Why Your Workout Isn’t Working

I had to call uncle and join a gym.

I couldn’t seem to find the “just right” place to run here in Texas. My home-on-wheels is not steady enough to do high-intensity boot-camp type routines which involve jumping moves like jacks and burpees.

I can’t function properly without regular exercise, and walking everyday doesn’t quite fulfill the need for me.

What’s an old fitness junkie to do?

I did some research and found a terrific community center-based gym near our winter home in Portland. This is only the second gym I have ever paid to join in my 20+ years of  professional fitness/wellness training. It has proved a nice change of pace from my previous routine.
I have worked in a fair share of fitness facilities. Some were budget fitness centers, some were high-end. All of them had one thing in common. I was reminded of this today while people-watching  during my training session.

Here’s the common denominator:

A whole bunch of people who show up regularly, but can’t seem to get the results they are looking for.

If this describes you, check out my list of common fitness mistakes that may be standing in your way whether you are an at-home exerciser or a gym-rat type.

  1. You lack a plan– this person shows up religiously, does a quick warm up, or not, wanders into the weight room randomly picking up weights, does a set of bicep curls, a couple squats, a few chest presses, and out the door they go. Dude, you forgot most of your major muscle groups. No sense training those biceps if you are gonna ignore your triceps. They work as a team. Working only your biceps is going to set you up for a muscle imbalance. This is the case for most major muscle groups. Go armed with your action plan, so you don’t leave areas of your body out of the fun. Don’t forget to stretch!

    Always go in with a plan to avoid downtime

  2. Too much idle time– This is a big pet peeve of mine. You get to the gym, chat up the front desk person, wander to the locker room, get dressed, flip around the TV in the cardio room. By the time you start your warm-up you have already eaten into 15 minutes of time. You get off the machine of choice, mosey to the weight room hit a set of bicep curls, check your phone, perform another set of bicep curls, check your look in the mirror, crank out one more set and grab a leisurely drink of water. Too much downtime. You are here to work out. Get on it already! Get in, get dressed, and don’t forget your plan. Be efficient, in between bicep sets, get after some jumping jacks or alternate it with your leg or core work. I love doing upper body, lower body, core sets. No time is wasted while you rest the part you just worked. If you take a break, keep it a break, NOT a vacation.
  3. Machine leaning- pet peeve #2. If you have to lean on the treadmill or hang on to it for dear life, you are working beyond your current capabilities. SLOW DOWN. If balance is an issue, perhaps a walking around the track or a riding stationary bike may be a better idea for you until your balance and stamina improve.

    Too much incline damages your form. Walk tall and proud

    If you have to hang on you lose 20% of your results. Swing those arms!

  4. Your form sucks- exercises are designed to work a certain area, and to target the muscle group correctly you must have proper form. The mirror is there for reasons other than checking out your spiffy new gym outfit, check that form!  And quit lifting at warp speed. A steady 2 counts up 2 counts down or even slower will achieve the effect you are after. Save the speed for the cardio room. If you are unsure of proper form you can take a class from a certified group fitness instructor or schedule a few sessions with a personal trainer, who can also help you create a balanced plan, and get your form straightened out.
  5. Your trainer or group exercise instructor has no nationally recognized certification-Just being a long-term gym rat or attending a week long training program focused on mainly sales techniques does not a CERTIFIED trainer or instructor make. Certified trainers, such as myself, have studied very hard to become familiar with the human body and the effect fitness has on it. We are trained to do assessments and create balanced programs which get results. The exams are not easy, and we are required to take continuing education credits and CPR classes every two years to renew our certifications. Independent contractors, like me, carry professional liability insurance, something an uncertified trainer cannot obtain. Ask your trainer for proof of certification. You wouldn’t go to a doctor without any credentials, and the same rules should apply to your trainer. Most states do not require fitness instructors or personal trainers to be certified. Do not assume just because your gym has trainers, they are certified.

    Double certified I am, and proud of it!

  6. You are inconsistent-You can’t just show up every 6 days one week and one the next week. You must be consistent. Exercise must be regular to be effective. You can store fat, but not fitness. Make a plan of action and stick to it.
  7. You are too consistent– if you only do cardio or only do weight-training, you are doing your body a disservice. A balanced program needs 4 components; cardio, strength, flexibility, and balance. Yoga is a great workout for flexibility, strength, and balance, but lacks cardio. Weight training can cover strength, balance, and even cardio if you stay on it, but lacks flexibility. Walking and running are great, but only for cardio benefits. A good group exercise class will generally cover all these aspects. Slogging through same workout day after day is boring and stalls result. Nothing will kill a plan quicker than boredom.
  8. Your diet sucks- there is not a trainer around who doesn’t deal with this issue on a daily basis. You lie to us about what you eat and drink. You lie to yourself about what you eat and drink. And yet you wonder why you are not achieving results. Keep a food (and drink) log if you expect to see change. Most of us underestimate the amount of food we consume, as well as overestimate how many calories we burn while exercising. Do not believe your device. Or exercise infomercials which claim to burn 1000 calories. If it sounds too good to be true, it certainly is. Some of us like to reward our hard workout with a special treat. Or we get so wrapped up in protein shakes and supplements we forget to enjoy a whole food, clean diet. Or we eat decently during the week, then totally blow it up on the weekend with food and booze. (Hey, me too!) Losing weight and maintaining weight are 70% food-related and 30% exercise-related. And don’t forget to hydrate with plain old water. Most of us are not working out long or hard enough to require a sports drink.

    Lots of produce and lots of water=a healthy you

  9. No scheduled rest days– even professional athletes need to give their bodies a break. You are no different. I prefer active rest days, I crave movement most days, so my rest days are usually spent taking a walk and doing light stretching. But certainly feel free to take a full rest day and delight in how your body is responding to those previous workouts. And then you can really get it on when your next workout day arrives, feeling fresh and rested.
  10. You don’t like working out– I know, I am a oddball, I adore working out. Almost nothing I’d rather do. It’s probably why I am quite successful in this business. I will try any class. And if I really like it, I will train to teach it. I know many of you do not feel this way. You simply must find a form of exercise you enjoy. Exercise should not feel like torture, it should be fun! There are numerous forms of fitness from yoga, dance fitness like Zumba and barre classes, boot camps utilizing all the fun gym equipment like bosus and brightly colored fitness bands. Old school stuff like aerobics and calisthenics are making a comeback. The options are endless, and there is a workout that is perfect for you. Many of my regular class participants, claim they hate exercise (hey Denise and Judy!) but they love the relationships they have developed and it helps to keep them motivated when I enthusiastically announce yet another set of glute-lifters, and they collectively groan and roll their eyes. You don’t have to love the movements, but find something that keeps you coming back. And when you try a class new to you, let the instructor know. She or he can fill you in on what’s about to happen and offer modifications where needed.


    Power Hour Participants. Almost 20 years strong. Make it fun and they will return!

So there’s a bit of free advice straight from the trainer’s mind. Do you find yourself making any of these common mistakes? By making some simple changes you will begin achieving the results you deserve.

Work it baby, and work it right!


Functional Movement Pattern #1

Coach Sheryle here. I am bringing you the first in an continuing series on functional movement patterns, designed to keep your body strong and healthy for whatever your life holds. Whether it be mowing the lawn, a sweet weekend hike, or chasing the kids or grandkids around, a functional body will make it more enjoyable.

If you have read my previous blog post, you are well versed in the evils of sitting for multiple hours during the day. If not, get back there and read it. Then apply these movements to your daily sitting routine to break up the sitting addiction we all seem to have acquired.

The whole thing takes about 3 minutes. I designed it with straight leg movements, so those of you with knee issues can participate as well. Ideally, you will practice this every 1/2 hour you are seated. If that doesn’t work try every hour.

Some is better than none when it comes to movement-Sheryle Sage

As always, with any movement, if this causes pain in your joint, stop immediately. If you feel some heat in the muscle, that’s good. It means there is a greater blood flow to the area. That is what we are trying to create.

This pattern is similar to one I use at the very beginning of my run warm ups. It is very gentle, based on controlled leg swings and, if I do say so myself, enjoyable.

Here’s the pattern, and below I will have pics of the movements:

  1. knee lift x 10 each leg
  2. leg swing front and back (using muscle control both forward and back) x 5
  3. rear leg 3 pulse x 5
  4. leg swing x 5
  5. rear leg 3 pulse (with toes turned slightly away from the body) x 5
  6. leg swing x 5
  7. lunge stance hip flexor stretch
  8. Switch sides and repeat the whole sequence

Basically we have an alternating knee life to start some blood flow to the area, swings to loosen the leg, pulses to provide more blood flow to the low back and glute area, via the squeezing action of the muscles, then finishing a lunge stretch to open up the hip flexor muscle which usually becomes overly tight from being held in a seated position.

My practice model, photographer, editor-in-chief, and partner in crime, and hubby, Bruce said it felt a bit intense doing one leg at a time. If this is the case, alternate legs back and forth through the movements. Shorten the reps to 3 and work into 5. It doesn’t matter the sequence, it matters that you move that behind!



Begin with a good stance. Military style posture. Hip over ankle/shoulder over hip/ear in line with the shoulder. Tummy sucked in a bit to provide muscle support for your low back area. Shoulders back and down. Chin slightly lifted. Don’t hold your breath. Don’t let your ego take over. Swing and pulse only within your natural range of motion. Take good care not to arch your back in the rear movements. The movement originates from the hip joint, not the back. Slow and controlled movements please. If balance is an issue, by all means hang on to a stable chair, post, or wall. We are not concerned with balance in this 3 minutes. It’s all about the blood flow.


knee lift

1) Alternating knee lift. Kind of like a slow high march. Keep your back straight and core engaged. (10 x’s each leg)






leg swings

2) Leg swing forward and back. Same stance. With control lift the leg to the front, and with the same control, without arching your back, lift leg to the rear. Then do it 4 more times.


3 pulse

3) Hold the leg in the rear position, pulse it 3 times, squeezing the glutes, engaging the core, and release. Repeat 4 more times

4) Swing the leg again. 5 times


toe turned out

5) Repeat the pulses, but this time with your toe turned slightly away from your body (this engages the glute a bit deeper, if it feels like too much, use the original pulse)




6 & 7 ) Swing again 5 times, but the last one let your toe fall to the ground behind you, heel remains up, tuck your pelvis a bit, bend both knees, lowering just until you feel a light stretch in the front of your thigh (rear leg) where it meets your hip bone. Hold the stretch for around 10-15 seconds

That’s it folks. It may take you a couple minutes longer than 3 the first few times. Then it will begin to imprint not only in your brain, but your muscles too. Every muscle cell has a memory component contained in it. Soon it will become second nature to both your brain and body to perform these simple, yet effective movements.

In addition to the wonderful blood flow benefits (blood flow is very healing), you may also notice a toning and strengthening of the glutes and low back. Now that’s a great side effect!

I would like to thank my photographer, Bruce Sage, and the Hillsborough State Park (The Real Florida) in Thonotosassa  FL for hosting our shoot. Check it out if you are ever in the area. The park is simply amazing.

And, thank you readers 🙂

Stay well

Coach Sheryle

Strong Backs/Flexible Spines



Let’s talk some fitness, shall we? According to current research 80% of Americans will experience back problems during their lifetime. This comes as no surprise as many of us have led inactive, sedentary lifestyles coupled with spending our days hunched over computers, phones, or other various devices. But, as granny said, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Spending a few minutes daily focusing on stretching and strengthening our core muscles and creating spinal mobility are great methods to save money on chiropractor bills, and unnecessary pain medications.

All you will need in the way of equipment is a stable, armless chair. You can also do these standing. Do not force the movements, gently ease into the point where you feel a light stretch on your muscles.  If you feel pain, stop and consult your physician before proceeding.

The spine moves in six directions; side-to-side, forward and back bending, twisting right and left. I have an exercise for each of these movements, followed with 2 core strengthening moves.

Lateral Flexion (side to side bends)-sit tall in chair with core engaged  (pull your belly button toward your spine as if someone is taking a picture from the side view) and feet flat on the floor. Inhale as you reach one arm to the sky, exhale and slightly bend to the side. Hold for a couple breaths  and repeat to the other side. Complete around 6-8 repetitions.

Lateral Flexion

Lateral Flexion

Cat/Cow (front and back bends)-stand facing the chair/feet close to chair. Engage core. Fold from your hips and place palms flat on the chair. Inhale fully and as you exhale round your spine, tucking your chin and tailbone slightly, just as a cat would. Hold for a couple breaths. Then simply reverse the position of your spine, so the spine is somewhat arched downward-tailbone and chin lifted slightly. This is your cow. Hold for a few breaths. Then working with the breathing, exhale to cat/inhale to cow. Repeat the sequence 6-8 times.






Seated Twist (twisting right and left)- sit tall, engage core, arms at sides. Inhale both arms over head in the classic yoga breath, as you exhale twist from the base of your spine, spiraling up through the spine as the hand come to rest near the right hip. Yep, you guessed it, hold for a few breaths, take it to the other side and hold again. Then flow side to side inhaling up/exhaling down 6-8 times.

seated twist

seated twist

2 exercises to improve your core strength:

Plank -Make sure your chair is stable against a wall or on a mat. Place your forearms on the chair. Make sure your shoulders are directly over your elbows. Step one foot back, then the other on to your tippy toes. Just hold with core engaged. Back should be flat like a plank of wood propped up. Depending on your core strength hold anywhere from 10-30 seconds. Repeat 3 times. If this option seems too tough try it with your forearms against a wall. If it is too easy, try it on the floor.



Back Extensions (strengthens all the muscles that line the spine, your glutes and shoulders too) Find the same positioning as cat/cow move. This time extend your right leg straight back and you left arm straight forward, hold for one breath and switch sides. Repeat 6-8 times both sides.

Back Extension

Back Extension

Core strength and mobility are the keys to a strong back. Granny also says you are only as young as your spine is strong. Or maybe I said that! Core strength and mobility are the keys at to strong and flexible back. Happy training and if you have any questions, leave a reply and I will get back with you.

Photos taken at the fabulous Sam’s Resort and Spa, Desert Hot Springs CA

Be Grateful!

Be Grateful!

My Fitness Family Part 3: Kalamazoo Community Education

Final Class for Power Hour!

Final Class for Power Hour!

Kalamazoo Community Ed. This is where it all began 17 years ago. The program’s director Theresa Jacobson gave me my first chance in the business. I am not sure if she ever knew,  but I had never even TAKEN a group fitness class, much less taught one.  But I had my shiny new Personal Trainer cert in hand and was ready to roll. Or so I  thought! When I took the stage for that first Basic Fitness class, I thought I would pass out from the sheer terror of it all. I don’t recall much from the first class, and I am sure it was horrible, but I muddled through that first semester, and managed to retain 9 of the 14 people who attended.

Boot Campers. Toughest class I ever taught!

Boot Campers. Toughest class I ever taught!

Throughout my 17 years with the program, we worked to offer affordable, effective, and fun fitness classes. I continued with Basic Fitness, and added a Power Hour muscle endurance class, a Boot Camp, and a Yoga/Pilates fusion-type class. As well as a few others, which only lasted one semester. Meaning they did not go over quite so well. You win some, you lose some… But Basic Fitness, Boot Camp, Yoga, and Power Hour continued to be popular classes. Power Hour was by far the best attended class and one semester we had 47 participants. Wow! And this class was full of regulars. People continued, to my amazement, to sign up semester after semester. This speaks of the power of a well-organized muscle endurance class. It works!

Power Hour Class

Power Hour Class

The Power Hour people wanted to continue in the summer, so we organized a class which we held at a local apartment community clubhouse which one of the gals managed. And a few brave souls would gather on my deck in the heat of summer, and I held an outside circuit class using all of my favorite at-home fitness toys. We also tried an outside boot camp, and a walking class. All of them were great fun for me to organize and teach.

We became a community, then a family. We supported each other through life’s roller coaster of triumphs and tragedies. Many long-lasting friendships were formed and continue. We had all kinds of fitness levels in the classes from newbies to athletes. As we collectively aged I became the queen of modifications. Whenever someone would come to me with a condition or just plain old aches and pains, I would start my research and see what we could to improve the condition and what exercises should be avoided. And I became more convinced exercise is truly a healing art all of its own. I wish more people could believe this. I worked really hard to find the right balance for everyone. And I worked equally as hard to push them to work as hard as possible within their own limits. And I had lots of fun doing it!

Striking a warrior pose in Yoga/Pilates Fusion

We worked our muscles in Power Hour. Tested our endurance in Boot Camp. And chilled in Yoga. And I even got hubby Bruce to participate. He became one of the Back Row Gang, as I fondly referred to them. And I had to shush Back Row on more than one occasion. They are a noisy bunch, my fault probably, getting all those endorphins flowing through their systems. But they were easily settled down by a long series of squat and lunge work.

During our last week of class, they presented us with a sweet gift card which we will use for some neat RV stuff. Tonight we meet for one final hurrah. Not an exercise class, but a gathering where we can socialize and reflect. I am sure a few tears will be shed, but there will almost certainly be more laughs!

I doubt they know just how much they mean to us. I will surely miss them. Back row, front row, and everyone in the middle. Thank you for all your support, kindness, and love throughout the years. And know when it is cold and blustery next winter, and you need to get away, c’mon down and see us in Florida or Texas or California or where ever we might be!

Stay fit and happy!


My Fitness Family Part 2: The Kalamazoo Athletic Center

Circuit class. We get out all the toys and play exercise!

Circuit class. We get out all the toys and play exercise!

Or as we lovingly refer to it “The KAC.” This great fitness facility is located in the Radisson Plaza Complex in downtown Kalamazoo. I have been with them for about 4 years. I had a gap between my morning and night classes, and was looking to fill some time slots. Luckily for me the KAC was in need of a lunchtime instructor. I started with just a couple classes, and ended up working 4 days a week at this fine establishment. This club serves mainly the downtown professional folks, and these people mean business when they workout!

The staff. Wonderful people!

The staff. Wonderful people!

I needed to take my game up a notch, and I was in the perfect company to do so. My supervisors Matt and Bri  turned out to be wonderful mentors. Both have degrees in Exercise Science, and were a fountain of information for my endless questions. They both teach classes and do masses of personal training in addition to their other club duties. I believe it was under their tutelage that I went from being a good instructor, to being a great instructor. Thanks to them I feel I finished my fitness career at the top of my game.  And I am grateful to have been a part of this top notch team. Not only Matt and Bri, but our fine front desk staff.  They are all true professionals. And a lot of fun to boot!

Hardcore Class

Hardcore Class

Although only a few of my classes are represented here, I had the pleasure to teach Hardcore, Toning, 15/15/15, Cycle, Aqua, Circuit, and Poolside Yoga. And a brief stint co-teaching Rise and Shine Yoga at 6AM! That was tough, and I was not sad to see it removed from the schedule. I also had a great opportunity to teach what would become my all-time favorite class, Yoga at The Fort. Fort Custer is a wonderful state park in our area and we teamed up with the DNR to present an outdoor yoga class once a month. Yoga overlooking Eagle Lake at 9AM on Saturday mornings was an amazing experience, and I look forward to creating more outdoor yoga experiences in the future. It was exquisite. The scenic picture of the lake at the top of this page is exactly across from where we practiced.

Laura and Vicki are working that cardio station!

Laura and Vicki are working that cardio station!

To all of my KAC groupies (Their words, not mine!), thank you for being so dedicated to your fitness and overall wellness. You folks really walk the walk. A harder working group, I could not find. And fun-loving too! Keep up the great work, and I will be around from time to time. As I concluded my last Poolside Yoga (moved to the studio because we could not fit everyone in the pool area), several members appeared with a beautiful bouquet of flowers, a gift card to a local winery (they know me well), and a Visa gift card which I am going to put to good use by purchasing a fitness monitor to make sure I don’t slow down too much!

Thanks to all of you, staff and members. The KAC is just a great club. There were a few tears shed as I walked out the door on that final class day. You have lost an instructor, but gained a friend.

Until we meet again….

My Fitness Family Part 1: The Seniors

IMG_0705Although I am totally pumped up about my new lifestyle, everything in life comes with a price. Thursday I began my journey of goodbyes with my classes. Pictured here is my Senior Fitness Class which I have had the pleasure of leading for about 7 years.

After I retired from my previous job at the ripe old age of 47,  I began to focus more on my fitness business. One of the first things I wanted to do was to become more involved in my community. The Comstock Community Center was running a Biggest Loser competition and I offered to oversee it. I soon became aware the center had lost it’s exercise instructor due to illness. So I offered to fill the position. It turned out to be one of my best moves both professionally and personally.

Many fitness pros are reluctant to take on a senior class. I have no idea why, and I wish more dedicated people would teach to this wonderful population. I had so many laughs and just plain old fun with this group, most of whom have been with me the entire time. They truly know how to workout AND have fun at the same time.

And the victories. Although none of us lost much weight, the program had great success. Any good fitness instructor worth her weight in dumbbells, knows the greatest outcome of any exercise program is improved physical health. And improve we did. Many conditions were improved, and several were able to decrease or eliminate their meds. And working as a group helped provide a social wellness component as well.

I learned so much from these folks about aging gracefully. Aging is inevitable;  getting old is an option. It is all about the mindset. And the willingness to take care of yourself. I am sure they taught me more than I ever taught them. I no longer “fear” aging, and if getting old is an option, I opt out. Just like they do.

As time marched on we did lose a few. And their presence was greatly missed. And my oldest participant at 96 decided to move to NC. I bet she is still playing cards and having cocktails on Saturday evenings with her family. The woman’s mind was as sharp as a tack!

Somehow I managed to keep it together and not dissolve into a weeping mess on our last class session. They sent me off with some flowers, a gift, and a beautiful card. I will miss them dearly, and I truly pray the universe will send an instructor to take my place. In the meantime, I have directed them to other senior fitness programs in the area.

Stay fit and healthy my seniors

Until we meet again….

The Exercise Lady