Healthy Family Challenge 2012

Challenge #3: Walk 10,000 Steps Every Day: The Winners Are…


The Lehmans!

Eating right? Check. Drinking enough water? Got it. Moving more? That was this month’s task for the Lehmans and the Avaglianos, our Healthy Challenge families. We urged them to get off the couch and get active. To do so, they used Fitbit activity trackers to count their daily steps, met with personal trainers and committed to breaking a sweat more often, whether they were shaking their hips in Zumba, mowing the lawn or swapping dessert for an after-dinner walk. Only one family walked away with a prize this month, but both reaped the benefits of putting one foot in front of the other and hitting the gym. Read on to learn how they worked it out.

How the Lehmans Won

Before this month’s challenge, Tiffany exercised four times a week by running, pedaling on a stationary bike, weight training, and taking kickboxing, circuit and boot camp classes. But her trainer elevated her sessions to the next level by having her push a weighted milk crate across the floor or do a continuous treadmill push (that’s where you unplug the treadmill and use your own body weight to move the belt in 30-second intervals). “This builds muscle and gets her heart rate up,” says her Gold’s Gym trainer, Lass Lassiter.

Andy thought he was getting enough cardio because his job as a building engineer requires a lot of walking. He averaged the most daily steps of all participants, with 13,362. “But your body gets used to the same activity day after day and eventually doesn’t have to put in as much effort to burn calories,” says Andy’s trainer, Wesley Keith of Gold’s Gym, who showed him cardio and strength moves that would help build muscle and trim fat.

Anna, 10, and Jack, 6, are too young for the gym but logged about 10,240 and 11,680 steps a day, respectively. Their parents’ trainers suggested the family play kickball and dodgeball and do simple calisthenics (like jumping jacks and squats) in the park. All that sweating paid off. “I’m wearing shorts I haven’t been able to wear in three years!” says Andy. Here, the advice that helped these winners take all.

Their Top Tips

★ Become unstoppable. Tiffany’s trainer taught her that it’s important to live a physical life and to look for exercise opportunities everywhere—even things like laundry and cleaning count as mini workouts. “I actually wanted to mow the lawn so that I could burn more calories and get more steps in,” says Tiffany. “One Saturday I ran in the morning and mowed in the early evening and I loved it!”

★ Focus on form. You may exercise often, but without proper technique you increase your risk of injury and won’t reap the desired results. “Good technique leads to strength, which leads to more muscle and less fat,” says Lassiter. To focus on quality, Tiffany cut back on quantity, doing just five sets of five reps of each exercise. “Before, I wasn’t feeling the impact, but since being shown the correct form I feel it and am seeing results,” says Tiffany. “For example, I’m getting some nice biceps!”

★ Make fitness family fun. “Kids don’t even have to know they’re exercising. Just get them outside and play,” says Keith. Tiffany and Andy heeded this advice but went beyond a simple stroll to the same-old playground. “We took the kids to a trampoline park called Sky Zone. Talk about fun and a workout!” says Tiffany.

What They Won: The Lehmans averaged 11,783 steps per day each. After all that walking, we thought they deserved a little relaxation. So sent them a $1,000 gift certificate.


How Did the Avaglianos Do?

Physical activity wasn’t high on the Avaglianos’ priority list before the challenge. Walking their dogs and cleaning their pool were about all the exercise that parents Peggy and Peter got. For their teens, Amanda and Michael, it was daily gym class at school and marching band three times per week. “When the choice was flopping down and watching TV or exercising, we’d always choose TV,” Peggy said. While that all changed, the transition was a process.

First, we teamed up the family with trainers at Tilton Fitness. Then we asked them to slip on their Fitbit trackers to see how active they were. Peggy and Peter both walked more than before—often hitting their goal of 10,000 steps a day. Mom and Dad also headed to the gym for spin classes, weight training and exercise on cardio machines four times a week.

In addition to racking up steps and stairs climbed on their activity trackers, Amanda fell in love with BodyPump, a weight-lifting class set to music, and Zumba, and Michael liked his sessions with their trainer, TJ Loos. “Being an older brother, I know the power of sibling rivalry,” says Loos. “Michael and Amanda tried to support each other, but they were also motivated to outperform each other.” Today the whole family has more energy, so they flop on the couch for TV time about twice per week rather than daily—a new habit that has reaped results. “Since we started the challenge, I went down one pants size and Pete says his pants fit better,” says Peggy, who got in about 7,000 steps per day.

Their Top Tips

★ Make it a contest. Although Peggy found it hard to squeeze additional steps into her busy workday, counting them did motivate her. “The Fitbit was a little reminder to move more and outdo myself,” she says. Peter and the kids competed against one another, comparing their daily steps at dinner each night. “We even got Fitbits for our two daughters who are away at school [and not part of this challenge], and created a family group on the Fitbit website so that we could see how we were doing compared to one another,” says Peter.

★ Find your perfect gym fit. For the first time ever, the Avaglianos joined a gym as a family—and they made sure it was the right one for them. “We know so many people at Tilton Fitness, which is a plus,” says Peggy, who likes the social aspect of the place. Adds her trainer, Ann Erik, “I believe this is helping them stay motivated and makes them feel like they belong.” The right facility combined with encouragement from their trainers has made gym time something the Avaglianos enjoy rather than a chore they dread.

★ Just do something. Erik suggested that the Avaglianos take a walk after dinner three to four nights a week. “We can’t do this as much as we would like, but the suggestion made us more conscious of trying to do things as a family,” says Peter, who averaged more than 8,000 steps per day. For example, Peggy and Michael go on bike rides together, and all four try to spend weekend afternoons strolling through a neighboring town or on the boardwalk. “Finding fun activities makes the lifestyle change more likely to stick,” says Loos.

How have you gotten moving? What are you doing to be more active in your daily live. Share your success in the comments below.

3 Ways to Stick To Your Workout

jason dobson

By Jason Dobson, certified personal and group trainer

You’ve got a lot of people competing for your attention: your family, your co-workers, your friends. It’s easy to let time at the gym fall by the wayside, but you’ve got to commit to being fit. Here are some ways to stay on track:

Strategy #1: Choose a Convenient Time to Work Out
Don’t drag yourself to the gym in the evening if you’re exhausted after a long day at the office. If you enjoy going to the gym at night, by all means, go for it. But if you have dinner to prepare and housework to do, find another time of the day to schedule your workout. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Try exercising in the morning, early afternoon lunch break, or evening. Just to see when you feel the strongest.

Strategy #2: Exercise with Your Family
I often find that when one person starts a fitness program, others in the family will follow suit. And that’s great motivation for everyone: Just knowing that you have a loved one who is inspired by you can encourage the entire family to have a healthier lifestyle. So have fun—and don’t be afraid to start some friendly competitions between each other either!

Strategy #3: Consult with a Personal Trainer
I know what you’re thinking: I’m giving you this advice because I am a personal trainer. But the truth is, you will have a better experience in the gym if someone knowledgeable helps you get started. And it never hurts to have someone around to support you—either with helpful tips or encouraging words.

Want to start getting in shape this summer? Feel free to email me at or just stop into any of the four Island Gym locations in New Jersey. It doesn’t take much to get started—and the end results are well worth it!

Jason Dobson is a certified personal and group trainer. He is also the fitness director of Island Gym, in New Jersey. He worked with the Avagliano family during the first two months of our challenge.

3 Ways to Save Time in the Gym

jason dobson

By Jason Dobson, certified personal and group trainer

All too often, people equate the word “workout” with “tedious,” “boring,” or “monotonous.” And that’s too bad—because if I could give everyone one piece of advice, it would be this: “You don’t have to spend hours in the gym to get the results you want.”

Here’s what is required, though: You have to have fun. If you don’t like your workout, you won’t be able to maintain it. Luckily, at my gym—and many other fitness centers around the country—trainers know this. They’ll help you find a plan you love, and they’ll help you fit it into the time you have.

Want more ways to make the most out of your routine? Check out these tips:

Skip The Cardio
Or at least save it for the end of your workout. I see a lot of people spending 30 minutes to an hour on the treadmill, elliptical or stationary bike. And while those are great ways to boost your stamina and endurance, you can burn more calories by doing resistance training instead. So don’t shy away from weights—once your start using them, you’ll see huge results. Then, if you want to hop on the treadmill, go for it—but consider it icing on the cake.

Use Hand Weights
You don’t need to bench your body weight for 100 reps to see results. If you want to lose pounds, a short, focused, intense workout is all you need. You can do this by performing total-body, 3-dimensional exercises. For example, do dumbbell alternating leg lunges, quickly followed by shoulder presses. Or, try dumbbell squats with calf raises followed by bicep curls.

Keep Moving
You don’t have to rest during your “rest periods.” (Unless you really do need the break.) Instead, try performing some pushups, jump squats, or high knees in between sets. Doing so increases the intensity of your workout—sure, you’ll be tired, but you’ll also burn more calories in less time than you ever thought possible.

Jason Dobson is a certified personal and group trainer. He is also the fitness director of Island Gym, in New Jersey. He worked with the Avagliano family during the first two months of our challenge.

Challenge #3: Get More Exercise


photo via

Stride Right: We outfitted the Lehmans and Avaglianos with Fitbit activity trackers to see how getting more exercise could make a difference in their shape-up goal. Their goal: Each family member is striving to take 10,000 steps a day.

Will both families emerge victorious again? Or will one fare better? Check in each day for Tiffany and Peggy‘s updates, as well as advice from their nutritionists Stephanie and Elizabeth.

Challenge Yourself: Drink More Water

Measuring cup

The Lehmans and Avaglianos were both so successful in upping their water intakes–and decreasing their soda and alcohol consumption–that we declared both families the winners of Challenge #2.

Here’s how you can follow their lead and do the same:

Q. Does everyone need eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day?

A. No, adults need more. Eight 8-ounce glasses is a guideline, not a one-size-fits-all recommendation. “The amount of water you require depends on many factors,” says Stephanie, the Lehman’s nutritionist, who suggests you start with the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommendations of thirteen 8-ounce glasses for men and nine 8-ounce glasses for women.

The IOM recommends 7 glasses for girls 9 to 13, 8 glasses for boys 9 to 13 and girls 14 to 18, and 11 glasses for boys 14 to 18. Bump this up if you are physically active or live in a hot or humid climate or at a high altitude.

And remember: You don’t have to meet your water needs through H20 alone. Caffeine-free liquids count, as do fruits and vegetables like watermelon, grapefruit, lettuce, broccoli and tomatoes, some of which are 90% water.


Smart Drink Swaps

When the heat rises, it’s nice to cool off with a drink. But some summer tonics can do in your diet. Water and unsweetened beverages are ideal, but if you treat yourself, here’s how to avoid going overboard.

If You Want a: Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino 16 oz.
Know It’s: 400 calories
You’d Have to: Run 3.4 miles in 40 minutes to work that off.
Instead Try a: Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino Light 16 oz. 130 calories

If You Want a: 7-Eleven Cherry Orange Blitz Slurpee 16 oz.
Know It’s: 110 calories
You’d Have to: Lift weights for 30 minutes to nix those calories.
Instead Try a: 7-Eleven Slurpee Lite Fanta Sugar-Free Cherry Limeade 12 oz. 30 calories

If You Want a: Red Lobster Traditional Lobsterita 24 oz.
Know It’s: 890 calories
You’d Have to: Bike 16 miles in one hour after an indulgence like this.
Instead Try a: Red Lobster Classic Margarita On The Rocks 4.75 oz. 250 calories


A Two-Step Motivational Plan

To keep them going strong, each family had a coaching session with motivational expert Tony Ricci, senior health and fitness specialist at Pfizer. “The secret to remaining focused on a goal is being able to define it and visualize it,” says Ricci. Here’s how to do just that.

Be specific. Don’t simply write down your goals; write down the true, intimate reasons why you want to do something and what your life will be like once you accomplish those goals. For example, “When I lose 20 pounds, I’ll stop making excuses about not wanting to go to the pool and have more energy to bond with my kids on weekend bike rides.”

Create a picture. Gather images that represent your goal (and its rewards) as a constant reminder to yourself of what you’re after. Use a bulletin board, poster board or Pinterest board to post photos of the little black dress you want to fit into or the beach you want to (fearlessly) wear a bathing suit on.

What have you done to drink more water? Share in the comments below!