See Jane Struggle

Case Study #1:  Jane Doe

Status: Married

Children: 1

Average Hours spent at Work: 12hours, 6 days a week

Average meal: On the go; rarely homemade; quick and convenient; poor quality

Average time spent working out: 0

Spare time spent: sleeping, hanging out with child and husband

Jane has come to me for help because she desires to get fit and healthy but literally has no idea how to make it work into her schedule.

It’s important to mention that SHE seeks the help and not the other way around. Why? Because whenever getting healthy is forced upon someone, either by a family member or their doctor, I find it rarely works. You need to find your “want to.” Let’s assume Jane has found her “want to” and see how I would go about helping her.

Jane has 1 day out of the week that she is off work. She has literally 2 hours free that day to make time for just herself.

We all know that baby steps are the way to go with any goal. We start super small with Jane.

Suggestions – In order of Priority:

1. FOOD.

Take the 2 hours to prepare meals for the week. Why? Because, technically, you don’t need exercise to be healthy. Nutrition is probably 80% of any physique goal (I’m guessing based on my own experience and my clients and discussions with RD’s and Nutritionists).  So that makes DIET or as I like to call it MEAL PLANNING Jane’s top priority. The meals will be as natural and whole as could be. This means limited processed foods like no Hamburger Helper, no Mac and Cheese, no Granola bars thrown into a brown bag and calling it lunch. Nope. This won’t be anything fancy, but they will not be sugar, fat loaded meals either. High in protein, a vegetable with each meal, and good carbs.

  • What kinds of carbs will Jane have?

Rice (could be instant), oats (could be old fashioned heated up in the microwave) and sweet potatoes (they make those microwaveable too, no excuses!). What about breads and pastas? Well, bread alone has like 20 ingredients. And it’s just bread! How about filling up on better foods instead of boring old bread? And if Jane was a sandwich lover, she could look for Ezekial Bread or Wraps to cut back on the carbs. What about bagels? I can’t remember the last time I had a bagel. All I know is when I would eat them (at my office job, of course) I felt like I was biting into a loaf of bread and I immediately felt like I should go run a marathon to burn it off. Gross. Sorry bagel lovers but these things are almost as bad as donuts. It’s just too much volume and not enough nutrients!  Pasta is fine but can you measure out half a cup cooked? Because that’s the portion you can have. And she will be TRYING to measure out her portions. Small changes go a long way when you’re just starting out like Jane.

  • What about protein?

The proteins have to be foods she will actually eat. Let’s assume Jane isn’t too picky. The crock pot will be her new best friend. Put a bunch of stuff in a pot, set it, and leave it. That’s easy. Take some chicken breasts, put a little marinade on them, broil them in bulk. That takes 20 minutes. How about ground turkey? Brown it in a skillet, add some spices, done in about 15 minutes. Beef isn’t bad for us so stop spreading that rumor. Eggs are good for us too. Paranoid? Get some egg whites. Jane isn’t vegan but she can mix it up by having protein shakes for a snack or beans in place of an animal once in a while.

  • How about veggies?

Steam them. Takes about 15 minutes. Don’t have a steamer? Put them in the microwave with a little bit of water. Takes…ummm 10 minutes? I don’t know, I have a steamer. Invest in a steamer Jane! And they make frozen veggies steam-able in the microwave nowadays. How about raw veggies? Eat them. Get some dip. Don’t worry about the calories in the dip. Just eat them. Got a blender? Blend them. Put some protein powder in there, voila! Instant breakfast in about 60 seconds.

  • Don’t forget the fats!

Jane is going to prepare snacks for herself so she avoids the vending machine or gets tempted to go out to lunch with her co-workers where they like to have liquid lunches and cheesecake for dessert. She’ll pack up trail mixes herself with items like almonds, cashews, raisins, sunflower seeds, dried fruit. She’ll cook her veggies with coconut oil or olive oil. But she won’t freak out if all she has access to is PAM cooking spray. Again, small changes.

2. FITNESS.

Once she has established a routine where she takes those 2 hours on her one day off to prep her meals and make that her priority for at least a month (yes, a month if not longer), then I would suggest to Jane to start working out. Maybe not with me since she doesn’t seem to have the time to travel to the studio and back home/work. She would have to find ways to increase her activity on her own or with her son.

Is her son watching TV? Great. Pop in a workout DVD and make him do it too (he’s 8 years old so he’s mobile). But let’s say he’s way younger and just runs around the house like I hear 2 and 3 year-olds do all the time. Let’s say she has more than one child! What then? If they’re in diapers that means they take naps. If they take naps that means Jane can do something for 10 minutes, even if it’s just walking up and down the stairs until they wake up screaming (I hear this is what little kids do). If they are terrors, well…Jane calls a babysitter so she can get something done. Prioritize. This is important to Jane so she’s going to do whatever she can to keep going.

No workout DVD nearby? Jane makes up her own workout with her kid: She has a push up contest with him. She teaches  him how to squat (he’ll probably be able to get lower than her because kids have super human flexibility), jumping jacks, dance around the room. She asks him to show her what he did in gym class. She plays tag with him for 5 minutes. It really doesn’t matter. Jane is on her feet and that’s better than sitting at a desk like she just did for 12 hours.

3. FOCUS.

After Jane has increased her activity level, she is noticing a decrease in her stress level. She’s sleeping a little bit better, and she has more energy because she’s eating good food that’s helping her burn more fat. She’s lost a few pounds but nothing drastic. She wants to kick it up a notch. She still doesn’t have more time, still just 2 hours. But she has made small changes. She tries to get up 20 minutes earlier than normal to make herself a good breakfast. (This took her a long time to make a habit.)

She also spends this time alone before the kid gets up so she can focus. She has written down her goals and reads them in the morning, making a plan for how she’s going to accomplish them. It’s one thing to think them, it’s another thing to write them down and implement the changes. She writes down 3 things she wants to accomplish that day, none of which have anything to do with her job. Some days the list looks like this:

1. Drink 8 glasses of water

2. Walk 5,000 steps today

3. Make grocery list

Other days it looks like this:

1. Go for a walk during lunch break  Take a lunch break!!!

2. Skip Starbucks today; it’s not worth it!

3. Get in 20 walking lunges around the house while dinner is cooking

And some days it looks like this:

1. Throw out rotting lettuce in fridge!

2. Go to bed by 10pm tonight

3. Post fitness and health goals on Facebook today so I’ll be held accountable

When Jane is ready, maybe she comes to me one day a week for an hour to learn how to lift some weights. Or maybe I recommend some online training for her since time is limited for her. Or maybe she gets some free weights for her birthday from her family or trains for a 5K by running around her block when she is able.

She’ll do well. It might take longer than someone else. Maybe she’s only prepping her meals when she can but she tries. Maybe she goes through the drive-thru once a week but she’s making an effort. Maybe she ordered pizza for her and her family last night but her lunch is already packed up for the rest of the week.

She’s trying.

She’ll get there.

There’s hope for Jane.

 

Just a Taste…

Ahh sorry, this post has nothing to do with food as the title so blatantly suggests.  I know, I know, I just continue to disappoint.

No, when I say “Just a Taste” I mean getting a taste of Personal Training. One of my very intelligent clients (hello Lisa!) suggested that just one complimentary consultation and workout is sometimes not enough to get someone to truly appreciate the benefits of having a personal trainer.

They need a little more..just a taste…right?

I tended to agree with Lisa. After all, training is a big investment for most people. Some might say it’s a luxury to have a Personal Trainer. Although I wouldn’t like to classify myself as being something only luxurious or lucky or well-to-do people have, I suppose it’s true that I’m not exactly cheap. I wouldn’t WANT to be seen as cheap!

When I think of cheap in terms of fat loss or nutrition, I think of Slim Fast or Raspberry Ketones or those body wraps. Ya know, garbage. And I am most definitely not garbage. At least I don’t think I am. I might smell like garbage sometimes when I don’t shower right after a workout. But I swear that’s only for a couple hours and it’s only when I know I’m not going anywhere in public afterwards.

I digress…

So in an effort to promote this taste of me (ew, please don’t taste me) I’m offering a Try Me Before You Buy Me type of promo.

Alas, it’s only for people who train with me in person so sorry to my online friends. However, as I have mentioned previously, I offer a variety of affordable packages for Online Training that you can read about here if you’d like to still train with me virtually.

So for my Cleveland friends, here’s a little deal for the month of January for newbies: Buy 2 Sessions get 1 FREE! 

A 3-bie if you will. Three-bie. Like Freebie, get it?

So if you’d like to purchase this awesome deal, click this link and then click the link in there where it says “Buy Now.”  (Sorry I’m not savvy enough to put the HTML code in here directly.  Deal with it.)

So 3 sessions PLUS you still get a complimentary consultation so technically, it’s like 4 sessions for the price of 2.  Like a Four-bie.  4-bie. Okay no, that wordplay doesn’t work so well, does it?

Anyways, if you’re still not convinced that training with me would be a totally life changing experience, just read some nifty reviews about me on Thumbtack or Trainerize. And of course, if you want more information, I’m always available via email at FromFitToFigure@gmail.com, I’m all over Twitter and Facebook. And YouTube.

I am everywhere.

You cannot escape me.

See you in 2015, slim!

 

5 Bad Diet Habits to Stop Today

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This blog post originally appeared on Muscle is the New Sexy.

If you’ve been working out and lifting weights consistently but haven’t seen the scale or measurements budge lately, then it’s time to take a look at your diet plan.  As the common saying goes, “You can’t out-exercise a poor diet.”  As tempting as it is to say, “I’ll burn it off tomorrow” after we indulge in some cheesecake or donuts, it’s just not realistic to think one workout will help.  Take a look at these 5 Bad Habits and ask yourself if you’re guilty of one or more of them.  It could be the key to assisting you with your weight loss goals.

Eating at your Desk

I list this first because it’s probably one of the more unappealing and just plain gross habits we’ve become used to as of late.  In typical American fashion, we’re always in a hurry and no one seems to have time to sit down during the day and eat their meals.  This is why the grocery store aisles are loaded with quick and convenient “meals.”  But even if you have the best intentions and pack your meals everyday, there is still the problem of WHERE to eat your meal.  If you’re in a rush, your desk becomes the table.  With as many germs that are typically on a keyboard and office desk, this is not ideal to enjoy your lunch.  At the very least, choose a place to eat that is communal and intended to be eaten in, such as a cafeteria or break room.  Everyone is busy, and your job is important, but your health is much more important.  And getting crumbs in between the space bar is not attractive.

Scarfing Down your Food too Quickly

No one seems to enjoy their food anymore.  Not every meal needs to be an earth shattering experience.  But if you go to the trouble of cooking, or at least purchasing your food, why eat it like it’s going to be your last meal?  If you eat with intention and with purpose, you might find yourself eating slowly, thus, feeling fuller for a longer period of time.  Take time to taste every bite.  Some people even bless their food before they eat, ensuring they savor every morsel.  You know you’re going to eat again in a few hours.  There’s no need to rush!  Take frequent sips of water in between bites as well.  If you’re hanging with others, chat with them while you eat.  You should be too busy talking to eat so fast.

Skipping your Meals

There is still the misconception among dieters that in order to lose weight, you must skip some meals.  This is counterproductive.  Why?  Because if you start reducing your caloric intake so drastically, you’re just going to become even hungrier and most likely start gaining weight because you might double the size of your next meal.  If you are dieting, cutting back on the portion size is a better strategy than to skip a meal entirely.  The food you eat should be whole and natural as much as possible, not invisible.  An empty plate does not equal a lower number on the scale.

Drinking your Calories

Soda, pop, beer, wine, mixed drinks, juices.  All of these beverages would be considered poor options to hydrate you.  The best choice, of course, is water.  Even if you have a “stellar” diet, and you celebrate a few days a week with just a few drinks, you could be doing yourself a disservice.  For example, one Cosmopolitan has 145 calories in it, a Whiskey sour has 160 and a regular Beer has approximately 150.  Those calories really add up over time.  Reduce and cut back on these, and you might see a shift in your energy levels, better endurance in your workouts, and a change in the scale.   You should see an even bigger change when you increase your water throughout the day.  A good goal? Aim for half your bodyweight in ounces per day.

Opting for TV Dinners instead of Cooking

Boy Scouts aren’t the only ones who should always be prepared.  Adults need to have a plan.  It all starts with cooking.  Planning and cooking your  food might seem like a time consuming chore, but it really is the best way to ensure success with your health.  Maybe you know those tv dinners aren’t very good for you but you don’t know what else to eat.  And if you think those processed meals are “decent” for you, read the ingredient list.  There are usually more than 30 ingredients listed which is always a bad sign.  Learning to cook is worth it!  Take some cooking classes or have someone you know share some tips with you.  And cookbooks are cheap. I found one called “How to Cook” for $5. It really isn’t that difficult to bake some lean proteins and vegetables, cook up some hard boiled eggs, and heat up some leftovers for lunch.  You can even pick one day during the week to get all your cooking done so you’re prepared and ready to get on track with zero excuses.

If you’re guilty of one or more of these bad habits, make the decision today to stop and create better, healthier habits.  Pick one good habit to start and stick with it!   It might take weeks or even months to create the better habit, but it will be completely worth it and your body will thank you.

The Top 9 Pieces of Equipment for the Home Gym

Got a basement? Or a garage? Or some space that you want to fill with cool stuff?  If you want to look buff by Christmas you’re probably dreaming. But, if you want to get fit for life, you’ll need more than just a mat and a ball. Get with the times and get a few good pieces of equipment. Here are my top picks:

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1. Sandbag – My most favorite piece of equipment, ever. I purchased one a few years ago and what’s so awesome is that you can choose how heavy you want to make it. You purchase the bag, but you get the sand from a home improvement store. Of course, if you’re handy, you can just make your own bag I guess. There are tons of exercises you can do with this and it MIGHT be a good idea to get two so you can have a super heavy one and a lighter one for different exercises.

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2. Suspension Trainer – (also known as TRX) – TRX is the original creator of this mechanism and plenty of people have gotten on board, especially athletes like Drew Brees and a bunch of Mixed Martial Arts competitors. What’s so special about it? It uses your own bodyweight as resistance and you can manipulate every exercise to make it easier or more challenging. The foot cradles double as handles and plus…it just LOOKS badass when you’re training with it. The most advantageous part of it for you is that it’s extremely easy to use (takes about 10 seconds to hang it from a beam in your house or a doorway. Not to mention it’s lightweight and portable, which makes it perfect for people who travel and want to use it in their hotel rooms.

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3. Pull up Bar / Dip Stand – I bought this ages ago and continue to use it. I put these in one category although they are two different things. The pull up bar is easily installed in a doorway. The dip stand doubles as a pull up bar but moreso as a body row (pictured). You can also use the dip stand to do some hanging leg raises.  Although it’s not as portable as I would like, nothing beats a pull up as one of the most challenging upper body moves and you can get a great workout on these two.

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4. Stability Ball – I consider these the grandfather of all exercise equipment. Because probably everyone and your grandpa has one. Or knows someone who does. The reason? Stabilization is something everyone must work on. Plus, it’s completely versatile. You can sit on it, you can toss it, you can lean on it, you can lift it, you can lay on it. Just make sure you keep it pumped up air because once these things lose their air, they become UNstable.

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5. Kettlebell – It might look strange but it’s more than just a weird looking weight. This thing can be used to do anything a dumbbell can do but because of the handle, you can do more. You can swing it as I demonstrate here. You can raise it. You can hold it up and lower your body down to the ground. All kinds of torturous things! 🙂

 

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6. Medicine Ball – This is a ball that has weight. So as the stability ball is large and full of air, the medicine ball is small and full of…something. Sand? Whatever it is, it works like a charm, especially the ones with handles. Some of them are anti-bounce balls meaning they are used for more power moves. Others that are of the weight specified can be use to press, pull, twist, raise, and bounce for a variety of exercises.

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7. Powerblocks – I admit I have yet to purchase these but they are on my Christmas list. Why? I know they look strange but that multicolored block is the answer to just one set of weights that every home gym needs. In case you haven’t noticed, dumbbells are usually priced by the pound. So you can spend quite a bit of money on just one set of 5, 10, 12, and 15lb weights. Well, how about getting just two? That’s the magic behind the Poweblock. It’s an adjustable “block.” I also just noticed they make barbells and kettlebells. My Christmas list just got real big…

bosuball

8. Bosu Ball – This flying saucer, crazy blue half ball looking thing is awesome. It’s called a BOSU ball because BOth Sides are Utilized. You can balance on the blue side or the black side. You can put your hands on either side, your feet on either side, you can stand on it, sit on it, jump on it, lift it up, twist it across, anything and everything.

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9. A Timer and a Tracker – Not what you’d expect out of all this equipment on this list right? But when you workout you need a way to track and log your workouts. You could also use a really good timer when doing timed metabolic workouts. I recommend anything FREE because I’m cheap so I use the timer called Tabata Stopwatch Pro – Interval Timer. It allows you to choose different sounds for when you need to start and stop your exercises. This way, you’re not constantly looking at a clock or your watch or iPhone. As for logging your workouts, you can just use a document and save it online but I prefer the old fashioned pen and paper. I use a logbook I found on Amazon.com but you can just use a good old steno notebook. It doesn’t get much simpler than that!

 

I hope you find this list useful for building your own home gym. Keep this Wish List handy for the holidays and birthdays or after you reach a certain goal, perhaps you purchase a new piece of equipment for yourself!

 

 

 

Bad Habits of Personal Trainers: When to Fire Your PT

“You’re trying to kill me aren’t you?”

This isn’t a line from the latest thriller. This is a line I heard from a client to her Personal Trainer at a gym I frequent.

And I smiled as soon as I heard it. Why? Because I’ve been told this same thing from my clients. Of course it’s meant in jest. But it makes me smile because the client doesn’t think I’m trying to hurt them. They know I’m giving them a great workout. And they are secretly happy about it.

“So…what do you want to do today?”

This isn’t a line from a parent to their child. This isn’t even a line from a boyfriend to a girlfriend. This is a line from a Personal Trainer to their client.

And my jaw hit the floor as soon as I heard it. Why? Because a client doesn’t dictate a session. That’s like going to the hairdresser as she hands you the scissors, saying “Here ya go, have at it!”

I’m gonna cut to the chase. There are a lot of bad Personal Trainers out there. And this is not to say they are bad people. I’m talking about being bad at their job. (I don’t claim to be perfect. But I cringe to see people out there spending a ton of money on a sub-par service. Think of this as the Consumers Report on Personal Training).

Here are some observations I have seen myself from PT’s as well as feedback from friends who have had some unfortunate experiences. If your PT has any of these habits, it’s time to leave them.

1. They try to sell you a scam/quick fix

This is a big one in the competition world but could also be seen in the non-competitive fitness world. If your coach is constantly telling you about the latest weight loss shake or pills that they are affiliated with, it’s not only unethical in my opinion, it doesn’t take you into consideration. They might just be out to make a quick commission on a sale for some sham of a product they endorse. Or maybe they are part of an MLM scheme. Decline once and they should shut up about it. But if you keep declining and they keep persisting, they don’t care about getting you results, they care about making a quick buck. Tell them to take that shake and shove it.

2. They aren’t certified, they just play one on TV

This is probably number one on my list of pet peeves. I don’t like when someone claims to be something they are not. My fellow PT’s and I have studied, taken the courses, paid for the CEC’s and renewed our certs and pay for even more certifications so we can stay updated on the latest fitness and nutrition research. This isn’t easy! The first question you should ask someone selling training is “Are you certified?”  I don’t understand why people don’t think it’s a big deal to NOT be certified. If your trainer actually claims to be certified, ask them which organization they are certified through. It should be from an accredited organization listed here.  If it sounds like they paid $50 for some random course they took over a weekend, run away.

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3. They have no interest in your personal life but they want you to be interested in theirs

I’m all for chit chatting during a session with a client, as long as they are actually working out WHILE they chat. But if your PT doesn’t care to hear anything about what’s going on in your life and only wants to talk about themselves, that’s a problem. So much of Personal Training is also therapy, I don’t mind admitting. I like playing therapist sometimes. And so much of dieting and fitness is about the mind and mentality of making these changes. Well, when it’s time to workout, you shouldn’t hear your PT talking about anything other than the exercise you’re doing. When they aren’t talking, they should be listening to you and reacting to what you are saying, not the other way around.

4. They say “I don’t know” too many times

One of my pet peeves is getting questions from random people once they find out I’m a PT that are better suited for a physical therapist or doctor. While no one expects us to diagnose you with anything, your PT should have at least some basic knowledge of anatomy and the most common ways to strengthen muscles that have been torn/injured. At the very least, they should refer you to someone who does if they are completely clueless instead of guessing or making something up.

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5. You wanted someone to train you, you got a cheerleader instead

While you are in a consultation with a trainer (and before you hand over your credit card you BETTER have had a consult) you should really make sure you two mesh well together. If you WANT or expect someone to be a drill sergeant or cheerleader or someone to yell “Yeah you can do it! Keep it up!” then you better tell them that’s what you want. I am very upfront with my potential clients by saying outright “I don’t give false praise. And I’m not a yeller. I’m the anti-Jillian Michaels.” I guide, I talk, I motivate. But I never sit there and cheer you through a session. It’s lame, it’s embarrassing to everyone and it just sounds like we’re both trying way too hard. “Go go go Away!!”

6. They lack communication skills

This could be anything from never checking in on days you aren’t training, taking a very long time to ask a question (very common with online coaches), they don’t give good feedback, they cancel on you or seem distracted, etc. I have had clients that like to keep to themselves. They didn’t want nor ask for anyone to check in with them on their off days. That’s fine for those who can survive on their own, but most people I train really appreciate a text or email here and there to see how it’s going. I’ve had bad coaches online who took over a week to answer one simple question. It should never take that long to reply. If you have an online coach, make sure you understand how they plan to communicate with you during your training. They should tell you outright when they expect to hear from you and vice versa. And if your current trainer cancels on you more than once a month, or they just lack general courtesy as far as communication is concerned, send them a text: “We are done.”

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7. Their clients look the same or rebound easily/They have zero success stories

If you haven’t invested in a trainer yet, if possible, ask for the contact information for their current or former clients. This is usually encouraged with online coaching since you can’t physically see them in person. But if you’re considering a trainer at a gym, take a look at how they train their clients. Are they paying attention or are they staring off into space? Are they engaged with their clients or do they look completely bored? Do they have their clients do the same exercises even though they are all different body shapes? Are they on their phones or are they spotting and instructing their clients with great detail? I think it’s easy to spot the red flags in these scenarios. And if their current or former clients have less than stellar reviews, keep PT shopping.

8. They talk the talk but waddle when they walk

Okay so I sorta just made that saying up. But you know what I mean: They don’t appear as if they take their job too seriously. Now, this is a touchy subject since I myself wasn’t exactly the epitome of fitness a couple years ago. Do I think it prevented me from getting clients? No…But I think if your PT is trying to tell you eat a certain way or gives advice on how to achieve a certain look and then turns around and downs a 6 pack of beer on any given Friday, is that really someone you want to look up to? Is this the person who is going to help you turn your life around and lose weight/transform your body? It’s something you should consider if you are looking for them to keep you motivated and inspired.

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9. They do the same workouts with ALL their clients

So let’s say you see a certain trainer always does the same metabolic workouts with their clients. They got all the cool tools like battling ropes and the big tire and the heavy medicine balls. “Hey that looks like fun!”  Of course it does! But you know what’s not fun? Doing the exact same workout every week. What about weight training or bodyweight circuits? Or what about some core exercises or implementing some balance and functional movements? If they are a one-trick pony, that might be a warning that that is all they know. It’s not to say they are dumb. They might just lack experience. But if you see this pattern repeated literally every week, time to find someone who has more than 6 exercises in their rolodex of workouts. (I stole that term from my friend Tess and I bet she doesn’t remember. But that’s the first thing she said to me when I met her my first day on the job as a trainer. Thanks Tess!)

10. They never explain WHY you’re performing an exercise

Some clients don’t really care about the why. Some just want their butt kicked and walk out of the gym sweatier than when they walked in. Fair enough. But most trainers SHOULD explain what the exercise is, what body part it works and why you’re training it. They should also be monitoring your progress to hold you accountable as well as explain the method to their process for training you. For example, when my client was about to run her half marathon, we took the lower body workouts down a notch and went with lighter weights and higher reps as opposed to lifting heavy. For a client who has a bad knee due to previous surgery and a tear, we don’t do exercises that put all the pressure on that injured knee. We do exercises to strengthen the muscles around it without causing more pain. So if you’re getting a bunch of “Here, do this” with zero explanation, ask them to explain why you are paying so much for a mediocre product.


If you have a trainer currently, ask yourself if they have engaged in any of these bad habits. Before firing them, you can have a conversation with them about these issues.

Heck, print this out and hand it to them if you want. Give them my name, I’ll set them straight. 😉 But if they say good riddance to you, I’m happy to take you on as a client.

Just don’t expect me to cheer.

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Michelle can be reached at @FromFitToFigure on Twitter; Michelle Piccolo Personal Trainer on Facebook and FromFitToFigure@gmail.com

Change Your Plate: How to Balance Your Meals Without Worry

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Are your meals balanced?  Today, with all the nutrition information out there, it’s very easy to over think how to eat healthy and balanced.  Everyone seems to have  their own definition of eating “clean” and their own opinion on how to everyone else should be eating too.

The best advice I give my clients is this:   The best “diet” or meal plan is the one that works for you and you can live with.  Once you figure out that balance, it’s easy.  But figuring out what that is for you can be a very long and tedious process.  But if you strive to have balanced meals, you’re off to a great start.  Here are some basic steps you can take to get started.

First off, let’s define what balanced means.  For me, and for most people, balance means all macronutrients are present and accounted for – Fats, Protein, and Carbohydrates.

Some people really aren’t aware of what is considered a protein, a fat, or a carb so here are some examples in case you’re a little behind in Nutrition 101.

Fats – olive oil, nuts, avocado, nut butters, coconut oil, butter

Protein – fish, chicken, turkey, pork, beef, eggs

Carbs – fruits, veggies, breads, cereals, grains, oats, rice, pasta

How much of each is going to depend on your goals. But here are some general guidelines I try to follow:

  • Protein should be the size of your palm – this is a very generic rule but it’s universally accepted as the norm.  Take a look at your protein on your plate and compare it to your palm.  Is it close?  Is it way off?  Make adjustments and dig in!
  • Carbs should be in the form of veggies/greens – This is usually a salad or a piece of fruit.  Are you getting the recommended daily intake of 7-9 servings of fruit and veggies?  Most people don’t.  Just remember, no  one ever overdosed on veggies.
  • Fats are usually used as the cooking oils or dressings so they shouldn’t take up too much of your plate – Fats don’t make us fat.  They help make us feel full and we need those good healthy fats that contain omega-3’s.  Don’t ever be afraid of fat!
  • Your greens/veggies should take up a large portion of your plate.  Think of them as filler, literally filling up on veggies before you even stick a fork and knife in your protein
  • Your protein should take up the rest of the plate living very little room for “extras.”  I go over what those Extras are below.
  • Ask yourself if all macronutrients are accounted for.  What are you missing?  How can you replace something that’s missing?
  • If you’re already eating balanced, it might be a good idea to weigh and measure you food.  Many people use the “eye-ball” approach a bit too much and could be consuming more (or in some cases LESS) than what they think they’re eating.  Invest in a food scale and start measuring out your portions.  It’s an excellent way to review what you’ve been taking in and a small way to hold yourself accountable to sticking with your plan.

Eliminate the Extras

Think of “extras” as those foods that have little to no nutritional value.  Almost like decorations on a plate.  If you don’t care about having much balance on your plate, then go ahead and eat these.  But if you really want to strive for 90% balance, it might help to cut back or completely eliminate these “special occasion” foods.

  • Rolls, biscuits, breadsticks, muffins, etc.  You usually find these on the dinner table at restaurants before you even order your entree.  Not necessary to fill up on these!
  • Alcohol, sugary sodas, diet pop, juices.  You really want to think of these as “once-in-a-while” treats and never your beverage of choice.
  • Sauces, syrups, creamy dressings.  Find healthy alternatives or make your own.
  • 100 Calorie Snack packs.  Why are these considered extras?  Because I’d be willing to bet you’ve had more than 1 of these snacks in a given day.  They don’t fill you up because they contain little nutritional value and usually no protein.  Protein will help you stay fuller longer, whereas pre-packaged snacks leave you wanting more.

And don’t forget….

  • Where’s your water? Hydration should be a staple in your daily routine
  • Don’t scarf down your food.  Eat slowly and enjoy the meals that you make.  If you must, set a timer for 20 minutes and force yourself to eat slower.  You’ll be glad you did!
  • Think of each meal as a food opportunity.  Will your next opportunity get you one step closer to your goals?  Or will it deter from your goals?  Think and choose wisely.
  • How big is your plate?  If you’re eating your meals on a huge plate, chances are you try to fill that plate with food leaving no spaces in between.  Consider eating off of a smaller plate.  It can be a visual game changer!

A couple examples of balanced meals would be:

  • Grilled chicken breast on a bed of greens and a side of brown rice.  The salad is dressed with an oil based dressing.  The chicken is the protein, your salad/greens as well as the brown rice are your carbs and your salad dressing is the fat.
  • Egg white and Whole Egg omelet with spinach and sauteed in coconut oil with a side of oatmeal.  Your eggs and egg whites are your protein, your fat is the coconut oil and your carb is the oatmeal and the spinach.
  •  Even snacks can easily be balanced – Yogurt with some nut butter mixed in and a piece of fruit.  Yogurt is your protein, nut butter is your fat and the fruit is your carb.

Take these simple steps and make your meals balanced every time.  Once you get some practice preparing and logging your meals, it will become second nature.  Remember, eating should be a stress-free part of your day.  If you get off-balance, no need to worry.  Make your next meal as balanced as you can, and get back on track.  Print this post out and put it on your fridge.  Keep it with you or save it to your phone and refer to it the next time you’re trying to stay balanced.

Need help finding out how much you should be eating for your goals? I offer online coaching to assist you with this. Check out my package offerings to see which might work best for you!