Friday, December 10, 2010

Getting older, Not fatter

Getting older gracefully is something many aspire to do.  Some people, however, want more than that.  Flying into our 90s is the dream... right? Look at Olga up there -- she's flying!!  She wants to age with speed, agility, and athletic achievements in age-group competitions.  But getting to the top of "masters" divisions or the "senior games" isn't as easy as it used to be for the Olgas of the world.

Nowdays instead of ever-shrinking 65-70 and 75-80 year old competition brackets, they're growing...  more about that in a future article  But first, the bad news remains:  we lose 10% of our lean muscle every decade.  Only strength training and regular exercise can prevent muscle loss.  Left unchecked, the lost muscle is replaced with fat.  

So for a woman who starts out in her 20s or 30s with a relatively healthy 80% lean, 20% fat body she'll enter her 40s with a 70% lean, 30% fat even IF her weight stays the same.  Her sizes will go up ever so slightly and it may "not matter much" at first, but there are consequences:   
Everything feels pudgy.  Energy levels drop.  Life gets harder.  

People already in their 40s and 50s folks know that losing weight gets harder as we age, and why is that?  It's because the metabolic engine that is our lean muscle mass is getting eaten away.  Like termites gnawing away at wood, fat creeps in to replace our muscle as our own bodies only naturally conserve and build strength in youth but atrophy with age.  

Hormones have a role in this process, no doubt, but rather than hitting the needles and popping pills... why not use the muscle you have to conserve the metabolism you need to age gracefully and healthfully.  

As reported by the NY Times, there is inspiration to be found in the 80-year olds who stay fit with good, old-fashioned work.  Consistency is the key.  And researchers learning more about aging every year:  
Some researchers now see aging itself as a kind of mitochondrial disease. Defective mitochondria appear as we get older, and these researchers say that they rob us of endurance, strength and function. There’s evidence that for young patients with mitochondrial disease, exercise is a potent tool, slowing the symptoms. If that’s true, then exercise could also potentially be a kind of elixir of youth, combating the ravages of aging far more than we thought.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Abs Diet advice

An old friend from Tulsa who got in touch with me via Facebook this summer.  She asked for advice on dieting and exercising to lose 30 pounds over the course of a year.  Now that we've just had Thanksgiving, I'm going to check-in and ask how she's doing so far.

I have helped people like her before, but in person, and not via e-mail or Facebook.  This kind of distance coaching isn't my intended direction for fitness coaching, but I did want to help this friend, so I replied:

Dear Friend, 

Sorry I've not responded to your note yet.  I'm juggling a lot of private and gym clients right now, plus mid-summer vacations.  Yes, life is good even if busy.  :-)   I wish I could afford more time for e-mails to friends, but facebook updates are about all I can do right now.  

Anyway, about these 30, I think you've got the right idea to take some time with it.  Make it a steady effort for 3 weeks at a time, taking a shorter-term view of progress rather than getting lost in the big picture. It's easy to see 10lbs x3 as more attainable than all 30 at a go.  Weight loss is a struggle of inches as well as pounds.  Start with some good basic measurements to see progress in more than just your "skinny jeans" fit.

Now for the specifics:  I doubt that there's a lot of dietary expertise that I could bring to your situation without asking for food logs and making detailed shopping lists for you.  I do know that everything I've experienced and read says that more protein, more veggies, and more water helps.  Similarly, you want less processed (boxed, wrapped, shelved) foods, less alcohol/sugar, and less eating overall (portion control) to help keep excess calories out.  Eat more veggies, fruits, berries, and grains is my first tip.

Basically, You'll need to eat healthy, less refined, raw or natural "ABS DIET" power foods as much as possible.  Check out the list if you haven't already seen it.  About 80% of foods for most athlete's and weight loss diets will come from it.  My one allowance for boxed breakfast is raisin bran or old-fashioned 3-5 lb. round cannister of quaker oats, no packets.  To prepare, just add water or milk until some of the oats float and microwave for 2-3 mins.

I don't know if dairy or eggs work for you, but both are excellent proteins if you skip the full-fat milks/cheeses or yolks.   Even on a budget, a gallon of skim milk and a doz eggs should be affordable protein sources.  Hardboiled eggs are super-portable too and easy to prepare with 10mins boiling water.  

Canned tuna and chicken roasted or baked and cooked in bulk can provide great sandwich material, and making them yourself will save you a lot of cals and cost.  I know saving money is important to you, and I encourage practicing the disciplines of cooking your own meals and packing your food to-go with you as much as possible.  Carry water with you everywhere and spend nothing on beverages except your emergen-C packets. Good stuff!

Basically, I think you already know the answers.  Eat good stuff, and not too much of it.  Move more and preserve muscles by keeping protein intake high, but natural.  The rest is a matter of budgeting in the time and effort to stay focused and in control of how/when/how much you eat.  Not to be cryptic, but it's all within you.  E-mail me for more info and Let me know how you do,  OK?

Take care, -Sunny

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Revisiting the Bootcamp Venue - Danehy Track

I missed my running buddies and bootcampers today.  So I decided to run over to the Danehy Park and Track to "run a few loops" for them.  
I used to ride on bootcamp mornings, but today I ran in an extra long-sleeve shirt since it was a little chilly.  Of course, running there warmed me up enough that I left my extra shirt where I normally left my bike.  I started on the hilly green, then made my way to the track itself.  

Just today I saw it was named the "City of Cambridge Track of Champions".  Wow, such a grand name -- and here I thought it was just a regular track for hacks and athletes, young and old alike.  

I took a few loops at a comfortable RPE 7 of 10 pace and then did some warmup moves like leg swings and hip circles, a few hops, some skips, plus a little grapevine shuffle.  The soccer players in all green at mid-field probably found it funny to see a lone runner doing all this.

I realized I should've included half track speed changes and some 1/4 track accelerations.  I start at a 4 and then up it to a 6, and build to an 8 and finally 10.  Those are really fun and make the soccer players think, "Maybe she can sprint after all..."  I really enjoyed the run and miss the bootcamp days already!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Cookie-eating vs. Walking it off

Sunny asked a few friends recently, "Are you Trading Your health for a “Treat”?  The resounding answer was "I don't think so. I can eat dark chocolate every day because it's good for me and I'm so active.

While walking to burn a few extra calories is good, it's even better to limit the incoming cakes, cookies, etc.  Did you know that even a tiny Tootsie Roll has 25 calories?  And who eats only one...usually it's 3-4, so you'd need to do 10 minutes of power walking just to burn off that trip to the candy bowl.

What about a single dark chocolate cookie -- how much damage can that do?  Well, the Nantucket cookie seen here has enough calories to sustain a 20 minute jog to and from the park!  Can you really take that jog every time you hit the bag at the office meeting?

Pepperidge Farm® These cookies are American Classics

Nantucket™ Dark Chocolate Cookies

Nutrition Facts*
Amount per Serving (serving size) = 1 cookie
Calories 130Sugars 8g
Total Fat 6gProtein 1g

“It’s not the one cookie; it’s the one cookie you eat everyday” said my training client, Jess Grass.  When I see that she's gaining back the weight she worked so hard to lose, then I know she's giving in to the sweet treats too often.   You don't have to go sugar-free everyday, but she and many others should try it for just a single day or two and see how many calories we save.

I went sugar-free for 5 days in September and it was eye-opening.  There's sugar hidden in so many foods!  Ketchup, salad dressing, and simple breads, not even "sweet" breads.  My boyfriend asked what I was doing and if I was somehow anti-sugar.  “I’m in favor of sugar” he said, and three of his friends quickly agreed.

But if I can do without sugary treats, I will save a lot of the fall and winter excess from ever piling on.  And that will keep me in summer-weight range and happier, longer than any Nantucket cookie can make me.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Inside the September 2010 Bootcamp series

We met on Fridays and Mondays at Danehy Park in Cambridge, pre-dawn and before our "work days" began.  Participants signed up via Facebook on the page and got updates by personal e-mails also through Facebook.  

Dave and Sierra were the first two on-board, and then Lisa joined us for the final 3 sessions.  Their dedication and consistent turn-out, even after racing triathlon sprint distance races the day before always impressed me.  Funny notes about wine and wishing for rain would come out the night before, but they always came through to bootcamp in the morning.  Dedication.  
Bootcampers -- Dave, Sierra, and Lisa -- ya'll are awesome.  

Together we decided to brave the early, dark hour of 6am (remember, daylight fade and sunrise is delayed) for most weeks.  However,  by the last session of the month we had to push back to 6:30am to be able to see.  Good thing we did, too, because some (silly, strange) male runners were out running the track *backwards*, clockwise in the pre-dawn hours.  Collision before sunrise would not have been fun!      

So, without further ado, here's what we did during our 
Last Outdoor Danehy Park Track Bootcamp 2010

Easy run (3-4 mins)
Monster Walk, Knee Circles, Hip Swings
Inchworms, Lunge Reaches and Twists

Agility:  Timed Triangle Cone sprints and U-turns

Form review then 3 laps building speed, 2 laps slowing speed


Pushups, Lunge Switches, Bicycle Crunches – no equip
Plank Marches, Squat Hops, High Reaches to Toes – timed, no equip

All of this in under an hour!  The most fun was our giggle fest during the U-turn drills as we tried our morning "coordination" in quick direction shifts, similar to a hop-step dance move around a soccer cone.  No one was laughing after the hard running laps that followed, or during the Strength portion that ended our session.  But a good time was had by all, start to finish.  What do you think?  Could you enjoy it?  Try it!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

6 Tips for Clean Eating

Getting cleaner foods into your body will help you get leaner and healthier.  
Where to begin?  Start with these tips:
Red Fire Farm carrots really do taste amazing!

  1. Shop the perimeter of the store – skip the aisles of packaged, canned, and processed foods.  Whole nuts, oats, and brown rice are a few exceptions.  You can only eat what you buy, and if you shop for clean foods from the start, you'll make clean eating possible and easier then saying "no" to other junk.
  2. Freezer friendly finds – try new vegetarian burgers, fish/shrimp, steamer bagged veggies, and ripe frozen berries.  Skip the freezer entrees, Haagen-Dazs and fast-food knock-offs like freezer fries.  And try my favorite freezer veggie:  soybeans in the shell, or edamame.
  3. Join a CSA or shop the farmers markets – prepare to spend a little more on local organic foods to eat truly clean.  Cook and appreciate kale, spinach, and raw gems like real, earthy-sweet carrots.  A great Boston based CSA is Red Fire Farm and will help you find other CSAs.  
  4. Clean those fruits and veggies – take 10 minutes after shopping to rinse, chop, and make-ready your veggies.  Drop them into plastic boxes or baggies and leave them on the top shelves of your fridge.  Then in a hurry you can just pop them into your bag for easy snacks.  Or just streamline the evening meal prep by having it all ready to cook or eat raw.
  5. Focus on whole grains and short ingredient lists – foods that are best for you will have fewer than 10 ingredients and all they won’t read like a chemistry book.  Even CLIF bars have 20+ ingredients.  Why not try to make your own?  If you can’t pronounce an ingredient, or your grandmother had never heard of it, then you probably shouldn’t be eating it. 
  6. Alcohol and sweets really should be treats – and not every day is a “special day”.  Think of your diet as the building block of your healthy life, and ask “what would an athlete eat before competing?” and if they wouldn’t eat it or drink it, then why should you.  After all, you are planning to workout hard tomorrow, right?  Another great post-race meal may be waiting for you...
Lobsterman Triathlon post-race healthy feast

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Barefoot run and Bootcamp at Tufts

I've read a lot about running stride efficiency, running light and easy.  ChiRunning was my "best running book of 2008" and it made sense:  running should feel easy and enjoyable.  Enter the recent trend in exploring barefoot running ...

More recently, I've seen dozens of articles about how barefoot is the best way to learn mid-foot striking.  Apparently most running shoe critics feel that a stacked heel both A. encourages and B. sets up the runner for a heel strike.  This heel-to-toe roll is what most people are "taught" about how to run, but it's not how we first run when barefoot and free.  Kids don't have to learn how to run.  They run naturally with a mid-foot stride until running shoes make the teen/adult runner strike heels and land with more of a back-to-front foot rolling action.  

So, why not return to basic, barefoot running?  The mid-foot stride can be relearned and the glass/rock/surface hazards of pavement can be avoided.  Advocates of barefoot running say that relearning how to run without shoes will make many of us run better, farther, or with less injury.  Who wouldn't want to do that?   Sign me up.

I decided last week to take that curiosity about barefoot running to the Tufts U track surface.  Safer than streets, no glass or rocks, so no pain, right?  Wrong!  Every step felt like running on a sandpaper covered Mars.  I jogged the first lap easy, second lap a little faster, and the third at a regular (to me) running pace.  Getting used to the surface was not easy, but it felt GOOD!  The orange-ish red composite felt very warm, springy, and yet still rough under my feet.  It stung just a little on the push-off from each step to the next, but I thought nothing of it.

Wanting to continue running, but knowing I shouldn't "over do it" on the track, I entered the grassy middle of the track and started doing sprints to mid-field and then running the full length of the field.  These were super-fun!  Each field-dash took about 28 seconds, and felt good again.  After a few of these, I sat and rested my grassy feet by raising them to the sky.  When it seemed that my friend and trainee, Wendy, would arrive any minute, I set out the bootcamp equipment and got ready for her session.

We did have a great workout there in the sun.  The theme of the day was functional strength with lots of body weight drills.  Among the drills:  walking lunges, twist lunge steps, curtsy lunge hop ups, and the evil, horribly difficult walking push-up planks for the full length of the end zone (~80 ft).  Lordy, those were tough and we had to break the push-ups into two sets just to get through them all.  But Wendy was a champ and completed the set!

More workouts like this are coming soon.  I just have to let the blister on my toe heal before trying the barefoot run again.  If you'd like to join us, here's a teaser video for next week's kick-off to June session.  Read about it here in the May Newsletter or below:  

Afternoon BOOTCAMP (May 27 and Thursdays in June)

6-week series starts May 27th, this week — Tufts Track on Thursdays at 3pm.  Perfect for teachers and people with flexible schedules in Somerville, Medford, and Cambridge.  This is small group training at its best —  challenging and highly-personalized fitness training for anyone who is eager to get into top shape.
Pricing for 2, 4, or all 6 weeks of the series is affordable at 2 for $60 , 4 for $100, and all 6 for $120!  Personal training sessions with SunnyDayFitness are normally $60 each, so this is a great deal for a group of 4 or more — join with a friend and you’ll save even more!  

P.S.  Morning bootcamps coming soon...become our Fan on Facebook today for more info.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tuesday's ritual -- Mystic Marauders

5:20am and my phone chimes to wake me.  I strip down and dress into the clothes I'd laid out last night:  swimsuit first, then cycling shorts and top.  I use the bathroom and quickly brush teeth before heading down to bike over to the Wheelworks shop near Davis Sq.  

5:45am and six of my teammates greet me.  All carry their backpack or string-sacks stuff to the brim:  wetsuit, towel, and cap with goggles folded in and secured for the ride.  We head out for a 13-mile ride out of the city and into hills around the golf course at the Winchester Country Club.  

The workout seems to run like clock-work and we arrive at Sandy Beach for our swim.  Yes, it's early still, but the weather is already warming up.  (One friend Beren noted on FB:  I prefer cold - you can always put on another sweater to get warm, but if you're nekkid and still too hot yer outta options. =) ).  That's so true!  And that's why I like to workout early in the summers -- Beat the heat, take a swim.   

I look and see that the swim ropes are up and the beach has been combed by park staff, removing most of the leaves and debris from last fall and recent gully washers.  It's lovely and yet dotted with pollen and living 'stuff' -- green and gooey, alive and kicking (or rather, swimming).  I spot some goose poop (yes, the Canadians are back) and decide to place my flip-flops a few feet farther away at the water's edge.

Then we swim.  Two by two we buddy up and head out for the first buoy.  We get back to the beach about 25 minutes later and start to peel off the wetsuits.  Unlike the photo below, which was taken on a much colder day after a swim in much colder water, today's weather was perfect:  65-70F and bright.  More smiles than shivers!

Following the swim, we gab about summer racing plans and don our gear for the ride home, stuffing the wet wetsuits back into our packs.  It's wonderful to hear how everyone enjoyed the water, felt good on the hills, and keeps learning from the others.  (My friend Dave said that Sierra was giving him training tips on timing his breathing while swimming, and that's exactly why we train together.  We keep each other safe and help each other out, each striving to improve a little each time.  This is why and how training groups work!)  We also keep each other safe through numerous stop lights as we make our way back to Davis Sq, now in the heavy morning traffic.

7:30am and I arrive by bike over to a client's house -- I've been training her for a little over a year.  She knows I'll arrive a little water logged, but she's ready to train hard in her bi-weekly Tues AM session.  So I take her through new back/ab strengthening moves on her Swiss ball, have her try out a few balancing and hip lifting moves on the ball (Knee Tucks and Diver's Pikes) and then get out the resistance bands.  Imagine this move in someone's living room... we did that!  

We did a lot more, too.  From the easy crunches and plank holds to the complex Turkish get-up's, we got through her whole body routine in 55 minutes.  And my work is done for now, it's 9am and I'm back home for breakfast.  Whew!

Here's a tip:  Get your workout done early.  Beat the heat, break a sweat, and then get food.  
Most bodies love to run a little on empty before topping off the tank.  Enjoy the clean burn of an early workout! 

That's my typical Tuesday morning...and it just gets better from there.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Spring Smoothies

Few food options rival the smoothie for simplicity (no cooking, no chewing), deliciousness (fruit, ice cream), and versatility (it's a meal, snack, or dessert). Indeed, it’s as close to a perfect meal as you can get. The only problem: Duplicating juice-bar results at home.  Try some of these nutrient-packed smoothie ingredients that will juice your brain, build muscle, burn fat, and strengthen your heart in less than a minute. Just throw them in a blender, hit liquefy, and start slurping. It’s that simple. 

And for even more great ideas, check out TheMen’s Health Smoothie Selector online


High in antioxidants, and bursting with fiber, manganese, and vitamin C, these berries will keep your heart and brain in top shape.


With abundant Vitamins A and C, mangoes also add a healthy dose of beta-carotene, which helps prevent cancer and promotes healthy skin. 
Orange and Citrus fruits

OJ has vitamin C, and pineapples contain
bromelain, a cancer-inhibiting, inflammation-reducing enzyme.  These all make citrus fruits golden and great ingredients for your smoothie!

Dairy delights and Protein punches -- Milk or Whey

Then add, either Milk, Water, or that devilish combo of the latter two, Whey protein!  1% Milk has calcium, protein, added vitamins and almost none of the fat.  Whey protein has essential amino acids help pack on the muscle—making whey the best friend of athletes and gym rats alike.

For more smoothie ideas and nutritional info, search for your favorite smoothie ingredients or see the smoothie selector tool (with over 30 recipes!) brought to you by Rodale/Men's Health Magazine: 

Saturday, January 23, 2010

on a short holiday at Cape Cod, which is quiet and serene in the wintertime.