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March 27, 2009

On Attitude Adjustments and the Perils of Overtraining

3325186785_f433290efe_m I've been eating healthy and being active for about a month and a half now and last week, when I stepped on the dreaded scale, I didn't get the results I'd been hoping for. It turns out that as I've gotten more fit, I need to bump my cardio up a notch in order to get the same results I had in the beginning of my training. Instead of focusing on the positive - my overall fitness level was increasing and I had still dropped pounds, I took it as a mandate that I wasn't working hard enough and ended up overdoing it. The Green Mountain fitness manager was hesitant to give me a set amount of time to do my cardio, saying that she didn't want to me to become an "over-exerciser." "Ha! There's no risk of that happening," I told her.

But over the weekend, I proceeded to run on the treadmill and walk several miles more a day than I was used to in an effort to "kick it up a notch." By Monday, I could barely walk. I wanted to write about overtraining, since it's surprisingly easy to slip into and there's a common misconception that we need to exercise strenuously every day in order to see results.

But here's why that kind of thinking is destructive. Unrealistic expectations make training stressful and can make you feel guilty if you're not "doing enough." Overtraining can also lead to injury or other health problems that can make us inactive for a long period of time to recover.

Here are a few tips that the Green Mountain trainers use to prevent overtraining:

  • Practice moderation in intensity, duration and frequency of workouts
  • Progress (or kick it up a notch) slowly, at a rate that's appropriate to your fitness level
  • Try to reduce your overall stress
  • Alternate higher intensity workout days with easier days
  • Keep in mind that rest is important for your body
  • Mix it up with a variety of activities such as pool exercises, circuit training or intervals

Have you ever over-trained? How did you change your thinking to get back on a healthy routine?

Photo by lu_lu via flickr.

Posted by Emily on March 27, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 20, 2009

In Pursuit of a Healthy Weight: One Woman's Green Mountain Experience

3293903618_273fdc0958 Today's post comes from Beverly Dame of Lyndonville, Vermont. After staying at Green Mountain at Fox Run for a week, she wrote a letter to friends and family to explain her experience with our program. We're sharing parts of it here to give women an idea the kind of changes that they can expect when they begin to make themselves a priority. Thanks for sharing, Beverly!

It has been almost a week since I came home from my week at Green Mountain at Fox Run.  It was such a wonderful experience (life-changing, paradigm-shifting, revelatory) that I want to write about it. Women come from all over the country and the world to stay at Green Mountain.  Honolulu, Hawaii; Chicago, Illinois; Alexandria, Virginia; Kingston, Ontario; Montreal, Quebec; northern Georgia; Brooklyn and Manhattan, New York; New Haven and New Canaan, Connecticut; and Croatia all had women there.  Young women in their 20s and women like me in their 60s and in between.  All had been dealing with food and body issues for most of their lives.  Some like me were staying for one week; many for two and a few lucky ones for a month or more. What we came for was a comprehensive way of dealing with the size and shape of our bodies.  Notice, I’m avoiding the use of the word “weight.”  

At Green Mountain it is about mindfulness: being aware and in the moment as we confront choices about food, exercise and responses to all the stresses of daily life. The week combined classes and discussion groups with exercise opportunities.  Women who are in their first week have “required” classes including: fitness soul search: the return to intrinsic movement; are you ready for change? Introduction to the behavior component and to mindfulness; the principles of mindful eating; redefining healthy eating; and understanding the emotions that lead you to eat. 

I was most impressed by the time and attention the program and staff devoted to sending each one of us home with the materials and support to put all we learned into daily practice.  Including the idea that as far as exercise and mindful eating goes, “Something is better than nothing,” and “there will be days.”  

We identified the energizing people in our lives and the energy-drainers and talked about how to deal with them.  I came up with strategies for dealing with dreaded cocktail parties.  I paid for an extra session with the fitness director.  We put together a weekly plan combining weight training and cardio. 

I also came away with human support.  There were six of us of about the same age who formed a group that I loosely dub the “Green Mountain Girls.” Sorry Ethan Allen.  We’re emailing each other with support and understanding.  Staff encourage us to stay in touch with questions.  I’m to check in with my fitness guru at the end of the week after we return from France.  She also gave me hints and suggestions for working out while traveling even if the hotel doesn’t have a gym.  

Before going I would weigh myself every day; how demoralizing, depressing and defeatist.  I’m working on unlearning that habit.  Told myself this morning that I could get on the scale but why?  I’ve been exercising every day, working on eating more slowly, and having a balanced snack in the afternoon to keep from getting too hungry.  And I did well at two eating out occasions this week.  All of that is really more important for my long-term health and success than a number on a scale. 

How is Beverly doing today, about one month after returning home from Green Mountain?
"I'm trying to stay off the scale.  Hard, hard, hard.  I know there's a lot of psychological baggage going on with wanting to weigh myself every day. 

I think the hardest thing to is being in charge of my eating.  I do the cooking and have been trying new healthful things (actually had bison burgers last night) but I can feel that my speed of eating has increased.  Need to start putting down that fork or spoon between bites.

And my husband and I need to set a time for an evening meal.  He's a chaotic eater and I'm a dieter.  Not a match made in Green Mountain heaven.  Of course, tonight there is a business dinner which always is a challenge.

The one thing that is much better is that I've stopped beating up on myself for my size and weight.  Actually, I'm finding out that there is more to life.

Posted by Emily on March 20, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 02, 2009

Busy? Get Your Total Body Strength in an Hour

3257426747_57112409a1_m When you're juggling your schedule, it can be hard to squeeze time in for physical activity. Strength training at least two to three times per week can help you build and maintain muscle, which is associated with a faster metabolism. You can use this one-hour program designed by Jennifer Ricupero, Green Mountain at Fox Run's fitness manager, to get your total body strength training. Use either free weights or SPRI-tubes. SPRI-tubes are great for travelers, since they fit into your suitcase. Even if you're not on the road, switching between the two can add variety to your regular routine. "Using SPRI-tubes for strength training also kicks it up a notch because they work on strength and endurance throughout each muscle's range of motion," says Ricupero.

Equipment: A mat, chair or FitBall, low/high weights or SPRI-tubes for upper body. Need equipment? Order online from our Healthy Lifestyle Shop.
General Guidelines:

  1. Warm up and stretch before training.
  2. Stretch the muscle group you worked after each exercise set.
  3. Change your resistance with SPRI-tubes by spreading feet further apart or go to a higher resistance color.
  4. Keep a rhythmic count for all strength moves using a 3-4 count up and down for full range of motion.
  5. Keep wrists straight and neck light through all movements
  6. Breathe on the exertion phase.
  7. Check your form. Improper form can lead to injury.

Perform 2 sets of 15 repetitions of the following:

Congratulate yourself for completing a total body strength workout. You just increased your lean muscle mass!

Photo by ggvic via flickr.

Posted by Emily on March 2, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 13, 2009

Healthy Lifestyles: When Your Sweetie Doesn't Sweat

As you can see from our posts this week, love is in the air these days. But relationships are always a tricky combination of contradiction and compromise. How can they affect our motivation to maintain a healthy lifestyle? A recent article in the New York Examiner got me thinking about how a significant other can influence our fitness goals. Maybe you go running together and keep each other on track. On the other hand, maybe your partner doesn't exercise much or is always bringing junk food into the house.

Taking responsibility for your choices is a first step. You don't have to eat the bag of chips left over from the Superbowl party or your husband's stash of candy bars just because they're there. Marsha recently wrote about resisting temptation through mindful eating and tuning into our own hunger. But if you do go for the candy bars just remember, it's your choice, not anybody else's.

Next, "how about focusing on the positive ways partnerships can help you on your way to successful weight loss," writes Examiner dietician Nicole Anziani. "In terms of exercise, this can be a fun way to spark up your relationship." And there are plenty of ways to get fit as a couple other than rocking the treadmill side by side, romantic as it sounds. Anziani suggests dance classes, a walk with the dog or taking up a team sport.

If you have different fitness routines or your partner is still a couch potato, workout with a friend or take it as your alone time to unwind. Just be sure to make it clear to your significant other that physical activity is a priority for you and you'll need their support to stay healthy.

See also: Jane Black's fascinating article about couples with different eating habits in the Washington Post.

Photo by banalities via flickr.

Posted by Emily on February 13, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 04, 2009

Healthy Lifestyles: Staying Motivated to Move

I thought I'd entertain myself today and put up on our blog the first version of the FitBriefing Putting the Pizzazz Back into Your Exercise Routine that we posted this week on our women's healthy weight loss website.  Hope some of you enjoy (or even recognize) my attempts at humor.

21597721_38562709 It happens to the best of us.  One day, we’re lovin’ our physical activity routine; the next, frankly, we’re bored, bored, bored.  If we have to do that again (whatever that is), we’d rather not do anything at all.  What’s a fool for fitness to do?

Go to the pros.  Yeah, we know you’re good, but not that good.  We mean go check out instructors and personal trainers at the local health club. You’ll see them revamping cardio on the treadmill or elliptical with five minutes at a steady pace, bumped up for the next five to a challengingly intense level, then bringing it back down again.  Besides mixing it up, cardio interval training increases cardiovascular endurance, too. 

Or, they’re handing out Power Bars (no, not those; the weight lifting kind) and/or resistance tubing.  Bonus: More creativity in movements and more flexibility (ok, we know they’re rubber tubing; we mean you can adjust the degree of resistance just by moving your feet on the band wider or closer together.)

They’re shaking their booty a lot, too.  Kickboxing’s still fun, but sassy dance classes like Hip Hop Funk or Salsa Step get your hips moving like they haven’t since, well, Saturday night.  Do you work up a sweat?  Remember Saturday night?

Go Jane.  You know, Jane Fonda – the technology queen.  (No, we’re not stuck back in the 80s, just couldn’t think of any other way to creatively turn the subject to technology.  Jane was basically responsible for taking exercise videos, the technology of that time, mainstream.  This is sad having to explain all this.  I obviously need to think of another segue.)

All that is lead-up to the fact that there’s a whole new world waiting for us if we’re on to today’s technology.  Like iPods – from tiny ones you barely know are there to ones with touchpads that offer all kinds of extras — that put the beat back into working out.  Jam out to your favorite sounds by building playlists of warm-up, high-intensity and cool-down tunes.  Or, if you’re like me, you use them to listen books on tapes while exercising (maybe doesn’t sound very exciting but, hey, I like books a lot).

Nike+ shoes, along with the Nike + iPod Sport Kit or Sensor, tracks your runs to tell you time, distance, pace and calories burned (but you can forget that last part. We don’t count calories – either eaten or burned – at Green Mountain).  Also gives you that feedback both halfway and in the final approach to your goal.  (That sounds so focused; it was obviously written by someone who puts songs in her iPod instead of audiobooks.  I forgot to mention that Jennifer on our fitness staff provided the meat for this post.)  Then, ta da, you can even load the details into your computer!  So?  You can throw away that old exercise journal, that one over there in the corner.  See it?  The one all covered with dust.

Save money, too!
No, that wasn’t a ploy for your attention.  You really can save money by turning to YouTube to try different forms of exercise without a financial commitment.  YouTube is full of short ‘videos’ of aerobic or strength classes.  They’re not all worth watching, though; some give incorrect advice.  Look for those produced by a certified fitness professional.

The options are many for mixing it up to keep the fun in physical activity to reach your fitness and health goals.  Try something new today!


Posted by Marsha on February 4, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 23, 2009

Your Healthy Lifestyle: Are Snowshoes in Your Future?

 Women-snowshoe We received the following write-up from Kim Lung, one of our Green Mountain alumnae, who, like several of us on staff, is a snowshoe addict (well, not that extreme, but she loves it!).

Snowshoeing is a fun, easy addition to a healthy lifestyle that helps you enjoy the delights of the season.  Unlike cross-country skiing which requires a certain amount of skill, balance and athletic ability, snowshoeing is much easier than you might think, and the impact to your knees is less than you might expect. Further, the right snowshoe makes a huge difference in your experience. I’ve compiled some information that can save time and money in selecting snowshoes that will ensure you have fun while you enjoy the snow.

The three big considerations when renting or buying snowshoes is gender, weight and the typical terrain you will snowshoe.  All snowshoes have weight restrictions based on the size of the frame. If you weigh over 180 lbs., you will need a snowshoe that is at least 33-36 inches long. Generally, the greater the weight, the longer the snowshoe for what is called in the industry 'float,' or walking on top of the snow (yes, all snowshoes will sink in fluffy powder but less so with a larger surface area). Also if you are concerned with stability, select a men’s snowshoe because they are a bit wider than woman’s and they keep you on top of the snow a bit better, especially in fluffy, light snow.  

If you only go on groomed trails, you can use smaller shoes with aggressive teeth (crampons) that bite into the ice and densely packed snow. These small sporty snowshoes (around 18-30 inches) will not work as well on powder or fresh snowfall and you may sink down and discover the hardest workout you will ever hope to survive. (I’ve done this, so I know.)

Be sure to check out the binding mechanism, too.  Some snowshoes pivot, causing the snow to flip up off the back when walking. I prefer the type that drags along the snow and doesn't flip up when you bring your leg forward (similar to a flip flop).  This flipping whips snow up the back of your pants and eventually often makes it to the back of your jacket. The non-flipping kind, called floaters, also make it easier to climb over objects because you can move your foot through its full range of motion and engage the teeth better going over logs or up a steep grade.

As far as price, get last year’s model. You can find huge savings on the internet for discontinued models, and all descriptions usually include enough information to ensure you're getting the correct one for you. Don’t spend extra on upgraded bindings. I found them all to be a pain to use, and one was not better than another in the eight pairs of snowshoes that I went through. Columbia makes snow boots that already have the groove for the bindings, but any boot with a firm rubber sole will work well. A nice wide snow boot also improves your ability to float on the snow and keeps your feet from getting cold. Ski poles improve your balance and help you keep a rhythm.  They also provide a means to get some upper body resistance training. Plus, they're invaluable when you fall down and are trying to get up. Get them, they are worth the additional money. Most have interchangeable tips so they can be used for hiking in the summer as well.

Tubbs SnowshoeOne final word of advice. When snowshoeing, try to mimic your natural stride. Keeping your knees stiff and swinging your legs from the hip will cause extreme discomfort when you try to get out of bed the next morning. Practice on a level surface for a bit first till you get comfortable and then hit the great white expanse.

Oh, yeah.  Don't forget to have fun!  Getting out in the woods on snowshoes in the middle of winter, amid nature and its quiet beauty, is awe-inspiring and rejuvenating!

Check out the Tubbs snowshoe site for info on how to dress for snowshoeing as well as basic how-to tips and health benefits.

Posted by Marsha on January 23, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 07, 2009

For Healthy Lifestyles: New Year's Resolutions We Can Live With

957450_bulls-eye I can now confess I have recently developed a new addiction, although it's one I think I am coming to terms with.  It's called Twitter, a social networking site that has been a lot of fun over the holidays.  If you're on Twitter, follow me at http://twitter.com/MarshaHudnall.

How does this relate to the title of this post?  I found through Twitter an interesting blog Healthbuzz by Jim, MD, which is composed of podcasts on a variety of health subjects.  The post that grabbed my attention was on New Year's Resolutions.  Dr. Jim acknowledged that while a focus on healthy eating and staying active would have the most impact on our health in the new year, it's a hard task for many of us.  So he came up with seven healthy lifestyle resolutions that are easier to follow and still offer a lot for our well-being.

  • Have fun & de-stress.  It's obvious why this helps our health.
  • Take care of oral hygiene.  Seems poor oral hygiene can raise risk for heart attack.
  • Start working crossword puzzles.  Keeps the mind nimble. 
  • Indulge in a little red wine daily.   The antioxidants therein provide some important health benefits. (Dr. Jim emphasizes 'a little.') 
  • Stop the cycle of snoring.  Affects both your and your sleeping partner's sleep.
  • Don't skip the seatbelt -- ever.  Ditto my comment on the first bullet.
  • Check your ergonomics. Especially for those of us almost permanently attached to the computer. 

So keep up those fitness and diet (healthy eating, that is, not weight loss diet) efforts, but when you feel like you're going around in circles with that, focus on the above for a little positive feedback in the form of success at these sometimes easier efforts.  And listen to Dr. Jim's whole spiel about them for his complete take on the subject. 
Happy New Year!

Posted by Marsha on January 7, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 17, 2008

Women's Weight Loss: 'Tis the Season to Be Kind

I had a wonderful interaction with a family member this morning.  Amazingly, it was echoed in my horoscope today on DailyOM, the site I've mentioned before that is often uncannily relevant to what's going on in my life.  Won't get into the generality of horoscopes -- I know they often can apply to anyone. But the words I get in a daily e-letter from DailyOM seem to go beyond that.

But to my real reason for even mentioning this. The horoscope talks about doing something for others with a 'kind and open heart.'  It brought to mind for me the need for women struggling with body image and healthy weight loss and maintenance to be kind to themselves.  Because once we begin to treat ourselves gently, we find we can treat others much more gently -- especially those with similar struggles. And when it comes to healthy lifestyle management, fitness and diet, there's a real need for gentle treatment.  

Of course, one of the things we're most tough on ourselves about during the holiday season is our desire to eat all the great treats of the season -- and our indulgence in doing it. So it bears repeating on this blog that is all about learning to take care of ourselves well, that indulgence is good for us in moderation.  So go ahead, indulge!  Here are a few tips from our article "Go Ahead, Indulge!" that talks about holiday overeating.

  • Feed yourself.
  • Be choosy.
  • Eat mindfully.
  • Cultivate a discriminating palate. 
  • Keep moving. 
  • Enjoy the season!  
For details on doing all that, read our Fitbriefing that defines healthy weight loss foods a bit differently.

Posted by Marsha on December 17, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 12, 2008

Fitting in Fitness during the Holiday Season

Run-run-rudolph It's a common theme during the holiday season:  "I have so much to do, how will I ever stay with my fitness plan?"  It's true; we commonly overcommit ourselves during this time which means, for many of us, that we turn self-care into a luxury instead of a priority.

If keeping your healthy weight loss program going is an overall goal, there's another commonality during this time.  Experts agree that we will do better by putting weight loss goals on hold; just aim for maintenance.  Given that many of us gain weight during the holidays, preventing holiday weight gain is a step forward.  

But back to the fitness issue.  Our most recent FitBriefing "Run, Run, Rudolph" gives some timely tips for keeping your fitness program going right now.  Experts agree making a holiday fitness plan is key to succeeding.  A snippet from the article:

Making a Holiday Fitness Plan

First step:Add fitness to your “To Do” list.
Second step:Re-work your goals – are they realistic? Think maintenance.
Third step:Acknowledge you have to be flexible because you have less time available.

Read the whole article (it's short) for strategies for making or keeping fitness part of your life during busy times.

Posted by Marsha on December 12, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 05, 2008

Health and Fitness: The Rhythm is Gonna Getcha

Blog music fitness I had a lot of cleaning and organizing to do yesterday evening, and I wasn’t exactly in the mood for it. But, I can put those things on the back burner for so long, so I put on my most upbeat playlist, kicked off my shoes, and began to tackle the job. Before I knew it, I was throwing in a little air guitar here, a few salsa steps there, and by the time I was finished "cleaning," I had broken into a full-blown sweat.

Music has the ability to influence mood in a major way, but can it do more than just bring us out of a slump? According to a study done at the University of Plymouth, it may be able to aid us in our quest for improving fitness and health. The study suggests that fast, loud music might be played to enhance optimal exercising. Gloria Estefan sure wasn’t kidding when she claimed, "The rhythm is gonna getcha." So crank your favorite high-energy songs and let the tunes take your workout to new heights. Though it may not help us improve mindful eating, music may be an effective avenue to a more  healthy lifestyle!

Posted by meredith beckman on December 5, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack