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Mother Funkin’ Pumpkin

pumpkins

Now is the time when everyone goes pumpkin crazy. Pumpkin lattes, muffins, cookies and of course, pies are all over the place. Unfortunately, most of these foods are loaded with sugar. The good news is that with a can of pure pumpkin puree and a little effort in the kitchen, you can create yummy pumpkin treats that are tasty and good for you. Since after Thanksgiving they’ll be practically giving the stuff away, it will also save you a few dollars that you can spend on gifts for your favorite personal trainer…or your child, whichever you prefer.

Pumpkin is a high fiber, low calorie food. This means that adding it to your recipes will help keep you fuller for longer.  Once opened, your can of pumpkin will last in Tupperware for up to a week, which is why I’m sharing three pumpk-tastic recipes.

Pumpkin Smoothie

Pumpkins are loaded with iron, magnesium, and potassium, minerals that promote muscle recovery. A smart addition to a post workout smoothie!

8 oz Unsweetened vanilla almond milk

1 scoop French Vanilla protein powder. Designer Whey is my favorite brand since it tastes great and mixes well.

1/4 cup pumpkin puree

1/2 banana

1/2 tsp of vanilla extract

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp nutmeg

1/8 tsp ground cloves

Or just use pumpkin pie spice, if you happen to have that.

Ice

Honey to taste

Blend it all up. Boom. Done. Serves 1.

Pumpkin Protein Pancakes

One of these days I'll learn how to make a perfectly round pancake

One of these days I’ll learn how to make a perfectly round pancake

These are so good, I may never make protein pancakes without pumpkin again. The combination of pumpkin, eggs and oats makes this an incredibly filling meal. Additional bonus: they will make your kitchen smell good.

1 whole egg, plus 2 egg whites, beaten

1 tsp vanilla extra

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp sugar

1/4 cup pumpkin

1/4 cup or 1 package of Instant Oats. I like Arrowhead’s organic blend of oats and flax.

Mix ingredients in the order listed. Heat up a pan with 1 Tb. of coconut oil. Divide batter so that you are making two pancakes. Resist the urge to just make one mega pancake. It will be nearly impossible to flip and will cause you unnecessary stress. Let one side cook on moderate heat for 3-4 minutes. Flip, press it down a little and give the second side another 3 minutes or so. Serves 1.

I like to top mine with all natural peanut butter and a drizzle of maple syrup or honey.

Pumpkin Chia Seed Pudding

Eleven grams of fiber from the chia seeds plus the three grams from the pumpkin, pretty much means that you’ll never be hungry again after eating this snack.

1/4 cup chia seeds

2/3 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or water), Plus a few extra splashes as you go.

1/4 cup of pumpkin

1 tsp vanilla extract.

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp nutmeg

1/8 tsp ground cloves (pumpkin pie spice)

1 tsp or to taste of honey, agave or any sweetener you like

Gently blend mixture, adding the extra liquid as needed. The pumpkin will thicken up really fast. Transfer mixture to a mason jar, then refrigerate. Give it a shake after ten minutes, and again ten minutes after that. Let it chill for at least a few hours. To document the making of this pudding, I made an awesome slideshow with music. You check out my masterpiece here: Pumpkin Chia Pudding: REMIX!

Marathon Envy

Running is hard. Sometimes not running is harder.

Congratulations to everyone who completed the ING NYC Marathon last Sunday. Regardless of when you finished, running 26.2 miles is a major feat. And I’m jealous–completely and totally mad at myself for not running this year. But the reality is, I had no choice. Sadly, the last two years I just haven’t been ready. I’ve been dealing with tendonitis in my hip since March 2012. After 8 months of physical therapy and endless hours on a spin bike, only this Spring did I begin to feel strong enough to run short distances. And then my ankles started swelling up (sigh). And this is why:

I love Jeff Galloway

Yep, this guy

Yep, this guy

Please note that I have no affiliation with Jeff Galloway. I have never met him. He does not know I exist.

A few years ago, my good friend and fellow runner, Colleen, suggested I  run/walk/run, (AKA The Jeff Galloway Method), for one of the half marathons with which I was signed up. My response: I just laughed and laughed. I think between scoffs, I said something like, “But I’m in great shape, that’s for weaklings.” Well, fast forward  to last spring, and to my complete boredom at running the same three mile route, and I was ready to hear what Mr. Galloway had to say.

The Galloway Method is all about walk breaks. My ratio is 4 minutes of running to 1 minute of walking, but there are other ratios that work for people of varying experience and fitness levels.  Here is an explanation of why walk breaks work, straight from the source:

“By using muscles in different ways from the beginning, your legs keep their bounce as they conserve resources. When a muscle group, such as your calf, is used continuously step by step, it fatigues relatively soon. The weak areas get overused and force you to slow down later or scream at you in pain afterward. By shifting back and forth between walking and running muscles, you distribute the workload among a variety of muscles, increasing your overall performance capacity. For veteran marathoners, this is often the difference between achieving a time goal or not. ” -www.jeffgalloway.com

In October, I ran/walked the Staten Island Half Marathon. I finished in 2:13. Coming off two injuries and not having run a half since 2011, I could not have hoped for a better time. The Galloway Method has also helped me with my regular “maintenance” runs. By running for distance utilizing run/walk, I can now straight-run six miles with no pain.

If you’ve been experiencing any running injuries, or just want to check out a pain free approach to running, you must go to:

www.jeffgalloway.com. Friend him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter.

PS–The day of the SI Half Marathon, I had to get my act together and attend a wedding. Here I am, crowin’ about it.

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If this is how you exercise, then you are doing it WRONG

Keep Your Hands to Yourself

The best way to exercise on a cardio machine is to move in the same way you would if you were off the machine and in the park. So when I’m at the gym and see someone leaning over with their body weight over the handles of an elliptical or a treadmill, I want to run over and give their hands a smack. Don’t worry, I will control this impulse (if I can do it on the L train, I can do it anywhere), plus, I think it would get my gym membership revoked.

Hey girl, didn't your mother tell you to stand up straight?

Hey girl, didn’t your mother tell you to stand up straight?

While gently holding on is a good idea for first timers who need help with balance, bending over and holding up your weight with your arms is a big no-no. I see this all the time because working out this way makes the exercise easier. But it also decreases the intensity of the exercise, which lessens your calorie burn. Further, you are robbing your body of the chance to develop functional core strength, which comes with improved posture. You are also putting yourself at greater risk of injury. Exercise should mimic the way we move in real life. So hey–if you want to move with the assistance of a waIker one day, then keep holding on. Otherwise, get the most out of your cardio and go hands free. If you can’t handle the Stairmaster without utilizing a death grip, slow down or decrease the resistance.

Top Core Exercises for Runners (and everyone)

This Sunday, I’ll be running in my first half marathon in two years,  and I know I will be well-prepared. When people train for a race, sometimes they focus solely on their running schedule and making their weekly mileage quota. Big mistake. Core strength is important to keep a runner upright and in proper form, especially during long runs. A strong core can also prevent common runner’s injuries. Below are my top three core exercises for runners. The exercises listed will strengthen the abdominals and the muscles of the back and hips, and are very effective for anyone looking to tone up their midsection.

plank

Plank

What it works: Strengthens and stabilizes abdominals, back and shoulders

Start by laying face down on a mat. Press yourself up into a push-up position, resting on your forearms. Make sure your elbows are directly under your shoulders. As you hold this position, tilt your pelvis forward, and squeeze your heels and quads together. Keep your gaze just beyond your fingertips. Your back should be flat, making a straight line from your head to your heels.

R Twist

Russian Twist

What it works: Obliques

The obliques are the muscles responsible for rotation of the torso. Runners who fail to strengthen the obliques will make the abdominals and back muscles do all the work to support the body. Sit on a mat with your knees bent, as if you were at the top position of a sit up. Angle your body so that your upper body is at a 45 degree angle with the ground.  Hold your arms straight out in front of you and hold your hands together. Or, with bent arms, hold on to a weighted ball or dumbbell. Twisting through the torso, move your shoulders from side to side. Make sure you are not just swinging your arms, but that the move originates from the waist. Keep twisting from side to side without stopping for at least 16 rotations. The slower and more precise the movement, the better. If you experience lower back pain, substitute with bicycle crunches.

Photo 2

Hip Raise and Hamstring Curls on the Swiss Ball

What it works: Everything! I love this exercise because it works the glutes, hamstrings, calves, abdominals and lower back muscles.

Runners need strong posterior chain muscles. Simply put, it’s the muscles behind us that are propelling us forward. Start by laying face down on a mat with your feet propped up on a Swiss ball. Place your hands next to you on the mat for support. Using your glutes, lift your hips off the mat and hold this position for a few seconds as your stabilize yourself. Brace your core to help from shifting around. Using your hamstrings, pull your heels in toward your butt, raising your hips higher as you go. The bottoms of your feet should be flat on the ball at the top of the motion. Pause for a second, then lower down with control. If this is too difficult, just start with the hip raise, omitting the hamstring curl.

TRX:The Best Piece of Equipment in Your Gym

TRX

If you belong to a gym, then by now you have seen the TRX straps hanging around. You may also notice that the TRX station is almost always being utilized by the trainers and their clients. Simply put, the TRX suspension straps are one of the most effective and functional fitness tools to be developed in years. It allows the entire body to be trained without having to move from machine to machine. The TRX uses gravity and your body weight as resistance. Since you must control movement from an unstable position, you are building your core, flexibility, balance and, of course, strengthening the muscles you are focusing on.

Below are my top three, easy to master, TRX moves. However, if you are curious about the TRX and plan on adding it to your routine, I highly suggest you get at least one personal training session to really perfect the form. While the TRX is extremely safe, you should make sure you are doing it correctly to avoid injury.

TRX Squat row

The Squat and Wide Grip Row

What it works: Legs, Upper back, biceps and shoulders

Stand at angle to the anchor point, with your arms straight and your palms facing down. Your weight should be on your heels. In this picture, my legs are far apart, making it easier. Position your feet closer together if you are more advanced. Lower your butt towards your calves, then push through the heels while you row your arms back . Your elbows should be away from your body. Give your shoulder blades a light squeeze at the top of the motion.

 balance lunge2

The Single Leg Balance Lunge

What it works: Core stability and legs

Start by gripping the handles in a neutral grip (palms faced in). Before you try balancing, just perform a regular reverse lunge while holding onto the straps. Practice keeping your body centered and your knee over your ankle. If you are brand new to exercise and don’t have lower body strength, then this is where you should stay for the time being. Otherwise, perform a reverse lunge, but don’t allow your back foot to make contact with the floor.

 TRX push up

Suspended Chest Press

What it works: Shoulders, chest, triceps and core

Get in a standing push up position with your hands holding onto the straps at chest height. Beginners should have their feet close to where the hands are holding on to the handles, while more advanced people can walk their feet back. As if you were doing a push up, lower your chest towards your hands. Press back up to start. Make sure your core is engaged. If the straps are rubbing against your arms, you can position your hands a bit higher.

For each exercise, perform anywhere from 10-20 reps, depending on your fitness level. Once you master these basic moves, I suggest moving through them quickly to get your heart rate up. Why not burn a few calories while you work on strength?

You can check out the entire TRX flow by going here: TRX Workout

New Finds in the Fridge: Fancy Yogurt and Chia Seeds

As if we needed more options in the yogurt section of the supermarket, there have been a few new products added to the shelves. Yogurt is such a great snack for either pre or post workout. It has carbohydrates to fuel your body before you exercise and protein to build muscles afterward. Are these new products worthy of being added to the snack rotation? Here’s the rundown:

Siggi’s Yogurt

Siggis

I really wanted to try this stuff after it came highly recommended by one of my clients. Siggi’s is Icelandic strained non-fat yogurt that you can find in organic markets, since the milk they use is hormone free. I’ve also seen it at Gristedes and Fairway. But at $2.50 for a five ounce container, I was hesitant to buy it. What if I loved the stuff? Then I’m stuck buying pricey yogurt for the rest of my life. Well unfortunately for my wallet (but fortunately for my taste buds!) this yogurt rocks. It’s super thick and creamy, has 110 calories and just 11 grams of sugar. It also packs 14 grams of protein so it is really filling. The good news is that it’s often on sale at Fairway. Also, the company sweetly sent me coupons after I raved about them on Twitter. Now if I can just build up the nerve to use them in an NYC supermarket. It’s intimidating to use coupons here. I don’t know why.

Chia Pod

Chia Pod

Gross. Don’t get me wrong, I love chia seeds and chia pudding. I make it myself with almond milk (simple recipe below) and I’ve gotten it at Organic Avenue to the tune of $8.00 a jar. So I was excited to see that Chia pudding had hit the main stream and was making an appearance at the grocery store. Nowadays, everyone is touting chia seeds as a “super food” because they are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids and because of their high fiber content. I could (and probably will) write an entire blog about the wonderful chia seed. Alas, the Chia Pod is pretty vile. I like the texture, but the flavor is off-putting. I tried mango. Maybe if you try a different flavor, you will have a better experience. Anything’s possible. If you want to give it a try, it’s about $2.60 for a six ounce container and comes in a few flavors. A serving is 149 calories, 9 grams of fat, 3 grams of protein and 11 grams of sugar. Good luck with that.

Powerful Yogurt

PYogurt 1

The yogurt for men. The label has a bull on one side and a picture of a man’s abs on the other, so you know it’s serious and for DUDES ONLY. After studying the label, the main difference between this and any other yogurt is that there are 20 grams of protein instead of 17 grams in Greek yogurt, or 14 grams in the aforementioned Siggi’s. There are also 21 grams of sugar in this bad boy! To put that in perspective, there are only 11 grams of sugar in a serving of Entemann’s cookies (don’t ask me how I know this, I just do, OK??) Powerful Yogurt tastes similar to Dannons, so there is nothing special taste-wise. I guess all that sugar must be expensive, because it’s a dollar more than Fage Greek yogurt. If I were a man, I’d save my money and just eat the “girly” stuff.

If you’ve got any special grocery store snack finds, please let me know!

Chia Pudding

1/4 cup chia seeds

2/3 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or water)

1 tsp vanilla extract.

1 tsp or to taste of maple syrup or any sweetener you like

Don’t listen to the interwebs when they tell you not to use a blender when making your chia pudding. You absolutely should blend this mixture in a blender (gently and just for a few seconds) and place mixture in a mason jar. Put in fridge. After about 10 minutes, give the jar a vigorous shake. Otherwise your chia seeds will clump. Still edible, but weird. Let it sit overnight for an awesome breakfast or snack. Add a small amount of granola or slivered almonds for texture.

Sober September, It’s Happening

No AlcoholSeptember is here.  People go back to work, kids go back to school and everyone gets the almost New Years-type feeling that now is the time to get serious about health and weight loss.

Sober September is a month long “detox” I am encouraging my clients to do to get them back on track after a summer of vacations, traveling and BBQ’s. It’s simple: abstain from alcohol and eat only healthy foods for the entire month of September. That’s it. Well, actually there are a few rules of Sober September. Follow them, and you will be looking and feeling your best by October 1st.

Rule #1 Talk about Sober September. You must tell the people close to you that you are doing this. Otherwise, who will hold you accountable when you are faced with a drink or a cheeseburger?

Rule #2 Measure yourself on day one of SS, which is actually Tuesday, Sept 3rd, or at the very least, within the first week of September. Take a waist and hip measurement, and weigh yourself if you have a scale. Repeat on Sept 30th. You can also go by how your clothes feel, but I like to be exact about these things.

Rule #3 No cheating. Under normal circumstances, I do recommend a moderate cheat day once a week. But this is Sober September! So for the next four weeks you must eat clean and abstain for the whole month. If you do cheat, you MUST own up to it. My clients know that they have to admit to any indiscretions. Accountability is key!

I will however, permit wine on the Jewish Holidays. My people have got to have their wine for the New Year!

Rule #4 Exercise. Make it a point to do at least two, 30 minute sessions a week of any weight bearing exercise and 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity, like brisk walking. If you like vigorous activities like running or spinning, then you only need 75 minutes. These are CDC recommendations. You can read more about them here:  http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/guidelines/adults.html

Going to give Sober September a try? I want to know about! Please leave a comment below or email me at amy.blitz@gmail.com to opt in. I will check on you throughout the month.

 

The Anywhere, Anytime Workout!

Photo 1

 I love the gym. But sometimes it’s just too nice outside to be indoors. Other times, I have space to fill between my clients. Then there are the occasions when I like to tack on a little mixed body training after a run. Whatever the reason, resistance training does not have to be confined to a gym. You can get a good sweat and have fun outside, without any equipment. Check out my bench workout and give it a try for a high rep, endurance boosting circuit. Repeat for at least 3 sets or as many as you can do for 30 minutes.

 Push-ups 

10-15 reps

Place your hands a little wider than shoulder distance on the seat of the bench. Get your body into a plank position. Lower yourself towards the bench and press back up to the start position. This is perfect for a beginner as the bench modification makes a regular push-up easier to do. If you are advanced, why don’t you go ahead and do 20-25 reps.

Push up BYB

 

 Step Ups

20 reps total or 60 seconds

Place your right foot on the bench. Step up and place your left foot on the bench. Step down with your right foot, leaving your left on the seat. Repeat this process with the left and keep going. I like to add a little hop as I switch feet, which is a great idea if you are a runner, as it mimics the movement pattern of running and will enhance your training.

Step up BYB

 

 Dips

10-20 reps

Sit on the bench with your hands holding on to the end with your fingers pointed forward. Lift your butt and shift your body a few inches away from the bench. Keeping your elbows tracking straight back, lower your body toward the ground. Pause when you make a 90 degree angle with your elbows. Push back up to the first position. Beginners can bend their knees to make it easier.

Dips BYB

 

Plyo Jumps (See picture at the top of this post)

10-20 reps

Box jumps, or in this case, bench jumps, help develop explosive power. But they are challenging and should not be anyone’s starter exercise. If you’ve never done anything like this, start with just a basic squat jump or even just squats. Otherwise, if you have a bit of experience with these, start in a quarter squat position, facing the bench. Using your hips and arms, push your feet off the ground to propel yourself onto the bench. Your goal is to land as quietly as possible. Step down and repeat.

Take a look at the entire sequence inthis seven second video by clicking this link:  Blitz Your Body Bench Workout or check me out on Vine (AmyBlitz1), where I have posted this workout and more.

You are NOT Beyonce: The Truth About Cleanse Diets

As the summer winds down, you may be thinking of ways to cleanse yourself of all the vacation food, happy hours and spontaneous ice cream runs that you enjoyed this season. As a trainer, I am always asked about the merits of cleanse diets and detoxes for weight loss and health.

The BluePrint cleanse is hot right now, with it’s options of what type of detox you want.

Hmmm, do I want to Renovate or Excavate? Decisions, decisions.  

After 3 days of this, your wallet will weigh about $200 less

After 3 days of this, your wallet will weigh about $200 less

Unbelievably, the Master Cleanse is still out there, despite the fact that it’s just lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper. Beyonce famously did this one to get in shape for Dream Girls. 

 

Makes my mouth water just thinking about it

Makes my mouth water just thinking about it

Here’s the deal: a liquid diet will only slow your metabolism, and make you lose muscle and water. So yes, the pounds on the scale will drop, but not because of any great fat loss. Your liver (the organ responsible for really detoxing your body) actually needs protein to do its job. So a week of only drinking juices will only make your body MORE TOXIC as the liver will not be able to do its job properly. Finally ask yourself, have you ever met anyone, EVER, who has kept off the weight they lost during a cleanse? In fact, most people within a few months of being off the cleanse gain back more fat than they had before the cleanse.

I get it, you need structure, a plan, a “jump start” to your healthy new lifestyle. I think that cleanses do help people psychologically get amped up to get healthy. But instead of the cleanse, make your own 10 day detox plan: stay out of the bars and restaurants. Cook your own meals that consist of good protein, veggies, and whole grains. Eat a little bit of fruit and drink a ton of water with lemon. Stay away from processed stuff. After the 10 days, assess how you feel and ask yourself if you can go another 10. Unless you are Beyonce and need to be a size 0 in 3 days, there is no reason to starve yourself.

If you like this post, please feel free to share or leave me a comment.

The Smith Machine: It’s Not Just for Bench Presses!

I love changing up my workout by incorporating the Smith machine once in a while.The Smith is a popular machine at the gym that most people use to work the chest and shoulders. It has a barbell fixed to a rack with a counter balance cable system. That cable system allows you to increase weight on certain exercises safely without a spotter. But Mr. Smith is a popular guy, so if you like to work out circuit-style (which I most certainly do) then you can easily loose your place while you jump over to a different exercise. So, I created a three exercise sequence that uses the Smith machine, so that you can work in a circuit (hello, calorie burn!), and not lose your place.

The Circuit

8-12 reps of each for at least 3 sets. Or if you really want to be a machine-hog, go for AMSAP, As Many Sets As Possible

Smith machine inverted pull up

Chest press

Reverse crunch of bench

Make sure you warm up and that the warm up includes push ups!

1.  The Inverted Pull up

This is my favorite because it strengthens the muscles of the back and can be easily modified for any fitness level. You’re going to have to push the bench over to the side. Set the bar to about hip height. Position your body under the bar, with your hands positioned slightly wider than shoulder distance. Your hands can either face you, or face away. Either way, it’s all go

od. You should do both if you can. If you are intermediate or advanced, get into an inverted plank position with only your heels touching the floor.  Beginners will reap the

benefit of the exercise by having their feet flat on the floor with knees bent. From that start position, pull yourself toward the bar until it touches your chest (or as close as you can get). Lower down with control and repeat.

Inverted pullup

2. The “bench press”

 

Please note: I prefer push ups and dumb bell presses to work the chest. Those exercises utilize more stabilizing muscles and are a lot more functional. BUT this IS the Smith machine workout so

The Smith “Bench”  is not a true bench press, but is a pretty good substitution. Get the bench back into position in the center of the bar. Put the bar in a place so that when you lay on the bench, you can easily pop it out of the safety. Load the bar with your desired weight. Laying on the bench, position your body so that the bar is over your chest, and place your hands a bit wider than shoulder width apart. Unlock the bar and hold it in place with your arms extended. As you inhale, slowly lower the bar to your chest. Pause, then exhale as you press up to the first position (arms fully extended). The pause is important, as it ensures you are not using momentum.

3. Reverse Crunch on the Bench

You’ll have to lift the bar high for this so that it doesn’t get in your way. Or you can just push the bench back a bit. With your back flat against the bench, grasp the top of it with both hands. Bend your knees to 90 degrees and lift your feet and hips to your chest. With control, and without letting your spine lift off the bench, lower  the hips back down towards the bench. Start the next rep right before your hips touch the bench.

Keep your spine is neutral against the bench as you lower your legs!

Beginners, you can bend your knees to make this easier

Take a brief rest between sets. Don’t forget to let me know how it goes!

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