Tag Archives: motivation

Counting Calories

Check out the CDC’s website for a good overview of caloric balance.


Most people know that the foods the eat– both in type and in quantity– have an incredible impact on their well-being, even more so than exercise.  It’s common to hear athletes and coaches say, “You can’t outtrain a bad diet.”  That’s a sad but true reality.

Keeping records of what you eat can work to motivate you in the same way that keeping an exercise log lets you realize how much effort you’re putting in to your workouts.  Similarly, planning your meals helps keep you on track just like calendaring your workouts holds you more accountable.   But where do you start when you want to get a better understanding of what you’re eating?

Fortunately, the world of app technology has made keeping a food log pretty darn easy.  Apps like Spark People and My Fitness Pal allow you to track both food intake and calorie expenditure (exercise!) in one simple interface.  These work really well for a lot of people, particularly if your eating is simple and straightforward.

But if you’re the kind of person who does a lot of cooking one-dish-meals, it’s a bit more challenging to guesstimate the number of calories on your plate.  That’s where I feel like the app Calorie Counter has a real advantage.  It allows you to enter your recipe into it’s website, and it will determine the calories-per-serving size for you.  This saves the headache of having to enter individual ingredients time and time again.  Furthermore, you can scan barcodes of packaged food items, from which it determines the nutritional profile.

There’s one area where I think all of the calorie counting apps could be improved: I’d love to see a row of faces with different emotions on them so that I could click on how I felt both before and after eating particular foods.  Because so many of our food decisions are emotionally-driven, having the record of a certain craving being not-as-fulfilling-as-hoped could help me make a better choice the next time.

I always encourage my clients to track what they eat.  It doesn’t have to be an every day chore, but giving yourself the challenge of reflecting on your nutritional intake can make you more aware of how you eat (and why!).  This is important information for you along your wellness journey.

Hope I haven’t put a damper on your Memorial Day picnic plans.  Remember that there’s always room for a splurge in any eating plan.  It just makes keeping track of the big picture– over a week, for example– all the more important!  Knowing that you come out in a balanced position at the end of the week is far more important than what happens on any one day.

Do you use an app or online calorie counter?  How has it helped you reach your fitness goals?




Marathon Musings


This month marks ten years since my last marathon.  When my firstborn was eight months and eight days old, I toed the line at the London Marathon.  I was thrilled to have gained a “Good for Age” qualification entry (based on a pre-pregnancy Boston Marathon finish) so I could participate in this great event.

Like someone with a lot to prove, I went out too fast.  I’d trained well, but I hadn’t been able to juggle an infant who was exclusively breastfed and life in London with no family, friends, or hired help with anything more than the most basic of marathon preparation.  While it was, indeed, a thrill to run through my favorite city in the world, I was hurting well before Mile 20 and its proverbial “wall”.  It didn’t help that the day was rainy and crowds were a bit thin.  I just kept telling myself to enjoy the experience and think about how grateful I was to even be able to participate in the London Marathon.

As I was running towards Buckingham Palace and the finish line, I was passed by a man wearing a horse costume, complete with plastic horse head.  Ever the competitor, I dug deep, refusing to be beaten by a man-horse.  I wound up running the last quarter mile with some kind of speed only ego can produce, and I finished in 3:44:45– 15 seconds under the “Good for Age” standard I’d used for qualification.  I felt legitimate.

Now a mom, but still a runner.

My enjoyment of distance running hasn’t really gone away (though it did take an extended vacation after The Stowaway was born) in the last ten years.  I ran two ultramarathons four years ago, but it’s really been a decade devoted to my kids and their needs.  Now that my kids are getting older and less mom-dependent for their everyday needs, I’m ready to go again.

One of my goals for this year was to run the New York City Marathon.  Unless you’re an elite runner (which I am not and never was), entry into NYC for non-locals is a pure lottery with about a 1:25 chance of race entry.  I put my name into the lottery last fall, and I found out a few weeks ago I got in.

I now look forward to the training, the rigor of weekly miles rolling by very early in the morning.  I’ve never run a fall marathon while living in Texas, and training to peak on November 2nd means long runs in August, September, and early October.  For those of you who have never been to Austin during these months, it’s hot.  Yes, even into October.

But I know that the training is where the growth is.  I eagerly anticipate the race experience itself– from riding the Staten Island Ferry to the start to running through all five boroughs and their diversity to finishing in surprisingly hilly Central Park.

This time, I won’t be a new mom trying to keep in touch with myself and my interests.  Instead, I’ll be a newly-40 gal showing herself and her kids just how much better life can get with each passing year.

Good health and great happiness to you.

Holiday Plans

Are you in a Halloween-celebrating place?  If so, Happy Halloween.  As you can see from the above photo (taken at the school carnival last week), this is a fun day for my family.  I never thought I’d get so much joy out of sewing our costumes and dressing up, but to see my kids so happy is a real thrill.

Not to rush your Halloween festivities, but have you given much thought to what your plans are for keeping yourself on the wellness track during the holiday season this year?

I have.

Next Monday, November 4th, we’ll be kicking off our FOURTH round of Balance Virtual Bootcamp.  This “Healthy for the Holidays” edition will keep you moving towards your wellness goals during the often diet-deadly and fitness-unfriendly months of November and December.

Three times a week for eight weeks, a workout arrives in your email in box.  Each workout can be modified to suit any fitness level– from beginners to fitness fiends– and requires very little time or equipment.  There are written descriptions of all exercises plus links to videos that demonstrate good form and modification options.

And just because no one likes to do these things alone, there’s also a private Facebook page where you can share your wins and challenges with the group.  It’s also a place to ask questions and learn new ideas for creating a healthy lifestyle.

The best part is that the entire Balance Virtual Bootcamp is only $50.


I strive to create exceptional value and realistic but challenging workouts.  Here’s what some Fall Balance Virtual Bootcamp participants said about their experience:

“I think you did a great job of mixing up the workouts, so our bodies were always challenged.  Our minds, too, since sometimes it was a counting workout, sometimes it was for time, etc.  I love sore muscles and always have them after my Balance workouts!!”

“I appreciated the videos that showed modifications to lessen the impact of a lot of the more high impact exercises for those of us with bad knees.”

“Pretty challenging but I could really feel it was working muscles that need it!”

Registration for Balance Virtual Bootcamp “Healthy for the Holidays” is OPEN NOW!

Have questions about how Balance Virtual Bootcamp works?  Check out the posts here and here— or leave me a question in the comments.

Good health and great happiness to you!

(And if you’re one of those people who is thinking that you might want to take your passion for fitness and turn it into your business, make sure you’re following my other blog at EQUIP Fitness Business Development.  It’s packed with ideas to help you become a Strong-Skilled-Smart fitness pro.)

Vacation Ground Rules

Dear Karen,

I just thought I’d write a little letter so we’re clear on the ground rules for the vacation you just started.  I know it seems like it would be So!Much!Fun! to just laze about, eat whatever you want, and generally be slothful for a while, but you know that doesn’t actually make you feel very good.

So here are my Top Ten Vacation Ground Rules for Summer 2013:

1. Eat ice cream.  Just order the kiddie size and pay attention to the yumminess while you eat it.

2. Do 100 lunges across the beach before you ever sit down in the beach chair.

3. Find a new hiking trail each week.  Remember how excited the kids were when you took them out to the Brewster Mud Flats last year?  Let’s try to find another new Awesome Spot this year.

4. It’s a bazillion degrees back in Texas, so enjoy the cooler weather for long runs.

5. Lobster is delicious.  Go easy on the butter.  And double the steamed broccoli on the side.

6.  No matter how good the mindless chick lit is, playing with the kids in the ocean is what you came to do.  And pulling them on the boogie boards through the waves is a great workout.

7. Remember the year you ate a salad every day for either lunch or dinner?  That was a good idea.  Do it again.

8. Sleep is your friend.  Use this time with both parents and grandparents around to rest.  You never regret good sleep.

9. At least once, round up all the cousins for a day of baseball, paddleball, and relay races on the beach.  Sure, you’re a noisy lot, but the world needs more unbridled joy.

10. Practice Aqua Kriya Yoga in the ocean!  It’s going to be great!

And a BONUS:

Eyes on the prize– Falmouth Road Race is on August 11th.  Your running not just for yourself but for all the good people of Boston Children’s Hospital.   Make them proud.



My Goals, Your Goals

Goal setting is a key to success for pretty much everything I’m involved in.  Fitness goals keep me motivated and prevent me from slacking off even when one of my three darlings has kept me up much of the night.  Business goals keep me focused even when it feels like all I have time for is keeping all the plates spinning.


When I first meet with a new personal training client, we spend some time thinking about goals.  Big, long-term goals are often what people think of first, but the smaller, incremental, short-term goals are what create consistency with exercise.  Knowing that we can achieve little bits at a time is extremely motivating.

My big, long-term goal for my business is to reach even more people so I can spread the word about how efficient exercise can be effective, and functional fitness is a reality that even the busiest people can achieve.  To that end, I have started offering virtual personal training.  By utilizing skype or google hangouts, I can reach clients who are far away; even more exciting to me, though, is being able to reach people who aren’t able to access traditional fitness programs due to social anxiety, postpartum depression, or morbid obesity.  I have felt honored to work with people for whom exercise has been a challenge.  Helping them learn to set small goals and work to achieve them has positive ramifications in all parts of their lives.

In the short term, Balance Virtual Bootcamp kicks off on MONDAY!  I’ve been really pleased with the response I’ve received.  Having met my first registration goal, I’m going to set a new one: if TEN MORE people register before Sunday at 11:59pm, I’m going to raise the CASH participation prize from $100 to $250.

If TWENTY more people register, I’ll offer one $250 prize and one $100 prize.

Pass the word!

Once you register, you’ll receive an invitation to join our private FB page.  We’re having a discussion there now about the goals everyone is setting for participating in the bootcamp.  Come join us!

Learning from Experience (Part I)

I spent much of the latter part of 2011 and 2012 trying to learn to love strength training.  I was trying to motivate myself through logic– science proves that lean body mass (muscle) burns more calories even at rest, so who wouldn’t want to have as much lean body mass as possible?

There’s only one problem here: I don’t get the same feeling of satisfaction from strength training as I do from running.  Because of this, I was less likely to do my workouts as planned.  And I think we can all agree that not doing the strength training means not getting the benefits of building lean muscle mass; therefore, doing “less good” cardio workouts is still better than doing no workouts.  

Throughout this process of starting and stopping and restarting the strength training programs, I reminded myself of my motivation to exercise: I want to be healthy and strong and feel good in every day life. Adherence to a workout program is necessary to reap both mental and physical benefits.  I needed to let myself be okay with “failing” strength training– I tried, I got through it, but I hated it.

Because I am motivated by the mental benefits and emotional release exercise provides, it’s important to me to make sure my workout calendar is populated with workouts I want to do.  Sure some of them will be hard and I’d like to sit on the couch instead, but knowing that I enjoy the process of the workout gets me out the door.

In the first meeting with a new personal training client, I spend time finding out what their goals are, what types of exercise they like and dislike, and how they are motivated.  I just had to spend a year learning that these issues are important to my own training, too.

Good health and great happiness to you.

What’s your motivation?

Here we are, ten days in to 2013.  How many of you are suffering from a lack of motivation….already?  Knowing how you (or someone else) is motivated is an important part of developing any lifestyle habit.  Most people know about the two main types of motivation– intrinsic and external.  If you are one of the few people who are intrinsically motivated to exercise, rock on!  Most people, however, need some kind of external emotion or reward to be motivated.

As a personal trainer, a big part of my job is to figure out what motivates each individual client and adjust my approach accordingly.  In my five years of training, I have identified a few typical motivational styles.


As a Catholic with Irish ancestry, I know all about guilt.  Many of my clients are Jewish, so they get the guilt-thing, too.  It’s in our genes.  We want to work out because we said we would, and we always do what we say (or feel bad if we don’t).  The guilt motivator is technically intrinsic, but it’s usually some external pressure that gets us to finally act.


I am a lousy trainer for people who are motivated by fear.  Guilt I get…fear I refer you to therapy.  That’s outside of my skill set and qualifications.


For those people motivated by personal growth, understanding that fitness is a journey achieved one day at a time is key to success.  The path may be long and winding, but growth folks know they’re on their way someplace great.


When you are strong, you are powerful.  You can change anything from yourself to your family to your community to your world.  Be strong, and harness your own power.



Whatever the goal, all of the days of work that go into achieving it are important.  Honor the journey to reach your destination.

Whether your incentive is mental, physical, or spiritual, know why you’re doing what you’re doing.  And then you’ll keep on doing it.

Good health and great happiness to you!