Category Archives: Fitness Tips

7 ways to trick yourself into working out when it’s the last thing you want to do

how to trick yourself into working out

Do you ever feel like skipping your workout? Of course you do! Even the most dedicated fitness enthusiasts want to skip their workout some days.

It’s perfectly normal and it’s okay to let yourself off the hook occasionally. But, as a weight loss coach for women, I often find myself advising private weight loss coaching clients on how to stop skipping their workouts and start skipping their excuses instead.

When you don’t feel like working out and exercise is the last thing on your mind, sometimes it helps to trick yourself into getting off your butt to get moving. If you’re serious about reaching your goals and you’re tired of giving up on yourself, I encourage you to do what it takes to find the inspiration and perseverance you need.

From years of experience helping women get fit and lose weight, I can tell you that no matter how resistant you feel at first, once you get to the gym, press play on your workout DVD, or lace up your running shoes and step outside, your mood will shift and you’ll want to stick with it.

But I also understand that sometimes it’s not that easy. Sometimes life starts to get in the way — the work projects are piling up as high as the dishes and your to-do list is a mile long. So when your coach tells you to jump on the treadmill and knock out a mile, you may want to tell her to hit the road. I hear you and I’ve heard it all before. And so have my fellow health and fitness coaches.

For one of my latest Today.com articles, I reached out to a few of my favorite trainers to ask for their input on how they motivate themselves and their clients to exercise when they don’t want to. Read their tips here.

Peter Cirolia, trainer and owner of Ballet Muscle in New York
Personal trainer and founder of Caliente Fitness in Los Angeles
Yoga instructor Claire Fountain, founder of Trill Yoga in New York City
Nikki Walter, a Bodybuilding.com team athlete and trainer in South Dakota
Boston-based personal trainer Jessica Diaz

Read More Here: 7 Ways to Trick Yourself Into Working Out When It’s The Last Thing You Want to Do

Ready to stop making excuses and create new habits that stick? Join us for FREE guidance and support! Sign up for the FREE 21-Day Challenge for a simple but powerful workout plan, an easy-to-follow eating guide, and fun confidence-boosting exercises.

Pilates Arm Exercise: How to Hug a Tree for Toned Upper Arms and Shoulders

Pilates Hug a Tree Arm Exercise for Toned Arms and Shoulders as Demonstrated by Chicago Women’s Weight Loss Coach Stephanie Mansour and Jenny Milkowski of Fox 32.

Pilates arm exercise hug a tree

As women age or gain weight, they tend to lose muscle tone in their upper arms. Some of this can be blamed on the natural aging process, but generally, lack of tone in your arms comes from lack of exercise. So let’s get moving!

In my work as a women’s weight loss coach, many of the women I work with in my private weight loss coaching programs are over the age of 40 or 50. I always let them know that sculpted toned arms are still well within reach. And there’s no need to add bulk by lifting heavy weights in order to get toned arms.

Pilates arm exercises can work and tone arms for long and lean muscles. When doing Pilates arm exercises at home, the idea is not to lift heavy weights for a low number of repetitions. Instead, opt for lower weights and aim for a higher number of repetitions.

The Step It Up With Steph Signature Slimdown DVD includes a quick core-strengthening Pilates workout!

When done properly, Pilates arm exercises engage the upper body as well as the core. So keep in mind as you do your Pilates arm exercises, that you want to concentrate on your movements and your posture, bringing awareness to your breath, the alignment of your spine, and the torso.

Focus on your movements, not the worries of the outside world. And remember that the benefits of Pilates (and all exercise) goes beyond muscle tone and weight loss; so enjoy the stress reduction and enhancement of your overall wellbeing.

Watch this quick video as Jenny and I demonstrate a Pilates arm exercise called Hug a Tree to work the biceps, triceps, upper back, and shoulders.

Here’s how to do Pilates Hug a Tree arm exercises at home:

  • Pick weights to suit your fitness level. If you’re a beginner, select 1-3 pound weights. Jenny and I used 5-pound weights in our video demonstration.
  • Start by sitting with your legs crossed in a lotus position.
  • With a dumbbell weight in each hand, open your arms wide, extending them out to each side at chest height, as if you are going to give someone (or a tree!) a hug.
  • Lengthen your spine and open your chest. Inhale.
  • Contract your chest muscles as you exhale and bring the weights together in front of you, maintaining chest height. Keep your elbows slightly bent.
  • Focus on keeping the muscles around your spine engaged. You can also choose to round your spine as you exhale.
  • Pause, breathe, and then slowly return to your starting position.
  • Stay focused. Go slow. Concentrate on your breath and movements.

Repeat 20 times until you feel the burn. Increase the number of repetitions as you advance.

Try it and let us know what you think!

For a quick easy-to-follow Pilates routine, grab a copy of the Step It Up with Steph Signature Slimdown DVD.

 

Pilates Roll Over: Advanced Core-Strengthening Exercise for Flatter Abs

Pilates Roll Over for Flatter Abs and Core Strength Demonstrated by Chicago Women’s Weight Loss Coach Stephanie Mansour and Jenny Milkowski of Fox 32.

Pilates Roll Over Demonstration

Pilates is one of the best ways to build core strength, develop and flatten your abs, and strengthen your back. Core strength workouts are exercises that focus on the center of the body, which includes deep abdominal muscles, the muscles closest to your spine, especially the lower back, and the hips and buttocks

Core strengthening workouts will help you to improve your overall fitness, your ability to perform daily activities, and sports performance.  Because of the slow and controlled moves of Pilates,  a Pilates workout is easy on the body with minimal impact on the joints, which makes it a great option to ease into fitness if you are overweight or out of shape.

Many of the women I work with in my private weight loss coaching programs choose to practice Pilates because it helps them gain long lean muscles, increases their flexibility, and they are able to a enjoy a well-balanced and conditioned body with improved overall feelings of well-being. I also recommend Pilates because when you do it regularly, it can help you prevent injuries and even alleviate chronic back pain.

The Step It Up With Steph Signature Slimdown DVD includes a quick core-strengthening Pilates workout!

In addition to the physical benefits of Pilates, I believe every woman should incorporate some Pilates into her workout routine, whenever possible, because it also helps improve your mental state. Pilates requires concentration and forces you to focus on your body movements and your breath, rather than the distractions of outside stress. Research has also found that Pilates boosts brain power and improves cognitive function.

I teamed up with my favorite workout and Pilates partner, Jenny Milkowski, to demonstrate an advanced Pilates core-strengthening exercise. Watch the video below:

If you’re ready to try an advanced core-strengthening exercise for flatter abs, here’s how to do a Pilates roll over:

  • Start by laying flat on your back with your legs together and your arms at your sides, palms facing down.
  • Make sure your neck is long and your chest is open as you inhale.
  • Keeping your legs together, extend them straight up toward the ceiling until you reach a 90-degree angle.
  • Exhale while using your abdominal muscles to draw your hips and legs over your body until your legs are parallel to your chest. You will be releasing the lower back and lifting your butt off the ground with your abs.
  • Roll back onto the wide part of the shoulders. Feet should be flexed and toes should be toward the ground behind your head. Use your arms to balance you but lift primarily with your abdominal muscles.
  • Inhale and lengthen the back of your legs through your heels and flex your feet. Widen your legs to shoulder-width apart in a V formation.
  • Exhale and use core control to allow your legs to lower toward your chest while slowly lengthening your spine, rolling down, placing each vertebrae one-at-a-time on the mat, until your legs are again at a 90-degree angle — feet flexed and stretch through the heels.
  • Keeping your legs together, lower them slowly.
  • Begin the exercise again and repeat the process.

Try it and let us know what you think! Again, remember, this is an advanced core-strengthening exercise. For a quick easy-to-follow Pilates routine, grab a copy of the Step It Up with Steph Signature Slimdown DVD.

How to Do Kneeling Side Leg Circles to Give Your Booty a Lift

Kneeling Side Leg Circles to Give Your Booty a Lift as Demonstrated by Chicago Women’s Weight Loss Coach Stephanie Mansour and Jenny Milkowski of Fox 32.

Looking for booty exercises to perk up a flat butt for an overall shapely and toned look? Kneeling side leg circles will work your glutes and help you get the look you want.

As a women’s weight loss coach, many of my private weight loss coaching clients ask me how to not only lose fat but also tone up what they consider problem areas. One of the areas many women feel most self-conscious about is their rear-end. 😉

And while I firmly believe true confidence comes from within, I also recognize that you also want to do what you can to get a firm backside! 😉

The Step It Up With Steph Signature Slimdown DVD includes a 5-minute workout that targets the legs & butt!

Watch the video below as Jenny Milk and I demonstrate kneeling side leg circles.

Want to try it yourself? Here’s how to do one of my favorite butt-lifting exercises–kneeling side leg circles:

  • Begin by kneeling on a mat.
  • Place one hand on the ground and your opposite hand on your hip. For example, start by placing your right hand on the ground and placing your left hand on your left hip.
  • Raise your left leg to hip level and extend it straight out to the side.
  • Keeping your left leg at hip level, make small circles in a clockwise direction.
  • Next, do small circles with your left leg in a counterclockwise direction.
  • Be sure to keep your hips steady throughout this exercise.
  • Now adjust your position to switch legs and repeat the exercise on the other side.
  • I recommend doing 10-15 circles in each direction on each leg.

Try it and let us know what you think!

Want more fun and body-boosting exercises, including a 5-minute legs & butt workout? Grab a copy of the Step It Up with Steph Signature Slimdown DVD.

How Building Your Confidence Can Help You Slim Down This Summer

It’s summertime and around this time of year, many women tell me they feel self-conscious about showing more skin in sleeveless shirts, sundresses, shorts, and bathing suits. Because I’m a weight loss coach for women, women often confide in me that they regret not slimming down before the season started and confess that they simply aren’t confident enough in their bodies to enjoy the beautiful weather and summer festivities.

What I find most unfortunate about women lacking confidence is that it works against them when it comes to reaching their health and fitness goals. It sets them up for riding an emotional rollercoaster of stress eating and they adopt a defeatist attitude.

Here’s what I mean: You may start thinking, ‘Why bother? I’ll never look the way I want to look anyway, so I may as well eat this entire bag of chips and sit on the couch,’ after work instead of eating something nourishing and taking a brisk walk.

When you put yourself down and stress yourself out about your body image, it can affect your body’s ability to naturally shed unwanted weight. Over time, having a negative outlook can impact your overall health.

When you don’t like your body and you don’t feel good about yourself, you don’t treat yourself well. This is why I’m so adamant about supporting women through the emotional side of the weight loss journey.  I encourage you — right now —  to find what you like about yourself first and then build from there.

Recently, I visited Fox 32 Chicago and sat down with Sylvia Perez to share secrets for slimming down this summer. We talked about specific lower-body leg exercises, upper-body arm exercises, and cardio routines. But we also discussed the importance of addressing the emotional side of unwanted weight. Be sure to watch our conversation in the video below.

The bottom line is, you may be able to step up your workouts to tone up your triceps, biceps, legs, and butt this summer. But for lasting results, you’ll have to work on building self-confidence too — it’s just as important as working out and eating well.

Listen, I want you to enjoy the weather, enjoy the body you’re in, and feel good about yourself right now, no matter what. You deserve it! And because I want you to be happier, healthier, more energetic, and even more confident, I encourage you to start making changes now that will help you maintain a more fit body throughout the year and for the rest of your life.

Want support building your self-esteem and getting on track to lose the weight for good and step it up for life? Join the FREE 21-Day Challenge for a simple but powerful workout plan, an easy-to-follow eating guide, and fun confidence-boosting exercises.

Pilates Open-Leg Rocker: Intermediate Core Strengthening Exercise for Flatter Abs

Pilates Open-Leg Rocker Exercise for Core Strength and Flat Abs Demonstrated by Chicago Women’s Weight Loss Coach Stephanie Mansour and Jenny Milkowski of Fox 32.

open leg rocker pilates

As a weight loss coach for women, I often recommend Pilates to my private weight loss coaching clients. Pilates workouts put minimal impact on the joints and the exercises, in general, are easy on the body.  

In particular, Pilates is one of the best types of exercise to build your core strength. Doing Pilates core strength exercises consistently will help you slim down, create long toned muscles, and improve your overall fitness and conditioning.

Yes, Pilates core strengthening exercises can help flatten your abs–something we all want– but it’s also important to note that core strengthening exercises help to improve your posture and overall well-being as well.

What you may not realize is having good posture and strong abs is important for good health. Standing up or sitting up straight and tucking in your tummy is not just something to do to make you appear more confident and attractive–lengthening your spine and engaging your deep ab muscles is good for your spine health, helps you to avoid injuries and alleviate chronic pain, improves blood flow and oxygen, and protects your organs.

When doing Pilates exercises, be sure to concentrate on your breath as well as slow and controlled movements.

The Step It Up With Steph Signature Slimdown DVD includes a quick core-strengthening Pilates workout!

I teamed up with my favorite workout and Pilates partner, Jenny Milkowski, to demonstrate an intermediate Pilates core-strengthening exercise — the open-leg rocker. Watch the video below:

Here’s how to do the Pilates open-leg rocker:

  • Begin by sitting up tall on our sit bones, spine lengthened, abs activated.
  • Bend your knees and grab your ankles.
  • Next, balance your body between your tailbone and sit bones.
  • Lift and extend one leg and then the other, shoulder-width apart, by engaging your abdominals.
  • Inhale and roll back onto your shoulders, maintaining a c-curve in your back and keeping your head and neck elevated off the mat. Be sure to engage your abs to propel the movement.
  • Pause and hold briefly.
  • Exhale and bring your body back to an upright balanced position. Maintain the curve in your back and use your ab muscles to activate the movement.
  • Concentrate on your breath, engaging your core, and using slow controlled movements.
  • Repeat the exercise 5-10 times.

Keep in mind, the Pilates open-leg rocker is an intermediate core-strengthening exercise. For a quick easy-to-follow Pilates routine, grab a copy of the Step It Up with Steph Signature Slimdown DVD.

 

Tips to Step Up Your Tailgating Game

Tailgating before the big game is almost more fun than attending the actual game. Friends, food, fun — what more could you ask for!? On my recent visit to Channel 5 WNEM, I shared some great tips on how to make healthy, and delicious tailgate fare!

Tip #1: Bring Fruit

Not feeling the burgers and pizza? Go for the fruit! Put together a pretty platter with all of the fresh fruits that you love. Cut it up into slices or chunks and stick a toothpick in each piece to make it a more fun and easy to eat! You can even check out Pinterest for some sport-inspired fruit displays!

Tip #2: Mix Wine and Sparkling Water

If you like to have a few cocktails while tailgating, go for the wine and sparkling water combo. Half cup of white wine mixed with half cup of sparkling water. If you are going to be drinking beer or other liquors, I recommend drinking at least one glass of water in between each alcoholic beverage to make sure that you’re staying hydrated.

Tip #3: Use Healthy Marinades

If you’re marinating meats, make sure you’re choosing healthy marinades and spices. When you purchase a spice jar, be sure to read the ingredients and recognize what exactly it is you’re reading (and ultimately eating). We want to make sure we’re staying away from artificial ingredients and sweeteners.

Tip #4: Add Protein to a Veggie Platter

If you plan on taking a veggie platter, you can easily add some healthy protein by including a protein packed dip! Hummus, made with chickpeas, is a fan favorite and goes great with veggies. If your platter includes celery, a great dip to bring is almond butter or any other type of nut butter. Adding healthy protein dips will definitely make your veggie platter standout among the crowd, and is a great change from just the normal ranch dressing dips.

Now that you have some winning ideas for your tailgate, let’s hope your team wins the game!

If you want more tips on how you can lose weight and keep it off, make sure you join my FREE  21 day challenge at stepitupchallenge.com.

Get Ready to Run This Fall

On your mark. Get set. GO!

Running is an awesome way to feel great in both body and mind. The good news is, you don’t need to be a marathon runner to get that elusive runner’s high. During my recent stop at ABC Channel 7, I shared a few tips to get you ready to hit the open road — on your two feet, that is.

It actually can be more difficult for trained athletes to get that runner’s high than it is the average person because and athlete’s body is so used to intense exercise. Just like weight loss, if your body is used to something, it won’t give you the results you crave. So change it up!

A good place to start is with your running shoes. You want to make sure that you have a good pair of supportive running shoes that fit well, like these gems from Brooks. Generally speaking, you should invest in a new pair of running shoes every 300-500 miles. You don’t want to cause injury to yourself from bad shoes- so make sure you’re picking a winner!

If you haven’t been able to run due to physical limitations, there are several amazing products out there to help. You can add inserts, like these from Currex Sole, to your shoes to help improve the shoe effectiveness and comfortability. And, if you suffer from joint issues or plantar fasciitis, these Zamst compression socks can be your best friend!

Plagued by knee issues? Know that you not alone and that you don’t need to give up on your dreams of being a runner. For certain knee issues, wearing a knee band, like this one from JK-1Knee Bands can help reduce symptoms and make you feel more stable. Talk to your doctor or physical therapist about your options- because you have them!

Staying properly fueled is a must for runners. After an intense run (especially if you are marathon training) a great way to refuel is with a protein bar or protein smoothie. One of my favorites is the Vega Protein and Snack Bar. Chocolate and caramel with health benefits!? Yes, please!

And finally, when your run is over, be sure to roll out your muscles using a Trigger Point foam roller or even go treat yourself to a massage. Be sure to do something that both celebrates you and your accomplishment and gets your body ready for the next run!

Now, lace up those shoes and hit the pavement! Happy running!

Ready to step it up? Join my 21 Day Challenge today!

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4 Ways to Fall Back Into a Healthy Sleep Cycle This Fall

Restful sleep each night is vital to maintaining your overall health. With the changing of seasons comes the changing of your routine and, for many, this brings with it a lot of sleep disturbances. I recently stopped by WNEM TV 5 to share ways to get your sleep back on track this autumn!

Tip #1: Limit Eating Before Bedtime

Avoid eating a really big meal at least two-hours before you plan on going to bed. If you need to eat something closer to when you’re planning to call it a night, limit your food intake to a piece of fruit, a protein bar or a little single serving snack.

Tip #2: Keep Your Bedroom Dark and Cool

Research shows, the cooler the temperature is in your bedroom, the easier it is to fall asleep. Keeping a cool temperature will allow your body to relax and sleep comfortably.

Tip #3: Limit Exercise Before Bedtime

For most people, it is impossible to do a big workout then hop in bed and fall fast asleep. Try to avoid getting your body rev’d up, but making sure your workout happens at least two hours before you plan on hitting the sack. If you tend to get a big burst of energy after working out, you might want to consider pushing your workout even further to 3-4 hours before bedtime. Listen to your body to see what works best for you.

Tip #4: Set up a Routine

Routines are great. They allow the body to predict the next move. Get your body and mind into a mode of slowing down and getting ready to fall asleep each night. If you have a favorite scent that relaxes you, use that scent in a nighttime shower gel or bedside candle. If reading relaxes you, have a good book on your nightstand that you can read for a short while every night to unwind before falling to sleep.

I hope these four, simple tips gets you feeling relaxed and ready for a good night’s sleep. Tonight- and every night!

How to Lose Weight Using Your Mind, Body, and Soul

Let’s be honest here, if our mind isn’t in gear, how do we expect our body to get in gear!? I stopped by Fox 5 NY recently to talk about this topic that many people struggle with.


We want to start by boosting self confidence and self esteem. Like many of my clients, people have a hard time believing that they can to lose 10, 20, 30 pounds or more. So we need to establish a positive, healthy relationship with ourself, just like we establish a healthy relationship with other people. If I like my body, I’m going to want to move it and keep it healthy, whereas if I hate my body, I’m not going to feel motivated to move it and keep it healthy.

One way to keep positive thoughts flowing through your mind is to give yourself affirmations. Leaving sticky notes on your mirror is a great way to do this! Choose an attribute about yourself that you like and write it down on the sticky note For example, you could write, “I love my arm muscles!”. Every time you’re getting ready you can read and repeat this affirmation to help strengthen your relationship with yourself. Be your own cheerleader!

As we age and our bodies change, a workout that once worked really well might not work anymore. It’s not your fault, you did nothing wrong, it’s just time to change it up! If you had been doing intense strength training before, you can switch up your routines to be more yoga intensive. The body will respond to changes in workouts.

The tone of your day begins with breakfast, so make good choices! We want to eat something that’s full of protein in order to get a boost of energy. One delicious (and easy!) favorite of mine is an egg bake with peppers and kale.

Simply saute a large bag of kale and 2-3 peppers in a little olive oil. When soft, transfer to a greased cake pan. In a separate bowl, whisk together 12 eggs then pour on top of veggies. Bake on 400 degrees for about 30 minutes. You now have a wonderful, healthy breakfast for six days!

If eggs aren’t your thing, no worries, you can always do a protein packed shake! A ½ banana, a handful of strawberries, a cup of almond milk and protein powder is all it takes. All of this is included in the Step it Up With Steph recipe book!

Always remember, if you are struggling with losing weight and are feeling badly, you are not alone. This is a very common issue. You need to address your relationship with yourself first, then the rest can happen!