Archives for July 2014

A DIY 30-minute whole body workout

Despite what we personal trainers would like you to think 😉 , workout design isn’t rocket science.

30-minute whole body workout

Sure, you need to know about muscles and joints and planes of motion. A bit of information about reps and sets and loads doesn’t hurt either. Throw in a cursory understanding of the types of movements our bodies were designed for and the patience to demand good form of yourself and creating a 30-minute whole-body workout is within almost anybody’s reach.

Note that I’m NOT talking about a PROGRAM designed to meet specific and individualized goals (that’s when having access to a personal trainer’s education, knowledge and experience comes in handy), but rather, a fill-in-the-gaps workout when you don’t have time to get to the gym, don’t know what to do once you get there or just need a change to your regular routine.

A DIY 30-minute whole body workout

Most of the programs I design are based on a finite number of basic movements; squats, lunges, hinges, pushes, pulls, rotations and static holds.

Each of these basic movements has a nearly endless number of variations; variations which differ in complexity, difficulty and the equipment required to perform them.

By simply choosing one of the exercise options from each of the basic movement categories listed below, you’ll have created your own 30-minute whole body workout. Make sure the choices you make challenge you and reflect your current fitness level. If something hurts, don’t do it.


  1. Spend 5-10 minutes warming up. (See this post for my favourite warmup exercises)
  2. Choose one exercise from each of the categories listed below.
  3. Perform 10-15 good form repetitions of each of your chosen exercises, one after the other, in the order listed.
  4. Make sure you choose a weight or variation that makes it difficult for you to complete the last few repetitions.
  5. Rest when necessary; both between exercises and at the end of the circuit.
  6. Repeat the entire circuit once.
  7. Spend 5-10 minutes stretching. (See this post for a video-guided stretch)

Note: Exercise options are listed in order of increasing difficulty, with the least challenging option first and the more challenging options last.

whole body workout

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Disclaimer: Although I am a registered Personal Trainer, I am not YOUR Personal Trainer. Always adapt workouts to suit your body and fitness level. Always consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise program.


Fitness routines of personal trainers | how your trainers stay fit

At least once a week a reader, client or group fitness participant asks me about my fitness routine.

IMG_2839Do I train myself the same way I train them? (not necessarily; I’m training for increased muscle mass, many of my clients are not).

Do I need to do anything in addition to the classes I teach to stay in shape? (Absolutely! The weights in the aerobics studio aren’t heavy enough for the type of training I do. I teach 2-3 Step and Bootcamp classes per week and hit the weight room for body-part splits 3 times weekly).

What type of nutrition plan do I follow? (Nothing formal, but I try to fill my plate with lean protein, vegetables, fruits and healthy fats before I add in grains, dairy or sweet treats).

And I’m sure my answers to the above questions are different from YOUR personal trainer’s or those of the blogger-trainers you follow online.

I thought it might be fun to poll some of my personal trainer friends and colleagues and ask THEM to divulge the details of their own personal fitness routines. To show you that there are as many ways to stay fit as there are fitness professionals. And that even personal trainers have an ‘Achilles heel’; areas where we need to improve to keep progressing and meeting our fitness goals.

Thanks to Pamela Hernandez, Tara Sabo, Heather Iacobacci-Miller, Morgan Shuker, Carly Pizzani and Taylor Ryan for taking the time to answer the following questions.

1. On average, how many days per week do you work out? How long are your workouts?

2. What types of workouts do you do?

3. If you strength train, what type of program are you following?

4. What does a typical workout week look like for you?

5. Do you follow any type of nutrition plan? If so, could you share a few details?

6. Imagine that you’re your own client. Give ‘a star’ and ‘make a wish’. Identify something that you’re doing well, with respect to your fitness goals and an area where you need a bit more work.

Grab a protein shake or green smoothie, sit back and enjoy getting to know these fit, fabulous and inspiring women!

Fitness routines of personal trainers


DailyBurn-19Pamela Hernandez, ACSM CPT and ACE Health Coach
Owner Thrive Personal Fitness.
Check out WIAW at and scenes from my day at instagram/thrivefit

1.  My strength workouts are usually 30-40 minutes and cardio can be 25 minutes to an hour. Yoga can be 30 – 60 minutes. My schedule just depends on how busy the day and week are.

2. I love weights which typically I do 3 days a week. I try to run 2- days a week as well but that depends on the week and the weather. I do yoga 1-2 times a week. I bike on Sundays during the summer with my husband during the summer if the weather is nice. We walk in the evenings too but I don’t really consider that a workout.

3. My training plan varies depending on what I have coming up or what my focus is. My last “phase” was focused on whole body workouts 3 days per week and knowing I was going to be in a bikini. I’m thinking of doing a body part split workout (post vacation before IDEA World/Blogfest) to try to “shape” a bit. That would mean weights 4 days a week. Other times of the year I might do an upper/lower split. Most of it is very functional, using free weights and very few machine exercises. I love kettle bell workouts too. [Me too, says Fitknitchick; so many ways to keep your workouts fresh]

4. Monday – strength/HIIT cardio I at my gym all day with an afternoon break. This is how I refresh myself
Tuesday – run or yoga depending on what else I have to do.
Wednesday – strength plus after dinner walk
Thursday – run/cardio or yoga or rest depending on what I have to do that day.
Friday – strength plus a walk after dinner
Saturday – active rest (maybe a walk after dinner or short yoga)
Sunday – longer run or bike ride (maybe an hour)

5. I’m a vegetarian who tries to avoid dairy. I eat as clean as possible but I’m not perfect. I might grab a bowl of cereal or a packaged protein bar. I eat out sometimes when networking or meeting a girlfriend for lunch. I still keep a food log. As a type 1 diabetic I have to count carbs to do dose my insulin. A food log is as much about balancing my calories as it is about dosing my medicine. I believe in balance, not perfection. [Balance is way more interesting than perfection, in my opinion]

6. Doing well – I am a food log all star! I have kept my log consistently for years!
Needs work – logging my workouts. I make a note of the kind of workout in my calendar but I lack a training log with reps/sets/weight/etc. It makes it hard to gauge progress.


Tara SaboTara Sabo, 33
ACE Certified Personal Trainer
Spinning Instructor
Tara would love more followers on and

1. I shoot for five to six days a week, but that can change if my personal and/or group fit schedule changes. If I’m teaching, workout length can be 30, 45 or 60 minutes (depending on the day). If I’m running, it can be anywhere from 30-90 minutes or more depending on the milage. I try to keep personal strength workouts to 45 minutes.

2. I love to run. Personal strength workouts are generally quite traditional with a little HIIT mixed in. I also teach a Spinning class. (It’s hard NOT to get a workout while I’m teaching that class!)

3. Because of my group fit schedule, personal strength workouts typically focus on my entire body…I don’t have time for split workouts. I like to mix it up, so I might use traditional (weight based) strength exercises with some high intensity work as well. Traditional strength moves are typically done with medium to heavy weights, depending on the exercise. I usually do 3 sets of 12-15 repetitions, pushing the weight within those repetitions. I get a decent workout when I teach, but that’s not the goal…so I like to take it up a notch when I’m on my own. [People are always surprised when I say that I don’t count my classes as my own personal workout]

4. Right now, it’s a blank slate as I get back into it post-baby.[Congratulations!] Before I started modifying, it looked a little bit like this:

Monday: Strength Class
Tuesday: Spinning Class/Kettlebell Class
Wednesday: Personal Short Run
Thursday: Personal Short Run
Friday: Personal Strength Workout
Saturday: Rest
Sunday: Personal Long Run

5. I don’t, actually. I find that I get obsessive when I follow a diet or count calories, so I generally just do my best to eat a clean, well-balanced diet that gives me wiggle room for treats.

6. Right now, I’m really focused on getting back to where I was before I had my son. I just got clearance from the doctor to resume normal activity. So generally speaking, I get a star for staying focused. For planning out and committing to a workout schedule. If I skip a workout, it’s because an outside force has changed my schedule in some way (like the need for a sub in a class that isn’t mine or a sick kid, for example). Where do I need some work? Flexibility. I never forget to stretch, but I could definitely be doing better, deeper stretching. Especially since I’m logging miles as a runner. I used to be able to do the splits. Now, ha! But I can run a half marathon… [Stretching is my weakness too; even when I’m teaching, I tend not to join in the entire stretch portion of the class as I’m fiddling with the music or helping my participants]


Heather_HeadshotHeather Iacobacci-Miller, 39
ISSA Personal Trainer Certification, RRCA Running Coach Certification
Follow Heather on Twitter: @wtbfitness and Facebook:

1. It varies. Running 50-90 mins, lifting 30 mins, cycling 90 mins. Sometimes I do a 2-a-day so 50 mins morning run then 25-30 mins weight later.

2. Running, cycling, weight training, HIIT

3. Body part splits, usually supersets or trisets, often incorporate dropsets, lifting heavy with lower reps. [A woman after my own heart 🙂 ]

4. My week varies sometimes depending on what days I run vs ride. Typically ride Mon, Tues 6-8 mile run, biceps/triceps/abs at noon; Wed run 6-7 miles, legs, shoulders at noon; Thurs ride or run; back/chest short HIIT + abs at noon, Fri rest, Sat long run, Sun recovery run 6-8 miles.

5. I try to eat whole foods as much as possible incorporating protein, carbs, fats & fiber with each meal or snack. I try to avoid refined foods, sugars but also believe in balance and not feeling deprived or that something is off-limits. So I do happily enjoy pizza or even chips and cheese dip on occasion.

6.  Oh wow. I’m almost stumped with this one. Even if I don’t want to necessarily work out, I tend to dig deep and get it done. I don’t make excuses. I guess that’s a plus (considering some of the excuses I hear from people all the time). But at the same time, sometimes that can be a downfall for me. I push push push and sometimes don’t cut myself some slack. I forget to assess my accomplishments and be proud of them and instead notice the things I’m doing wrong or if I’m not building muscle here or there, not getting in my speed work …


morganpersonaltrainerMorgan Shuker, 29 and owner of Wildly Fit. I’m Can Fit Pro certified as a trainer and working through my Precision Nutrition certification. I’m a new trainer and currently dabbling in one on one personal training and run coaching. Check out my website and follow me on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. Wildly Fit online coaching to come in the future!

 1. I workout 4 days a week. My goal is usually 6 days but that rarely happens because life just gets so busy, am I right? My workouts range from 20 minutes to one hour in length.

2. It varies at different times of the year. In the summer it’s mostly running and biking. Canadian winter running just isn’t for me! I love training for races and am coaching a running group this summer too. Biking too just because I want any excuse for an outdoor workout. Oh and don’t forget weekly yoga, flexibility training is so important. [You get a big fat star for this one!]

3. I definitely strength train, most often in the fall and winter because that’s when I spend the most amount of time on the gym floor. Love lifting heavy! I do body part splits and low reps. But I also do body weight and light weight on a regular basis for injury treatment.

4. Changes each season, this is my current training schedule.

Monday – yoga
Tuesday – run (including hill sprints)
Wednesday – upper body strength
Thursday – lower body strength plus run
Friday – rest & chiropractor appointment for soft tissue work to treat my chronic pain and any current injuries

Saturday / Sunday = rest or race

5. I have a few rules that I use for my nutrition planning. First of all I prep most of my food on Sundays. I eat 5-6 meals a day. Those meals are the same every day for one week. Why? Because I like things to be easy. Do I get bored? Nope, because I choose meals I love and change it up every week. I try to keep my dairy and starchy carbs to the first 3 meals of the day and focus more on protein and veggies for the end of the day. I’m also a Truestar Ambassador and take daily vitamins to power my workouts and for general wellness.

6. I’m going to gold star myself for sticking on track when I’m training for a race. You can’t shake my schedule, I’m full of discipline! Where I need work is tracking my strength training. I can be a bit willy nilly with strength training but I love it so much. I’d definitely benefit from tracking exercises, reps, and weight.


Carly weights runningCarly Pizzani, 36 years old
ACSM Certified Personal Trainer
Diploma, American Academy of Personal Training
Blog: Fine Fit Day
Twitter: @carlypizzani
Instagram: @carlypizzani
Pinterest: @carlypizzani
Carly would love more followers on Instagram and Pinterest!

1. I usually work out 5 days a week. My running workouts range from 40 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the day. My strength training workouts are usually between 20 and 45 minutes.

2.  I run, I lift weights and I walk. In a perfect world I would add yoga, but sadly my yoga practice has been lacking recently (read: nonexistent). [I definitely need to get back to yoga too; always feels so great when I’m practicing regularly…]

3.I do whole body strength training using compound exercises. I base my strength training on my racing goals. When my running training is light (the beginning of a training program), my strength training is heavy weights at low reps, to build up strength. As my running gets more intense, getting closer to a race, I switch to endurance training, with lighter weights for more reps in circuits.

4. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday I run and strength train. On an easy run day, I’ll do 45 minutes of weights, then the other two days when I have harder running workouts I’ll do 20 minute strength training sessions. Saturday and Sunday I run – one of the weekend days is my long run and the other is usually a recovery run. Since I train clients locally, I commute by walking, so over the course of a week I usually walk about 15 miles as well. Tuesdays and Thursdays are my rest days, although as a mama of a rambunctious toddler, ‘rest’ might be a bit of a stretch!

5. I don’t follow a set nutrition plan, or really have any hard and fast rules when it comes to eating. I’m lucky in that I really enjoy a lot of healthy foods, like fruit and vegetables. I don’t think there’s a vegetable I don’t enjoy. (I am also not averse to chocolate and red wine). [We would get along well 😉 ] I cook a lot and have mastered the art of healthy cooking techniques and seasoning. Since I run a lot, I don’t shy away from carbohydrates, so I often cook with brown rice, barley, or whole wheat pasta and I eat either whole wheat or sprouted grain breads. I do try to steer clear of packaged foods as much as I can.

6. What I’m doing well is being smart about my training. I work with a running coach to ensure my training plan is quality, so I can avoid injury. I also balance my strength training to aid my running goals. Where I need more work is with my sleep habits! I am not in a routine and I often stay up late to read or write, rather than getting the sleep I should. It’s a constant struggle for me. I would also love to find the time and motivation to do yoga more regularly.



IMG_5229Taylor Ryan, 30 years old – Charleston SC
Venice Nutrition Coach
Please follow Taylor on Twitter: @femininemuscle
And check out her blog:


1. I workout on average 5-6 days/week. Each workout ranges in length from as short as 15 minutes to as long as 2 hours (long cardio day).

2. I run 3-4 times per week… track work 1 day, tempo runs and shorter runs 1-2 times (3-5 miles) and a long run on the weekend.

Mixed in with the running, I also do kettlebell workouts (1-2x), and high intensity strength training 2x per week. If I am not able to get my personal strength training in, I’ll jump into one of my boot camp classes!

3. Strength training is my passion and I love to mix it up. All of my workouts are total body.

1-2 times per week I do kettlebell based workouts, and the other workouts are a mix of heavy lifting paired with body weight moves to deliver the most bang for my buck. i.e. I might do 4 sets of weighted squats and finish it off with as many squat jumps as possible. For a while I was focusing on high rep, circuit training, but for the past 2 weeks I’ve created a new program for myself that is lower reps, more sets to focus on strength over endurance. Which I’ll continue with for the next 3-4 weeks.

4. Monday: Quick Run (3-4 miles) & Kettlebell workout
Tuesday: Track Speed Work
Wednesday: Strength & light cardio & filming workout for FitWomensWeekly
Thursday: Kettlebells – Fast 20 minute workout
Friday: OFF
Saturday: Long Run
Sunday: Rest or filming workouts

5. Until earlier this year I was a vegan. But due to health concerns, I made the decision to reintroduce animal products back into my diet.

Now, nutrition is looked at as fuel for my body. What makes me feel the best, regardless of what’s “trending” in the health world or blogs? What works for me and my husband is a {mostly} plant based diet that is rich in all-natural foods/ingredients. We try to make everything ourselves… as that’s the only way to really know what’s in your food. The only thing I don’t include in my diet is dairy.

6. Haha…

Let’s see… when it comes to my workouts I do a really good job at focusing on form and listening to my body. If my form starts to suffer, I’m not afraid to slow down, rest and shake everything out before continuing on. I think too many people/programs that think workouts should be go-go-go and they end up injuring themselves or not getting the most out of the exercises. If it’s a timed workout, that might lead to an extra 30-seconds however knowing that my push-ups or squats were perfect is worth the time.

What I can work on…

Working harder when I am by myself. I have a hard time lifting heavier or pushing to a new level when I’m by myself. I love the external motivation I get from having a training partner or my husband coaching me. Since we’ve opened our gym, I have had to workout a lot more by myself and it’s been tough! [I hear you. And it’s so hard to find another trainer to work with when our exercise schedules are so variable to accommodate our clients’ schedule…]

Now, it’s your turn. Take a moment and give a ‘star’ and ‘make a wish’ for yourself. Share them below.

Then spend some time getting to know my guests a bit better by visiting their sites and following them on social media!

Pre-strength training warm-up | favourite warm-up exercises

We all know how important it is to start each and every workout with a proper warm up.

Yet many of us, myself included, often rush through, excited to get to the fun part before we’ve really prepared our bodies for the work to come.

favourite warm-up exercises

Me, before a workout!

Goals of a warm-up include:

  • gradually increasing your breathing rate. Lungs provide oxygen to your muscles. During exercise, muscles increase their demand for oxygen. Gradually increasing your respiration will allow you to continue meeting your body’s oxygen demand without the premature accumulation of lactic acid. ‘Feeling the burn’ is great, but not at the beginning of your workout.
  • increasing blood flow to your muscles. Blood carries oxygen from your lungs to your muscles. In order to meet their increased demand for oxygen, blood flow must increase as well. Rhythmic, low intensity movements stimulate the increased flow of blood to muscles and extremities.
  • elevating your heart rate. Your heart serves to pump oxygenated blood from your lungs to the rest of your body. An elevated heart rate is often the most obvious sign that your body is starting to work a bit harder. Aim to increase your heart rate to 60-65% of your heart rate maximum by the end of your warmup.
  • increasing the temperature of your muscles. Warm muscles are more efficient at contracting than cold muscles. They’re also less likely to be injured. I’ll do just about anything to prevent repeating past injuries.
  • lubrication of your joints. As you begin to move, your brain signals the release of synovial fluid within your joints. This fluid acts like a lubricant, allowing the joints to move more smoothly and through an increasingly larger range of motion.
  • enhancing proprioception and kinesthetic awareness. Proprioception is the body’s awareness of where it is in space. It’s a fundamental requirement of strength training, particularly when you’re performing single-sided and balance exercises.
  • rehearsing the movements that you’ll be performing during the workout itself. Performing body weight versions of the exercises you’ll be doing during your workout proper is a great way to prepare your body for the work to come. Not only does it help to create a mind-to-muscle connection, it also gently stretches the muscles and ligaments around the joint, thereby reducing the likelihood of injury.

My favourite warm-up exercises:

I always begin my warm-up with 4 or 5 minutes of light, whole body movement.

Typically, I hop on the ARC trainer or the rowing machine because they require both my upper and lower body to move in synchrony. I keep the tension low and remember that the level of intensity I work at shouldn’t leave me sweating or out of breath.

Depending on whether I’m planning a upper body, lower body or whole body strength workout, I perform a series of body weight only exercises, working on form, keeping speed low, and increasing my range of motion with every repetition.

Currently, I’m loving the following five warm-up exercises.

Try performing 8 to 10 of each (on each arm or leg, where appropriate), in the order indicated:

1. Toe-touch-bum-drop-hands-up-squat-to-stand. Start by standing with feet hip distance apart. Bending at the waist (and slightly at the knees, if necessary), reach down to touch your toes. Lower your bum toward the floor. From this position, extend both arms straight up overhead. Push through your heels to return to standing. I don’t have a better name for this movement. Suggestions?

favourite warm-up exercises

squat to stand


2. Body weight squats. Start with feet slightly wider than hip distance, toes turned out just a bit. Bend at the knees and hips to drop your bum down and back. As you do so, extend your arms straight out in front of your, keeping your eye focus across the room and your chest ‘proud’. Push through your heels to return to standing, lowering your arms to your sides as you do so.

3. Arm windmills. Kinda like they sound. Stand tall, with feet under hips, a slight bend in the knee and core held tight. Windmill your straight arms forwards (one arm will be at the top when the other is at the bottom). Change directions and repeat.

4. 1/4-of-the-hour clock lunges.Start by standing with feet together and hands at your sides. Step forward with your right foot, into a high lunge position. This is 12:00. Step back to the starting position before stepping your right leg out to the side, dropping your bum into a lateral lunge. You’re now at 3:00. Step back to the starting position before stepping your right leg (still) backwards into a back lunge. 6:00 and counting. Step back to the starting position before crossing your right leg over your left and dropping into a x-over lunge. You’ve reach 9:00. Repeat several times with the right leg before switching to the left. (Note that the order of movements on the left will be 12:00, 9:00, 6:00 and 3:00 for the x-over lunge).

favourite warm-up exercises

1/4 of the hour clock lunges


5. Walk-out planks.Start by standing with feet together, hands at your sides. Bend at the knees, hips and ankles to place your hands on the ground, as close to your feet as possible. Walk your hands forward until they’re directly under your shoulders. You’re now in high plank position. Walk hands back in towards your feet, bending at the knees, hips and ankles to return to standing.

favourite warm-up exercises

I finish my warm-up by performing a warm-up set of my first lift or two (today, that means I’ll be starting with dumbbell chest presses and bent over rows). Try 10-15 repetitions at 50% of your working load before your start your set proper (and note, the warm-up set doesn’t count as part of your workout 😉 ).

The whole routine takes me 10 minutes or so. Then I’m warm enough to move on to the ‘fun’ part of my workout!

What does your typical warm-up look like?

Do you include any of my favourite warm-up exercises in your workout?


Tips to break through strength training plateaus

We’ve all been there before.

strength training plateaus

Despite training regularly, giving yourself adequate rest and recovery and following a sensible nutrition plan, we stop making gains in the gym.

Identical weight on our shoulder press for weeks at a time. Can’t manage a single more pushup than we were doing a month ago. Leg day still leaves us limping and sore. Measurements not budging an inch (or even a quarter or an inch).

The good news is, sometimes all we need is a little change to our routine to start making progress, once again.

Below, you’ll find a list of suggestions for ‘tweaking’ your strength training program to push past plateaus.

Note that none of these tweaks will help you, if your primary reason for stalling out is lack of consistency. (Read more about the importance of consistency and progression here.).

Get consistency working for you first, then try one (or more) of the following (the easiest tweaks are listed first, with progressively larger  programming changes listed later).

Tips to break through strength training plateaus:

  1. Swap out an exercise or two. Stalling out on pushups? Try subbing in bench presses instead. Pull-ups still a pipe-dream? Lat pull downs may be just what the doctor ordered. Sometimes, all our bodies need to break through a plateau is a slight variation on the exercise theme.
  2. Change the order of your exercises. Always finish chest before shoulders? Try reversing the order. Oftentimes, it’s the smaller, stabilizer muscles that limit our ability to progress with a lift. You may be fatiguing the muscles that stabilize and assist the lift with an exercise performed earlier in your program.
  3. Switch up the tempo of your lifts. Many people naturally perform strength exercises using a 2-0-2-0 tempo; 2 seconds to lift the weight, 2 seconds to lower the weight, with no pause at either the top or the bottom of the movement. Try slowing down the working (concentric) phase of your lifts or pausing for a second at the top. Both will change the amount of time that your muscles remain under tension; a critical factor in increasing muscle strength and size.
  4. Try using a different grip. When you change the grip you use to perform an exercise, you recruit new muscle fibres (and sometimes entirely new muscles); fibres (and muscles) that, when strengthened, may improve your ability to lift a heavier load. Here’s a more detailed description of grips and angles (with examples of exercises where this approach can be extremely beneficial).
  5. Switch your bench from flat to incline (or decline). Just like changing grips, modifying the angle of your weight bench will also lead to the activation of additional muscle and muscles fibres. Make sure to move the weights  perpendicular to the floor to get the greatest benefit from this approach (and to protect your shoulders during presses, flys and rows).
  6. Vary your reps, sets and load. If you always perform 3 sets of 10 reps using the same weight, your body will get used to the routine and stop being stimulated to change by it. Try periodizing your workout, changing reps, sets and load in a linear and progressive fashion. Or alternate high rep/low load and low rep/high load workouts. You can even combine low and high rep exercises within a workout. When it comes to varying reps, set and load, you’re only limited by your imagination.
  7. Change your training style. If you’ve stalled out on body part splits, change the way your pair them. Alternatively, try a whole body program for a month or two and see if that makes a difference. Vice versa works too.
  8. Overhaul your program. If you’ve been doing the same program consistently (there’s that word again) for a month or more, a new program may be just what your body needs to kick start progress. Not sure where to start? Hire a fitness professional to create a program that addresses your individual goals, abilities and training schedule.

I’ve had success with each of the above ‘tweaks’; both in my own training and when training clients in the gym.

I’d love to hear your success stories.

Which of the above ‘tweaks’ have you employed to successfully work through a strength training plateau?

Have you used a technique that’s not on my list? Please share it with me and my readers!

Let’s stay in touch! Sign up here for email updates and advance notification of my online training programs.






How much sugar is too much?

Whenever I start with a new client who’s primary goal is fat loss, I ask her to food journal. To write down everything she eats and drinks for a minimum of five days (but preferably for two complete weeks).

During this time, I suggest that she make no dramatic changes to her diet, so that we can generate a reasonably accurate view of what’s she eating. Until we know what her diet consists of, it’s hard to know what needs to be changed. (Many people find this challenging, as they’re excited to start moving toward their health and fitness goals and a bit embarrassed to share their love of chocolate, red wine and/or Lucky Charms…)

Most of my clients use MyFitnessPal, an online food tracking program, to record their meals and snacks. In addition to calculating daily calorie intake, MyFitnessPal also provides information about where those calories are coming from (carbohydrates, fats and proteins) and the number of grams of sugar consumed each day.

how much sugar is too much

Note that I was ‘over’ on sugar for the day, but only consumed 15 g of refined sugar…

Often, even before the baseline tracking period has ended, most clients will shoot me an email asking ‘how much sugar’ they should be consuming. Many of them are shocked to see that they’re consuming 100 or more grams of sugar daily and want to know how much sugar is too much.

At this point, I explain that sugars come from a variety of sources. Natural sugars exist in fruits, vegetables, dairy and grains. Our bodies use them for fuel. While natural sugars contribute to the daily sugar totals that MyFitnessPal provides, they are not the sugars that we’re primarily concerned with.

Instead, we need to focus our attention on the sugars added to foods and beverages during processing. These ‘added sugars’ include all refined sugars, corn syrups, honey, agave, cane sugar and maple syrup.

how much sugar is too much

A better question, then would be, ‘what’s the recommended daily intake of added sugar?’

Unlike for vitamins and minerals, there is no RDI for added sugar. Obviously, the less we consume, the better.

However, the general consensus among nutritionists and health organizations recommends limiting added sugar consumption to no more than 25 to 30 g per day. Regularly consuming more can result in elevated blood glucose levels, fat storage, insulin resistance and diabetes. And we all know how addictive sugar can be

Because MyFitnessPal doesn’t differentiate between the sugars that occur NATURALLY in foods and the sugars ADDED to food during processing and packaging, it becomes necessary to track added sugar intake another way; by reading ingredient lists and nutrition labels (something we should all be doing anyways).

how much sugar is too much

Some short-cuts to reduce added sugar intake?

  • Pay attention to the various forms of sugar that are added to your foods; maltose, dextrose, sucrose, fructose-glucose (probably the worst one out there for us). If there are multiple forms of added sugar in the ingredient list, you’re probably better off not eating it (or limiting your serving size and/or the frequency with which it’s consumed).
  • Keep a running daily total of your sugar intake from processed foods (including alcohol and the sugar or honey you add to your coffee and tea). You can do this instead of OR in addition to food tracking on MyFitnessPal, depending on your health goals and how crazy food tracking makes you. When you hit your own personal RDI (25-30 g) for the day, STOP.
  • Limit your consumption (and purchase) of foods which have any form of added sugar as one of the top five ingredients. Food manufacturers must list ingredients in the order of their contribution (by volume) to the food in question. The higher the ingredient on the ingredient list, the more of it in the food you’re eating.
  • Plan your added sugar intake for the day BEFORE you’re faced with the option of consuming it. When my family goes out to eat, I always check the dessert menu first. If one of my favourite desserts is listed, I’ll skip the wine. For me, dessert and wine is an either-or thing because they’re both high in added sugar.
  • Identify one or two high sugar foods that you’re consuming regularly. Aim to reduce the frequency with which you eat them or eliminate them entirely. A can of soda has upwards of 40 g of added sugar. Simply eliminating your daily soda (or other sugary treat) may be all that’s required to bring your added sugar intake down to a reasonable level (meaning that you won’t need to worry as much about the smaller amounts of sugar added to products like yogurt, spaghetti sauce and salad dressing).

One final note; many people believe that they should reduce their intake of fresh fruit to reduce their sugar consumption. For the most part, eating too much fruit is not the reason why people need to lose weight…. 🙂

What’s your best tip for reducing added sugar?

Share a link to a low- or no-sugar dessert with me?