How to get more out of your running workouts with HIIT

So you’ve read the previous post on how to get the most of out your running in even a shorter amount of time and want to try it yourself.  You won’t just burn more calories with HIIT – you’ll also increase end up aiding your cardiovascular system and increasing your normal running pace.I recommend that you take it easy when adding this in to your workout/running routine; if you are new to running or just beginning to get into shape don’t overdue it!  While High Intensity Interval Training can give you the same workout (or even more of a workout!) in a shorter amount of time – it IS more intense.  You’ll find a lot of references to HIIT on the internet, but her is how I suggest that you do it.

I always recommend that you warm your body up first rather than jumping right into HIIT.  Depending upon the length of your run or workout, the length/duration of this warmup can vary.  What works best for me is to either tack HIIT onto the end of an easier or shorter run (e.g. when I’m helping someone get started and running orpacing along with them) or use it as my workout/run on days when I don’t have time to do one of my “favorite” runs.  For me, that warmup involves a pace run* for 1/2 to 1 mile just to get my body, legs, heart and lungs warmed up and ready for the “intense stuff”.    *More about pace runs in an upcoming post – a simple definition of a pace run is that it is the natural pace you fall into when running for a moderate distance or moderate amount of time.

After getting warmed up, you will move into the HIIT portion of your workout.  I recommend that you follow this general pattern for the next 1-2 miles (remember – take it easy and don’t overdo it when you first start HIIT** ):

  • 30 seconds running at 90-95% of your maximum ability followed by
  • 30-60 seconds of jogging  (easy pace – try to not just walk if possible)
    -At the start of your HIIT workout, keep these recovery portions shorter
    -As your HIIT workout progresses this recovery or slower portion will get longer since your body will need more time to be ready for the next High Intensity phase

7978552_sI recommend 5 to 10 cycles as describe above (depending on your fitness level) followed by a 2 minute jog to allow your heart, lungs and muscles to cool down.  This method will not only burn more calories than a pace run but will also benefit your  cardiovascular system and also will increase your normal running pace and increase your speed in shorter (~5K) races.

By the way – HIIT isn’t just for running – it can benefit your other workouts too.

Questions, comments or want to say something about your experience with HIIT?  Use the reply form below – I’d love to hear from you.


**  I recommend that you follow the guidelines set forth by the Mayo Clinic regarding talking to your doctor before starting a new exercise routine, especially if you haven’t exercised for some time, if you have health concerns, if you have an existing medical condition, or if you have any symptoms suggestive of heart, lung or other serious disease.   Please don’t take this lightly – our bodies have many complex inter-related systems and you only get one in this life – so make sure you take good care of it!


If you think you don’t have time to exercise, this post is for you.

I was reminded this morning about how easy it is to find ways add more movement and natural exercise to your day.
I hear every week from people who tell me about how busy they are and how they just don’t have time for exercise or fitness.

I think that you can make exercise a priority and find time in your day for some focused or planned exercise – this is the best way to make it work – actually plan exercise in to the schedule of your day.  However, if you or someone you know insists that they just don’t have time for it, I’d like to make a couple of suggestions for how you can incorporate important elements of physical fitness into your daily life.

1.  Skip the elevators.  I’d suggest doing this all the time – up and down, but even if it’s just on the way down, the extra walking and the jostling from taking the steps will do your body good.

2.  Walk to your mailbox.  When you get home, don’t drive up to your mailbox or stop by it as you enter your building.  Take a walk down your driveway to get your mail, or walk down the steps in your apartment building to get your mail.  Look for ways like this to add some extra steps to the things you have to do anyways and burn a few more calories along the way.

3.  Take a walk break at least every hour at work.  Studies consistently show that sitting for extended periods is not good for you, and in fact cause physiological changes in your blood chemistry and metabolism.  Take a short walk periodically, or stand for short periods while doing your work.  Some work places will even allow you to have a standing workstation.

4.  Park a little further from the store.  When you go on errands, stop looking for the closest parking space.  You can save time and get a walk in by choosing a spot a little further out in the parking lot.  Your vehicle’s body will be less likely to get dents and dings, and your body will benefit too.   If you only have a bag or two when you come out of the store, carry them instead of using a cart.

There are many other things you can do as well to add what I call natural exercise to your day.  While I don’t think it’s a total substitute for deliberate planned exercise, it’s a good way to get some extra movement during the day. Remember, your body was made for movement, and finding ways to incorporate natural elements of movement and fitness during your day is one way to help keep your body healthier.  You might find that it motivates you to schedule some time in your day and build it in your schedule.

Questions or comments?  Use the field below – I’d love to hear from you.

Start with your goals – part1

When you think about your health, diet, weight, fitness and overall lifestyle, the most important question you must ask yourself is  what are my goals The most common answers I get to this question are “I want to lose weight” or “I want to be healthy” or some variation of “I’m sick and tired of feeling sick and tired”.

Most people want to be healthy, and for most Americans, losing weight would be a good thing; there are many secondary benefits to their health that would result from this.  Losing weight though – while a good thing – is not a destination.  The reason why diets don’t work is that while many people consider weight loss to be the goal or destination.  I think this is incorrect in the same way that if you are driving to New York to Florida, you need more of a goal than just getting to Florida – the vehicle, or the process of driving there or the highway that gets you there is not the end goal.   If you take this approach to weight loss as many people do with “diets” – you have the now what problem; what are you going to do once you get there?

This is true for weight loss as well.  It should be part of the process of reaching your goals for a healthier lifestyle – not THE end goal.    I think it is good to target certain milestones as a part of your overall plan – just don’t’ make the weight loss the end goal.  The unfortunate result of that for most people is that after they have lost the weight – they eventually go back to doing what they did before, eating they way they did before, and end up at their previous weight or even heavier.  Sound familiar – either in your own experience or in the life of someone you know?

One of the reasons this happens is that the motivation behind the goal is gone; you’ve lost the weight – you’ve “crossed the finish line” – you’ve reached your goal.  In my next post I’ll help you look at another important guideline that can help you combine weight loss goals to make lasting changes in your lifestyle.  Use the form below if you have any questions or comments – I’d love to hear from you!

An apple (or two) day ….

There are so many reasons to make apples more than just a regular part of your diet.
Here are a few reasons you should try to eat one or two apples every day.


Apples are a good source of fiber.  While they don’t rank among the highest fiber foods, the fiber in apples brings some unique benefits.  The pectin in the apples is water soluble and can also bind with fatty acids in the bloodstream.  This brings special benefits (see below).  Most Americans consume much less fiber than recommended eating an apple or two can help with that.


Natural statins

The fiber in apples has been shown to act as a natural statin.   It binds with cholesterol and helps to move it out of the body.  There are other foods that do this too, but it’s another nice benefit of regularly eating apples.


Low calorie

At 100 calories or less for a typical apple, an apple is a great substitute for other sweet snacks, especially in place of candy bars, pastries, or other processed food snacks.   The texture and fiber of the apple also help make it a great snack. Chew each bite or slice thoroughly, and you’ll find that an apple will stick with you much longer than a typical candy bar or pastry; that sense of fullness can help keep you from eating other things with a lot more calories than an apple.


Mouth health

The same fiber that makes apples filling and provides the fat and cholesterol reducing benefits also gives apples their crunch.  This is what makes them good for your teeth and gums too.  They can help clean your teeth (you should still brush your teeth though), and give your gums a healthy workout.   In this respect too, apples are far superior to candy, cookie or pastry snacks.



Apples are a great source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.  Along with the benefits listed above, you get the healthy nutritional boost that comes with each apple.  The antioxidant boost provides multiple preventative benefits, including protection from cancer.  The antioxidants can help neutralize the bad effects of free radicals.  Free radicals are atoms or groups of atoms with extra electrons that can cause cellular or dna damage.   The antioxidants in apples provide protection by interacting with and neutralizing free radicals.


Obesity trends are bad news for everybody

Bad news about obesity

The CDC released a study showing that more than one-third of U.S. adults (35.7%) are obese and that currently not even one state has met the nation’s Healthy People 2010 goal to lower obesity prevalence to 15% (no state is even below 20%).  (Obesity is a medical condition in which excess body fat has accumulated to the extent that it may have an adverse effect on health,; the standard measure is when Body mass index (BMI) is greater than 30 kg/m).

As a New York Times article pointed out: “The billions that we are spending to treat diabetes is money that we don’t have for education reform or retirement benefits …, it’s estimated that the total cost of America’s obesity epidemic could reach almost $1 trillion by 2030 ….”

It’s certain that even if you’re fit and of a healthy weight you either know or have family members that are a part of this trend.

For everyone’s good – What can you do about this?

  1. Encourage people to make healthy eating choices.  Many people don’t think about the effect of what they eat on their body and their health.   A former coworker lamented to me about his inability to lose weight, but always had a mid-morning snack of a can of Coke and a pack of frosted pop-tarts.   We worked through healthy alternatives that could be just as filling, last longer and not have all the bad effects of Coke and pop-tarts.
  2. Educate your family members about why you make the food choices you do.  Don’t be annoying or a know it all, but I believe that as people learn about healthy delicious alternatives and taste how good they are, they are more likely to make a healthy choice rather than dismiss healthy food as  “leaves and twigs”.
  3. Share your healthy foods and habits with others.  Whether it’s break time at work or a get-together with friends, provide good foods for friends to share with you.   Once people try ripe cherries, juicy mango, fresh ripe peaches, fresh cruchy apple slices, and other healthy choices some of the unhealthy choices don’t that much better than the healthy ones.

Questions about anything in this post?  Leave me a comment – I’d love to hear from you.

what’s the deal with seltzer water?


You have seen seltzer water reference in a few of the posts here now.
Some of you have asked “what’s the deal with seltzer water”?

It is water.
It’s not bad for you.
It’s a great substitute for soda if you like fizzy drinks.
It feels fresh and clean bubbling on your teeth.
It has zero calories, though you can mix it with fruit juice for a low-calorie drink.
You can make it at home (I do, with a sodastream carbonator).
Some people find it eases nausea and indigestion

Seltzer no calories no sodium
Club soda no calories some sodium
Tonic water some calories some calories and quinine

Watch for:
Flavored seltzer waters with ingredients other than “fruit essence” or a natural fruit flavor extract

Make sure you read the labels!
Some fruit flavored carbonated waters are sweetened with artificial sweeteners which have their own health concerns.



Want to know more about anything mentioned in this post? Let me know – leave a comment.

Healthy alternatives for food you should avoid part 2

You can make changes to your diet – one step at a time- and still enjoy a delicious variety of nutritious foods.  This post will help suggest options to help make some of those changes.

Once again, start with your food diary (having logged everything you consumed for a week), and then review what you’ve eaten and target things you should avoid.   Reference the list of items to avoid here – there are so many delicious and healthy options – you won’t go hungry!

Packaged/processed foods

  1. -Fresh healthy options are always your best bet; here are a few examples:
    -Baked, grilled, broiled or roasted chicken or fish
    -Grilled or seared lean meats (grass-fed beef, bison, chicken)
    -Steamed, grilled or roasted veggies
    -Salad mix with or without pieces of grilled or pan-seared chicken or fish
    -Fresh made pizza (want the recipe?)
    -Turkey or low-fat ham and cheese sandwiches (want the recipe for healthy homemade bread?)
    -There are many sites dedicated to healthy meal options – use this list as a springboard for thinking about healthy options in the style of a traditional meal (meat, veggie, bread, salad).  There are more options than steak and potatoes or burgers and fries.
    -None of the options above take much time to prepare (except for pizza) and many of the ingredients can be pre-staged to accommodate a quick meal and a busy lifestyle
  2. Alcoholic beverages
    -Be very careful with these, the calories add up so fast, and there are many detrimental effects of alcohol abuse.  Some studies indicate that moderate consumption may have some beneficial effects; do the research, but don’t start drinking to try to improve your health!
    -Fruit juices, seltzer water mixes, the rare sugar sweetened soda, sparkling fruit juices
    see the options previously listed for soda
  3. Bacon, sausage, cured meats
    -These are not good for your health, try to avoid these altogether.
    There are no good healthy meat based substitutes for these, but here are some recommendation is you feel you must consume this type of meat product.
    -Look for organically raised uncured bacon or organically raised uncured turkey bacon
    -Look for uncured sausage made with organically raised meats
    -Avoid these or keep them to a minimum to avoid excessive fat consumption and the detrimental effects of fried foods
  4. Sauces, dressings, and toppings
    -Look for lighter dressings and sauces made with healthy oils, and vinaigrettes
    -Watch for low-fat sauces, but beware of added sweeteners or chemical thickeners
  5. Candy
    -Fresh fruit
    -Try a small amount of dark chocolate, you get an antioxidant boost as a bonus
    -Dried fruit (a small amount – ounce for ounce more calories than fresh fruit)
    -Candy should be avoided because of the high sugar content which quickly raises blood sugar levels, potentially damaging to tissues and results in the unused sugar being stored as fat
    -Save sweets for a rare treat or special occasions (and even then – only having a small piece) you will save yourself loads of calories and protect yourself from blood sugar/insulin spikes and peaks

These suggestions are a starting point to get you thinking about the many healthy and delicious foods that can be a part of your diet, and to help you replace some of the things you need to avoid.  There are many web resources available for healthy quick recipes.



Want to know more about anything mentioned in this post?  Let me know – leave a comment.


Healthy alternatives for food you should avoid part 1

Healthier choices don’t mean a tasteless diet!

If you’ve already created a food diary (logging everything you eat and drink for a week), then it’s easy to review the items you’ve consumed and watch out for things you should avoid.   You can reference the list of items to avoid here –  don’t lose heart, there are healthy alternatives for everything!

The following are some suggestions for the first five foods on your “stop or limit” list

  1.  Sodas – both diet and sugary
    -Consider the following options instead:  coffee, tea (black, green, white, herbal), seltzer water,
    or perhaps the best option – just plain water
    -Many people can wean themselves off soda by watering it down or adding seltzer water and eventually switching to plain seltzer water if they still want the fizz (or seltzer water with just a splash of fruit juice)
    -If you have to have a soda – make sure it’s sweetened with sugar – not high fructose corn syrup – and only have one occasionally as a rare treat
    -Diet sodas have their own issues – it’s best to avoid them.
  2. Juice Drinks
    -Look for 100% juices or make your own at home with a juicer, blender or Vitamix
    -Look for unsweetened, unfiltered juices
    -Be careful of apple juice – can be high in sugar  (about the same as Pepsi or 7up), but usually with no fiber
    -Be careful of fruit juice that is largely flavored apple juice with added flavorings
    -Add some water or seltzer or sparkling water to your juice drink if you simply must have it
  3. White bread, white rice, white rice, white potatoes
    -Look for whole grain alternatives to the bread products.  Fewer calories, more fiber, more nutrients
    -Look for wild, brown, or black rice as an alternative to white rice.   More nutrients, fiber, and antioxidants, less fat, fewer calories
    -Whole grain pasta – more fiber, more nutrients
    -Sweet potatoes instead of white (just don’t load them up with butter and brown sugar) – they have a natural sweetness.  You can even make your own broiled sweet potato “fries”
    -With all the above you won’t get the same blood sugar/insulin spikes and peaks as with the “white foods” and they will “stick with you” longer than the white alternative
  4. Fried foods
    -Look for grilled, baked, broiled or roasted alternatives.
    -By limiting fried foods to every once in a while and eliminating them as a mainstay of your diet you will save loads of calories and fat
  5. Cakes, cookies, pies, etc.
    -Look for fresh light alternatives like fresh fruit, yogurt
    -Try frozen fruit like frozen berries or grapes
    -Have a small amount of dark chocolate, you get an antioxidant boost and less fat than milk chocolate
    -By saving these sweets for a rare treat or special occasions (and even then – only having a small piece) you will save yourself loads of calories and protect yourself from blood sugar/insulin spikes and peaks


These are just a few of the possibilities – get creative and make it a game to find healthy substitutes!
Remember to watch your portion sizes on anything you eat – start by cutting everything in half.
Also remember to take the time to thoroughly chew each bite.  This allows you to savor the flavors and textures, helps with the digestion process by grinding up the food thoroughly and giving the enzymes in your saliva a better chance to do their job, and slows you down so that you won’t keep eating past the point of being satisfied.

Next post – Substituting food you should avoid with healthier choices  part 2


Want to know more about anything mentioned in this post?  Let me know – leave a comment.

Stop eating these now

A recent blog post here highlighted the importance of creating a food diary.

The best place to start with a review of your diet is with a food diary; simply record everything you eat and drink for a week.  If you’ve already done this – good!  If not, start your food diary today and I will show you how to do a simple review of the things you consume in order to identify things to skip or minimize, and reinforce some the good things in your diet.

This post focuses on things that you need to stop or limit to an occasional treat (circle these things in your food diary in red).  While this is not a comprehensive list, this list of 10 items is a start – not necessarily the “top ten” or ten worst, but a starting place for your review of the things you consume. This review is not a substitute for an in-depth nutritional analysis, it is intended to help you move toward a healthier diet.


Sodas – both diet and sugary. Empty sugar calories at best.
May also contain unhealthy artificial sweeteners.
Juice drinks Most of these are sweetened beverages with some added fruit juices – you have to read the labels!
White stuff: White bread, white rice, white potatoes, white pasta  – these are simple starches/sugar without much fiber – they can lead to blood sugar/insulin spikes and increased body fat
Fried food Too many bad things to list here! Let’s leave it at the high fat content for now (how about grilled instead?)  Fried food will get its own post in the future.
Cakes, cookies, pies, etc. High sugar, often high fat with little or no fiber, and lots of calories.
Packaged/processed foods Read the labels – usually high sodium, low in fiber, added sugar, and lots of things you can’t pronounce that you probably shouldn’t be putting in your body
Alcoholic beverages High in empty calories (almost as much as pure fat)
Can both dehydrate you and displace other nutrients
Effects on heart, liver, brain and other organs
Bacon, sausage, cured meats Recent studies have shown that regular consumption of even a small amount of these results in a measurably increased risk of cancer and other issues
Sauces, dressings, and toppings Often high calorie with lots of added sugar, salt, and fat.   These can make a healthy dish unhealthy, or turn something  already unhealthy into something very bad for you.
Candy Added sugar that nobody needs.
Kudos if you have dark chocolate – just don’t have too much.

Coming next – suggestions on how to move away from these with substitutes and healthier choices.


Want to know more about anything mentioned in this post?  Let me know – leave a comment.


ONE change in your diet to have the biggest impact on your health

What  ONE change could you make in your diet that would probably Have the biggest impact on your health?

Ready for the bottom line on this one?  Don’t open another can of soda!  Whether you call it pop, soda, or coke – this is THE one item you should eliminate from your diet if you haven’t already done so.  For most people, this is the one dietary change that will yield the biggest and most dramatic results.  For many people this may be the one biggest source of calories; the biggest “food group” that they consume.  Consider that one 20 oz bottle of soda a day adds up to be a total of about 87000 calories over the course of a year –  that’s the rough equivalent of the calories in over 24 lbs of fat.

If you think you’re off the hook because you drink diet soda – think again.  Diet soda has many other different issues, but still falls in the category of “stop now” foods.  Two of the biggest reasons to avoid diet sodas are:

1. Studies have shown a link between consumption of diet sodas and the development of obesity.  Most people are shocked the first time they hear this.  Studies indicate many possible reasons for this, which we’ll explore further in future posts.

2. Studies have also linked consumption of diet sodas with metabolic syndrome and the development of type 2 diabetes.  (Metabolic syndrome is the name for a group of risk factors that raises your risk for heart disease and other health problems).

Options instead of soda are many, including coffee, tea (black, green, white, herbal), seltzer water, or perhaps the best option – just plain water.

Upcoming posts will include a breakdown of the most commonly used sweeteners – both natural and artificial.  This will include info you may not know (but should), and disinformation about various sweeteners (that needs to be cleared up).

Questions about soda, sweeteners, or any of the above?  Leave me a comment – I’d like to hear from you!