Strong is the New Skinny…and Your Personal Fountain of Youth

Fitness. Strength. Movement. Stamina.

There are so many words I could write on the subject of personal fitness, so many studies I could quote. But I’m not going to. All I’m going to say is this, and should you doubt me, you just get to Googling:

The greatest gift you can ever give yourself is a lifestyle that includes physical fitness and regular weight-lifting. Fitness, my friends, is your personal fountain of youth.

Since today’s Feel Fit February topic is fitness, I’m going to share a little about my approach to staying lean and mean. Clean, healthy eating is only one part of being “fit”; moving your body, and moving it regularly, is the other.

Rather than repeat much of what I wrote last June (three days before my 40th) in 30 days to 40—Lesson 4: Stay Active, I strongly suggest you jump over and read that post. In it I cover:

  • My basic fitness regimen, which consists of 45-60 minute interval/circuit training sessions, about six days a week.
  • My favorite apps for tracking calories consumed and burned.
  • Essential gear for workouts.

Remember, before you start any exercise program, see your doc, do your homework, and be honest. Rome wasn’t built in a day…it might take you longer than you’d like, but YOU WILL GET THERE! Challenge yourself, listen to your body, and tell your doc or trainer about any injuries or health concerns before embarking on any plan.

At the gym, getting ready to beast myself.
At the gym, getting ready to beast myself.

My Training Tips

1. Schedule training on your calendar.
I’m pretty sure none of us is without responsibility of some sort, whether it’s a full-time job, kids, caregiving, or all of the above. As silly as it sounds, I schedule workouts with myself, literally writing them down my datebook, week after week. Seeing that time slot with GYM: UPPER or GYM: LOWER not only keeps it on my mind, it feels really nice when I can check it off.

Treat training sessions like any other important appointment…you wouldn’t cancel unless you were calling in sick, right? That’s the only time you should cancel a regular workout, too.

2. Two things I cannot live without in the gym: my iPod/music and weight gloves.
Music is essential to my workouts…nothing lights a fire under me than a good, fast track. Music is a great motivator, and helps prevent boredom, so get a few bumpin’ playlists set up and get moving.

With all the heavy weight I lift, I personally do not want calloused and torn man hands. Plus, open wounds in a public gym is a recipe for bacterial infection. So I always wear gloves, and also find they provide extra grip when you need it, like during overhead presses or kettle bell swings.

3. Leave your phone in your locker or car.
I have an iPhone, but prefer not to use it in the gym as an mp3 player for several reasons, the main being that I don’t want any calls or distractions. I use an iPod Touch so I have only my music with me, and nothing else.

Let’s face it: reading something on a device is one thing, but when your phone is with you, it’s tempting to answer an email or send a text message while on a cardio machine. You know what happens when you do that? Your legs slow down, because you’re too busy focusing your attention—and balance—on typing while moving. Trust me, I’ve seen it over and over. Not only are you not getting real cardio benefits when you slow down, when you…GASP!…actually take a call while you’re in the gym, you annoy the person beside you because you’re talking so loud, and you look like an idiot trying to work out and talk at the same time. Your calls, texts, emails can wait 60 minutes.

4. Make it count.
This is why #3 is so important. You’re only in the gym for maybe an hour a day, possibly only four or five hours a week, max. So be present, and give 150% while you’re there. When I see people on stationary bikes or the elliptical, on level one or trying to have a phone conversation and barely breaking a sweat, I just shake my head. If it’s their first day on a fitness program, that’s one thing. But after that you need to challenge yourself every time you step through the gym door. Be. THERE.

And keep moving. Resting a minute or two between sets is not effective and it’s unnecessary. The only rest you should have is the time it takes to lift a water bottle to your lips and drink, a towel to your face to wipe away the sweat, or walk to the water fountain. MOVE. Make it count.

5. Track everything you eat and drink using an app, for at least a month. Only then will you know the calories in your typical meals and snacks, and will really understand the level of activity required to burn off 400 or 500 calories or maintain a healthy weight. Think a little stroll will work off a morning muffin or a Five Guys burger? WRONG. Even my husband used to think that until he started tracking his calories.

For most women (I’m 5’7″ and pretty fit), walking for 30 minutes at a very brisk, four-mile-an-hour pace only burns about 149 calories. One Glorious Morning Muffin from Whole Foods is 200 calories. Capiche? 

And track those cocktails. Want a serious reality check? Add those glasses of wine or martinis to your daily food log and see how fast the calories add up. Then decide if they are worth it more than once a weekend.

6. Do reps in four counts of four. 
Below you’ll see sample routines designed by my trainer that call for 15 reps, usually. I prefer to do 16 instead. I count up, 1-2-3-4, then down, 4-3-2-1, twice. It has a nice cadence and reps don’t feel like they go on forever when I split it like that. Sometimes I do a two second stretch between the first eight and the last eight if I’m lifting a lot of weight.

Sample Routines

Following are some routines designed by my trainer that you may find helpful. If you’re unsure about any of the terminology, please Google. While I’d like to be able to demo each one or explain it, I just don’t have the time. But it’s all pretty standard stuff! Women’s Health magazine has a super fitness library that includes many of these exercises.

Alt = alternating
DB = dumbbell
KB = kettlebell

Each chunk of exercises is considered one set. Each set should be repeated three times before moving to the next set in a routine.

Another gym snap...about to hit it!
Another gym snap…about to hit it!

Routine 1
1. Plank with alt. shoulder taps-30
2. Band ab press- 20 each direction
3. Alt. reverse lunge-30

1. Alt. shoulder tap with push up over DB’s- 10-15
2. Band chops- 15-20 each direction
3. Alt. reverse lunges with DBs

1. Alt. Knee tuck (2) and one push up over DBs- 10-15
2. Staggered stance bent over DB row/ then 10 split squats- 10+10
3. Squat with med ball chest pass against wall-20

1. Plank with single arm DB row-10 per side
2. Squat with overhead toss against wall-20
3. Wall sit-30 seconds to 1 minute

1. Up downs over DBs-15
2. Squat with DB biceps curls-15
3. Tricep dips over DBs (or bench)-15
4. Jumping jacks with one DB-30

Routine 2
1. Mid cable Chops: 15 per side/ 17.5, 27.5 kg
2. Side plank with DB row, press: 15 per side/ 10, 15 lbs

1. Split squat into row on low cable (opposite arm/ leg): 15 per side/ 22.5, 37.5 kg
2. Push up into Side plank DB row, press: 6 per side/ 12, 20 lbs
3. Ab, pause and press on mid cable: 15 per side/ 17.5, 27.5 kg (focus on keeping abs tight)

1. Rows ( pull up) using smith machine bar, underhand grip: 10-15
2. Bent over reverse flys: bent over single leg with 5 lb plates for 20
3. Tricep push up on smith machine: 15
4. KB reverse lunge x 2, then squat jump without KBs (15-20 lb KBs).
Do 10. Then lateral jumps for 30, using KBs as guides.

1. Forearm plank on stability ball with alt leg/ glute raise: 20
2. Crunches on disc or BOSU: 20

Routine 3 with TRX
1. Alternating forward lunge with overhead extension: 20
2. Squat into row/reverse fly (big T): 15

1. Push up: 15
2. Rows: 15
3. Squat jumps: 20

1. Squat into superman: 15
2. Alt. jump lunges or reverse lunge: 20-30

1. Ad/abduction  into pike:15
2. Tricep extensions: 15
3. Squat into biceps curl: 15

1.Push up (feet in cradles): 10
2. Single leg split squat: regular, add a weight for n overhead press, or jump


PS: Alyson, the brain behind this series, ran the nicest feature last week on me. If you’re a new reader and want to learn a little more about me and my food/fitness outlook, be sure to read Meet: V of Grit & Glamour.


  1. I couldn’t agree with you more on your rules! Aside from #6 I do all of them. (I’m just getting into weight lifting so I’m not quite there yet for having a rule for it.)

    It drives me absolutely bonkers when I see people texting on their phone while working out. I totally agree with you–when you’re working out, WORK OUT. This is 90% of the reason why I like actually going to the gym as opposed to working out at home. It gives me space away from everything and just time to be by myself.

    1. Hi Courtney, thanks for your comment. I totally agree on working out at a gym rather than at home. I’m the same way! Plus, it can be quite inspiring to watch others working out, see their transformations, etc. I’ve met some really great people at my local Y!

  2. ahh…I will be able to wear head to toe spandex SOMEDAY soon. Trying to be realistic and smart losing this baby weight…Preston is 6 months old and I STILL have 9 pounds to pre baby weight…. I am hoping by summer it will all be off..since I am trying to do it the old fashioned way of ramped up workouts and eating a little less. We shall see.
    Your arms are RIDICULOUS…maybe an arm workout tutorial for us to follow? I know what to do…but they are the “regular ” weights that everyone does…do you do something different/special. Reps? etc? SHARE!!!!

  3. I love the idea of breaking down the repcounts into 4 sets of 4! I generally make a goal in my head to get to the 1/2 mark, and push myself through the remainder by reminding myself that I have only __ to go. For some crazy reason, this works for me. But I will definitely try the 4 sets of 4 method.

  4. This is so true. I started one of th0se TV advertised 90-day exercise programs and discovered that I couldn’t do a push up, a push up. I was one of those kids that could never do a chin up or climb the rope in gym class, but I was able to do push ups at one point. As a matter of fact, last May I went through a 6-week intense training fitness program and I remember being able to support myself in a push up position. Part of aging is that our strength disappears and the realization that mine is eroding and fast is actually what is making me feel old now that I am officially 40. Hopefully, in a few weeks after staying the course, I will see improvements.

  5. Wow, so informative and such great tips. I really should live my phone in my car, but I do if I’m there I’m going to make it count. I’ve been running more and more on the treadmill, thanks to FFF, and it’s been so invigorating. Eager to try some of the moves you’ve mentioned. It’s amazing how quickly your body can adapt and strengthen if you really work.

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