Thursday, December 24, 2015

'Tis the Season: Holiday Travel Workouts

We're all creatures of habits to various degrees, and a change from our normal routines is enough to put a scare in some people.  But adaptability and an openeness to change can be the best possible thing for most people.  A switch in training when on the road sometimes allows you to hit your old training program with a refreshed vigor when you get back and a newfound appreciation for other workout modalities.

For many people that are regularly physically active one of the things they take into account when they travel for work or vacation is how they're going to be able to keep training.  Often times hotel gyms don't have the best resources of equipment and depending on what type of gym membership you have, you might not be able to access your gym in another city if you don't belong to one of the big name gyms.
 From my experiences traveling to new places for work or vacation, I've been able to use all of the listed modalities to great effect.  They're simple and effective ways to stay in shape while unwinding from your normal routine.

 Running: this one is my favorite while traveling because I can kill two birds with one stone.  Aside from getting a workout in, I'm a bit of an explorer and love both nature and architecture.  An early morning run in a new place is a great way to get acquainted with your surroundings.  The best part is that wherever you're at beach, city, rural town, you'll find somewhere you can run.

sample workout: fartlek run - this is an unstructured run where you mix everything from jogging to sprinting as you please into a 40-60 minute run.  

Swimming: this doesn't even feel like exercise when you're doing it on vacation at a beach and it works just as well if you're at a hotel.  In a hotel setting it requires a bit more structure as you're in a confined space.

sample workout: distance swims - set a goal line of where you want to swim distance wise and go for it.  When I do these on the beach I swim parallel to the shore.  If done in a pool you can time your laps.

Bodyweight training: people can be quick to write off body weight training but the possibilities are endless and you can continually progress.  Depending on your body weight and relative strength a body weight workout is tough as is but if you want more of a challenge just adjust your center of gravity or add explosiveness to it.  As an example progress from squats to pistol squats or push-ups to plyo push ups

sample workout: 15 squats, 15 lunges, 15 glute bridges, 15 pushups, 15 second bear crawls - repeat  sets as many times as possible doing them at a pace of 4 seconds on the contraction with a 2 second pause.

Shadow Boxing: this is a great aerobic and anaerobic exercise, and embarrassingly enough something I always do if I find myself in an empty elevator somewhere.  You can focus on technique or conditioning by choosing your pace and what you want to do when shadow boxing.  This is a workout that you could literally do in the bathroom of your hotel room.
sample workout: 9 rounds x 3 minutes each.  Start the first 3 rounds practicing simple combinations you like.  

Next 3 rounds incorporate more movement by using some footwork.  Final 3 rounds go all out, shadow boxing at a fast pace.

Complexes: Up till now I avoided the use of a gym but if you do want to take advantage of your hotel gym when training, from what I've seen as limited as a hotel gym can be all the ones I've been to have at least had some light dumbbells (usually maxing out at like 25 lbs).  

Sample workout: Grab whatever available weight they have dumbbell/barbell/kettle bell/weight plate that you know you can properly handle in a fatigued state.  Set your timer for 10 minutes and do a squat-deadlift-overhead press-row until time runs out.

Resistance Bands:  they're so light and easy to store that you can take them with you and workout wherever you want.  You can follow any of the workouts listed above for complexes or bodyweight training to get a major pump.

Erick Avila, owner of a company that provides individualized training programs and nutritional consultations for athletic events and weight loss. Erick works as a strength & conditioning coach/nutritionist with a variety of professional boxers including two ranked in the top 50 of their respective weight divisions.  He’s experienced having worked in both sport and clinical settings, with focuses ranging from general weight loss to hormonal optimization.  Erick has bachelor’s degrees in Exercise Science & Nutritional Science.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Don’t Wait Until It Is Too Late: 3 Reasons to Fuel During a Tennis Match

I’ve seen it before: the player on the far side of the net starts to drag. The opponent, fitter with more energy, picks up on it and starts to elevate up their game. You know how it ends. So, how do you become the opponent who has the energy and fitness? Fueling during a match can make a big difference. Here are 3 very important reasons to chow down during a tennis match.
1.       Tennis drains all your resources.

This is a unique sport in which your body uses all of its fuel sources. Your body relies on more than one energy system to make sure your body has the energy and power to perform. Because your body is pulling from all places, it is easy to deplete yourself of everything.

2.       When you finally feel hungry or thirsty it may be too late.
Have you ever heard: when you are thirsty it means you are already dehydrated? You may have already lost 1-2% of your body weight when you finally feel thirsty. In addition, since you have a lot to think about in a tennis match, you may not ever really feel hunger or thirst although your body is running on fumes.

3.       Heat and humidity can be rough.
Whenever I have watched a visiting team from the North play a Texas team, I know what the result is likely to be. They are not used to the heat and humidity. Know that you are not immune to it either. You have to stay ahead of your hydration. Start before you ever get in trouble. An initial sign of dehydration can be fatigue.

Here’s what you do to prevent hitting a wall of exhaustion when you are playing:
·         Think small bites and drinks throughout the match.

·         Try a banana and a sports drink. Eat a small bite of banana and a gulp or two of sports drink at each change-over. A banana and a 20 oz of sport drink should last throughout the match.

·         Hate bananas? Try an energy chew (check your local sporting goods store). Avoid the caffeine loaded drink or chew, look for something that resembles a jelly bean. Try a low fiber granola bar or sports bar.
·         Remember small bites take you a long way.

Continue to watch what the pros do. You never see them chowing down on a turkey sandwich, but you will see them take a gulp of sports drink, then a gulp of water, and a bite of banana. Works for them, it’ll work for you!

Caroline Sullivan is a Houston-based Registered Dietitian and specialist in sports dietetics. She has served as a dietitian for several NCAA Division I top-25 teams including work with basketball, football, tennis, and track & field. She is a member of the USTA Texas Sports Science Committee.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Intuitive Eating: When Weight Loss Isn't the Answer

I recently ran into a woman whom I knew from a class at my church. As single parents, we need plenty of strength, love and encouragement and I probed her with questions of how she was doing. Aside from an ongoing legal battle, managing a home with 2 boys by herself and working full time, she stated her most frustrating problem was “trying to lose 15 pounds.”
My heart sunk a little as I looked at her, knowing that her body size would be considered by society and by most of us as “normal”- slender and tall. At this point, knowing I was in the nutrition field, she persisted to defend her eating habits, seeming frustrated that she had done her “nutrition research” and was eating almost perfectly- why wasn’t she able to lose those 15 pounds she so desperately wanted to?
I nonchalantly suggested, that maybe weightloss wasn’t the answer. She looked at me- almost snapping, “but I am so much happier when I’m skinny!” Her story is powerful, and resonates with so many women who assume that weight loss equates to happiness, health and healing.
The traditional weight loss paradigm of our culture suggests that:
– “Everyone needs to be thin for good health and happiness”
– “People who are not thin are “overweight” because they have no willpower, eat too much, and don’t move enough”
– “Everyone can be thin, happy and healthy by dieting”
(Moving Away from Diets, Table 3.1 page 28).
In line with these cultural expectations is the billion dollar dieting industry. A 3 day cleanse to get rid of toxins? A 60 day weight loss transformation? A 3 week regimen booked with personal training sessions, meal plans and zero taste?
All banking off of these weight loss tenets promising us happiness is achieved through weight loss.
Alternatively, the Health at Every Size® (HAES) offers a gentle, holistic approach to health suggesting that:
– “Thin is not intrinsically health and beautiful, nor is fat intrinsically unhealthy and unappealing”
– “People naturally have different body shapes and sizes and difference preferences for physical activity”
– “Dieting usually leads to weight gain, decreased self esteem, and increased risk for eating problems. Health and happiness are not dependent on weight loss and involve dynamic interaction among mental, social, spiritual, and physical considerations”
(Moving Away from Diets, Table 3.1, page 28).
My personal and professional philosophy moves individuals towards true health enhancement, with little, if any attention to a persons weight. Removing the focus on a persons weight does not negate the attention away from any medical problems or health concerns, but simply recognizes that health is a complex interplay of social, emotional, ecological and spiritual factors. This allows health practitioners to view the person as a whole, rather than a specific focus on parts.
“HAES® proposes that people create health by healing disturbed relationships with food and making peace with their bodies, when and if these relationships are problematic, not by weight loss.” (Moving Away from Diets, page 29).
Growth Exercise:
How might our cultures focus on weight control and thinness part of a bigger agenda?
What are the differences we can notice in our own biases of the way we attribute characteristics to “thin” people and “heavier” people?
Identify times you have believed that being thin or achieving weight loss might make you happier- if you achieved that weight loss, did it ultimately bring you happiness?
If weight loss isn’t the answer, describe what true happiness might look like to you.
To learn more about the basic tenets of the HAES® approach, please visit:
Kratina, Nancy King, et al. Moving away from Diets: Healing Eating Problems and Exercise Resistance. Helm Publishing: Lake Dallas, Texas, 2003. Print.

Jaren Soloff is a San Diego based Dietetic Intern through Utah State University and received her Bachelors of Science degree in Dietetics from San Diego State University. Jaren's professional interest include eating disorders, prenatal + lactation nutrition and child feeding practices. Jaren firmly believes in empowering women by providing them with evidence based practices that support all women's innate ability to birth, breastfeed and nourish themselves and their children with confidence. Maintaining a non judgmental and safe space for women to share their relationship with food and body is the center of her practice. As an aspiring eating disorder Dietitian, Jaren is an active member of SCAN dietetic practice group and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. You can reach Jaren via social media, or email at:

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Athlete's Plate

Could your diet use an overhaul? How would you rate YOUR plate? Eating healthy will always be a work in progress.
Let’s talk about a simple concept that can help athletes fuel for peak performance. There are no gimmicks or quick fixes. The key is to strive for a balanced plate.
One option that works well for many athletes is MyPlate (  Eating in this general fashion promotes balance and would improve the diet of most athletes I know.

This healthy eating strategy divides your plate down the middle. One half of your plate is made up entirely of fruits and vegetables. The other half is divided into protein and grains. Remember the more fruits and veggies you can get in the better. Oh, and don’t forget about your dairy.
For endurance athletes, in particular, the amount of grains should be adjusted based on training needs. We will discuss this concept in a future post.
If you could emulate the plate in the picture at most meals you would really be off to a good start.

This will be based on personal preference but let’s look at some options. Lots of factors may influence breakfast. The biggest factor will be the timing of your workout(s). For instance, is this a pre-workout snack or maybe a post workout meal?
This makes a big difference as many athletes like to have something on their stomach before a workout.
If you’re going to the gym for a weight training session you may be able to eat a regular meal. On the other hand, if you are planning a long aerobic workout, eating a big meal may not be the best idea.
Some people can do it but I can’t.
If I am planning to go long (2+ hours) I would eat early and allow an hour or so for digestion. This means waking up extra early to ensure I’m fueled to start my workout.

For a shorter workout (< 1 hour), I may grab a small snack or not eat at all. After my workout, I would eat my regular breakfast.
Examples of healthy breakfast optionsinclude:
·         whole grain waffles with maple syrup
·         granola cereal with skim milk and berries
·         whole wheat toast with fruit spread or peanut butter
·         orange juice or skim milk
·         oatmeal with raisins and walnuts
·         fruit smoothie
Mix and match these to provide a variety of different breakfast options.
Lunch & Dinner
Because of work and family commitments, lunch and dinner are without question the most challenging meals of the day. We’ve all been there—you ate well for breakfast and lunch only to blow it at dinner. I get it, it definitely happens.
Don’t use your busy schedule as an excuse…you should still attempt to achieve a balanced plate. It takes planning but you can make it happen.
Try not to complicate things. For example, an athlete’s plate at lunch or dinner may consists of
·         a chicken sandwich, veggies, and a fruit cup
·         pasta with tomato sauce, a side salad, and a piece of fruit. Don’t forget to throw some vegetables in your sauce.
·         a bean burrito with a few chips, mango salsa and a piece of fruit.
Healthy snacking is important between meals. A small snack (100-300 calories) is perfect to curb hunger and keep you from overeating at your next meal.
Here are a few ideas.
·         pretzels or piece of fruit with peanut butter
·         nuts like almonds, cashews, or walnuts
·         string cheese
·         trail mix is another good option.
·         popcorn (little or no butter).
Usually pairing a carbohydrate and a protein source works best.
Develop an Eating Schedule
Without a doubt it is best to plan a fueling schedule that works for you. Consistency is extremely important. Below I’ve provided a sample schedule.
5:00 am     a small pre-workout snack or nothing at all
6:30 am     post-workout breakfast (normal)
10 am        mid-morning snack
12:30 pm   lunch
3 pm         afternoon snack
6 pm         dinner
It is best to spread your calories throughout the day instead of eating a lot at each meal.
Consuming too much at one meal increases the likelihood that those calories will actually be stored as fat.
With a little bit of planning, endurance athletes can use the plate method to improve their overall diet quality. Eating from all the different food groups is important to achieve proper nutrient intake. The key is to establish an eating schedule that works for you.

About the Author:
JJ Mayo is an endurance athlete, a registered dietitian, and a associate professor in the Department of Nutrition at the University of Central Arkansas. His blog, Fuel For Endurance, helps endurance athletes achieve better race results through optimal nutrition. He also just released a sports nutrition online course (Sports Nutrition Made Easy) that has been approved by the Commission on Dietetic Registration for 7 CPEUs.