Healthy Holidays: Fitting Fitness In and Healthier Holiday Eating

What would the holidays be without friends and family, lots of laughter, and plenty of festive food and drink? But did you know you can have all this and still be healthy?

Here are tips that will help you successfully sail through the holidays without sacrificing your healthy lifestyle.

  How to Fit In Exercise When You Don’t Have Time

 If at all possible, get moving for an hour a day, four to five days a week during the holidays to help compensate for the extra calories you’ll be consuming. A brisk walk, run, or bike ride will burn calories, relieve stress and elevate your endorphins and mood. If you have to miss a workout, simply increase your daily activities (shopping, cleaning, gardening, etc.). If you’re unable to do a full workout here are some tips:

20 minute interval: To begin, warm up for two minutes, then pick up the pace, doing 15 seconds at a very high intensity level and then slowing down for 30-second intervals. Do this for approximately sixteen minutes and then slow it down for good, using the last two minutes to cool down.

Workday Workouts

Take a 10 minute break (in fact, take a lot of breaks!) during the day and give these a try:

1. Take a brisk walk: Change into a pair of sneakers and take a swift walk around the block can invigorate your muscles and get your heart rate up.

2. Take the stairs: This is a fantastic way to improve your cardio fitness, not to mention build up your legs and glutes. So skip the elevator, and walk up those stairs. Try this several times a day, so it adds up to 10 minutes.

3. When you’re on the phone, try these exercises:
-Stand up and walk around as much as possible.
-Calf raises by lifting your heels off the floor 15-25 times, pausing momentarily at the top.
-1/2 squats or lunges while holding onto your chair for balance (works your thighs, glutes and helps to increase circulation).

Weight training techniques to shorten yet maximize your workout

Do Supersets. Training two different muscle groups (most commonly, antagonistic body parts) with little or no rest between sets is called supersetting. You train one body part – say, biceps – and as soon as you’re done with a set, you jump right into an exercise for triceps. You alternate back and forth, resting one body part while blasting the other. This technique both fatigues the muscles faster and moves you through your workout at a pretty good clip.

Rest minimally. This also steps up intensity. Since the goal is to reduce your overall time in the gym, down time shouldn’t exceed 30 seconds, or the time it takes to set up your next exercise.

Multijoint movements. These exercises require motion in two joints and recruit more than one muscle group at a time, although one group is considered the primary focus. Two examples include the bench press (both the shoulder and elbow joints move) and the leg press (hips and knees flex and extend). By doing primarily compound exercises, you work more than one muscle group at a time which, brings your muscles to fatigue faster and reduces time spent in the gym.

Plyometrics in your living room: You don’t even have to leave your house for this workout (only more advanced level fitness buffs should try this, however). This combines cardio and strength training and can still be done in less than 10 minutes. You’ll work up a big sweat and burn maximum calories.

1. two minutes of jogging in place

2. two minutes of regular jumping jacks

3. two minutes of jump squats (jump up into the air from the squat position, land in the squat position and repeat)

4. two minutes of jumping knee tucks (stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, jump up, and bring your knees up to chest level, return to starting position and repeat).

5. two minutes of jogging in place.

Take the whole family outside for some fun and games in the evening before the sun goes down and you’ll burn 100 calories in just 17 minutes. Plus, the kids will enjoy the quality time with you and may persuade you to play twice that long!

Take a 20-minute walk with your dog (or borrow a neighbor’s) in the morning. The dog could probably use the exercise, and it’s a great way to wake up and get your blood pumping!

Plant some flower bulbs, so they bloom just in time for warm weather. Just 20 minutes of weeding and planting is all you need to burn 100 calories.

Wash the car. It’s warm enough to skip the drive-through car wash and scrub down your vehicle. It’s also a great way to catch some rays and breathe in fresh air!

Turn up the music and tune out the TV! This is a wonderful time of year to celebrate with friends and family. Put on some hot dance music or holiday music and have a singing and dancing session. By turning off the television for just one week you’ll be amazed by how much more active you and your children become!

Healthier Holiday Eating

Ask friends not to give you food gifts, and you do the same. Instead, try making special pampering gifts like samplers of luxurious bath crystals rather than fudge.

Eat protein and high fiber meals throughout the entire day. These meals will help sustain your energy, eliminate unwanted cravings while improving your overall eating habits throughout the day.

Don’t skip meals in the day to compensate for evening indulgence. By eating fruit or protein in advance, you’ll help calm your appetite before blowing it on junk food.

Eat before an event. Don’t go to a party starving. Before you leave home, eat something light or drink a meal-replacement shake. Also drink extra water before and during the party to help control your appetite.

Eat what you like. Don’t pass up favorite foods or deprive yourself completely. Moderate consumption is the key. Choose one holiday feast where you want to eat what you like. As long as you get right back on track and add some activity, one big meal can be a part of your healthy-holidays plan.

If you don’t buy it, you can’t eat it. Don’t tempt yourself by keeping trigger or comfort foods around the house. If you have them around, the likelihood that you will overeat increases dramatically.

Plan ahead. Make and stick to a daily meal and exercise plan, keeping in mind the challenges you’ll face every day. If you tend to overeat during family gatherings, plan and visualize what and how much you will eat before you go. Also plan additional physical activities before or after big events.

When attending holiday festivities, don’t station yourself near the buffet table. Make a clear-cut decision to distance yourself from all goodies.

Drink responsibly. Alcoholic beverages pack on empty calories. So if you’re drinking alcohol, stick to light beer or a champagne spritzer—watch out for egg nog which is high in calories and fat.

Snack before you shop. Be sure to eat before a long day of shopping so you can avoid the food court at your local mall. You may want to bring along a snack.

Set limits for your sweet tooth. Decide how many treats you can afford each week and stick to your plan. Be sure to add some extra exercise into to your week to compensate for the extra calories.

Watch the BLTs. (Bites, Licks and Tastes). Just because it is the holidays doesn’t mean you should give yourself the license to eat everything that passes by. Be sure to factor the BLTs into your daily intake.

Become a healthy chef. When bringing food or hosting your own party, search out healthy options to traditional holiday favorites. Wild rice stuffing, baked sweet potatoes, whole-grain rolls and angel-food cake with fruit are all figure-friendly holiday options.

Bring your own rations. If staying with family or friends, ask them to clear a small space in the refrigerator for your favorite healthy snack foods such as lean deli meats, cottage cheese, nonfat cheese sticks and fruit.

Wear your skinny jeans. If you want to really keep yourself honest and the same size during the holiday season, wear your most form-fitting blue jeans. Another trick is to tie a string or ribbon that won’t budge with the bulge around your waist and under your shirt.

Make careful food choices. If you are at the mercy of the dinner host, eat modest amounts of the foods offered and fill up on foods with more fiber and volume and fewer calories. Make a small plate and skip the seconds.

Resist the urge to order takeout food and spend just 30 minutes preparing a delicious, low-fat meal. The added bonus is that you’ll be eating fewer calories!

Breathe! Take a meditative moment at least once a day to breathe deeply and clear your mind of all the clutter.

Enjoy the season, friends and family….not just the food!

 Happy Holidays!



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Get ready for volleyball!

I have designed a workout that will assist you with improving your volleyball game. The strength training portion of the workout will enable you to jump higher, while the cardiovascular portion of the workout will enable you to maintain your energy near the end of those grueling matches. Try this workout and you will be on your way to winning that first place trophy.

Warm Up: 5-10 minutes of low intensity aerobic exercise such as walking, biking, or jogging until you break a light sweat.

Strength Training: Perform each movement slowly while keeping the weight under control. For each exercise, perform 2 sets of 12 repetitions. Perform strength training activities after volleyball practices or games.(See Maria for your specific exercises). Allow 48-72 hours between strength training sessions. Strength training workouts should be performed 2-3 days per week.

Cardiovascular training: To significantly improve your cardiovascular endurance, consider the following information. Cardiovascular exercise should be performed 3-7 days per week for 20-60 minutes. Your heart rate should be between 50-85 percent of your predicted maximum heart rate, which is 220 minus your age. Cardiovascular activities are rhythmical, repetitive, continuous, and involve large muscle groups. Biking, running, swimming, stair climbing, and cross country skiing are all examples of cardiovascular activities.

Plyometric training: Choose 2 plyometric exercises and do them every other day. Flexibility training: Incorporate stretching into your routine during each workout. Stretch after a warm-up or at the end of your workout when muscles are warm.Hold each stretch for 15-30 seconds and do not bounce while stretching.Repeat each stretch 3-5 times for all major muscle groups.    Your fitness level will improve during the initial 4-6 weeks. After this improvement phase, you may add additional sets and exercises to your strength training routine.

Volleyball Flexibility

Flexibility is essential if you’re going to achieve the kind of positions required to make big plays in a strenuous game. Most younger players spend a lot more time in the weight room than they do stretching, but if you’re all power and no flexibility, you can get micro-tears in your muscle fibers when you reach for a ball. And since your muscles cross your joints, your joints won’t have the range of motion you need to get to all those hard-to-reach shots.  Here are some of my favorite stretches for volleyball. Each of these exercises will help you perform your volleyball skills at a higher level.

Don’t put yourself at a disadvantage. You should do these stretches every time you play. One characteristic shared by all great volleyball players is that they are limber enough to do what it takes to get to the ball.

The pretzel stretch This stretch is an extremely important one for volleyball players because everything you do in this sport puts strain on the back of your thighs, your glutes and your butt. Squatting, lunging, digging – all of these things effect this area of the body.   Lie on your back with your head relaxed on ground. Cross your ankle over the opposite knee, then bend the bottom knee up until you feel a stretch in the back of the thigh that is on top.

Hip Flexor stretch Lunging for short shots is another common play that can cause you pain if you’re not limber. For this stretch, bend your forward leg, put your hands on your knees or on the ground and lean forward. Don’t arch your back, and don’t push yourself to the point of pain. The more flexible you get, the more you’ll be able to lean forward, but you shouldn’t overdo it when you first start out.

Hamstring Stretch sitting on heels. The hamstring muscle gets a big-time workout from volleyball, particularly when you’re scrambling for a ball. If you don’t have flexibility in your hamstring or in the back of your thigh muscle, you may cramp when you move quickly for a ball.  To do the hamstring stretch properly, don’t try to press your nose toward your knee. People do that all the time, and it’s a really bad habit. Instead, keep your back straight, put your hands on the knee of your extended leg and push forward a little bit, just until you can feel it in the back of your thigh. Once you feel it, stop.

Neck Stretch When you’re jumping up and pounding a volleyball, a lot of strain and tightness builds up in the back of the neck.

Part of the reason for this tightness is that you’re looking up to keep your eye on the ball as you track the set. Another reason is that, for any jump, you use your upper shoulder and neck muscles to get height. If you don’t keep this area loose, it’ll be tougher for you to sky.

Here’s a stretch that will keep your neck loose during a match. Grab your wrist and pull down on one arm. As you stretch, lean your head in the opposite direction of the arm being pulled. (In other words, if you’re pulling your right arm, tilt your head to the left.) Then, bend your head forward gradually. If you feel a slight pull behind your neck, you’re doing it right.

The Quad Stretch If you expect to get up to your maximum jumping height, you don’t want tight quads. Here is a great quad stretch. Notice how he’s keeping his back straight and his knee in line with his hip while pulling his back foot toward his body. When doing this exercise, never arch your back. That’ll do you more harm than good.

Groin Stretch To get a better angle on the ball for a pass, you end up leaning sideways in a way that puts a lot of stress on the inner thigh muscle. To avoid injuries when making plays like this, stretch from a sitting position, joining your feet at the front, pointing your knees outward and pushing gently downward. Again, watch your back posture. Never Slouch.


Plyometrics is one of the best ways if not the best way to improve power which will improve your vertical leap.  Let’s first look at what is power.  Power is similar to strength except you are adding the time factor.  Therefore the relation of strength and speed is what we are talking about when we talk about power.  A person who can perform a specific resistance movement, such as jumping, etc., the fastest would be said to have more power in that movement.  So what we are looking at is not just the contraction of the muscle, but how fast will it contract.  It has been shown that a muscle will contract the fastest when it has been loaded.  This is why you should be able to jump higher if you crouch down then immediately jump up than if you started in the crouch.  So if this is the best way to perform a powerful movement lets practice these movements.  This practice is called plyometrics and has been shown in study after study to decrease the time it takes for the muscles to contract, resulting in more power.

Plyometric Safety Tips

While plyometric will increase your vertical jump, form has quite a bit to do also. Try to crouch to a point where your knees reach a 90 degree angle. A good arm swing will easily add inches. By throwing your arms up as you jump you are decreasing the weight that you have to push off the ground and the inertia of your arms going up will help pull the rest of your body up. Also the faster you are moving before the jump, the higher you can jump. You can transfer this horizontal speed to vertical speed with the proper form. This is why high jumpers get a running start to jump much higher than they could standing still.

When doing jumping plyometrics, be sure to land on the balls of your feet without too much knee flexion and spend as little time as possible in contact with the ground.

Limit the number of jumps based on the ability to maintain good form.

Work and jump only on good surfaces. Avoid concrete floors.

Perform jumps with feet forward and knees and thumbs up. Land softly on the balls of your feet.

Listen…did you hear your feet as you land? Next time try to land more quietly.

Perform exercises at a controlled pace. Use pure muscle strength, not momentum.

Keep in mind that these exercises are strenuous. Be sure to rest two or three days between each workout. If you notice pain in your back, knees or ankles during or after, stop doing plyometrics and consult your trainer.

As for number of sets, try 1 for the first week, 2 for the second and from there increase as you feel necessary.

Remember, that as you jump, explode upward. Most people have said jumping is “pulling” upward rather than “pushing” downward.

There are an infinite number of plyometric exercises to increase vertical leap but here are a few good ones.

Jump rope (150-200 reps) This is a great warmup.

Star Jumps:From a squatted down position, jump up taking your hands and legs up and out to the side. When you land, make sure you land on both feet together, softly, lowering down back into the squat position, remembering not to allow your knees to pass over your toes.

Two foot ankle hop (low intensity) – keeping your feet together and remaining in one place hop up and down using only your ankles and calves. Concentrate on getting as high as you can and exploding off the ground as soon as you land.

Rim Jumps (medium intensity) – Stand under a basketball rim.  Jump up touching the rim (or net or whatever) with alternate hands.  Concentrate on getting as high as you can and exploding off the ground as soon as you land.

Blocking jumps (10-12 reps)
This consists of finding an open area and taking two side steps to the right/left and exploding upwards while reaching over the “net” with both hands (in other words, you’re blocking). This can also be done with a three step routine.

Standing jumps (until failure)
This is finding a point (the top of a net or a basketball rim) and jumping to touch it. Don’t take any steps, explode upwards and reach with both hands. As soon as your feet hit the ground explode back upwards. Time on the ground should be minimal. Try doing this until you can’t reach your target anymore.

Depth jumps (10-12 reps)
Stand on a step that is about 20″-24″ high. Step off, land with both feet simultaneously and explode upwards reaching with both hands. Time on the ground should again be minimal. The height of the box can be adjusted through the program.

Jump on and off box (10-12 reps)
Here one stands about a foot away from the step (facing the step), jumps on to the step, quickly steps off, and explodes upward from the ground. This one can tire you out pretty quickly.

Side jump on and off box (10-12 reps)
This is similar to jumping on the box then stepping off. Here stand faced perpendicular with the box, jump sideways onto the box and jump off.

Attacks (10-12 reps) Here, just go through you’re attacking motion (R-L-RL for right handers) from the right and left sides and even the middle of the court. Make sure you explode each time and try to reach higher than your previous jump (ha-ha).

High knee tuck jumps As you jump, tuck your knees up to your chest bring your heels to your rear end. Do it quickly!!

Lateral box jumps  (Stand next to a box between 12 and 18 inches high, start on the left side of the floor and jump back and forth over it in a skiing-like motion.)

Weighted ball chest passes  (If you’re less advanced, work with four-pound ball. More experienced athletes can use heavier balls. Stand about 10 feet away from your partner and toss back and forth. Catch the ball, absorb some of its impact and then release it quickly.)

 Good plyometric exercises for increasing speed

While all of the above exercises will also increase your speed (leg speed), these are many others that just focus more on movement. Here are some examples:

Zig Zags (medium intensity) run an elastic cord about a foot off the ground.  While on one foot hop back and forth over the rope.  Repeat with other foot.

Side to side ankle hops– Same as regular ankle hops (see above) but instead of remaining in place you jump 2 to 3 feet side to side.

Sprints.  Sprints are plyometrics since the force of your body coming down loads the hamstring.



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Client Success Story: Lynn

Lynn’s Fitness Progress Report

At 49 years old, Lynn began training with me with a history of little to no exercise
and she was quick to tell me that she didn’t enjoy working out.  Her goals
were to tighten her body, increase her strength and lose inches.

After 4 months of workouts with me three days a week and a nutrition makeover,
Lynn’s results were amazing.

Lynn lost 5 inches, her body fat went down 4.2%, and her pushup strength increased
600%. It is interesting to note that with all these results her weight actually
increased .8 pound. This illustrates that with the correct nutrition plan and exercise
program that lean mass is maintained or even increased and body fat decreases.

Lynn now loves to exercise! She works out on a regular basis and continues to
see new and exciting changes in her body.

  5/3/2011 9/6/2011 4 Month Change
Height 5’8.5”    
Weight 143.8# 144.6  
Age 49 years 49 years  
Neck 12.5
Arm 11.25 11 -0.25
Forearm 10
Wrist 6
Waist 29.5 28.5 -1
Abdomen 33.5 31 -2.5
Hips 41.5 40.75 -0.75
Thigh 22.5 22 -0.5
Calf 14
      -5 inches!
Body Fat 28.40% 24.20% -4.20%
Pushups 5 35 35 more!

Lynn says: Best personal trainer ever!

I have never been able to stick to an exercise program but Maria changed that for
me in a big way. When I started with her in May I was extremely unfit. I had tried
other trainers, classes, gyms etc. but I’d always end up hurting myself or
being so sore I couldn’t get out of bed the next morning! She has shown me that
getting and staying fit is absolutely attainable and amazingly fun! I feel better
than I have since my 20’s. Thank you Maria, you have literally changed my life 🙂

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