Fitness IS Behavior

fitness struggles

submitted by Kerry McCrea MS BCBA, LABA, CPT

Certified Personal Trainer and Board Certified Behavior Analyst


Fitness IS behavior…..

Ever wonder why some people are programmed to be wide eyed and bushy tailed in the morning and others are not? I personally contemplate this phenomenon on a daily basis.  I am not a morning person. I won’t ever claim to be.  Two cups of coffee are what get me through a typical morning.  On really bad mornings, it may take three.

However, I know that in order to be healthy and fit; I need to do something about it.  I need to change my behavior.  Some people have a life-time love of fitness and find it easy to get out there while others struggle on a daily basis to get moving.  No matter what your fitness level is, we all struggle with motivation from time to time.  How you conquer that struggle can be the difference between fitness success and fitness failure.

Everything we do as humans is behavior.  From getting up early in the morning to exercise or eating that piece of candy from the office candy dish.  Each decision we make is behavior or an action we engage in based on the influences in our environment.  What makes us continue with this behavior, either good or bad, is the feedback we receive from that environment.   So how do ensure success?   We set up our environment to change our behavior ….in other words…We alter it….

Let’s go back to my dilemma of not being a morning person. Being a morning person or night owl is a mindset not an attribute.  In reality it is an excuse and a self-fulfilling prophecy.   In order to change this, I set a personal goal for myself to exercise consistently on Saturday mornings.  I had been consistently exercising during the evening hours Monday through Thursday and attending Pilates class at 9am Saturday mornings.  However, I would reluctantly drag myself out of bed on Saturday morning to go to Pilates and then secretly wish I had gotten up earlier to take Spin.  I was always envious of the morning people because I knew I would never be one of them.  So in order to change my behavior I set small achievable steps.  I started with signing up for class ahead of time and then making my goal public.  I began telling people at the studio I was coming to Spin at 8 am.  I knew that by going public (verbal behavior) I was altering my environment.  For fear of disappointing myself and the embarrassment I would face when others asked where I had been; I started attending Spin class at 8am on Saturdays.  Anyone who knows me knows that I am a person of my word.  If I say I am going to do something, then I will do it.  Setting that one goal and making the verbal commitment was enough for me to initiate the first step in my behavior change. Other ways I altered my environment was preparing for the next day before I engaged in any fun Friday night activities.  This included setting my alarm clock to wake me up, making coffee and setting the programmable timer on my coffeemaker, gathering my breakfast items, and putting out my clothes and sneakers. The last part of my behavior change program was building in reinforcement or a reward.  Some people are lucky enough to be intrinsically motivated and others need something additional to get them going. I’m someone who is motivated by a little bit of both. My external reward was a Saturday outing with my husband san kids.

By starting with that one small achievable goal, altering my environment, and building in a reward system, I set myself up for long lasting behavior change.  You can too by making small changes to your behavior and rewarding your successes. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is long lasting behavior change.

Planning for the Holidays

yummy christmas


Yesterday I heard Dr. Phil say that the average American gains ten to twelve pounds during the holidays. (How I happened to be watching Dr. Phil on a beautiful day is a different story.) The point is, this statistic is totally false, and was probably dredged up to help sell his most recent diet book. The truth is that most adults gain just one to two pounds per year.


A pound or two a year isn’t very much, and it easy to see how it slips in without much notice. But if it happens every year, following you through your forties and fifties, you can easily find yourself ten or twenty pounds overweight. So, let’s think for a minute about how easy it is to gain that weight, and once you are aware of it, how easy it is to prevent it.


2 pounds is 32 ounces

32 ounces/year is 2.7 ounces/month or less than 1/10th of an ounce per day


That 1/10th ounce represents an extra 20 calories each day*. Twenty! It is such a small number, and it seems that with just a little thought, we ought to be able to avoid 20 calories. Yet, as I write this, I am reminded of the extra snacks that I ate last week. There was the sugar cookie I ate on Thursday. Someone at the office had baked them and left them in the coffee room, 80 calories. And, the (small) Danish I ate at a breakfast meeting on Wednesday, 240 calories. And, the little gift bag of chocolate-covered cranberries that I found on my desk on Monday, 150 calories. Holy Cow, no wonder I have a problem. I didn’t plan to eat any of these foods, and if they hadn’t magically appeared, I never would have. But here it is, the Holiday Season, with all of the fun, festivities and FOOD.


Clearly, I need a strategy. So here is what the more practical experts have to say on the subject. First, stock a good pantry. Make sure you have a good selection of healthful foods nearby. That means at home you keep the ingredients you need to lighten up recipes: fresh herbs, low-fat yogurt, nuts, citrus and other fruits. And at work, you keep snacks chosen in advance. (My special indulgence is a square of cayenne-infused dark chocolate.) Second, schedule your exercise time in advance. With so many demands on our attention during the holidays, it is easy to lose your personal time. Don’t let it go! Put exercise time in your calendar and stick to it. You might even schedule in an extra class or afternoon walk, knowing you are likely to take in a few extra bites of something, somewhere.


To get rid of the extra 450 calories that I ate last week, I need to get up from my desk and take a 5-mile walk. My dogs will be thrilled! Then I am off to the grocery store to stock up on everything I need to create a healthy family holiday.


Check out the recipe below for healthy, yummy morning glory muffins. Make a dozen, freeze the extras, and you will be prepared for the next morning rush. For more ideas and healthy recipes check out, the website for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.


By, Christine Sullivan, MS

Guest Blogger


20 calories is based on 3500 calories/pound of fat, and not all experts agree this is an accurate estimate, allowing for individual body type and metabolic rates



The Power to Change

The Power to Change


By, Christine Sullivan, MS

Guest Blogger


Last week I read an interesting article in the LA Times about willpower and it got me thinking about our tendency to attach a moral value to willpower, like some old fashioned Yankee virtue. But willpower, the determination and self-control required to manage difficult circumstances, is a flexible quality and it waxes and wanes throughout the day, depending on multiple factors including stress and fatigue.


For example, imagine that you have decided to limit the simple carbohydrates in your diet. You wake up fully committed to your goals and eat a healthy breakfast. Then the traffic makes you late for work, you get a call from the child who forgot “X” and you sit through a meeting that seems to last forever. Each of these events requires you to use self-control. They have nothing to do with what you eat, until you get home and reach for the metaphorical cookie jar. The events of the day zapped your willpower.


The key to successful behavior change is to create new habits and build a personal environment that supports them. The advantage of a habit is that it doesn’t require any thought, or use up any willpower. So what does it take to establish healthful habits and create lasting change?


If you have been hanging around at Core Fitness, you have already found a supportive environment and made some positive changes in your life. Perhaps you are thinking about what other changes you can make to improve your health. Before you read any further, think about a personal goal, what it means to you, and what steps you are willing to take to realize it. Now, take a look at the following popular theories of behavior change and see where you fit in.


The Health Belief Model (HBM):

At its simplest, HBM says that individuals will change their health behavior based on four beliefs: how susceptible they feel to a disease threat, how severe the consequences of having the disease will be, to what extent the change will benefit them, and what barriers there are to implementing the change. Within this model, the motivation to take preventative health steps is most reliably predicted by an individual’s feelings of susceptibility to disease, and among those who are already sick, change happens most often when the benefits are clear and well proven.


When you think about your personal goal, you might examine why you want to make this change. Are the expected benefits clear to you? And what barriers will you face in making this change?


The Socio Economic Model

This model moves beyond an individual’s beliefs and looks more carefully at the many social and environmental influences on behavior. The questions you might want to ask yourself are:

  • Do you feel confident that you have the skills necessary to create change? Is there something you need to learn how to do?
  • How do your personal relationships influence your ability to create new habits? Will your family and friends be supportive of the change?
  • Where do you spend most of your time: school, work, neighborhood, and how will that impact your ability to engage in a new behavior?
  • Finally, (and mainly out of our control) do we live in a culture of health?


My personal struggle has been finding the time, energy, and motivation to incorporate cardio exercise into my routine. If I examine my ‘change-ability’ within the context of these theories, I can say that while I absolutely believe in the benefits of cardio exercise, I am not feeling terribly susceptible to disease. If the experts are right and preventive behavior is most influenced by perceived susceptibility, this may help to explain why I have not made any progress with this goal. But, it’s not really that simple. When I look at my social and structural influences, I see some challenges, long work-days and conflicting family priorities. What I need to do, is determine what changes I can make to create a more supportive environment, and then enlist the social support that I need to help me create healthier habits.


Wish me Luck!




Building a Better Lunch

Love it or hate it- back-to-school week means new schedules, backpacks, homework and sports leagues. I overheard one mom tell another that she loves everything about this time of year “except packing lunches and snacks.” I found myself thinking about how challenging a task this can be. It has been several years since I have been responsible for my own children’s lunch, but I remember carefully selecting and packing healthful options, and frequently finding them abandoned in the bottom of a backpack, warm and squishy at the end of the day. It is a balancing act. As parents, we know the value of providing healthful meals, but we also understand that our kids need to eat, and if we pack options that they don’t like, they might not eat at all.


To make it even more stressful, parents may feel social pressure to pack the perfect lunch. This was dramatically demonstrated in Aurora, Colorado last spring, when one mother sent her four-year old daughter to school with a sandwich, string cheese, and a pack of Oreos. Her daughter came home with the uneaten Oreos and a written reprimand from the teacher, scolding the mother for not packing a more nutritious snack. (It was also full of inaccurate information.) The national news outlets carried this story for several days. How have cookies become a cause for public shaming?


The topic of school lunch is always in the news at the start of a new school year, but this September, it is especially so, as the House and Senate prepare to debate the reauthorization of the Nutrition Standards for National School Lunch Programs and the Smart Snacks in School provisions provided for by the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010. These laws were designed to align federal meals programs with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and combat the growing obesity trend in school-age children. The new rules called for increased servings of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, while restricting trans fats and sodium content. Since the implementation of these guidelines, the reviews have been mixed. Research studies have shown that while school lunches are frequently more nutritious than those packed from home, and children are eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, they are also throwing away more cafeteria food than ever before.


So here is the CORE challenge…. We want you to share your ideas for healthful lunches and snacks that kids will eat and enjoy. We want to hear about your successes and your failures. In my family, the rules were fairly simple: hot things had to be hot and cold things had to be cold, nothing could be soggy, and the fruit could not be brown or dried out. Dip of any sort was a bonus.


Please share your ideas on our Facebook page and enjoy this exciting and refreshing time of year.



Christine Sullivan

M.S., Nutritionschool lunch photo

The Pros and Cons of Drinking Your Vegetables By Christine Sullivan, M.S., Guest Blogger

Lately, it seems that we have been bombarded by advertising and pseudo-news reports proclaiming the nutritional benefits of Green Smoothies. As I look at the pretty bottles that line the produce section of the grocery store, I wonder, is it really better for me to drink my vegetables, or is it just marketing hype?


Smoothies are big business these days, with big brands like Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts getting in on the action. Smoothie King, an international franchise based in Louisiana, just opened on Newbury Street and Campbell’s bought Bolthouse Farms to balance its business portfolio. NutriBullet claims to have transformed millions of lives by delivering vegetables in a “predigested, easily absorbed” form. Best selling author and media guru, Dr. Mark Hyman claims that green smoothies will improve your mood, help you sleep better, reduce chronic pain, and boost your sex life, and don’t get me started on Dr. Oz!


So, what’s the problem? Well, maybe nothing …..


Most Americans don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables despite clear and convincing evidence that eating the recommended amount is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity, and Type II Diabetes. Why not? Well, some people don’t have time to shop for and prepare vegetables, some don’t like them, and others simply find themselves in a rut, eating the same thing every day. For these folks, I say, liquid vegetables are better than no vegetables at all.


But there are a couple of reasons why eating your fruit and vegetables is a better idea. First, when your fruits and vegetables are pulverized into liquid form, you don’t have the pleasure of chewing them. You consume your meal more quickly, your brain doesn’t get the message that you are full, and you are tempted to eat more. Second, the blending process breaks down the whole fiber portion of the plant. Fiber is what makes you feel full. Less whole fiber means the simple carbohydrate portion of the food is absorbed more quickly, leading to fluctuations in blood sugar and leaving you feeling hungry again sooner. It is common for people who drink smoothies to increase their total calories for the day.


What should you do if you really enjoy a cold, frothy, green summer drink? Think about how the smoothie fits into your nutrition for the day. Is it a snack or a meal replacer? Consider the ingredients. If you buy a premade smoothie, you may be getting a whole lot more sugar than you expect. For example, a 15-ounce bottle Green Goodness by Bolthouse Farms contains five types of fruit juice, has 280 calories, and delivers has 60 grams of sugar. A small Strawberry Slim from Smoothie King has a shocking 72 grams of sugar. Starbuck’s Sweet Green Smoothie has just 32 grams, but still exceeds the 25 gram daily limit suggested by the World Health Organization.


Bottom Line: Whenever possible, eat the recommended daily fruits and vegetables (2 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables). If you buy a smoothie, watch out for toal sugar and calories. Blending your own smoothies is the best idea, allowing you to limit fruit juice, add lots of mixed greens, and include a source of protein like yogurt or nut butter.


The Mind Body Connection


This post is dedicated to the busy parents out there, those who work long weeks and sleep short nights. This post is dedicated to those who do what it takes to take care of everyone around them with hopes that at the end of the day, there might be some time and energy left over for themselves.

The quest to fitness and wellness is a constant trek with many aspects. Working out and eating right are on the top of the fitness list of things to do, and they are very important indeed, but there is another important aspect that if ignored, can seriously hinder your progress. The mind-body connection…..letting go of the stress, taking the time to take care of yourself, and RELAX. Take a second to think about this. When was the last time you relaxed? For most of us, relaxation is something that we do not allow for ourselves. Life is stressful, we push through, get it done, go to bed, and do it all over again. You know that this is not good for you, but do you know what is actually happening inside your body?

When we feel stress, there is a series of events that take place in our bodies. Our bodies release stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol), and fats and glucose are released into our bloodstream. This response to stress gives us the energy we need to deal with the stressful situation that we are presented with…..only this response does no good helping us deal with the tax bill that just came in, the presentation you need to prepare last minute, or the Crayola portrait on the wall that you have to remove before your husband gets home. No- the physiological response to stress does not help us cope, but it DOES contribute to a slew of chronic health problems including cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance, diabetes, and OBESITY. When stress is present, the body releases hormones that make it difficult to metabolize certain fats.

While exercise is a valuable tool in stress reduction, we need to take more steps to taking better care of ourselves. Meditation, and Mind-Body focused exercise has been proven to provide multiple health benefits, ranging from improved sleep quality, improved focus, greater stress resilience, and WEIGHT LOSS.

If you are anything like me, you may find it difficult to put time aside to seemingly do “nothing” (and by this I mean relaxing, meditating, and consciously letting go of stress). Try a Yoga or Pilates class with mindful exercise, and guided meditation at the end. Integrate five minutes of quiet time at the beginning of your day. Sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes, and search your body for any signs of stress or tension. Breathe in through your nose, and out through your mouth, consciously release any tension that you notice. Find a positive affirmation that you connect with, repeat it to yourself, and then go about your day. This simple time spent will make a difference in your day, your outlook, and your life!

And We’ve Only Just Begun



Tomorrow is June 30th, and it is bringing to a close the first month of business for Core Fitness and Nutrition. This is a journey that I started many years ago. There have been plenty of twists and turns along the way… most journeys, I thought I could have been thrown off course several times, only to learn that the roads I have been taken down were meant to prepare me for what was to come.

When it came time to start to put all of my ideas into action this past year, the first step was to get it all on paper, and make a plan. Yes, a business plan. (Have you met me?) If you have, then you can begin to understand the magnitude of ME spending long hours and late nights doing research, crunching numbers, creating spreadsheets….UGH! But a necessary evil to get this plan up and off of the ground. I was fortunate enough to have the guidance and support of my family and friends….especially my husband who both insisted that I do this planning, and then sat in awe watching as I actually did it!

Then came time to search for the perfect location. We spent weekends driving around looking for spots, and I put in a phone call to my trusted Real Estate agent to keep her eyes open for me. I explained to her that I needed a unique and beautiful location, and if she could find me something like 62 Main St. in Upton, I would be thrilled. (No lie, I said those things). Of course at this time 62 Main St. was unavailable. Eventually, I found a spot that would be suitable for Core in downtown Hopkinton. It wasn’t perfect, but we could make it work. We entered into negotiations, and were coming close to making a deal when I got the phone call……..

It was my Real Estate agent calling to give me the very first word that 62 Main St. was coming available NEXT MONTH! (Thank you Tina!!) How much better could this get? The rest is history. We signed the lease, and got moving getting the space ready for our new Pilates and Spin Studio.

Now here we are, three weeks and one day into this adventure that has been a dream of mine for a dozen years. I love teaching people about fitness and wellness. It is such a large part of who I am. It is so rewarding to be a part of peoples transformations. To get to know each and every one of my clients and students, and watch them grow and become stronger is a privilege that I am thankful for. Now to be surrounded by my wonderful team of instructors (Sharon, Rick and Rebecca, Thank You for starting this journey with me!) and my long time clients who have become like family to me (you know who you are, and I love you!). And last but not least, the wonderful new clients and students that have become part of our team. I am looking forward to watching you succeed as we all move forward to grow and build a larger community of support and encouragement for people to come and realize their true potential!

~Strong Body~Inspired Mind~Balanced Life~

Keeping our kids injury free

kids injury

Kids and sports are a wonderful combination. Team sports benefit our children in many ways ranging from keeping them fit, instilling a sense of belonging, encouraging teamwork, and helping to improve academic performance. But as our kids get older, the competitive edge gets sharper, and our kids have to train harder and longer in order to stand out. With this increased pressure comes a drastic increase in the risk of injury. So what steps can we take to keep our kids safe?

Kids who specialize in one sport are at a significantly higher risk of injury than kids who do not specialize. If you have a child who specializes, be sure to offer an off season activity or sport that does not demand the same movement patterns as their main sport.

Be certain that you child gets one day per week of rest so that their body can repair and rebuild. Keep your kids hydrated and fueled. Tired bodies are injury prone bodies.

Have your kids incorporate strength training and core work primarily as a means to prevent injury.

Teach kids proper movement patterns, and proper form while exercising. This is the time for our kids to build their foundations of movement. Creating bad habits now will result in imbalances that last a lifetime.

SLOW AND STEADY WINS THE RACE. With the mounting pressure to succeed, kids are pushed to train hard and long with a short term goal of becoming faster and stronger. This type of training often results in long term injuries that could end sports careers during, or even before college age. We need to put our kid’s long term health as a priority, and build their bodies slowly and safely.

Intensity is Key

There are a lot of different styles, methods, and brands of exercise out there, and they all promise to get you lean and fit in no time at all. Want a workout that will help you to lose weight, but not sure which method is right for you? Read on…….

Let’s start by clarifying that any type of exercise is good (when done properly), and will yield better weight loss results than doing nothing at all. That being said, if weight loss is your goal, then high intensity should be your focus. Solid research shows that shorter bursts of high intensity exercise produce more significant weight loss results than logging long hours of moderate exercise such as running. Hands down, no contest.

If you are wondering how to incorporate some higher intensity exercises into your cardio filled life, here are a few ideas to get you started. You won’t need anything besides your own body weight, some water, and some determination!

Jump Squats:squat-jump-628x363

Start standing, legs hip width apart, core connected, chest lifted, and shoulders retracted. As you inhale, sink down into a squat, keeping weight in your heels, chest lifted, and navel drawn in. Exhale as you power up out of your squat, working through the hamstrings and gluteus as you propel into a jump. Land softly with your toes facing forward, knees soft, and core connected. Repeat.

Split Lunge Jumps:split-jump-ss

Start in split lunge position, right foot in front. Core is connected, shoulders relaxed, hands behind head with fingers interlaced. Inhale down into your lunge. Be careful to keep your weight centered, and in the toe of your left (back) foot, and heel of your right (front) foot. Exhale as you power up out of your lunge, switch legs midair, and land back in split lunge position, this time with left foot forward. Keep your landings controlled and soft, and always keep your core connected. Repeat.


Start standing, legs hip width apart, long through the back, core is connected. Hinge forward and place your hands on the ground. Working through your center, hop both feet back so that you are in plank position. Inhale as you lower yourself down into a push up. Exhale as you push back up into plank position. Hop both feet back in towards your hands, and then power all the way up into a jump. Repeat.

 Perform three sets of ten of each exercise, three times per week for two weeks. As your body adapts, you will be able to challenge yourself to do more.  Keep pushing yourself…. you’ll love the results!

Keep It Real

keep it real


Anybody who knows me knows that I am not a fan of fads, pills, supplements or quick fixes.  So for all of you who are tempted to buy that promising new weight loss supplement, or book your liposuction and body contouring procedures, consider these options, and the benefits that they provide!

  • High intensity interval training not only burns a ton of calories, it boosts metabolism and releases hormones that facilitate fat loss.
  • Strength training encourages muscle growth, helps to boost metabolism, and improves skin tone.
  • Core based, mind/body workouts will provide increased stamina, endurance, strength, as well as help to correct any postural imbalances. Mind/body work also reduces blood pressure, and has been scientifically proven effective in treating ailments ranging from cardiovascular disease, to lung cancer, to depression and anxiety. In fact, meditation is proving to be so effective that large corporations are now integrating meditation into their employee training’s!
  • Any type of exercise releases endorphin’s, increases energy, and burns calories!!
  • Rest; exercise stresses the body, and causes inflammation. Be sure to add rest into your balanced fitness program so that your body can recover and rebuild.
  • Sleep; Sleep boosts our immune system, raises levels of muscle repair agents, and reduces inflammatory hormones.  It also helps us to regulate our hunger and cravings. Studies actually show that women who get 7-9 hours of sleep have less of a hunger response than women who get less than 7 hours.
  • Post workout refueling; as I mentioned earlier, exercise causes inflammation. Adding antioxidant food choices (fruit or vegetables) to your carbohydrate and protein rich post-workout snack helps to prevent inflammation and rebuild muscle.

So make some time to incorporate a balanced fitness and wellness program into your life.  You will absolutely lose weight, tone and tighten your body, have increased energy and stamina, brighter skin, healthy hair, lower blood pressure, and improved focus. There is no pill, supplement, surgery or procedure that could take the place of a good fitness program, and a healthy lifestyle!