Scale it Down

I have a great client who weighs herself every morning. She is smart, sharp, and sassy, and she works her butt off in her sessions. Still, every morning she steps on that scale. The number she sees tells her whether she is a success or a failure that day. Now maybe I’m exaggerating, but truly, in the back of her mind, gaining or losing a few pounds defines her for that day. So, it got me wondering, why are we still letting the numbers on a scale tell us what we’re worth?

 A quick reminder everyone, the numbers on a scale do not tell us how fit we are. I may weigh more than I think I should but, if I can fit into my skinny jeans I must be doing something right. Working out, lifting weights, building muscle, may actually send the numbers on the scale up, but it’s how you feel, how your clothes fit, your level of energy throughout the day; that is the true scale of fitness.

So, why not take a scale vacation? Feel how liberating it is to start the day without a number weighing you down. We are all so different. My best friend Robbin is tall and thin, a veritable clothes hanger. I, on the other hand, am built from Italian peasant stock: sturdy and strong. Neither one of us will ever be a Hollywood size zero, but how we feel is the scale we use. Embrace the body that carries your spirit around all day long. Give your body a break! Numbers on a scale can not even begin to tell you what an amazing person you are or how fit you are. You are all worth your weight in gold and that’s all that should matter.

Work out smart and see you in the gym!

Love Your Plateaus

Patience is a virtue. Coming from someone who is internally and irrefutably impatient, I try to tell myself that fact almost every day. Patience with my clients, the economy, that darn red light on 12th Ave and Highway 7, and with life in general. Steadily, ploddingly even, we all make our way towards our goals. Those plateaus of achievement not only make us feel successful, but show us our next vista, the next goal. “There’s always going to be another mountain” as Miley Cyrus so “eloquently” sings. So it got me thinking, if plateaus are a measurement of success in life, why are "plateaus", in our quest for a healthy body, practically a dirty word?

Plateaus are great! Plateaus rock! Be happy when you get to one, relish in where you’re at and where you might have come from. Plateaus are incredibly valuable and necessary. Plateaus are like still being in school and having the summers off. Now I don’t mean you get to stop working out or mow through a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos…my favorite! In fact a plateau is the most important time to continue doing exactly what you’re doing. Your body just needs to chill in its new place before it can move on. It needs a break from changing and is just asking for a little time to get use to its new self.

We look at plateaus with impatience and with a sense of failure when in fact, it’s just the opposite. Plateaus are stepping stones and a slow steady climb will always get us to our ultimate destination. Skipping steps could send us all the way back down. As my best friend Robbin says, take the next right step. Sometimes that step is not forcing the next step at all.

Work out smart and see you in the gym!


Pilates vs. Yoga; The Yin and Yang of Mind/Body Workouts

My clients often ask me; what is a better mind/body workout; Pilates or Yoga? As a Pilates trainer, you would think that I would immediately promote Pilates as the better workout. But I am fair and objective on this issue. I say do both if you can. This then got my clients asking; if I’m already doing Pilates, why would I want or need to do Yoga?

Well, let me begin by saying, Pilates and Yoga focus on different things. Together, they give you everything. Let me explain. Your Yoga practice is mostly based on poses, positions, holding yourself in place. This requires isometric work from the muscles which is great! Pilates is all about continuous movement, which works the muscles in an eccentric and concentric way, also very good. Asking the muscles to work in these three ways makes for a well rounded muscle.

Yoga practices belly breathing which works the abdominals in an eccentric and concentric way. Pilates breathing is more isometric, pulling in and holding the abs tight even while inhaling. The abs become very versatile.

Yoga usually begins standing and works its way down to the floor, great for balancing, and functional training. Pilates starts lying down, which allows the person to really discover how their body works without worrying about the challenge of balance or gravity. Pilates then progresses from a prone position to seated, kneeling and finally standing exercises.

Yoga focuses more on back extensions which really work the postural muscles. Pilates focuses, initially, on more flexion of the spine which really activates the abs.

Yoga stresses the importance of the quadriceps in standing poses, while the hamstrings get a lot of stretching in downward dog and seated forward fold poses. Pilates really focuses on the strength of the back chain muscles: the lower back, the hamstrings, the gluteus muscles, the external rotators and abductors or what we call the swimsuit line…for men, the speedo line. I know, not always a pretty picture but effective for the guys.

These are just a few examples of how Yoga and Pilates, together, train the body in all aspects of how it was meant to function. How great is that? I call them the Yin and Yang of mind/body workouts. It’s so funny how we have to qualify that one thing is better than the other; a better piece of cardio, free weights vs. machines, light or heavy weights, etc, when actually, it’s all good! A smart body is a well-rounded, versatile, been-around-the-world body and it will thank you for the education by staying strong and injury free.

Work out smart and see you at the gym!


Cardio Sucks!

My clients are always asking me how they can lose the weight. The obvious answer is, be consistent with your cardio. They hate that answer. “But it’s boring! What machines should I use and for how long? Do I have to?” Yes, yes, and unfortunately, yes! So, it got me to thinking, if we all know what’s really good for us, why is it soooo hard to “just do it”? Because Cardio SUCKS!!!

That’s right! Cardio is BORING! There is no getting around that fact. So we have TVs to watch, music to listen to, friends to chat with on the machine next to us. But those distractions don’t always get us into the gym. My trick is to play the variety card. There are so many kinds of cardio equipment: treadmills, recumbent bikes, upright bikes, stairmasters (and yes, those still do the trick), stepmills, all varieties of ellipticals. Shall I go on?  There is no piece of cardio equipment that is better than another. They all work if you use them the right way. That means concentrating on your form: alignment, posture, abs, etc. Yes, correct form on cardio equipment is just as important as correct form when lifting weights, holding a Yoga pose or swinging a golf club. Paying attention to form will actually give you a better workout and will get your heart rate up. With the repetitive aspect of cardio, solid form will also deter the risk of overuse injuries.

Another way to shake it up in the gym is to take advantage of the different programs on each of the machines. Programming a different workout on your machine will keep your body on its toes, so to speak. Doing the exact same workout on the same piece of equipment every day is a sure fire way to bore not only yourself but your body. Your body has an amazing knack of finding the easiest, i.e. laziest way to perform an activity. Once it knows what’s up, it shuts down. Keep it guessing and you’ll keep seeing changes.

So, cardio basically sucks unless you’re one of those weirdoes that honestly enjoy it. My hat goes off to you, but for the rest of us, variety is truly the spice of life. Take advantage of ALL that your gym has to offer and mix it up.

Workout smart and see you at the gym!

Sweaty Betti's Mission Statement

My 20 year experience as a Certified Personal Trainer and Pilates Instructor has revealed one not so well hidden truth: a large segment of the American population have left their bodies…literally! Oh, we still walk around in them, make them sit in a chair or on a couch for hours on end, even take them on a well deserved vacation every once in awhile, but we have no idea how our bodies work, or should work. We own and inhabit a very complex piece of equipment but have never looked at the manual. Our bodies are strong, resilient, forgiving, and fast-paced medical technology allows us to “easily” replace or repair our broken pieces. It’s a win-win, right? WRONG!

 Let’s take our bodies back! Let’s step back into our skin and re-explore one of the most amazing machines ever designed…ourselves.

Sweaty Betti’s mission is to lead people back into themselves in a fun, funny, simple, everyone-can-do-it kind of way. Scared of the gym with all of its looming equipment? Intimidated by those gym rats that “look” like they totally know what they’re doing? I’ll let you in on a secret…most of them are setting themselves up for a herniated disc or knee replacement. Do you feel like you just aren’t getting anything out of your workouts?

If you are of the female persuasion, are you afraid to step into that black hole known as the “free weight” area?  As a man, does your macho ego get in the way of correct, safe, aware lifting? You’re piling those 45lb plates onto the bench press bar even as we speak. And, by the way, unless the gym is your only form of socialization, did you know that an effective workout does not have to last two hours? Get in and get out of the gym!

Pay attention!!!! Not to me…well maybe just a little, but to your body! When you work out, try to be mindful of HOW you perform an exercise, including your cardio. Form+Function=Fitness. Know exactly what muscle group you should be working in an exercise. You wouldn’t believe how many people I ask: what is the Lat Pulldown machine for? The most common answer...uh, uh, arms? NO! The Lat Pulldown machine is for the Lats…those big, beautiful muscles in the back. If you don’t know what you should be working, you can’t be aware of whether the right muscles are working at all. Most of the time, we will work out using our stronger default muscles…the neck, the lower back, over worked hip flexors…

One more thing about Sweaty Betti…she is a stickler for etiquette. Whether you are in or out of the gym, common courtesy has become a lost art and if not restored, will turn our city streets, lake parkways, bike paths and running trails into a daily personal vendetta war zone. Look at the high rate of road rage. Let’s stop the madness! What we need is more personal physical awareness and awareness of those around us.

Sweaty Betti is a taking you on a trip into the land that we forgot: ourselves. All shapes and sizes are welcome. Throw on some sweats, bike shorts, spandex, or leggings. Wear something comfy. Gals, don’t worry about your hair, and leave your makeup at home. Swipe on some deodorant guys, and come along with me as we explore “Getting in and Getting out Of the Gym”.       

Summer etiquette

So, it’s that time of year when we come crawling out of our temperature controlled houses and turn our faces to the sun, at least when the sun is out. Time to dust off the outdoor running shoes, tune up the trail bikes and head outside for our workouts. A summer breeze, the wind in our hair, and the boredom of a long winter in the gym melts away. So, it got me wondering…if we’re so well-versed about etiquette in the gym, why are we so rude when it comes to our collective outdoor gym?

My best friend Robbin loves to bike. She’s a casual biker and just wants to stay out of everybody’s way. But even she, with the patience of Job, gets very tired of all of the non-bikers on the bike path; runners, parents with double wide strollers, even just plain walkers. Okay, what is it in the words, bike path, that are confusing? The little figures on the bike path signs, on bikes, should give you a hint. Now I’m one of those bikers that like to go fast and furious. I stay out on the lake frontage road, not only to give casual bikers and little kids on trikes their space, but because I can’t stand all of the non-bikers on the bike path. If you’re not on wheels, go back to the walking path, please! We’ll all get along just fine.

I love a good run as well as a leisurely walk. But once on the walking path, the old tried and true adage, “stay to the right” seems to have no meaning. It works on the road, why not on the paths?  Walking side by side is so nice, but those who refuse to move an inch for someone walking in the opposite direction are just plain, well, not nice.  And believe me, it happens, a lot!

So, as we all get outside to enjoy our very short summer, please be aware of others around you. Rules were set up to make everything easier, so follow them and, like I said before, we’ll all get along just fine.

Have a great summer and see ya at the lake!