Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Berndadette Giorgi gives Pilates with a Twist

I saw on Facebook this morning that it's Bernadette Giorgi's birthday today.  I honor of her birthday, I did one of her workouts this morning, then just decided to post about it -- Happy Birthday Bernadette!

I have a few of her exercise dvds -- both Attitude Pilates/Ballet Fusions and Pilates Circle Challenge.  While I don't love the standing ballet portions of her Attitude dvds, (and it's not because of her, I just haven't clicked with any ballet workouts), I really enjoy the portions that have Pilates mat work with the 2-5 lb. weighted ball (which she calls a Power Ball).  She's since released a Pilates Power Ball workout, which I don't have yet, but I'm sure I'll get later on.

I use the Power Ball workout pre-mixes from the Attitude dvds as added core work to other workouts or as a stand alone workout on a busy day.   The Pilates Circle Challenge has three 20+ minute pre-mixes that target different areas of the lower body.  I did the whole workout this morning.  It's 46 minutes of relaxing music, but tough core conditioning (plus inner and outer thigh work).

Here are all of Berdadette's dvds at Collage Video.  As you will see, all have 5 star ratings in the reviews.  She really delivers thorough instruction and challenging exercises in a pleasant way.  It's kind of hard to gush about workouts like hers because how do you describe how wonderful it feels to work hard from the inside out, yet feel like it's soothing throughout?  It's something that has to be experienced.  Part of me was thinking this morning "I could do this before?" because it was so tough at times, yet the moves felt great for my body.

Bernadette comes with an extensive dance background (studying at the Academy of Dance and Joffrey Ballet in NYC), but suffered knee injuries and studied Pilates in depth, adding in weights to become in her own words, "stronger, leaner, and more centered."  She teaches at her studio and shares her client's favorite (and most effective) classes to us in her dvds.  Bernadette is also a black belt in Soo Bahk Do karate, which three of my children studied a few years ago (Korean Martial Arts).  She was planning to lead a kickboxing video a year ago, but it got postponed.  I hope she still does it.  I'd love to learn kickboxing from her.   

Here's a clip from Pilates Circle Challenge.  The Pilates Circles don't cost much if you don't already have one. They cost about $20 at the store or you could probably find one at a garage sale or on a fitness swap like I did for less than half that.  Some people cut out the top of a round laundry basket and use that.  It may not give quite the same resistance, but if it's handy and free, you might want to try it.  You can find all of her workouts and the fitness equipment needed at her website too,

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Setting Goals With Real Intent

Last Sunday night, I was contemplating my goals of healthy eating and how I just wasn't quite reaching them.  I was close, but not close enough.  I came across a scripture I've read before at church with this phrase:

          "except he shall do it with real intent, it profiteth him nothing"

This passage jumped out at me and made me think.  Was I setting my goals with real intent?  Was I really planning to succeed?  Was I planning to carry it through to the end?  Or was I just dabbling in it a bit?  I was definitely dabbling.

So I vowed to myself to remember these 3 words the next day -- "with real intent."  When I woke up the next morning and started thinking I needed to eat bread and all the other foods that cause me problems, I'd just remember that I was pursuing my goals with real intent.  And I did.  I did this on Monday and Tuesday, all the way through the week back to today -- Sunday.  One whole week of sticking with my healthy eating goals with real intent!  It's so nice to be in control again! 

I'm so excited with my success because I've been trying to stick with my eating goals for about a year now -- making my behavior match what I know inside is the best way for me to eat.  I was eating well quite consistently up until about a year ago.  When we listed our house for sale and life got a little crazier from the house showings to packing to moving, unpacking, and getting settled in a new surrounding, I just never got my control back.  I missed that.  I had it in spurts and I had it most of each day, but it was never enough.  Living my life with real intent all day long is such a great way to live.  It profiteth me big time!

I'm going to remember living with real intent as I work in other areas of my life, too.  When I get an idea or plan, I'm going to take it to the end, not just dabble and eventually watch it escape my grasp.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Is Exercise greater than or less than Healthy Eating? (equal? not equal?)

As I drove out of the crowded school parking lot this morning, I pondered how at this new school in our new area, I see many moms dressed in workout clothes when they drop off their kids. Fitness seems to be a big part of their lives. That's fantastic to see! Where I used to live, some of the moms worked out, but it wasn't as common as it is here.  And most of the friends I've made talk about their runs, bike rides, spinning, kickboxing, and zumba classes. Some even do fitness videos like I do, which is always fun.

What's interesting though is that with all this focus on workouts, I don't see a push for healthy eating amongst the people I've met. Instead, the standard American diet with sugarful foods abound.  In fact, since I've been here in August, I've only met one woman who continually researches healthy eating and has adopted it into her life, home, and family. I find that interesting. How can one supersede the other? How can exercise be more important that what we put into our bodies? I know in my previous dieting years, I thought of exercise as a means not only to health and weight loss, but to offset any bad eating habits I might have. I didn't see that they were both essential parts of ultimate health.

I know when I finally discovered the joy of exercise, it became something that gave such instant results of energy and elation, that I had an instant reward from my workouts. Maybe the rewards aren't as seemingly instant with healthy eating. It does take awhile for our taste buds to change and become fine tuned to love real whole foods after a lifetime of eating fake food. And it does take a few days or more of detox to realize that the headaches, fatigue and low stress tolerance are not cues to eat more junk, but will actually be a thing of the past if we let go of the processed foods. (Yes, sad as it may be, sugar and flour are processed foods). There are also huge advertising campaigns for unhealthy, tempting foods.   Fitness clubs, equipment, and exercise videos all remind us of the need to get into shape.  The voices for healthy eating are quite small in comparison.   We also just influence ourselves with the way we've grown up thinking -- that the way we eat is just fine -- that increased disease and degeneration is just natural as we age and that changing the way we eat wouldn't make that big of a difference.  

On the flip side, those of my friends who are more conscious of eating healthy don't all find time for an exercise regime. They tend to get their exercise more in occasional recreational activities, such as hikes, bike rides with their kids, and doing outdoor projects or chores.

I don't think that exercise is greater than or less than healthy eating (well, if I had to choose between the two, I'd say "less than" because the quality of fuel we put in our bodies is crucial to how it runs), but truly, they are both vital to good health and should be seen as equal.

This holds true with how we teach our children too. I remember reading once (I think in the FIRM for Life book by Anna and Cynthia Benson, creators of the original FIRM workouts) that they were astonished at parents who took their children to gymnastics (teaching them the value of exercise), yet stopped at the vending machine on the way out to give them a bag of chips and a candy bar. There's definitely some irony there. With the push to get our children to move more, we also need to teach them to eat more nutrient dense whole foods. I'm continually working on this myself. In fact, my husband and I have been talking about having a "vegetable of the week" in our home, teaching our kids about all the vegetables they don't normally eat so they will try them different ways and learn about how they grow, what they provide nutritionally, etc.  As one who grew up with my vegetables being corn, potatoes and carrots, I know the rest were big mysteries and a bit scary for me to try. My kids have eaten a few more than that, but not nearly enough. I'll let you know how that goes once we get started with it.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Cathe's Shock Training System

I promised a loooong time ago that I'd let you know what I thought of Cathe's Shock Training System workout series.  It's her most complete and thorough weight training system, consisting of 3 mesocycles -- one focusing on muscle endurance with lighter weights and more reps, the second on hypertrophy (muscle building and definition), and the 3rd on building strength with heavy weights and lower reps.  Here's how Cathe describes STS:

What is STS?

STS stands for Shock Training System and is based on four of the most important training principles in strength training: periodization, muscle confusion, one rep max and progressive overload. STS has been designed using the latest research and is a 3 month strength training program featuring a different exercise routine every time you work out.
Workouts like STS are very commonly guided by personal trainers and athletic coaches for their clients and athletes, but due to the overall magnitude time and expense of filming 40 workouts, it is quite considerable to understand why nobody has a made a similar program for the home exerciser until now.
STS brings a unique, quality health club workout into the privacy of your own home by maximizing the use of periodization, progressive overload, muscle confusion and one rep max testing.

Science of STS

STS stands for Shock Training System and is based on three of the most important training principles in strength training: periodization, muscle confusion and progressive overload.


Periodization is a way of planning, organizing and varying your training program over time to bring about optimal gains in your physical performance. Numerous research studies have been done that clearly show that exercisers who follow a periodization–based workout get superior results when compared to exercisers who don't follow a plan of this type.
STS has been designed to be a 3½ month linear periodization program featuring three workout cycles called mesocycles, each lasting four weeks. Each mesocycle will have a different purpose, with the first cycle focusing on muscle endurance, the second on hypertrophy and the third on strength.
You will do a different workout every week for a total of 12 weeks along with an active recovery week between mesocycles to help your body rejuvenate and prepare for the next cycle. Since this is a linear periodization program, each mesocycle is designed so that the intensity (weight lifted) increases from the previous cycle and the volume (sets and reps) decreases.

Muscle Confusion

Muscle confusion is the principle of constantly changing your workout routines to keep your body's muscles always guessing and challenged in different ways. Muscles should never be allowed to adapt to an exercise to the point where the exercise is no longer effective and not resulting in hypertrophy or the goal you desire. Instead, a well designed exercise program that utilizes muscle confusion varies the workout routine's exercises, sets, reps and intensity to keep your muscles growing. This also helps to avoid plateaus and boredom.
The advantage of STS is to maximize muscle confusion by not only giving you a different workout every week, but also by varying the intensity and volume of the workout over the entire program by utilizing periodization. Muscle confusion is one of the most important rules of strength training and no other workout program on the market today utilizes this principle to the same degree as STS.

One Rep Max (1RM)

Your one rep max (1RM) is the maximum amount of weight you can lift one time for any exercise. In the STS program we will demonstrate a method to easily and safely estimate your 1RM for every exercise in the program. Once you know your 1RM for each exercise, you can quickly and easily determine the correct weight to use for each exercise in every mesocycle and week of the STS series. Knowing the correct weight to use for every exercise is extremely important and will help you obtain the results you're striving for, both safely and quickly.

Progressive Overload

Progressive overload is the gradual increase of intensity placed upon your body during a workout over a period of time. This means that in order for your muscles to grow, you need to continually challenge your body by increasing the intensity of your workout in very small steps. In STS you will start the first week of Mesocycle 1 using weights that are only about 60% of your one rep max (1RM). Then every week, except week #3, you will slowly and gradually increase your weights by about 5% so that by the time you finish the program you will be using heavy weights that are up to 90% of your 1RM.

I've done Mesocycle 1 one time through and while I really liked the Leg workouts, the upper body workouts weren't my favorite.  I truly love muscle endurance workouts.  Her earlier two total body endurance workouts, Power Hour and Muscle Endurance are the ones I've probably used most (just love them!)  But these upper body endurance workouts had so much equipment and moved so quickly, that I just felt a bit scattered and rushed throughout.  I've decided that for future STS rotations, I'd just use the Meso 1 Leg workouts and will use upper weight work from either Power Hour, Muscle Endurance or her stability ball workouts, Super Sets and Push/Pull.  I will say though that my ability to do push-ups (on the toes, no less!) improved tremendously with Meso 1.  Cathe does a ton of them and I grew to not only be able to do them, but learned to love them as well.  Before I could only do a few without collapsing.  During Meso 1, I was able to do sets of 10 or 12.

Mesocycle 2, on the other hand,  is just wonderful, just perfect, in fact.  I've done it two times through (it's a 4 week program) and I smile throughout.  The workouts are so well designed.  Simple concepts, multiple sets, long one minute rest breaks between the sets.  I just love the pace and the expertise Cathe brings to this mesocycle.  Each of the 4 weeks is different.  Each weekn Cathe introduces a new method of weight lifting such as tri-sets, double wave loading, pyramids or back off sets.   I almost always work to failure with these sets and really see improvements with my strength and my body with this series.  Cathe explains each method and how it works as you go.  I truly felt like I had a personal trainer right by to guide me with my progress.  Here's a sample of the 2nd week of Meso 2.  I love chest work the best!

I can't review the 3rd Mesocycle because I sold it to my friend before I even looked at it.  (I know, bad). 
From all I read about it, I was afraid that the weight load would be too heavy for my post-surgery restrictions.  She uses a squat rack and a weighted vest to be able to maximize the weight load in these STS workouts.  I do have a few of Cathe's other heavy weight workouts (Slow & Heavy and 4 Day Split) and figured I could substitute them for the 3rd mesocycle each time.  (I'm actually doing that with 4 Day Split
right now).  I did keep a few of the Plyo Leg workouts from this mesocycle and will incorporate them with my
rotation. She gives the option of either heavy weight Squat Rack leg workouts (I sold those) or the Plyo Leg workouts which use plyometrics to work the legs instead of really heavy weight.   My friend is doing the whole Meso 3 program right now.  She keeps telling me how much she loves it (and she struggles sticking with rotations lately).  STS has kept her on track for 10 weeks now.  She may just talk me into trying Meso 3 after all.  There are always ways to modify and adjust to meet my needs. 

One thing I love about STS that I don't see in her other workouts are  graphics that show up before each exercise to tell you how long you'll be doing it (how many reps) and how long the breaks are, the percentage of your 1 Rep Max at which you should be lifting, what equipment you'll need, etc.  I also love that the warm-ups give you a choice between following Cathe and the crew in some aerobics-type moves or in using some cardio equipment of your own.  I like running on the treadmill or jumping on the rebounder to get my heart rate up most mornings instead of doing the floor aerobics.

Here is some more STS video footage of all the mesocycles if you want to see more.  

Also, Cathe has a Success Story page solely for STS users.  Check it out.

And lastly, Cathe has started selling her workouts as digital downloads. I'm so new with my iPod that I haven't tried this yet, but I'm sure I will soon (and I'll be right back here telling you about it). TTFN!

Click here to visit Cathe dot Com.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

So glad to be done with the Standard American Diet (SAD)

After a traditional holiday Standard American Diet (SAD) dinner, I've got to say that I'm so glad I don't eat that way all the time anymore.   I ate some foods (and really not many -- just took about 1/2 of what was offered) today with my husband's family for our big Easter dinner and afterward just felt horrible.  It started with extreme fatigue and a headache, followed by a stuffy nose and burning, pulsating eyes and extreme sneezing (there was milk in the potatoes). With all that, I didn't have a bit of problem resisting the dessert.  I just took a little nap on the couch while everyone visited, then I scolded myself for eating what I had.  I guess I think myself invincible at times and forget that my body won't always feel great regardless of what I eat.  (Like I don't know this!)  Times like these make me appreciate the changes I've made in my eating over the past several years.  I'm so glad that I can eat good wholesome food throughout the day and feel energized and allergy-free.

So what's the next holiday hurdle?  Maybe the 4th of July?  I'm sure I can handle that one.  Just give me a plate of fresh fruit salad and I'll be fine!  Good bye SAD!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Easter without chocolate?

Maybe you have no desire to go without chocolate this Easter.  I had to three times when my springtime babies were born because it made them cholicy (their little stomachs would tighten and they'd just cry).  So I had to learn to ignore the plethora of Easter chocolate that came my way.

Easter and chocolate.   The two do kind of go hand in hand for whatever reason.  The eggs, bunnies, chicks, grass, blossoms, and bright colors all represent springtime and symbolize the death and resurrection of Jesus, but chocolate?  I majored in English and I'm still stretching to see the symbolism there.  No matter, chocolate can be healthy and we shouldn't fret eating a bit (especially if you can have a natural source made with raw cacao powder or cacao nibs -- here's my previous post on raw chocolate).  You can make all sort of treats out of  raw chocolate.  There are so many sources for raw recipes online now, my newest favorite being Chocolate-Covered Healthy, by Katie (who is absolutely adorable inside and out).  I just added her website to my list on the right.  Mostly, I make raw fudge (here's my recipe if you haven't tried it yet). 

If you are going to sink your teeth into some store-bought chocolate this Easter, look for a healthier version of what you normally like to eat .  Your best bet is to go to your local health food store.  They'll have organic chocolate bunnies, eggs and even little baskets.  If you want to just go for a nice big chocolate bar, try Chocolove.

Chocolove is my very favorite and is a cut above any other dark chocolate bars I've tried.  You can find a few varieties at Target, but probably need to go to a health food store to get the full spread.  Here's what they Chocolove company says about the quality of their chocolate:

The cocoa beans used in Chocolove are premium beans, which means they are fully ripened and free of any bad beans. The fully ripened bean allows for proper chocolate flavor development upon roasting. The beans are roasted just enough to develop chocolate flavor. Chocolove chocolate is ground finer and conched longer than most chocolates to provide a smooth texture and a smooth flavor. Chocolove bars have higher cocoa content which translates to less sugar than other chocolates. The fruit flavors in our chocolate come from freeze dried or infused fruits.
We do not claim that Chocolove bars are vegan. Most of our dark chocolate arrives at our facility as kosher parve which means it is completely free of milk products, according to Jewish dietary law. The remainder arrives kosher dairy, which means the dark chocolate was made on equipment that also makes milk chocolate. Chocolove has separate equipment for melting and molding milk chocolate and dark chocolate. We take every measure to assure that milk chocolate is kept away from dark chocolate. You can expect our organic dark chocolate to be the least likely to contain any traces of milk chocolate.
Chocolove's Everyday Chocolate Bars

Strong  Dark
Strong Dark
70% Cocoa
Rich  Dark
Rich Dark
65% Cocoa

Crystallized Ginger
in 65% Dark
Chilies & Cherries in
55% Dark

Orange  Peel in Dark
Orange Peel
in 55% Dark

Raspberries in Dark
in 55% Dark

Hazelnuts in Milk
in 33% Milk

Milk Chocolate
33% Cocoa
Toffee & Almonds in
33% Milk Chocolate

I rarely, if ever,  eat milk chocolate anymore -- mostly because of the dairy and also because it has so much more sugar than dark chocolate.  Chocolove Strong Dark Chocolate or the Extra Strong Dark Chocolate are my favorites.  

I just noticed on the Chocolove website that they have an Organic Dark Chocolate bar now too.  I'll have to try these sometime:

Organic Chocolove