Planning is the key to fitness

Planning is Key to Success

By Stacy Vanzant

YMCA Certified Personal Trainer and Group Exercise Instructor

Have you figured out your New Year’s resolution yet? Many of us get on the resolution bandwagon and the majority of those resolutions are for self-improvement. The most common, of course, is to lose weight. Sure, we’ve all been there thinking “this will be the year.” The sad truth is that only eight percent of us actually accomplish our New Year’s resolution.

You’re probably thinking that’s because a lot of us don’t even set a resolution, so we don’t fall short. In actuality, 40 percent of the U.S. population sets a New Year’s resolution. With only 40 percent setting a goal, eight percent is still a scary low figure.

Why is it that so many of us fail in accomplishing our New Year’s goal? The most common problem is that we weren’t dedicated in the first place, so we are somewhat destined to fail — until now!

Proper planning is the only way one can succeed in anything. Have you ever been to the grocery store and “planned” to grab whatever caught your eye for supper? It never fails that when you get home you have forgotten that one key ingredient or totally botched your day because you were hungry when you shopped. With proper planning you can succeed; you just have to be dedicated to the planning process.

People who know me know that I’m completely addicted to lists. I make a list for everything in my life. My daily “To Do” list, grocery list, weekly meals, packing list, and the “lists” go on and on. The one thing that everyone can take away from the list method is that it keeps you focused. It keeps me on track and I don’t waste time scurrying around trying to remember what I need. Another great advantage is that when I check off items on my list, I feel a great sense of accomplishment.

Plan Your Meals

When you go to the grocery store, stick to the list. Only purchase items that you need and that are going to help your body increase its potential. Keep the sugary and processed ingredients off the list. Stick to the outside border of the grocery store. That’s where the freshest and best ingredients are found.

Prep and Plan

When you get home, prep your veggies and fruits. Clean, cut, and place them in portion-controlled containers. Then as you are packing lunches or going to grab a snack, you already have everything planned out for you. Grab a portioned amount of baby carrots, or an apple that is already washed and sliced.

Carbs Are Your Friend

I hear all the time from people dieting or getting into fitness that carbs are bad, so they don’t eat them. Carbs are fuel for your body. Your body needs carbs for energy. That doesn’t mean you can get away with a box of carb-loaded donuts, but healthy carbs are the fuel that will give your body energy and get you through the day. Below you’ll find my quick list of healthy carbs to use in your diet.

You Got to Move It, Move It!

Most importantly, just keep moving! Regardless of the type of job you hold, keep moving throughout the day. Get up and walk around the office, or step outside for a trip around the building. Your body was designed to move as a hunter or a gatherer. You don’t have to run several miles a day, but your body will function much better with active movement. Park a little further from the door at the store or grab a pal and take 15 minute walk at lunch.


Yes, yes and yes! The complaint I most often get from my personal training clients who have just increased their water consumption is that they are constantly running to the restroom. Well, yes that will be the case, but to remove toxins and impurities from your body, this is how they are going to have to come out. So, embrace the water and drink, drink, drink! The other most common complaint from clients is that they don’t like the taste of plain ol’ water. No problem. Toss in a few lemons or strawberries or whatever natural flavoring you like and enjoy.

Win Without A Gym

Don’t get me wrong, I spend a lot of my life in the gym. Many gyms offer great New Year’s discounts and it’s a perfect time to sign up for a membership. But you don’t have to have a gym membership to succeed. Gyms are great for education on how to use equipment, to  stay motivated with friends, and to learn about new fitness opportunities, but you can also do some key strength exercises and cardio at home to achieve the same thing. Here is my “Win Without A Gym Winter Workout.”

Rotate through each set three (3) times. After you complete each set three times, go back through the warm-up for 30 seconds each. This will give you two minutes of cardio between sets.



Be Accountable – Set The Appointment

Whether you choose to work out two days a week or four days a week, make an appointment with yourself that you won’t have a problem keeping. My gym time is as important to me as a business meeting. Days that I am in the gym are marked on my calendar just like other appointments. My office knows that if I’m leaving to head to the gym at the end of the day that time is non-negotiable, and issues that arise will have to be dealt with at a different time. Make your appointment and keep it. This goes back to the planning! With a little practice, you’ll be amazed how easy it can be to set this appointment and keep it.

Don’t Be Scared

Ask anyone who has lost a noticeable amount of weight or started a new fitness plan that was a success. They didn’t lose their 50 pounds overnight. It takes time and there are going to be ups and downs. Take your mind off the scale and set other goals instead. If you can only do five jumping jacks, great! Next week push yourself to 10. If you can run for three minutes straight, awesome! Next week try for five and then eight and then 10. Small steps are the best way to see success. If your goal is to lose 25 pounds, you aren’t going to wait on the celebration for 25, you’ll celebrate at five, 10, 15 and so on. Keep that philosophy and you will see results!

Quick List Of Good Carbs



DIY: Unique Photo Display Ideas

Make Memories that Last: Unique Ways to Display Photos

We all want to keep our family photos and portraits and see how we’ve changed over the years, but what is the best way to keep them out of the storage box in the attic? It’s a familiar tale that I’m sure you know all too well. We have many great family photographs, but we can’t display them all. Here are a few Do It Yourself projects that will keep these candid memories out in the open in unique and different ways.

Vintage Photo Pillows

A keepsake that can be passed down for years to come, these black and white images will add style to your couch, sitting area, bedrooms or anywhere throughout your home. It sounds complicated but it’s very, very easy. Shhh, don’t tell your friends! They’ll be amazed at how creative your decorations can be.


  • Cut two pieces of fabric and a piece of freezer paper to 8 1/2 x 11 in.
  • Next , iron the freezer paper to the fabric. The shiny side of the freezer paper will be down and you will be ironing the dull side. You won’t need to iron that long. Check to make sure the freezer paper is attached.
  • Once the paper is attached, put the fabric and freezer paper in your printer. Turn the paper/fabric in the printer so that you will print on the fabric side. The freezer paper is just there so that your printer has something to grab onto. We’re actually tricking our printers to think they’re printing on paper! How sneaky!
  • Next, make the pillow. Put the two right sides of the fabric together and sew around the outside, leaving about a 3 in. gap so you will be able to turn the pillow right sides out.
  • Stuff your pillow with polyfill and sew the pillow shut.
  • Place the pillow in a fun location for everyone to see and enjoy!


Wood Transferred Photos (images for DIY located at:

This is a great way to display your photos and fill up a little wall or mantel space with a creative touch. With this method you can use black and white or color images.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Photo(s) to transfer
  • Wood, cut to same size as photo, or larger
  • Scissors or x-acto knife
  • Straight edge
  • Laser printer
  • Foam Brush
  • Matte Gel Medium (I used Liquitex)
  • Credit Card or flat piece of plastic
  • Towel, dishcloth
  • Mod Podge


Step 1. Choose your photo(s) and crop or size them to desired dimensions. Note that it’s important to reverse the image in your photo editing software, especially if your design contains lettering or anything that is not exactly symmetrical. Next, print your photo on a laser printer. This transfer will ONLY work with laser printers, not ink-jet printers. The thinner the paper the better.


Step 2. Trim out your photo. I used my x-acto knife and T-square to cut off the white around the photo edge, but you could also leave a white edge if you choose to have a natural wood border around your photo.


Step 3. Wood preparation: You can choose any kind, but a fine grain works best. Cut the wood down to the size you prefer. I bought a 4′ x 2′ of birch plywood at Home Depot and our example shows two 11″ x 16″ pieces. Be sure to avoid wood with very large, dark knots since the grain will show through and may be distracting. Before the gel step, you’ll need to sand the surface as smooth as possible, including any rough corners or edges.


Step 4. Using your foam brush, apply a layer of matte gel medium to the wood surface, coating it evenly all the way to the edges.


Step 5. Slowly place your laser print photo face down on top of your wood block. Be careful, because once it’s down it will be hard to remove without damaging the image. Once in place, use a flat, hard object (credit card or, in my case, a cake decorating tool) to flatten the paper and remove any air bubbles that may be trapped.


Step 6. Let it dry for at least 10 hours in a safe place. Overnight is great.


Step 7. Soak a cloth with water and dab all over the surface of the paper. Your image should begin to show through. Keep dabbing with water for 2-3 minutes until the paper is fully soaked.


Step 8. Here comes the fun (and messy) part! Once the paper is good and damp, use your fingers to rub away the paper fiber. It should come off pretty easily in tiny little rolls, as shown. Be sure to lay a towel under your project to collect the paper bits to make for easier clean up. You’ll be left with your laser transfer underneath!


Step 9. Keep rubbing until your fingers get tired! Take a break, then get back at it again. It took me about 20 minutes to get all of the paper off each of my boards. The picture shows my progress about 3/4 of the way done. If you can still see some spots, go back and continue rubbing to remove all of the paper fiber.


Step 10. Once the paper is rubbed entirely off the wood block, it’s time to seal the transfer. I used the same foam brush (after washing it completely clean) to apply a thin layer of Mod Podge on the top surface.


Glass Photo Box

Make a picture pop with a little added design. Here’s what you’ll need for this mantel show stopper.


  • A glass block that allows the inside to be accessed. You can find these at a craft store. Make sure the glass block has a large enough hole or opening to add all of the elements you want to include inside.
  • Inside decorations like beads, rocks, sand, Legos or any other small items for the foundation.
  • Photo and frame to fit photo.
  • Ribbon, bow or outside block decoration.




  • Insert the photo into a frame of your choice and set aside.
  • Add foundation elements to the bottom of the glass block. Adding sand for summer pictures, Legos for kid pics or rocks for family portraits are just a few suggestions.
  • Once the foundation elements have been added, put the image in the frame inside the glass block. Make sure to set the photo and frame in a secure spot as you’ll have to move the glass block to its display location.
  • Close the glass block and it’s time to decorate the outside. Add a cute bow or simple ribbon over the top to hide the block opening and tah-dah! You’re done!


Photo Luminaries


Who doesn’t love the soft glow of candlelight during the holidays or on a cold winter night? Here’s a way to jazz up your candles with the warm love of family and friends.


  • Blank sheets of vellum (available at craft stores)
  • Photo printer
  • Double sided tape
  • Round glass hurricanes, mason jars, etc.
  • Tea lights or battery powered candles



Use a photo printer to print a variety of photos onto vellum. You can use color or black and white images. Cut images to fit the dimensions of your glass jars. Cut just a hair short on the bottom and top to insure the photo fits the glass correctly. Use double stick tape to secure the photos onto the glass. Place tea lights inside the containers and light the candles to make your images glow.


Family Yearbooks


Trying to figure out which images you want to print and use each year can be a task, and then keeping up with them is even more difficult. Try making a family yearbook each year and hold onto them for years to come. Here’s how:


Create a folder on your computer called “Yearbook.” Each month go to your favorite social website or photo file and pull over images that you want to keep and add to your Yearbook. Pull 8-10 different images that are your favorites.


There are several sites available that you can use to build your own photo book. At the end of the year, upload your favorite pictures from your Yearbook file and it will make the process super easy.


Design your book, place your order, and your yearbook will arrive at your doorstep.


Devotional: Keep me Singing as I go

“Aunt Donna, will you sing at my wedding?”

I looked at the beautiful child. As the mother of boys, she was one of only a few girls that I had the privilege of loving her whole life. I only had to look into her eyes to be instantly taken to another place and time. I remember her giggles and her energy. She had always been too happy and bubbly to waste a moment being still. And yet as I looked at her again, the picture in my mind of the bright-eyed little girl riding the big blow-up dinosaur around in our den was beginning to fade. The beautiful young woman standing in front of me was waiting for an answer.

“Well,” I hesitated. I hoped she couldn’t hear the “groan” that was growing inside me. I loved her. That is true. And I love to sing. One of my mother’s favorite memories of me is when I, at three years old, sang in front of the congregation at church all by myself. “What a day that will be, when my Jesus I shall see,” I sang for everyone to hear. If only l had realized what l was doing. I’m sure I would have fainted.

That’s right. Fainted. I don’t know what it is about singing that makes me so nervous. As I think back, some of my own favorite memories are times of singing. Some are just glimpses now, like faded photographs of long ago, when I see myself with my mouth open wide without a care in the world. My daddy and I, sitting in the front yard at home, singing a duet in perfect harmony to my ears. “When they ring those golden bells for you and me,” we sang. Other times I would hear his bass voice booming before the sun was up, “Wake up, wake up, you’re oversleeping, wake up, wake up, it’s almost day.”

I remember my mother singing to my brothers as she put them to bed, “When my little Boy Blue, closed his eyes and went to sleep, he prayed Dear Lord above, hear my plea,” and “I heard an old, old story, how a Savior came from glory,” as she worked in the kitchen.

The truth is, I can carry a tune. But I’ve never considered myself to have a solo voice. I can hold my place with the sopranos in the choir, although I’m usually at the piano these days. I have even been known to sing second soprano in a trio once in awhile. But all by myself? The thought makes me tremble.

Maybe it’s because I haven’t sung by myself in a long time. Or maybe it’s because I haven’t sung much at all lately. But as I study the Bible now, I am reminded that even in the most difficult circumstances in my life, the song in my heart is still there. It has never left me. And if there is a song in my heart, surely there should be a song on my lips.

You’ve probably guessed my answer to my niece’s question. Of course, I will sing at her wedding. I can’t promise her perfect pitch or a flawless performance. But I will sing because I love her. I will sing because I love her compassion and her Christian witness. I love her devotion to her family and to the fine young man she has chosen to marry. But most of all, I will sing because “There’s within my heart a melody, Jesus whispers sweet and low, fear not, I am with thee, peace be still, in all of life’s ebb and flow. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, sweetest name I know, fills my every longing, keeps me singing as I go.”