The Atoll

This morning while reading “Return to Paradise” by James Michener, his writing about an atoll in the pacific took me back to Bora Bora. While Bora Bora is not purely an atoll, more of an island with a barrier type reef, Michener paints a minds eye tapestry for me. This is a photograph I took from the plane. He was concerned that in revisiting the Pacific it would lose it’s first impression, he writes in the introduction, “There was one final problem. Would this long journey prove to be merely another of those heartbreaking trips of disillusion into a past that cannot be recovered? I was apprehensive about this, for I knew that virgin impressions of great events can rarely be recaptured; but when our plane rose above the bridges of San Francisco and I saw below me this vast and mighty ocean, my heart expanded.” And as I read…

The world contains certain patterns of beauty that impress the mind forever…The list need not be long, but to be inclusive it must contain a coral atoll with its placid lagoon, the terrifyingly brilliant sands and the outer reef shooting great spires of spindrift a hundred feet into the air…This is the wonder of an atoll, you are safe within the lagoon while outside the tempest rages. The atoll becomes a symbol of all men seeking refuge, the security of home, the warmth of love. Lost in a wilderness of ocean, the atoll is a haven that captivates the mind and rests the human spirit.”

The Atoll

Fitness Tips for Staying On Track During the Holidays

Runners running in winter cityIt can sometimes be challenging to stick to a fitness and nutrition program, but it is not impossible. Getting on track NOW helps prevent the ‘anything goes damage’ of the holidays and keeps you in your fitness lifestyle well in advance of the short-lived resolutions of the New Year.

Start Fresh Daily: Recommit to your exercise and nutrition plan daily by reviewing your goals. Focusing on fitness and nutrition one-day-at-a time works especially well during the holidays when your schedule is invaded with shopping, decorating and parties, and you are exposed to holiday meals above and beyond your usual nutrition plan. Exercise every day, even if it is a short session.

Eat in Increments: Schedule small meals every three hours in proportion to your activity level. If you are sitting at as desk for the next three hours you will obviously burn fewer calories and require less nutrition to fuel the activity than if you are lifting weights or going for a walk.

Plan for Parties: On party days, low-calorie meal replacement shakes are a great option allowing you to reserve a few extra calories for the special event. This doesn’t mean when you arrive at the party you can eat with abandon or bust-a-gut on unhealthy foods. However, your overall daily consumption of calories will hopefully be reduced from what you might have consumed with full meals throughout the day.

Enjoy Foods in Sequence: Eat a protein food first before eating carbohydrates. Protein is a low-glycemic food source that gives carbs a place to land and allows the body to digest food slowly helping to prevent many of the metabolic processes that lead to stored fat. Proteins usually contain some amount of fat, which is also more satisfying so you may be likely to eat less. For example, if the party begins with cocktails, be sure to have a protein-based hors d’oeuvre with the first sip.

Look Ahead: Setting short-term goals now creates success for long-term goals after the holidays. As soon as the clock strikes the New Year, your target goals transition from daily to weekly. Reward yourself each time you reach a weekly goal. Be specific about your goals and set a date for completion.

Make Time: Allow ample time in your schedule for your workouts – don’t intentionally get too busy. If you need to, make an appointment with yourself to exercise.

Plan and Prepare Meals: Make healthy entrees in advance to take with you for lunch and for easy dinners at the end of the day. Freeze the entrees if you need to. Most food items will last for up to 30 days in the freezer. It takes about two-to-four hours to prepare two-to-four weeks of meals.

Setup Social Support: Find a friend or family member to partner with you in your fitness program. Join a group exercise class and/or participate in a pre-planned meal and support program.

Track Progress: Don’t weigh on the scale every day, but instead select the same day each week to check your body weight. On the same day each month also measure body composition and take measurements.

Perform Your Best: Walk, run or bike ride further and faster. Use training progressions to work toward lifting more weight than when you first started exercising.

Keep a Journal: Track your goals, workouts, meals, measurements and results in a daily journal. It is a great feeling to go back and review the progress you’ve made.

Fitness Confidentiality for Divers

ConfidentialIt is always a pleasure to present at dive shows and dive centers. I usually open my presentations with an invitation to divers to ask questions. This helps me get to know individual divers and provide meaningful information. To get the conversation started I often remind divers that we are all in this together. Diving is one of my personal motivations for maintaining and improving health and fitness.

Although we are all in this together, this doesn’t mean that divers want everybody to know every detail of their personal health. Beyond their personal physician who can divers trust with questions about health and physical fitness for diving?

I receive calls and emails from divers around the world asking fitness, nutrition and related health questions. My policy of confidentiality allows divers to gain trusted information on many topics. I offer advice within my scope of professional expertise for all ages relating to more than 30 medical conditions including fitness therapy, nutrition, sports performance, general fitness and fitness for diving, surfing, paddling and golf. My one-on-one training portfolio includes over 50,000 hours of private and small group training.

Confidential consultations are fee-based in 30, 60 and 90-minute increments. Complete fitness and nutrition programs include health and fitness assessments, nutrition recommendations and individualized workouts with exercise illustrations for independent programming. Private personal training sessions range from 30 minutes to 75 minutes. Divers may contact me directly by telephone at (760) 271-6069 or by email at

In confidence,
Gretchen M. Ashton, CFT, SFT, SFN, NBFE