Essential Sports Nutrition



Salads don't have to be boring unless this is your idea of a salad.

I've learned to love salads over the past few years. Growing up, I was never a salad eater. However, salads can be a lot of fun to prepare and of course, very filling. Now a days, in order for me to really enjoy my salads, I have to dress them up a bit.
I've created 3 great salad creations for you. Enjoy!

Mango-kiwi fruit salad
3 kiwis (sliced)
1 mango (cubed)
10 baby carrots (chopped)
1 small apple (chopped)
1/4 cup grapes (halved)
1/2 large lemon juice (or small lemon) for dressing

To cut kiwi's:
1)Cut kiwi in half.
2) Use a spoon to remove skin from kiwi
3) Turn skin inside out.
4) Cut off the ends.

To cut mango:
1) Cut segments out around the core
2) Use a sharp knife to make a grid on mango segments.
3) Use your thumbs on skin-side to pop out the top of mango segment.
4) Cut off cubes with knife.

Carrot, Coconut and Raisin salad

1 bag pre-cut matchstick carrots
4 tbsp shredded coconut
2 tangerines (sliced, seeds removed) + juice
1 pear (chopped)
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup cranberries
1/2 lemon (juice)

Cucumber Tomato salad

1 large cucumber - halved then sliced again in half (I made it look extra pretty by scraping a fork on the outside of the cucumber before cutting it)
5 roma tomatoes - halved, then sliced again in half
2 ounces block mozzarella cheese - cut in small cubes
1 large clove garlic (chopped)
2 tbsp poppy seed dressing (you can use balsamic or any vinaigrette)
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil


Day #16: Replace, don't eliminate

You want to start eating healthy, so what do you do. You take out all of the "bad" stuff and instantly reduce your total calories. After 1-2 days of sticking to your new lifestyle of umm...healthy eating (questionable?) you are starving, bored and out of energy.
Well, if you are one of many people that still struggle to find ways to eat more healthy AND feel satisfied, you are not alone. Sure, you could eat fruits and veggies with all meals and snacks but if you are still overeating the "bad" stuff at your meals you haven't created a calorie deficit to support weight loss. Furthermore, the "bad" stuff may prevent any performance gains and leave you discouraged with your current training routine.
Maybe you've tried finishing the day with a nutritious and low calorie dinner but come 9pm and your favorite TV show, the sweet treats in the pantry start to call your name.
Having helped athletes with nutrition for the past 3 1/2 years, I've gotten really good at picking out the problem areas which I call "performance limiters". With every great part of an athletes' diet, comes a few sticky areas that need changing. Maybe it's the type of protein that an athlete is choosing to recovery with or the type of snack that an athlete prepares before training. Because many of my athletes struggle with overeating, I have no trouble telling my athletes to add in more nutritious choices. The struggle is often limiting the "reward" foods and emphasizing the foods which serve as excellent sources of fuel and as aids in recovery.

My tip to you, athlete or fitness enthusiast, is to break down each meal and snack. Focus on individual meals and snacks and find foods to replace. If you only look at your problem areas and instantly eliminate every food, you may find yourself stuck when you are hungry and without energy and not quite sure what to eat.

There is no reason why you should feel starved because you are attempting to maintain an intense/consistent exercise routine while reducing total calories (or trying to maintain weight while eating healthier). Sure, adding more fruits and veggies will add more fiber and water to each meal and snack, thus promoting a quicker feeling of fullness when you are eating. But, as an athletic individual, you don't need to stop eating bread, carbs or fats because you want to lose weight. You just need to find ways to feel satisfied with less calories, as you are incorporating more healthy foods into the diet, while replacing the not-so-healthy foods. Eating healthier does not have to be black or white. Make your life a little gray.

So, in this overwhelming world of making healthier choices, how can you do this?
It is likely that everyone has a food in at least 1 meal or snack (per day) that may be your weak area. Find a way to replace that food with a more nutritious option in an effort to reduce calories and/or create a feeling of fullness. The reason why I want you to focus on two things when you replace foods is that many people tend to under-eat at 1-2 meals and snacks during the day, thus encouraging a starving feeling later in the day, which encourages overeating.
Are you still stuck on where to start?
Focus on foods which you eat on a daily basis. Are the foods high in sugar, sodium or unhealthy fat (saturated/trans fat). If so, seek options which are lean/low protein, include healthy fats (mono/polyunsaturated), are high fiber, low in sugar or low in sodium. Furthermore, if you tend to eat healthy food (such as PB, nuts or olive oil) but have trouble restricting yourself to one serving, I suggest keeping these healthy foods but restricting yourself to 1 serving and adding in fruits and veggies to save calories but promote a feeling of fullness.
My best recommendation is to start adding more fruits & veggies (fiber), healthy fats and low fat protein to your diet.

Here are some suggestions:

Instead of cereal w/ skim milk
Try Oatmeal topped with cereal

Instead of a meal replacement bar
Try 1/2 bar w/ yogurt and a piece of fruit

Mid-morning snack:
Instead of nothing
Try a piece of fruit

Instead of a granola bar
Try 8 ounce greek yogurt (or low fat yogurt) w/ 5 almonds

Instead of a low calorie salad (veggies + fat-free dressing)
Try your normal low calorie salad + nuts, cottage cheese and salsa

Instead of sandwich (2 slices cheese, whole wheat sub, Mayo, lettuce) w/ chips
Try a sandwich w/ 1 slice cheese, 2 slices Nature Own High fiber bread, lots of veggies, hummus and 1/2 bag of 100-calorie popcorn

Mid-day snack
Instead of nothing
Try 1 string cheese w/ 5-10 pretzel sticks

Instead of latte w/ chocolate
Try 1 ounce dark chocolate w/ 1 orange

Instead of pasta w/ side salad
Try bowl of steamed veggies w/ pasta on top

Instead of rice and beans in a flour tortilla
Try a large salad w/ lean meat or tofu and 1/2 wrap filled with rice and beans

Evening snack:
Instead of bowl of cereal
Try 1 graham cracker sheet w/ a little PB and honey

Instead of chips and dip
Try 1 bag of 100-calorie popcorn w/ 1 ounce cheese

Future internship

Karel, Campy and I made a quick trip to visit my parents in New Port Richey. We left on Tuesday evening around 5:30 and 4 hours later, we arrived at my parents. Campy was super excited to be at his castle (aka-a real house) and I was really looking forward to Wednesday.
I didn't get into the Mayo Clinic dietetic internship last September...which is ok. I have my eyes set on really competitive internships so I don't foresee it being easy to start a dietetic internship anytime soon. I'd go into the details about applying for a dietetic internship but it can be a bit complicated. To make it simple, you first find an accredited ADA dietetic internship (there is only 1 in Jacksonville but a few more in Florida). You can only apply if you have met the requirements (which I did back in August 2009). Then you apply either in Sept or February for the January or August internship. Some internships cost money (Mayo $7000) and some give stipends. Some internships are 6-8 months and some are 12 months. You register for a matching website ($50) and then after you send in your application to your 1st, 2nd and 3rd choice internships you wait to see if you get a phone interview. After a phone interview you will be matched in either April or November for the upcoming internship.
The Mayo Clinic took 3 interns out of hundreds of applicants. I was not one of them but that's ok. Life goes on and I have slowed down since. If anything, I think it was a good thing because I have really focused more on my priorities and career goals in terms of dietetics.

My two choices for the upcoming August internship (application due in February) are Bay Pines VA
Tampa VA

After visiting both internships on Wednesday I am excited to choose Tampa as my #1 choice, followed by Bay Pines. However, I would be really excited to get into either one. I met the directors of both programs and they are both really nice. Both facilities are HUGE and absolutely amazing. It was just a great experience to see the hospitals and to imagine myself working in a VA, just like my dad. My dad has 35 years with the VA as an optometrist and he loves every day of work. I guess the VA is just in the "Rakes" blood.

Since my blog readers are my biggest are the links to the two VA's for you to learn more about the dietetic internships that I am applying for:

Tampa VA

Bay Pines VA

Each 11-month internship takes 6 people. I would move from Jacksonville for the year but I'm sure the time will go by fast. I am thrilled about the rotations that are offered in each internship and the amount of learning that I will do in 11 short months. It was will be hard and challenging but I am prepared for the experience.
I've been working on my application letter for a few weeks now and I hope to finish my packet this weekend.
Here's what I need to answer in my application letter:
* professional goals
* reasons the applicant chose the profession of Dietetics
* reasons the applicant chose this internship program
* reasons the applicant feels he/she should be selected over other applicants

It's tough stuff to figure out exactly the right thing to say to make yourself stand out in a pile of 200+ other applicants.


Day #15: Be prepared when eating out

Sometimes you can just look at a menu item and know it can't be good for you.
Or can words be deceiving?
Which is healthier in terms of calories AND fat?
Ruby Tuesday Carolina Chicken salad
Ruby Tuesday Louisiana Fried Shrimp

Well, if you said the salad...SORRY, wrong answer.

Carolina Chicken Salad: 1151 calories, 70grams of fat
Louisiana Fried Shrimp: 423 calories, 17grams of fat

Talk about deceiving..
The KIDS (yes-I said KIDS) mac and cheese has 680 calories and 37 grams of fat!

Would you like me to go on? Ok, I will.
1 once of the Sweet Chili sauce (ONE ounce) has 170 calories and 17 grams of fat.
And in last place, the Chicken and Broccoli pasta comes in at 1639 calories and 103 grams of fat.

So, does this mean you have to avoid all restaurants in order to stay within a reasonable range of daily calories?

To save calories you can box up half your portion as soon as your dinner arrives to the table. You could ask for the bread basket to be served with dinner (or not at all) and you can skip the appetizers and alcoholic-drinks. You can order dressings on the side and you can skip desert. But when you are out with friends, co-workers, training buddies or your family, it's hard to remember all those little tricks to saving calories when eating out.

While it is hard to know exactly how many calories you are eating when ordering a chef-prepared meal, it is likely that you will be consuming more calories, fat and sodium than you would like. However, in an effort to prepare for an upcoming restaurant meal, it would be wise for you to check on-line nutrition guides and/or menu's prior to arriving to the restaurant. By planning ahead and eating a small protein or fiber snack (50-100 calories), and a big glass of water, around 30-40 min. before you arrive at the restaurant, you will be less likely to overindulge in appetizers. Furthermore, on-line menu's will help you decide your meal choice, well before arriving to the restaurant. Without giving into the smells and sights in the restaurant, you will do a lot of good for your body by creating a healthy meal choice before sitting down at your table.

There are a lot of ways to make restaurant-meals healthier but more times than not, it is likely that you are going to feel like an outcast (especially if you are out to eat with people who you don't know you very well) if you are the "difficult one" when ordering. Sure, you can ask for the meal to be prepared with a healthier oil, for the food to be prepared without butter or that the chef not to use salt, but when you are tempted by the yummy choices on the menu, it is likely that you are going to just make things simple and avoid making special requests.

Rather than making your order difficult, I suggest avoiding your "temptation" restaurants all together. Maybe it's time to try a nice place that serves its sweet potato with toppings on the side rather than going to a restaurant that only serves butter with a side of mashed sweet potatoes. Although there are many restaurants out there catering to the health-conscious individual, it is still up to you to make a conscious decision to order those healthier items (even if there are loads of unhealthy items on the menu).

I've listed a few suggestions to show that it can be done. Yes-you can eat healthy when eating out, so long as you are prepared. Although I recommend limiting fast-food/restaurants to no more than 2 times per month, always be prepared when eating out. You can order the healthiest item in the restaurant but it is up to the chef to put his/her little spin on the menu item. If the chef decides to add a heaping tbsp of feta cheese instead of a tsp and 10 croutons instead of 5, then the calories of your salad go up. If your chef gives your salmon three shakes with the salt shaker instead of one, you better believe you are going to feel a bit bloated after your meal. Most importantly, if you are spending money on healthy food, you want to feel satisfied and happy with your order.

1) Know ahead of time what you will order before arriving to the restaurant.
2) Eat a small fiber/protein snack, 30-40 min before arriving to the restaurant.
3) Drink a large glass of water before your meal and with your meal.
4) Avoid using the salt shaker at the table.
5) Do not order an appetizer.
6) Ask for the bread basket to be brought out with your meal.
7) Order a salad or soup before ordering your entree.
8) Order dressings and toppings on the side. Ask for lower-calorie dressings/vinaigrette.
9) Order full portions but ask for 1/2 the meal to be boxed up when it arrives to your table.
10) Share meals/side items with other people.
11) Do not order dessert at the restaurant. Wait at least an hour after dinner to decide if dessert is necessary.
12) Estimate calories and portions in your head. If you are eating more food than normal, just save the extra portion for the next day.
13) Limit yourself to 1 alcoholic beverage at dinner. I recommend looking up calories for your favorite beverages prior to ordering them.
14) Plan your meal to include the following: complex carb, lean/low fat protein and vegetables (and/or fruit). If your order is mostly carbs, find a way to add in more protein and veggies to balance the meal.
15) Ask for light-options. Although the definition of light may differ between you and your chef, ask for light on the cheese, light on the butter or light on the oil-if you must order those items.
16) Avoid the following food items which include: fried, au gratin, crispy, escalloped, pan-fried, sautéed or stuffed foods. Ask or look for steamed, broiled, baked, grilled, poached or roasted. Avoid creamy sauces/soups and look for tomato sauces or vegetarian broths.
*vegetarians-always ask if the soups are made from chicken stock or vegetarian-NO MEAT-broths. I've had many instances where I was about to order vegetable soup in chicken stock.
17) Customize your order. While cheese and croutons may add a few more calories and fat to your salad you would be better off asking for eggs, a little cheese and nuts than ordering a green salad without the cheese and croutons, but keeping the blue cheese dressing.
18) Ask for substitutions. While you may have to pay a bit more, ask for a salad instead of french fries, fruit instead of desert (if it is a 3-course meal) or plain baked potato or steamed veggies instead of fried rice.
19) Find ways to save calories. Order side items or a few healthy appetizers (ex. pita bread and hummus, baked potato and steamed veggies instead of baked chicken Parmesan).
20) Stop eating when you are satisfied. If this is incredibly hard for you (I know the feeling when I'm at outback. Finishing off my sweet potato with warm bread is a hard temptation for me), take your last bite when you feel satisfied. Drink a big sip of water and immediately pop a piece of sugar-free gum in your mouth. Problem solved. If you save leftovers, you can enjoy that yummy dish the very next day.

Check out the following link:
Healthy Dining Finder

Americas 20 Worst Restaurant Meals
View more presentations from webtel.


Day #14: Be a health-conscious traver

When I think of eating on the road, a few things come to mind:
*Healthy options
*Marni-friendly options (vegetarian)
*Cheap options
*Time constraints

There's nothing worse than being hungry, stuck in traffic and in a hurry. Put all three things together and you are likely to lose focus of your mission of eating healthy. Whether you are traveling by plane or by car, traveling has a way of making the healthy and active individual feel a bit stressed and overwhelmed when it comes to making healthy and affordable choices outside of his/her comfort zone.

Maybe I'm a bit frugal, but when I travel I just hate spending money on non-filling foods. If I try to rely on foods on the road or in the airport, I feel as if I am always hungry and just throwing away money. In my opinion, I want my money to go to good use if I am spending $10 on lunch in the airport. You better believe I am going to pick a meal higher in fat and/or calories than I am use to because there is no way that I will pay $10 for a bowl of lettuce, croutons and tomatoes...only to be starving 10 minutes later. I would rather buy an airport Frosty and top it with a serving of trail mix than buy an airport salad.
Then there is the road. From March until Nov., Karel and I (and Campy) travel a lot for races. It's one thing to find a place that has healthy food but trying to find a place that has healthy vegetarian food is another thing. Sure, I could buy a salad or wrap but I always eat those foods. I enjoy trying new foods and new places when we travel but I am still eating like a health-conscious athlete.

A motto that I live by is If you eat well most of the time, you don't have to worry about the rest of the time.

Therefore, it is important that you get a little creative when you travel in an effort to still feel as if you have control over what you put in your mouth. In addition to not feeling deprived on a weekly basis, I think we should all look forward to traveling as an opportunity to get out of our comfort zone. Maybe it's McDonald's french fries, a Coke, a restaurant burger, a Starbucks/Panera bakery item or Cold Stone ice cream. I think everyone has an item that wouldn't be eaten on a daily basis but a Dairy Queen Blizzard, 1-2 times per year, will not make you overweight or will ruin your performance at a race.

For many of us, we travel to race....or is it race to travel??? :)
Whichever way you look at it, it is nice to be somewhere new and do what you love. Whether you are training in a new place, taking part in an athletic event or racing outside your home-town, there is absolutely no reason to fear eating healthy on the road. More so, if you are burning calories, there is no reason why you can't indulge in the occasional out-of-town treat. However, if your love for out-of-town training turns into a love for training in order to eat whatever you want (and however much you want), than it is important to remind yourself that ultimately, food is the fuel to your workouts. 1 stack of pancakes at IHOP will not hurt performance after a 80-mile ride in the hills/mountains but perhaps, a 3 course-breakfast after an hour run on the hotel treadmill is not necessary after every single workout when traveling.
Regardless if you are traveling for an athletic event, traveling for fun or traveling for work, it is important that you keep in mind the principles of eating healthy which allow you to live a healthy and active life. If you haven't quite figured out what do to to maintain or lose weight, there are many tips that health-conscious individual should apply when eating on the road.
*If you've ever traveled with me, you know that I practice what I preach.

Traveling by car:
1) Know ahead of time where you will eat, before you get hungry.
2) Bring healthy, single-serving and/or portioned-controlled snacks in the car - fruit, veggies, yogurt, canned fruit, applesauce, trail mix, cereal, string cheese, nuts, granola bars and water.
3) Pack "meals" for the road - Make your own wraps or sandwiches (PB&J).
4) Invest in a good cooler and/or large lunchbox.
5) Travel with sugar-free gum.
6) Bring along 1-2 gallons of water and a water bottle (never travel to a race by car, without your own water).
7) Be creative - gas stations typically have microwaves and/or hot water. Bring along oatmeal or 100-calorie bags of popcorn for a satisfying snack.

Traveling by plane:
1) Eat before you arrive to the airport.
2) Bring plenty of pre-portioned snacks - nuts, granola bars, apple, string cheese. Buying trail mix at Big Lots, Wal-mart or Publix can be much more affordable than in the airport. However, if you are in the airport, and hungry, trail mix is a better option than cookies or fast-food.
3) Bring your own lunch - I've never had a problem bringing on grapes, a sandwich and yogurt (although liquids such as yogurt may be counted as more than 3 ounces).
4) Opt for protein and healthy fat with your meal. This will be one of very few occasions where it's better to select salads and vegetarian-items with cheese in an effort to feel satisfied with your meal (you can limit the cheese to a slice or two to still save calories). If tofu or vegetarian burgers are available, be sure to add that to your meal. PB&J at Atlanta Bread or Panera is also a great choice (ask for the PB and Jelly to be in individual cups so you can control the portions).
5) Bring protein and meal replacement bars - there's nothing worse than being rushed or sitting on a plane, without a meal. Avoid bars high in sugar alcohols or with an icy coating (saturated fat). Evaluate your ingredients to select the best option.
6) Bring an empty water bottle to the airport - after security, fill up your bottle at the water fountain to stay hydrated during your flight.
7) Be frugal - if you are going to spend your money on a healthy meal, what will make you feel most satisfied. Keep yourself on a tight budget when traveling so that your money goes to good use.
8) Eat every few hours - do not arrive to your destination starving.
9) Stay healthy - while protein and fat will keep you satisfied longer, there are healthy food choices that will keep your tummy happy and your insides clean.

Staying in a hotel

1) Stay in a clean, reasonably-priced hotel - Days Inn is one of our favorites. They have large refrigerators and microwaves in the room, they have free internet, they usually allow pets and they have some-type of continental breakfast (some better than others). Expensive hotels typically have none of the above. Before booking a hotel, find a hotel with amenities that will allow you to eat healthy on the road.
2) Google - find healthy places to eat. If you are like me, I love trying new places. However, I try to locate on-line nutrition-guides or at least, on-line menus's, to be prepared.
3) Be prepared- before going out to eat, know exactly what you are in the mood for and what you will order. Don't arrive to a restaurant hungry, eat a small snack (protein or fiber, around 50-80 calories) before leaving the hotel.
4) Drink plenty of water.
5) Don't forget to eat breakfast - oatmeal can be made from the hot water in your coffee pot, you can use a microwave in the kitchen if one isn't available in your room, ice buckets will keep hard-boiled eggs, milk and yogurt chilled for hours.
6) Eat your fruits and veggies - it's really easy to forget to eat these when you travel. Look for a local grocery to pick up a few servings, especially if you aren't ordering a colorful-looking meal at a restaurant.
7) Don't forget about protein - specifically for my vegetarians, mom-and-pop restaurants or diners have a tendency to cook-to-order. Cottage cheese, skim milk and egg whites are great sources of protein to add to your meal.

Here's my typical traveling list:

*Water bottle
*Homemade Trail mix (cheerios, raisins, nuts, sunflower seeds)
*Antibacterial gel (don't leave home without it)
*Low fat Yogurt
*Fiber one bar or Hammer bar
*Homemade muffins
*PB (either in a baggy or travel-size)
*Plastic spoon and napkins
*Fruit (apples, grapes) and veggies (carrots)
*String cheese
*Sandwiches (the Panini maker comes in really handy when I want to make a restaurant-style sandwich or a yummy PB&J)

Do you have any must-haves for traveling?


Day #13: Strength train 2-3 times per week

Do you strength train on a regular basis? Athlete, exercise enthusiast or person who doesn't like to exercise but knows it is strength training part of your routine?
In addition to swim, bike and/or run, do you make the time to physically strengthen your muscles? Sure, sticking to an aerobic or aerobic training plan will make you stronger, more powerful and leaner but if you have muscle imbalances, weakness's or flexibility issues, how do you expect yourself to get stronger through swimming, biking and/or running?

My good friend Cass
(who has a great book that you should check out) posted this video (see bottom of this blog) on her blog. Credit goes to her client Kayla who created this video. I can't stop watching. I'm sure everyone knows someone like this and it is time that the truth comes out. It is so funny yet so true.

I don't know why women are afraid of lifting. More so, I don't understand why triathletes and runners don't make strength training a priority? Perhaps the thought of strength training means bulky muscles to a woman? Or maybe athletes feel that an hour run after work is much more performance-enhancing than a 30-minute strength training workout. Perhaps the truth is that many people feel that a cardio workout is much more effective in terms of "calories-burned" than a 20 minute strength training routine.
I think there is a slight fear of lifting weights for many people. It hurts. Or, maybe it is the idea that strength training isn't effective for weight loss and/or performance. If you aren't a regular, consistent lifter, think about the last time you lifted weights? You walked weird the next day, your muscles felt huge and sore, you hated every minute and wished you were doing cardio instead or you were super hungry all day.

Perhaps these "stereotypical" strength training thoughts (I hear them all the time) are due to an inconsistency of strength training. You watched Biggest Loser on a Tues night last season and for the first time since who knows when, you went to the gym the next morning, lifted way too hard and haven't been back since.

Strength training requires the same periodized training plan as your swim-bike-run routine. Although the whole purpose of strength training is to tear down muscle fibers (catabolic) in order to make them grow (anabolic), you can't expect yourself to gain strength in a week (or a day). While there is a certain protocol to follow with strength training, in order to challenge the muscles (feel the burn) in an effort to gain strength/power, you don't have to think like a bodybuilder in order to see performance gains in the weight room.

To all my blog readers (specifically women), strength training is not bodybuilding. While I totally respect the sport of clean bodybuilding, your strength training routine does not have to be as intensive as a bodybuilding routine. Personally, I don't think many triathletes have the discipline and self-control to push themselves in the gym, while sticking to a controlled diet, in order to receive the muscle hypertrophy that is seen in the typical bodybuilder.

In order to start strength training on a weekly basis, I think many people need to change their thinking of what strength training can do for the human body.
Don't you just love looking at the different physiques of female athletes?

Taken from Ironmaven blog

I think we would all agree it takes a lot more than "training in your sport of choice" to become a professional athlete. In addition to the right team of people, it certainly takes time in the weight room. It takes good nutrition, a healthy outlook on life, lots of restful sleep and mental focus.
Most importantly, a serious athlete or fitness enthusiast (defining serious as wanting some type of physical gain) has a body that responds to the demands placed on it. By now, I hope you agree with me in that cutting out calories and exercising a lot more isn't the healthiest way to seeing performance gains and/or sticking to a lifelong health, nutrition and fitness routine.
While many athletes find themselves wanting to train-more due to a natural obsession with their personal physique (more often than not, comparing your own body to the body of another athlete), it is important to recognize that your enjoyment of swim-bike-run (or only one sport) is not just a sport. It is a lifestyle. Perhaps you are exercising because you are committed to being healthier and/or losing/maintaining weight.

Starting today, I'd like for you to find 20-30 minutes in your day (or 2-3 x 10 min sessions), 2-3 times per week, to strength train. I enjoy circuit training because I like keeping my HR up while changing up the exercises that I am doing. I also enjoy free weights. I find that engaging my core, through standing on the floor or on a bosu, while performing exercises, requires balance and coordination. Two very important components of an individual who desires performance and/or physiological gains. Lastly, I find that machines are perfect for my Fri strength training workout. While free weights require that your muscles are working both in the eccentric and concentric phases of lifting, the assistance in machines is a great way for me to still get in that 3rd (or 2nd) lifting session into my routine, without feeling too tired for weekend training.

In addition to attenuating the aging process, increasing muscle size (or tone), decreasing risk for injury and boosting metabolism, here are the 3 major advantages for the athlete who strength trains:
*Increase muscle strength
*Increase power
*Increase endurance

As for the other benefits of strength training:
*Weight loss (increase in metabolism)
*More self-esteem, increase self-perception
*Stronger bones
*Graceful aging
*Better balance and coordination
*Possible disease prevention
*Natural release of endorphins
*Decrease in body fat
*Increase in lean muscle mass
*Increase in flexibility and range of motion (so long as you avoid lifting with overly-tight muscles)
*Increase mental and physical stamina

Important weight training principles:
1) Start slow- 1-2 sets, light weight, 10-12 repetitions)
2) Gradually build up - increase weight by 5 lbs every 2 weeks or when your desired number of reps becomes too easy on 2 or more consecutive training sessions), add more reps (12 or 15, feel the burn with 3-4 reps to go) or add more sets (2-3 sets)
3) Work with a trained and experienced professional - check the credentials of your personal trainer, trainer (if you watch videos) or gym fitness consultant.
4) Learn proper form - ask a trained professional to take you through the machines and free weights to learn how to properly lift weights. Women, never be intimated to lift free weights.
5) Rest - Considering how time-consuming our schedules may be, I recommend full-body lifting, 2-3 times per week with a day of strength training rest (you can still continue with your normal cardio routine) in between. I recommend some type of core exercise routine, every day (or at least 5 days per week).
6) Proper nutrition - You know I am all about recovery nutrition. What's the point of a workout if you don't properly recover?
7) Change up your routine - emphasize 3-4 lower body and 3-4 upper body exercises. If you have a light day of running, lift before you run and focus on your upper body. If you have a light day of swimming, lift before you swim and focus on your lower body. Find what works for your routine (lifting before or after cardio) so that you can make the most out of every workout. Learn to love free weights, plyometrics, abdominal exercises that don't involve the standard crunch, the Bosu and other types of exercises which engage your core and require focus and concentration.

*Always check with your physician if you are starting a weight training/training routine for the first time or getting back into exercise. It is important that you and your doctor discuss any potential risks of starting a new fitness routine, especially on your own.
*Just because you call yourself an athlete/triathlete, does not mean that you are cleared to lift heavy weights and/or jump right into a weight training routine. Even if you can run 26.2 miles or finish an Ironman, it is important that you start slow when adding in strength training to your current lifting routine.

Here's an article that I recently wrote for the Jacksonville Dietetic Association Newsleter. This would be a great start for the individuals who need a jump-start with a weight lifting routine.

10 At-home exercises

1. Jumping jacks – 30-40 repetitions
2. Squats –15-20 repetitions
3. Alternating lunges – 12-20 repetitions
4. Standing lateral leg lift –20-25 repetitions on each leg
5. Calf raises (optional on a step) –15-20 repetitions
6. Push-up (modified or full) – 8-12 repetitions
7. Tricep dips on table/chair – 10-15 repetitions
8. Abdominal double leg raise (lying on floor, raise and lift legs starting and finishing a few inches off of the floor) – 10-15 repetitions
9. Abdominal bicycles – 20-30 repetitions
10. Planks (optional leg lift and hold) – 30-60 seconds

Perform recommended repetitions of each exercise, starting at #1 and finishing at #10, until entire circuit is complete. Repeat circuit 2-3 times for a full-body, at-home circuit workout, 2-3 times per week. Strength training has been shown to help increase lean muscle mass, boost metabolism, improve muscular strength, power and endurance, reduce risk from injury and increase bone density. If you are new to strength training, it is recommended to meet with a trained personal trainer in order to address correct form and machine set-up, as well as discussing the proper sequence of performing strength training exercises. If you are strength training for specific performance gains, it is recommended that you increase work load by 2-10% as the workload becomes easier (1-2 additional repetitions over your desired repetitions). Furthermore, it is encouraged to incorporate concentric, eccentric and isometric muscle actions, as well as single and multiple-joint exercises into your workout routine, in order to reach your desired physiological goal (1).

1) American College of Sports Medicine (2009). American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Progression models in resistance training for healthy adults. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 41(3): 687-708.

Let me know if you have any questions regarding weight training.

Check out this great video