Diet Confusion: Keto, Paleo, and Whole 30. What’s the difference?

There is a lot of confusion surrounding Keto, Paleo, and Whole 30 diet plans. Each plan is low in carbohydrates. However, there are some distinct differences. Let’s take a look at each one.

Paleo is simple in the fact that it doesn’t require that calories be counted or that you consume frequent portions of fat. It’s based on the premise that our bodies have been adversely affected by the environment and by the current food supply of processed junk which has only been around about 50 years. Paleo encourages you to return to how our ancestors ate- meats and vegetables, nothing processed, and no refined sugar.

Many people have experienced successful weight loss on paleo. However, after the initial weight loss, it is common to hit a plateau. Thus, adjustments in calories or carb intake is required to maintain continued results. Lower calories eventually results in cravings and hunger. Also, if a low calorie diet is maintained for too long, the body can reach a point where it will no longer respond.

The ketogenic diet is based in the biology of human metabolism. They believe that paleo followers eat too many carbohydrates and not enough fat. Keto followers claim that consuming fat reduces hunger and increases fullness. Some versions of Keto encourage getting fats from dairy products such as milk and cheese. However, the form I have followed avoids dairy and uses avocados, nuts, whole eggs, and fatty proteins (such as salmon or steak) as healthy fat sources.

Another main difference between paleo and Keto is consumption of sugars. Paleo avoids sugar and sugar substitutes but allows for natural sweeteners such as honey. Keto discourages all carb filled sweeteners and encourages sugar substitutes, such as stevia.

Keto involves getting into a state of ketosis, so your body is burning fat for fuel instead of sugar. Followers try to remain in this state for as long as possible. With Paleo, Ketosis is only achieved for very brief periods of time.

The Whole 30 diet is a stricter version of Paleo. It was designed to be more of a nutrition clean up or reset rather than a weight loss plan. Whole 30 eliminates all legumes, sugar, grains, dairy, alcohol, natural and artificial sweeteners, baked goods, and processed foods. The focus is on whole fresh foods like fruits and vegetables. Unlike Keto, even the starchy vegetables are permitted. Whole 30 allows absolutely no sweeteners, natural or unnatural. In contrast Paleo will permit natural sweeteners like honey. After 30 days you begin to slowly reintroduce foods and ingredients in order to find the cause of any bloating, digestive issues, or skin problems.

With Whole 30 there are no guidelines for macronutrients (protein, carbs, fats) as there is with Keto. It simply states which foods you can eat. Because Whole 30 eliminates legumes and whole grains, it is naturally low carb. However, it is not as low carb as Keto.

Because so many foods are restricted on Whole 30, weight loss is common. However, people often gain the weight back when they reintroduce foods back into their meal plan.

What do we do with all this information? There are a few things to take into consideration.

  1. Each one of us is very different. What works for me may not get the best results for you.
  2. Regardless of which plan you choose, cutting back on sugar and refined carbohydrates is beneficial and will most likely result in weight loss.
  3. Consider using a more strategic result, where you choose a plan based on goals. For example, when I’m trying to gain weight, control body fat, and build muscle I will choose a high carb plan in which the carbs are primarily from clean sources. When I’m leaning down for a photo shoot or competition I may carb cycle between low and high. At times I have used Keto to shed excess water and body fat after a vacation. Although all the programs I follow are comprised of whole foods, the carb and fat ratios vary significantly.
  4. Ask yourself if the plan is sustainable. No diet or meal plan will work unless it can be sustained. For this reason, I often use a medium carb plan with my clients that includes a variety of protein sources, healthy carbs, and good fats.

It’s important to know that the best meal plans might not adhere to one philosophy but rather include fundamentals from many different approaches. Sometimes when we become locked into one fad or one way of thinking, we can lose sight of the bigger picture. As I mentioned before, I prefer a more strategic approach where different plans are used and even combined to achieve desired results. However, the most important thing to remember is lifestyle and sustainability. Ultimately we don’t want to diet for the rest of our lives. We want to maintain healthy eating as a lifestyle.


As a bodybuilder I primarily workout alone. My coach provides me with a plan, a roadmap to achieving my goals. My workouts are structured and move in a set order, where I repeat the same sequence weekly. This doesn’t allow much room for a workout partner, because the plan is tailored specifically for me and would not fit their goals.

Although I am training alone, I am by no means on a solo path. I have learned over the years working with clients and in my own personal experiences that success is best obtained when we surround ourselves with a strong support system of like minded individuals.

This support system can take various forms. It could be small and just include a couple of friends or family members. It could simply be a coach or trainer that guides us. Even social media if handled correctly can bring some encouraging people into our lives.

For me, support and a positive impact has come in various forms. My family has been my rock both mentally and physically. My husband and oldest daughter have both traveled with me to shows, helping me to stay calm and focused. When we were at Masters Nationals my husband would heat up my meals. That may sound like a small gesture but believe me it’s a big deal. I was anxious, eating eight times a day, and the only hotel microwaves were several floors down with long lines of competitors doing the exact same thing. During both my on and off season my husband helps me meal prep and even follows a meal plan similar to mine.

I also have support from my coaches, Matt Allen and Wendy Fortino. They not only prepare my program but also help me with posing and are at the show two days in advance to help the team prepare. They have carried me through some pretty intense times of self doubt and discouragement over the past four years.

Another positive source in my life are the clients I coach. They cheer me on and get just as excited as I do about the competition.

And finally, I have the support of friends. Honestly, the most encouraging have been fellow gym goers, competitors on my team or whom I’ve met at shows, and some wonderful people on social media. Yes, a good portion of social media can be negative. However, I’ve also interacted with some amazing men and women who send kind messages, share their own fitness journey with me, or drop a line of encouragement on one of my posts.

Without all these people, it would be far more difficult to live this lifestyle. I’ve seen this many times in coaching. Someone will come to me wanting to make a transformation, change their lifestyle, or compete. If they have the support of friends and family coupled with my guidance, they typically are more likely to accomplish their goals. Yes the motivation must come from inside themselves rather than from outside circumstances. However, having that support makes it more likely they will follow through on their goals.

So what do you do if you have decided to make fitness a lifestyle and you don’t have that encouragement in your life? I have found five strategies that have helped me and my clients.

First of all it can help to communicate your concerns with loved ones. If they don’t share your enthusiasm for fitness, you can ask them to respect your desire to live a healthier lifestyle. I remember telling my husband I couldn’t go to the movies when on prep because of the smell of popcorn. He respected how I felt, and we focused on other activities.

Secondly, you may need to make some reasonable compromises with family and friends. I began competing when my kids were still young. We would always eat a healthy meal together as a family. However, my husband and I would provide some food choices on the side such as pasta, cheese, or salad dressing. I had to learn to do my thing without resenting the fact that they were having foods that weren’t on my plan. When we ate out, we compromised by going to restaurants I knew would accommodate requests such as no butter or sauces. My family still had the foods they wanted, and I was able to stay on track with my goal. The important thing was that we were enjoying the meal as a family. It didn’t really matter who was eating what.

Third, you may need to set boundaries for both yourself and those around you. This is particularly true when friends are the issue. They may want you to go out drinking or to a restaurant that has no meal options for you. Are you able to still be with your friends and avoid certain pitfalls? Sometimes we base our pleasure around things such as food or alcohol rather than simply enjoying someone’s company. However, the answer could also be to say no and ask friends to join you for different activities such as movies or coffee. If you are like me, there will be certain friends that left when my lifestyle changed. This can be painful, but ultimately I was saved by their rejection. It was something that needed to happen in order for me to move forward.

Fourth, is to seek some type of group support. It could be in the form of an exercise class, hiking club, or even a Facebook group of like minded people. When I first decided to seriously pursue fitness, I began attending group fitness classes and later I introduced yoga into my lifestyle. I found a collective energy and group spirit that encouraged me to move forward with my goals. These were people who were just as excited as myself to be attending the class. Fitness became something that was fun. Eventually I began teaching those very same classes and was naturally led into the career of coaching.

Fifth, coaches and trainers can be a great support. They will give you accountability and guidance needed to reach your goals. If this is something that isn’t in your budget, there are usually community resources to help. There are local biking, walking, running, and hiking groups that welcome new members. I currently train a hiking group that meets up twice weekly and travels together as well.

Support won’t always come knocking. It may require reaching out, compromising, or changing perspective. Sometimes we are all guilty of sitting back and automatically expecting people to understand and encourage us. I learned this one the hard way and was genuinely surprised. Those I thought would be the most supportive were the first to leave, while people I barely knew or never expected to understand were the ones to step forward and cheer me on.

The important thing is to realize that yes motivation must come from within. Yet, we were never designed to do life alone. Find those people who will encourage and challenge you to grow.

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5 Surefire Ways to Resist Food Cravings



I receive so many questions about food cravings. It is a topic that always comes up with my clients, people I chat with at the gym, or through the emails I receive. How do I manage them? WARNING! This is not your typical article where someone suggests you drink more water. PLEASE! That one always irritates me. When I was dealing with cravings, drinking more water left me bloated, and I still wanted dessert!

First of all I want to give a little history on my eating habits. When I was a teen and in my early twenties I had a problem with constant weight fluctuations. I would eat a whole lot of junk food, gain weight, and then crash diet until I took it back off. It was a pretty miserable form of weight control to say the least. In my mid-twenties I made a decision to leave the extremes behind me. I began to exercise and adopt healthier eating habits. I took up endurance sports like back packing, hiking, cross country skiing, competitive running, and cycling. When I was running marathons and doing century bike rides, I could consume a crazy amount of calories, mostly carbohydrates. The result was a low body weight but also very low muscle mass and surprisingly higher body fat. There was definitely still room for improvement with my eating habits.

After I took up weight lifting and competing in figure (a division of bodybuilding), I quickly learned that I needed to change my eating patterns to put on muscle. This included increasing protein, changing the type of carbs and fats I consumed, and giving up refined sugar. It took a long time, lots of research, and the advise of some seasoned bodybuilding coaches to figure out how and what to eat.

Finding the right type of nutrition plan was one thing but implementing it on a regular basis 365 days a year was quite another. After the first couple of shows I made the typical rookie mistakes and tried returning to my former eating habits. Food I had been denied through months of competition prep was everywhere, and I wanted it all. I knew this pattern was not sustainable and certainly not the lifestyle I wanted. So I started to really pay attention to my food triggers, habits, and how I was responding.  I came up with some concrete methods that have helped me control food cravings and stay consistent.

  1. I stopped adapting a damsel in distress mentality. If I state that I have no control over my actions, then I alleviate myself of all personal responsibility. Negative statements also send a strong signal to my brain which accepts those statements as valid. “I have to eat cookies with my lunch.” “There is no way I can eat a few chips. I want the whole bag.” “I must have bread when I go out to eat.””I have no self control.” All those negative statements had to be eliminated from my thinking. If I ate a cookie, it was because I wanted the cookie. If I had too many chips at a Mexican restaurant, so be it. Move on. Leave it behind and get right back on track.
  2. I accepted that there are no short cuts to building healthy habits. In order to transform my thinking and my body, I had to make changes and adapt consistent daily habits. I also needed to accept the fact that change was not easy and there was no quick fix. It took a lot of practice and time. There are no short cuts to success. We have to put in the effort.
  3. I adopted the mindset of a champion. Be an ordinary person who takes extraordinary action. So many people have told me, “I wish I had your self control.” It’s like they think I took some magic pill or was born with a special gene. I struggle like everyone else. I have off days, bad moods, aches, pains, struggles, and times where I would rather feel sorry for myself. It helps me to adapt the mindset of a champion. A champion is committed. They never give up. They persevere even when it’s difficult. It doesn’t matter if you are competitive or not. You can think and live like a champion. 
  4. I became very selective with how and when I enjoyed the foods I was craving. I accepted and acknowledged the cravings and then planned a meal or time where I could enjoy the foods I wanted. This is never an all out binge. Rather, it is a meal where I choose to have something I have been craving. I don’t judge the choice, fat content, or calories. For me, this is always a night out with my husband, where I am completely focused on the good conversation, nice wine, and the flavors of the food.
  5. I replaced a perception of deprivation with a feeling of power. It actually starts to feel good to say “no thank you” to a tempting food. I know that sounds ludicrous, and yes it is difficult in the beginning. But if you continue to make a habit of declining, a feeling of power replaces the perception of deprivation. You can also say yes to having a single portion of a food you are craving, and then call it quits when the meal is done. You do not have to live in a deprivation state of mind. You are in control of what you eat, when you eat, and how you feel about those food choices.

I hope you are not disappointed. I didn’t offer herbal tea, lemon water, or appetite suppressing supplements. There are a place for those things. Drinking water can help, if your thinking is aligned with your goals. However, if we don’t bring our mind along for the ride, no amount of herbal tea or cocoa powder will do the trick.




ACT: Take Control of Your Fitness



A little over a year ago I was featured in an article in the Albuquerque Journal. I had been training for the NPC Muscle Evolution Championships in San Jose, and I was asked how I kept myself motivated with exercise and nutrition. At the time I had been suffering with severe foot pain that I believed to be nerve damage from injuries I sustained as a competitive runner. I made a Facebook post about staying motivated despite setbacks that led to the interview in the local paper. Little did I know at the time, but my pain had nothing to do with nerve damage. Months later I was diagnosed with RA, an autoimmune disease that causes the body to attack it’s own joints.

So much has happened in the 14 months since that interview. I had actually forgotten some of my original responses. So I wanted to go back, reread the article, and see if my perspective about motivation had changed. What I found is that my beliefs are roughly the same, but I would express them much differently now then I did a year ago. I think this is a product of having faced health problems and seeing fitness and life in general through an entirely  different lens.

In the interview I described motivation as being an intentional choice and how the mind tends to accept positive thoughts as reality. I still believe those things to be true. However, I wanted to describe intentional choice just a little more clearly. I think we often see  motivation as the precursor. In other words, we feel like we must be motivated to be able to take action. However, this view can set us up for failure in a sense. What if I don’t feel like going to the gym or am a little down and don’t want to take that walk. How about food? Perhaps I really don’t want to eat healthier foods or smaller portion sizes? Then I find myself firmly on a path to either abandon my goals midstream or maybe not even bother to pursue them. I am constantly waiting for that feeling of motivation to save the day, much the same way we often wait for a blanket of happiness to cover us at some point in life. It’s just not realistic.

It’s funny because people always think I am naturally motivated all the time. Nothing could be further from the truth. I struggle like everyone else. However, I have learned that taking some type of action always helps. When I had back problems last fall and couldn’t get out of bed, I made it a point to take action with my mind through books and webinars. Oddly enough that is when I decided to start my fitness business. As I recovered I took small actions to become more physically active. And believe me they were very small. I did not have the strength to do much more. But, each little movement forward made me feel better about the future.

There is something I do when I coach clients called ACT: Accountability, Consistency, and Time. This fitness model is based on taking some type of consistent, intentional daily action. In turn, these actions build small habits. The more we practice these new habits, the more confident we become in our ability to stay fit. From this confidence flows the motivation. We like how we look or feel and are encouraged to continue. The point is consistent action leads to change and change brings motivation to achieve further progress. However, the process takes time.

So what can we do to build a sustainable fitness lifestyle over time? Here are the 3 pillars I use for myself and with my clients:

  1. Accountability: Find someone or something to be accountable to. This could be a workout buddy, personal trainer, or fitness coach. You may want to develop your own accountability system with a written food and exercise journal or use one of the many online sources, such as fitness apps or private Facebook groups. If you choose a coach or trainer, be sure that person is the best fit for your goals. I use both business and fitness coaches who have experience in a specific niche that is best for helping me achieve the things I need in order to be successful in both journeys.
  2. Consistency: Get consistent where you can. Choose at least one area where you can be consistent in both nutrition and exercise. Keep it simple, realistic, and honest. Make sure it is something that you can actually do. Try to avoid “an all or nothing” approach. Rather, just stay focused on some small changes that you can implement. For example, maybe you pack lunch each day or eat a healthy breakfast or lunch to avoid afternoon cravings. Perhaps you take a 10 to 20 minute walk each day. But again, make it something that is attainable.
  3. Time: Plan it! Set aside a realistic amount of time to exercise, and schedule it into your day like you would an appointment. In the beginning try to avoid long exercise bouts. Just stay within a certain time limit until your body becomes accustomed to the change. The beautiful thing with this concept is that you are in control of where, when, and how long. Also spend some time planning your nutrition. You don’t necessarily need to spend hours meal prepping. However, do map out some ways to be successful that could include using a meal service, having healthy alternatives available in your fridge, or packing a few items in your gym bag such as protein powder, tuna packets, or fruit so you are never caught hungry while on the go. If you eat out, take the time to choose restaurants that provide healthier options on their menus.

The point of all these steps is simply to take ACTION. I have had so many experiences where clients describe to me situations where they are held hostage by a lack of motivation to exercise or by constant food temptations. So, they take no action at all towards fitness, or they go all out and are quickly discouraged by setbacks. Consistent action encourages us to take control rather than feeling as if circumstances rule or lives.






3 Short Intense Workouts (Minimal Equipment)

The #1 reason people give for not being able to exercise is “NOT ENOUGH TIME. Here are 3 short, intense workouts that are 30 minutes or less.  30 minutes amounts to only 2% of your day! The key is to bring the focus and intensity to each session and be consistent to see results.

All 3 workouts use only a treadmill and dumbbells.  The first 2 are centered on muscle building and begin with 10 minutes cardio followed by 20 minutes of dumbbell exercises. The last workout is less than 30 minutes and blends cardio with short muscle segments for more of a fat loss emphasis. Give one a try and tell me what you think.

Workout #1: Treadmill & Legs

Treadmill for 10 minutes

  • Begin with 10 minutes of cardio on the treadmill. You can also use any other type of cardio equipment, such as the bike, elliptical, or stairs.
  • You will need two sets of dumbbells for the muscle segment that follows (one heavy and one light).
  • Adjust incline or speed up or down to accommodate your fitness level


Exercise Time Speed Incline
Walk 1 minute



Jog 1 minute



Jog 1 minute



Run 1 minute



Run *45 seconds



Walk *45 seconds



*Repeat the above 90 second interval (last two 45 second segments) until you have reached 10 minutes total on the treadmill 

Leg Circuit: 20 minutes

  • Do the exercises in the order listed below.
  • 5 exercises circuited 3 times for 20 minutes
  • If you finish too quickly increase weight, sets, or reps. If you are unable to complete all 3 rounds in 20 minutes, decrease weight or reps.
Exercise Reps Instructions
Walking Lunges 20 steps (10 ea. leg) Dumbbells held at your sides (weight is optional)
Bench step ups 10 each leg Dumbbells held at your sides (weight is optional)
Squat jumps 10 reps Can do pulsing squats if you don’t want to jump
Sumo Squat 15 reps Holding 1 single heavy dumbbell between the legs
Glute Bridges 10 full range reps followed by 10 pulsing reps Holding 1 single dumbbell at the hips

Workout #2: Treadmill & Shoulders

Treadmill for 10 minutes

Exercise Time Speed Incline
Incline walk 1 minute



Incline walk 1 minute



Incline walk 1 minute



Incline walk 1 minute



Incline walk 1 minute



Incline walk 1 minute



Incline walk 1 minute



Incline Walk 1 minute



Incline walk 1 minute



Incline walk 1 minute



Shoulder Circuit: 20 minutes

Exercise Reps Instructions
Overhead Shoulder Press 10 reps Seated palms facing forward
Front Raise 10 reps Standing, elbows have a slight  micro-bend
Rear delt reverse fly 10 reps Seated, chest to knees, slight bend in elbows
Lateral Raises 10 reps Use your heavier weight
Lateral Raises 10 reps Use your lighter weights

Workout #3: Cardio with Shoulders 24 minutes

  • You will need 1 set of moderate dumbbells positioned near your treadmill.
  • You will be getting on and off the treadmill

Exercise Time Speed Incline
Incline Walk 1 minute



Incline jog 1 minute



Incline run 1 minute



Incline walk 1 minute



Off Treadmill: Squat to Shoulder Press 1 minute
Off Treadmill: Push-ups 1 minute
Incline walk 1 minute



incline run 1 minute



incline run 1 minute



Incline Walk 1 minute



Squat to Overhead Shoulder Press off the treadmill 1 minute
Push ups off the treadmill 1 minute
*Incline walk 1 minute



*Incline run 1 minute



*Incline run 1 minute



*Incline Walk 1 minute



*Squat to Overhead Shoulder Press off the treadmill 1 minute
*Push ups off the treadmill 1 minute

*Repeat the last 6 minutes of the cardio muscle segment above to conclude with a total of 24 minutes. 

Why I Love the Sauna

It is no secret that I enjoy the sauna after my workout. Here are five reasons that I love the sauna.


  • Relief of joint pain. I was recently diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis and have found that the sauna eases the pain and stiffness, as well as lifting some of the fatigue associated with flare ups. This is due to an increase in the release of anti-inflammatory compounds such as noradrenaline, adrenaline, cortisol and growth hormones, as well as an increase in positive stress on the body, causing it to release natural pain-killing endorphins. A recent Finnish study in the American Journal of Medicine found that saunas can improve joint mobility in those with rheumatic disease.
  • Healthy heart and lower death rates from cardiovascular disease and stroke. A study tracked more than 2,000 Finnish men for nearly 20 years on average. Most used saunas at least once weekly. Those who used them four to seven times weekly received the greatest survival benefits. The study showed it lowers blood pressure and is good for the blood vessels.  The higher temperatures push heart rates to a rate that is often reached when performing moderate intensity physical exercise. This is not to indicate that sitting in the sauna is a substitute for exercise, but it is a good supplement to a consistent workout program. Of course, this study only looked at men. Thus the exact benefits for women has not been thoroughly researched.


  • Possible increase in athletic performance. A study conducted by the University of Otago in New Zealand found that male distance runners who did three weeks of post-training saunas increased their run time to exhaustion. This was attributed to an increase in blood and plasma volume from using the sauna. However, keep in mind benefits occurred over a period of time rather than immediately following the sauna use. As with exercise fatigue, leg strength and muscle endurance is lower immediately following sauna exposure.


  • Detoxification of the body from chemicals and environmental pollutants and boosting the immune system. The body is effective at eliminating toxins via the skin, but this only works if you make your body sweat. Many of us sit in air-conditioned indoor environments all day. We then go to gyms with temperature control where it can be more difficult to really sweat. A sauna can purify the body from the inside out, eliminating compounds such as PCB’s, metals and toxins that are stored in fat cells.
  • Softer skin. When your body begins to produces a deep sweat, the rate at which dead skin cells are replaced can be increased. Also, heavy sweating helps to remove bacteria out of the epidermal layer of the skin and the sweat ducts. The cleansing of pores causes increased capillary circulation, giving the skin a softer appearance. When you sweat, fluid is moved to the skin delivering nutrient and mineral-rich fluids to fill spaces around the cells, increasing firmness.



Sauna Facts

  • The history of the Finnish Sauna dates back to 1112. These saunas were dug in the ground and considered to be holy places like churches where even babies were born.
  • There are more saunas than cars in Finland.  The Finns consider their weekly sauna as a necessity.
  • A famous Finnish proverb says, “Build the sauna. Then the house.”
  • Most Finnish businesses have their own company sauna, as does the Parliament House, the Finnair lounge in the Helsinki airport, the Pyhasalmi zinc and copper mine ( its 4600 feet underground), every home, summer cottage, and apartment building.

  • When Finns travel, they bring their sauna. Those serving in the UN Peace Corps build tent saunas at every base. The western Finland town of Teuva, holds a mobile sauna rally every year where saunas are built into telephone booths, farm equipment, old cars and even on the back of bikes.
  • According to Finnish folklore, there is a sauna elf called a saunatonttu that is rumored to be magical.


Is there anyone who should not use the sauna?

Saunas are generally safe when used appropriately according to the University of Ottawa Heart Institute Prevention and Rehabilitation Centre. The general guidelines recommend avoiding extreme temperatures and staying in the sauna for an unreasonable or uncomfortable amount of time. Also, pregnant women, those with certain liver and kidney diseases, or people suffering from cardiac failure are advised to avoid sauna use. Progress slowly and allow time for your body to adjust to the heat. Always consult independently with your physician to determine if sauna use is acceptable for you.

It is recommended to drink at least half your weight in ounces of water and to be careful not to deplete calcium, magnesium and potassium. They are the tri-salts that are essential to a healthy detoxification.

Sauna etiquette

The sauna should be a place to reduce stress. Reconsider loud music, political discussions, and other controversial issues.


Beth Shapouri. Reviewed by John Varga, MD and Michael H. Welsman, MDHealth Monitor: Soothe your Rheumatoid Arthritis Aches. April 2013.

Beverly Merz. Harvard Health Publications Harvard Medical School. Sauna Use Linked to Longer Life, Fewer Heart Problems. Feb. 2015.

Keast ML, Adamo KB. The Finnish sauna bath and its use in patients with cardiovascular disease. J Cardiopulm Rehabil. 2000 Jul-Aug;20(4):225-30.

School of Medicine and Public Health: Sauna Induced Sweating Offers Many Health Benefits. University of Wisconsin Madison. Jan. 2011

Scoon GS, Hopkins WG, Mayhew S, Cotter JD. Effect of post-exercise sauna bathing on the endurance performance of competitive male runners. J Sci Med Sport. 2007 Aug;10(4):259-62. Epub 2006 Jul 31.

Hedley AM, Climstein M, Hansen R. The effects of acute heat exposure on muscular strength, muscular endurance, and muscular power in the euhydrated athlete. J Strength Cond Res. 2002 Aug;16(3):353-8.


Push-Pull Muscle System

I have trained my upper body muscles many different ways and have achieved results with each method. However, the workout split that has worked the best for me over the years has been the push-pull system. It involves training all the push muscles in one session and the pull muscles on a separate day. It allows certain muscle groups to rest completely while others are worked. This in turn lets me workout more often. Thus, I am able to train body parts multiple times a week without putting undo stress on my body.

Below is an example of one of my recent upper body push workouts:

Incline Dumbbell Chest Press: 4 sets X 15 reps

Tip: Using dumbbells instead of a barbell forces you to stabilize your shoulders and core the entire time. This balances strength on each side of your body. 

Incline Dumbbell Flyes: 4 sets X 15 reps

Tip: Keep a slight bend in the elbow. The movement will only happen at the shoulder joint and at the wrist, not at the elbow joint.

Barbell Chest Press: 3 sets X 20 reps

Tip: I used to do heavy chest presses but found that they caused me shoulder pain and I was not receiving the full benefit of the exercise. I now concentrate on maintaining a good range of motion, going higher rep , and pushing through my chest. 

Pec Dec Flyes: 3 sets X 15 reps

Tip: Pause at the top of the exercise (pads in) for a count of 3, squeezing the chest for maximum intensity.

Tricep Dips: 4 sets X 10 reps

Tip: You may use a dip assist machine, if you are new to this exercise and do not have the strength to perform it. These machines use weight to help you push your bodyweight.

Iso Lateral Shoulder Press: 4 sets X 15 reps

Tip: The Iso Press independently engages diverging and converging motions for equal strength development and muscle stimulation. Also, the back pad is angled 40 degrees for stabilization and to eliminate hyperextension of the spine. Keep tension on the muscles by not returning the weight to the stops until the set is complete.

Dumbbell Lateral Raises: 7 sets X 10 reps

Tip: Maintain the torso in a stationary position, lift the dumbbells to your side with a slight bend on the elbow and the hands slightly tilted forward as if pouring water in a glass. To keep resistance targeted to side delt, torso should be bent over slightly. 

Bent Over Reverse Dumbbell Flyes: 4 sets X 15 reps

Tip: I use an alternate grip that really targets my rear deltoids. Hold the top of the dumbbell as if pouring water out of a jug, pinky fingers facing out. 

Tricep Cable Rope Push Down: 3 sets X 15 reps

Tip: A slight bend forward at the waist allows me to really hit my triceps. Remember to keep the belly in, chest up, and booty out!

Tricep Cable Bar Pressdowns: 3 sets X 15 reps

Tip: I like to use the bar in addition to the rope, because the bar allows me to push more weight. 

Decline Weighted Sit ups: 3 sets X 20 reps

Tip: I like to imagine that my abs are the only way I can lift and lower my body with stability and control.

Dial up the Intensity: Legs & Glutes

1. Emphasize functional, multi-joint exercises such as squats, lunges, deadlifts, and step-ups which target the quads, hamstrings, and glutes. Isolation moves such as leg extensions and hamstring curls are good for improving definition and definitely hold a place in your leg routines. However, they should not comprise the bulk of your workout. In addition, you should train each leg muscle group from various angles for maximum muscle fiber recruitment.

2. Strengthen your core. Squats, lunges, and deadlifts all require core stability. The core is extensive including the rectus abdominis, obliques, back extensors, the lower head of the latisimus dorsi, (wings of the back), small spinal muscles, transverse abdominis, and glutes. These muscles work together to stabilize the body in space and in motion and to absorb shock during joint movement. Your body consists of a chain of intricate systems, and your core is the center of the muscular system. It controls your balance and keeps you on your feet.

3. Spend time pre and post workout foam rolling and using active release techniques. Doing so prior to your workout can aid in the prevention of injury. If you have any muscular imbalances, your body will constantly be compensating for your problem areas throughout the workout. I prepare my body for a workout session by using a foam roller on my calves and the outside of the IT band. I prefer the weight of a 10lb medicine ball for my adductors and the small Lacrosse Ball for treating specific glute and hip areas which affect my lower back. The small area of the Lacrosse Ball really allows the user to pinpoint the pain and release trigger points. When used before and after training, the Lacrosse Ball aids in preventing soreness as well.

This workout combines multi-joint exercises with isolation movements. Give it a try on your next leg day. However, be sure to adjust and modify according to your fitness level. Many of these exercises require a certain degree of core strength and muscle endurance.


  1. Squats on Smith Machine or Squat Bar: 4 sets X 12-15 reps  If you are uncomfortable with using the squat rack, try the Smith Machine.  When doing squats, you do not want all your mental focus to be on the weight on your back. This can affect your ability to engage the proper muscles. The Smith Machine offers a more comfortable alternative. 
  2. Smith Machine Sumo Squats: 4 sets X 15 reps  Use a wide stance.





  1. Leg Press: 3 sets  X 20 reps
  2. Smith Machine Split Bulgarian Squat/Single Leg Squat: 3 set X 12 reps


Hex Bar Deadlift (targets more quadriceps but engages less lower back, if you have back issues) OR Barbell or Smith Machine Stiff-Legged Deadlift (uses more hamstrings and glutes): 3 sets X 10-12 reps



  1. Prone Hamstring Curls: 4 sets X 12-15 reps
  2. Hip/Glute Thrusts on the hamstring machine: 4 sets X 15 reps



Cable Glute Kickbacks: 3 sets X 15 reps


Finisher: Weighted Tire Pushes Or Plate Pushes (not shown) Stay low to the ground. Strongly engage your abdominal muscles. Make your legs and glutes do the majority of the work and not your arms. 



Circuit Training: Push & Pull

In the first blog on circuit training, we explored various ways of structuring a circuit. You can focus on body weight exercises, a specific muscle group, elevating the heart rate through cardio, or a blend of all three methods. You may also consider combining push and pull exercises when designing your circuit. If you do a chest press and then immediately follow with a dumbbell shoulder press, you may lack the energy to properly engage the muscles for the shoulder exercise. Alternating push and pull exercises in your circuit allows one muscle group to rest while the other is working.

The tissue of push muscle groups contract when the weight is pushed away from the body. Chest, shoulders, triceps, quadriceps, glutes, and calves are considered push muscles. Pull muscles contract when the weight is pulled toward the body.  These include the back, biceps, hamstrings.

Here are two examples of push and pull circuits you can try. The first focuses on the upper body. The second is a lower body circuit. Perform each exercise in sequence without stopping. Repeat the circuit two more times for a total of 3 rounds.

Workout #1: Upper Body Push & Pull Circuit

Incline dumbbell chest press: 15 reps

Smith Machine Back Row: 15 reps


Dumbbell Shoulder Press: 15 reps


Barbell 21 Bicep Curl: 7 full range curls, 7 top half reps, and 7 bottom half reps


Tricep Dumbbell Skull Crusher: 15 reps


Workout #2: Lower Body Push & Pull Circuit

3/4 Hack Squat: 20 reps


Unilateral Hamstring Curls: 20 reps each leg


Plate Loaded Glute Kickback (standing donkey kicks): 20 double pump reps (top half pump followed by a full range repetition)


Seated Hamstring Curls: 20 reps


Seated Calf Raise: 20 reps followed by a slow count 10 second top half isometric hold









Spicy Italian Turkey Meatball Soup


As the weather becomes cooler, I enjoy making comforting soups and stews. Try this healthy alternative to traditional meatballs!


Trader Joes Olive Oil Spray

1 cup chopped onion

3 cloves minced fresh garlic

1 Serrano pepper, finely chopped

1/2 cup red bell pepper

1/2 cup orange bell pepper

1/2 cup green bell pepper

1 cup sliced mushrooms

1 24 oz can fire-roasted crushed or diced tomatoes

1 32 oz low sodium chicken broth

1/2 cup nonfat milk

1/2 cup coarsely crushed gluten free bread crumbs

1 egg

1/4 cup reduced fat Parmesan cheese (OR Go Veggie! Vegan Grated Parmesan Cheese)

1 lb Ground Turkey Breast

1/3 cup fresh chopped parsley

Place bread crumbs in a large mixing bowl with 1/2 cup of nonfat milk to soak for 5 minutes. While they are soaking, spray the bottom of a stock pot with Olive Oil spray. Add onion, garlic, peppers, and mushrooms and heat on medium heat for 3 minutes. Add tomatoes and continue heating for 2 more minutes, being careful not to burn vegetable mixture. Add chicken broth. 

While the broth is heating, add egg, parmesan, ground turkey, and parsley to the bread crumb mixture. Blend thoroughly with hands and form into medium sized meatballs. Don’t worry if meatballs seem a little soggy. Turkey breast is very lean and will dry out if you add too many bread crumbs. Drop the turkey meatballs into the vegetable broth mixture in stock pot and cook over medium heat until turkey is cooked through (about 10 minutes). Reduce heat to low, cover pot, and simmer. 

Serve as a soup with a fresh salad as a side dish.