inner engine fitness

building a better body

Weight Loss Basics

Everyone is looking for the perfect combination of food and exercise to lose weight. The front covers of fitness magazines taunt you with six-pack abs and new diet fads. They make it sound easy, but with just a sample workout and a few diet tips, your goal will still be elusive. I would like to provide you with a few starter steps that you can use to dial in your perfect combination for success without depriving yourself. Each person is different and will require an individualized plan to get the results that they want, but it is simple to come up with a beginning plan if you are willing to stick to the basics. So, how do you know where to start?
If you want to get a generalized idea about how many calories you should be eating, head to a calorie calculator site, like You will need to put in your age, height, weight, gender, and activity level to give you an idea about how many calories you should eat daily. Then figure out how many times you eat during the day and divide your calories pretty evenly between those meals. Make small changes, if needed, but make sure the calories are close to your total by the end of the day. For instance, if you know that lunch is always your biggest meal, make sure to shave off some calories from the other meals to compensate for the bigger meal.  Of course, strive to get most of your calories from whole food sources, as this will help to provide better fuel for your body.
As far as exercise, you can look at your daily habits and then start adding in exercises that appeal to you where you can. If you have a weight loss goal of one pound per week, you will need to reduce your calorie consumption by 250 cals/day and increase your activity by about 250 cals/day. Calories burned by exercise vary by person, so you will need to make sure that you are doing enough exercise to make the plan work. Walking is a great way to start, but be sure to add challenges or different exercises and get the most out of each workout.
This will give you a great baseline and will enable you to see how your plan works for you. Record your activities and keep a food journal to track your progress. Give it a couple of weeks and then check where you are. Did you lose weight? If you did, pat yourself on the back and continue the pattern until there is no change. If you didn’t, you will need to reduce your calories or increase your activity level to see progress next time. For example, pick more vigorous exercises or eat more green vegetables instead of heavier carbs like potatoes and rice. Each time, just tweak the formula to see results. It is a simple design, but it is not easy for everyone to stick with, so try to have patience and enjoy the journey.  Keep your goals in mind and know that you are in control of the outcome. Stick to it and you will succeed.

So, now you know a great way to find the perfect combination of diet and exercise to meet your needs. Keep in mind that when you need a break from the routine, take some time and relax a little. Enjoy a couple of items that you wouldn’t normally eat on your food plan. Then, after a day or two, jump right back to the routine and give it your all. When you work hard and get the feel for how to change your body for the better, you will start to see the benefits in energy and attitude, not to mention in your waistline. With patience and perseverance, you will make a significant difference in how you look and feel. And you don’t have to feel like you’re depriving yourself to do so!

As a side note, if you choose to do some resistance training, which I highly recommend, realize that if you don’t lose weight at first, that is normal.  You gain a bit of muscle at first that will help you lose fat further down the line.  You may need help from a fitness professional if you want to get into more specifics, but don’t stress if it takes you a few more weeks to start losing weight.  If you are interested in personal training sessions, leave a comment.

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Sleep and be healthy

Sleep is one of the most important aspects of our health.  It helps us recover from a long, stressful day, replenishing our cognitive and physical stores.  We all need slightly different amounts, ranging from 6 to 9 hours on average, but if we don’t get enough sleep repeatedly, we are asking for serious derailment of health and wellness.

We all know what it’s like to wake up after tossing and turning all night long.  It feels like the day is interminable and we will wait forever to get back in bed.  But, in addition to feeling tired, look at some of the choices that we might make during a day following poor sleep.  Most likely, we will need more coffee to get going in the morning, perhaps leading us to skip breakfast.  Maybe breakfast will come later in the morning in the shape of a doughnut or pastry accompanied by more caffeine.  Lunch may be missed, due to low cognitive processes and the same workload, or will find us famished after our plunge from the sugary snack earlier.  So, overindulgence could be likely, keeping us on the path to having even less energy for the rest of our long day as our bodies struggle to devote much-needed energy to digestion.  If we are somehow able to decompress later in the afternoon by having a nice walk or a short nap, we are the lucky ones.  We may be able to reverse the spiral.  But for many of us, the day is just too busy and obligations call, making the prospect of getting in a workout ever more daunting in our exhausted state.  Well, on to dinner, be it take-out or quickly prepared comfort food.  To top it all off, poor choices all day may come to roost in the form of digestive discomfort late at night, making it likely to interrupt our sleep again tonight.  Whew, I’m tired just thinking about it!

Now, let’s look at the pattern. When we’re tired, it’s common to take the easier route.  More coffee, no breakfast, sugary and comfort foods, little exercise.  Unfortunately, we often cave to our inner comfort side when we are less than awake.  It’s easy to go with the flow and not put in the effort when we can’t think straight and our bodies are tired.  Yikes, that doesn’t work well for overall health and fitness.

So, what should we do?  The answer is simple, but not always easy to follow.  We should take care not to drink or eat too much caffeine during the day, as this will keep our bodies awake long into the night.  Get a good exercise session in, preferably outdoors because the fresh air and exercise combine to promote wonderful sleep.  And last, but certainly not least, come up with a healthy bedtime routine that may include reading a light novel, shutting off our computers an hour before sleep, having a cup of bedtime caffeine-free tea, and snuggling with our favorite companion.  All of these activities will be sure to help us usher in a calming feeling and will promote good quality sleep.

There are many more ideas out there, so feel free to try some or all of these or other techniques and see how tomorrow finds you ready to make healthy choices.  Here’s to a healthy, well-rested tomorrow!

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Fresh Air Fitness

The sun has come out in Seattle, so many (or all!) of us are headed outside.  How will you spend your free time when the sun decides to shine where you live?  A good way to make sure you don’t miss a beat of the good weather is to consider adopting a new activity you’d like to try or by giving your usual exercise routine a slight makeover.  Whether it’s hiking a new trail or trying out a new activity, make the spring and summer weather count by getting a little vitamin D and fresh air!

Everyone knows that being outside is good for your health, but did you know that exercising outdoors gives you an extra calorie burn, not to mention engaging your brain in a bit more stimulation?  It’s true!  You gain a lot more from exercising outside than just feeling the fresh air on your face as you hike to the top of your local mountain.  So ditch your computer for a bit of walking meditation and reap the feel-good benefits!

What will be on your to-do list of outside activities this season?  Here are a few of my favorites to get some brainstorming started:

1.  Nothing says summer like a long bike ride.  You don’t have to rack up miles to get the benefit of a good ride.  Find some new hills for a challenge or just cruise along at a comfortable speed, taking time to notice nature as you go by.  You could even give yourself a destination like a favorite coffee shop!

2.  Explore new hikes in your area.  Whether you feel like heading out for a day-long trek or just a short jaunt, check out a website or pick up a book on trails to help you decide the day’s plan.  A good website for Washington is

3.  Take up a new sport like stand-up paddle-boarding.  This activity has taken Seattle by storm and is a really fun way to enjoy the sun and water without getting wet if you don’t want to.

4.  If you’ve gotten in the habit of walking or jogging the same route every time you head out to sweat, find a new path or just jazz up your routine with a few lunges or squats along the way.  Changing your normal routine will give you an added calorie burn and a mental spark by taking in new sights.  Maybe you live nearby or are willing to drive to one of these sweet spots in the greater Seattle area:

5.  Take the workout outside.  Trading the gym or the stationary machine for the backyard can be just the spice your routine needs.  Bodyweight exercises like push-ups, one-leg squats and lunges can easily be done in a park and may give you a bit more room to move.  Be creative and have fun!  Try a few new exercises and see how good it makes you feel.

It’s just a start, but I hope my list got your creative juices flowing and has spurred you into thinking of the outdoors in a fresh, calorie-burning kind of way!  Feel happier and healthier by treating yourself to a new experience outside.  It may just become your new favorite way to spend the long summer days!

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Put some spring into your step

Spring has sprung, so that means that it’s time to get moving again.  If you have been a little more sedentary the past few months and are feeling a little heavier than you would like to, just strap on those walking shoes and get outside.  This is a great time of year to renew your fitness goals and jump into action.


It is our body’s natural reaction to want to move more as our energy renews in the spring.  Use this natural desire to step into action!  Think about what you would like to achieve in the next month or two.  Keep the goals small and manageable, as those are the ones we tend to finish.  They also serve to spur us on and make us feel more in control of our lives and our bodies.


As an example, if you have never run in your life and would like to start, just begin with small steps.  First, make sure that you have a comfortable pair of shoes.  Then, start with a short distance and time commitment.  Each day, increase the distance little by little, walking farther each day of the month.  At the beginning of the next month, start with a few short bouts of jogging followed by walking.  Extend those short bursts to longer periods of time, and by the end of the next month, you will be ready to jog a longer distance.  Keep increasing the goals until you are running, say a quarter mile, then a half mile and so on.  By keeping the goals small, you will be able to increase your abilities slowly, thus making significant progress.  Keep track of your improvement and then look back at what you have achieved each month.  It does wonders for your motivation!


Now, it’s time to get moving!  Think of your small goal and then head out the door.  Walking is a great place to start.  You can simply just wander and admire the flowers.  I’m sure with the time to think and move you can come up with a perfect accomplishment to work toward for the spring.  Good luck and happy walking!

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Top of the Tower (Big Climb 2014)

Well, the Inner Engine Climbers made it to the top of the Columbia Tower yet again!  Thank you to everyone who participated with and supported the team in all of our efforts.  It feels so good to raise money for such a great cause and to push through limits to get to the top of a very tall building.  Both feats seem tough at certain points and it’s wonderful to know that we have many wonderful people to help get us through the event.  The summit is a lot harder to reach without a team behind you!  Thank you again and enjoy the pictures!  Until next year…

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Go Hawks!

Tomorrow is Blue Friday and time to get ready to watch the Seahawks win on Sunday!  If you are wondering what to prepare for your Super Feast, don’t ditch healthy foods altogether.  There are plenty of healthy green and blue foods out there to make for your Super Bowl party.  You don’t have to forego the blue and green cookie, but it will help you stay balanced and healthy!  Give these healthy blue and green ideas a go, and watch the magic work on Sunday!  Every little bit of fanthusiasm helps to support the Hawks, just like every little step toward healthy habits keeps you moving toward your goal :)

-Try a blue and green salad: You can start with a lettuce or spinach base and add blueberries, pumpkin seeds and feta cheese.  Light blue cheese dressing would work nicely on top.

-How about a blue and green fruit salad or fruit kebabs?  Use honey dew melon or kiwi and alternate with blueberries and apples with the skins cut off.  Use yogurt as a dip.

-Seahawks tortilla rolls would be fun.  Use flour tortillas, then spread with a little guacamole.  Add turkey and thinly sliced white cheddar cheese.  Serve with baked blue corn chips.

-Another great side to bring would be mashed blue potatoes.  They may be a little hard to find, but if you can get them, you could add this fun Seahawks dish to your spread. Just make sure to have some green tomatillo sauce to accompany it for the green extra!

Now that you have some ideas, have fun and stay healthy.  It shouldn’t be too hard after you whip up some nutritious, FANtastic treats to have on hand!  Try to sneak in a walk before the big event and then you can be sure to enjoy the game.  GO HAWKS!!!

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A Fresh Fall

Now that the weather has turned to crisp days and cold nights, it is time to spend some time thinking about your health goals. The summer gave you the ability to eat plenty of fresh fruits and veggies (I hope!), but the fall has its own pleasures and bounty. With the cooler weather, you tend to spend more time indoors and should use this time to contemplate how you are going to make some positive changes to your dietary routine.
To give your body a chance to step forward with the right foot, consider integrating some cleansing habits. Fall is a great time to jumpstart your system and get ready for the holidays. (Yes, they are just around the corner.) It may take a little time and effort to determine what type of cleanse is right for you, but I will give you a few tips on how to pick the best option for your body and mind.
First of all, look for something that gives your body the break it needs. For instance, if you eat out frequently, spending extra time home cooking could be just what’s in order for you. You may be unaware of how many added calories, hidden fat and salt is awaiting you at most restaurants. Another example would be for you to try cutting out meat while increasing the fresh produce you’re consuming for a while. Meat takes longer for your body to break down than fruits and vegetables (think days rather than hours), so choosing meatless options for a few meals a week or more could give your body more energy and get things moving in the right direction. The key is to think about the foods that have become your crutch and to pick a fun, healthy way to kick them to the curb.
Another thing to consider is the time you can devote to a little extra work. Some cleanses are just liquid, so as long as you are able to make the juice or liquid and save it for a day or two, it could cut back on your time in the kitchen. Think of all the preparation time in the kitchen you will save and can then use for other activities. Other cleanses have you making everything from scratch, so if you have a lot of time and want to hone your culinary skills, they would be a good choice for you. Preparation time is a big factor in sticking with a cleanse, so choose mindfully. (As a side note, I would check with your doctor before starting a liquid diet, as they are not meant for all individuals. They are also not the best option for weight loss. I do not personally recommend them, but I wanted to mention them as some people do experience benefits from participating in them.)
Cost is also a factor to consider. It is great to read about the amazing results that someone gets from their chosen cleanse, but think about if you can afford or want to spend the same amount of money they have spent at the grocery store. Most cleanses will tell you that organic is always preferable to non-organic produce. Sometimes that can mean a much larger food bill, so if you are participating in a cleanse with your significant other or housemate, you could really spend a lot more than you are used to. In this case, I would suggest staying as clean or organic with your choices as you can and then just wrapping it up after 3 or 4 days.
That brings me to the next deciding factor. Time is important, so choose a cleanse that will not be too much of a hardship to complete. It always feels best when you reach your goal, so pick a period of time that is short, but effective. Maybe you are new to this idea, so a 24-hour cleanse could be as long as you want to endure. If you have done a cleanse before, you may just want to challenge yourself with a three or five day cleanse. Remember, you can always add days if you’re feeling great and want to continue.
One of the amazing things about cleansing your body is that it helps you to pay more attention to what you put in your body and how it responds to those choices. It is a perfect time to pay more attention to how food makes you feel. Journal or take notes. That way you have a record of your thoughts and feelings the next time you embark on a change of diet. Choose something that will be a bit of a challenge for you, but won’t totally deprive you of everything you like about food. The idea is to give your body a rest, not throw yourself into shock!
Now, go make some healthy changes. Some will probably stick and others won’t, but consider this time of year a good time to pay attention to the choices you make and how they affect your well-being. Health and wellness comes from truly knowing what works for your body! Here’s to happy cleansing!

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Great websites for green home cleaning

It is becoming ever more evident that the products we are using to clean our homes are harmful to us. Unfortunately, these products are not regulated like we all expect them to be. Surprisingly, the product manufacturers are not required to list the ingredients on the bottles of our favorite cleaners, thus leaving us in the dark about what chemicals we should welcome into our homes.  Products are being let out into the marketplace before they are tested for safety on humans.  As a result, we are buying and using many cleaners that are incredibly harmful to our health, especially when used in combination with others. When we clean our windows, we spray ammonia and when we clean our floors we mop with petroleum solvents. Yikes!  Now, are you ready to become a little greener with your cleaners?

Okay, so  in order to arm you with the information you need to green up, not just clean up, I will direct you to a few websites that give you great alternatives to the products in your cabinet right now.  In my house, we use a lot of vinegar, a great overall cleaner that is cheap, easy to use, and pretty potent when mixed with lemon juice or baking soda, depending on what you want to clean.  Check out the first website listed for suggestions on using these three ingredients.  There are many options out there, though, if you want to use a store-bought cleaner or make your own.  You can even add fragrances that are appealing to you and label each product for separate uses in clean, recycled bottles.  Also, if you are interested in a campy documentary on the topic, look for Chemerical on Netflix or check out the second website listed below.  It follows one family as they try to convert to green cleaning in their homes.

Another important resource I’d like to share with you is a user-friendly site to look up any of the products in your bathrooms and kitchens.  It will give you the information that we should all get by reading the bottles in the stores, but don’t.  It grades each product, using A through F, based on impact to your health and the environment, as well as ingredient disclosure. You’ll probably be surprised by some of the information you find and hopefully you can use the websites to make the changes you want to make in your own home.   Now is the time to feel green and clean, so start changing your cleaning products today and you’ll be breathing fresher air tomorrow.  Here’s to happy and healthy cleaning!

Here are your sites:

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Small Steps to Fitness

There are many ways to incorporate activity into your busy schedule.  It doesn’t have to be an all or nothing endeavor, as many people think of exercise today.  Calorie-burning can fit neatly into your already-packed routine.  Here are some ideas on how to make that happen today!

First, you need to think about activities you enjoy doing.  That is one of the keys to making exercise become a permanent part of your life.  Maybe you like to dance or ride your bike.  Perhaps you are a natural at climbing stairs.  Maybe you like jumping rope or kick-boxing.  The sky is the limit.  Think of what you like to do and you will be more likely to keep doing it.  Believe me, there are enough activities out there to engage in that you can fit something fun and sweat-provoking into your routine.

The next step is to figure out how much time you can feasibly spend on the activity or activities you have chosen.  For instance, if you like to bike-ride, maybe you can wake up thirty minutes earlier in the morning to take your spin around the neighborhood.  (Hint: adrenaline feels a whole lot better than hitting your snooze button!)  If you like to dance, set a timer for ten minutes or pick a few songs to dance to while you are getting the coffee ready in the morning or getting dinner ready at night.   You can cut a rug in your living room until the aroma calls you back from your disco days.

It is quite possible that you only have small amounts of time, but don’t let that stop you!  You could take a break from your screen time at work to stretch or do a few calisthenics, like jumping jacks or jogging in place, for a minute or two at a time.  If you don’t like jumping, you could always do some push-ups, squats, or lunges.  Just take a one minute break every hour and you will have added at least eight minutes of brain boosting exercise to your busy day, without having to invest a ton of time at once.  You can also make several small changes, like standing while talking on the phone, taking the stairs, and parking far away from the office or the grocery store.  Think about what you are able to work into your schedule and make that time work for you!

After you have completed those steps, it is time to keep track of your increased activity.  Make a schedule that you can stick on your calendar or set up reminders on your phone to keep you on track.  If you record your activity, no matter how small the amount of time you have to devote to exercise, you will have made it a reality in your mind and on record.  You can follow your progress and make yourself accountable.  Start with small goals, adding something every week or month.  You can even track how many extra calories you burn, if that helps you with motivation.  For instance, My Fitness Pal is just one of a number of apps available for you to use.

To refresh, aim for a small increase to your activity level at first.  Let’s say ten minutes a day to start.  Frequency makes a difference when making a change in your routine, so make sure to fit it in somewhere.  The more seriously you take it, the less likely you are to give it up.  You can build from there, once you realize that it’s not as hard as you thought it was to incorporate activity into your busy life.  The key is to find the time hidden in your day.  You all have a few minutes that you could spend on activity every day.  All you need to do is to make a plan and start moving today!

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A Trail of Two Goals

I can’t think of a more beneficial way to spend the morning than to start it off with a fun and sporty 5K race, followed shortly by a tree planting event! Lucas and I took part in an event in our community called Healthy Earth, Healthy You and enjoyed a few early hours doing just that: taking care of our bodies and the earth! We chugged along a trail close to our house, feeling the surge of adrenaline and endorphins as we crossed the finish line. When we were re-hydrated and re-energized, we joined the after party as we found our individual trees to plant along the Duwamish River. It felt great to celebrate our accomplishment by lending a hand in creating a natural environment that will beautify the area and help to oxygenate the air!

I encourage all of you to spend the last few days of this month, deemed Earth Month, doing something to help the earth and yourself feel better. There are many volunteer opportunities in your community, if you just look for something that speaks to you. As well, it is good to step outside and take a walk around the neighborhood or visit a local park. Getting out in the open air will help your mind and your body feel great. We all have the ability to step outside and make a difference in our communities and our lives by being more active participants. Try it out and see how good it makes you feel!

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