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Making Huge Gains with Weight Lifting

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Want to Make Huge Gains with Weight Lifting?

For those of you that follow me on my Facebook Page, or are friends with me on Facebook, you know I did a 40 day challenge to get us all ready for our summer bodies. One of my posts sparked a slew of comments and questions and I felt the information was so important that I’d write a blog post about it for everyone else to read. So here it goes:

Part 1

I know some might not like this – just MY opinion – but I noticed I’ve been taking all these gym classes and I do NOT feel sore at all afterward. Even the day I took 3 classes in a row – nothing. I was a little disappointed because I thought I’d at least feel a little sore. Somewhere. I mean, they’re different classes, something new for my body to experience, different routines, new exercises, faster, etc. But, nothing. I did a lot of thinking and one thing these classes all have in common (especially the weight lifting/power sculpt ones) they do too many reps, causing you to choose a much lighter weight than you might use out on the gym floor. You’re moving quickly to the beat of the music, to the instructor that’s flinging that weight around, and you CAN’T lift heavier. You have to choose a lighter weight otherwise you won’t be able to lift it for the 49th time. But that won’t build muscle. That builds endurance.
Someone said to me once: “But I sweat during my workouts. My muscles feel sore while I’m working out. I do multiple reps and sets and my arms/legs are killing me!” Feeling pain AS you’re lifting is not the same as building muscle. Let me explain.

If while you’re lifting weights, your arm starts to hurt, it gives out, it starts to burn — that’s just Lactic Acid building up. Your body has run out of the energy it needs to keep doing whatever it is you’re doing and you have to stop otherwise it sends out the lactic acid to “Burn you” to make you stop. That’s not the same as feeling soreness 24-48 hours later from your muscle being ripped apart, repairing themselves and rebuilding a bigger, stronger one. If you just wave your arm up and down really fast with no weight in your hand, eventually the ATP (energy) runs out, the lactic acid builds up, burns, and you can’t wave your arm around anymore. That’s not going to build muscle. It builds endurance. I was always taught that in order to BUILD muscle: You lift HEAVY. Slow reps. No more than 10 reps (if you can do more than 10-12 – it’s too light).
I normally do 25lb bicep curls, but in that class I was using 12lbs (the largest they had) and my arm quickly died because she made us do almost 30 reps fast. One class, the woman made us do 100 lunges with our right leg on a bosu ball without stopping. It was ridiculous. I really felt like I was going to hurt myself. The weirdest part was the next day – not sore. On Monday, I took 2 classes back to back and in both classes they did multiple shoulder exercises, some while you’re jumping around like a lunatic, I thought for sure something was going to rip as I whipped my arm all over the place. 2 days later – nothing. Not even sore. I initially took the classes mainly for the cardio, but since I have Leia, my puppy, to run with, I don’t need it. I can run with her for a half hour every day.

I also did it for fun, and to change up my routine. I took the Power Sculpt classes thinking I’d build SOME muscle. But, no pain, no gain. I can’t believe I felt nothing. I do a half hour of weightlifting in the weight room and I’m sore for days.
I decided to spend my gym time back to what I did years ago. What WORKED. Strictly lifting weights. Heavy weights. No cardio. Maybe a yoga class once in awhile to just to stretch and relax. I’m not building any muscle with the other classes, though. I can still burn a significant amount of calories lifting heavy weights and at least I’d build muscle while doing it. I don’t need endurance in my triceps! And, the cardio just makes me so damn hungry. When I only lift weights I’m not hungry at all. This week has been a constant struggle to not eat everything in sight.

Part 2

After my post last week about how I wasn’t ‘feeling it” with my gym classes and how I needed to go back to my old, old routine of lifting heavy, I got a lot of questions such as: What do you mean by heavy? How heavy is heavy? I can’t lift heavy – how am I supposed to lift heavy if I can’t lift the weight? How do I get to the next heaviest weight if I can’t lift it?
Let me explain what I meant. Let’s say, just for example, you are doing Bicep curls and you are using a 15lb weight but it’s getting too light: (you’re able to do 12+ reps or you never feel sore after working out your biceps or you’ve been lifting the SAME weight forever). Time to move up to the next weight. You try the 20lb weight but you can only do 5 reps. No problem. That’s okay. That’s normal. Think about it. You just did 5 reps of a heavier weight! Way to go! Here’s a few things you can do to make the 20lbs your “new” weight.

#1. You lift your 15lb weight for one set and then the 2nd set you lift the 20lb weight as many times as you can – 5 reps IS FINE! You do this every time until you can get up to 10 reps. It may take a few tries, a few sessions. Just keep trying. 5 reps one week. 6 the next, then 7, until you can get to 10. Once you do, no more 15lb weight. Stick with the 20lbs from now on. Woo hoo!

#2. You start with the 20lb weight FIRST. Your muscles aren’t fatigued yet and you are stronger. You try to lift as many as you can – maybe you can even do 6! and then you drop back to the 15lbs and do your usual 10+. Every session you start with the heavier weight, do as many as you can and then return to you lower weight to finish off your session.

#3. Drop sets. You start with 20lbs, do as many as you can (let’s say 6 reps), then immediately (no rest) grab the 15lbs and try to get to 10 reps (or as many as you can) then immediately grab a 10lb weight and do as many as you can, then grab a 7lb weight and do the same, then 5lbs. You are starting with the HEAVY weight when you are well rested – pushing yourself as far as you can, then putting less and less weight on it, but your muscles are fatigued so even though you are lifting lighter, your muscles are still fighting to lift when their fatigued. That builds the muscle.

#4. Start with the 15lb weight, do your set, then switch to 20lbs, do as many as you can, then grab a 25lb weight (don’t freak) and try to lift ONE measly rep (or as many as you can). I know a lot of you are saying “There’s no way” but here’s what you can do. Let’s say you can only do 1 rep of the 25lb weight – you can HELP yourself lift it. (Did you ever see a guy helping another guy do their last rep on a chest press? Same thing). Take 2 fingers and gently help your other arm lift the weight up by putting the 2 fingers under your other hand and lightly push up, then let go and SLOWLY let the weight return to the down position. Fight the gravity. (See picture above). I read that the down, negative, (against-gravity) part of the rep, is what really shapes that muscle. NO letting the weight DROP back down lazily. Slowly lower it. If you can barely do the 20lb weight, then stick with the 20lbs (don’t switch to 25lbs) and do this with the 20lb weight until you get up to the 10 full reps. Same deal.

There’s 4 ways you can help yourself get to the next heavier weight. Try one, try them all! Let me know how it works, or which one worked the best for you. You can do this with any body part, any free-weights, any machine.

I love hearing from you!

CHRISTINE ARDIGO – Author of Cheating to SurviveEvery Five Years & The Bridges Before Us

The greatest compliment you can give me is when you share this with others.
I sincerely appreciate it:

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Yes! You Can Do Obstacle Runs With Your Kids!

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Ridiculous Obstacle Course Races with your kids!  

I’ve participated in Mudd Runs, Spartan Races, and Obstacle Course runs, and last summer was the first time my youngest was old enough to participate – and she’s the athletic one in the family. When I saw this latest challenge I knew this would be a great way to include my daughters in the fun.

I strongly believe in doing activities with my children instead of spending money on objects they’ll be bored with in a few days, or will end up getting donated in the future. I love trying new things and I hope by showing my daughters what I do, or having them participate with me, they’ll in turn continue to be active when they’re adults. (And, maybe share these types of moments with their kids one day, too!)

I chose this ROC Race (looks cool, yes?) since my daughter was so young, but she proved to be braver than the two of us. Several times she said “I want to go first.” Or “I want to do that obstacle over. I want to try the harder route.” It really impressed me and made me proud. She ended kickin’ both our butts! I only hope I’m a good role model to them.

The best part was the fun we had. We laughed the whole time, pushed each other, and motivated each other through every obstacle. No fear! I kept saying: It’s not fear, it’s excitement, and it was! At the end, we wanted to do it again, and we’re sad that it was over.

I know a lot of people are afraid of these runs, but unless you’re competing for prizes or money, no one watches you or makes sure you’re doing the obstacles correctly or doing them at all. If you feel something is too hard or scary: you just skip it. No one is forcing you or pushing you. You can walk, You can stroll. You can run. You can help each other. It’s supposed to be fun for a reason. There were people of all different ages, physical fitness levels, old, young, overweight, men, women, kids, grandparents, etc.

I did a Mudd run with my girlfriends last year and we had nothing but fun. Some obstacles were hard, but we helped each other through all of them. We even helped strangers and they helped us back, cheering each other as we went!

My point being, have some fun this summer. Get a group of guys or gals, your kids, your spouse, and sign up for something. Enjoy the weather, do things you’ve never done before, push yourself out of your comfort zone, check it off your bucket list, and have a blast! Life is short. Memories last longer than ‘things’.

P.S. I started the ROC race hoping to inspire and motivate my kids. I wanted to push them out of their comfort zones and let them see their full potential. See how strong they really are. At the end of the day, they ended up doing it to me. There was a Marines challenge where you had to hold yourself in a chin-up pose for as long as you could hold it. Throughout the long day, many women tried. The woman that was able to hold it the longest, held it for 1 minute and 30 seconds! I watched as several of them tried and saw how difficult it was.

My daughters told me to do it. I initially told them no way. I hadn’t done a chin-up, or pull-up since my Cross-Fit days. I was lucky if I could hold it for 10 seconds let alone a MINUTE AND A HALF! To make matters worse, the Marines stood around as you did it and SCREAMED at you, called you names, tried to wear you down. I have to admit, I was afraid. Once I signed up, it was too late though.

I climbed up, held my arms in a chin-up pose, bent my knees, and closed my eyes, and tried to breathe. After the initial screaming at me that I wasn’t so special, as I hung there and they laughed at the girl in the pink shorts and pink polka-dot T-shirt, they started cheering me on. Everyone. The Marines. My daughters. The crowd that was forming. I had no idea how much time had passed, how long I was hanging there, but I felt strong. I could do this!

When I finally let go I had held on for 1 minute and 48 seconds!  I was the new champ. And, this was after 2 hours of running in the obstacle course!

Stepping out of your comfort zone is scary. But, when you do, it’s the most rewarding feeling ever. Just Do It!

Have you ever done any obstacle course, fun runs, Mudd runs? If so, I’d love to hear your stories! Which was your favorite? Which one would you sign up for this summer?

CHRISTINE ARDIGO – Author of Cheating to SurviveEvery Five Years & The Bridges Before Us

The greatest compliment you can give me is when you share this with others.
I sincerely appreciate it:

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Healthy (and Delicious) Meal Plans for Weight Loss

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Healthy & Delicious Meal Plans for Weight Loss

I’m often asked: “What do YOU eat every day? What’s a typical day look like in your life?” I decided to take up the task of taking photos of my typical meals. I hope these visuals help you make better choices with your own meals and snacks. I have many people ask me what they need to do to lose weight and when I tell them they grumble. They hope I mention some quick fix. A pill. A fat melter.

Recently, I spent almost 45 minutes giving a coworker advice and examples of some healthy alternatives, even mentioned specific food items that we have in the cafeteria, and then I see her a week later in the cafeteria eating a bacon cheeseburger, french fries, FOUR David’s Cookies and a 20 oz bottle of Coke. I seriously wanted to sit down in front of her with my salad and say “Are you even trying? Thanks for wasting 45 minutes of my time that day.”

I know it’s hard, but when I spend a great deal of my day helping people that I work with (when I should be seeing patients) I expect some degree if “trying.” At least make an attempt, and if you see me in the cafeteria, ask me what would be a good choice. Not say “Screw this, It’s too hard.”

Yes, I’m a tad angry today. Anyway, I am here to show you a few visuals of what I eat and if you have any questions, or suggestions please let me know! 🙂


My standard breakfast when I’m at work is one egg over well, with turkey, tomato, and onions, 8 oz skim milk.


If I’m off from work, I make a variety of Protein Shakes (Click to see recipes)

final protein shakes

Mid Morning Snack

I’m a creature of habit, and if something works for me, I use it. I’ve tried to just eat a piece or two of fruit, but recently while writing a lecture for COPD patients, I learned certain fruits like apples produce gas, which it turn bloats my stomach and makes it feel like it’s empty and then I just want to eat more! So I stick with my Kashi Go Lean (NOT Crunch) cereal, with 4 oz Skim milk, and some kind of berries: A high-protein, high-fiber snack.



When I’m at work, I usually choose whatever the protein is of the day, with a side salad. If there’s no good protein, I just grab some cold grilled chicken from the salad bar or a hard boiled egg. I drink a large glass of water with it, too. I used to eat that David’s double chocolate cookie every day, but have since given them up. After the holidays, the remodeling of my bathroom, a trip to Disney (with too many desserts) and we just rescued a puppy from a shelter, I am actually sickened by desserts. Yes, me.  I’m not saying I’ll never have them again, but enough was enough. My husband and I came home from Florida and removed the desserts from the house. He’s been eating cereal for breakfast and salads for lunch. Dinner is protein and veggies. He even gave up his rice!



I’m fortunate to have my hubby cook dinner every night and I usually have whatever the meat is, and then add raw fruits or veggies. I don’t eat potatoes, rice, etc, so veggies it usually is.

Salmon and cherry tomatoes:


Grilled chicken with fresh pears (I split this piece of chicken with my daughter)


Black Bean Edamame Burger



I havent eaten any desserts since Disney, but before the trip, I tried not to eat anything after dinner, but would occasionally have a small dessert before dinner like a chocolate chip cookie, or something healthier like these desserts (Click link for recipes). Since Disney, I don’t eat desserts at all, and instead I decided to immediately run downstairs to my basement and work out. (Distraction is awesome)! Then I play with the puppy. I take her for a walk around the block when it’s not pouring rain (or a Nor’easter hits us)! When it gets warmer, I plan to go for longer walks and jog with her. I’ve also noticed that since we adopted the puppy, she’s kept us SO busy (just like a toddler) I haven’t had time to even think of eating. Sometimes I just eat a bowl of cereal for dinner!


That’s usually my day. My breakfast and mid morning snack is point on, my lunch varies since I’m never really sure what they’ll have in the cafeteria, and my dinner is usually healthy and small. In the past, when I went off during lunch because something tempted me, I just had a very small dinner to try to counterbalance it. Since Disney though, I’m sticking to the salads with a protein and I’ve been bringing fruit in for my lunch dessert. (Today I had a clementine and yesterday I had a few mango pieces). If I have tea after lunch I’ve been bringing in a Stevia packet to put in, to save calories (and 1 carb) from the 3 packets of sugar I was using. Like I’ve always said: There comes a point in your life when something just “clicks”, and you get sick of the way you feel, the way you’re eating, the lack of exercise. Luckily that happens often for me. Don’t let the setbacks go on for too long, though.

My gym membership ended on November 30th, and I did not renew since I knew it was going to be a stressful month. I have a full gym in the basement though and have been back to my summer routine down there. My husband even started working out, too! Since I NEEDED to put our puppy on a strict time schedule, I decided to do the same for myself.

Meet Princess Leia!

What new techniques have you been trying since the New Year? Remember, it’s always a work in progress. There will always be ups & downs. Theres will always be obstacles.

I love hearing from you!

CHRISTINE ARDIGO – Author of Cheating to SurviveEvery Five Years & The Bridges Before Us

The greatest compliment you can give me is when you share this with others.
I sincerely appreciate it:

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