Fastest way to get in shape…

I’m training for the Girlfriends Half Marathon and have been doing quite a bit of endurance work but I noticed that my speed was not where I would like it to be.  I was telling one of my colleagues Fraser Quelch, Education Director at TRX, about my frustrations and he suggested I try the following workouts that I’d like to share with you. So if your goal is to improve your fitness, increase your speed as a runner, cyclist, rower, walker, swimmer or improve your performance in any sport, try this…

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Try intervals if you have a need for speed!

Start by warming up for about 5 minutes. Then go very hard for 30 seconds followed by a 1 minute slower, more comfortable pace.  Do this 15x for about a 20 minute workout and then cool-down. Do this workout 2x/week for one to two weeks.

The next stage will be exactly as above except decrease the recovery pace down to 45 seconds.  Again, complete this workout 2x/week for one to two weeks.

The next stage will be exactly as above except decrease the recovery pace down to 30 seconds.  Start with 20 minutes of these intervals and then increase the volume to 30 minutes over the next few weeks.

Fraser reminded me that during the hard intervals, you should focus on quality. If your quality decreases because you are getting fatigued, take a longer recovery set so when you’re ready to go hard, you can really push the pace.

And guess what, I’m a believer.  I’ve only done 3 of these workouts so far and this morning I did a 12 mile run 8 minutes faster than my last 2 training runs of the exact route and distance.  Speed work is definitely the most effective way to get fit and fast quickly!

Try it and let me know how it goes,

Yours in health and fitness,

Sherri McMillan


Avoid storing ‘winter’ weight and fat!

It is common that as the days get shorter, darker and colder, we find ourselves at home settling in earlier in the evening.  As a result, many people notice they find themselves in front of the fridge and cupboards more often munching mindlessly on excessive calories. It’s easy to see why people tend to carry additional ‘winter’ weight.

So if you’d like to avoid extra layers this fall and winter, here’s some tips to keep you in great shape right into spring and summer.

  • Set a rule that you will not eat a substantial meal 3 hours before bedtime. If you have planned your meals correctly throughout the day, you shouldn’t need to eat anything right before bed.  Often the calories that are consumed after dinner are those that are eaten not because you are hungry and need the energy but because of habitual patterns or boredom.  Think of it this way – you are just going to bed.  How much energy do you really need?  If you find yourself needing to eat late at night, choose something that is low in calories just to get you by until morning.
  • To help avoid mindless, late-night eating, brush your teeth after dinner, chew gum or pop a breath mint or breath strip.  This will send a signal to the brain that you are done eating.
  • Make a list of substitute activities that you can do in the evening.  They must be activities that compete with the action of eating -  ie. it’s difficult to eat while doing the activity.
    • Game night with family/friends, schedule an after dinner walk with neighbors, sign-up to learn a new sport or activity like rockclimbing, or ball-room dancing, visit your neighbors/friends, write in a journal, give yourself a manicure, read a magazine/book, plan your next vacation, Relaxation/breathing exercises, walk/jog/swim/bike ride/go to gym/exercise video/dance to some upbeat music, take a bubble bath, get a massage, listen to music, prayer, meditation, housework, pay bills, balance your check book, complete a home improvement project, rearrange your furniture, clean out closets/drawers, run errands, floss, play video games

If you have a tip for avoiding late-night eating, please share with the rest of the group.  You might help someone avoid 5-10 pounds or more of extra body fat!

Yours in health and fitness,

Sherri McMillan

Mental games to keep you focused on your fitness workouts

I’m just like anyone…sometimes I just don’t feel like exercising or I’m having to stay really focused to get through a workout.  But I hardly ever miss a workout so I must be doing something right!  I believe in order to have solid consistency, you have to sometimes play mental games to get through workouts.

Here’s some examples of what I mean…

  • Sometimes when I’m really tired, I tell myself that I will just go out for 10 minutes and that will be enough to get me going. And then pretty much 100% of the time, once I get out there, I start feeling better and more energized and complete a full workout.
  • When I am really tired I never tell myself “I’m too tired to workout!”  Instead I say “I’m so tired that I need to workout to get some energy!”
  • I find interval training breaks things up mentally. So instead of doing a 40 minute cardio workout on one machine, I will do 10 minutes on 4 different machines.  Or instead of doing 30 minutes straight endurance, I will do one minute hard, one minute easy 15x. I find it easier to get through the workout and the time passes more quickly.
  • Running, walking, biking, hiking OUTDOORS is always easier mentally and the time passes much more quickly than on an indoor machine.
  • Recruiting a buddy to workout with you will hold you accountable to being there and the conversation also makes the workout seem so much easier.
  • Music is a motivator so if you need it to distract you from your workout, strap on your IPOD and away you go.
  • Movies – I know many people who exercise while watching a movie or their favorite TV show and find that their exercise consistency and duration is much better.

Please leave a comment with any tricks that you use to get you through your workouts.  You may just give someone a tool that will totally change their life!

Yours in health and fitness,


Inspirations to help you Achieve your Personal Best!

I hope you enjoyed an amazing summer! Mine flew by and was full of incredible adventures including Cycling through Italy, teaching at a resort in Mexico, climbing to the top of Mt. St. Helens, attending two of the world’s best fitness conferences, IDEA in LA and CanFitPro in Toronto, fun runs, triathlon, paddle-boarding, amusement parks, and tons of fun with family and friends.  Always living life to the fullest! So you’ll notice I took a hiatus from blogging so that I could live it up! Well, I’m back and ready to ramp things up for fall and send you a weekly post to help you reach for your Personal Best!

As you know, I am a firm believer in setting goals, creating bucket lists, challenging your limits and living life to the fullest.  And I believe by doing so, not only do you create an unbelievable life for yourself, you also inspire others to achieve their dreams.

On that note, recently, I took a group of clients on a Cycling Adventure through Italy. I wanted to document the trip, one for my own memory and two, to hopefully inspire you to commit to your next adventure. Maybe you’ll even recreate our trip one day! Hopefully, minus a few crazy adventures as you’ll read below! Print this blog post and store away just in case you want to  cross “Cycling through Tuscany” off your list one day.

Let me know when you’ve made the commitment to the next adventure on your bucket list!

Yours in health and fitness,


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Amazing views while Cycling through Tuscany

Read the rest of Inspirations to help you Achieve your Personal Best!

Do not read if you are eating!

Today, I wanted to touch on an uncomfortable but critical subject…

When we eat, one of the four things happens…

  1. We use the calories and nutrients in the food for our basic metabolic functions like cellular or organ functioning or growth and repair of tissues
  2. We use the calories and nutrients in the food for exercise and movement
  3. We store the excess as energy – aka Body Fat
  4. We excrete the excess as waste – aka ‘Number 2′

As we’ve discussed previously, if your goal is to lose body fat, you want to make sure at the end of the day, your calories in are less than your calories out.  So we either reduce our caloric intake (while increasing the nutrient density of what we eat) and/or we increase our caloric expenditure (exercise) so we experience a deficit and lose weight.

However, what happens when you do have an excess of calories? Well then you either store that excess caloric energy (body fat) or you excrete it (Go #2).  So my question to you is would you rather store the excess calories as fat or get rid of them?!

Clearly, we’d all like to just get rid of those excess calories.  We’re not anticipating a famine anytime soon that would cause you to need to store a whole lot of extra energy!

So then the next question is how efficient are you at getting rid of the excess?  Well let me tell you this.  Fifty percent of North Americans do not have a daily bowel movement!  So if you are not getting rid of it, guess what?! You are storing it.  Average bowel movements are anywhere from multiple times per day to once every few days!  If fat loss is your goal, you’ve got to get your digestive system working for you.

So how do you increase your bowel movements naturally?  I bet you can guess this!  Yep, increase your fiber intake – so eat more fruits, vegetables and beans.  Doesn’t that sound like last week’s instructions?!

Your goal, whether you desire fat loss or optimal health, should be at least one daily bowel movement where you don’t have to strain and groan to eliminate.

Okay, hope that helps.  You can eat now!

Yours in health and fitness,

Sherri McMillan



Portion control tips to maximize fat loss

The biggest problem we face with weight control is as follows. Ask yourself these two questions.

1. How long does it take to consume 1000 calories?
2. How long does it take to expend 1000 calories?

Well, if you were to workout at a pretty good intensity, it would take you probably between 1.5-2 hours to burn 1000 calories. And how long would it take you to consume 1000 calories? Probably only about 5-10 minutes depending on what you are eating!

So you can see why it’s so easy to gain weight and so difficult to lose it for many people.

One critical physics principle to remember is that if your goal is weight loss, at the end of the day you need to have consumed less calories than you expended.

So it’s all about the balance between calories in and calories out.

But a really super important concept to understand is that even though a calorie is a calorie, there are certain calories if consumed now will cause you to consume more calories later.

So if fat loss is our goal, you need to consume calories that are nutrient-rich, high volume for low calories types of food that fill you up now and suppress your appetite later.

What types of foods do this???? Read the rest of Portion control tips to maximize fat loss

Really?! Sorry, that’s not gonna cut it!

As a fitness trainer, I’ve heard every excuse in the book.  And although I can empathize with reasons for someone not starting or sticking to an exercise program, most of the time, the excuses don’t hold any water. If it’s important enough to you to look and feel your best and live life to the fullest, you just have to make it happen.

For example, yesterday it was pouring down rain. And for anyone who lives in an area where you have unpredictable weather patterns, you can’t use the weather as an excuse for not exercising or else your workouts will be super inconsistent which leads to poor results. I always say there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear.  If you’ve invested in some good outdoor workout attire, you can manage any weather and be completely comfortable.  And once you get out there, it’s actually not bad.

And then of course, people will use their kids as an excuse for not exercising. “I can’t workout, I’ve got the kids.”  Sorry, that doesn’t work.  If you’ve got young children, there’s tons of tools to keep you in great shape such as back packs for walking and hiking, bike carriers and seats for cycling, baby joggers for running…Take the kids to the park and let them play while you workout. Or get involved by playing tag, basketball, Frisbee, or soccer with the kids. Or if you’ve got older kids, get them involved.  They might ride a bike while you run or head out for a family cycle, hike or walk and make sure everyone gets some exercise.  Then of course, there are gyms that provide child-care or maybe swap babysitting with a friend so you can both get your workouts in.  You’ve just got to be creative but bottom-line, you’ve got to make it happen.

Here’s a videoclip of Jackson cycling yesterday in the rain.  He had an absolute blast.  I had him in gloves and a rain jacket so he stayed warm and I had the correct gear on to stay warm too.  He was out there for 40 minutes riding in the rain hitting every single mud puddle and having a great time while I ran beside him.  It was a quality morning!


And what about the people who say they can’t afford a gym membership or personal trainer. Read the rest of Really?! Sorry, that’s not gonna cut it!

I can’t believe she said that!

This past weekend, I shared some great times with my kids. We hosted a BBQ party for our neighborhood friends, went to a pool party, watched a few movies, went to a dinner party at some friends, did a 2.5 mile fun run at the Hazel Dell Parade, hiked Hamilton Mountain, lots of trampoline jumping and hot tubbing, dinner at Beaches restaurant…It was a great weekend.  But to my dismay, when I asked my 10 year old daughter what her favorite party of the weekend was, her response was “I loved everything Mama, except for the hike and the run!”

Of course, my daughter would love everything except for the exercise!!! Ugh!  So I said to her “Baby, would you prefer that I was really out of shape, sitting on the couch eating junk food all day while watching soap operas?!”  Her response was “Mooommmmm” and a roll of the eyes!

I said “Baby, this is who I am.  I love to be active. So as long as you’re living with me, we’re going to be hiking and biking and running and walking and kayaking and skiing….so you’re going to just have to deal with it and somehow learn how to love it. And hopefully one day you will appreciate all these great experiences!”

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Hiking Hamilton Mountain with Brianna, Jackson and Kailee

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After our 2.5 mile Hazel Dell Parade Fun Run

My belief is that as parents we have to set the good example. And my hope is that I will instill a love for exercise and activity that will just become second-nature to my kids. With that said, I have learned over the years that there are certain things I need to do to make these outings somewhat bearable for my kids. Read the rest of I can’t believe she said that!

What would you do?

On Monday, I attended the memorial of one of our clients, Susan Worthy. She had worked out with us for a number of years and it was one year ago that she was diagnosed with cancer. Susan passed on April 27th at the age of 55 years – a life definitely cut too short. She was an incredible woman – extremely intelligent, sweet, kind, caring, gentle but also strong and powerful. She was a pillar in our community and was involved in various organizations, not-for-profits and charities. She was a fit woman and modeled a healthy lifestyle for her family.

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Susan Worthy during one of her early morning workouts


Many non-exercising skeptics may question the logic of someone spending so much time exercising when they are going to die so young anyways. But here’s the thing, if I knew I was going to die tomorrow, I would not regret the years and hours I’ve spent exercising and taking care of myself. It’s not just the length of your life or the quantity of your years that matters. It’s how you feel everyday when you exercise! I feel better when I workout, I’m less stressed, energized, more confident…I feel physically, emotionally and mentally stronger and better able to tackle anything that comes my way. The critical reason to exercise is that the quality of your life is enhanced greatly. Every day is a better day when you workout.

I believe if you were to ask Susan if she would have still spent so much time exercising if she had known she was going to pass at such a young age anyways, I’m confident that she would say “Hell Ya!”…only she would have left out the ‘hell’!  She was a very classy chick, you know!

In fact Susan worked out with us up until 3 weeks before she passed away. She was a badass because as her trainer Derrick deLay reports, “Even though she had a hard time breathing, she could still do 100 pound full body weight squats!” They better be ready for one tough cookie to arrive at the pearly gates!

Speaking of Derrick, I wanted to share with you an email that he just sent out to his clients. This is one of the reasons Susan loved him so much!

“I wake up at 4 in the morning and 15 minutes later I start my short, 6 mile, bike ride to work. Rain or shine, I ride. Some mornings, usually when I haven’t slept enough, I don’t feel like riding my bike. I know if I do I will feel better, so I ride. About 2 miles into my ride comes my first big decision of the day. Should I turn right or left? If I turn right, I get to ride 2 more miles before I have to climb an easy hill. If I turn left, I immediately have to climb one the steepest, hardest hills in town.

Which way should I go?

99% of the time I turn left. I choose to struggle. I choose gasping for breath and burning legs. I choose hard over easy. I choose long-term over short-term. How do I do it? I talk to myself. I remind myself not to pass up the opportunity to train. I tell myself how much better I will feel, physically, mentally, and emotionally for having done it. I remind myself that the road to mediocrity is flat and easy. I don’t want to be mediocre. Do you? Can you talk yourself into choosing healthy foods, fruits and veggies, over junk food? Can you talk yourself into choosing to exercise a little everyday? Yes. You are the only one who can. Choose to be exceptional!”

Yours in health and fitness,

Sherri McMillan

Ps. If you live in the Northwest, join us for our Annual Evening 3 & 6 mile Fun Run/Walk and Live Concert. It’s a great way to celebrate the start of summer and help raise funds for the critical programs at the YWCA.


More exercise & nutrition tips for looking & feeling your best

Dear clients, friends & family,

No matter where you live, I hope you’re getting some sunshine and soaking in the Vitamin D.  That always does wonders in terms of increasing your energy levels and motivation.

Here’s some more tips to enhance your health and fitness:

Cardio - This week I’d like you to try hill training. It will develop your strength, power and overall fitness. If part of your program includes walking, running, or cycling, find a short hill (about 100 meters long) and perform 5-10 hill repeats once this week. It will definitely get your heart pumping.  Let me know how you liked it…

Muscle Conditioning: Here’s another 6 minute clip to add to your muscle conditioning tool box. You’ll need a Kettlebell for today’s set.  Feel free to use a hand weight instead.


If you can’t see the video clip above, click on the link below.

Nutrition Tip- Try to have most of your calories eaten in the first 2/3′s of your day (breakfast and lunch)

Here’s to looking and feeling your best this Spring & Summer!

Yours in health and fitness,

Sherri McMillan

ps.  If you live in Vancouver WA or Portland OR, join us for our 3 hour Exercise-a-thon on Sunday May 15th to help the Japan Relief fund.  Call us at 503.287.0655 for more information.

pps.  Our hiking club starts Sunday May 22nd. Challenge yourself to an amazing series of adventures and mix up your program!