Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Summer Salmon

Summer is just around the corner, so salmon will soon be back in season! Jazz up simply grilled salmon and summer vegetables with a zesty sauce based on the classic Spanish romesco. Made with roasted red peppers, tomatoes and almonds, this sauce is a great match for any seafood, poultry or vegetables. Using smoked paprika brings out the flavors from the grill.

Makes 4 servings

You Will Need:

1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted (See Tip below.)
1/4 cup chopped jarred roasted red peppers
1/4 cup halved grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes
1 small clove garlic
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar or red-wine vinegar
1 teaspoon paprika, preferably smoked
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided
1 1/4 pounds wild-caught salmon fillet (see Note), skinned and cut crosswise into 4 portions
2 medium zucchini or summer squash (or 1 of each), halved lengthwise
Canola or olive oil cooking spray
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley for garnish


1. Preheat grill to medium.
2. Process almonds, peppers, tomatoes, garlic, oil, vinegar, paprika, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a food processor or blender until smooth; set aside.
3. Coat salmon and zucchini (and/or summer squash) on both sides with cooking spray, then sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Grill, turning once, until the salmon is just cooked through and the squash is soft and browned, about 3 minutes per side.
4. Transfer the squash to a clean cutting board. When cool enough to handle, slice into 1/2-inch pieces. Toss in a bowl with half of the reserved sauce. Divide the squash among 4 plates along with a piece of salmon topped with some of the remaining sauce. Garnish with parsley, if desired.

280 calories
13 g fat
8 g carbohydrate
32 g protein
2 g fiber
601 mg sodium

Nutrition bonus: Vitamin C (35% daily value), Magnesium & Vitamin A (20% dv).

Tips: To toast chopped or sliced nuts, stir constantly in a small dry skillet over medium-low heat until fragrant and lightly browned, 2 to 4 minutes.

To skin a salmon fillet, place on a clean cutting board, skin side down. Starting at the tail end, slip the blade of a long, sharp knife between the fish flesh and the skin, holding the skin down firmly with your other hand. Gently push the blade along at a 30° angle, separating the fillet from the skin without cutting through either.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Exercise of the Week: Knee Drops

If you have a tight lower back (Seriously...who doesn't?!) and you haven't tried this stretch, this might be a treat for you. Similar to the spinal twist, knee drops involve rotating the torso and dropping the knees to the floor, allowing you to stretch the lower back as well as the glutes, shoulders and chest. The weight of your knees helps increase the stretch.

To get the most out of this stretch, try keeping both shoulders pressed into the floor and focus on lengthening through the waist. If you can't bring the knees to down without the opposite shoulder coming off the floor, stay with the spinal twist.

Do it right: Bring the knees up and bend them to 90 degrees, shins parallel to the floor and arms out to the sides. Contract the abs and rotate the torso to lower the legs to the right, bringing them down to the floor. Keep the left shoulder flat on the floor and release any tension in your waist and back. Hold the stretch for about 5 breaths, bring the knees back to center and repeat on the other side.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Coffee - Good or Bad?

Because I'm such a health freak, people always seem to be surprised if they catch me with a cup of coffee in my hand. I always reply the same way: "Most things are okay in balance and moderation." In moderate doses, coffee may actually be good for you. Now, I am talking about the actual coffee - not cream and sugar. So if you can drink coffee with little to nothing added to it, here are some of the benefits:

Run Longer, Think Faster
In a study done last year, researchers gave cyclists an energy bar with or without caffeine (equal to one cup of coffee) before and during a long, hard ride. They found that cyclists who have caffeine ride farther and think faster on cognitive tests than the no-caffeine group—useful news to runners in endurance events and adventure races, where quick decision-making is key.

Increase Sprint Speed
Consider drinking a cup of coffee before your next speed workout: Australian scientists gave fit athletes a 300-milligram dose of caffeine one hour before running five sets of 6 x 20-meter sprints. They found that runners who have caffeine sprint faster than those who don't have caffeine. Researchers think the stimulant enhances reaction time and running speed.

Recover More Quickly
Runners know they need carbs postrun to rebuild their glycogen stores, but a recent study suggests caffeine may also enhance recovery. Cyclists rode hard for two consecutive days to drain their glycogen stores. They then drank a carb beverage with or without caffeine. Researchers found that having a drink with caffeine rebuilds glycogen stores 66 percent more than a carb-only drink.

Hydrate Smart
Many people have heard caffeine causes dehydration. Most studies, though, show you can have up to 550 milligrams of caffeine (or about five cups of coffee) without affecting hydration levels. That means you can have quite a few caff einated sports drinks and gels while running without risking dehydration; more than 550 milligrams will have a diuretic effect.

Keep Bones Healthy
A few studies have shown a link between bone-mineral loss and caffeine—but a close look at the data reveals that caffeine itself doesn't cause the mineral loss. Many coffee lovers may drink it in place of beverages rich in calcium (such as milk), and as a result, decrease their intake of this bone-strengthening mineral.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Can Kids Pump Iron?

It's no secret that child obesity is a huge problem in America. Many parents want their kids to exercise, but they are unsure what they can do. Sure, cardio exercise is fine...but what about strength training?

Research confirms that sensible strength training will help children look better, feel better and function better, as well as develop an activity pattern that should serve them well throughout their lives. With their engines revved up, your young charges will be on the right track for a lifetime of activity and good health.

Top 10 Reasons Why Kids Should Strength Train:

- Stronger muscles

- Stronger bones

- Stronger tendons

- Stronger ligaments

- More muscle

- Less fat

- Higher metabolism

- Greater physical capacity

- Greater self-confidence

- Lower injury risk

Here are a few guidelines to help you get started.

Sets: one challenging set of each exercise, which may or may not be preceded by one or two preliminary sets

Repetitions: 10 to 15 repetitions in each exercise set

Frequency: 20-minute training session performed on 2 or 3 nonconsecutive days each week

Progression: a weight increase of 5 percent or less (typically 1 to 5 pounds) once a child can complete 15 repetitions with a given load

Speed: 2 seconds for lifting movements and 2 seconds for lowering movements

Range: full movement range on simple exercises and moderate movement range on complex exercises

Breathing: exhaling during lifting movements, and inhaling during lowering movements

Posture: standing or sitting tall with head up, shoulders square, torso erect and hips level; avoiding twisting, turning and squirming

If you are interested in a kid's strength training program and you live in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, please contact me.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Nutty Stir Fry Salad

Here is a great healthy dinner recipe that gives a new twist to the boring "grilled chicken and vegetables" dinner. Enjoy!

What You Need:
1/4 cup KRAFT Light Asian Sesame Dressing
4 cups cut-up assorted fresh vegetables (green peppers, mushrooms, onions, broccoli and zucchini)
3/4 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
1/2 cup chopped Dry Roasted Edamame Peanuts
2 Tbsp. lite soy sauce
1 pkg. (8 oz.) salad greens

How to make it:
Heat dressing in large nonstick skillet on medium-high heat. Add vegetables; stir-fry 3 min. Add chicken; stir-fry an additional 5 min. or until chicken is cooked through.

Add edamame and soy sauce; stir-fry 2 min. or until vegetables are crisp-tender and mixture is heated through.

Serve over salad greens, and enjoy!

Variation - Nutty Chicken Lettuce Wraps. Simply swap serving them over greens for spooning scoops of the stirfry into large Romaine lettuce leaves.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Exercise of the Week: Stability Ball Push-Up

If you want to move beyond the basic push-up for upper body strength, try stability push ups. This variation of the push up increases the difficulty (as well as the effectiveness of the standard push up).

Personally, I prefer my client to perform functional exercises rather than just push weights around. Functional exercise is generally an exercise that requires you to use your body as resistance rather than free weights or machines. These exercises require more muscles to be activated (stabilizers and core muscles) during the movement. This push up works more muscles than a bench press.

When you add the requirement of balance, you also increase muscle fiber activation. During functional exercises, a machine doesn't control the movement patterns so your muscles must control it. If you're working harder, you burn more calories and you gain more strength.

Keep in mind that you should progress from the basic push up to the stability push up in order to perform it safely. Do not attempt stability push ups until you can do 20 basic push-ups. Instructions:

1. Lay with your chest on the stability ball Place your hands at the sides of your chest. Place your toes on the floor, legs straight.

2. Push your body up until your arms are almost straight, but do not lock your elbows. Hold here for two seconds.

3. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat to fatigue.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Preventing Plateaus

Here is a great article I read the other day by fitness guru Kim Lyons. I wanted to pass it on - enjoy!

Everyone experiences workout boredom, even me! The key to staying motivated is to continue to switch up your exercise routines with different methods of training. Plateaus happen when your body adjusts or adapts to your routine. This is not always a bad thing, you should think of it more as a reaching a new level. It is just means it’s time to challenge your body in a new way.
There are endless ways of training, and often times need to get creative. Even simple little games like alternating between jogging 100 steps then walking 100 steps … or skip for a song on your ipod, then jog for a song, and then walk for the next. The possibilities are endless. Just thinking of different little games will keep your mind busy!

When it comes to resistance training, I highly recommend circuit training. For example..
My favorite workout circuits alternate between lower-body resistance-training moves, to elevate your heart rate, and upper-body moves, to allow you to recover, giving you an interval training effect that burns tons of calories and develops incredible endurance!

Because of the continuous nature of circuit training, you’ll get all the benefits of resistance training, have a great cardiovascular workout, and maximize your training time. After your workout circuit, you’ll perform a flexibility circuit, which stretches all your major muscle groups, improving range of motion, decreasing muscle soreness, and helping alleviate chronic pain.

Some Benefits of Circuit Training are that it…

Saves time
Incorporates cardio and resistance training in one workout
Burns tons of calories
Works your heart, lungs, and muscles all at once
Engages your mind as well as your muscles
Basically it is an effective, time-efficient, calorie-blasting way to train and the combinations are endless!

Another great way to mix up your routine is to do what I call a “Body-Part Blast”. Tailor your circuit workouts to hit specific body parts you’d like to improve. If you want more definition in your arms, for example, assemble an all-upper-body workout from the moves you’ve mastered. Do this workout twice a week and your lower-body/cardio workouts twice a week; you’ll still be hitting all your body parts, just in a different way.

You can also do interval training, which is repeating intervals of a relatively light intensity, such as walking, interspersed with a higher intensities, such as jogging or running.For example, if you're going to use the treadmill for your cardio routine, and our Heart Rate Calculator estimated that between 110 and 140 beats per minute was the best heart rate range for you … then you could spend the first 5 minutes walking to serve as your warm-up, then either increase the incline or start a light jog for 3 minutes at a heart rate of around 110 ... then 2 minutes of a little faster jog, or steeper incline, at 120 bpm ... then90 seconds at a faster jog at 130 bpm ... and then 60 seconds jogging at the same speed but a bit steeper incline, at around 140 bpm ... and then back to walking at a lower incline to drop your heart rate to 115 for a couple of minutes, and so on.

This "interval training" technique is very effective; studies show that you not only gain more benefit during the actually exercise session, but you'll actually burn more calories throughout the day. Plus, it's a lot less boring than doing the same intensity throughout the cardio session. Many cardio machines actually have built in interval programs for you to choose.

Another great idea to make your cardio workout interesting is to do what’s called “composite training.” This is a great way to break up your routine and work different muscle groups too. As long as your heart rate is around your estimated heart rate range for the entire duration, that's what matters. Composite training is simply combining two or more different cardiovascular exercises, one after the other, for the full duration.

Here's an example: you could start by walking on a treadmill for 10 minutes ... and then quickly move to the elliptical for an additional 10 minutes ... and finish the cardio session up with a final 10 minutes on the stationary bike. You can even add in a fast walk or jog into the mix!This "composite training" technique makes cardio exercise a lot less boring and if you integrate the "interval training" technique with it, your workout will not only fly by, you'll have maximized the time and energy you put into it for the best results.

Here are a few more simple ideas to help you out!

Check out some local hiking trails on line and put in some cardio time on the trails.
Go to a track and do some sprints or walk the bleachers – or a combination of both.
Try a new sport such as snowboarding, skiing, or surfing.
Use a free day pass at a local gym to try spinning, pilates, yoga, or another interesting class.
Try a new machine at the gym, even if it looks scary! It probably isn’t as bad as you’ve made it out to be!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Another 100 Challenge!

I've gotten some great responses from my 100 challenges, so I wanted to extend one more to you this week.

Over the next week, can you spend 100 minutes of it running?

You can break it up however you need to. It's under 15 minutes a day if you decide to complete a part of the challenge each day.

You can even run 7.5 minutes in the morning and 7.5 minutes when you get home from work. If you watch one hour of television at night, you can jog in place during the commercials.

Be creative, and challenge yourself! You may find a new twist to add to your workout routine.
As always, keep me posted on your progress. On your mark, get set, GO!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Exercise of the Week: Walking Lunges

Walking lunges are hands down one of the greatest leg exercises you can do.

The reason they are so high up on the list is because you not only get a fantastic leg workout, but you are also working on flexibility at the same time. Each lunge forces your body to stretch into a lowered position that really allows the hip flexors of the back leg to elongate and open. That means you get strength, conditioning, toning, and flexibility benefits from just this one exercise.

Here's how to complete it:

1. Hold dumbbells by your sides with your palms facing towards your body

2. Lunge forward with one leg and allow both knees to bend

3. Lunge as deep as you can comfortably4. Push back up and forward through the front leg's heel

5. Repeat with the opposite leg walking forward for 12-16 total repetitions

Tips to Remember:

1. Keep your shoulder blades pulled back and your chin parallel to the floor the entire set

2. Do not let your front knee go over the front foot when lunging

3. Breathe in on the way down and out on the way up

4. Start out with no weight if need be

5. Keep your arms by your sides throughout each repetition

If you are new to these, try them without weight for your first few times and concentrate on form. If you are a pro at these, add some weight.

If you are doing these at the gym, the track is great place to do these, but don't try to lunge around the corners. You don't want to take a chance of getting out of alignment.

One additional tip for the all the fitness divas (and divos) out there - Take these outside for an additional challenge - but not just anywhere. Find a hill! Walking lunges uphill is an INSANE great workout!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Healthy Side Dish: Mashed Cauliflower

Here's a great side dish to add to your Easter menu this weekend. It will have all of the taste that your guests will enjoy - without adding to their waistline. Traditional Easter menus generally consist of ham, mashed potatoes, green beans.... and Cadbury eggs (Sorry, I don't have a substitute for those!) :)

However, I can help you on the mashed potatoes issue. Introducing: mashed cauliflower.

6 cups of chopped cauliflower (fresh or frozen)
1 1/2 oz. - Brummel & Brown spread (a great substitute for butter)
1 1/2 oz. fat free half and half
Salt, pepper, garlic, and chives
Serves 4


1. Heat cauliflower with an inch of water in a microwave safe bowl until tender.
2. Mash cauliflower with spread and half and half until at the desired consistency.
3. Add seassonings to taste.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Exercise of the Week: Dumbbell Step Up

You already know that I love compound exercises. The more muscles you work, the more calories you burn. Makes sense. So what could be better than an exercise that works multiple muscles (strength benefits) and gets your heart rate up (cardiovascular benefits)?
That's why the exercise of the week is: the Dumbbell Step Up.
Tips: The first time you attempt this, try it without weight at a slower pace with a small bench/platform. As you get stronger, add weight and/or raise the bench and/or increase your speed. There's always a way to challenge yourself with this exercise - no matter how strong you get.


Hold one dumbbell by your sides. Step up onto a flat bench with your left leg. Then, step up with your right leg to stand on the bench. Step down with your left leg, then your right leg. Repeat 12 to 15 times, then step up with your right leg first for 12-15 reps on that side.

If you are an elite athlete, you can add a glute lift by stepping on the bench with your left leg and kicking the right leg back instead of stepping on the step with your right leg. Do the same amount of reps as described above.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Remember to Recover!

We are always being told to exercise more in order to lose weight. After all, the more regular we workout, the more calories we burn. However, it is also important to understand why muscles need quality rest you'll be able to plan an exercise regime that will be more effective for you and your individual needs. You can't just attempt to follow a workout plan found from a magazine. That may cause more harm than good!

Here is how it works:

When we exercise, our muscles break down. Tiny fragments of protein within the muscles cells shatter. The more we exercise during a workout, the greater the muscle catabolism (degradation). It's one of the reasons why we actually become weaker as we progress through a particular routine. How quickly muscles degrade also depends on the strength of the individual and the intensity of the exercise. Obviously, the stronger and fitter the person the slower the rate of breakdown. Also, the more effort we put into an exercise, the faster the rate of muscle catabolism. It's why you can walk longer than you can run.

After any workout, your muscles need to replace all elements lost. Both proteins and energy stores need replacing for muscles to make a full recovery. Here's where the problem comes in - If muscles are not given enough time to recover fully before another workout is repeated, then the muscles progressively become smaller. What this could mean for weight loss is a gradual decline in lean tissue, thus lowering the metabolism over the course of a few weeks. A lowered metabolism could be disastrous for a dieter because less calories are burned overall, meaning they must either lower calorie intake even further (not always recommended) or burn more energy through more exercise... which will only exasperate the problem. This can be another cause for the common weight loss plateau for those who do exercise regularly.

Our muscles calorie burning potential can only help us lose weight if they are allowed to reach their fat burning potential. This is the reason why recovery between workout routines is so important.

To help your muscles recover, here are a few tricks you can use –

Do not lower calorie intake below 1500 per day
Eat a little high quality protein at most meals
Get plenty of sleep
Try to rest a day between hard workouts.
If new to exercising, try to train every other day rather than two consecutive days in a row.

As fitness levels grow its possible to increase the number of training days in a week and still be able to recover within a day. But remember to start slow and build up gradually!

So take a day off. You deserve it. :)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Michelle's Mailbox

I love a good April Fool's Day joke. That's why when asked me to help out with their one-day promotion of "Sasquatch Jerky," I couldn't resist. But in order to thank you for going along with their little prank, they want to give you with 10% savings on your order. (You can check out my review of their pineapple jerky here.) Just head to, select the products you want to try, then use the coupon code ABSOLUTIONBIGFOOT when you check out. Plus, your shipping is free!

You readers have been keeping me busy (which I love, by the way!) You have so many questions! (Send your question to me at if you have one!) I decided to use today's post to answer some of the most common questions I get. Hope this helps!

Are free weights better than machine/cable weights?

Free weights generally challenge an overall muscle group more intensely. They assist in the development of core trunk strength, stabilizing muscle strength and balance. However; for the purpose of weight loss, muscle toning and overall fitness, both groups will serve an adequate purpose.

How many calories are burned while walking/jogging/running a mile?

On average, the caloric expenditure per 100 pounds of body weight, per mile is 62 calories. So if you weight 200 pounds, walking or jogging a mile will burn about 124 calories.

How do I know how much weight I should be lifting?

For those of you who are weight lifting for overall fitness and health, the general rule is to maintain a rep count of 10 – 12 repetitions. While lifting, the final rep (10, 11 or 12) should be relatively difficult to complete. If completing 10 reps is too difficult, reduce the weight. If completing 12 reps is too easy (i.e. You can complete even one more rep) increase the weight.

Are crunches, sit-ups and other abdominal exercises ideal for losing weight around the abdomen?

No. The human body is not capable of spot reducing fatty deposits. A well rounded fitness program and a well rounded diet are the ideal, and only, ways to reduce overall body fat.

How many calories do I have to burn to lose a pound of fat?

A pound of fat is roughly equivalent to 3500 calories. If you’re goal is to lose 1 pound of fat per week you will need to increase you activity levels by 500 calories per day, reduce you caloric intake by 500 calories per day or settle on a combination of the two.

How important is it for women to strength train?

It is monumentally important for women to weight train. Among dozens of other benefits, weight bearing exercise reduces the rate at which bone density is depleted, leading to healthier bones for a longer period of time.

Is it dangerous for children to weight train?

Yes and No. Children of any age should be active. And contrary to popular belief, weight training will not stunt growth if it is done properly. At a young age (8 – 13) weight training should be kept to body weight exercises such as pull-ups, push-ups and the like. No matter what exercise a child is performing, proper supervision is essential!

Will strength training decrease overall flexibility?

The short answer is No. However, if one gains too much muscle mass, they may become “muscle bound”. This is unlikely though. Very few people have to worry about the possibility of becoming muscle bound.

How often should I exercise?

It is my personal belief that the human body is designed to be active often. I feel most people should participate in some physical activity for at least 30 minutes 6 days a week. I do understand how busy our lives get. That said, I typically recommend an absolute minimum of one hour, three days per week.

How will exercise and physical fitness help me?

This question was posed several times and its answer could go on for pages. I’ll narrow it down some of the most important:

1. Decreased risk of diseases/conditions related to excessive weight or obesity.
2. Decreased risk of cardiovascular disease.
3. Lower cholesterol levels.
4. Lower blood pressure.
5. Decreased levels of stress/anxiety.
6. Better self image.
7. Ability to sleep better.
8. Decreased risk of injury while performing routine activity.
9. Decreased risk of depression.
10. Delays the onset of physical signs of aging.

That's all for now - I'll keep posting answers if you keep emailing me questions to Now, go order some jerky with your discount!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Let's recap:

Part 1 - Do 100 push-ups everyday for a week.

Part 2 - Burn 100 more calories than you normally do everyday for a week.

So what's Part 3? Every day for this week, I want you to switch out 100 calories per day for a healthier choice. I am assuming that most of you are trying to limit your caloric intake, and especially when you are exercising, I want to make sure that you are taking in enough calories. But we can always make a better choice.
Order your drink at Starbucks sugar free and have it made with non-fat milk. (Do I even need to say no whip?) Even better? Switch your coffee for hot tea.
Instead of having a turkey sandwich for lunch, replace the bread and serve the meat over greens for a healthy salad.
Instead of crackers with soup, crunch on carrots or celery.
Those are just a few suggestions - there are tons more. Small changes can add up if you just take the time to think about it.
Are you in??
SIDE NOTE - I always like to be the first to tell you about *NEW* products. Check out the latest creation from our friends at called Sasquatch Jerky. You won't find it anywhere else - promise!! Made from 100% of the highest quality Sasquatch meat. It's the perfect high-protein and low-calorie snack! You could use it in your challenge this week. Try it today!