Category Archives: Blog

Bootcamp San Diego Gut Check Fitness

Great Reminders for the Holiday Festivities

Tip #1 – You knew this one was going to be first!

Get active! Get up and get going, like joining Gut Check for a Turkey Trot, or going on a run around your house. In addition, getting your family out after dinner for a nice stroll around the neighborhood is a great way to get your metabolism going and feel better after a big meal.

Tip #2

Don’t skip out on breakfast in attempt to save calories. Although it may seem like a good idea, skipping breakfast will make you indulge in more foods later in the day. Have a small but nutrient dense breakfast like a piece of whole wheat toast with an egg and avocado or Oatmeal with peanut butter and an apple.

Tip #3

Watch your portions. You do not have to eat as much as physically possible. Strive to eat small portions of the foods that aren’t as healthy so you can still get the satisfaction without the guilt. Don’t waste calories on food you can have all year long but instead make room for your holiday favorites.

Tip #4

Try to resist the temptation of going back for seconds. Practice intuitive eating… are you really still hungry or could you wait for tomorrow when leftovers will be available and probably taste better than overindulging.

Tip #5

Eat slower. Your meal will be more satisfying if you eat slower and savor it. Place your fork down in between bites and engage in conversations. Remember thanksgiving is about family and spending time laughing and talking with your loved ones not just stuffing your face.

Tip #6

Don’t forget how fast alcohol calories can add up. Try drinking a glass of water or sparkling water in between your glasses of wine. This way you will stay full and hydrated and likely to consume less excess calories in alcohol.

Tip #7

Don’t stress too much. It’s a holiday. Have fun with your family and friends and indulge a bit on your favorites. Weight loss goals may not be attainable and maybe focus on weight maintenance goals instead.

Written by – Kara McCracken, Registered Dietitian

Happy Holidays from your Gut Check Fitness Friends and Family! 

Death March to the SUCK

Two months and 8,000 miles later we somehow find ourselves halfway through the Good to Great motivational fitness tour and what an absolutely amazing ride that it has been. We’ve been fortunate enough to catch up with numerous old friends, to make countless new friends, to see this amazing country like never before and to ultimately spread our passion for the importance of leading a healthy and fit lifestyle. So rather than bore you with the endless stories that I could share, I’ll try to keep it short because as you can imagine, you collect quite a vast array of adventures in 8,000 miles on the road.

IMG_5752Last I checked in, George, Mike & I were getting ready to attempt the 75th Annual Memorial Bataan Death March on the White Sands Missile Range, NM. All we had to do was run a marathon through the desert, over a mountain while carrying a 35lb., nothing to it right. Needless to say, it was an amazing event and paid tribute to the brave soldiers that were part of the original horrific experience during WWII. Certainly a must do and extremely patriotic. All three of us completed the event with Mike & I walking/stumbling away with 2nd place medals both in our age divisions and George with a top 10 finish in his. Great work from the Gut Check team. Afterwards we headed to our remote campsite to share stories, beers and howl at the moon. My kinda night.

Next stop, Roswell, NM. I do now believe in Aliens as many of the people walking around the visitor center looked to be possible descendants of. Pretty interesting place and crowd with many speaking in languages from Star Wars and humming the theme to Close Encounters of the Third Kind but was able to walk away without any probing which was a good thing. From there, down to Carlsbad Caverns, NM and all we can say is WOW, what an absolutely mind blowing cave, and definitely a must see natural wonder of the world.

5EDE19DC-A1B6-4B7A-8579-9CFA444B45AATexas here we come. Made a stop in San Antonio to see the Alamo and the Board Walk then over to our fave, Austin, TX that’s always keeping it weird. Had to partake in some of the killer Texas BBQ then check out a little music on 6th St. Hit up the amazing Barton Springs for a little dip after a run and Gut Check workout along the river. Over to Galveston to only be able to pull our JUCY Van up on the beach and crash for the night. Very cool experience sleeping next to the ocean just had to watch out for the tide.

Time for the Big Easy. Over to New Orleans or as the locals call it, N’awlins Darlin’. Was able to catch up with many old friends that I knew from my bartending days on Bourbon Street. So much fun. Even had Ryan Kovacs join us for a couple days with a couple outings on Bourbon St. and Nik’s first crawfish boil. Plus her first shrimp po-boy from Verti Marte and a famous burger and baked potato from Port-of-Call. So much great food and good times. Certainly a different city from twenty years ago but always a relaxing and enjoyable adventure. So much food and wine, we need a Gut Check.

Mind you, we’ve been spending the week days staying in remote campsites from San Diego over to New Orleans and after N’awlins, it’s time for the woods, some workouts in Mother Nature and enjoying the landscape. Camped everywhere from the bayou, through the mountains and the forests of southern Mississippi to Alabama with a stop in Birmingham, AL to see our friends Sean and Penny for some R & R, catching up and killer pizza.

Onwards to Atlanta, GA for a little more Good to Great with that Road Runner crew. Hosted two workouts in Atlanta, met some amazing people, plus an incredible organization called Back on My Feet. Check them out if you get a chance as it’s a great cause to get involved with.


IMG_6214Miami, FL here we come. This was a pleasure only stop to see our Great friends Linda and Greg Diamond that we’ve known for years and actually married us in Italy. Lots of laughs, countless good times and plans for future events then it’s time to get the Good to Great bus on the road to DC for our next stop.


We had four days to enjoy the beauty of the South from Savannah, GA, to Charleston, SC, Jekyll Island, up through North Carolina to Virginia. Was able to stop in Wilmington, NC to see our Great friends Courtney and Stanley, he’scurrently battling cancer for the 2nd time and kicking it’s butt. This is truly a beautiful part of the country from the cities to the countryside. In South Carolina we were able to eat catfish stew and snake for the first time, and yep, it tastes like chicken.


Virginia, where Nik and I  took our first dates years ago to the many wineries and incredible trails like the Appalachian Trail. Had to do a little walk down memory lane and visit both the AT as well as the wineries like our first, Tarara Winery up by Leesburg, VA. With a pit stop to JMU where Nik went to Grad School. Nik’s dad, Rick, who just retired, actually came to join us outside of Charlottesville, VA for a couple days to see what JUCY van camping was all about. More hiking, campfires, wine drinking and memories we’re created. Time to go home Rick.


Our old stomping grounds, DC here we come. Nik and I both lived in the MD & VA area, Bethesda for about 10 years so as you can imagine, had numerous old friends that we were able to catch up with. A couple more killer workouts in Falls Church and Rockville. Plus, had a reunion like cookout at our friend’s, Brad and Carol Carter. Fantastic evening sharing stories of the past, cackling like hyenas, with plenty of great food, good wine and Cuban Cigars.

Next stop is Cherry Hill, NJ and King of Prussia, NJ. Had old friends from Cuba high school join us and even a couple of crazy guys that had completed the SUCK. Both groups were great to work with and certainly went for the Great. Stayed Sunday with our high school friends, Josh and Darcy Nelson to catch up about Cuba & Lewistown, IL school days which is always so much fun. Oh, but can’t forget the go for the great, as we had to check out an authentic Philly Cheesesteak at Jim’s place on South street. Not low cal but certainly pretty yummy.

Time to head to the Midwest for Nik’s 38th birthday and the next stop on the Good to Great tour, Chicago. Oh, but I’m forgetting a stop in Pittsburgh, PA for one of the famous Primanti Bros. sandwiches made up of, pastrami, coleslaw and French fries on two slices of Italian bread, and yes, it’s that darn tasty. Ok, now to Ft. Wayne, IN to see the family and for Nik to see her girlfriends. A great time was had by all and a wonderful birthday for the princess.

Chicago here we come. More catching up with old friends which never gets old, thank you George and Julie M for the hospitality and Rich for stopping by. Both Chicago workouts were absolutely incredible and the RRS crews did a truly Great job. So wonderful to see our old SD Gut Check members, George & Willow as well as Ang & Omar at the workout plus SUCK competitors Jessie & Jerry in attendance. We were lucky enough to have use of a killer apt downtown on the 44th floor of Eugenie Towers, thanks to Nancy as well as Nik’s sis, Kari that came to join us. Had an incredible 10k run along Lake Shore drive before we left to head back to Ft Wayne then Bloomington, IN to get ready for the Midwest SUCK this weekend. 18358657_10155168820492368_8411037096927547979_o

So here we are, 2 months and 8,000 miles into this adventure with the SUCK in the woods of Brown County this weekend followed by a Gut Check Certification next weekend at my buddy Dorian’s CrossFit 309 in Peoria, IL.

There is so much more to share with all of you but I feel that is best done over a campfire with a glass of wine. I can say this, TRAVEL, it truly will change the way that you look at life, at the things that you hold to be valuable and will ultimately change you. In what way, you have to determine that for yourself but I know that I’m a better man for it. There’s so much out there to see and do but unfortunately with not that much time to do it. Start now. I’ll close this with a quote from Thoreau to give you something to think about, “most men lead lives of quiet desperation and many go to the grave with the song still in them.” #goforthegreat

Check out our Fox 5 News DC Interview with Holly Morris


Going for the Great


I find it hard to believe that as I write this while sitting in a wine bar in Las Cruces, NM, that my wife, Nicole Decker and I are two weeks into this crazy, awesome and amazing thing called the Good to Great Tour for 4.5 months, 30 cities, 10,000 miles around the Nation all while delivering just one message, “why settle for the good when you can go for the great.”


You’re probably asking, “what the heck is the good to great tour and what does it mean?!” Good question. Last October while visiting Australia, we decided to rent a JUCY Camper van and tour the east coast of the country. The goal was to host Gut Check events but also to hold weekend workouts like we do in the States but I wanted a plug a message to get people interested and excited to join us. As someone that continually tries like hell to continually pursue the best that life can be, I thought about the Prefontaine quote, “why settle for the good when you can go for the great.” Boom, there was the message and the title of the tour, the Good to Great.


Nik and I had a great time touring the amazing Australia eastern shore board while making new friends along the way. After it as over in November, I thought to myself, why not do the same back home. So I called one of our favorite partners, Road Runner Sports in San Diego, pitched the idea and they loved it. So now we have our sponsorship with RRS as well New Balance plus Injinji toe socks joining the party too. I pitched the locations to my buddy at RRS then drew up the map that you see above. Holy  moly, this thing is becoming reality.


17021503_10154952182567368_937851643794479653_nPicked up our JUCY Camper van in LA two weeks ago and we are off. The first stop was the Anza Borrego desert for the West Coast 12 Hour SUCK. Oh, and unlike the first time in JUCY, this time I had done my research and ordered all the coolest gizmos and gadgets from it’s own pop-up tent, an inverter to power Nik’s pet hair dryer, which was for her, to an Aero press to make some killer coffee in the morning. First night in the desert, watched the sunset, the moon rise and the stars shoot, both of us knew this was going to be a pretty epic trip. Side note, it’s truly amazing and refreshing when you realize just how much you do not need to be happy. Life truly is simple when it’s simplified.


OK, 30 participants show up on Saturday, ready to kick off 12 hours of what has been named one of the Most Extreme Fitness Tests in the Nation and the SUCKfest is on. Always so impressed with the amazing men and women that join us for this empowering event. Truly gives me hope in humanity that there are still people out there that are motivated to find out and be the best that they can be. At this event, our mantra is, “if it doesn’t challenge you it doesn’t change you.” The West Coast SUCK did just this, with miles, actually over a 50k, of bucket carries, sand bag runs, trail runs, humping a pack up an extremely steep trail, thousands of bodyweight calisthenics and much more. All of this awesomeness finished with a half mile swim in the lovely Salton Sea. Not that’s what I call, “embracing the SUCK.”


Here we go again. Next day we hit the road for the Grand Canyon. Had a couple camping stops along the way. Note, as a country boy and an Infantry Vet, I do not camp where other people do, as I prefer remote locations. As you can imagine, have found some pretty incredible locations. Only been bogged down once.
Grand Canyon here we are. It’s the Wednesday before my birthday and find out that the Bright Angel to North Kaibab trail is 46 miles round trip, add one more and I’ll get 47 on my 47th as well as hopefully complete the Rim to Rim to Rim epic crossing. 14 hours later filled with awe inspiring vistas, I am done with one of the most beautiful things I have ever witnessed. If you haven’t been there, do not die without giving it a look see. It’s that amazing.


Now time to officially kick off the Good to Great tour, #goforthegreat, with our friends at Road Runner Sports at their Tempe and Scottsdale locations. Had a great crew of motivated and hard working individuals show up ready to go for their own great. Just like we do at Gut Check Fitness, was able to find some pretty cool and challenging terrain. Workouts were a hit, everyone loved the New Balance, Injinji, NUUN, Grabbagreen and RRS raffles plus giveaways. Stop one, a huge success, time to get on down the road.



Here we are in Las Cruces, NM as I mentioned above. Time to get the head straight for another bucket list event, the annual Memorial Bataan Death March. All you’ve gotta do is run 26.2 miles with a 35 lb. pack around White Sands, NM. Very happy to have my buddies, Mike and George join me for what’s sure to be an epic event while each of us go for our own great.

If you’ve made it all the way to this part of the blog, thank you for tuning in and taking the time out of your busy day. Also, hope that you’ll stay tuned on this great journey as there’s much more to come. To follow along you can go to our FB page or on Instagram. Hopefully you’ll all continue to constantly strive for your own greatness. Life is short and to be cherished with every sunrise. To finish off, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from the Shawshank Redemption, in the words of Andy Dufresne, “get busy living or get busy dying.” Cheers!


Join us at our next Road Runner Sports Good to Great Workout in Georgia, April 8th & 9th. REGISTER HERE

Complacency Kills

Written by: Joe Decker

We all love the funny fat guy today. They make us laugh. Turn on just about any TV show or movie and you’ll see that funny fat male or female comedian finding humor in their current condition. The unfortunate thing is that being obese is not funny. Overweight out of shape comedians do not live to a ripe old age. Look at John Candy, Chris Farley and more. But then again, neither do overweight out of shape people in general. Obesity, inactivity and complacency is currently effecting about 75% of the population. But you can do something about it and it’s truly not that darn difficult.Try to invest 45-60 minutes of time most days of the week and try to eat as much food as you can that was grown from the land and not manufactured. Like I always say, “it’s not a Rubix Cube, don’t overthink it. Gut Check Fitness, just like the US Military, knows the importance of not becoming soft or complacent but trying to continually stay what the military calls combat ready. I call it training for life. Life comes at you a 100 miles an hour on a random Tuesday so you had better be ready. Invest an hour a day of Gut Check and we’ll certainly do our best to help prepare you for just this as you never know. Are you ready for a Gut Check?!

In reference to the above, please check out this interesting blurb from the blog “The Art of Manliness.”

“Few recruits are physically fit for the arduous duties ahead of them. The softening influences of our mechanized civilization add difficulties to the problem of conditioning men and thereby make physical fitness more important than ever before. Even within TOE [support staff/non-frontline units], labor saving devices and mechanized equipment exert this softening effect. If men are to be developed and maintained at the desired standard of physical fitness, a well-conceived plan of physical readiness training must be part of every training program.” —FM 21-20, Physical Readiness Training (1969)

Throughout the seven-decade history of the Army’s PT test, the rigor of its standards, and whether it emphasized combat readiness or general fitness, has fluctuated along with the cycle of peace and war.

In peacetime, when the prospect of serving in combat seems remote, physical training relaxes and soldiers grow softer, content to maintain the minimum baseline of fitness required by a milder PT test.

In wartime, the vital importance of physical readiness is once again made patent and proven in the field, and these lessons lead to the toughening of PT training and tests.

The lesson in all this for both soldiers and civilians is clear: complacency kills.

Ground warfare is obsolete…until it isn’t. Mechanization is going to make battle a cakewalk…and yet the need to carry 60-100 pounds of gear while dragging a 200-lb comrade stubbornly sticks around. Everyone is sure a big crisis requiring the re-institution of the draft will never, ever happen…right before it does.

The takeaway of course for all individuals is never to allow things like institutional bureaucracy or gender politics or cultural fads to set your personal standards for physical prowess. To always exceed the minimum. To remember that what you measure is what you get, and to set goals accordingly. And to strive to be not just healthy, but skilled — not fit for life, but ever ready for action.


Finding the Balance

By Whitney Sweat, MS, RD, CSSD

As the holidays approach, daylight hours get shorter and our daily to-do list gets longer.  Balancing family, friends, and work throughout this time get stressful and it becomes easy to push aside our other tasks, like getting in a workout or doing some meal prep for the week.  If you are like me, you have a to-list that varies day to day, prioritized by level of urgency.  Those that must be completed right away go to the top (A list), while those that are not necessary “right now” get moved down (B list).  More often than not, your B list continues to grow as the A’s continue to present themselves.  Unfortunately, this can often result in preparing a side dish to share at a potluck or holiday party instead of a healthy meal.  We make ourselves feel by better by saying “I’ll eat better after the holidays,” and resolving that come January 1, big changes in our nutrition and exercise habits are going to happen.  Sound familiar?  If so, then I have a challenge for you.  Don’t put your health on the B list!

I know, it’s easier said than done, but it truly can be accomplished if you modify your priorities and goals and set out to invest in the most important thing you can, your health!  While now may not be the time to set out for more lofty ambitions like getting faster in your 10k time, PRing in a marathon, or losing that stubborn 10 pounds, you can most certainly MAINTAIN your current speed, strength, and weight.  Yes, you may be partaking in an extra party here and there, and everything else that comes with it, but that doesn’t mean that the rest of the week can’t be about taking better care of yourself.  The key to your success is going to be how you plan and strategize for this busy time of year.  Below are a few tips that will keep you organized, less stressed, and in a better position to take charge of your health!

  • Put all of your known parties, events, and travel on a master calendar that includes family members.
    • Plan what you would like to make for each of these events.  Add ingredients and necessary items to weekly shopping lists to cut down on extra trips to the grocery store.
    • Make a holiday shopping list and start tackling it now.  Sales are already starting; there is no need to wait until after Thanksgiving!
    • Follow the 80/20 rule, meaning that 80% of the time you will maintain your usual (or even better!) eating and exercise habits.  This suggests that for the 21 meals a week, you have about 4 “flex” meals each week to indulge a little bit more.  Or, if you normally workout six times per week, try to maintain getting in at least four solid workouts in on a regular basis.
    • Stop with an “all-or-nothing” defeatist approach.  For example, if on Friday night you have too much to eat and drink, this does not mean you should let the rest of the weekend continue to the same way.  Get back on the track as soon as you can, the faster the better to prevent a continuous spiral to accepting that this is just how it is going to be until the holidays are over.
    • If you are visiting family or friends, offer to chip in with cooking and grocery shopping, this will give you more control over the situation.

Bottom line, you are in control this season.  Yes, it may be difficult to maintain your usual routine, but the less you deviate the better, and the easier that first Gut Check workout of 2016 will be!  Happy holidays all!

Rabbit Peak Trail Run Nutrition Tips

Rabbit Peak Nutrition

By Whitney Sweat, MS, RD, CSSD

Less than 1 week remains to prepare for the Rabbit Peak Trail run so it’s time to start planning for your nutrition needs to fuel for the long haul.  While the days leading up to the race are crucial (see previous blog post for more information:, what you fuel and hydrate your body with during the long race could be a make or break for success.

With the altitude, elevation gains, technicality, and distance, you are definitely going to be expending more energy from carbohydrate than your body can store (typically about 1,000-2,000 Calories worth) so consuming some form of carbohydrate during the race is necessary.  While your body can also utilize fat as a fuel source (of which we have an abundance of stored Calories), it is converted a usable form of energy by the body much more slowly than carbohydrate, so fat alone cannot sustain higher intensity activities.

Another extremely important focus for a race like this one is hydration.  Water alone during this distance will not be sufficient to keep up with the electrolytes you will be losing through sweat.  Solid foods and carbohydrate containing beverages can be great sources of additional electrolytes during the race.  It is important that you have an idea of your individual hydration needs prior to the race to be sure you bring enough fluid and electrolytes to keep you well hydrated.  Read on for specific fueling and hydration strategies.

Fueling Strategies

  • Begin fueling your body early on in the race and continue to do so at regular intervals.
  • Focus primarily on consuming carb-rich foods and beverages, but incorporate some protein and a small amount of well-tolerated fats (some carb-based supplements contain some protein and fat like Perpetuem by Hammer Nutrition).
  • Practice with different foods that you will use prior to race day. 
    • Identify what form of food will work for you.  There are multiple sports bars, drinks, gels, and chews out there so don’t try anything unfamiliar on race day.
    • Liquids: sports drinks, electrolyte mixes to add to water, carbohydrate supplement like Perpetuem
    • Solids: Clif, Pro, or Power bars, Honey Stingers, dried fruits/trail mix, banana, PB & banana wrap (if tolerated), peanut butter pretzels/crackers, “no bake energy bites” (see recipe), or fig bars
    • Aim to consume between 30-60 g of carbohydrate per hour.  Your specific amount will be based on the intensity level you will be competing (higher intensity = higher carbohydrate usage) and how much you are able to tolerate (GI discomfort is common in endurance races).

Hydration Strategies

  • Understand your individual hydration needs by assessing your sweat rate during training.
    • Weigh yourself before and after training (no shoes, minimal clothing)
    • Convert pounds of fluid lost to ounces (1 lb = 16 oz fluid; 3 lb = 48 oz)
    • Account for fluid consumed during exercise
      • 48 fl oz + 16 fl oz consumed during 1 hour (60 min) training = 64 fl oz
  • Calculate fluid loss per minute
    • Example: 64 fl oz/60 min training time = ~1.0 fl oz per minute
  • Calculate fluid needs every 15 minutes
    • 1.0 fl oz x 15 min = 15 fl oz every 15 minutes
  • Aim to get as close to this fluid amount as possible during the race by drinking every 10-20 minutes.
  • Additional electrolytes are necessary for a race this length, do not hydrate with water alone!  Sports drinks (Gatorade Endurance, Powderade, Live Fluid) provide both carbohydrate and electrolytes.  Electrolyte mixes (Nuun, Skratch Labs) can be added to water as well (highly recommended for a race of this difficulty level).
  • Choose carbohydrate sources that also contain electrolytes (salted trail mix, dried bananas and other fruits, pretzels, goldfish)

Make sure to use the above tips to be well prepared with a fueling and hydration strategy that will work best for you.  This is crucial to finish the race successfully and safely!  Best of luck to all of you go-getters participating in this challenging race!

No Bake Energy Bites

  • 1 cup old fashioned oats (dry)
  • 2/3 cup toasted coconut flakes
  • ½ cup peanut butter or almond butter
  • ½ cup ground flaxseed
  • ½ cup chocolate or carob chips (optional)
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Stir all ingredients together in medium bowl until thoroughly mixed.  Let chill in the refrigerator half and hour.  Once chilled, roll into ball of whatever size you would like.  Store in airtight container for up to 1 week.

Makes about 20-25 bites (depending on size)

Goal Setting


By Whitney Sweat, MS, RD, CSSD

The New Year is once again upon us, and for many, that means setting New Year’s Resolutions.  Too often, however, these resolutions that we start off with so strongly quickly become a thing of past.  What starts off as the best of intentions in January often leads to feelings of disappointment and failure come February.  Why is it that so many people fail to keep these resolutions?  Common mistakes in maintaining resolutions include failing to define goals in more specific terms, setting broad, large scale goals instead of smaller, more obtainable ones, and neglecting to break down goals into measurable actions that yield results.

Well, this year, I have a different challenge for you Gut Checkers!  Instead of thinking in terms of New Year’s Resolutions, focus on making “New You” resolutions.  Rather than setting broad, large-scalegoals create smaller, more realistic onesalong with planned strategies to help you achieve them.  For example, instead of saying, “This year I will exercise more and eat better,” be more specific by saying “The month of January I will start by going to Gut Check 2 times per week and I will eat 1 cup of vegetables at lunch and dinner.”  In the second set of goals you can easily identify if you are reaching them or not.  If you are not meeting them, you can try to identify what the barrier(s) to success may be.

So how do we create these more obtainable goals? Read-on and follow the simple steps below to create personalized goals and strategies to meet your needs!

Download this: Goal Setting Worksheet

Step 1:

Identify what you want to accomplish.  For some this may be weight loss, others may have a performance or health related goal.  You may also have more than one.

  • Examples: I will eat better.  I will exercise more.  I will run a marathon.

Step 2:

  Prioritize your goals.  If you have more than one goal, tackling everything at one time can be overwhelming and make it difficult to maintain changes.  Identify which are most important to you and/or your overall health and start there.  Chances are addressing those issues will set you up for greater success in your other goals.

Step 3:

  Re-define your goals using SMART principles.  This step identifies how to turn broad, vague goals into more specific “mini-goals.”

Specific: Be specific in what is you want to accomplish.  Instead of “I will eat better,” define exactly how you will do this or what you need to address.  For example, “I will eat 1 piece of fruit and 1 cup of vegetables every day.”“I will substitute soda with water or unsweetened tea.”

Measurable: Set goals that you can answer “yes” or “no” to.  You can easily check yourself at the end of the day on whether or not you ate your servings of fruits and vegetables.  Putting a more objective measurement on your goals will be necessary for tracking progress and/or impediments to change.

Attainable: Set goals that you can obtain.  It’s great if you want to run a marathon, but if you have not been actively running regularly, perhaps starting with a 10K or half-marathon is more achievable for you at this point.  Eating better will often include cooking more homemade food, but if your cooking skills are limited a more attainable goal than “cooking all meals from scratch” might be “incorporate one new recipe a week.”

Realistic: Think realistically about your work and life demands.  Is training for a marathon realistic given what you have going on?  If you are traveling a lot or have a big project coming up at work that may take away from your training, modify your goals to fit better.  A 10 k might be more realistic for now, but keep the marathon as an option in the future when time permits.

Time-oriented: Set a realistic time frame for each mini-goal.  This allows for you to break your goals into smaller, more obtainable pieces and progress in your goals.  Added bonus, it can also help keep you from procrastinating!  For example, “Sunday I will prepare enough food to eat lunch Monday-Thursday,” or “This week I will run 3 miles 3 times.”

Step 4:

Break down each goal into specific actions and strategies.  Mini-goals are great for monitoring your progress, but if you are going to eat 2 servings of fruits and vegetables each day you will need to make sure you put enough on your grocery list and that you get to the store.  Perhaps you even need to start with taking an inventory of what you are currently eating.  What can you eliminate and replace with a healthier option?  What state are your running shoes in?  Do you need to invest in a new pair to support your training?  Do you need to arrange childcare or support from a spouse in order to achieve your exercise goals?  Think of this as the “logistics” as to how you will make these goals happen.

Step 5:

Commitment.  Behavior change is difficult; it takes time to break old habits and form new ones.  Give yourself enough time to get through this initial discomfort, soon enough these new strategies will become habit and ultimately, preference!  Commit to each mini-goal and strategy that you set for 3 weeks to make a new habit.  Make sure you set yourself up for success during this time.  Use a weekly planner or calendar to schedule time for exercise, meal planning, grocery shopping, and meal preparation.  Put reminders into your phone, elicit support from friends, and include your family into your new lifestyle changes. Ultimately, finding what will work best for you to stay motivated, focused, and on track will help you make changes for the long-term!

Step 6:

Monitor progress and barriers.  As time goes forward, you will face some ups and downs with your overall progress.  Remember this is completely normal!  Keep a detailed food and exercise journal to help you track progress.  Instead of just writing down what you eat and when also write why you ate what you ate.  Were you hungry or were you using food for a different reason?  Same with exercise, track why you missed a work out.  If a goal is not achieved or a strategy is not working, use this journal to reflect on some possible barriers to your success that you can focus on addressing.  Perhaps a goal needs to be revised or you need to look again at the strategies you laid out.  On the other hand, as you move forward you will need to continue to modify your goals to make sure they are challenging enough for you.  Doing too little can be just as detrimental as doing too much, so make sure you continue to assess your progress and continue to take yourself outside of your comfort zone, whether it is putting in that extra mile each week, attending one more Gut Check class, or trying a new food you are unfamiliar with.

Step 7:

Create contingency plans.  Inevitably, life is going to happen.  You will miss a workout, you won’t have time for meal preparation, etc.  Whatever it is, have a backup plan to either minimize the impact or to help you get back on track immediately.  Make sure to have easy, ready-to-eat options for quick meals like frozen vegetables, instant brown rice, and frozen turkey burger or salmon fillets for a last minute meal.  Or “overschedule” yourself for workouts.  If your goal is 4 workouts a week, find 5 different times to fit it in.  That way if you miss one, you are still on track, and if you make all 5, bonus!

Step 8:

Maintenance.  Sometimes this can be the most difficult step.  You did it.  You lost that extra 15 pounds, you ran a marathon, and you cleaned up your diet.  Now how do you continue to stay on track?  Incorporating a lot of the same steps listed above can help you with this.  Consider other mini-milestones you can accomplish like improving your marathon time, increasing strength and muscle mass, trying a new sport or workout regimen, or incorporating more variety into your usual foods; anything that will keep you focused on maintaining healthy habits for the long term!

Now for the “New You” challenge!  Use the steps above to guide you in the goal setting process.  These will be modified every three weeks.  It is up to you to self-monitor and track your progress towards these goals.  Remember, there is no “one-size-fits-all approach” to creating these goals, so pick what is going to work best for and benefit you the most!  Fill out the form below to set your goals.  These will be assessed and evaluated every 3 weeks.  Your goals may stay the same, but the strategies and tasks may change, and/or you may revise your goals.

Download this: Goal Setting Worksheet

Holiday Weight Management Tips

By Whitney Sweat, MS, RD, CSSD

Another year has gone by and the holidays are upon us again.  No doubt those New Year’s resolutions for 2014 have long been forgotten, but why wait until this upcoming January 1st to start making changes to your nutrition and exercise habits?  There is no time like the present, so get out there and start working towards those 2015 goals now!  See below for some useful tips and strategies for enjoying all of those holiday parties without expanding your waistline.


It needn’t be said that maintaining your activity level is crucial for weight management.  Although you may be taking time from your regular work schedule, traveling, and generally being out of your usual routine, prioritize exercise and set a goal to move every day during the holidays.  Whether it is a 1-mile walk or a full day of skiing, the more you move the more you burn!  By committing to some form of activity each day, you increase the chance that once you get started you will find you have more time for it!  Keep yourself motivated by getting your family and friends involved, put reminders in your phone, post-up sticky notes encouraging yourself to go on a walk or run, whatever will work for you!


While incorporating exercise into your holiday routine is crucial, paying attention to what you eat is also important.  Unfortunately for us, it is a lot easier to consume a large amount of calories quickly than to burn them off!  However, you can most certainly enjoy some of your favorite holiday treats without doing too much damage.

  • Set Yourself up for Success
    • Be realistic with your weight related goals during the holidays.  Focus on maintaining your current weight, rather than losing, during this time.
    • Don’t deprive yourself of your favorite foods.  Over restriction can set you up for over eating later on.
    • Maintain some sort of routine or structure during the holidays.  Try to keep a similar sleep schedule, eat at structured times, and exercise on a regular schedule.
    • Make sure to have healthy foods on hand.  Keep these items readily available and in sight.   For example, keep oranges, pears, and apples on the counter, chop up fresh fruit for a quick and convenient fruit salad, chop vegetables for salad toppings.   On the other hand, don’t store holiday treats on the counter, put them away in the pantry where they are more out of your line of sight.
  • Be Prepared
    • Keep an events calendar so you know in advance when challenges may arise.
      • Don’t arrive hungry to an event.  Eat on a regular schedule and have a protein and produce based meal or snack prior to the event.
      • Bring a healthy side or appetizer option to holiday parties.
  • Prepare for any travel that you are doing, whether by plane or car, more nutrient dense snacks can help keep cravings at bay.
    • Car (pack a cooler)
      • Hard-boiled eggs, deli meat, string cheese
      • Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, kefir
      • Oranges, apples, bananas, grapes, berries
      • Hummus + carrot sticks, mini peppers, cherry tomatoes, snap peas
      • Plane
        • Beef jerky & peanut butter packets
        • Fruit & nut trail mix
        • Almonds, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, etc.
        • Crackers, mini rice cakes, pita chips, granola
        • KIND/Lara/Rise Bars
  • Keep it Balanced
    • Stick to your optimal eating habits as much as possible.  Maintain balance between food groups (protein, vegetables, carbs/starches)
    • When dining out or going to events always use plates and utensils, avoid grazing as the calories can really add up.
    • Start your plate with veggies, fruits, and lean proteins. Use leftover space for starches.
    • Remember you don’t have to try everything!  Scan the choices first and sample a few of your favorites and leave the rest alone.
    • Allow yourself time before taking seconds, identify if you are truly still hungry for more.
    • Focus on mingling and catching up with old friends rather than standing by the food table.
  • Follow the 80/20 Rule
    • Moderation is key during the holidays.  Rather than depriving yourself, use the 80/20 rule and think about eating 80% “performance foods” and 20% “fun foods.”


Performance Foods: Provide carbohydrates to fuel workouts, protein to build and repair muscles, and necessary vitamins and minerals.

  • Turkey, ham, roast beef, nuts, cheese (in moderation)
  • Sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, cranberries, rolls
  • Carrots, green beans, salads, veggie sides


Fun Foods: Higher in added sugar and fat, contain little or no vitamins, but provide enjoyment and satisfy body’s natural desire for certain tastes

  • Fudge, pies, cookies, chocolate, candy, whipped cream
  • Eggnog, hot cocoa, ciders



Lastly, don’t forget about monitoring those liquid calories!  Whether it’s from alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages, it’s important to know that liquid calories do not provide our bodies with the same level of satiety (fullness) as solid foods.  If you enjoy sweeter beverages, keep the serving to one per event, maintain reasonable portion sizes (dilute with soda water/seltzer if able), and take the time to really savor and enjoy the flavor.  If you will be enjoying some alcoholic beverages try drinking water between each one to help pace yourself.  Hey, you might even be more likely to make that 6 AM Gut Check Workout the next morning!

Overall, the holidays are a time to catch up with family and friends, enjoy ourselves, and reflect on all of the things we are thankful for.  It is not a time for deprivation or guilt for what we eat.  Balance, moderation, and a little planning ahead will ensure a fun-filled holiday season that won’t derail your goals.  Plus, you will be one step closer to kick-starting 2015 on a positive note!

Happy Holidays!


Healthy Holiday Event Options

  • Yogurt based dip or hummus and veggies
  • Fresh fruit and cheese plate
  • Mini quiches
  • Stuffed peppers or mushrooms
  • Soups, stews, salads
  • Fruit drizzled with dark chocolate


Recipes (adapted from

Maple-Roasted Sweet PotatoesMaple-Roasted Sweet Potatoes


  • 2 ½ pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 ½ in pieces
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste


  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Arrange sweet potatoes in an even layer in a 9 x 13 glass baking dish.  Combine maple syrup, butter, lemon juice, salt and pepper in small bowl.  Pour mixture over the sweet potatoes, toss to coat.
  • Cover and bake the sweet potatoes for 15 minutes.  Uncover, stir and cooking, stirring every 15 minutes, until tender and starting to brown (30-45 minutes more).


Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Onion

Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Onion


  • 2 ½ pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed
  • 4 slices bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 TB extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 4 sprigs thyme + 2 teaspoons leaves (divided)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice


  • Bring a large pot of water to boil
  • If sprouts are small, cut in half, otherwise cut into quarters
  • Cook the sprouts in boiling water until barely tender, 3 to 5 minutes.  Drain.
  • Meanwhile, cook bacon in a large heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring, until brown but not crisp, 3 to 6 minutes.  Remove with a slotted spoon to drain on a paper towel.  Pour out all but ~ 1TB bacon fat from the pan.
  • Add olive oil to the pan and heat over medium heat.  Add onion and cook, stirring often, until soft but not browned (reducing the heat if necessary, about 4 minutes).  Stir in the thyme sprigs, salt, and pepper.  Increase heat to medium-high, add the Brussels sprouts and cook tossing or stirring occasionally, until tender and warmed through, about 3 minutes.  Remove the herb sprigs.  Add the bacon, thyme leaves and lemon juice and toss.


Riesling Baked PearsRiesling Baked Pears


  • 4 ripe pears, preferable Bosc, with stems, washed and dried
  • 2 cups Riesling or other fruity white wine
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 4 strips orange zest


  • Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees
  • Cut a thin slice off the bottom of each pair they will stand upright.  Arrange the pears in a 9- to 10-inch pie pan or similar baking dish. Whisk wine and honey in a medium bowl until well blended; pour over the pears.  Add cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, and orange zest to the wine mixture around the pears.
  • Roast the pairs, basting with mixture every 15 minutes until they are wrinkled and tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour
  • Use a slotted spoon to transfer the pears to shallow dessert bowls.  Pour the wine mixture in a small saucepan, bring to a boil.  Boil until slightly thickened, about 6 minutes.  Drizzle over the pears and garnish with cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, and orange zest.
  • Serve warm and try paired with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.


Gut Check Challenge Fuel & Hydration Tactics

By Whitney Sweat


Preparation for the Gut Check Challenge is no easy feat!  Undoubtedly you have been trail running, doing strongman training, and attending Gut Check classes.  While all of this is extremely important to you successfully completing the challenge, make sure you aren’t neglecting another key component of your training…nutrition!  Fueling for this type of an event is not easy, and there is no one size fits all approach to the best way to maintain your energy levels for the entire race.  What you do in the days, hours, minutes, and during the race will be crucial to performance, and how you feel after the race!

Remember that the primary fuel source used during this type of event is carbohydrate.  Fat will also contribute, as will protein in small amounts, but bottom line, if you don’t have enough carbohydrate on board your output and intensity will suffer.  During the event carbohydrate will come from 3 sources: 1) the carbohydrate you ingest prior to the challenge, 2) the carbohydrate you have stored in the body, and 3) what is consumed during the event.  Let’s look at each of these sources in more detail.

1) Carbohydrate ingested prior to the event:

You will only be able to eat so much prior to the event or else you may run into gastrointestinal issues that will hamper your performance.  Think about what you ingest prior to the race as “topping off” your fuel stores.  Make sure that whatever you consume the day of the race are familiar foods, this is not the day to have a different breakfast or pre-workout snack!  Practicing with different foods during training is a great way to understand your body and what it responds to best.  You will want your pre-race meal to contain an ample amount of carbohydrate, and moderate amount of protein, and minimal fat (excess fat can delay digestion and absorption, increasing the chance of race day stomach issues).  Some commonly used race day meals include:

  • Oatmeal with banana or dried fruit, plus 1-2 hard-boiled eggs, ½ cup Greek yogurt, or 2 TB peanut butter
  • Wheat toast or bagel with peanut butter and banana, plus 1 cup low-fat milk
  • Fruit smoothie made with fresh or frozen fruit, 1 cup Greek yogurt or 1 scoop protein powder
  • Whole grain cereal or granola with low-fat milk, dried fruit, and nuts

Be sure to take up early enough to allow time for digestion to occur (about 3-4 hours).  Include about 2-3 cups of fluid with this meal as well.  If you are prone to cramping or heat exhaustion, a sports drink or electrolyte beverage will be beneficial.  Also, include a small carbohydrate-containing snack about 30 minutes prior to the race and again, and again include about 1 cup of fluid.

  • Sports drink and small handful of nuts
  • KIND fruit and nut bar or Clif Mojo Sweet n’ Salty Bar
  • ½ peanut butter and banana sandwich
  • Peanut butter filled pretzels
  • ½ Naked Juice or Odwalla Protein Drink

2) Carbohydrate stored in the body

Your body can store carbohydrate in the form of glycogen in your muscles and your liver.  Your body converts this glycogen to glucose as needed during exercise.  During training, it is important that you are adequately recovering and refueling these carbohydrate stores. Prior to the even, you can ensure that your carbohydrate stores are full by 1) tapering exercise the week prior to use less stored glycogen, and 2) consuming carbohydrate-rich foods and beverages regularly.  Include regular meals and snacks into your daily routine, eating enough at each meal to keep you feeling satisfied (not stuffed) for about 3 hours.  Make sure 1/3 of your plate (about 1 ½ fists) comes from a carbohydrate source during meals (oats/cereal, bread, grains, starchy vegetables, pasta) and include carbohydrate containing fruits and vegetables on the other 1/3 of your plate.  The remainder of your plate should contain a protein source.

  • Grilled sirloin steak, baked sweet potato, roasted asparagus
  • Baked Salmon, brown or wild rice, steamed broccoli
  • Stir-fry vegetables with chicken and brown rice
  • Deli meat sandwich or wrap with side salad
  • Chicken burrito bowl with sautéed peppers and onions

Snacks should include a carbohydrate along with a protein source to help stabilize blood sugar levels.

  • Beef jerky plus dried apricots
  • Instant oatmeal pack plus milk and/or peanut butter
  • Hard-boiled egg plus grapes
  • Hummus and string cheese plus crackers
  • Rice cake topped with peanut butter
  • Cottage cheese or Greek yogurt and fruit
  • No Bake Energy Bites (can also be used as a pre-workout snack)

The days before the event are crucial to optimizing your body’s carbohydrate stores.  Although carbohydrate is important, you do not have to “carb load” in the more traditional sense.  A balance between food groups is important.  The night before make sure to have a familiar, easily digested meal that will provide you with the fuel mix necessary for an event like the Gut Check Challenge.  I like a plain meal of grilled chicken, baked sweet potato, and steamed green beans or broccoli.  Don’t neglect water and other fluids either the days before a race and minimize alcohol intake as it can dehydrate you.  Bonus, fruits and veggies are a great source of fluid from foods!

3) Carbohydrate consumed during the event

A 3-4 hour race is long, no matter how on point you are with your nutrition prior to the race, you will need to ingest some carbohydrate, fluids, and electrolytes during the race to maintain your energy levels.  One solution is to wear a hydration belt with 2 water bottle compartments, fill one with plain water and the other with a sports beverage to provide electrolytes and carbohydrate.  You can also store portable snacks in the belt.  What you consume during the challenge will largely depend on what you are able to tolerate, but most importantly, remember this is not the time to try a new sports drink, bar, or gel since you don’t know how your body will react!  If you must rely on fluids only, make sure to use a sports drink that contains about 14-19 g of carbohydrates per 8 oz.  If you can consume more solid foods, you can get carbohydrates and some electrolytes this way and use more water.  You may consider adding in electrolytes to water (like Nuun electrolyte packets) if you aren’t going to have a carbohydrate containing sports drink, and if you are prone to cramping.  Ideally, you want to get 30-6-0 grams of carbohydrate per hour.  This may seem like a lot, but it can be accomplished using sports drink gels and blocks; that is what they are designed for!  Keep in mind, if you wait until you feel like you need fuel before you eat something, it might already be too late so start fueling about 45 minutes into the event!  Some commonly used foods and beverages during events include:

  • Sports drinks, gels, blocks, or bars
  • Pretzel sticks, crackers, or goldfish
  • Salted trail mix (dried fruit, cereal, nuts)
  • Peanut butter & banana roll-up (if able to tolerate solid foods)

Adding practiced and well-planned nutrition strategies to your event-day routine will enhance your performance and enjoyment of any race or event in which you compete.  The Gut Check Challenge is a great opportunity to start making it a priority, so make sure you add your fuel and fluids to your mandatory gear list!

No Bake Energy Bites

  • 1 cup old fashioned oats (dry)
  • 2/3 cup toasted coconut flakes
  • ½ cup peanut butter or almond butter
  • ½ cup ground flaxseed
  • ½ cup chocolate or carob chips (optional)
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Stir all ingredients together in medium bowl until thoroughly mixed.  Let chill in the refrigerator half and hour.  Once chilled, roll into ball of whatever size you would like.  Store in airtight container for up to 1 week.

Makes about 20-25 bites (depending on size)

Nutty Strawberry Banana Smoothie

  • 1 cup Vanilla or Honey Greek yogurt
  • 1 scoop protein powder (optional)
  • ½ cup fresh or frozen strawberries
  • 1 peeled banana
  • 2 TB nut butter
  • ½ cup almond or water