Summer’s Coming…You Can Run But You Cannot Hide

May 6, 2011 by  
Filed under Healthy

By: Susan Howard

Whether or not you go out drinking too much with your friends, go to the all-night drive-thru for that late night snack, hit the snooze on your alarm instead of taking a morning jog, one thing is for sure: summer is upon us.  You will be wearing fewer clothes, you will be pool side, you will be at a picnic in a summer dress or shorts.

Make all the excuses you want about why you have no time to workout and why it is impossible to make healthy food choices; the truth remains
–you want to feel good in your body.  If you’re like I am, you might have put on 5 or so pounds hibernating in the winter. Take advantage of the warmer weather and start making lighter meals like veggies, fruits, and salads.  Fire up the grill; it’s a great way to make a ton of lean, clean, amazing meals.  Don’t have a grill?  Why the hell not?  Go get one!

Salad –friend or foe?   I flipped my Trader Joe’s pre-made salad to see the calorie count.  At first it seemed great. 250 calories for the entire container of greens with some cheese, cabbage, and other stuff.  Then I read, “with dressing – 500″.  That little innocent cup of dressing was doubling my caloric intake.  How could that be?  Oil –even olive oil, a healthy fat –can really bump you up.  Luckily my least favorite thing is an over-dressed salad.

Be the annoying patron who asks for dressing on the side.  Then when your salad comes, grab the lemon from your water glass and squirt it on top of your salad. Sprinkle a bit of salt and pepper on top of that.  Then add a dip or two of the dressing.  Start light. You can always add more; you are in control.  This should appeal to the control freak in all of us.

Best Dressed:

Beware, store-bought dressings often contain trans fats in them.  Now that the FDA mandates that companies label their foods with trans fats, they have switched to partially hydrogenated oils, which are essentially the same cholesterol-raising, diabetes-giving, bad-for-you ingredient.  Those sneaky corporate devils.

Here’s a favorite at-home dressing that you can try. Make it in order as listed:

1 thinly-sliced shallot
1 small crushed garlic
½ juice from a lemon
½ juice from a lime
Salt and pepper
A squirt of  mustard
A spoonful of kalamata olive tapenade
A shot of olive oil and a quick splash of balsamic

Challenge: Workout everyday in the month of May. You owe yourself for all the winter screw-ups.  Repent with extra cardio, hikes, bikes, long dog walks, classes, whatever.  Try your very best not to miss a day even if it’s a quick 20 minutes of stair climbing and pushups.  Get it done.

Cool move of the month: JUMPING

After a 10-minute cardio warm up, set up a step you can jump up to.  Start with something you know you can do –like from the ground, up one step.  Try that 10 times.  Then find something higher and try 8 jumps.  Keeping going up in height and down in reps until you get to 2 reps. It’s really easy to set up if you have a step with risers like they have at a traditional gym, but even if you don’t, look around your house. You should be able to find 4 different-leveled things to safely jump onto.


On the take-off, drop your butt down and then spring through your heels, butt, and quads.

Land with bent knees. 

On the higher jumps, be sure to use your arms. 

Build slowly, gain confidence, and have fun. 

Up, up, up and away!

You can find out more about Susan on Susan Howard Fitness


[Photo Credit: kurafire]


Snap! Out of It

March 18, 2011 by  
Filed under Healthy

By: Susan Howard

fitness tips to get out of the same old dull routine

Spread your wings…

Do you find yourself treading the same pathways in your days?  Trudging to the same coffee shop in the am, pacing the same hallway on the phone, eating the same muted-looking foods, slumping down into the same couch?

As I’ve said before, when it comes to your workouts, when you are bored your body is bored, too.  If you keep feeding your body the same routine, it has no reason to adapt and therefore no changes happen, no gains.  Your body’s thinking, been there; done that; we got this.

One way to mix up your workout is to train in different ranges of motion.  Often we move front to back –running, lunges, hiking –and neglect moving laterally like you might in a game of tennis.

Even within a move like a squat I had always learned to squat down until my thighs were parallel to the ground and then come up.  Only when I started practicing butt-to-heel squats (assuming the knees are up for the task), did I realize the benefit in my hips, lower back, and glutes.  I had looked in awe upon my 80-year-old Asian neighbor in a full squat clipping her flowers.  How does she do it, I marveled?

She’s the warrior rock star, but I am at least working towards getting that type of range; I am in the game.  Don’t get discouraged if you are awful at these when you start –remember, you are waking up neuromuscular pathways that have been dormant for a while now.

My Grandma Eddie lost the ability to reach up to her cabinets. She never practiced reaching overhead and so her shoulders eventually ossified, closing down the possibility of reaching.

That is ultimately the reason we want to play with different ranges of motion: to keep ourselves open to new possibilities. Otherwise, we get stuck.  Not that the old way is wrong –we just don’t want to become limited to it.

Spread you wings and fly… sure you can!

Try these 3 super-cool moves:

Heel-to-Butt Squat (The Asian Grandmas)

Grab a bar or chair. Stand with your feet hips-width apart, (wider if you are tight in your hamstrings, hips, or back). Then, keeping your torso as erect as possible, lower your butt down towards your heels keeping your knees and feet inline, then come up to standing.  Be sure your heels don’t pop up, if they do, take your legs wider out. Try 3 sets of 10.  (If you have knee injuries skip this one.)

Military Press Plus (The George W Bush)

Grab a pair of light weights (5 lbs for women, 10 for guys).  Then make a “W” shape with your arms. Lift your chest up and depress your shoulders down, then press your arms overhead.  Be sure your hips don’t jut forward as you extend. If you need to, you can use a split stance for more stability.  3 sets of 15 reps.  (If you have rotator cuff issues try this one with no weight.)

Lateral Steps (The Shiripovas)

Grab a single weight and stand in a neutral position. Hold the weight in your left hand. Then, with your right foot, step to the right. Sink your butt down, keeping your spine long. Tap the weight to the right ankle then come back up to standing.  You can keep your right hand on your right knee for support.  Be sure to keep your knees in over your ankles and stick your butt back and shift your body weight into your heels. 3 sets, 10 reps on each side.


Use fresh ginger to snap up your meals.  It’s brown, looks like tree bark, but can really bump up the jam on boring veggies, chicken, or fish.  There is a sneaky way to peel it by rubbing a spoon across the skin, or just carefully chop the brow part off.  Then slice the middle into thin strips.  Real ginger has a ton of flavor so don’t get too aggressive; a one-inch hunk -minced -is perfect.


Blanch or steam some fresh string beans (don’t forget to snap the yucky ends off).

Then, cover the bottom of a pan with olive oil and or fish oil, minced fresh ginger, and a pinch of chili flakes.

Add scallions and blanched/steamed green beans.

Soon after, toss in some minced garlic.

Finish with a dash of soy sauce.

There you have it!

(You could just use ginger powder, but WHY are you being such a wimp, so pedestrian?  The real thing is so much better.   If you’ve never purchased fresh ginger I challenge you to jump outside of your comfort zone and find it!)



Susan Howard is a personal trainer in Los Angeles, you can read more about her philosophy at Susan Howard Fitness


Pack This

December 22, 2010 by  
Filed under Healthy

By: Susan Howard

Heading out on your holiday vacation? It’s easy to make excuses to skip workouts, pig out, and crumble into a drunken stupor.

Not this time! I am going to give you a few good reasons to keep up your routine and a great full body workout that you can pack in your suitcase.

A few tips to save you from making party fouls:

1.  Eat a chicken sandwich before you go to a party, that way you won’t be super hungry and make a bunch of unconscious food choices.  Then go ahead and enjoy a treat or two.

2.  With every cocktail, have a glass of water. Staying hydrated is very important, especially for the endurance drinker.

3.  Stay away from the punch, oftentimes it’s mixed with super sugary juice.  Stick with red wine or vodka and soda.

4.  Make yourself the designated driver, that way when you only have one and cut yourself off early you have an excuse, you’re not a party pooper, just safe.


Downward Dog, marching slowly through your legs

Cat and Cow, 5 breaths

Plank Pose with leg lifts, 10 on each side

Swimmers –from your stomach, lift opposite arm and opposite leg, 30 reps back and forth

Cannonball –with arms at sides, reach your finger tips toward your heels and extend your back and legs up, hold

10 push ups

25 crunches, knees to elbows

Rest for 1 minute then repeat 2 more times through.

Now put those holiday cookies aside already!


Divide And Conquer

April 21, 2010 by  
Filed under Healthy

By: Susan Howard

Split up your strength workouts this week to all lower body one day and all upper the next. At least two sets of each exercise.
This is more of an old school theory with the dudes wearing the weight belts and getting pumped up.
The thought these days is a more full body approach –trying to engage a bunch of body parts in one workout.
I agree with this more current idea, but it’s fun to go rewind sometimes. Those muscle dudes didn’t have it all wrong.
The cool thing about nailing one area is you get a bunch of micro tears and then it repairs and boom! –you have muscle.
If you haven’t been sore lately this is a surefire way to get some gains.
I won’t give you specifics, but if you aren’t sure what to do email me.
Change is good.

SONG PICK- for the rewind workout





I went old school with “It’s the end of the world as we know it.” REM

Get out your hair gel and ROCK this one.


Eggs are the new BLACK

Scrambled, fried, hard-boiled, however. If you can start your day with EGGS, protein in the morning is best for controlling your appetite through out the day.
Unlike cereals that tend to spike your glycogen levels, eggs are like The Little Engine That Could -they digest slow and steady.
Eating breakfast every morning starts your metabolism going.
There used to be boycott on the yolk part because of its cholesterol content, but it has since come out of it’s evil step sister statutes ?is this the right word? due to the fact that it is the good cholesterol HDL that the yolk has.
(If you have high cholesterol, 240 or higher, stick with the whites or do two whites and one yolk.)
My Grandma Eddie’s scramble.
So basic, but so good, I have spent years chasing these gems.
Crack two eggs in a bowl with a generous splash of 2% milk.
Then whip the pants off of them, using a fork in speedy circular motion.
Get your pan hot, medium high heat. (Don’t blow this step off, make sure it’s hot)
Throw a thin slice of butter in the pan and let it cover the bottom.
Toss the eggs in and start moving them around in the pan.
Sprinkle on some kosher salt and pepper.
Once eggs have firmed up, pop them on a plate.
Add a few fresh slices of tomato on the side and you have one of your veggie servings done for the day.
Add a piece of wheat toast dry or with a bit of jam and there you have it.
I know some mornings this is not possible, but it really is done start to finish in 5 minutes.
Either way eat something in the AM, you must. You simply must.



[Fitness image:]