment.

Stand tall, walk tall, walk well, feel well, and be better!

A Brain to Pick


Being on vacation with wifi and cellphone access means never having to say, “I’m unavailable!”
Never said I wasn’t a type A individual, now did I? 

So here I am in San Francisco pouring over the emails when I come across a newsletter from the Washington Post called “Lean & Fit.”  It cites an article in the LA Times regarding new research into the condition IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).  I know several people who live with it, among other digestive disorders, so I read on.  Here’s the link:,0,2369726.story?wpisrc=nl_health

Certain structural characteristics of the brain seem to be present in people who suffer IBS.  What really made me look deeper into the article was the line in the Washington Post letter saying this research demonstrates that IBS is a physiological rather than psychological condition.

WHAT?  Here I was feeling so secure in the knowledge that my brain is integrated into my skull, and therefore my body… silly me.

I looked further at the LA Times article to see if they or the research summary mentioned anything about a physical or mental dividing line.  Nope, no such reference.

So here’s something on which we can all chew… is there really a division between the mind and the body?  Don’t they work in tandem at all times?  Is it appropriate to dismiss psychological conditions with the old line, “it’s all in your head,” when in fact your head is integral to the proper operation of nearly all of your bodily systems and functions?  And vice versa?

For crying out loud, Washington Post, this is the 21st century.

Food Police


Uh oh.

“Nearly the entire U.S. population consumes a diet that is not on par with recommendations,” is the conclusion of a report published online on August 11, 2010 in the Journal of Nutrition.

Susan M. Krebs Smith and her colleagues at the National Cancer Institute evaluated data from 16,338 individuals aged 2 and older who participated in the 2001-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Quantities of foods reported in 24 hour dietary recall interviews were categorized into groups included in the USDA’s food pyramid, which diagrams the recommended dietary intake of total fruits, whole fruits, total vegetables, dark green vegetables, orange vegetables, legumes, starchy vegetables, other vegetables, milk, total grains, whole grains, meat and beans, and oils.

“This analysis indicates that nearly the entire U.S. population consumes a diet with fewer vegetables and whole grains than recommended and that a large majority underconsume fruits, milk, and oils relative to recommendations,” the authors write.

“The stark contrasts observed between the diets of Americans as well as the U.S. food supply and current dietary guidance underscore the need for individual- and environmental-level interventions to facilitate healthier dietary intake patterns. Without such interventions, the diets of most U.S. adults and children will continue to be markedly divergent from recommendations, a worrisome state in the context of the obesity epidemic and alarming rates of other diet-related chronic diseases.”

Client:  “I have very good eating habits.”
Trainer:  “Can you write down two weekdays and one weekend day worth of everything you consumed so I can help you make it even healthier?

This is a very simple exercise, writing a food diary.  I do it myself from time to time.  We all have room for improvement.  Even the USDA food pyramid has room for improvement.  There are great benefits to be gained from more awareness and more conscious choices regarding your food intake.

Eat better, feel better, perform better.  It really works that way!  (Why would I lie about a thing like this?)

Sweat Season


It’s been the season of sweat here in Savannah for over a month… 90 plus degrees and 90 plus percent humidity present some significant training challenges.

So hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!  Replace the fluids and the salts you are sweating out. If you are experiencing muscle cramping on both legs at the same time, there’s a very good chance dehydration is the culprit. Water and sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade will help solve that problem before, during and after your outings.

Proper hydration requires a before-during-and-after approach.  Yesterday’s fluid consumption will affect today’s performance, so plan ahead.  During hot/humid outdoor activities, drink at least 4 to 8 ounces of fluid every 15 or 20 minutes.  And after your workout, keep drinking water until your bladder meter reads full :-)

Is there such a thing as too much fluid consumption?  Yes.  If you take in so much fluid that your blood sodium level becomes too dilute, you develop a dangerous condition called hyponatremia. Taking ibuprofen or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can increase your risk for this condition. Please consider this before taking those little pills.

Sodium is one of those “electrolytes” which sports drinks replenish in your system. So if your outdoor activity during sweat season lasts over one hour, choose the sports drink over water.

But even in the midst of all this sultry stuff I’m planning ahead for a winter marathon. Those once-a-week long runs will feel so much better in October and November than they would in August, whew!
Plan ahead, plot the steps, increase the mileage gradually, maintain some fun cross training, and… voila, ready to race and celebrate at the finish line!  Wish it were as easy as that makes it sound. Anybody want to keep me company? Or follow me with a bunch of water bottles?  Anyone?

The Best Time To Exercise


How’s about now, is now good?

No?  Hmmm.  Alright then, what’s now looking like?

You’re not that spontaneous.  OK, well I understand, I’m not either.  Hectic schedule, lots of obligations, lots of appointments, other people’s schedules to consider.  It’s not that easy.

So turn something you already do on a regular basis into an opportunity for exercise, one which is sufficiently taxing to help you toward your goal.  Example?  Dog owners.  Dogs are exercise machines with hair.  And so much more, yes, but you can move beyond the spot at which the dog does his/her “business,” and take your walk to another dimension which will be beneficial for all critters, two- and four-legged alike.

Dropping the kids off at camp/lessons/etc.?  Perhaps you can connect with another parental taxi-er and buddy up for a workout together.  Someone once asked me to lead a stroller exercise group, and I couldn’t wait to show them how to boost their metabolism and build their muscles at the playground – no machines needed!

Or plan your exercise schedule in advance just like you write down your doctor’s visits and dental appointments, meetings and conferences.  If mornings work for you, choose mornings.  Lunch hour looks like it could accommodate some active time?  Super.  After work/before dinner?  Perfectly wonderful.  Just avoid scheduling vigorous activity within 2 hours of bedtime, or you’ll rev yourself up too much to sleep well.  Static developmental stretching before bed can be very productive and relaxing, though.

The best time to exercise is whatever time works for you.  Will you feel more energized for the rest of the morning if you start your day with exercise?  Yes.  Perhaps the first and second time you get up a little earlier than usual you’ll feel disoriented and maybe even a little cranky.  But mark my words, you’ll feel pumped up far into the morning after a workout.  (Just be sure to eat a little bit of something beforehand, please don’t run on empty.)

Sidebar:  There’s been lots of research published lately about how much better kids perform in the classroom when they start their day with exercise, not to mention how exercise can prevent dementia for us long-term-graduates.  Recommended reading:  “Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain” by Dr. John J. Ratey; and, “The Ultramind Solution” by Dr. Mark Hyman.

No matter what time of day works best for you, frequent exercise will improve your energy level and your sleep habits in a noticeable way within just a couple of weeks.  And when you notice how much better you feel, and start telling other people about it – and they start giving you that positive reinforcement about how much perkier you seem to be and how much better you look – then you are bound to stick with it!

It's All About Support


When a client makes great strides and measureable accomplishments, I am the first person to say, “The credit is yours, you did all the hard work!  I just supervise.”

So if you want to feel better, perform better, be healthier, fit in your clothes better, firm up the flab, all these different goals I am helping people work toward every day, it’s going to be some work.  I, your personal trainer, am going to give you a heaping helping of healthy resources for you to choose from in your efforts to reach your goals.  Efforts!  There, I said it again.  (Change is only hard in the beginning, friends.  Healthy new habits become just as hard to break as unhealthy old ones.)

My support alone is not all you need.  You will face all kinds of challenges when we are not together.  You may or may not hear my voice in your head, or even care to remember what suggestions I have for overcoming different obstacles.  So where are your head and your heart in this?  Where are your family members and your friends and your coworkers in this?  Your support network…are they happy for you to spend time and energy (and yes, money) getting more healthy and more fit?

Maybe you are afraid that the people in your life, who you take great care of, will resent it if you take time to take great care of yourself.  You may be right.  But if they really care about you, you can set them straight with a simple discussion about how important it is to you to be healthier and stronger and more mentally clear.  It is, in turn, good for them when you feel better and are more productive.

Perhaps there are people in your life who habitually present you with unhealthy food choices when they know you are pursuing cleaner eating habits.  Maybe they just don’t understand how something different can be better for you.  Or you fear resentment may come your way, again, as turning down their food gifts is tantamount to turning down their love.  They may actually feel that way, too.

None of this stuff needs to go unsaid.  Open the door to communicating with the folks who are closest to you, and help them understand how great it would be for everyone to participate in supporting your health and wellness goals.  Does that mean you all have to exercise together?  Not necessarily, but that would be pretty terrific when it is possible.  Does that mean you all have to eat the same things?  Well, again that would be pretty special – especially if you are the one who is responsible for all the food prep in the house.  How much of a pain is it to make different meals for everybody, am I right?  Then, how much quality time are you spending with your loved ones if you spend all your time in the kitchen making everybody’s favorites?  I’m not suggesting that you never cater to your loved ones… it’s a fulfilling and fun thing to do.  But you deserve to receive some catering, too.

Straightforward conversations can eliminate so much of the guilt and conflict which can come from seemingly competing obligations.  Start with the topic of obligations and priorities.  Every individual, you and I and everyone else we know, needs to put his or her health on the top of the priority list in order for all the other obligations to get accomplished, and for all the good stuff in life to even be conceivable.  So many people say it… “When you’ve got your health, you’ve got everything.”  Hopefully you’ll get all the support you need to back that statement up with everyday healthy actions.

The Future of Our Fitness Profession


Twice in the last few weeks, I have heard a story from a client which I found deeply troubling. The story goes something like this:

“I was telling my doctor/friend/barber/etc. about working with a personal trainer. And he/she said to me, ‘The fastest way to get yourself injured is to work with a trainer.’ So should I be doing this?”

Sad but true. Personal trainers are often thought of as unreliable, unsafe, unethical, uneducated, unprofessional. Even by people in our profession! I once had a colleague, yes, a fellow personal trainer, wax on about how a high school graduate or a trained monkey could become a personal trainer and how disappointing it was to his parents that he chose to work in this field.


Also compelling was the informal survey done by an industry consultant with whom I’ve worked over the past few years. He asked friends of friends, people who were somewhat removed from direct association with his work, what they thought of personal trainers. He asked doctors, attorneys, captains of industry, fitness center owners (who employ, and thus generate revenue from, personal trainers), and so on… and the response was very similar to that expressed above.


I have been very fortunate to have been surrounded by supportive health professionals, business advisors, and communications experts from whom I have sponged up as much information as I could. The associations, educational organizations, and trade groups with which I have been affiliated maintain excellent standards of practice and codes of ethics which have lead me throughout my career. Most of my superiors and colleagues and employees over the years have embraced a “never-stop-learning-growing-exceeding expectations” philosophy in their work. People are putting their health in our hands, so while we may have a bunch fun and not take ourselves too seriously, we absolutely have to take our clients interests, needs, and unique abilities very seriously.

In the past, when I have taught personal training certification courses, I’ve sought to instill the importance of professional conduct and careful training protocols among my students. Frankly, the texts and the teachers cannot overemphasize such matters. Would I like to see personal training become a more regulated field, with an industry-wide standard of education and accountability? Yes, I’d have to say I would.

But lots of industries are well regulated and standardized, and yet people still have unfortunate experiences with those individuals who choose flaunt those standards for their own gain.
My job is to reduce your risk of injury, and to make sure you feel better when you walk out the door than when you walked in. Getting in the door is the hardest part, after all, so if you hold up that end of the deal then I’ll hold up mine. Will you completely avoid getting injured? Well, do you completely avoid getting injured when you exercise on your own or when you don’t exercise at all? Statistically, the answer is a resounding no.

But should you get injured, will you know how to discern the nature of your injury and know whether medical care is warranted? Will you know whether ice or heat or rest or compression or elevation are appropriate for your discomfort? Will you know how to modify your movement patterns to avoid inflaming the discomfort or even to improve its healing?

A great trainer will.

The fitness profession needs to be more professional, and I commit to being the change I want to see in my working world. And I’m proud to say I know and work with many other trainers who do likewise, and I am happy to share the many resources I have found so valuable toward that end. So there’s hope!

On another note: Check out Dr. Hyman’s newest videos and blogs in relation to his next UltraSimple Challenge if you want to jump start your health, your healing, and your weight control!

Time to Talk About Fitness and Weight Loss


The last Thursday of every month, a wonderful group of network-savvy woman head for the First City Club in downtown Savannah for the Women On The Move luncheon.  Just last Thursday, yours truly was the featured speaker for the monthly meeting.  It’s always a treat and a privilege for me to be invited to speak to an interested assembly about the work I love.  I consider myself a fitness educator, first and foremost, and this particular group was fully engaged in the topic and very curious and conversational, so we had a really great exchange.

What was the topic?  “How I Learned to Ignore TIME Magazine and Love Fitness.”  It’s a little takeoff on the “Dr. Strangelove” movie title.  (Thank you for being mature enough to remember it.)

Why ignore TIME Magazine?  Because their cover story on August 9, 2009 was, “Why Exercise Won’t Make You Thin.”  Was it timely to bring this story up again?  You bet it was.  Because on April 12, 2010 the New York Times ran a story entitled, “Weighing the Evidence on Exercise.”  Like the TIME article, the New York Times featured a quote by Eric Ravussin, professor and weight loss expert at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La.  The exact same quote.  Without attributing the quote to TIME, which is maddening.  (It is possible the quote was drawn directly from a summary statement in a research article Ravussin authored, but where was that citation?)

But wait, there’s more.  Back in August, when the TIME article was first released and it was the talk of the town among us personal trainers, my colleague Mark Lebos emailed Professor Ravussin and tore him up one side and down the other for making what we all agreed was a ridiculous statement.  Ravussin called Mark back within a few moments and told him he was misquoted and was spending a week on a media tour refuting the TIME story!


If you happen to read beyond the first two paragraphs of the New York Times story, you’ll see that they balance their conclusions in favor of exercise for weight management.

Please, read the TIME Magazine story, the response from the American Council on Exercise, and the New York Times story.  All the links are right here for you.  Look forward to your comments.
And if you’d like to hear all about my experiences and perspectives on this topic, invite me to speak to your group ;-)  J,8599,1914857-1,00.html and weight loss&st=cse&scp=1

Redefine Yourself


A few weeks ago, I found myself at an impromptu jam session with a self-taught pianist and a group of happy-to-listen-friends.  (Did y’all know I sing?  Well now you know.)  So these friends called me out to sing along in an improvisational manner with this improvisational piano player.

My response?  “Yikes.”

Whaddaya mean, they cried!  You’re a singer!  Make it up!

Yeah-but-yeah-but-yeah-but, I mumbled… and the moment passed.

I define myself as a performer, as a writer, an athlete, a daughter, a wife, a sister, a funny person, a good listener, and so on.  I was challenged to be a stream-of-consciousness singer, and passed on it.  This is going to sound silly, but I haven’t practiced improvising.  I have practiced stream-of-consciousness writing, so I’d be more comfortable stepping up to that call to action.  With that circumstance still on my mind, you can bet that I’ll be pushing myself and drilling my vocal improv exercises.

What on earth does this have to do with fitness, you ask?

I see a parallel between what I ask my clients to do every day, and what my friends were asking me to do.

I dare people every day to be stronger, or more enduring, or more balanced, than they think they are.  I believe in the progressive steps to get to where you are indeed stronger and more capable and more athletic than you ever thought you could be.  They work!  And many times just hearing that, “Yes You Can!” encouragement makes all the difference!

I believe there is an athlete in every one of us, we just find uniquely individual expressions of what an athlete is from one person to another.  When you develop that athlete within you, you feel a sense of physical power and prowess that informs your mental, emotional, and spiritual abilities in a very positive way.  Spillover, you could call it.

So I’m going to take a dose of my own medicine and try to get better at that which I feel unsure of.
What are you going to do to redefine yourself and get better?  Because yes, you can!  Look forward to your feedback.

Prepare For More


What do you need to effectively weight train?

I know, you’re thinking that I’m thinking the answer is, “A certified personal trainer.”  Nicely done.  It is absolutely true that a personal trainer will help you get the most out of your weight training.  Goal setting, program design, safe technique, measuring starting parameters and progress, motivation, all that is great.

But not quite what I was thinking.  So what does your body need in order to not only tolerate weight training, but to genuinely improve from it?

And how can you reduce your risk of injury due to weight training?

Prepare your body to function.

First… How’s your Mobility?

Do you have a functional level of pain-free range of motion in your joints and muscles?  Do you have muscles which are either too weak or too tight, inhibiting your pain-free range of motion?   If you have joint pain, get straight to a physical therapist or physician for a diagnosis before doing anything.
Myofascial release, range of motion exercises, dynamic stretching, static stretching, assisted stretching… all these, among others, can combine to help overcome immobility and prepare you for weight training.

Second… How’s your Stability?

If any of your joints are unstable, they are at risk of collapsing under the stress of additional weight.  If you’ve ever sprained your ankle, you know how unstable a joint can be!  Picture this… on top of a soccer ball, we try to balance a two by four, and on top of the two by four we try to balance a flat of bricks.  Teeter… totter… tumble….  Muscles tend to move awkwardly around unstable joints, and compensations can occur which can quickly lead to injuries.

Isometric exercises, balancing, reactive and eccentric exercises, core activation, scapular and pelvic stabilization… these are some of the techniques used to stabilize your joints, including your spine.  Corrective exercises will improve your ability to fire your muscles in the proper sequence and build your strength with the proper balance between opposing muscles groups.

Sounds complicated.  Sometimes it is.  But usually it isn’t all that complex and a personal trainer with functional training experience can help you make sense of it all.  (There’s the big plug!)  Expert help can make the difference between being dogged by injury and enjoying incredible strength, stamina and vitality.

On a Research Roll


Quite a lot of research is catching my eye while crossing my desk and my email inbox again this week.  Blogging pre-supposes that which interests me may interest you, so I submit to you the following digests:

This appeared in IDEA Fitness Journal… a recent animal study published in the journal Molecular Neurodegeneration concluded that mice fed a high protein diet had lighter brains.  Mice which were fed conventional, high-fat, and high-carbohydrate diets all had heavier brains than the mice with the high-protein/low-carbohydrate diet.  Researchers theorized that lower brain mass leaves neurons more vulnerable to the plaque buildup commonly associated with Alzheimer’s.

Personal Fitness Professional magazine reports on a study from the University of Missouri, where researchers found that exercising during weight regain can maintain improvements in metabolic health and disease risk.  Study participants followed a diet and aerobic exercise program for four to six months and achieved weight loss.  They then embarked on a specific weight regain program, with one group continuing to exercise and the other group prevented from exercising.  The sedentary regain group backtracked on all their measurements of metabolic health benefits.  However, the exercise regain group maintained their improvements in LDL and HDL cholesterol, VO2max, blood pressure, and glucose.  Their total blood cholesterol and abdominal fat did increase.

(I remember sitting in a symposium 10 years ago listening to a researcher insisting that being clinically obese is not directly linked to disease as much as inactivity is.  He displayed a slide of a woman who was easily 100 pounds overweight while he made that statement, and 90% of the fitness professionals in the room gasped at the same instant.  The point being, if that individual was exercising regularly, she was likely to be very healthy.  Yes, it’s true, people who are obese are most likely also sedentary.  But it’s the sedentary part that’s so very detrimental to your health!)

Also published in IDEA Fitness Journal…Ways to Win at Losing, From Top Athletes (from Energy to Burn: The Ultimate Food and Nutrition Guide to Fuel Your Active Life)…
  1. Don’t try any fad, crash, or omission-style diet.  Stick with a balanced approach that includes more unprocessed, high-fiber foods.
  2. Find your motivator (a photo of yourself, a tight pair of pants you’d like to fit into).
  3. Eat smaller, more frequent meals instead of two or three large ones.
  4. Organize your kitchen so that healthy foods are visible.
  5. Diet at night.  It’s easier to sleep through hunger than to be awake all day through it.
  6. Keep a food log.
  7. Fuel yourself adequately so you don’t have post-exercise pig-outs.
  8. Limit liquid calories.
  9. Get on the scale.  Better yet, have someone else weigh you weekly.
Be Well!

Research: Exercise Makes You Less Anxious


The things lab rats go through to illuminate our lives….  A report in the New York Times Magazine in November documented the results of a Princeton University study in which one group of rats was allowed to run, while another group was forbidden exercise.  Then the rats were forced to swim in cold water, which, like me, they hate doing.  The stress caused by the swim activated specific neurons in the brains of all the rats, but the brain cells of the running rats were less likely to show the stress-induced genes.

Studies from The University of Colorado, Boulder and The University of Houston have also examined rats under stressful conditions, and have found that exercising rats are calmer in the face of such circumstances than unexercised rats.

The conclusion scientists are drawing from these experiments is that moderate aerobic activity creates profound biochemical changes in brain chemistry, changes which promote the ability to handle stress with reduced anxiety.

“It looks more and more like the positive stress of exercise prepares cells and structures and pathways within the brain so that they’re more equipped to handle stress in other forms,” said Michael Hopkins, a graduate student affiliated with the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory Laboratory at Dartmouth, who has been studying how exercise differently affects thinking and emotion.

Bless these little rats for sacrificing their bodies and brains to confirm the “how” aspect of what many millions of consistent exercisers already know, and which non-exercisers have yet to experience:  Exercise keeps you sane.  You may have stress in your life, as we all do, but you are better equipped to react to it calmly.  Your heart, your head, and your body chemistry all thank you for exercising.

My friend and client, Susan, already knows this.  I told her years ago.  So when she gets overwhelmed with life, she leaves me a voicemail along the lines of, “This may seem like a crazy time to exercise but SOMEBODY told me once that exercise reduces stress!”

Hunching, hunching, hunching...


First at our desks, or on the phone, back in the days when phones sat only on our desks or our kitchen walls.  Watching television, at our computers, on our video games, driving our cars.  All this slouching and hunching.

Now we have handhelds for reading/messaging/browsing, and we’re hunched over them in total fascination as if we’re searching inside an oyster, one which is stuck fast to a countertop, for a very, very small pearl.  Since our handhelds are really quite lightweight, we could conceivably just hold them up a little higher.  However, we don’t.  So here comes another generation of individuals with chronic head, neck, and shoulder pain.  One which just doesn’t understand where this pain is coming from.  In a way, it’s a revenue generator and I shouldn’t complain.  But that’s an awfully savage way to look at it.

Here, while you are reading this do me a favor… straighten up and sit right.  I’m doing it while I’m writing this, honest, I swear!  Sit as though your back is up against a wall and your tailbone, shoulder blades, and back of your head are touching the wall.  (If you can’t imagine how that feels, go stand with your back up against a wall that way, and your feet about 6 to 10 inches forward from the wall.)  Lift your chest, get some space between your ribs and hips, and get some height between your ears and shoulders.

Admit it, that feels better.

The more often you catch yourself hunched over, the more you’ll correct yourself.  The more you correct yourself, the better your posture will be and the less slouch-inflicted head/neck/shoulder pain you will experience.  You could avoid upper-cross-syndrome, and lower-cross-syndrome, and other kinds of postural or eventual structural spinal instability. You could breathe better and feel better and move better, so much better, if you just straighten up.

Don’t let gravity, or your phone, get you down.