The Core of Balance


 Any guru will tell you balance is the key to any venture whether it be in health or business, balance is imperative.  Thomas Merton said, and it is all too true, “Happiness is not a matter of intensity, but of balance and order and rhythm and harmony.”  Balance important to your physical health, the heart of this balance being your core.

 Our core is overall misunderstood and improperly trained by individuals and fitness professionals alike.  So lets start with the basics-any muscle involved in maintaining neutral spine is a core muscle.  Functioning in all three planes of motion, in addition to superficial musculature like the obliques and rectus abdominus, core muscles are deep, including the pelvic floor, transverse abdominis, multifidus, and diaphragm among others; muscles that connect to the spine, pelvis and shoulders.

 An easy way to see your "core" in action is to hold a heavy item in one hand.  As the offset weight pulls you to one side core musculature works to maintain/pull you back into a neutral spine position.  This is core stability-the ability to control the motion of the trunk over pelvis to allow optimum production, transfer, and control of force in movement.  Core stability promotes good posture, reduces the chance of back pain and injury, and provides a sound foundation for all arm and leg movements.

 Now that we have a better understanding of what our core is, where do we begin to strengthen and improve stability? Start with an isometric or static movements like front and side planks, quadrapeds, or 1 leg bridges, to test the ability of your core to maintain stability in a compromised position. If these movements are simple and can be held over a period of time, you’re ready for more complex movements.  It’s important to first achieve core stability, then comfortably more to more complex dynamic movements.  Functional movements like deadlifts, offset walking lunges, overhead squats, pushups, and kettlebell training are extremely effective not only for strength gains, but for improvements in efficient movement and long term health and mobility.  A single arm kettle swing can induce as much as 180% of max voluntary muscle contraction versus that of a plank.  With this movement your body is being forced to stabilize the spine quickly over and over.  

 Another important factor when discussing core stability and strength is our central nervous system.  When we move our CNS responds to stimuli by recruiting specific muscles in response to those stimuli.  What muscles fire and when is very important in providing stability.  Training on uneven surfaces like BOSU trainers and balance boards not only improve stability, but enhance the ability of your CNS to respond effectively.  Lucky for us we have a wonderful uneven surface to train on that is 100% free-the beach!

  The goal is to make every movement a core stability exercise. There is no such thing as an exercise that works only one muscle group – your core is always working in any activity.  Balance is all too important in every area of life, especially structural integrity and mobility.  With little effort you can incorporate balance into your life!


               The best and safest thing is to keep a balance in your life, acknowledge the great powers around us and in us. If you can do that, and live that way, you are really a wise man.


Beth Harris, BS, CSCS, HFS, CHC

*Featured in the Ponte Vedra Recorder*

Ponte Vedra Beach Fit Index


It’s here! The American College of Sports Medicine’s 2013 index of fittest, and least fit cities.  The American Fitness Index ranks 50 of the US’s major metro cities based on recommended benchmarks for a healthy population.  Snuggled up to our closest metro city of Jacksonville we should all be curious at the result.
 Out of 50 cities Jacksonville ranked 37th, a drop from last years ranking of 35th.  From 2012 to 2013 obesity rates increased from 26% to 30.7%; population in very good health decreased from 58% to 52%; smokers increased from 17%% to 20.1%, and individuals active within the last 30 days decreased from 72.1% to 70.1%.  Jacksonville is not alone.
 Many cities experienced decreases in hoped for healthful outcomes.  According to recent self reported physical activity data, only 49% of American adults are participating in the national minimum physical activity recommendations.  The CDC reports this number is closer to 20%, or 1 in 5 Americans.  That’s staggering!  Amidst all the commotion, one might wonder, is exercise really so important?
 Physical activity offers a host of health benefits, so much so we now know it’s detrimental not to exercise.  While many of us start working out, the majority are not successful in maintaining.  Maintaining exercise is officially reached once you’ve been consistent for at least 6 months.  What separates the haves from the have nots?  Is there a special genetic predisposition for those able to continue long term?  No magic formula here!  Self efficacy is the name of the game.
 Basically, how confident are you in your ability to maintain exercising even when things get tough or you fall off track?  Developing an action plan is extremely important!  When will your workouts be, where, what, and with who?  What obstacles might show up that would hinder your exercise program?  What are several ways to overcome those obstacles?  Even if you play this scenario out only in your head, you’ll be more prepared when disaster strikes.  A death in the family, having to work overtime, a child gets sick, recovering from vacation; the question is not will something happen, but when?  Just as Murphy’s Law states: what can go wrong, will go wrong.  Life isn’t about being perfect, it’s about having a sound plan B!  
 Another strong indicator of whether or not you’ll stay on track, whether you really want it.  Do you want to be healthier for you, or are you doing it for your spouse?  Are you doing something you like to do, or something your friend likes to do.  Do you feel pressured to lose weight, or do you really want to do it for you?  Do you have support from your friends, family, or coworkers?  All of these factors with play a pivotal role in your long term success.  
 Aristotle once said, “We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”  Trust you will find your niche.  Believe in the process of trial and error.  Exercise is for everyone, in their own way, in their own time.  The trick is to believe you’ll get there, and no matter what: never, ever give up.

~Beth Harris, BS, CSCS, HFS, CHC

Ten Tips to live by

  Let’s demystify weight loss & maintenance.  By popular demand I’ve put together ten tips to live for maintaining healthy body weight. 

  1. Drink lots of water.  If you don’t give your body water it holds onto it tenaciously so it doesn’t run out.  Water suppresses appetite, reduces sodium buildup, aids in waste and toxin elimination, helps maintain muscle tone, and even reduces fat deposits in the body.  If your kidneys don’t get enough water your liver becomes overloaded and can’t perform efficiently, namely-metabolizing fat!  Try to drink at least a gallon per day, that’s 128oz.  Spread your consumption throughout the day, drink 8oz before each meal, and drink every time you feel hungry instead of grabbing food.  Trust me-it works!  
  2. Avoid sugar and highly processed foods.  Ever experience frequent fatigue, depression, bloating, high blood pressure, brain fogginess, problems with weight loss, high triglycerides, low blood sugar?  If so, chances are excess carbs and sugar partially to blame.  We need some carbs for healthy function, but our body’s storage capacity for carbs is limited; with excess being converted via insulin into fat and stored.  To add insult to injury, high insulin levels suppress hormones responsible for burning fat, sugar, and promoting muscle development.  So simply stated-fat storage is enhanced and fat mobilization for energy is minimized.  When I am trying to drop that last 2 lbs I avoid sugar at all costs.
  3. Eat frequently.  Waiting more than a few hours between meals causes blood sugar levels to dip, releasing the infamous stress hormone cortisol; increasing cravings, belly fat, screwing with your hormone homeostasis, and decreasing immunity.  Most of our calories we burn just being alive, or our Basal Metabolic Rate-the cost of energy to live and breath.  With increased time between meals our metabolism slows to conserve energy instead of burning it, decreasing our BMR’s.  We can all attest how remarkably resistant our body’s are to fat loss.  If you don’t eat often your body looks at muscle as prime real estate for energy, called catabolism.  Eating frequently will preserve our precious muscle.  
  4. Look at food as fuel.  Back in the day when I played softball my dad’s favorite line was-it’s all between your ears.  Meaning-it’s all in our heads.  Most of our battle with making change in our life is mental-learning to modify behaviors.  It’s ok to look at food as a fun treat now and again, but any other time- food is fuel.  Only give your body what it needs when it needs it ensuring no energy is stored from each meal.  Then when you exercise fat stores will be mobilized for energy.  Next time your mischievous brain tells you order a sweet tea not water, just repeat your new mantra-food is fuel, food is fuel. 

  Hope these tips help, stay tuned next week for the completion of the ten tips to live by.


                         ~You have brains in your head and feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in              

                                  any direction you choose. You're on your own, and you know what you know.

                                 And you are the guy who'll decide where to go.
                                                                                                                                    ~Dr. Seuss


~Beth Harris, CSCS, HFS, CHC


Save our kids, Save our future

  Welcome to September, National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month.  In 2010 the CDC reported 17% of kids 2-9 years old were diagnosed as obese.  In fact obesity is doing pretty well for itself these days.  In the past four decades, obesity rates in the United States have soared among all age groups. This rise in obesity rates has affected our youth in alarming fashion. Childhood obesity has increased more than fourfold among those ages 6 to 11. More than 23 million children and teenagers in the United States ages 2 to 19 are obese or overweight, numbers reaching epidemic proportions.  

  Remember, children who grow up obese will struggle with obesity the rest of their lives; which means they will also struggle with heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, and some types of cancer.  What can we do to shift the paradigm of overweight and unhealthy lifestyles for our children?

 According Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, children and adolescents aged 6–17 years should spend 60 minutes or more being physical active daily. Kids should be balancing calories with physical activity, and encouraged to consume more healthy foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and seafood.  They should consume less sodium, saturated and trans fats, added sugars, and refined grains.  All kids deserve to experience the positive health benefits of daily physical activity and healthy eating. 

  The good news is: nothing in life is static; everything can be changed.  As this September rolls to an end let’s take this opportunity to build awareness and take action – nationally and statewide; but more importantly on a day to day basis at work and home.  All across America safe places to play and nutritious food options are being made available in neighborhoods and schools. Many exciting new programs are helping initiate our movement for healthier kids, like the Partnership for a Healthier America and Olympic Team USA’s commitment to provide 1.7 million kids the opportunity to participate in free and low cost physical activity programs. Recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released a new farm to school grant program designed to educate children about food sources, and increase the availability of locally sourced foods in schools.  But our schools and government can’t be expected to do it all.

  A great place for us to start as parents, grandparents, aunts or uncles; is to set shining examples of what our children should be doing.  Children learn and mimic behaviors of the adults around them.  If your children don’t have the healthiest behaviors, appear to be overweight or inactive, take a closer look at your own health habits.  Your kids want to be like you!  Give them an extraordinary goal to shoot for!~


~Beth Harris, CSCS, HFS, LWMC



Don't Pick Your Friends Nose

  You can pick your friends, you can pick your nose, but you can’t pick your friend’s nose.  I’d giggle forever as a little girl saying this phrase.  While I’m not too interested in picking my friends noses these days, I am interested in picking my friends.  Individuals we spend time with have an incredible impact on our behaviors.  We adopt behaviors from friends, family, and co-workers we don’t even realize.

  A study published by the American Journal of Public Health last year revealed people with heavier friends, family, or coworkers tend to be overweight too; the stronger the relationship, the stronger the correlating weights between the individuals.  In a recent issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that a person's chance of becoming obese increased by 57 percent if that person's close friend became obese. If it was a sibling or a spouse, the person's risk went up by more than one-third.

  Is all of this really surprising?  We’ve been catching bad habits from friends for years!  Some cause hypertension, some cause inebriation, and now we know some even cause obesity. A survey conducted by Medi-Weightloss Clinics revealed 66 percent of female dieters feel that their friends and family may be sabotaging their weight-loss efforts.  Out of the 300 women who participated over half reported being pressured to eat “non-diet” foods by colleagues, friends, and family, and 35% were even teased about their meal choices.

  When you spend significant time with others you tend to adopt similar behaviors, beliefs, ideas.  You also are easily persuaded to share in the beer after work, or a dessert after lunch.  ‘Lets go grab a beer’ really translates to lets go socialize.  Be aware if you are guilty of derailing diet plans.  The ‘oh come on, one round of chips and salsa isn’t going to kill you!’ or ‘I made this if you don’t eat some it will hurt my feelings’.  Sometimes that one dietary indiscretion can really be the straw the breaks that camels back and completely derails a new diet program. 

  The driving force behind obesity is complex and unique to each individual.  If you are trying to lose weight, get as many people in your life on board as possible. Be clear about your goals and needing their support.  Your success in the lifestyle changes process is greatly correlated to your support system.  The scales can really tip in either direction.  Researchers also found skinny people on the average had skinny friends.  By saying no that pushy friend who wants you to share in the casual Friday cookie platter you could inspire them to make healthier choices!

  Maybe you’ve already picked your friends.  You can’t pick their nose.  But you can be aware of what you’re picking: food, noses, or bad habits.  The silly saying should go: you can pick your friends, you pick your habits, but don’t pick your friends habits.  Or their nose.



 ~Beth Harris, CSCS, HFS, LWMC

Are you Dense?

  Are you dense?  This phrase was coined back in the 80’s, slang meaning are you dumb, an airhead, or are you just not getting it?  While its applicability still applies, what I want to know is - is the food you’re eating dense?

  Currently 68% of the U.S. population is overweight or obese.  That’s a staggering number.  Even more people consistently struggle over their lifetime losing weight and keeping it off for good.  On the surface it seems reasons for the consistent fight with body weight to be simple, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

  Science has been able to narrow down two dominating components of this puzzle.   Energy balance is both dynamic and hormonally regulated.  Hormones are chemical messengers that fluxuate daily, weekly, yearly, even hourly.  As we age, increase or decrease weight, change our diets, sleeping patterns, jobs; our hormones change and react accordingly.  Dynamically, as our weight, lean mass, age, and activity levels fluxuate, so do energy demands, or the calories we need function.  If we exceed this number, which is unique to each individual, we will gain weight.  If we fail to meet this number the same rules apply, we lose weight.

  As one loses weight energy demands to maintain a leaner physique also decrease.  Unless caloric intake decreases and exercise levels are increased you can almost guarantee the weight lost will return.  Conversely hormonal interplay can also increase the chance of weight returning.  This weight loss alters not only energy demands of the body, but hormones that regulate appetite, energy intake and energy expenditure.  How can we lose weight and suppress our desire to eat?

  This is where energy density comes into play.  First, by energy density I am referring to a foods caloric value.  The more calories, the more energy dense a food is.  Sugary, fatty foods are very energy dense, meaning they have lots of calories.  Consuming a diet of low energy dense foods can help maintain weight lost in two ways.  Low energy dense foods typically have plenty of water and fiber.  More water and fiber means greater volume taking up greater space in your tummy, which means you feel more satiated.  Second, low energy dense foods are exactly that, lower calories.  It’s a win-win!

  Incorporating a low energy diet may be easier than you think.  Try eating vegetables or fruits at each meal.  Portion your plate with veges first, of the non-starchy, low energy dense variety.  Add veges into mixed dishes like pastas, casseroles, and stews.  Don’t eat foods with added sugar and fat.  Replace sour cream with greek yogurt.  For example, love ranch dressing?  Buy the individual ranch seasoning packs and use greek yogurt with a touch of lemon, mix it all together and abracadabra!  You’ve got a much healthier, lower fat version of ranch dressing.

  Get creative with your meals guys!  Eating healthier doesn’t have to be costly or boring.  We just have to start thinking outside the box and work on not being so dense, energy dense that is!


~Beth Harris, CSCS, LWMC, HFS

Life-Long Strong


  There is one thing we are given in life.  One thing that is ours that can never be taken away, until we die that is.  That one thing is our bodies.  If we would put as much emphasis investing in our bodies throughout our lives as we did our bank accounts, our golden years could truly be just that. 

  So how you say?  How do you continue make critical investments that will last a lifetime-AND-have huge payoffs in the end?  While there is no magic pill, there is magic action: physical activity; for the purpose of this article: strength training.  Strength training is very important for maintenance of health and mobility, and not during any one phase in our lives.  It’s important throughout our lives for varying reasons.

  When we are young and resilient we don’t think of the strength deficits that occur throughout our life span.  We continually take from our youthful and robust savings accounts without concern of the toll it will take later in life.  Maintaining muscle mass is an important concern throughout our lives in order to maintain functional independence.  Peak mass is reached between the second and fourth decades of life.  It is for this reason strength training plays a pivotal role in muscle mass maintenance throughout our lives.  Beginning a structured strength training program, even at as young as 20 years, will assist in slowing functional muscle losses that inevitably occur as we age. 

  Between the years of 20 and 50 it is imperative we “muscle up”.  While leisure time physical activity play important roles in general health, these activities will not prevent age related loss of muscle mass or increases in fat mass.  It is important to learn skills to perform vigorous activity, safely.

  A second major concern with aging where strength training plays a pivotal role: bone health.  Around menopause estrogen causes a more rapid loss of bone.  As much as 20% or more of bone density can be lost 5-7 years after menopause.  And of course, men too experience age related declines, as it is apart of the aging process.  Think about it this way, the more bone you begin with, the less the chance of developing osteoporosis later.

Consuming plenty of calcium combined with weight bearing activities where your skeletal system is loaded in a specific manner are sure to, at minimum, slow age related declines in bone integrity.

  We all must understand and accept aging.  Dying is just as much apart of life as living.  But, accepting this doesn’t mean we have to go down without a fight.  Being bigger, faster, stronger, isn’t to merely show off our muscles or win a race.  It means living a long, functional life.  So if in the past you think strength training isn’t for you, I strongly recommend you reconsider.  Everyone needs strength, inside and out.  It’s one investment you won’t regret.


                                       ~It takes a long time to become young.                                                                                                                                                                                                          

                                                             ~Pablo Picasso

~Beth Harris, CSCS, HFS, LWMC

Protein Pancakes


  Pancake Sunday, a family tradition since childhood.  Every Sunday we’d wake to the smell of sizzling bacon and yummy pancakes.  I’ve continued this tradition with my son, Matthew: every Sunday I wake, do my morning cardio, then begin Pancake Sunday festivities.  Because I’m very physically active, protein is a big player in my diet.  Not wanting to miss Pancake Sunday, I decided to get creative.

  Before we go into my pancake creation, let’s branch off here for a moment to chat about the importance of breakfast.  Not to beat a dead horse, hopefully everyone is getting the idea: Breakfast is important and should be eaten within an hour of waking up, ideally a carb and protein.    

  Research shows people who eat eggs at breakfast weight less.  More research shows people who eat cereal at breakfast weigh less.  Other research shows people who eat breakfast and then eat chocolate cake weigh less.  Holy cow what could this mean?!  I think I’ve figured it out: people who eat breakfast weight less. 

  Sunshine is not the only factor influencing ‘waking’ up your body and telling you the day has started.  When you eat breakfast (‘break’ the nights ‘fast’), you’re sending a signal to your body to wake up!  Affecting your circadian rhythm, or your body’s internal clock, eating breakfast sends a very powerful metabolic jumpstart to your system.  This means you will more efficiently metabolize nutrients all day long! 

  There is another piece to this ‘must eat breakfast’ metabolic puzzle-ideally 12 hours should precede your first meal.  Here’s the skinny: part of the food you eat during the day is stored in the liver as glycogen, to later be released for blood sugar homeostasis.  When these stores are depleted fat is used for the job.  Note to self: minimize late night snacking.

  Remember also to take into consideration your overall caloric expenditure for the day.  If your target caloric intake is somewhere around 1400 calories daily and you consume a 600 calorie breakfast, you have around 800 calories left.  You’ll need a lighter lunch and dinner and don’t forget about mid morning and mid afternoon snacks.

  Enough metabolism talk, back to my pancake story; all these thoughts are swirling around in my head while I’m trying to creatively devise a pancake plan that jives maintaining metabolic efficiency.  In a blender I mixed 1 scoop (~25 grams/100 calories) vanilla protein, 2 egg whites, ¼ cup oatmeal, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and added 1% milk til’ I got the consistency I wanted.  With a bit of syrup I had a perfectly portioned protein packed breakfast!  The moral of this protein story: eating healthy doesn’t have to be boring or interfere with fun family traditions.  There are always creative ways to transform our favorite family feast to fit friendly and fun!



Need help with fit friendly meals?  Visit the link below~

~Beth Harris, CSCS, HFS, LWMC

The Silent Killer

  When I think of ‘the silent killer’, I think of Jason crawling silently from under a bed towards his next unsuspecting victim.  Or a thousand snakes on a plane coiled, lying in wait to crush the life out of unassuming prey.  But no, The Silent Killer is nothing exciting or out of the ordinary.  Nothing to highlight on 48 hours on a Saturday night.  Nope, The Silent Killer is nothing more than high blood pressure (HBP).  That’s right folks.  Nearly 1 in 3 adults in the U.S. (that’s about 68 million), suffer from HBP.  It’s so common we’ve all have become desensitized to the perils that await its victims: increased risk for heart disease, stroke, congestive heart failure, renal failure, kidney disease-AND-is the leading cause of death in the United States. 

  HBP is coined the silent killer because it often has no warning signs or symptoms, most people don’t even realize they have it.  Blood pressure is simply systolic pressure over diastolic pressure.  Systolic pressure is the heart pressure of the heart during contraction, and diastolic pressure is during relaxation; normal readings lying under 120/80 mmHg, with high readings above 140/90 mmHg.  70% of first time stroke victims, 69 % of first time heart attack victims, and 74% of first time congestive heart failure victims all have blood pressure above 140/90 mmHg.

  High blood pressure may not be as glamorous as the Prom night killer, but it’s just as scary.  Unlike those screaming Coeds who seem to run right into the hands of the knife wielding psychos, there is hope for those of you trapped in the clutches of HBP. 

  When HBP is diagnosed the first approach is usually the prescription of dietary changes resulting in reduced sodium consumption.  In 3 to 6 months if BP remains high then a diuretic is typically prescribed to reduce fluid volume.  Talk to your Doctor.  Depending on your current situation your Doctor can help you develop a plan to address your blood pressure levels.  For right now little changes can help ensure you don’t join the 1 in 3 Americans who currently suffer from HBP. 

  Eat plenty of fresh fruits and veges loaded with potassium and fiber.  Try to consume foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol.  Avoid Sodium, processed foods contain about 77% of American total sodium intake-this includes fast food AND restaurant foods.  Maintain a healthy bodyweight; being overweight can raise your blood pressure.  Finally, as always, be physically active at least 30 minutes per day on most days of the week-especially cardiovascular exercise.  Exercise is the BEST medicine.

  They say a good scare’s good for the soul.  Let’s leave the dramatics to Hollywood and ensure our health for a lifetime.  Know the importance of a healthy circulatory system.  Blood pressure does matter; try your best to stay on top of it!  If you don’t…  “The next scream you hear may be your own.” ~The Birds, 1963


~Beth Harris, CSCS, HFS, LWMC



Bring on the Boys!




  You’re having a baby!!  How exciting!  Do you want a boy or a girl?  We always ask this question don’t we?  A few people say it doesn’t matter, fewer say girl, but most people say-I want a BOY!  Especially dads, with dreams of playing catch and fishing trips filling their heads.  My dad was also guilty of this.  I jokingly say this is why my parents named me Jaye Elizabeth(my dad’s name is Jay), boy or girl the first born was gonna have his name by gosh! 

  In all seriousness, can you blame dads?  Boys are just easier, or at least that’s common perception.  Either way my dad was 0 for 2 in the boy department.  That didn’t stop my sister and I from being all boy we could be.  We both played sports all our lives, my sister at the collegiate level, and I pursing a very physically active and demanding profession.  One of my dads old high school buddies commented the other day: “You’re just like your dad, into those weights!.”

  While I’m thankful for my quick feet and a love for Gator Football; my competitive drive and wicked arm; I know my dad gave me more than that.  Just as our mothers teach us how to love and nurture ourselves and others, dads have just as an important job. 

  Homer said it is a wise child who knows his own father.  Dads teach us how to be strong, responsible, and assertive.  How to provide, achieve, lead, and persevere.  How to carry the weight of the world on our shoulders, and still have time for a game of catch in the evening.  Regardless of whether your dad is alive or has gone home, today give up thanks.    

  Secretly, maybe we all hope for boys.  Not because girls drool and boys rule.  Maybe, just maybe, the reason is more profound.  Perhaps we secretly are hoping for inner strength and perseverance, not only for ourselves, but for this world.

  So there is one baby boy wish I’m thankful came true, well three really.  My son, my husband, and my dad.  Happy Fathers Day to all you dads out there, thank you not only for teaching us it’s best to throw a change up when you’re ahead in the count; but more importantly-for teaching us strength begins within.


   Sometimes the poorest man leaves his children the richest inheritance.
~Ruth E. Renkel


~Beth Harris, CSCS, HFS, LWMC