Jan 052020

Many people start a new year, making a resolution to exercise more. And that’s a very smart decision because regular exercise can do a lot to improve your health and mental outlook. What works for me and for many is to choose enjoyable activities. If it’s fun, you’re more like to keep doing it, right?

My passion is for the water and so most days, I can’t wait to get in the water! I walk down to the Sea of Cortez and savor my swimming experience for an hour, sometimes longer. Whether in the pool or the sea or ocean, I love the feel of the water rushing by me, the feel of propelling myself through the water. I like the solitude, the silence, the escape that I experience, which helps me clear my head of clutter and distress.

I love the multisensory experience sea swimming – smelling and tasting the salt, spotting sardines, sea bass, and stingrays – and on the most amazing days, encountering my dolphin friends. There’s a pod of 11 or more bottle-nose dolphins who often propel themselves underneath me with their powerful flukes or glid around me, sometimes in circles. Occasionally, a dolphin friend will come up nose to nose and nod or even make sounds for me. Clicks, chirps, and other calls.

The photo here is of me finishing an 1800-meter swim this past September in Miramar, near Guaymas, Mexico. Click here to see a short YouTube video clip of me wetsuit swimming. Water temperatures vary from the mid-50s F up to the low-90s, depending on the season, so I rang in the New Year wetsuit swimming since the water is quite chilly in the winter, even south of the border in San Carlos, Mexico.

Finding enjoyable exercise is one of many helpful recommendations I offer in my Fitter Than Ever at 40 and Beyond book. Stop making resolutions and quitting them two weeks later and embark on a journey of healthy living. Let 2020 be the year you succeed! If you haven’t read Fitter Than Ever yet, click here to pick up a paperback or here for the Kindle edition.

Sep 132018

I’ve always enjoyed running on soft surfaces more than pavement. I sometimes run on trails and cinder tracks, but I really get a thrill out of running barefoot on the beach. I spend most of the year now in San Carlos, Mexico, living right on the Sea of Cortez. So my track and my swimming pool await just outside the door!

There’s something unique about feeling my skin connecting with the earth with each running step. I savor the sensory experience of the grainy sand compressing under the sole of each foot and the occasional wet wave that washes over my foot. The salt air tinges my nostrils and the sea breeze blows my hair, whistling in my ears as if I strode at a mighty Olympic pace rather than the average pace I actually run.

Running barefoot on the beach – or anywhere for that matter – isn’t without risk. My husband blackened his big toe one morning stumbling over a rock. My son had the unfortunate experience of landing on a dead porcupine fish that lay hidden under the sand. And I landed once on a cholla cactus segment that had somehow blown down onto the beach. Ouch!

My recommendation for anyone wanting to run barefoot is that you learn first how to walk safely without shoes. Because the barefoot technique is different. Muscles in your feet and lower legs work much harder when you’re not wearing shoes. I started by walking a couple of kilometers on the beach every day barefoot. At first, my plantar fascia and toes felt sore afterward. Sometimes my calf muscles cramped up. Once my feet and lower extremity muscles adjusted, I worked my way up to five to seven kilometers. Then I added running to the mix. Now running and walking on the beach is easy for me.

When I first started running in sand, I had to listen to my body, to notice and sense what felt right. I land on the ball of my foot when running barefoot instead of heel-striking the way I do in shoes. That seems to absorb the impact from my landing best and gives me the opportunity to do a sudden weight shift if I feel something sharp under my foot and don’t want to put full weight on it. Other runners may find a different technique works best.

Connecting your naked feet to the Earth not only is a wonderful sensory experience, it offers abundant health benefits as well. Your heart, muscles and nervous system all receive electrical impulses from your body’s cells. The earth’s electrical energy helps keep human bodies and the bodies of all living beings in balance. When we spend too much time indoors, we don’t receive nature’s healing benefits. When your body has a chance to connect with the Earth’s electrical energy, you sleep better, inflammation is reduced, you perceive pain as less traumatic, and even heal faster from injury and illness. This isn’t just hocus pocus. More and more studies are coming out that show connecting with the Earth is not only beneficial, it’s necessary for optimal health. Please read this informative article by Chevalier et al. in the Journal of Environmental Public Health for a more in-depth understanding of the benefit of grounding or earthing.

If you haven’t tried barefoot running, but have the urge to try, why not give it a go the next time you head to a grassy park or a sandy beach. For me, there’s something joyous and childlike about running in the sand. If you’re like me, you might have so much fun running barefoot, you find yourself skipping along or turning cartwheels in the sand like you were 10 years old.

Learn to be a better runner, avoid injuries and train smart with Dr. Jason Karp’s REVO2LUTION RUNNING program. I have taken several workshops from Dr. Karp over the years and he’s an amazing educator! For information on certification courses for runners, coaches, and fitness professionals, check out the REVO2LUTION RUNNING web site. Use code SUSANCOOK for a 15 percent discount on any course.

Sep 012018

I am officially a Regional Sales Director for Revo2lution Running, founded by leading running expert Dr. Jason Karp. If you are a personal trainer, running coach or a runner seasoned or new, this cutting-edge program can give you the competitive edge. You can attend a course to become a certified professional or as a runner. Courses are offered in most U.S. cities and many countries worldwide. There is also a home study course that makes it easy to learn during your free time!

Learn the importance of knowing your VO2 Max and Lactate Threshold in doing effective training. Learn how to create a running program for someone new to running, whether it be you or a client. If weight loss is a goal for you or your client(s), learn nutrition tips that will make this goal more achievable. And most importantly, learn how to run safely with less potential for injury. 65 percent of people to participate in running experience an injury over the course of the year, which can mean missing races, fun with friends, and interfere with weight loss goals. Why not avoid injury altogether so you can keep on running? Knowledge is power and Dr. Karp’s program will give you power with a capital P and so much more. To read about or sign up for a workshop, home study program, runner mentoring programs and more, check out the Revo2lution Running web site. For a 15 percent discount on your workshop fee, please use the code SUSANCOOK when you purchase.

Mar 312017

I am excited to announce the release of my new book, Fitter Than Ever at 40 and Beyond.

I know fitness and how the right balance of training, mindful exercise and good nutrition can transform your life. Rewrite your script of making resolutions and quitting them and start living a healthy lifestyle today. Fitter Than Ever offers an easy-to-follow activity and eating plan and is packed with Slim for Life Secrets to keep you on-track and motivated. This book will make your journey of losing weight, exercising and eating healthy fun and empowering.

The e-books are available now. A paperback print edition will be available by April 30.

Order From Amazon

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Fitter Than Ever at 40 and Beyond

Jul 032016

BeatStep App for Fitness Instructors

Ever since I’ve starting playing music in classes from my iPhone or iPad, I’ve been frustrated over being stuck with the original beats-per-minute. For years, I would pitch CDs up or down to get the count just right for different classes. For this reason, I found myself sticking to my old CDs whenever possible. When one of my work places removed the CD player once and for all, I knew I had to get more in-the-know about Apps. So I researched Apps that might help with this issue and decided to download BeatStep (cost is 12.99). I had some trouble finding it because another company, Arturia, has a program with the same name at the top of the search engines and is apparently designed for music studios rather than fitness instructors!

At first, I was a bit stymied by the App. After you load a play list and save it, whenever I tried to load a new one from my iPod library, it would ask if I wanted to remove the current songs and I worried I would lose my previous playlist or even the one in iTunes. Fortunately, when I queried BeatStep from their Facebook page, I learned this is not the case. I was also given a step by step explanation on how to load the new playlist and save it. This does not in any way alter your original iTunes playlist. Basically, you are importing it into the App and saving it as a different playlist that you must access from BeatStep.

BeatStep Playlist

BeatStep is very responsive to email or FaceBook correspondence. Here is a link to the BeatStep Facebook Page. The company also sent me a link to several You Tube  videos that outline the major features of the App. You can choose a set BPM for your playlist or a percent of original speed. If the program’s calculation of the song’s BPM is inaccurate, you can select the song and “tap out” the BPM so it resets to an accurate tempo. Here is a link to the You Tube training videos. Watching these videos really helped me get into the swing of using the App.

Once glitch I found with the App is that if you stop playing your music before the playlist ends and then start another class and start playing music, you may hear two songs playing at once. If this  happens, simply exit the program and start it up again (it just takes a few seconds) and you will be back to hearing only one song at a time.

I’m very particular about the music I use for classes. For this reason, I like to download individual songs and make them into playlists instead of buying pre-made mixes. This creates a problem when you want every song in your mix to have a similar BPM. I recently learned that by using the Tempo Planner add-on (cost 2.99 or request a code on the BeatStep Facebook page), you gain this versatility as well. To add on this feature, simply click on the star in the bottom left and enter the code. Now I can go to each song and determine BPM or percent of original song speed one at a time. It is useful to test this ahead of time to make sure the song doesn’t sound terrible pitched up or down a lot.

I don’t recommend downloading this App tonight and trying to use it in the morning. Give yourself a few days to get familiar with it so you feel confident and comfortable with it before you walk into class. With adequate preparation, BeatStep is a great program that can allow you to offer your students more music variety at a speed ideal for the workout you have planned. My students really appreciate that I’ve taken the time to assemble so many fun new playlists. Now I have New Age, Jazz, Dance and Rock, sometimes all in a single playlist and music that before was too slow to use for exercise is now accessible. I hope you enjoy using BeatStep as much as I do.

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.

Sep 062011

Are you one of those people that still believe if you do 500 abdominal crunches each day, that flabby middle will evaporate? If so, you are not alone. Many people still believe that over-exercising specific parts of the body will enable “spot” toning or the dissipation of fat from a preferred part of the body.

The harsh reality is that it just isn’t so. Aerobic exercise and strength training help you to burn fat, but your body makes the bottom line decision as to where the weight comes off. Face it ladies, the first place where weight tends to disappear is from the bust line! It’s not fair, but unfortunately the adipose tissue on the abdomen, hips and thighs is usually most unwilling to say a final farewell.

Removing fat from the body is a function of calories in versus calories out, nothing more. If you eat more calories than you burn, you will add fat; if you eat less than you burn, you will lose a pound for every 3500 calorie deficit. The most efficient way to reduce your body fat is to eat a healthy diet, engage in at least 200 minutes of continuous or aerobic activity per week (low-impact or step aerobics, walking, elliptical, cycling or swimming), and follow a regular strength training program. During continuous activity, the body burns fat which facilitates weight loss and increases caloric expenditure at rest. Regular exercise stimulates activity in muscle tissues and reduces the loss of muscle mass during a weight loss program.

People often set unrealistic goals for their bodies, which can be destructive to self-esteem and body image. You will be most content if you learn to make the most of what you have, since each of us was genetically designed to be a bit different. Ladies, forget about the Cosmo cover models; and gentleman, its OK if you have to wear a shirt along with your Calvin Kline jeans. Remember to set your sights on a healthy weight, rather than a perfect body. And exercise regularly, so you will look and feeling the best you possibly can every day.

Aug 022010

I recently started doing some water training in my home pool. Its so nice to get up, throw on a suit (or not) and walk out the door. Because my home pool isn’t as long as the pool where I normally train, I do some vertical kicking and stationary swimming so I’m not constantly touching the sides. Here’s how you can do some stationary swimming in your home pool…

Buy a medium strength Versa Tube and a 6 foot Thera-Band. Loop one handled end of the Versa Tube to a diving board or ladder at one end of the pool. Attach it as close as possible to water level. Then tie one end of the Thera-band around the other Versa Tube handle. Then tie the other end of the Thera-Band around one ankle. Slide into the pool and get started. Try with or without a pullbouy, depending on if it improves your body position, since you will mostly be pulling anyway (the band around the ankle will restrict your ability to kick).

I have successfully done free, fly and breast stroke pull this way, but found it very awkward on my back. Have fun!

Jul 132010

Our New House

Our New House in Oro Valley

When stress strikes, its tempting to back down from your normal training routine. After all, you’ve got the best of excuses to dump the workout for a nap or a strong drink. Or so it seems. In reality, maintaining your exercise routine could actually help you cope better with whatever you are up against. Instead of letting your stress get the best of you the next time around, try some creative ways to keep yourself up and moving?

Speaking of moving, my latest stressful event was a relocation from one Tucson house to another (that’s why my posts have been so sparse lately)! When our offer was accepted and the closing loomed within 30 days, my first instinct was to forget about going to U.S. Masters Swimming nationals later in the summer. After all, I wasn’t going to have time to put in the training, right?

After further consideration, I decided that keeping the championship on the calendar would keep me focused so I would put in the miles I needed not only to do well in my events, but to stay more calm and upbeat as we underwent the stress of the move. And sure enough, its been working. I have maintained consistent training habits and have managed to deal with all of the box packing and carrying as well as repairing and installing various things at our new house without bursting into tears. OK, well I did kind of lose it once when I looked at my old closet floor after I had loaded several boxes and there was still a ton more and I wondered how I had accumulated so much stuff and where I would possible put it all! I do know that had I not been swimming almost daily it would have been a whole lot worse.

Below are some tried and true strategies to help you succeed when stress strikes:

1 – Plan your workouts in advance. Put these scheduled times in your handheld device like every other appointment and stick to the schedule without fail. Pack your gym bag the night before so you are ready to go.

2 – Set a goal. What do you want to accomplish shortly after this difficult time to keep you from missing a workout? It could be an athletic competition, a charity walk or run, or a vacation that requires being physically fit.

3 – Enlist the support of a friend or family member. In the case of our move, I encouraged my husband to go to the gym while I did something around the house so he didn’t feel he needed to miss workouts to do something for me. He always encouraged me to attend all my morning swimming workouts as well. I even trained the day the movers came to pick up our furniture! Be sure to offer encouragement to those close to you when they are under stress so they won’t fall off the exercise wagon.

4 – Release your frustration in the water or as your feet hit the road instead of out on other people. Notice how well it works. When your workout has helped you to cope with stress and deal better with frustrating situations, take note. When your day goes well, you will want to do it again. And people won’t want to hide from you whenever you are under duress.

The next time your work or personal life becomes crazy, don’t let go of your exercise routine. Keeping consistent will have a way of grounding you so the difficult time doesn’t seem as rough. If you have to relocate like I just did, being fit can come in handy. If I didn’t have great muscle tone, how would I have ever handled the packing, carrying, painting, hammering, drilling, backwashing, and trimming that needed to be done? Now if you will excuse me, I have to install another towel bar.

Jun 172010

While vacationing in Ohio, it seemed perfect to stop what I was doing (drinking tea) and write about staying active while traveling. Its almost 9 a.m. here and I am happy to say I have already walked 20 minutes and been swimming for an hour. The Worthington High School Pool is just minutes from the house, so I slipped on my tennis shoes before dawn and walked there to join the high school swim team for practice. Afterwards, I walked back home, had a bowl of oatmeal and now here I am writing this article.

Clients often tell me its difficult to stay active on vacation. I say its a piece of cake. When you maintain your exercise routine, you adjust quicker to time changes, feel happier and more energetic, and good about yourself for staying on track. I make it a habit to always plan what I will do to stay in shape before the trip even happens.

Before travelling to Ohio, I emailed the Worthington Swim Club coach and asked him if he would mind if a Masters swimmer joined his group for practices. When he gave me an affirmative answer and the schedule, I was all set. All I had to do was have the gumption to get up at 6 a.m. every morning, the equivalent of 3 a.m. in Tucson. So far so good.

I also get a lot of residual exercise spending time with my family. One morning I took a 15 minute jog with my daughter. Yesterday, we played Marco Polo in the pool and took an hour-long evening walk along the Olentangy River. I even spent an hour or so pulling thistles out of my mom’s garden. Ouch! My days have been activity-filled. It is a great feeling to know that when I go home to Arizona, I will be in even better shape than when I left.

Another strategy I use for staying active on trips is to plan the trip around a competitive event. I recently wrote an article on this topic (featuring other people like myself who thrive off of this type of travel), which will appear later this year in American Fitness.

I often compete in the La Jolla Roughwater swim and the La Jolla Shores 5K so I can enjoy La Jolla and also get out there and race people. Later this summer I will compete in the U.S. Masters Swimming Long Course National Championships in Puerto Rico. After a few days of pool swimming races in Puerto Rico, I will top off the week with a one mile open water swim and then fly to Granada where from our hotel’s beach, you can swim for miles and still stand on the bottom! I know already I will be swimming every single day of vacation.

If you’re a fitness instructor like me, you can take a trip and teach classes at the same time (check out fitbodiesinc.com). Last summer I took my family to an all-inclusive resort in Cancun and paid very little because of the two hours I spent teaching classes daily. There are places all over the Caribbean where you can have a fabulous time on an active vacation.

So if you’re making a list of excuses of why you can’t keep moving, why don’t you pitch that in the trash and write up an activity agenda. Here in Ohio, swimming will continue to be on the daily agenda as well as walking and the occasional jog. And who knows. Maybe the kids will be able to talk me into getting on the trampoline again for seat wars. I’m not 18 anymore. But I can pretend.