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Do you have any fitness related questions?

March 21st, 2011 14 Comments

I’m at a bit of a loss as to what to write about today.  So if you have any questions, I’d love to help you in any way that I can.  Submit them in the comments below!

UPDATE: Readers have asked and I am answering!  Click the comments to see my responses and join the conversation.

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  • haley

    I have been looking for a daily plan to build strength/cardio endurance. I feel like I go go the gym frequently but without a plan- do you have any advice or resources to creating a successful exercise program?

    • Haley,

      To create the best possible plan for YOUR body, I highly suggest hiring a trainer. He or she will teach you proper form for each machine (form is KEY), new exercises to challenge your body, strategies to developing a workout, and a diet that aligns with your goals. It does cost money, but you will learn a lot in 3-4 sessions. Then you can replicate and reinvent the routines for at least 6 months.

      It’s not easy to find a trainer to suit you, so keep an eye out in the gym and see what each trainer has their clients doing. Also, take some group fitness classes so you learn their personality. Don’t hesitate to ask someone in the sales office or the manager to make recommendations.

      If training is truly not a possibility, you can use this simple formula:

      Change up your cardio every time. Switch between: running, walking up a steep incline, intervals on the treadmill, the elliptical, the StairMaster (which I ALWAYS find to be effective), a cardio class, spinning, etc. Set a time limit and then push yourself in a different direction every time.

      As for weights, pick 2-3 muscle groups and do 3 exercises for each group. Combos I like: Back and biceps, Chest and triceps, Shoulders and legs. Then I throw in crunches, squats, butt lifts, or cardio in between sets when I feel my heart rate dropping. For endurance and strength training, I would suggest you use lower weights and do more reps quickly instead of heavy weights, less reps, slowly.The problem with this is that you don’t have enough movements in your repertoire to keep your body challenged which is why a trainer can be helpful.

      Hope this helps!

    • heyitscat asked: what are your favorite exercises that can flatten/tighten stomach that i can do at home? (or can squeeze into busy work days?

      While you’re at work, try engaging your abs. Pull in your tummy and breath normally. See how long you can hold that for. Not only will this flatten your tummy, but it will also improve your posture.

      Running is also really effective. Focus on keeping your chest high, shoulders back, and pulling your knees up high. It takes a lot more out of you to run this way, but you’ll flab and flatten your tummy.

      The common misconception is that endless crunches are the answer. But if you think about it, you’ll realize that building up the muscles will make them bigger. Do crunches 3-4 times a week, not everyday.

      sartorialperfection asked: Hi Mary! I’ve been doing the bar method here in NYC and I seem to have hurt my knee. Any advice for knee injuries? It hurts to sit/bend.

      Unfortunately I don’t know much about body mechanics. Ask someone at your studio or even better a doctor. Knee injuries are serious and you don’t want it to get worse.

      jessicakim asked: what is the best way to get rid of the fat above your belly but right below your boobs? Haha, ribcage area-ish Any particular workouts?

      As I always say, cardio and diet are the only way to get rid of unwanted flab. Cut back on flour and sugar. Try to get your heart rate up for at least 20 minutes a day. I wish I had a better answer for you, but when you start seeing results you’ll want to eat better and work out more.

  • Jill

    I’m having trouble figuring out what I should eat, how much I should eat, and when I should eat prior to my workouts. If I eat too little, I feel incredibly sluggish. If I eat too much or too close to my workout time, I feel nauseous. I’ve tried playing around with different ratios, but it always comes back to me feeling like hell while working out.

    Is there some sort of basic formula for how much/what/when I should eat, depending on the length/intensity of a planned workout? Basically, I think I just need more energy during my more intense sessions.


    • Jill,

      Eating habits are more personal than a workout regimen. Everyone’s body and metabolism works differently.

      What I’ve found works for me is to eat more small meals throughout the day using the following philosophy. One portion of veggies and one portion of either protein or carbs (not both). A portion is the size of your palm. Do this 5 times a day and in between feel free to have fruit, veggies, or nuts as a snack. However, if I’m craving a cookie, I go for it. Sweets are not the devil so go ahead and enjoy it. Better to do mid-day than at 11pm.

      Think of it this way – food is fuel for your body. And you want it to run well, so feed it with natural goodness, not crap. The cleaner you eat, the better you’ll feel. Stay away from sugar and flour, but don’t abstain. Dieting is not the road to a healthy lifestyle.

      In terms of working out, I try not to eat anything too rich (Mexican, Chinese, heavy Italian) at any point in the day before I work out. If I’m hungry right before I go to the gym and am feeling low on energy, I like to pick up something filling that stays still in my tummy and takes a while to burn off like almond butter, a banana, or oatmeal.

      I know this message probably isn’t as specific as you’d like, but there is no RIGHT answer. Nutritionista consults people on their personal diet and helps them establish a detailed plan based on their lifestyle goals. For more information on her program, click here.

  • Ginny


    Can you offer input on what a good Monday – Friday treadmill workout would look like, with varying workouts throughout the week? You’ve mentioned in the comments above alternating between running and walking on an incline. I currently walk two minutes, run briskly for one minute, for 20 minutes total. I’d like to change things up in a way that will burn the most calories. Any input would be much appreciated, thanks!

    • Ginny and Jill,

      I’m out and about right now, but I will address your questions tonight!

    • Ginny,

      Great question about establishing a weekly treadmill workout that keeps your body challenged.

      There are two different types of cardio exercise – aerobic and anaerobic. Aerobic is when you keep your intensity and heart rate low, allowing you to keep moving for longer. Think of a light jog as an example. Most people call this the “fat burning zone.” Anaerobic exercise is when you intensify your cardio and push your heart rate to the limit, like when you sprint as far as you can. Read more about both here and how they pertain to your metabolism.

      As I said in my earlier comment, not only do I like to change up my approach to cardio daily, but I like to change machines to keep me from getting burned out on one. However, if you’re asking about the treadmill specifically, here’s how I would do it:

      Monday – 5 min light jog, 10 min quick jog, 30 sec sprint on an incline/30 sec light jog 10 times, 5 min uphill walk.
      Tuesdsay – 5 min uphill walk, 10 min fast jog on a moderate incline, 5 min uphill walk, 10 min fast jog
      Wednesday – 15 min jog
      Thursday – 5 min jog, 20 sec uphill sprint/1 min slow walk 10 times, 5 min jog
      Friday – 45 minutes whatever I feel like

      So, I guess you can see I truly dislike the treadmill and only have the patience for about 30 minutes of it. For me, I like the intensity of constant anaerobic cardio, but I try to incorporate the aerobic ever so often.

      Don’t forget that lifting weights can be a great cardio workout as well. Lunging with light weight, squats with an overhead shoulder press, jumping jacks with light weights (1-3 lbs), boxing with light weights, etc. All of this can replace a treadmill and keep your body and mind challenged.

      And finally, when in doubt, the StairMaster will get you every time!

  • Ginny

    Thanks, look forward to reading your response!

  • Ginny

    Thank you so much for the response! I’ll try to put your tips into practice and will let you know how it goes…

  • steph

    Hi Mary,

    Are there any good and effective workout dvd’s that you could recommend?


    • Steph,

      As cheesy as it is, P90X is really effective. I enjoy the workouts and always find ways to challenge myself within the routines. Honestly, I’ve never heard anyone complain or say that the method didn’t work for them.

  • steph

    Thanks Mary!! So I don’t have to worry about “bulking” up from p90X?

  • Quite the opposite! P90X was designed to help people lose weight through a healthy diet and exercise.

    I will suggest that you find alternatives to their food products. Whole Foods has the same products made from organic and natural ingredients.