FeelGooder Fitness Tweak: Single Mom Needs a Little Push

Lisa H. is one of my favorite people on Twitter. She is warm-hearted, funny, a Florida Mom with three kids, and someone who has a super-busy schedule.

She home-schools her kids, and works full-time from home as a freelance writer and professional blogger.  She gives 100% to her kids and her career. She just needs to give herself a little attention too.

The situation

Lisa’s not unhappy with the way she looks, but would like to get a little more toned. She also has noticed her blood pressure has been creeping up and finds herself stressed out at times. She loves fruits and vegetables (good) and also likes cheese (not as good!). She’d like to find ways to cook healthfully without spending as much money at the grocery store, and she mostly cooks from scratch.

Available equipment

An elliptical trainer.

The plan: cardio

Lisa’s already doing one long walk a week with her kids in one of the local amusement parks in Florida. That’s great. Lisa, while you’re doing it, think about adding a little speed. Maybe you can “race” your kids from point A to point B to get a little goose out of your calorie burn. Unless you’re breaking a sweat, it’s movement … but it’s not cardio.

For the rest of the week, combine what you love with what you’d rather not do. Record one of your favorite shows, like “Glee,” and only watch it on the elliptical. Go for a minimum of 20 minutes, but if you’re enjoying the show and want to, go longer, and enjoy! Do this four to five days per week.

You mentioned that you can get stressed and you want exercise to reduce your stress levels. Think about the most stressful times of your day and time your exercise to coincide with that. Another possible way to use exercise is to think of it as a transition time. So, you could home-school your kids, do some cardio, and then move on to work. Try a couple of different times of day to see what works best for you.

The plan: weight training

Lisa mentioned she’d like her arms to be more toned, and to work on her abs too.

Pushups are the answer. Start from the knees and make sure you body is in a plank position. To get in the plank there are three things you have to think about.

  1. Squeeze your backside and keep it in line with the rest of your body.
  2. Pull your abs up away from the floor, and think about lifting your belly button up and under your rib cage.
  3. Your shoulder blades should slide down your back toward your backside. Don’t let them come up to your ears.

This should put you in an absolutely straight line—the “dart” position. Lower your body down by flexing your elbows until the elbows are at 90 degrees. Make sure you get to 90! Do as many as you can the first day to figure out your threshold. If it’s one, it’s one … just start from wherever you’re at. From there, add one more pushup every other workout. This will tone your arms, chest, and back.

Another great arm exercise is my Hollywood Arms workout. You can literally just use soup cans to start with but if you have one- or two-pound weights, that would be ideal. You don’t need a lot of weight here to get an intense arm workout—it took me a year to get up to three pounds! You can check out the video if you like.

Hold the weights in your hands, with your palms face-up. Your arms should be stiff but the elbows should have a slight bend to them, and your hands should be directly in front of your body. Start to do small, tight circles keeping the palms up the entire time. Gradually start to move the hands away from each other, moving them about 90 degrees to the sides of the body. Pause. Reverse the direction of the circles and very slowly pull the arms back to the start position. Repeat the set a second time with the palms facing the floor. These work great! I use them all the time with brides, fashionistas, and local celebrities.


We’re just going to do crunches to start. But I’m going to give you my secret weapon: kegels! Kegels are the stop-your-pee exercise that moms frequently learn after giving birth, but they’re also great at getting rid of that post-pregnancy bulge.

Lie on the floor with your knees bent, and back flattened against the floor. Put your hands behind the head, your loosely intertwined fingers supporting the base of the skull, and your elbows wide. Inhale to get ready. On the exhale feel as if you have bungee cords at the base of your rib cage pulling your ribs down towards your hip bones. Lift your head off the mat and flatten your back into the mat. This is just a basic crunch but I want you to feel the work in your abs. I don’t want you to just yank your head up with your hands and call that an ab exercise! Pull your belly button up and under your rib cage, and add a kegel! Do one long set of 15. Work up to 20 by adding one rep every other workout.

Once you get to 20, lift your legs off the floor into what we call “tabletop”—you have a 90-degree angle at your hip and 90 degrees at the knees, and your legs are together. Go back down to 12 reps and work up to 20 again. This will increase the intensity of the exercise. I’m using Pilates form here because it’s so effective for postpartum work. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how effective this is!

The second exercise here is for obliques. Focus on your core muscles again. Come up and hold the crunch position, focusing on your abs and your kegel. Your fingers should be lightly supporting your head—they’re not helping with the exercise. Pretend your have a dinner napkin on your tummy. Two corners are on your hip bones and the other two corners are at the bottom of your rib cage. Keep the belly button pulling up and under the rib cage and fold the imaginary napkin from corner to corner as if you were folding it into a triangle. Your shoulders and arms should be quiet—they’re just going along for the ride. All the work should be in the abs!

I can’t tell you how many people I see doing obliques incorrectly! Do ten on each side and work up to 20 by adding one rep every other workout. As above, when you get to ten, bring the legs up into tabletop position.

This is a very basic resistance training program, but because of your high blood pressure I want you to focus on your cardio. It’s important to make sure that’s in check so you can give your kids the best Mom they can have.

As for eating on the cheap, I’m totally with you. I just bought Eating Well on a Budget by Jessie Price and the Eating Well Test Kitchen. It’s got great recipes broken down by cost per serving, and focuses on meals for less than $3 per serving. It also has a great section about stocking up your pantry so you have almost everything you need at hand.

Hope this helps Lisa. :et me know if you have any questions. If anyone else would like a FeelGooder fitness tweak you can contact me at my blog, LisaJohnsonFitness.com.

Sleep Well. Dream Big.

Sleep Well. Dream Big.

I say this every night to my son. I have since he was about two weeks old. The first night in the hospital after he was born I couldn’t believe how in love I was with this precious bundle, and how amazingly happy I was to have him in my life.

I wanted him to know all possibilities were before him. He could do or achieve anything. I wanted him to feel safe and protected. I wanted him to know he could recover and learn from his mistakes. How could I boil all that down?

It came to me after a few sleepless nights as a new Mom. It just drifted into my conscious and I knew it was perfect. Sleep Well. Dream Big. This, my son, is what I hope for you.

It means, be well prepared and take chances. Think about possibilities, not barriers. Stretch a little further than you think you can. Try.

I hope someday that he says this to his children as he’s tucking them in and giving them a kiss on the forehead. I hope he remembers it when he’s out of my home and my safety net and wants to try something new.

What do you tell your children? What words of wisdom do you want to pass onto them? We’d love to hear them.

FeelGooder Fitness Tweak: Winter Running

Lisa Johnson is a fitness blogger at LisaJohnsonFitness.com.

Brian Kelsey, Carpenter, TV Host, drops the last 10 pounds.

Brian Kelsey is the host of Kelsey on the House.  He is an up-and-comer at HGTV and also does voiceover work.  I laughed when I clicked on his voiceover links—we’ve been hearing this guy for years on everything from movie trailers to CNN!

The situation

Brian gets a lot of resistance training from his job on set at Home Remodels.  He’s constantly swinging a hammer and hauling two-by-fours. What he wants to do is focus on losing ten pounds or so by running.

Available equipment

A pair of sneakers.

The plan: cardio

First Brian, please check that your sneakers are fresh and wearing well. Especially as you’re going into the wintry weather of New York in the next few months, you might want to consider a new pair. Generally speaking you should replace your sneakers every six months, or 250 miles.

Also check with your local running store for thoughts on winter running gear. You’re going to need layers, gloves, a good hat, sunglasses for the glare from the snow, a face shield of some sort, good running tights/sweats, and a light jacket that’s easy to move in.  There will be a little bit of investment in gear now, but it will save you from overheating or freezing later.

If you’re just starting out, consider the Couch to 5K program—I’m a fan! It’s a great run/walk program that takes ten weeks and culminates in a 5K road race that you’ve targeted.  Brian has been running for a while, so for him, we’re going to work on pacing and consistency.


Winter running requires strategy.  You’ll need to plan a consistent three to four days per week for your running schedule, but the weather might not cooperate.  Look at your work schedule and your local weather to plot the best days for running each week.  You might find yourself running on the morning of a snow storm to get your miles in.  Be flexible.

Scope out a local gym in case the worst case scenario happens and you can’t fit in an outdoor run.  Just pay a single-day user fee (usually $15 to $20) and hop on the treadmill for the day.  It won’t be great, but at least you’ll get your running done.

Outdoor running

For your normal runs, work on pacing yourself.  The first few minutes should be nice and easy until you break a sweat.  For two runs a week, do a nice steady-state run where you’re just going along at your usual pace.  One day a week do tempo runs and spend one day a week doing hill climbs.

Tempo runs. Tempo runs are comfortably hard runs that push your endurance and your metabolic threshold. You’ll be running almost at your speed limit for two to four miles.  It needs to be a sustained effort to be effective.  The payoff is torching calories and increasing your metabolism, which means those pounds will just melt right off you.  Runner’s World has a great article on the specifics.

Hill climbs. There’s this killer hill near my house.  All the local runners know it, and on Saturdays it looks like this weird road race with people running up in a line and then trotting/walking back down.  It’s really too steep to run down.  This hill is killer for legs and really works to strengthen hamstrings and glutes—muscles that can get little activity if you’re running on flat surfaces all the time.  Find a decently hard hill near your house and get to work.  Do a quick warm up—just enough to break a sweat and get your body loosened up.  Then head to your hill and chug up that sucker.  Do three to five repeats, depending on how high the hill is and how stressed your lungs are.  This is another way to shock the system and boost your metabolism.  You should come back good and sweaty from your hill climb days.  Here’s another post with some more tips on hill climb runs.

Brian, you’ll see the weight come right off, but you’ll also see your race times improve. You might just want to pick out a race that’s six to ten weeks away and see how you do.

Good luck with your TV show and your running, and let me know if you have any questions.  If anyone else would like a Fitness Tweak just email me through my website—it’s listed below.

The Twelve Days of Calmness: How to Survive the Holidays with Aplomb

I love the holidays.  I love Christmas and New Year, and all the parties, and seeing my friends and family.  I love the look of wonder on my son’s face as he jackrabbits from his room on Christmas morning to see what Santa brought.It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all that needs to be done—and maybe a little stressed on the finances too—but my suggestions below are designed to keep everything flowing smoothly and easily.  Enjoy!

  1. Choose your holiday parties wisely. Coordinate with relatives and friends ahead of time. Don’t feel like you have to go to everything.
  2. Find a standard holiday gift that will work for most people. Spend the extra time and energy on your truly close friends and family.
  3. Schedule downtime and exercise. Make sure you’re getting the rest you need and keep yourself stress-free with an exercise routine that’s as similar to normal as possible.
  4. Finish the shopping as early as you can. Go online for simple point-and-click shopping, and let the gifts just roll into your driveway.  Don’t forget cards—you don’t want to have to do a mad dash for them on Christmas Eve!
  5. Come up with a home-made project—maybe one that you can give as a gift. One year I actually did fruitcake! I’ve also done Christmas ornaments, mulled cider, and more. It can be a really fun activity with the family or a friend. Consider signing up for a local craft class (there are tons around the holidays). Maybe you could make your own soap for everyone?
  6. Be a party host if you love to host, and a stellar guest if you don’t. Don’t feel obligated to host a holiday party. There are many ways you can help your hostess: be a great conversationalist, be gracious to everyone present, and come armed with a few friendly topics to discuss. Don’t be afraid to dig in in the kitchen—but only if you know the host will be happy about it, and not frazzled by the help.
  7. Cut down your own tree! It’s fun, it gets everyone outside, and there’s a little bit of exercise involved in dragging a tree along a wooded path. Plus you’ll be helping a local farmer and getting the freshest tree you possibly can. Check with your town to see if they have a mulching service after the holidays (mine does). Then your tree will live on as mulch in local parks and green spaces.
  8. Don’t just give gifts: give time. A recent survey showed that people who performed small acts of kindness for ten days in a row were markedly happier at the end of the run. Collect mail for a traveling neighbor, shovel an elderly neighbor’s walk, pick up a gift for a busy friend, or just call someone to say “Hi” and stay connected. There are lots of ways to give back to the people in your life.
  9. Start a family tradition or two. Insist that they happen. This may sound silly, but I always give my female relatives fuzzy socks for Christmas. They really look forward to them now, and I have fun shopping for something that everyone will like. Your tradition could be more formal—like seeing a holiday performance every year—or you could finish the holiday decorating with a pizza party. Whatever evolves for you and your loved ones, hold onto that tradition. If you’re like me, you’ll hope your children will carry it on.
  10. Sign up for New Year’s resolution activities now. This is something I learned after 14 years in the fitness industry. People make New Year’s resolutions on January 1, but don’t really do anything about them until a few weeks later. Sign up with a personal trainer or coach (any kind of coach) now. You’ll beat the January rush and get the time you’re gunning for, making it more likely that you’ll actually tackle that resolution successfully.
  11. Buy yourself some bling. Okay, it doesn’t have to be bling—it could be a super-soft blanket—but buy yourself something that either makes you feel spectacular or bathes you in comfort. Some soaking salts for a long hot bath on a cold night maybe? A spa pedicure instead of the usual iffy home job? A new garden tool? A great shade of lipstick? Do something to remind yourself that you’re special, too.
  12. Plan holiday parties with some healthy choices. Every year I challenge myself to do an all-organic, somewhat healthy dinner. I usually pull it off. I would never deny anyone mashed potatoes and gravy on Christmas day but I make sure the veggies are steamed so people can load up on that if they want. I don’t sweat it too much, though. We should indulge every once in a while!

So far I’m doing pretty well with my list.  I’ve been keeping my workouts regular (I know it’s easier for me, since I stand in a Pilates studio all day!), we’ve been eating well and I actually have all my Christmas shopping done—including cards!

What are your ideas for a calm and tranquil Christmas?  Please share them and happy holidays!

Embrace Your People and Live Well

Lisa Johnson is a fitness blogger at LisaJohnsonFitness.com

When I was little I wanted to live in a Coca-Cola commercial.  Everyone was thin, healthy, beautiful, active, and loved each other. Those 30 seconds of Utopia are unattainable of course, but is there a way we can live, happy with who we are, and feeling loved and supported by the people around us?

Embrace your people

Those lovely souls who share your home, your work space, and your neighborhood.  These are your people and they would love to help you out.  Talk to them about living better: eating well and moving well.  Have a heart-to-heart with those you trust to help you eat better and move more.

Eating well

Everyone needs to buy in here and it is probably the hardest part about transitioning to a healthier lifestyle.  Your spouse might really like the greasy-burger-and-white-bread life.  Talk to everyone about making better choices and why you’re doing it.  It’s not just for you, it’s for them too.  Get ready! They’ll all nod in agreement when you start, but then they’ll resist when they don’t get their usual fare.  I have seen this a zillion times with my clients!  Start small and kinda sneak stuff in.  Here are some ideas …

  • Buy lower fat or skim milk and keep the cap from the old bottle and switch it.  (My Mom did this to me and I never noticed, she had to tell me.)
  • Buy whole wheat bread instead of white and they’ll barely register the difference.
  • Cut meat up and mix it in with the veggies and they won’t realize you’re giving them smaller portion sizes of protein.
  • Switch to olive oil and canola oil when cooking and they’ll never notice you ditched the butter or less healthy oils.
  • Make the portion sizes of the veggies gradually larger, and make sure they are fresh and tasty (think: lots of herbs).
  • If you make a big Sunday breakfast make the pancakes smaller (I use 1/3 cup measuring cup) for each pancake and put out lots of fruits.  They’ll pick at the strawberries and oranges and not realize their pancakes are smaller.  (I also use white whole wheat flour so it’s healthier and no one ever noticed I did that either.)

Moving well

Get excited about something and make it infectious!  Talk to your friend about the cool new Zumba class you found and why you should go and check it out together.  Tell your stressed out coworker about a awesome Yoga class after work, and how you both should go next week.  Joke about how your newfound Zen will help you with your cranky boss.  Tell your family how incredibly cool it feels to kayak down a river and you found a place where you can rent one.  Don’t even mention that this stuff is healthy, just mention how exciting it is and they’ll be caught up in the fun with you.  With luck, you’ll find an activity you like and have people to go with you.

Realize that your health is woven into your life

Our health is pervasive: it never leaves us, and it affects our decisions throughout the day.  Too tired to get up to have breakfast at home? You grab and go at the donut shop.  Decide to work late to get one more thing done? You’ll have to skip your planned workout.  Meet friends for a decadent lunch? Why not try a walk around a nearby pond together instead?

We choose our path a thousand times a day.  We need to remember that the immediate ease sets us up for more stress and struggle later.  Just as bad, our poor choices negatively affect those around us.  What do you want to pass onto your loved ones? Evaluate your choices and see how can you improve in small ways.  These add up in no time, and you’ll be healthier.

Group hug!

It’s so easy to throw in a platitude here, “no man’s an island” or “it takes a village.”  But, this is really just a series of simple choices.  Choose to live a little bit better, moment to moment, choice by choice, and you’ll wind up miles ahead.  You’ll even get to live in that Coca-Cola Utopia—at least every once in a while!

FeelGooder Fitness Tweak: Jodi Increases Intensity

This post was contributed by Lisa Johnson of Lisa Johnson Fitness.

Jodi is a third of the way into her journey to lose 100 pounds.  She is very witty and has amazing enthusiasm about her progress.  She’s been losing weight at a very reasonable one to two pounds per week—the perfect way to do it.

The situation

Jodi has been focused primarily on eating and cardio. Her cardio routine consists of running, walking, and Wii Fit.  Her big goal is to walk/run a mile consistently in under 12 minutes, and currently she’s averaging 15 minutes. She’d also like to add in more weight training and lose 13 more pounds by January 1.

Available equipment

  • resistance bands
  • exercise ball
  • 3-, 5-, and 8-pound weights.

The plan: cardio

Going from a 15-minute mile to a 12-minute mile is all stride length and gait turnover.  You need to move faster, step with a longer stride, or a combination of the two.  So warm up for five minutes moving along at a good clip, and once you’ve broken a sweat, start tracking your mile.

Alternate moving more quickly (gait turnover) with longer strides.  Spend one minute going fast, one minute going long.  You’ll learn over time which works better for you and will likely come up with a good combination of the two. Give yourself three different days to experiment with your stride.

Once you’ve got your stride figured out, add in the arms.  Swinging your arms will help you “pump” at a faster rate and you’ll pick up speed.  Set up your timer and go the first mile.  The next time you go out, try to push yourself ten seconds faster. That’s it, just ten seconds.  Have that as your goal every time you go out and you’ll have a minute shaved off your time within a couple of weeks.  In four to six weeks you should be down to the 12 minute mile you’re looking for.

You can do this either running or walking, or a combination of both—whatever works best for you.

The plan: weight training

Wii Fit weight training:  I’m going to send you to your Wii for the resistance training portion, but I’ll add the abs in separately. Choose exercises that cover arms, shoulders, back, chest, legs, and specifically glutes.  Choose ten different exercises to cover all your body parts. Do them two to three times a week without fail!  The strength training will help you build muscle as the fat cells are shrinking. This will keep your metabolism elevated. Since you’ve been losing for a while it’s likely there’s a plateau in your future and weight training can really help you bust through that.

Studies have shown that people who lose weight solely through cardio and calorie restriction have a harder time after the honeymoon period is over.  Adding in weight training before that happens is a great way to stay motivated.  You’ll also start seeing changes in your body sooner—especially your arms.


I want you to do these exercises three to four times per week, and I want you to use your exercise ball to do them. It’s one of my favorite props for ab work!

Knee lifts: Sit upright on the ball with your feet grounded on the floor.  Hands should be out to the side to assist with balance. Inhale to get ready.  On the exhale, lift one knee  up into the air and suck your abs in hard as you lift.  Inhale and hold the knee in the air.  Exhale, lower the leg back down to the floor, and get your balance.  If you’re new to balance work, have a piece of furniture or a wall near you to grab if you need it!  Repeat the exercise eight times on each leg, and work up to 15 repetitions.

Oblique Twists: Grab your 3-pound weights and sit upright on the ball.  Hold the weights in front of you, one in each hand, with your arms parallel to the floor.  Inhale to get ready.  Exhale to open your arm out to the side and turn your ribcage as your arm opens.  Keep your eyes on the moving weight to help you twist your upper torso.  Your bottom stays right where it is on the ball, and the pelvis should only shift a little bit.  The emphasis is on twisting the rib cage, not just opening the arms to the side.  Inhale to hold the twist and exhale to go back to the start.  Repeat this exercise eight times on each side and work up to 15 repetition.

Ball Crunches: A classic exercise, because they work so well!  Scoot down on your ball so that your lower back is supported by the ball.  Hands go behind the head, and your feet are a bit wider than your hips and firmly planted on the floor.  If you have trouble with this, you can nudge your feet up against a wall for added stability.  Pretend you’re pulling your belly button up and under your rib cage (this is a Pilates trick and it works great!).  Keep tension along the bottom of the rib cage and start your crunches.  Exhale to crunch up and inhale to go back. Don’t release the crunch all the way—keep a little tension always.  Go up for a two count (count 1, 2) and down for a four count (count 1, 2, 3, 4).  The slower you go, the more muscle fibers will fire, and the faster you’ll see results—possibly as soon as the first week.

Jodi, I hope that helps!  Please let me know your feedback: I want to hear about how you do with your 12-minute mile goal.  If anyone has questions about the fitness routine, please ask away.

Eat Well: A FeelGooder Guide to Getting Started

Lisa Johnson is a blogger for AOL and for LisaJohnsonFitness.com

I have evolved into a foodie over the years.  I started off as the Queen of Frozen Dinners, gleefully nuking my food so I could get on with the business of living.  Shockingly, I was sick all the time, constantly run down, and tired.  As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned the value of eating well.  It permeates the fabric of everything we do.  “Choose well and live well” is my motto these days.

I do not advocate vegan, vegetarian, or omnivore, although personally I consider myself a flexitarian.  I eat mostly vegetarian but I throw in a bit of meat protein every week.  I think everyone should eat what they want, but I do advocate quality.  Cut out the processed food, the trans fats, and heavy doses of sugar.  Make sure the meat you eat is raised well, to your level of ethics and morals.   Here are some ideas on how to do that,

Start with just one thing

Trying to overhaul your diet in one fell swoop is a recipe for disaster.  You’ll stall out in frustration.  Just pick one thing and try to improve that.  Once you feel comfortable with your dietary adjustment, you can add another change.  Most experts recommend starting with the “dirty dozen” of fruits and vegetables: twelve fruits and vegetables that absorb the highest percentage of insecticides and chemicals.  Another good place to start is with organic meat and dairy products.

Be open-minded

You’ll come home from the grocery store with something awful!  You’ll try cooking a new recipe and be appalled at what the final product is.  Just laugh it off and try again.  More than one evening meal has ended in pizza delivery because what I cooked either tasted horrible or I messed up the recipe somewhere.  But there have been great successes, too—new recipes that have become staples in my house because everyone loves them.  Be willing to experiment.  I have committed to bringing one new thing home from the grocery store every week and that has given me a new appreciation for pears, blue potatoes, arctic chard, pickles, plantains, and a whole bunch more food items.

Educate Yourself

As I walked out of the theater from Super Size Me, I happened to be across the street from a McDonald’s.  My stomach churned at the bright, happy golden arches.  Since then I’ve seen Food, Inc., read Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer, and watched Michael Pollan of Omnivore’s Dilemma speak.

I am always reading about how our food is produced.  The more I learn, the pickier I get. While I’ll never become vegan (it just isn’t for me), I only eat sustainable and humanely raised food and I try as much as possible to buy local and organic.  The sources listed above have dramatically changed how I feed myself and my family.

Cook for yourself

You don’t stock your pantry with high fructose corn syrup and you don’t dump a ton of salt in your dishes to mask the poor quality food you’re eating.  It probably wouldn’t occur to you to add sugar to your meat to sweeten it while cooking, right?  But restaurants and manufacturers regularly do this to their food, plus all the dreaded trans fat—perhaps one of the worst things we can put in our bodies. By cooking for yourself, you have complete control over what goes in your body.  The more you prepare your own foods, the better you’ll feel.  If this is a whole new concept to you, start small—just one meal per week.  Get a couple of basic recipes down and then add another meal in.  Again, think in baby steps, not drastic changes.

Share with others

I’ve gone from living out of my microwave to being known for my dinner parties.  I always make a point of using only the best ingredients I can find, and making sure they’re organic and sustainable.  I never tell my guests until after the “oohs and aahs” of dessert.  Then I let them know how healthily they were eating.  I have inspired a few friends to choose better cuts of meat and I’ve gotten almost everyone onto the “dirty dozen” bandwagon.  It feels pretty good to help those around me live a healthier life.

What do you do to eat well?  Are there steps you’ve taken to live more healthfully?  What’s your favorite healthy recipe?  I’d love to hear from you.

Other resources

Food Rules, a fast and informative read from Michael Pollan.  He developed the book as a handout for cardio doctors looking to help their patients eat better.

Eating Animals, a funny, touching book about an urban Dad (Safran Foer) exploring his food chain.  At moments it’s harrowing, but this book is incredibly well-researched and vetted by lawyers.  You can trust the information in this book and it’s very, very eye-opening.

Food, Inc., an incredible movie that succinctly shows you the factory farming system.  There is a good chance that this movie will change how you eat for the rest of your life.  I recommend not watching it on a full stomach.

Meatless Mondays, a movement started by a New York Times food writer to go vegetarian just one day a week.  The statistics on this site are incredible.  They show how just three simple meals per week can change the planet.

Jamie Oliver’s recipes.  Sign his petition to improve school lunches if you’re American.  You can roam around his site for quick, healthy recipes, which he designs for the busy family cook.  No crazy ingredients or complicated cooking processes.

101 Things I Learned in Culinary School, written by Louis Eguaras with Matthew Frederick, is a great book about the cooking skills you need to cook easily.  I finally learned how to hold a knife properly after flipping through this great short read.

FeelGooder Fitness Tweak: Leaving Fatville

Lisa is a blogger at LisaJohnsonFitness.com

I talked with Anda T of Leaving Fatville about her weight loss goals, and I’m very pleased to have her as our first FeelGooder Fitness Tweak participant! Thanks Anda!

The situation

Anda has been steadily losing weight and is currently under 240 pounds, with a final goal of 170. She’s got a full-time job, a toddler, and a husband, and was recently diagnosed with asthma which has limited her cardio options to biking and walking. She is also dealing with a weak ankle. Anda would like to revamp her fitness routine so she can keep losing weight while staying within her doctor’s orders.

Her available equipment

stationary bike
walking shoes
five-pound ankle and hand weights

The plan: cardio

Anda needs to strengthen her ankle, keep her asthma in check, and continue with the weight loss. By gradually doing my recommended cardio plan, she should gain some ground back on her asthma, but needs to let it develop slowly; it’s not a race, it’s a journey.

1. Walk with the family twice a week on the weekends.

Plan for 30 minutes with her toddler in the stroller. If she’s up for it, plan a longer walk. Go as fast as possible without triggering the asthma. These walks will start everyone off on a healthy habit and it’s a great opportunity for family time. Don’t worry about the distance traveled, just measure time.

2. Hop on the stationary bike three times a week while watching TV.

Wait until after the little one goes to bed and watch shows with the husband. Make sure that the sole of your sneaker is parallel with the ground to avoid straining the ankle. Do 30 minutes minimum and push hard until just before triggering the asthma.

The plan: weight training

I’m going light with the weight training for now … it’ll be short and sweet, but will ease Anda into the routine of doing weight training.

1. Pushups

On the floor, from the knees (if this is too much, lean against the wall at an angle), start with five and work up to 15. Make sure to bend the elbows to 90 degrees on the down, pull your abs away from the floor (belly button to spine), and squeeze your backside. You want to be in a straight line from the back of your head to your knees.

2. Bicep curls

Take the five-pound weights and do bicep curls (you can do this while on the stationary bike to save time). Keep the elbows steady at your sides as if they’re velcroed to your shirt. Do one set of eight with palms facing the ceiling and one set of eight with thumbs up. Work up to two sets of 15.

3. Tricep extension

Keep those five pound weights. Do one arm at a time (you can also do this on the bike). Extend the arm overhead with the elbow bent. Extend the hand towards the ceiling keeping the upper arm quiet. The only body part that is moving is your lower arm and hand. Do two sets of eight on each side, working up to two sets of 15.

4. Write the alphabet with your toes

This is to help stabilize the ankle. Very carefully trace each letter of the alphabet in capital letters on the floor with your foot. Try to make them as perfect as possible. Do it on both feet, even the healthy one. This is an old physical therapy trick I learned when I was recovering from an injury. This exercise will flex and move all the muscles in your foot and should help to stabilize the ankle.

By all means, run this plan by your doctor to make sure he approves! Since Anda is under a doctor’s care, it is imperative that he knows what she’s doing so he can keep her on track, get her asthma under control, and help to continue her healthful weight loss.

Thanks Anda for being so brave and participating. Please let me know what you think and if you have any questions.

Five Pre-Flight Checks for Your New Fitness Routine

You’re ready!  You’ve flipped the switch and you’re in the starting gate, raring to go on this whole live-a-better-life thing.  You’re going to get plenty of sleep, spend time with your family, and finally get back into your college jeans.  Before you jump into a fitness routine, here are five things to ensure you’ll be successful.

Research your fitness goals.

You can’t just say, “I want to lose ten pounds.”  How are you going to lose ten pounds?  Will you join a gym or a running club?  Check out the local yoga studio? How are you going to get healthier? Deciding this in advance and researching your local options will guide you in the right direction. Google is a good resource, but don’t be afraid to ask your friends what they’re doing, too.

Get your people on board.

From roommates to spouses to kids to your pooch, make sure everyone is up for your lifestyle change.  If you’re in a family situation, you’re going to need support from everyone as you steal time away from them.  Or try to find a way to incorporate them into your new lifestyle: then everyone’s healthier and happier.

Keep track.

If you’re just getting back into fitness, you should know where you’re starting from.  Get on the scale, take some body measurements (waist, chest, and hips are a good start), and take a “before” picture.  You should also start tracking your workouts.  How many miles did you walk or jog? Make notes of the group exercise class you took at the gym. Track progress of the weight training routine that your personal trainer gave you. Whatever it is, however you’d like to track it, please do!  Online programs such as the Daily Mile or Map My Run can help, or you can go low-tech with a notebook and pencil. In any case, you’ll better appreciate how far you’ve come if you remember where you started from.

Make sure you’ve got the gear.

If your running sneakers are still in day-glo 1980s colors, it might be time to grab a new pair.  Ladies, make sure your sports bra is the right size and still, erm, doing its job.  Double-check that you’ve got a good water bottle too; you need to stay properly hydrated while you boost your activities.

Be open-minded.

Fitness trends are changing all the time.  We’ve gone from yoga to Zumba, from plyometrics to super-slow sets.  If something seems appealing, give it a go.  You might find a whole new form of movement that you love.  I skeptically began kayaking and absolutely love the cardio and upper body toning that I get from it.  That, plus I can do it with my family, and the scenery is always nice.

If you have any questions, ask away. I’d be happy to help you get started. What would you like to accomplish?  Share your fitness goals here.