May 302017

Since I joined Quora, I’ve been bombarded by fitness questions. Many of the people querying sound desperate to lose weight. Some ask how they can lose 20 pounds in one week! Questions like this make it evident many people have no idea how fat loss works and the time and effort that is necessary to achieve this objective.

If you want to lose weight and get fitter, the first step is to educate yourself. Do you know how much of a caloric deficit you have to achieve in order to lose one single pound? The answer is 3500 just in case you’re still scratching your head. The easiest way to achieve this “deficit” is by eating less food AND upping your activity level. Let’s use an example that will make this clear.

Let’s say you are able to maintain your weight eating 2100 calories per day and doing no exercise – only daily living activities. To lose weight, some options are to A) reduce your caloric intake by 500 calories daily to lose a pound in 7 days B) burn 500 extra calories daily to lose a pound in 7 days C) burn 500 extra calories daily and reduce caloric intake by 500 calories to lose 2 pounds per week. C is about as aggressive as you will want to go. Make sure to never reduce daily caloric intake to anything under 1200. It’s important for you to eat enough to get nourishment for your body and mind. If you try to lose weight faster, you are likely to experience low-energy, uncomfortable hunger and/or food cravings. None of these will support long-term weight loss.

The best way to lose weight is to do it slowly. As you lose weight, you begin to establish new lifestyle habits. Instead of following a starvation diet program that leaves you weighing less and then going back to your old bad eating habits, reduce your caloric intake by replacing nutrition-poor calories (chips, sodas, candy, cookies, pies) with nutrition-rich calories (your favorite vegetables and fruits). If this sounds painful, it may be for a while. Many of the junk food we eat manipulates our taste buds so that real food doesn’t taste good anymore. But the more you eat the good stuff and start feeling better, the more you will want to eat the foods that support health, a positive mood and high energy! I know this to be true because this is the path I followed years ago when I lost 30 pounds after graduating from college. During my college years, I became accustomed to ordering late night pizzas, eating M & Ms while studying for exams and soothing my fluctuating moods with food. One day I decided I didn’t want food controlling my life anymore. It took time to break those bad habits, but it was worth it. You can read more about my story in my book, Fitter Than Ever at 40 and Beyond. If I can do it, you can, too!

Sep 192013

I read a pull-out section in the Wall Street Journal the other day about retirement. I must confess I found it more than a little depressing. Most of the people surveyed didn’t spend any more time exercising than they did when they were employed. What a shame. One of the authors boasted about how she didn’t feel like exercising, so she didn’t, as if that was a positive choice that enabled her to “enjoy life” while all the fit people wasted their lives in misery. I rather wished an article had been authored instead by one of the dedicated men and women I see every morning exercising without fail at the fitness center.

One of the biggest roadblocks I see to success is the tendency to associative negative language with exercise. Negativity always sets us up for failure. One author on Facebook refers to her “evil exercise program.” People who rarely work out describe exercise as painful, agonizing, time consuming, and difficult. People who exercise religiously describe it as relaxing, energizing, enjoyable, and mood-enhancing. Then they bubble on about how it enabled them to drop certain medications, improve blood sugar level, blood pressure and more. Attitude matters more than anything else when it comes to making a plan and achieving success.

For those of you who can’t remember the last time you walked a mile or picked up a weight, I’m on my knees praying I can convert you into an exercise advocate, who uses movement to enhance your life. When I start the day without a workout, I often feel frazzled by midday. When I start the day in motion, I have a sense of calm, focus, and well-being that carries me through until nighttime.

Sometimes non-exercisers appease their own guilt by accusing active people of being obsessive, unproductive, and weight worriers. This certainly doesn’t describe my life or the lives of most of the people I see every day at the workout center! Instead of using negative language to describe exercise and the people who choose to be active, why don’t you try using positive language to get your back side out of the house? Talk to yourself about how that workout will help you focus to complete a task, how it will enable you to be more patient with a taxing family member, how it will improve your health and give your self-esteem a boost when you’re feeling low.

So don’t wait—embark today on your wonderful, exhilarating, life-changing exercise program.

Sep 092013

Exercise tops don’t all fit alike. So put as much thought into how they feel on your upper back and shoulders as to how they look. Five years ago after I suffered a severe rotator cuff injury, I looked at this for the first time. My physical therapist mentioned posture exercises as being an important part of my rehab and said the muscles and tendons in the shoulder complex were more likely to move unimpinged if the upper posturals were in proper alignment.

The next morning I worked my way into an exercise top I planned to wear all day. I felt an immediate tugging in the injured part of my shoulder and then went and looked in a full length mirror to see that the way the top fit, it hunched my shoulders forward. I decided then to get rid of these tops. When you try them on, look in the mirror to make sure the “tightness” equally pulls on the front and the back of the shoulder.  This should be of even more concern to larger breasted women (not me), who will tend to slump forward already because of the amount of weight they have to support in the front.

Even  exercise tops that don’t pull me unevenly sometimes overtighten my neck and upper trapezius with prolonged wear to the point that I’m uncomfortable. Now I try to teach class and then change into a regular bra to avoid unnecessary soreness and strain at the end of the day.

I hope this post will get you thinking about your upper body exercise wear and how you can choose clothing that will keep you more comfortable while in motion and afterward.

Sep 232012

The Open Water Swimmer Book Cover

The Open Water Swimmer by Sabrina Devonshire

My romantic suspense, The Open Water Swimmer, was released by Extasy Books last weekend. Since there aren’t a lot of books out there starring athletic characters, I decided to write one myself! The male protagonist, Jeff Dickson, is an elite open water competitor, so if you’re craving a read starring a character with that competitive drive you have yourself, you might get a kick out of this. I wrote the book under the name of Sabrina Devonshire – my novel-writing pen name.

Here’s a link to Sabrina’s author web site www.sabrinadevonshire.com if you’d like to read the synopsis and an excerpt. Happy Reading!

Jul 212012

This morning, I read a staggering statistic over a cup of Chai. 63 percent of Americans are overweight or obese. Not good news at all for any of us. On the positive side, if you become aware of certain practices in our society that make us fat, you can keep yourself from becoming part of this statistic or arm yourself so you can start moving the scale in a downward direction.

I recently drove with my husband, son and mother to Colorado for my brother’s wedding. The entire trip, I was bombarded by billboards with photos of sundaes and sandwiches and lines about all-you-can-eat buffets. At hotels, morning breakfasts consisted of food laden with calories (biscuits and gravy, eggs smothered in cheese and sour cream). And at restaurants in general, we were served monster portions that could have fed three instead of one. Is it any wonder that we are overweight, when everywhere we go, we are programmed to finish the three-person plate, go for the all-you-can-eat buffet, and indulge in food with so much sauce, you can’t taste the original food (and could almost gain weight smelling it, it’s so caloric). Have you ever noticed what’s on the children’s menus–pretty much never anything healthy–it’s always fried chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese and pizza without a single veggie.

TV can also send you running for the kitchen (or dialing for pizza in 30 minutes or less). Just when you’ve finished dinner, you turn on the tube to see someone pulling a cheese-rich slice of pizza from a plate, sinking teeth into a juicy sandwich or sipping an ice cold beer. My solution for that is hit the mute button and go do a small cleaning task. The worst thing you can do for your diet is eat while you are doing another activity such as watching TV or reading. When you eat mindlessly, you can easily consume a ton of calories without the brain even processing that the food was consumed. So afterward, you don’t even feel satisfied.

Even the grocery store can send us on a path of destruction. All I can say, is don’t go there hungry! The store managers know how to put all the most costly convenience foods just where you will see them and the packages have images that will get you salivating and forgetting they pack more calories than nutritional punch. My advice is to just steer clear of the frozen foods aisles and head straight for the produce section! Make a point of trying one new food every week that is healthy so you can acquire a new healthy taste. The more you eat fresh food, the more your tastebuds will come to appreciate food that’s not packed with artificial flavors and preservatives.

So my message for you is to rethink all this. For one, why do we eat? Ideally, it should be for nourishment, not simply to satisfy some temporary lust for taste. The more you eat food overloaded with additives, the less you will be satisfied with foods that improve your health like fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains. They don’t have any flavor, people sometimes say. That’s because your tastebuds have become deadened to the taste of real food. Give them time and they will be satisfied with a hint of garlic or a touch of ginger, instead of five dollops of sour cream.

Part of my weight-maintenance and health program involves avoiding too many meals out. That way I don’t have numerous opportunities to eat foods over which I have no control. Few menus offer caloric content and I don’t know if my vegetables are steamed, sauteed in olive oil or some kind of trans-fat laden grease. I also sometimes ask people about my meal (like what is in that butter dish? butter, margarine, etc.) and if they can’t tell me, I never go back.

If every person demanded that restaurants serve smaller portions, healthier fare, and provide nutritional content, they would have to deliver. Instead, we allow them to take advantage of our gluttony and our senses, which lead us to make poor nutritional choices. Some people would rather not know how many calories they are consuming so it doesn’t inhibit the enjoyment of their meal. But this temporary enjoyment comes at a high price in terms of health not only for us, but for every other American. And anyway, I would ask you, do you really want to adopt a mantra to live by that is “ignorance is bliss?”

May 042012

I highly recommend that you read this great article I came across this morning about shoulder injuries. Although it’s particularly pertinent to swimmers in that it addresses possible modificiations of freestyle to reduce shoulder stress, it also has great information about muscle balance and methods of rehabilitation that should be helpful to all. You can check it out at
www.swimmingworldmagazine.com/lane9/news/Commentary/30442.asp

Oct 252011

Whenever my fitness classes start to feel stale rather than fresh, I know its time to learn more. Conferences and research get me pumped back up. At fitness conferences, such as Fitness Fest and IDEA, I learn new techniques, exercises, and research relevant to my work as a fitness professional. I run out the door bursting with excitement to put what I’ve learned into practice. I literally can’t wait to teach my next class.

It should be like that with your workouts as well. When enthusiasm flags, you seek a way to bring that excitement back to exercising. If your strength training workouts are putting you to sleep, you hire a trainer to show you exercises that are safe, yet different from what you’ve been doing. If you are tired of going it alone during workouts, you join group exercise classes or a group of individuals that do an activity you enjoy. If you have reached a plateau where you aren’t seeing any improvement, you try cross training with less familiar modalities to kick your body back in high gear.

Here in Tucson, we have groups that meet to do many different activities including swimming (we have at least 4 Masters teams – azlmsc.org for Arizona; see www.usms.org for a list in other parts of the country), hiking, running (Southern Arizona Roadrunners – www.azroadrunners.org), mountain biking (Sonoran Desert Mountain Bicyclists – www.sdmb.org), and road biking (Greater Arizona Bicycling Association – GABA – www.bikegaba.org). For those of you who live in SaddleBrooke, there are groups for you right in your neighborhood. I recently learned that the SaddleBrooke Hiking club even has a daily fitness walk at 6:30 that meets at the HOA 1 basketball court (a newsletter on the group can be picked up in the HOA 1 fitness center). Even residents who don’t feel comfortable walking on uneven surfaces can get out there and walk and meet new people.

If your current group exercise class isn’t meeting your needs, shop around until you find a class you find one that’s fun and meets your fitness objectives. Many people I work with report getting excited about trying a new kind of group exercise format such as Zumba or taking lessons to improve their golf or tennis game.

Knowledge can get you excited about working out, too. It can be empowering to read how taking charge of your fitness can reduce your risk of getting Type 2 diabetes, improve bone and muscle density, energy level, reduce body fat, improve HDL (good cholesterol), reverse the “age” of your muscle cells, and much more. Many fitness enthusiasts attend fitness conferences and read every article out there about health and fitness. If knowledge fuels your fire, go out there and get educated! Women’s Health, Men’s Health, Fitness, American Fitness, and the IDEA Fitness Journal are just some magazines I read often. It is important to use your intellect and reasoning to evaluate the quality of what you are reading. There is a lot of misinformation out there as well. Sometimes discussing what you’ve read with a fitness or medical professional can be helpful. The American College of Sports Medicine is a reputable source, which offers annual recommendations pertaining to cardiovascular and strength training for individuals wanting to maintain fitness and/or lose weight.

Whatever you need to do to bounce out of bed excited to move that body, figure it out and then go for it. Your body and mind will be glad you did.

Jan 152011

Most days, I relish soaking up the brilliant sunshine and a view of the Santa Catalina Mountains jutting up so crisp and bold against the brilliant azure sky. On September 11, 2001 and January 8, 2011, the beauty of the southern Arizona days made what occurred seemed unimaginable; like a dreadful nightmare. Surely I will awaken any moment, I thought. Terrorists couldn’t have crashed planes into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, killing thousands of innocent people on a day when not a cloud marred the sky. A young man couldn’t have shot my Congresswoman and killed six innocent people including a nine-year-old child who attended the same elementary school as my two children on a day when cheery sunlight illuminated every room in my house. Yet both of those events really happened. And forever changed me. I remember…

On September 11, I had just dropped my children off at their elementary school and waved goodbye to them after they stepped out from the car and slung their back packs over their shoulders. It was just another ordinary day, I thought. Except traffic was lighter than usual. On my way home, I was approaching the intersection of La Canada and Magee when my cell phone rang. It was my husband. “Planes crashed into the Twin towers,” said the man I trust more than anyone on earth. My first response was “Yeah, right.” I couldn’t wrap my brain around his words. And I wanted more than anything to shut them out. But when my husband continued to explain what had happened, his pain evident in his voice, I realized that this horrible event had really happened. We had been ruthlessly attacked. There were people in the world who hated so intensely, they had no regard for any person’s life, no matter whether that person might be a stockbroker working in the World Trade Center or a child traveling on one of the airplanes. I wished in the midst of all of that, I could stand as tall as the Santa Catalina Mountains. If I had been the sun, I would have stopped shining completely. I would have somehow felt it wasn’t right to shine so brightly on a day when so many husbands, fathers, wives, mothers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, children, brothers, sisters, and friends were forever lost.

On January 8, 2011, I enjoyed a morning swim with the SaddleBrooke swim club. As most of you know, I thrive on a good workout and after a wonderful swim, I exited the pool about 10:00, feeling so elated that my skin tingled. All was well with the world. That was until the moment my cell phone rang. I answered the phone to hear my daughter hysterically crying. “Gabby Giffords has been shot. They killed her,” she said. I felt like someone had socked me in the chest. I could hear the suffering in her voice. She had volunteered in her office during the 2010 campaign and during that time, had learned what a kind and caring person she was. My first thought was “No!” The next thought was “how could anyone do that to her of all people?”

I told my daughter to stay put in the restaurant where she was with friends until she was calm enough to come home. She told me she was sorry she had ever been mad at me and that she loved me. I told her I loved her too and that I would turn on the news as soon as I got home and try to find out what happened. As soon as I hung up, I burst into tears and relayed the terrible story to my husband. When we got home, we turned on the news and learned that Gabrielle Giffords was still alive. I called my daughter immediately. “Those reporters were wrong,” I said. “She’s still alive. Let’s pray for her.”

We spent the rest of the day watching the suffering and carnage a terrorist of a different sort had inflicted on his fellow Americans. A very unbalanced 22-year-old male had brought a semi-automatic weapon, an extended magazine and 90 bullets to the shopping plaza where Gabrielle Giffords was conducting a Congress on the Corner event, and opened fire, first shooting Gabrielle and continuing to take down almost everyone else who was there in line to see her. Good people had taken the gunman down, grabbed his gun, and began trying to help people. The paramedics arrived on scene very quickly and were able to save lives. Yet one life they weren’t able to save was Christina Taylor Green, recently elected to student council at her school. Blue sky and mountains were the backdrop for all the dreadful images that came up on the television screen. Helicopters landing on Ina Road. People being carried away on stretchers. Victims standing there shell-shocked in blood-stained clothes. I didn’t want the sky to be blue that day. If I had made the sky, I would have stained it grey or maybe even red. Then it wouldn’t have hurt as badly to see all the bloodshed that day. But on second thought, it really wouldn’t have made any difference at all. Who cares about the weather on days like these? There is to much else to contemplate. I’m thinking about being a better person. Not just today but forever.