Tried & Tested: The Best Water Workouts

Written by: on Wednesday, March 18th, 2015
Water Workouts

No wonder water workouts make me happy: studies show that water-based exercise boosts mood and decreases stress and anxiety.

I’m not much of a swimming fan, so I never really considered the pool when it came to regular exercise. But then someone suggested I try aqua aerobics. And what I’ve found is that by adding the water to my workouts, I’ve gotten in amazing shape—and I’m never bored because there are plenty of workout options for any mood I’m in!

So what exactly is aqua aerobics?

Any exercise in the water that gets your heart rate up can qualify as aqua aerobics. The water has plenty of advantages, the first of which is that your heart has to work less in the water (thanks to the zero gravity). But, even in spite of this, you’re still able to get a great cardio workout because of water’s natural resistance. The buoyancy of the water also provides a lightness you can really feel, because you’re only supporting a fraction of your body’s weight in the water (which is why this workout is amazing for pregnant women—and for people prone to, or recovering from, injuries). In fact, studies show that people can exercise longer in water than on land without increased joint or muscle pain. What’s not to like?!

Looking for more information about aqua exercise? Try My Ultimate Guide To Aqua Aerobic.

Water weights

Movement in water offers 12 to 14 percent more resistance than in air, which means your muscles get a better toning workout in the water.

My All-Time Favorite Aqua Workouts

I choose different water workouts depending on my exercise needs/goals. Here are my favorites:

Aqua jogging: This is my absolute favorite water exercise. In the summer, I get in the water when it’s too hot to exercise outside. I go to the community pool when the lap lanes are open, jump in one, and begin moving up and down with my best running posture. I have to lean forward like I’m sprinting to push through the resistance. I wear old tennis shoes to protect my feet, and keep a water bottle at the end of the lane to stay hydrated. I was surprised at how hard I worked in the water. No wonder competitive runners use aqua jogging for cross training!

Aqua kickboxing: If I’m having a hectic week, kickboxing in the water is my secret stress buster. Kicking through water works my legs really hard. Combine that with punching routines and it’s like I’m doing a weight workout in the water. I tried a kickboxing class in the gym, and I kept falling off balance, but in the water, it’s much easier to stay grounded. The instructor will work us hard for an hour, and when I finish, I know I’ve done a super effective workout—and I feel pretty relaxed afterward too.

Aqua Zumba: I didn’t want to try this workout at first (I’m too shy to do all those hip-swinging moves in front of people). But then I realized that with a water Zumba class most of my body would be underwater during the workout. That changed everything, so I got my friend Marsha to go with me, and we tried a class. Talk about a great workout to get in shape! The teacher didn’t stop for most of the hour. The best part was that the whole experience was a blast—and thanks to it, I’m doing it more often and getting in much better shape.

The best part about water workouts: I look forward to them— and I always leave my workouts with a smile. They make me feel great!


The Right (& Wrong) Ways to Lose Weight

Written by: on Wednesday, March 4th, 2015
woman strength training

Remember: cardio and strength training are both important parts of your exercise regimen.

Exercise is medicine, what you put into your mouth matters, and there are no quick fixes. These are the key messages worth a reminder as everyone is getting on the weight-loss bandwagon for the New Year. Given that two-thirds of Americans are either overweight or obese, and that healthcare costs (to say nothing of quality-of-life costs) are staggering, we need to figure out how to turn this ship around. Here are eight truths about diet and exercise that anyone trying to lose weight (or even maintain weight) and stay fit should know:

1) Miracle slim-down diets (aka “crash diets”) do not work. Is it true the less you eat, the more weight you will lose? No. A big slashing of calories poorly predicts how much weight you will lose because your body adapts to perceived “famine” conditions by conserving energy.

close up of broccoli

The secret to weight loss: a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables (like broccoli), whole grains, legumes, healthy fats (like olive oil), and lean meat and dairy (if you eat dairy).

In a three-month study, young, healthy women were given a diet to lose weight. One diet had a moderate (-400) calorie deficit; this group lost six pounds in 3 months. The other diet had a severe (-850) calorie deficit; that group lost only 8 pounds. This was far less than predicted and related to a drop in resting metabolic rate. The body’s ability to conserve energy is quite powerful! If you want to lose weight, plan to chip off just a few hundred calories at the end of the day, rather than starve yourself by under eating all day.

In fact, men who want to lose weight should not crash diet, either. They will lose not only muscle but also testosterone (a muscle-building hormone). In a three-week study, soldiers ate a high-protein diet (3 x the RDA; 2.4 g pro/kg/day) but under ate calories by 40% below the amount needed to maintain weight. While the very high-protein intake helped counter loss of muscle, it did not maintain testosterone levels. Remember: chipping off a few hundred calories is preferable to a chopping off a thousand. Two fewer cans of soda or beer a day can make a difference in weight!

2) It doesn’t matter how often you eat; what matters is calories. Are dieters better off eating three small meals plus three small snacks—or eating the same amount of calories but in just two meals? For two weeks, obese middle-age women ate calorie-controlled packets of food either two or six times a day. Either way, the subjects reported being hungry. Eating six smaller meals did not appear to improve appetite response. So take your choice how often you want to eat, being sure to keep the total calories within your daily calorie budget.

Cup of coffee

Coffee has many health benefits—thanks to its antioxidants—but weight loss is not one of them.

3) No, coffee can’t curb your appetite (sorry!). Many dieters drink coffee for breakfast, swearing it curbs their morning hunger pangs. Yet, a study with 12 subjects reported no differences in appetite (and subsequent food intake) when their breakfast and mid-morning beverages were 1) water, 2) water+caffeine, 3) decaffeinated coffee or 4) decaf+caffeine. At lunch (4.5 hours after breakfast), the subjects reported similar amounts of hunger and ate similar amount of calories, regardless of their caffeine intake. The coffee did not effectively curb their appetites.

4) Listen to your body. What happens to food intake when healthy college men who exercise regularly are told to sit for 10 additional hours a week for 8 weeks?  They naturally eat less! At baseline, the subjects ate about 2,600 calories a day (47% carb, 18% protein, 32% fat). When they were told to be more sedentary, they intuitively ate less than baseline. They chose the same foods, just smaller portions. Only 1 of the 8 subjects ate more than at baseline. The moral of the study: If you get injured and cannot exercise, your body can naturally desire fewer calories. The trick is to listen to your body’s cues.

5) Regular exercise does more than just keep you fit. Exercise can impact not only weight but also the kinds of microbes that grow in the gut. In mice, the kinds of microbes differ by 40% between sedentary lean and obese mice. Even mice made obese by a high-fat diet—but allowed to use an exercise wheel—had a lean phenotype compared to the sedentary obese mice with no access to the exercise wheel. The exercised mice had distinctly different gut microbes. We need more research to understand how exercise impacts gut microbes in humans and how those microbes impact metabolism and weight.


Lifting weights boosts bone density and your resting metabolism (which is key to how many calories you burn a day).

6) You’ve got to lift weights. Female athletes commonly have low bone mineral density. Is this related to their being light in weight? Having low body fat? Less muscle? A study of 44 female D-1 athletes (from cross-country, tennis, basketball, and soccer teams) suggests that bone mineral density significantly relates to muscle mass. The more muscle, the better the bone density. Keep lifting those weights!

7) Any exercise is better than no exercise. Does very slow walking (1 mile/hour) on a treadmill desk offer any health benefits? Yes. In a study, 32 college students consumed 300 calories of glucose and then either 1) remained sedentary for two hours or 2) for two hours, alternated walking on a treadmill workstation for 30 minutes then sitting for 30 minutes. The results suggest even very slow walking helped with blood glucose control. Bottom line: being sedentary is deleterious to health.

8) Getting older? Make it a point to move more. Regular leisure-time exercise patterns drop from childhood to adolescence and become unacceptably low in adulthood. One reason may be that we spend many hours at our desks working—with little time for leisure or even vacation. This is why it’s even more important to make an effort to fit in exercise as often as possible. And try to get up from your desk at regular intervals….and walk (even around the office) if you can. Remember, every little bit helps!

Why You (& All Women) Need to Lift Weights…Starting Today

Written by: on Friday, January 16th, 2015
Woman lifting weight

All women should be lifting weights for strength, balance, bone building, and a dose of confidence.

If you’re like most women, you probably head to the gym for a power workout—completely avoiding the weight floor. Or maybe you have a pair of handheld weights that you do some arm exercises with…when you get the chance (but you’ve been doing the same moves with the same weight for as long as you can remember).

If this sounds like you, you’re missing out on the key benefits of weight training, say experts like Paula Burger, a personal trainer based in Ft. Lauderdale. “I can’t stress the importance enough of why women—particularly as we get older—should be weight training,” says Burger. “As a woman, your body wants to lose muscle mass every year—and you gain weight because of it. Plus, your hormones are all over the place: your estrogen and testosterone [yes, even women have some] are dropping and you have to lift heavier weights, eat less, and work harder than ever to keep the weight off.”

But consistent weight training can shift the momentum—significantly. Studies conducted by Wayne Westcott, PhD, fitness research director with the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, Massachusetts, back this up. Westcott found that strength training two to three times a week for just two months will help women gain nearly two pounds of muscle and lose 3.5 pounds of fat. Why? As the body increases muscle mass, our fat-burning furnace (metabolism) fires up, which means you burn more calories and fat—all day long—even when you’re sitting. This is key as we get older because our metabolism slows down with every passing year—the reason you’re eating the same foods as you did years ago but now you’re gaining weight, gradually.

Miriam Nelson Book

The groundbreaking book that laid out exactly why women need strength training.

Miriam E. Nelson, PhD, author of the national bestseller Strong Women Stay Young, is a staunch proponent of women lifting weights, based on research she’s done—and continues to do through her The StrongWomen Program, a women’s national community exercise and nutrition program. Nelson found that after a year of strength training twice per week, women not only had less fat and more muscle, they also increased strength and energy dramatically, improved balance and flexibility, and prevented or reversed bone loss.

Why weight training gets such impressive bone-building results: Cells called osteoblasts are critical to maintaining bone structure; when you do weight-bearing exercise, these osteoblasts lay down new bone tissue to strengthen the points where the bone is stressed. Do regular strength training—and continually challenge yourself with heavier weights and more repetitions—and these osteoblasts continue to reinforce the bone, over and over again, reducing your risk of serious health problems like osteopenia, or low bone density; full-blown osteoporosis; and sarcopenia, or gradual loss of muscle mass. All can affect not only how you age but your quality of life, too (i.e. what’s the joy in living longer, if you’re bed bound with compound hip fractures and have little muscle strength to do daily activities?).

Kris Wilkes, 59, is a former federal prosecutor and former litigator and senior partner at an international law firm in San Diego who has experienced the body- and life-changing benefits of weight training first hand. “I was in a very demanding career, often working 16 to 18 hours a day,” explains Wilkes, who took up weight training almost 20 years ago. “I would leave work feeling exhausted. But I forced myself to exercise after work. It became a great stress reliever for me. I started to feel euphoric because I was taking care of my body—not just using my mind as I did at work.” (Exercise, both cardio and weight training, is a proven mood booster.)

woman working out with dummbells

Dumbbells are an effective first step in any weight training program, but you need to switch up your routine every six weeks to prevent your muscles from getting used to it.

But Wilkes found that while cardio did help reduce her stress, it didn’t re-shape her body as she had expected. “I’d see these girls coming out of Gold’s Gym with amazing bodies—something that we just weren’t achieving in the aerobics studio next door,” explains Wilkes, who credits that with inspiring her to get a trainer and start lifting weights. “Of all the things I’ve done over the years—yoga, Pilates, running, step classes, CrossFit—weight lifting is the one that has truly sculpted my body and changed it, for the better.” (Wilkes has become such a fan of weight lifting, she competes regularly in International Federation of Bodybuilding competitions.)

In the Gym

The scene at the World Gym in Ft. Lauderdale, where Wilkes now lives, is impressive—and to the lay exerciser, a bit intimidating. Awe-inspiring photos of bodies sculpted at the gym line the walls and top-of-the line exercise equipment fills the floor. But it’s the members themselves who draw the most stares: muscles rippling, super-fit women and men can be found pumping iron, plenty of it. Wilkes is one of them—and is right at home. “I do 60 to 90 minutes of weights followed by 30 to 40 minutes of cardio, typically the StepMill or interval running,” says Wilkes, who works out 5 to 6 days a week and is unquestionably in the best shape—and health—of her life.


Don’t get intimidated by heavy weights; work your way up to using them.

But Wilkes doesn’t just lift some heavy weights and call it a day. She plans out her course of action—something a trainer taught her early on to sculpt her body and avoid injury—working different body parts on different days. “Some days I do chest, shoulders, and biceps, followed by a leg day, and then the next day, I’ll do back and triceps,” she says. “Then, on the last day, I’ll work my abs and calves. You really have to thoroughly train the areas you’re targeting to get results.” But a trainer is key, says Wilkes: “There are so many different things you can do at the gym to build muscle—and a trainer can help you figure everything out and come up with a plan.”

Ft-Lauderdale-based Burger agrees. “You have to get out of your comfort level to see results. When you’re 50 or older, you can’t just go and do some shoulder presses and curls with 5-pound weights. You’ve got to push yourself and build up to the next level. A trainer can help you do that. I have a 75-year-old client doing step-ups with 15-pound dumbbells; she didn’t start there. She had to work up to it, but she did—and she’s doing it—and she’s getting great results.”

man lifting weights in gym

Don’t worry about bulking up like this if you lift weights; the truth is…you won’t.

“There’s a persistent myth about weight lifting and women,” explains Wilkes. “Women think that if they lift heavy weights, they’re going to bulk up and look like a guy.” That’s just not happening, she says. “As we get older and our hormone levels start to drop, women have to fight for every shred of muscle we put on. We have to work really hard for it. We’re just not physically capable of bulking up like a guy. Sure, I want to fill out sagging skin with muscle, but I also want to be able to wear a dress and not look like a football player.”

The Fountain of Youth?

For women 50+, hormones and an aging body aren’t their best friends—but weight training can turn things around, something that Maria Liza Eden Giammaria, M.D., MPH, a vein specialist—based in New York and Ft. Lauderdale—discovered firsthand. “My father was ill with cancer and I was traveling between North Carolina, where he was, and my offices. At one point, when I turned 50, I had an awakening,” she says. “I was exhausted, I wasn’t working out, I wasn’t eating healthy, and I wasn’t sleeping. I felt toxic. I needed to work on me—and because I was so busy, I had to maximize my time. I wanted to get the best results in as little time as possible.” Enter weight lifting. As Eden Giammaria got more toned, she started eating better, lost weight, felt better about herself—and had a better overall mood—and even started to feel more empowered at work. “I want to gracefully embrace the aging process,” she says, adding that weight training has helped her do this.

Fifty was also the magic number for San Diego-based Meg Kruse, a personal trainer who’s now 56. Like Wilkes, Kruse is a regular at bodybuilding competitions, but Kruse never initially believed she could ever get to that point. “A trainer came up to me one day right around the time I turned 50 and suggested that I take my weight training to the next level because I had a beautiful back,” says Kruse. “When she said that, a little voice in my head said ‘You can’t do that. You’re too old. You’ve got wrinkles. Your right boob hangs down.’ But that made me even more determined to do it.” As her muscles grew, so did her self-esteem. Says Kruse: “As a woman, when you get stronger, you get more confident. There’s no question.”

This boost in self-esteem is a common side effect of taking on a challenge like weight lifting—particularly as you get older, says Michele Kerulis, LCPC, director of Sport & Health Psychology at the Adler School of Professional Psychology, in Chicago. “When you’re in your 50s and older, there are many body changes occurring that make seeing results in the gym extremely difficult,” explains Kerulis. “But that’s what makes setting, and achieving, goals like this that much more outstanding for women.”

Woman holding water bottle in gym

No matter what age you are, exercising—both cardio and strength training—can help you look younger.

“Having a goal to work toward keeps you young,” adds Carol Matthews, 68, a personal trainer in Ft. Lauderdale who regularly weight trains women 50+ (including women in their 80s and 90s, whom she trains in their nursing homes). And getting stronger is a goal, says Matthews, which should be on every woman’s fitness bucket list. “Every single woman should lift weights,” she says. “You’re never too old to start.” But Matthews also stresses the importance of balancing out the rest of your life, too: “Eat clean and healthy—and prep your food for the day so you have things with you—get plenty of rest, and get out there and do cardio, even if it’s walking. These all work together to help you live a strong, healthy, long life.” Kruse agrees, saying: “You need to feed your body fuel: good healthy protein [like lean meats, fish, eggs, and beans], vegetables, and healthy carbs.”

So weight training—along with living a healthy, balanced life—makes you stronger, boosts your health, and wards off disease. But there’s also a tiny bit of vanity that comes from being able to wear sleeveless dresses with ease and a boost of confidence that comes from being able to heft your own shopping bags or your suitcase, or even your grandkids, sans help. All are what keep growing numbers of women, like Wilkes and Kruse, committed to strength training. “So we’re getting older?” says Kruse. “Women who strength train are not going to break their hips and they’re not going to ride up the stairs in one of those trolley things. And we’re not going to head to the grave with a muffin top. I like to call what we’re doing aging gracefully—and actively.”

Getting Started

Looking to boost your strength and improve your health with weight training? Consistency is key. Start with a trainer (all gyms have them, or try a personal training center that can work with you—and your goals). Or gradually work your way up to a trainer with these easy strength training tips*:

Put on a walking vest. These adjustable weighted vests can be worn daily to transform your daily walks into strength-training ones.

Do body weight exercises. Push-ups are the easiest exercises to do. You need no equipment and can do them anywhere. Other good options include squats (for your legs) and crunches (for your abs).

Try resistance tubing. These stretchy, lightweight pieces of latex provide resistance (and strength training) when stretched. (Tip: the lighter the color of the tubing, the less resistance it offers.)

Do free weights (or use weight machines). Dumbbells are effective strength training tools. You can do everything from biceps curls (to strengthen the arms) and shoulder raises (to strengthen the shoulders) to weighted squats (to help boost muscle—and bone—in the legs). Weight machines at the gym are a more advanced way to build bone; a trainer can show you step-by-step how to use them.

Do 5 to 10 minutes of cardio before strength training (this warms up the muscle, helping to prevent injury). Then choose a weight or resistance level that will tire your muscles after 12 repetitions. (When you can do more than 15 reps without tiring, increase the amount of weight or resistance.) Plan to do two to three, 20- to 30-minute sessions a week, alternating days that you work on different body parts.

* Always check with your doctor before starting any exercise regimen so you don’t get hurt.

8 Best Cities for Cylists

Written by: on Sunday, September 7th, 2014
Woman With Road Bike

Biking is one of the best (and most fun) ways to get fit outdoors. You can burn 300+ calories an hour.

I love cycling — there’s just something about being out in nature, with just you and your bike! So happy to see that so many cities are featured here, but even if your city isn’t…you can still get out and ride: all you need is a bike and a helmet (a must). Look for local charity rides or races if you want to take your cycling up a notch; I like to find rides and races, though any local bike store will have info on local rides, too.


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Why I am still OBSESSED with SoulCycle

Written by: on Friday, June 27th, 2014
Indoor Cycling Class

Get ready to turn off the lights: SoulCycle classes are illuminated by candlelight, which adds to their aura.

By now, most people know about SoulCycle and their fiercely loyal pack of followers (of which, I admit, am one). Riders can be spotted from miles away with SoulCycle apparel and those telltale metallic shopping bags. Riders ‘like’ SoulCycle’s Instagram and Facebook posts religiously, enthusiastically share their success stories on the website, attend events where everyone is just as obsessed as they are, and rarely skip even just one regular cycling session (doing so has been known to provoke anxiety in even the most sane riders among us).

You definitely don’t see this kind of crazy obsessive enthusiasm in a gym. And that’s how—and why—SoulCycle (which has 29 studios across America) differs from your average workout.

The mantra of SoulCycle—which came onto the scene in 2006 thanks to founders Julie Rice and Elizbeth Cutler—is “Take your journey, change your body, find your soul”. This is what makes it unlike any other cycling studio or class. According to New York City-based rider-turned-instructor Amy Warshaw, “SoulCycle is about training your body, mind, and soul. In a city, which is all about competition, SoulCycle is about allowing yourself to be selfish during your ride. When an individual feels better about themselves they interact better with all those around them.”

Indoor Cycling

You can burn up to 500 (and sometimes more) calories in one 45-minute class.

In every 45- to 60-minute class, the instructor guides riders through steep hills, fast sprints, and arm-strengthening moves with one-, two-, three-, or five-pound hand weights. The playlists are always different—but inspiring—filling the studio with energy, power, and strength. Unlike most other cycling classes, SoulCycle promotes itself as an emotional experience that encourages self-improvement and discovery. A crystal is placed behind each instructor bike to encourage balance…a little out there, I admit, but it seems to work as there’s plenty of good energy in each class—and I always leave feeling energized and balanced.

I ride at the West 77th street SoulCycle four times a week—and yes, you could say it, I am literally obsessed just like everyone else who signs on for this workout. It makes me feel fit, healthy, strong—and happy (most likely the result of the feel-good hormones, called endorphins, that literally race through your body when you’re on a super-fast free ride).

There’s an energy, too, that makes you work harder—in both the class and in life. When you push yourself to get through a really tough ride, you just feel better about yourself. Since I started riding consistently at SoulCycle, I have a newfound sense of confidence and commitment to myself and what I can—and want to—do. Not surprising, says Warshaw, who says her favorite part of teaching is the feeling she gets when she walks into the room. “I have the opportunity to touch someone’s life,” she says, “to inspire them, make them smile, and push them harder than they ever thought possible.”

And that’s reason enough to get your butt off the couch and to class as often as possible. It’s also why—in a world where fitness fads come and go—SoulCycle is here to stay.


How I Lost 90 Pounds & Became An Athlete!

Written by: on Monday, January 6th, 2014
Weight Loss Success Story

BEFORE: Rachel At 236 pounds, 11 weeks after giving birth.

Weight Loss Success Story

AFTER: Rachel at 144 pounds…happy, healthy, and slim.

It was eleven weeks after Rachel Shapiro Cooper, 33, had her daughter, Colbie, and she distinctly remembers the moment. “I was sitting on the couch next to my beautiful new baby and my mother in law—and all I could think about was how physically uncomfortable I was. It completely devastated me. I didn’t want to be sitting next to my beautiful family feeling this way.”

At 236 pounds, Rachel—a theatre teacher at a charter school in Newark, NJ—had reached her highest weight, ever. “When I look at that picture now, I looked enormous and sad,” she says. “My thighs are as big as the couch. It was at that moment that I said I was never ever going to feel this way ever again.”

“Changing My Mindset”

“No one sits there and says I want to be obese one day,” says Rachel, “but it happens. And it happened to me because I ignored how my body was feeling—for so long. And that’s not normal.”

Weight Loss Success Story

Rachel, after, with her husband Brandon.

“Everything about your health is a choice,” she says, adding that you have the power to change your health and your weight—for the better. “For so long, I was told I was overweight when I wasn’t overweight. That was a really damaging thing. People around me created this false reality for me. I wasn’t as thin as other kids, but I wasn’t the fat kid either.”

“But then I started to believe what every one else was saying about me—and I believed I’d always be the fat kid. Then I told myself that it was okay to be chubby and I started developing these habits where I felt like I could eat more. And when I got pregnant, it got worse: I had two breakfasts because I felt like I was entitled to it.”

“But I’m done with that part of my life: I’m not going to eat more just to eat more,” says Rachel, who is now pregnant with her second child and is thinner, happier, and has more energy during this pregnancy than she ever did during her first pregnancy. “I’m proud to say I ran a 10K already during this pregnancy—and I felt great while I was doing it.”

“Learning About My Body”

Right after she gave birth the first time, Rachel received bad news about her health. “I found out that I was pre-diabetic; my sugar was high,” she explains. “Plus, my total cholesterol level was over 300.”

Motivational Sayings

One of Rachel’s favorite motivational sayings.

“And I thought: ‘Who have I become? I knew when I saw this picture that I couldn’t walk through life this way anymore. Before I was overweight, now I was sick and I had to get well.”

“Between being a new mom and feeling totally out of my element, I felt like some obese imposter walking around in my world in this huge unhealthy body,” she says.

After Rachel started losing weight, running, and feeling great about her body, she found a lump in her breast. “I have very dense breast tissue, but because I had been overweight, I hadn’t really known my breasts—or my body. And I thought: ‘How is it possible that I’m healthy for first time in my life and this happens? Thankfully everything turned out fine [it was fibrocystic breasts], but it’s amazing how many women are not familiar with their body and miss things like this.”

“When I was overweight, I didn’t want to know my body,” she says, explaining that so many people who are overweight feel the same way—and aren’t able to recognize bumps and lumps, aches and pains because they’re out of touch with themselves. “But I was killing myself by not wanting to know my body.”

“How I Lost the Weight”

Rachel shared the go-to strategies, below, that helped her to lose the 90 pounds (it took a year and a half)—and helped to make her a runner, too.

woman stepping on scale

You will lose pounds, says Rachel, if you address your food entitlement issues up front.

First and foremost, though, Rachel says you have to change your mindset about food. “We all have this absurd sense of entitlement about food: We tell ourselves that ‘We deserve to eat this or that’. It’s like a petulant child—and we need to remove the petulant child from weight loss,” explains Rachel. ‘This need for immediate gratification is why people are fat. We have no patience. We’re not willing to wait until another day to eat something.”

“But the truth is: If you didn’t get to eat it today, you can eat it another day,” she says. “That’s a huge part of what I had to master. There will other chances to eat that food, there will be other parties.”

The bottom line, Rachel says, is this: “If you don’t do anything to fix your weight issues, nothing will change. Taking charge of your life and your weight is completely in your hands.”

1. Make the decision to put yourself first. It’s so easy for people—particularly mothers—to put others first, says Rachel, but changing this is key to dropping pounds. “You have to retrain yourself. “I said ‘I’m going to lose weight’ and

Weight Loss Success Story after finishing a race.

Rachel—already pregnant with her second child—and Brandon after finishing her second half marathon.

‘I’m putting myself before everyone and everything’,” she says, explaining that by doing that it made her weight loss a priority. She made it a priority every week to attend Weight Watchers meetings, which were key to her success. She made it a priority to cook healthy foods and pack a healthy lunch—and snacks—for work every day. And she made it a priority to exercise.

“Now I get up at 5 am and run on the treadmill. On Saturdays and Sunday, my husband and I trade. I spend an hour and 10 minutes doing a long run and then he takes time to do it. And that’s part of my life now.”

“After making this decision to put myself first, my life completely opened up,” she says. “I was happy and completely present in my life—with my daughter, my husband, my friends, my job.”

2. Create do-able goals. “At first, I never thought I’d reach my goal,” says Rachel. “I kept trying to lose weight and would step on the scale after a week and had lost nothing. I was so depressed—which made me want to give up. I stopped caring, stopped believing. I had so much to go, I felt like it was impossible. I didn’t have faith in my body. I felt like it was broken, like it was not like other people’s. I was deeply ashamed.”

Calendar for Weight Loss

“I stopped looking at weight loss week by week—and instead looked at it over the course of 30 days,” says Rachel.

“Then my husband, my beautiful, wise, forgiving sweet husband brought me a proposal,” Rachel explains. “He thought my issues with weight loss had to do with the fear of not seeing results. I would stay on program and then not see a loss and then collapse and binge and then not see a loss and it was a vicious cycle. He knew the Weight Watchers plan was realistic and healthy (he is a doctor after all). He knew that if I could just take the pressure off of each week, I might see success and that might lead to momentum. Well, that it did! We embarked on the 30-day calendar.”

“Brandon helped me create a calendar with goals for my life on it and each day I simply stayed on program I crossed off a box and at the end of 30 days we would re-assess” she explains. “I kept going to my weekly meetings and by the end of the month I had lost 8 pounds after not losing any weight for the six months prior.”

“We kept using the calendar for 90 days and then I made it below 200 lbs. Then I noticed myself starting to feel like, ‘I may be able to do this’. “

3. Believe in everything YOU can accomplish. “I was never a runner and

Weight Loss Success Story

Rachel, and her friend Marianne, after successfully completing a race.

now I run countless 4 milers, four 10Ks, and even a half marathon. There are all these lies I was telling myself,” says Rachel, who says that believing in how you want to be—not how others see you or how you saw yourself—is key to turning your life around.

4. Keep track of everything you eat. Rachel credits her local Weight

Weight Watchers Mobile App

Rachel used the Weight Watchers Mobile App to keep track of what she ate. (Available free on the iTunes app store.)

Watchers meetings, which she attended regularly, with helping her learn how much she should be eating every day— and staying motivated. “I never used to write down what I ate. Who wants to write down that you ate a quart of lo mein?” she says, explaining a key weight-loss strategy of Weight Watchers. “Now I write down everything I eat every single day. I have a Weight Watchers tracker app on my phone that I write my food in. It takes two minutes—and it keeps me accountable.”

5. Be honest about what (and how much) you’re eating. While the food tracker app helps, Rachel also relies on friends to keep her accountable. “I have a friend, Marianne, and we e-mail our food to each other every day,” says Rachel, crediting Marianne with being “instrumental” to her success.

“We follow up with each other. We send the good, the bad, and the ugly to each other. There’s no greater gift you can give yourself than absolute dead honesty. The act of being accountable and honest transforms how I relate to food now. It’s not a secret anymore. Your secrets make you sick, and I was no longer willing to stay sick.”

“Having people around you, like Marianne, who know your goals and remind you of them, even when you’ve forgotten is key,” says Rachel. “Real friends don’t tell you it’s okay when you make a poor food choice. Real friends aren’t afraid to be your ‘mirror up to nature’.”

6. Take it one meal at a time. “Don’t think about how much weight you have to lose, focus on one meal at a time. Once you get through breakfast, that’s an accomplishment. Then you can move on to the next meal,” says Rachel. “What matters is how you manage your food in each moment.”

7. Prepare for ups and downs. Know that—despite everything you’re doing—you may not lose weight some weeks, says Rachel. “Weight loss is not one of those things that accidentally happens. The scale doesn’t lie. It will take a

Weight Loss Success Story

Rachel, with her friend Marianne, outside Weight Watchers, which guided her and helped her reach her goal.

while. There were weeks that I worked my butt off and I lost not one single pound. But again, I had to take the power away from immediate gratification and that feeling that ‘If I do everything I’m supposed to do, I should lose weight.’ Sometimes that just doesn’t happen. But you have to stick with it over the long haul to see the results—and you will see results.”

The Weight Watchers meetings helped Rachel with this aspect of her weight loss—as well as her entire journey. (After having reached her goal, she’s now a lifetime member.) “The Weight Watchers meetings were a place I went each week, on good weeks and bad,” she says. “It was the place where, for 30 minutes, I could brainstorm a challenge and get support. My leader, Kelly, (now my friend) and my fellow members shared in my victories and built me up when I felt like I could not keep going.”

8. Plan what you’re going to eat—before you go out. “I make a plan about food—and what I’m going to eat in social situations—and I stick to it,” says Rachel. “I determine beforehand if I’m going to have one glass of wine at a cocktail party. I write before I bite. Food is not a relationship I should be having. I want to put my emotions back into my relationships.”

“I always look at restaurant menu before going out to eat so I know what I’m going to have,” explains Rachel. “I always commit to a lean protein like seafood and sushi. And the best part: I eat it and can still leave the restaurant feeling great.”

“I mostly stay away from Mexican and Indian though because these cuisines are harder to portion out,” she says, “but nothing is off limits anymore. Generally, though, I try to stick to cuisines that are satisfying and healthy. I also have a two-drink minimum. My rule is: if I drink I’m never having dessert, and if I’m having dessert, I don’t drink.”

9. Add extra vegetables to everything. “I bulk up on veggies,” says Rachel.

Roasted Carrots and Zucchini

Every Sunday, Rachel roasts a big batch of vegetables to add to lunches, dinners, and snacks during the week.

“On Sundays, I roast a bunch of vegetables so I can chop them up and add them to meals all week long. I make sure to have lots of vegetables with every meal.”

10.  Steer clear of packaged foods. “It’s so much easier to cook things for yourself,” says Rachel. “Cooking really doesn’t take that much time—just a little bit of prep work.” For example, Rachel makes frozen white fillets of fish with puttanesca sauce. “It takes 20 minutes to cook,” she explains. Another favorite: Chicken sausage with diced veggies, sautéed with beets and mushrooms on bed of polenta. Turkey meatloaf is another go-to dish: Rachel makes a big batch on the weekends so she has enough for lunch during the week.

Communicating with your partner about your goals is so important, too, particularly when it comes to meals. Rachel credits her husband with helping her stay on track. “Brandon would find my Weight Watchers Point allowance for the day and make us romantic dinners that were delicious and good for me, too,” she explains.

“Putting it All Together”

Reaching Weight Watchers Goal

Rachel is now a lifetime member of Weight Watchers after having reached her goal.

When asked how it feels to be a Weight-Loss Success Story, Rachel had this to say: “I feel very blessed to be able to tell my story. The more you isolate yourself and tell yourself you have it all together, the worse you do. When you surrender to the fact that you need help, the more successful you are.”

“It’s okay to not be able to do it all by yourself. I was paralyzed because I never wanted to do the hard work, the soul searching.”

Weight Loss Success Story

“One of the reasons I love this picture is I’m completely in the moment with my daughter, Colbie Laia, and not worried about having it captured in a photo—which was always the case before I lost the weight,” says Rachel.

“I make no claims to be a master of this or a perfectionist. I just need to eat the right food every day. I need to drink 6 to 8 cups of water every day. And I need to work out 4 to 5 days a week.”

But the results are so worth it: “Now I get up in the morning and go to my job without worrying about what to wear or what’s going to fit. That’s so damaging to your confidence,” says Rachel, who admits to never having worn pants with zippers before. “I would always wear dresses and stockings because that’s what felt comfortable. I didn’t own a pair of jeans or black pants. In fact, I couldn’t stand buying clothes. Now I buy 6s and 8s—and they fit perfectly. I don’t have to worry about buying clothes any more.”

“Suddenly I’m the person who can manage my live and thrive and not feel like I’m drowning,” explains Rachel. “Now I don’t look at things that are hard and feel like I can’t do them. I look at things and think about how I can achieve them. That’s an amazing gift.”

Weight Loss Success Story

Rachel at her sister’s wedding—radiating happiness and confidence.

“I was at the mercy of food for 30 years,” she says. “Enough is enough. The way I look at it: Food is either going to nurture and sustain me or it’s going to bring me back to a place where I never want to go again. It’s my choice. And I’ve decided I’m not going back to that place ever again.”

“But weight is just the beginning. What I learned about myself and my potential and the resilience of the human spirit has honestly transformed my entire perspective,” says Rachel. “I am an athlete. Together with my husband, we race through 5ks and 10ks and a half marathon. I’ve crossed the finish line in my healthy, strong body that birthed my daughter, that danced at my wedding, that crumbled in sadness and hopelessness, and that healed itself from a lifetime of pain. I am so incredibly grateful and I can’t wait to see what’s next.”


4 Yoga Poses Every Runner Should be Doing

Written by: on Sunday, November 3rd, 2013

About 40 percent of running injuries are knee injuries. Often the culprit: weak quads, hips, or glute muscles.

Whether you’re running the New York City Marathon or just love to run around your local park (or on the treadmill), add yoga to your workout mix to gain flexibility and help prevent back and knee injuries.

Sure, you probably feel great—and feel strong and healthy. But the truth is, you probably have muscular imbalances (this is common in even the fittest of athletes). What this means, your stronger muscles are overcompensating for weak muscles you may not be using when you run.

These muscular imbalances put the wrong kind of pressure on the joints, which can trigger injury, explains Brad Jones, a former U.S. Olympic physical therapist and strength conditioning coach (and founder of b Project), in Carlsbad, California.

Runners are also prone to injury, particularly in the knees, because running is a high-impact activity that gives your joints a pounding, says Manhattan-based physical medicine and rehab specialist Nadya Swedan, M.D., author of The Active Woman’s Health and Fitness Handbook. Runner’s muscles are also tight and short (and inflexible)—why yoga is the perfect balance to elongate and loosen the muscles.

We got a chance to talk to Kiley Holliday, a yoga instructor at Pure Yoga, in New York City, who recommends these four yoga poses for runners*. (She helps runners get ready for the New York City Marathon—and teaches a 6-week New York Road Runners (NYRR) Yoga for Runners series, in New York.) Something to keep in mind when it comes to yoga: never force yourself into a pose; stop when your body is telling you to stop. “Respect your body,” as my own yoga instructor, Elaine Coburn, tells our class.


Also called a Runner's Lunge, this pose stretches the thigh, hamstring, and groin muscles.

1. Start in a forward fold at the top of the mat, bending the knees enough so that the hands can comfortably touch the ground.
2. Step the left foot to the back of the mat, so that the right knee is in line over the right ankle. Allow the left knee to drop onto the mat and untuck the toes. Frame the right foot with the hands.
3. Begin to slowly walk the hands backwards while straightening the front leg. Stop when the left hip is directly in line over the left knee. Flex the right foot, and lean the torso forward while engaging the core.
4. Inch the right foot (while keeping the leg straight) towards the left side of the mat and roll onto the pinky toe edge of that foot. Walk the hands towards the right and look over the right shoulder.
5. If possible, bend the arms until the forearms are on the mat.
6. Repeat on the other leg.

Opens the hips, hamstrings, groins, and hip flexors—as well as the chest, shoulders, and neck.


1. Start in a forward fold at the top of the mat, bending the knees enough so that the hands can comfortably touch the ground. Then, step the left foot to the back of the mat, so that the right knee is in line over the right ankle.

2. Drop the left knee onto the mat and untuck the toes. Then, inch the right foot towards the very edge of the mat, turn it out about 45 degrees and roll onto the pinky toe side of the foot.

3. Attempt to drop the forearms down on the ground inside the foot. If the forearms don’t reach, place a block underneath them. Try to get more of the top of the left thigh onto the mat.

4. Bend the left knee and reach for the outer edge of it with the right hand. It may be necessary to come off the forearms in order to reach the back foot.


To improve balance, rest the thigh of the forward leg (if necessary) on a chair seat.

1. Start in a forward fold at the top of the mat, bending the knees enough so that the hands can comfortably touch the ground.
2. Step the left foot to the back of the mat, so that the right knee is in line over the right ankle. Allow the left knee to drop onto the mat and untuck the toes.
3. Bend the right knee and lean forward, attempting to melt the top of the left thigh onto the mat. However, don’t let the right knee come beyond the toes. Keep the hands on the top of the right thigh for stability, or engage the core and lift the arms into the air with the palms facing each other. Squeeze the butt to take pressure out of the lower back.
4. Repeat with the left foot forward.

Do this pose, and you'll stretch your spine, shoulders, hips, and hamstrings.

1. Begin in a low lunge with the right foot forward. The right knee should be directly in line over the ankle and the hands should frame the front foot.
2. Step the left foot in closer to the top of the mat, keep the hips square, and attempt to straighten the front leg. If the hamstring is too tight to straighten the leg completely with the hands on the ground, place yoga blocks under each hand. Pull the low belly in, allow the neck to relax, and imagine that the torso will begin to touch the right leg.
3. Repeat with the left foot forward.
* Always consult your doctor before starting any exercise program as you could get injured.


Mom of Four: “I Never Thought I Could Be an Athlete”

Written by: on Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

Aurora with her four children and husband.

Just five years ago, San Diego-based Aurora Gonzalez Colello—now 40—was diagnosed with MS (multiple sclerosis); 10 lesions were discovered on her brain, through an MRI, after excruciating pain caused vision loss in one eye. She was told by her doctor not to exercise (heating up the body during exercise has been known to trigger MS symptoms like vision loss, fatigue, numbness, dizziness, memory problems, and balance problems) and to accept the fact that she had a progressive incurable disease and might never gain her full vision back.

This year, on Saturday, September 7—along with 5, 499 other athletes—she’ll swim almost a mile in the Pacific Ocean, bike almost 25 miles along


Aurora finds time to train whenever she can—sometimes fitting it in while her kids are at sports practice.

the Pacific Coast Highway in California, and run more than 6 miles along the sands of Zuma Beach—one of the largest beaches in Los Angeles County. Despite her doctor’s warnings about exercise and accepting her “fate”, Aurora is planning on finishing strong in the 27th annual Nautica Malibu Triathlon presented by Equinox.

“This is a race that I’ve been wanting to do. It’s a great race; it’s a beautiful place to race. I’ve been training hard for it,” says Aurora, who has taken not one of the 21 triathlons she’s already participated in for granted. “I started off with a sprint distance triathlon in a bay and gradually worked my way up to this point, with ocean swims.” Last year, she did a half IronMan (1.2 mile swim, 56-mile bike, and 13.1 mile run).

But ask this mom of four kids (ages 12, 10, 7, and 5)—all of whom are home-schooled by her—how she finds the time to train for an event like this, and she says: “If you want something bad enough, you’ll let go of the stuff that’s not important and fit it in.”

How she transformed her body—and took charge of her disease

Before she was diagnosed with MS (multiple sclerosis) in 2008, at the age of 35, Aurora never worried much about her body—or her health. “I was thin. I ate whatever I wanted (and didn’t really eat well) and never really needed to work out,” she says. “I thought: ‘I’m skinny so I’m healthy’. I couldn’t run a mile without stopping.”


Aurora finishing the ocean swim part of a triathlon (not easy!).

And then everything changed. Aurora started getting a pain in the back of her right eye that became excruciating. Then she lost her vision in that same eye.

After her diagnosis, she panicked. “I was scared,” she says. “I was in this constant paranoia about my health—and about what was going to happen to me and my body.”

Having been told she has a progressive incurable disease—and might never get her vision back—Aurora sent an e-mail to everyone she knew, asking their advice, experts they knew of who treated MS, and anyone they knew of with the disease. “I got a list of 15 to 20 names of people who I could talk to,” she explains. “One of those people was going to a holistic center. Another recommended an Ayurvedic neurologist. I went to see both.” That decision to break out of her box with regard to what could help her is what changed the course of Aurora’s illness—and her health—for the better.

“I had a lot of blood tests—and they came back saying I was deficient in just about every vitamin and mineral, including vitamin D and all the B vitamins,” says Aurora, who explains that’s what prompted her to radically change her diet and her lifestyle.

Exercise: While her conventional doctor told to be careful with exercise, Aurora researched the benefits of exercise and found that it could help MS patients. (One study, in particular, found that highly fit MS patients perform significantly better on tests of cognitive function


Fit, happy, and healthy—Aurora's whole life changed when she overhauled her diet and started training for triathlons.

than those less fit peers. The study, published in the journal Brain Research, found that highly fit MS patients actually had fewer brain lesions—which could account for the cognitive differences.

“The truth is I started training for a triathlon because my doctors told me I couldn’t,” she says. “I was very scared when I started training, but I started slow.” She also overhauled her diet with the help of the holistic medical center—and her Ayurvedic neurologist.

Diet:“My Ayurvedic neurologist taught me about herbs and eating to


Crossing the finish line with her kids!

prevent inflammation,” says Aurora. “Now I’m on an anti-inflammatory diet—no boxed or processed foods, only natural whole foods. It’s a Paleo way of eating.”

“I used to be addicted to sugar,” she says.  “I used to need my coffee with tons of sugar—and candy bars every day at 3 p.m. But the first thing I noticed when I changed my diet is that I wasn’t craving sugar any more.” (Sugar has been shown to create inflammation in the body.)

Lifestyle: “I have to get enough sleep,” says Aurora. “Sleep is huge for me. My neurologist told me I need to be in bed by 10 every night and get 11 or 12 hours of sleep. When I start slacking off on sleep, on my diet, on my supplements, the symptoms start: my arms get numb, I get shooting pain along the side of my face. As a result, I don’t slack off any more. I can’t.”

“It’s been 5 years now,” says Aurora. “All my lesions, every single one of them, are gone right now—and I know exactly what I need to do to keep the disease at bay. But the lesions and symptoms will come back if I start slacking off.”

“I didn’t know what healthy was until I experienced true health,” says Aurora, who founded a blog about living a healthy lifestyle. “I just wish more women would be open to this fact—so much of it is fitness and diet and how you’re living; just make these changes and you’ll see big benefits.”

“I’m an athlete now but I’d never thought I’d be this person,” says Aurora. “My husband even told me, ‘I can’t believe this is you.’”

Aurora’s Healthy Living Tips:

 • Re-think your mindset. “When I was first diagnosed, I was crying and so upset after hearing about the course of the disease and all the symptoms I’d be experiencing,” says Aurora. “But what I quickly came to realize is that having an illness is so much about your mindset. All the experts tell you what to expect; they put you in a box with symptoms. But each disease is unique to each individual; you don’t have to experience those symptoms.”

• Be open to things. “Whether you’re diagnosed with a disease or not, live a preventive life,” says Aurora. “Be open to things that may seem weird or out of the box like Ayurveda and natural or holistic or integrative medicine. These may be the things that can really help you; they’re about finding the root cause of your problem. They look at the whole person.”

Don’t be intimated by fitness. “Don’t ever say, “I could never run or do a race.’ Anyone can do it. Anyone can improve their fitness level,” says Aurora, who adds: “Work toward something. So many of us don’t ever give ourselves a chance to be what we want in the future. We limit ourselves. Don’t ever limit yourself.”

The quote I live my life by: “Life your life today like no one else so you’re not regretting it later on; don’t follow what everyone else is doing.”






The Workout You SHOULD be Doing

Written by: on Friday, August 23rd, 2013
Woman doing pushups

Push-ups are just one part of a bootcamp class.

There are plenty of exercise trends that come and go—but one workout that’s sticking around for the long haul: bootcamp. And for good reason. These non-stop exercise classes torch calories, a lot of them (about 500 to 1,000 calories per class)—and fat—and improve overall strength and conditioning. And who doesn’t want that?!

It’s the non-stop part of these workouts that’s the hardest. Most times, you exercise at your own pace for however long you want—and then stop. That’s what gets boring—and prevents you from seeing the results you want. Bootcamp classes keep you moving constantly thanks to interval training and switching up between pretty intense cardio and weight training.

We got a chance to try two different ones—on the beach and in the gym. Here’s what to expect at both (and how to find one near you):


The perfect spot for a workout!

On the beach: Cheryl Herzog—a trainer and owner of Surfside Fitness in Avalon, NJ.—has been offering bootcamp on the beach for 10 years now.

The class may seem intimidating at first, but waking up to a run on the beach, watching the waves roll in can be amazing!

The calorie-crunching routine: The class kick starts with a sprint down a stretch of the sand bar and back, followed by jumping jacks, lunges, and shuffles, all moves to get the heart pumping! This was followed with stretching exercises; push-ups, sit-ups, burpees, and squats. Then we moved on to stations that had been set up on the beach: one was a loop of push ups, sit-ups, spider crunches, and jumping jacks, while the other included a medicine ball toss, kettle bells, sand sprints, and rope tugs.

“The sand adds an unbelievable element that requires more stability, more power, and more coordination in every movement,” Herzog said, adding: “We incorporate 40 percent cardio, 40 percent high intensity training, and


When you can't do beach bootcamp, there's always this full-service fitness center, owned by Cheryl Herzog, which is open 365 days a year.

20 percent core and flexibility.” (Classes are $12 each; a 10-pack is $100.)

Indoors: Barry’s Bootcamp is one of the most well-known bootcamp franchises—with locations from West Hollywood to New York to London —and a celeb following that includes Jessica Biel, Katie Holmes, and even Kim Kardashion pre-Nori.

We got a chance to try it out at the Tribeca location in New York (1 York Street) with master instructor Natalie Raitano* (check out this woman’s sculpted body; if this is what bootcamp can do for your body, sign me up for the long haul!).

According to Raitano, the key to success during one of these 60-minute workouts is the 30-second blasts of cardio and the constant switching of activities that really keeps the body moving. Add to that some pretty intense music (click here to sample one instructor’s Spotify mix of hip-hop workout music), and you’ve got one pretty amazing workout.


Barry's Bootcamp master instructor Natalie Raitano and Kelsey O'Toole.

The calorie-crunching routine: The first half of Raitano’s class, we were stationed on treadmills at a 3 percent incline, running at 6 mph for one minute (not easy!), then climbing to 7 and 8 mph for what’s called a “warm-up” (but is so much more than that). We continued in intervals for 20 minutes, all the way up to a 10 percent incline sprint! You will sweat, guaranteed.

As if that wasn’t enough, the second half of the class focused on strength training: side-step squats (over a raised step) with weights of 10 to 20 lbs, followed by lateral side lunges, quick feet, normal squats with weights, and finally resistance-band exercises, which targeted the glutes and thighs. These blasts of cardio mixed with weight training and resistance are very challenging, but also fun! This class literally kicks butt! (1 class, $34; 10 classes, $320.)

To find a bootcamp in your area, check with your local gym, click on and search for workout bootcamps in your area, or just do a search for bootcamps in your own city or town. But before you sign up, check to see if there are any prerequisites—and if you’re concerned about whether you can handle a class, check with your doctor.

* Full disclosure: We got to take a free class, compliments of Chobani yogurt. No only did we get to burn calories and build muscle, we got to refuel afterward with a Peanut-Butter Chocolate Chobani Shake…not too bad!

A Butt-Blasting Commute (Try It!)

Written by: on Tuesday, May 14th, 2013
National Bike to Work Day

You can check your workout off your list when you ditch the car/bus/train for your bike.

So let’s get this straight: you get in your car (or onto the train or bus) to get to the office to…sit all day. Then you complain about not having time to work out. (Believe me, I’ve been there too!) Why not switch things up and take advantage of National Bike to Work Day (Friday, May 17): you’ll get your exercise in while you’re commuting (talk about multitasking!).

Okay, okay, I know the reasons why not (listed here), but I’ve countered with what I think are some pretty sensible (and practical) answers:

Women's Bike to Work Pants from Betabrand

Great stretchy Bike to Work pants from Betabrand; roll them up, and they have safety reflective strips. Plus, they have a higher rise in the back so you don't flash any motorists while you're riding!

I can’t bike to work. What the heck would I wear: sneakers and jeans? A valid point—which is why more men commute to work than women (it’s easier for guys to dress for the bike than women). But Betabrand is a company trying to change that: they’ve got super-great bike-to-work pants ($108;, above, and other clothing (for women and guys). But they also have a cool thinktank where you can send in your ideas about what you’d like to wear to work—and comment on design ideas: click on to give your feedback. (I’ve already submitted a few of my own comments!)

Where am I going to put my purse and my laptop—juggle it on my handlebars? Another good point! Even if you don’t travel with a laptop, you’ve still got your purse to

GiveLoveCycle Guilden Large Carryall Bike Bag

Handy carryall from GiveLoveCycle! It's waterproof, fits your helmet, and easily converts to a convenient backpack.

contend with. You definitely need a front basket (not so cool) or a back rack (much cooler; particularly the ones by Basil; But I also LOVE the GiveLoveCycle Guilden Large Carryall bag that doubles as a purse and backpack—and is even roomy enough to store your helmet! ($185;

That’s completely impractical; I work too far away to bike. Okay, I get it. But how far is too far: 15 miles or 60 miles? 15 miles or 20 miles is actually very do-able—60, not so do-able. Assess and then dowload the free app, Everytrail (for iPhone and Android), which allows you to see your route and your current position on your phone via Google Maps or satellite view.

I own a clunker—this bike will never make it any long distance. One word answer to that: Rent. Inquire at your local bike shop for rentals—and you’ll have wheels in no time. (NYC just instituted bike sharing…as have many other cities, so if you’re city-bound, this is an option for you.) Then, consider investing in a bike for your body—and your sanity. (There’s nothing like riding in the fresh air to clear your mind of needless worry and clutter!)

There’s no place to store my bike at work. You’d be surprised how many work places have bike racks outside somewhere (you’ve probably never looked for them!). Or just lock your bike to a pole…or see if you can store it somewhere inside. You never know until you ask!

New Schwinn Swift Helmet

New helmet from Schwinn ($34.99; has patented EZ snap clasp technology (which means no pinching or under-neck discomfort).

Worst case, you can’t bike to work…so Saturday, make it a point to get out on your bike for a butt-blasting (and calorie-blasting) ride. The average 145-pound person can burn up to 600 calories in an hour. It’s a great, low-impact workout—and great fun! But don’t be stupid (sorry, the only word I can use here): ALWAYS WEAR A HELMET!! I have no idea why people don’t (maybe it ruins your hair, doesn’t look good…blah, blah, blah). There are simply NO excuses for not wearing one!

Now get out there and ride!