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Susan Arruda

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Statistics reveal that between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the average person gains 7-10 pounds.

If we’re talking average, that also means some people are gaining much more than just 10 pounds. – HELP is here! We can implement strategies to ensure that doesn’t happen to us!

Celebrations, holidays, family gatherings, and together seem to be synonymous with an abundance of food and usually, this includes high-calorie, tempting foods, indulgent treats, sweet drinks, and dessert lattes, not to mention alcoholic beverages that can break your willpower and put you in super surplus caloric overload in no time.

There are several ways to approach the big festive event without suffering the consequences of guilt, regret, bloating, weight gain, and serious disappointment in your lack of self-control!

Here are some strategic tips to help you combat the battle of overindulgence and help you make it through to the New Year in super slim mode, ready to start your on a high note!

  • Have a Plan of action: First and foremost, you must decide ahead of time what your plan will be; whether you will decide to avoid the pitfalls, you usually fall prey to and make a health-conscious effort to make wise choices, or whether you plan to indulge in some of your favourite treats and let loose. I strongly recommend that you set some boundaries and refrain from going ‘no holds barred’ and having zero restrictions. If you are going to choose to indulge (nothing wrong with having your favourite treat from time to time), consider these tips to help balance and offset the additional calories:
  • If your plan is to indulge, opt to fast for the day: (Unless you’re diabetic, or have any other serious medical conditions that restrict you from this practice) and save your eating strictly for the party. If this is not something you normally do, it’s a sound and strategic play. This helps you to keep your calories in check and balance your overall caloric intake, especially since you have already planned ahead of time that you’re planning to enjoy your favourite treats. You may even want to implement some intermittent fasting for the day prior.

  • Have It and Halve It: Implementing portion control will help you feel a lot less deprived. Enjoy and have that sinful dessert you love, but halve it. Minimize the serving size to help you satisfy your cravings, as well as help you feel in control.
  • Plan to exercise before the big event: Try to train for at least an hour, if possible, (as well as exercise regularly in the days leading up to the big event). If you can only fit a short session in, don’t discount the power in it. Even a 15 min. exercise session with elevated HIIT intervals and max intensity, amounts to a lot! I find that having time restraints can often help you stay more focused and more driven to work harder because you know you’re only in it for a short duration of time and therefore, motivated to cram in as much as you can. I’ve had some of my best workouts under these conditions. Try to incorporate some of your preferred training (i.e. weights, yoga, etc.) and follow it up with some cardiovascular exercise. – Burn, burn, burn to earn! Want the ability to eat more without packing on the extra pounds? Then you need to balance it out with increased energy expenditure to avoid the consequences of weight gain.
  • Eat a healthy breakfast: And plan to eat super light throughout your day if you’re not fasting.
  • Hydrate-Hydrate-Hydrate: Drink lots of water (flavoured with lemon, cucumber, etc.) or green/herbal teas throughout your day and if you feel some serious hunger coming on, eat vegetables and/or drink more water or a fat burner drink. Here are personalized recommendations. (Code SUSANARRUDA)
  • DO NOT wear elastic waistband pants or your “fat pants” to the dinner! This practice just encourages overeating and often, an unhealthy amount of limitless eating that will leave you feeling very unhappy with yourself after the big event. Remind yourself that you will have the opportunity to eat those beloved treats or your favourite foods again and instead, try to practice moderation. Avoid thinking, “This will be the last time I’ll ever eat this” Because it won’t be. Telling yourself that it’s the last time you will ever eat your unhealthy food of choice will only encourage you to eat more of it and it’s not realistic at all!
  • Make the focus more on the company, the socializing, and the people and not on the food: Catch up with family, and friends and enjoy the interaction with people more, not the food. Consider your main course to be the company and the food to be the side accompaniment.
  • Allot for alcoholic beverage calories: (If you’re choosing to drink) and don’t consume them on an empty stomach. Be sure to spread them out throughout your evening and/or be a super slow drinker and make the drink last! Pre-plan a ride home and of course, don’t drink and drive! If you volunteer to be the designated driver, you have the perfect reason/excuse not to drink!
  • Remove the temptations! If you are hosting the festivities, be prepared with containers and doggie bags to give away the leftovers. Be sure to get the unhealthy treats out of sight or out of your house if you can’t exercise discipline and moderation with tempting foods. Don’t keep them in your home and risk breakdown!

You can’t do anything about the past, so strive to keep a realistic perspective and move forward in a positive, productive, and proactive manner. Remind yourself that health and fitness is a lifelong journey so strive to be consistent, make it realistic and fun, and make sure it fits your lifestyle.

OH, OH, YOU DIVE-BOMBED! 

COPING STRATEGIES AND TIPS FOR THE DAY AFTER THE BIG FEAST: If you bombed with your eating at the party/holiday event and feel bloated and unhappy with yourself the next morning, make some additional adjustments the next day:

  • Perform cardio on an empty stomach: Within 30 minutes of waking.
  • Drink coffee: (Minus the sugar and cream) on an empty stomach to jumpstart your metabolism before your exercise.
  • Exercise for at least an hour! Try to also take an evening walk after dinner to rev your metabolism when it is generally slowing down.
  • Hydrate and drink lots of water throughout your day to flush toxins and waste out of your system faster. Regular flat and/or carbonated water will help give you the feel of “pop” and you can choose to flavour it with slices of citrus fruit or cucumber, herbs, etc. to enhance flavour and add nutritional value. If you drink kombucha, add some to your carbonated water for a natural pop effect.
  • Natural herbal teas: They are another source of fluids/hydration that can also help push things through your system faster. Fluids combined with exercise will work synergistically to assist in flushing toxins out faster.
  • Fast the next day OR reduce your eating to half or as little as possible: To compensate for the overeating, the best strategy is to under-eat the following day to offset the negative effects.
  • Planning is vital for success: However, take heart in knowing that one day of feasting will not undo all your overall healthy habits. The key is to stay positive and make efforts to move forward to correct the damage done ASAP. Avoid self-bashing as it accomplishes nothing and can set you further back and keep you backsliding. Get on top of it immediately the next day. You can’t do anything about the past, so strive to keep a realistic perspective and move forward in a positive, productive, and proactive manner. Remind yourself that health and fitness is a lifelong journey so strive to be consistent, make it realistic and fun, and make sure it fits your lifestyle.

I am extremely confident these strategies and tips when put into practice, can help you avoid pitfalls and/or minimize the downfall of the big celebratory feast. Remember that discipline is like a muscle and it gets stronger the more you use it!

I’m Susan Arruda, a six-time figure/fitness champion and a mom of two in my 50s. Let me take you through my fitness journey from my teenage years to my 50s and offer some valuable advice for each age group.

  • Teen Years (13-19): My fitness journey kicked off during my energetic teenage years when I fell head over heels for gymnastics and aerobics. Why? Well, partly to avoid gaining weight while working at McDonald’s, and also because of the iconic fitness shows of the era like It Figures and The 20 Minute Workout. I trained vigorously, even trying backflips on my bed. The takeaway for teenagers: Skip the parties, booze, and drugs; choose fitness as your healthy escape.
  • 20s: Motherhood entered my life, but I didn’t let it slow me down. I stayed committed to exercising during my pregnancies and managed to gain a healthy amount of weight. My advice for those in their 20s: Prioritize daily exercise, don’t feel guilty about self-care, and steer clear of fad diets.

Keep pushing, listen to your body, and explore natural remedies before resorting to medication.

  • 30s: This is when many women, including me, felt a “decade shift,” but I refused to let it hold me back. I left a challenging marriage, competed in fitness competitions, and found newfound confidence and independence. My message to those in their 30s: Set goals, make self-care a priority, avoid shortcuts, and surround yourself with supportive people.
  • 40s: In my 40s, I ventured into creating fitness programs and faced the challenges of menopause, including insomnia and fatigue. I stuck to my “no excuses” motto and sought natural solutions for health issues. My advice for this stage: Keep pushing, listen to your body, and explore natural remedies before resorting to medication.
  • 50s: Now in my 50s, I’m still pushing my limits and setting personal records. It’s essential to make smarter eating choices as metabolism changes and those extra pounds become stubborn. My message for those in their 50s: Embrace change, prioritize sleep, and remember that it’s never too late to embark on something new.

Transformative Action: Throughout my journey, I’ve learned the importance of determination, self-care, and making health a top priority. I hope my story inspires people of all ages to start or continue their own fitness adventures.

Water training is not what you think it is…

Have you tried Elite Water Training? If not, you’re missing out!

I believe water training is the most overlooked and under-utilized training environment that can offer a refreshing challenge and change to your workouts! You do not need to know how to swim to take part in this hardcore water workout and I’m not talking about aquafit (visions of seniors serenely bobbing gently in the water), often negatively referred to as aquafat; not! All negative connotations aside, I call it Elite Water Training because it’s a serious water training option (although also referred to as water resistance training and commonly used by professional athletes), designed to sculpt your physique and provide you with heart rate soaring, fat burning max HIIT bursts without the negative effects of jarring and high impact that comes with land training.

Cross training, aka mixing up your training, is what offsets repetitive stress injury and keeps your body guessing and resisting plateaus and gives athletes a physical edge. Yes, elite athletes and professional sports teams take part in this type of water training to improve cardiovascular fitness, agility, balance, speed, and explosive power, increase core strength and provide them with an edge in their sport and fitness level.

If you’ve been at the fitness game for an extended length of time, you’ve likely dealt with boredom, training blahs and fitness plateaus and would jump at the opportunity for a challenging form of training with high intensity in the mix! The plus is you don’t have to smash your joints to do it! The liquid gym benefits are two-fold; natural resistance of the water provides a muscle training effect while minimizing the impact in high intensity, plyometric cardiovascular work, thanks to the buoyancy factor. An added plus; if you’re really not a fan of heavy sweating, it’s ideal for you!

I first discovered water training through aqua fitness classes back in my teen years through necessity. I had totalled my knees with high-impact activities and I desperately needed an alternative. Think you can’t sweat and sculpt in the water? Think again! I got creative in the liquid gym and I pushed boundaries and as a result, could not only maintain my fitness level, but I also found exceptional ways to make progress and get a fitness edge! The stimulus on my muscles and body was completely different than what I’d ever exposed myself to and my body responded well! When you challenge the body and change things up, your body will make progress and change!

The many things you can do to challenge and change things up in the water not only offer stimulus to your body and working muscles but also your mind; it alleviates boredom and keeps things fresh for both your body and brain – A double bonus!

I created my Elite Water Training water workout using a simple pilates rubber ball and the end result is remarkably effective and loaded with creative options for getting a water pump, both for your muscles and cardiovascular system. You’ll love the results!

Find a pool or body of water near you and super sculpt your body and burn mega fat in my full Elite Water Training Workout!

Learn all about it here

Abdominals are at the “core” of it all and as a result, they’re involved in everything we do. Strong abdominals are necessary for maintaining good posture, as well as having a strong, healthy back, not only for training but for all movement in our everyday lives.

Did you know that the first muscle to fire when almost any limb movement occurs is the deepest abdominal muscle, the transversus abdominis (TVA/aka TA)? – Did you know that the muscles of the TVA are connected to the lower back?

The importance of building a strong core and developing solid foundational principles for long-term health and injury prevention are crucial for strength, overall health and maintaining a pain-free back. Don’t neglect core training because it is fundamental for staying injury free. Taking shortcuts and bypassing the bedrock basic training principles will cost you in the long run, one way or another.  Yes, most of us also want an abdominal definition for the coveted “6 pack abs” and that is a wonderful by-product of training your abs & core in conjunction with healthy eating.

Keeping good posture is a crucial and overlooked component of overall good health and the long-term consequences of poor posture run a very lengthy list; from weak muscles, tight and stiffness that may be highly predominant upon waking, muscular imbalances, leg pain with numbness, tingling and weakness, breathing problems, spinal dysfunction, joint and disc degeneration, depression, digestive issues, decreased quality of life, and more!

The importance of building a strong core and developing solid foundational principles for long-term health and injury prevention are crucial for strength, overall health and maintaining a pain-free back.

Yes, something so seemingly simple and insignificant as posture can really amount to big trouble, in the long term. Some of the more serious health problems people experience can very well be the result of poor posture and the effects of erosion on the body over time. When your internal organs are compressed due to poor posture and inadequate space to perform optimally, it can lead to a litany of issues. However, we often overlook the obvious, in search of a more complex reason and dismiss posture weaknesses and muscle imbalance and how serious they can become if they go unnoticed and are not dealt with.

Observing adults and especially working with students ranging from 5 to 14 yrs old has certainly brought forth a strong awareness of the mass proportion of poor posture as an epidemic and the lack of knowledge surrounding it.

The literal meaning of posture means “to put or place.” Keeping our body position in the most favourable anatomical position to avoid undue stress and muscle imbalances is crucial for long-term health, not to mention, it’s aesthetically more appealing, and yes, looking good in addition to feeling good, go hand in hand! Engaging the abdominals is required to keep proper upright alignment and more specifically, learning to recruit and engage the deep transverse abdominals.

Good posture emanates confidence and strength. All things being equal, the person in a job interview will get the position over someone else having less than stellar posture, hands down!

The deep core/TVA works as a stabilizer to support our back and pelvis and provide us with good torso alignment. The transversus abdominis is involved in every single movement we perform; it’s the first muscle to fire when almost any limb movement occurs.

When we are not in the practice of actively engaging our abdominals with the abdominal draw-in (aka, abdominal brace, abdominal hallowing, sucking in your gut to get into those skinny jeans) while maintaining a neutral spine, it puts an extra strain on our lower back and contributes to poor posture. We need to actively practice this isometric abdominal contraction throughout our day by consciously pulling our navel into our spine and holding this contraction for 20-60 seconds intermittently throughout our day while learning to breathe normally.

Some points to consider:

  • Make sure you don’t raise your rib cage as that engages other muscles other than the TVA. This draw-in (aka brace or vacuum) exercise becomes easier with consistent practice and ultimately, you want to do this co-contraction with every exercise. It also automatically sets you up for having better posture as well as offering greater support and protection for the lower back.
  • Sitting in your car is an ideal time to capitalize on putting this into practice. You want to strive to maintain the natural alignment of all three curves in your spine (cervical, thoracic, lumbar). Sit as upright as possible (grow an extra inch or two), press your head back against your car headrest to counter the common protruding forward chin, and have your butt all the way to the back of the seat while keeping your shoulders down and back (slightly squeeze your upper mid back/shoulder blades together) and tighten to draw in the abs. In maintaining the natural curve of the spine, there will be a curve at the neck and lower back. The good standing posture requires engaging the deep TVA muscle (this supports and stabilizes the spine) along with the alignment and positioning of the pelvis. Cue an imaginary line that aligns the shoulders over hips, and knee to ankle alignment.

  • Standing for prolonged periods can produce fatigue and put undue strain on the low back. To alleviate this stress, raise one foot up onto a platform (the very reason for a bar stool) which automatically shifts the pelvis forward to reduce this strain; tuck to shift your pelvis forward (pelvic tilt) by contracting your glutes and resetting your posture. Do a side visual posture check as well as perform the abdominal draw-in, along with scapular retraction to reset your posture and alignment (press the shoulders down and squeeze mid back/shoulder blades together to counter stooping and rounded shoulders) during prolonged periods of standing or sitting.
  • Having strong, more defined abs are a result of training them consistently, body composition, as well as eating healthily (Think 30% training, 70% diet). This will not only yield a sleeker, sexier appearance but will provide you with a solid, strong core and healthier, more upright posture along with greater abdominal definition. A win-win all around!

Get in the habit of training your abs around the clock and you’ll be amazed at the results!

Ditch this excuse forever: “I don’t have time to train.”
If you practice the abdominal brace and work on perfect postural alignment daily throughout your everyday life, you will be getting a highly effective abs workout every single day with guaranteed results!

Want an effective workout program to define and strengthen your abs and core?

My Sexy ABS in 10 is a series of progressive workouts with bedrock foundational principles that work on developing your core from the deepest layer (no Spanx needed after this training!) to your 6-pack recti abdominis muscles. Featuring an in-depth explanation of the intricacy of all of the abdominal muscles and the connection to back pain, along with tried and true effective workouts to develop and strengthen your abs to become stronger stabilizers and get your most optimal shape and definition possible! Your entire core will be challenged to the max and this “must have” program is one you will come back to doing time and time again!

Check it out here

In my early first few years of training at the gym, my ultimate all-around goal was to build a symmetrical, lean and muscular physique. Many people shy away from training legs because it’s uncomfortable to train them with intensity and because they’re a larger body part, it requires more energy in comparison to other body parts. I made a conscious decision to “enjoy” training legs (fake it till you make it) and deliberately set out to build the leanest, sexiest legs possible!

Incinerating calories is an exceptional byproduct of serious leg training, not to mention the building and development of more lean muscle tissue which also simultaneously aids in the fat-burning effect. The largest muscles in the body are at work when you train legs and that can equate to a mega fat burn when you combine that with the right training principles and exercise combinations which means you can get explosive results!

Plyometrics
I like to warm up by doing jump squats during leg day and prior to loading squats. I often will also perform a plyo set with the Olympic bar as a drop set – I don’t recommend loading more than that. You want explosiveness with safety and you want to be mindful of the fact that adding loads means added stress to the knees and you need to incorporate perfect form along with soft landings. Instead of going heavier on the loads when doing plyometrics, add more reps after a pre-exhaustion set.

An effective way to lean down the legs is to perform drop sets, successively lowering the weight and reps for 3 sets and then finishing off with plyometric jump squats for max reps. This provides a mega burn for ultimate shaping and accelerating the leaning down process.

Pre-Exhaustion
As previously mentioned above, this technique has you working a muscle group to failure. You perform an exercise such as leg extensions and then immediately move to perform another secondary movement such as squats, to exhaust and burn out the muscle further.

Training is predominately mental, first and foremost. The body is designed to give up at the first sign of discomfort and it is the mind that needs to decide to push beyond that point.

HIIT
Whenever I want an even greater cardio effect, I turn to HIIT. Interspersing some max cardio intervals throughout your workout is an effective way to elevate your fat-burning potential while also providing a thermogenic boost that will elevate your metabolism and burn calories long after your training is done.

A simple example of this is to insert 1-minute treadmill intervals at or near your max level throughout your weight training workout. You can also switch it up and set the incline on the treadmill to max capability/15 and determine a level that will enable you to get through the full 60 sec. Strive for at least 3 of these interval sets throughout your workout.

Partial/Micro Reps
I will often add small pulse reps at the end of the range of motion in an exercise for that ultra burn. This can be done at the very end of the set or interspersed within the set.

Compound Sets
Combining two back-to-back different exercises for the same body part to produce maximum blood flow and muscle pump. The goal is to overexert and overload the same muscle group for increased challenge.

Keep up the pace!
You’re wasting no time here! The goal is to get through your workout in the minimum amount of time possible. You need to move relatively quickly from one exercise to the next, utilizing active and partial recovery. This means you’re not sitting and waiting for your heart rate to come back down to normal, but rather, you’re moving and stretching in between sets. You are aiming for semi-recovery; think 5-6 on the perceived exertion scale.

Yes, there is a place for full recovery in the muscle-building phase of a periodized program but in this case, we are striving for a fat-burn effect to produce a lean legs effect while sculpting.

Legs & Abs Intense Workout taken from my CHALLENGE 2023 program

Instinctive Training
This is a significant overriding staple training principle for me. Once you’ve been training for a long period of time, you begin to get a deeper sense of what your body needs and responds to. We are all unique and only you know what is working best for your body and it is a case of trial and error and pushing to determine that. I have often said that no one exercise will ever feel good for everybody. It’s up to you to make adjustments accordingly and determine what works best for you.

CRUCIAL TRAINING TIP:
Training is predominately mental, first and foremost. The body is designed to give up at the first sign of discomfort and it is the mind that needs to decide to push beyond that point. If I set out to do a set of 20 leg extensions and by the end of the set I can do more, I will often add some partial reps followed by full ROM and then an isometric 10-20 sec hold, for example.

The final reps of a set are potentially when the biggest and most substantial changes will often occur. It is pushing beyond the intense burn; the point at which you want to give up but you dig deep in your mind and decide to push beyond that. The fact is, you can always do more than you think you can. You need to dig deep and discipline yourself to override your feelings.

Essentially, if it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you and the body is brilliant at quickly adapting so we need to learn to push, get creative with training to continue to mix things up to facilitate progress and growth.

Here’s an effective and quick leg workout for you below.

My ALL NEW Challenge 2023 program is a SCULPTING AND FAT BURNING KILLER! Available through HERE

Cover Photo By: Arsenik Studios