Archive | February, 2010

Inspiration from a Friend

16 Feb

Ever hear about someone’s endeavors and think ‘How cool!’ or ‘I could never do that!’?  I was never a runner.  As a matter of fact, I found it uncomfortable, hard and unpleasant.  I figured I just didn’t have the body for it – chronic shin splints, painful bunion . . . A year or two after I moved to San Francisco, I became good friends with a guy who clearly had less of a ‘running body’ than I and at the time he was training for a marathon.  Not only was he training for it, he was loving training for it.  Slowly, over the course of his training my thinking shifted from “I could never do that. . .I’d never want to do that,” to “what a cool accomplishment that would be.  Maybe I could do it.”  Eventually, I figured why not try and with his encouragement, as well as encouragement from others, I successfully completed my first marathon.  I have since completed another marathon, multiple olympic distance and half ironman distance triathlons and one ironman.  These are among the accomplishments I am most proud of in my life and had it not been for a friend suggesting that I could do it too, I might never have even considered any of it.

So, when you tell your friends about the things you are doing at FIT, and they look at you like your crazy or say something like, “I could never do that.”  Look them in the eye, tell them they can and convince them to join you for a work out so they can see for themselves what’s bringing you so much satisfaction.  Bring-a-Friend days are February 23-25th.  Reserve a time for you and a friend today!

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“It’s Not A Diet, It’s a Lifestyle”

9 Feb

by Jennifer Pleimann

“It’s Not a Diet, It’s a lifestyle.”  We have heard the phrase a million times and hear fitness enthusiast use it over and over again.  I am victim to using it myself.  While I do feel this phrase holds some merit, I also feel as though it can be used and abused.  And for me, it gets personal.

The problem with the phrase lies in the word “diet*.”  I think it is safe to say when most people in our culture hear the word “diet” they automatically refer to Webster Dictionary’s second definition, “the special course of food to which one restricts oneself.”  As we all know, conventional “dieting” and feeling restricted rarely works long term so we now use the phrase, “It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle.” But what happens when your diet**, the food you habitually consume on a daily basis, is responsible for changing your lifestyle, the way in which you live?  Is our diet not a part of our lifestyle, a part of who we are?  While I would love to throw the term diet out the window because of the negative connotation automatically associated with it, I also think at some point, we have to stop running from the word and make ourselves more accountable and aware of the effects the food we consume has on our lifestyle.

Until two years ago, I had never followed a formal “diet.”  I had never counted calories, kept a food journal or followed any of the fad diets.  Growing up, I was very active, overall ate healthy and never had issues with my weight (sure I paid attention to it but never needed to lose a significant amount). My parents were always health conscious and so was I.  I enjoyed food but was not obsessed with it and even though we were limited on the amount of soda, sugary cereals and other treats allowed in our house, I didn’t consider our family to be on any kind of “diet.”  Then things started to change during college and quite drastically a year or two after.  My ‘healthy’ diet began changing my lifestyle.  Chronic fatigue, flu-like symptoms, headaches and dizzy spells (just to name a few symptoms) became an everyday occurrence for me.  I was no longer able to live the active, full of energy lifestyle I was so used to.  As I began seeking help, the food I was consuming became the number one culprit of my problems and it was then that I was forced to follow a strict “diet” for the first time ever.

Over the course of the next few months, I will share my story of how I tried every  “diet” out there recommended for individuals with food sensitivities (a dairy-free diet, a gluten-free diet, the elimination diet, the paleo diet and so on) and how I progressed from feeling deprived, restricted and everything else that goes along with “dieting” to redefining my diet and taking full responsibility for how “the food I habitually consume” affects me on a daily basis.  Food no longer makes me sick unless I choose to eat the foods I am sensitive to.

While my story may be very different than yours, you may find we have a lot in common.  Everyday I have a choice and so do you.  We can run from the word diet or we can take full responsibility of how the food we habitually consume is affecting the way in which we live.  For me, personally, it is a diet, a diet that I sometimes feel restricted by but that allows me to live the lifestyle I choose to live.

*”diet” (with quotation) refers to Webster Dictionary’s 2nd definition of diet:  a special course of food to which one restricts oneself, either to lose weight or for medical reasons

**diet (no quotations) refers to Webster Dictionary’s 1st definition of diet: The kind of food that a person, animal or community habitually eats.

60 Days and 60 Nights cont.

8 Feb

I’ve returned from South Africa, and thankfully our emergency has stabilized.  I will admit I was not able to eat paleo those two weeks; it was almost ethically impossible.  But since my return I’ve been very strict.  My primary goal was better performance, then to feel better with potential weight loss being a positive bonus. 

I’ve lost 5 pounds since I left for Africa on January 14th without counting calories.  The biggest change in my eating habits has happened on the weekends.  I don’t reward the long hours at work during the week with poor food choices on weekends.  I take the time to find quality foods while out rather than settling for what’s readily available.  I’m also finding that the craving for junk food vanishes as soon as I eat anything, so it might as well be high quality foods!

My performance has yet to match my weight loss.  So far I either have a really good workout, at least equal to my efforts prior to the change in eating habits, or I pretty much bonk.  I’m needing to eat closer to my workout time, an hour or less before, than in the past.  But I think I’m on the verge! I’ll keep you posted.

Exercise and Your Heart

7 Feb

Read time: 1.5 minutes

How Often?
There’s no argue that exercise is good for your heart. How much exercise, though, depends on everything else that you do — for example, if you sit behind a desk all day, then you’ll need more exercise; if you’re active throughout your day, then you’ll need less.
Intensity
Intensity is important to add into your exercise program — regularly if you’re less active, or periodically if you’re more active. Intensity in this context means elevating your heart rate, sometimes abruptly and often very high. This allows the heart to adapt to stressful situations, physically or psychologically.
Intensity conditions the heart to increase or retain its ejection fraction, the power of its pump to circulate blood through the body. Healthy circulation is good, both in resting and in activity.
Exercise Emphasis
While it’s true that more people need to get up and exercise, what’s not too clear is how much is right for the heart. Different organizations and even various experts give different answers to how much is right. But there’s no clear answer.
The health of your heart relies on multiple factors, and exercise is only one. Many people over-emphasize exercise, both in volume and intensity. If chronic high-intensity exercise brings joy, then that’s one thing. But many data show that such high volume and intensity may not be required for improved body composition or is even necessarily better for the heart.
In fact, the stress of chronic high-intensity exercise may detract from heart and overall health. Chronic high-intensity exercise has been shown to increase oxidative stress, cortisol, inflammation, and down-regulation of anti-oxidative capacity. Good way to age quickly.
Also, the stress that “we must get in the exercise,” or the guilt of missing it, may negate whatever benefit that might have been gained from the exercise itself.
Conclusion
The heart probably benefits from regular activity, with a mixture of low intensity and periodic high intensity. The slight increase in cardiac pump rate that comes from casual walks, the high pump rate that comes from sprint work, and the increased contractile tension that comes from lifting weight are probably good inclusions for your heart.

Let’s Talk about Stress

7 Feb

Stress is a fact of life, and not all stress is bad.  For example, some stress can be exhilarating and even motivating, such as taking on new challenges or meeting deadlines.  The acute stress of too many demands and an overwhelming schedule can result in distress and discomfort.  However, chronic, unmanaged stress can result in an increased risk for illness and disease.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States and a major cause of disability.  While the linkages are not yet fully understood, many studies have shown a relationship between stress and heart disease.  For example, a 2004 case-control study found an association between increased risk of acute myocardial infarction and the presence of four psychosocial stressors; work, home, financial stress, and major life events.

Considering the physiological mechanisms of stress: accelerated heart rate, increased blood pressure, increased serum cholesterol, and fluid retention resulting in increased blood volume, it is not difficult to image the adverse cardiovascular effects.  Although, more research is needed to determine how stress contributes to heart disease risk, stress management is considered an important intervention for reducing disease risk and improving overall health.  Stress is multi-factorial, and the extent of the effect of a stressors’  varies from person to person.  There is no simple solution for coping with stress, however there are several interventions that are very effective. Here are just a few:

•    Exercise – daily exercise reduces the physiological mechanisms of stress, as well as depression and anxiety.

•    Mediation and Breathing – calms the mind, reduces muscular tension, reduces heart rate and blood pressure, and improves blood circulation.

•    Yoga and Stretching – decreases resting heart rate, and enhances physical relaxation.

•    Laughter – reduces stress hormone, and improves blood flow.

Heart health is important and a healthy lifestyle that includes a positive attitude, fun, physical activity and relaxation will help reduce the ill effects of stress, and improve overall quaility of life.

Reference:
http://www.cdc.gov/features/heartmonth/

Rosengren, A., et al. (2004). Association of psychosocial risk factors with risk of
acute myocardial infarction in 11,119 cases and 13, 648 controls from 52
countries (the INTERHEART study):case-control study. Lancet, 364, 953-
962.

Greenberg, J.S., (2004) Comprehensive stress management.  New Your, NY:
McGraw-Hill.

FIT Client of the Month – February 2010

4 Feb

Name: Cindy Olander

FIT Member Since: November 2001

Goal(s): To complete a 1/2 marathon and a full marathon

Results: Completed the NIKE Women’s 1/2 Marathon in October 2009

Completed the Honolulu Marathon in December 2009

Likes: Snatch

Dislikes: Push-Ups

Key(s) to Cindy’s success: She is very consistent with her training and adheres to a regular training schedule.

Summary paragraph: Cindy has shown great perseverance in her training for these events.  After having a slight setback early in 2009, Cindy came back with greater determination and desire to do something she had never done and never thought she would do, and as she put it, “especially at her age”.  Not only did she decide she wanted to finish a 1/2 marathon, she figured why not do a full marathon?  So, a few months later, she finished her first full marathon.  Cindy has truly  been dedicated to her training and hasn’t missed a single session at FIT or her walk/runs, which often times resulted in a long training day on her own.  Her desired to try something new and challenging is what makes it easy for us as trainers to enjoy our jobs.  We can’t wait to see what challenges she decides on for 2010!  Congratulations!

Brussels Sprout Proscuitto Salad

4 Feb

Ingredients:

24 raw brussels sprouts, shredded*

1 large shallot, diced

3 oz proscuitto, diced

1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and diced

1 Meyer Lemon

1-2 oz Capers (taste preference)

1/2 oz toasted Pine Nuts

1/2-1 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Fine Sea Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper (to taste)

*Use the large single blade located on the circular add-on blades if you choose to shred in food processor.  You can also use a mandolin or chop them by hand.  In the interest of time, the food processor is your most time efficient.

Directions: In small skillet, heat 1 tbsp olive oil and add shallots, sprinkle salt and pepper.  Brown shallots and remove from saute pan, leaving oil.  Add another tbsp olive oil and fry prosciutto over medium-high heat (watch the splatter of oil!) until crispy.  Remove prosciutto from pan, leaving oil.  Add garlic and capers to pan, adding 1 tsp of oil (if needed to prevent burning) and brown.  While garlic and capers are browning, in large saute pan, heat 2-3 tbsp olive oil (enough to cover bottom of pan) and add raw brussels sprouts.  On medium-high heat, let sprouts crisp slightly.  Once lightly crisp, remove from heat but leave in pan.  Toss in shallots, prosciutto, garlic, capers and all oil from original saute pan.  Gently toss with spatula (so as to not scratch bottom of pan).  Squeeze 1/2 to 1 whole Meyer lemon over salad, pour into large salad bowl and add pine nuts.  One final toss in the bowl before salt and pepper to taste.

Enjoy!

We’ve served with veal fillets, skirt steak, and seared halibut.  Any way you serve it, it’s great!

“Fresh” Movie Night @ FIT

4 Feb

Join us on Friday, March 5, 2010 @ 530p for a FREE screening of “FRESH”. We are located at 600 Fremont Ave, Los Altos, CA 94024.

FILM SUMMARY (provided by Ripple Effect Films)

This film, created by Ana Sofia Joanes celebrates the farmers, thinkers and business people across America who are re-inventing our food system.  Each has witnessed the rapid transformation of our agriculture into an industrial model, and confronted the consequences: food contamination, environmental pollution, depletion of natural resources, and morbid obesity.  Forging healthier, sustainable alternatives, they offer a practical vision for a future of our food and our planet.

Among several main characters, FRESH features urban farmer and activist, Will Allen, the recipient of MacArthur’s 2008 Genius Award; sustainable farmer and entrepreneur, Joel Salatin, made famous by Michael Pollan’s book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma; and a supermarket owner, David Ball, challenging our Wal-Mart dominated economy.

If you’d like to attend our screening, please email analisa@focusedtrainers.com to RSVP.  Film trailer

The screening is FREE.  Please note that any donations received will go towards purchasing fresh produce and nuts from our partner CSA Farm Fresh to You and donated to one of our local elementary schools as healthier snacks.  Thank you for your attendance and support!

Week 3 for Tracey’s Paleo Experiment

3 Feb

So, the ‘diet’ has been going well.  Definitely room for some tweaking in terms of further reducing sugar consumption.  I still prefer fruit to veg but also recognize that anything I consume is still significantly better than where I was a month ago.  I have realized that overall, my eating ‘habits’ leave a bit to be desired.  It seems I often snack more for something to do than for actual physical necessity.  Again, my choices are better but overall as a habit, it’s one that needs to change.

As far as physical changes, my weight remains stable, my energy is same or maybe slightly better, I’m just getting back to working out so more to come on that.  Meal prep has become less thought/labor intensive.  Did find our ski trip to be a bit more challenging with a stop at Ikeda in Auburn (protein style. . . and yes, a sip of jake’s chocolate milkshake) and lodge food during the day but did my best – salad, minus the blue cheese but did have corn and maybe beans if I remember correctly.  Again, I was definitely more mindful of my choices so that alone was a success – and no snickers which is my usual skiing only treat.

Meals have been along same lines all along although have been experimenting with different seasonings and preparations.  Last night was great with the brussel sprout recipe from this months stall street + halibut pan seared in rendered bacon fat with a ginger, lemon sauce and a sprinkle of garam marsala.  Yum.

Foods for a Healthy Heart

2 Feb

 There is very little evidence, if any, that suggests we need to alter our cholesterol levels for health and longevity.  At one time, a preponderance of “evidence” suggested that a high-fat diet, especially saturated fat, was the culprit. However, follow-up studies and a review of the evidence has shown otherwise.

The problem is that science cannot draw a definitive cause-and-effect relationship with any sort of dietary pattern.  “Low-fat”, “high-fat”, “moderate-carbohydrate”…how ever you want to label it, it does not seem to matter. 

 Today, we have an assortment of statin drugs which are proposed to lower our cholesterol in order to improve our longevity and help avoid heart disease. Well, they lower cholesterol, but those who take statins do not live longer even though their cholesterol levels may decrease – again, more evidence that lowering cholesterol does not improve longevity. Meanwhile, other effects of statins are: they cost you (or your insurance company) $150-$250 per month, make your muscles ache, diminish your memory and cognition, and potentially croak your liver. So, take it for what it’s worth.

 So, what to eat? There is some research that suggests:

  1. Fish oil helps as an anti-coagulant, like aspirin, and it seems to help people with arrhythmias. Eat cold-water fish such as salmon, mackerel, or trout at least twice per week, or take a teaspoon of supplemental fish oil once per day. Thus far, the potential side-effect of overdosing on fish oil is hemophilia, but even in this case, it is rare.
  2. Alcohol. Before any of you get too excited, I will emphasize, THERE IS A LIMIT TO HOW MUCH IS BENEFICIAL. Binge drinking or heavy drinking seems to have the opposite effect. There seems to be a “rebound” of the blood-clotting system, making blood clots more likely to form. Therefore drink daily (wine is better than beer which is better than spirits), but do not get drunk.
  3. Nuts, for the monounsaturated fats. Walnuts are the best because of the high oil content within them, but that does not mean all of the others are “bad”. Variety is key. The more variety, the better.
  4. Avoid trans fats. More and more, these are becoming outlawed, in such states as New York and California, but they appear in processed foods. These can affect not only our cholesterol levels, but other aspects of health as well, such as developing obesity and cancer.
  5. Avoid sugar and its derivatives in all of its forms: sucrose, fructose, high-fructose corn syrup, dextrose, lactose, etc. and artificial sweetners. Just by eating any one of these, markers of inflammation increase, such as platelet aggregation, and inflammation is the hallmark sign of aging, disease and heart problems. 

Again, there is no direct, convincing evidence that supports there is a diet-cholesterol remedy alone. Changing your stress level, maintaining a healthy weight and exercising at a high intensity intermittently is more effective at improving your cholesterol and health than your diet.

 Therefore, eat your fish, red meat, veggies in butter and wash it down with a glass of wine, hold the dessert and you will be living the heart-healthy way.