FITDIVER® Blogging Above and Below

FITDIVER® Blogging Above and Below

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

Chicken Soup for the FitDiver's Soul

This recipe can be made with almost any ingredients you enjoy eating, but I recommend sticking with a healthy version with lots of vegetables.  Use a large pot and freeze portions for later use.


1 Whole Organic Chicken

3 Organic Zucchini Squash

3 Organic Yellow Crook Neck Squash

2 Cups of Organic Baby Carrots

1 Head of Organic Napa Cabbage

1 Can of White Beans

! Can of Garbanzo Beans

1 Can of Butter Beans

1 Can of Diced Green Chilies

1 Bunch of Organic Cilantro

1 Diced Organic Onion


Begin by roasting the chicken in the oven for one hour at 425 degrees.  Use a chicken stand that allows most of the fat dripping from the skin to drain into the bottom. Discard these drippings to reduce the fat in the soup. After roasting the chicken, place it in a soup pot and cover it with water.  Add diced onion, cilantro, diced green chilies and season with salt, pepper and garlic to taste.


Cook the chicken until the meat falls off the bones.  Remove chicken from water, discard the bones and skin, chop the meat and return it to the broth in the soup pot.  Drain the beans and add them to the pot. Chop and add the vegetables.  Simmer for about one hour.  Enjoy!


As an option, brown rice is a nice alternative for the beans.


Winter Warm Up for Scuba Divers


It is bracing cold outside and time for a zero dark thirty workout.  Like most mornings my training buddy and I are the first to arrive. We converge at the fitness center entrance without words, grab a half cup of black coffee from the courtesy table and bolt for the sauna.  Still bundled up in coats, hats and gloves we defrost for a few minutes on the inside and outside before peeling off layers and making our way to the gym floor.  Although we are now acclimated to moderate indoor temperatures, the sauna is an unconventional first stop, not recommended for everyone, and definitely not a complete warm up.  We move on to the treadmills where this winter warm up for divers begins with aerobic exercise focusing on the areas of the body to be trained.


All warm ups should begin low and slow gradually working up to increases in breathing and heart rate over a period of 10 to 15 minutes.  The easiest way to accomplish this is to walk beginning at a pace of 1.5 miles per hour and increasing to 3.0 miles per hour.  Warming up prepares the body (including the heart, blood vessels, lungs and muscles) for the more intense exercise of the workout session, helps to prevent injury during exercise, and reduce soreness that some divers may experience after exercise. 


More specifically, according to the American College of Sports Medicine, moving the body through a gradual progression utilizing large muscles increases blood flow to muscles, increases the speed of nerve impulses, enhances the flow of oxygen to muscles and removal of waste products.  This preparation of the body enhances performance during the workout. Also during this warm up synovial fluid (an oily substance in the joints) changes in response to exercise lubricating the joints. Divers with respiratory conditions or allergies may find a longer warm up helps prevent exercise induced asthma.


Divers who participate in group exercise may be accustomed to warm ups consisting of a low intensity sampling of the same movements that will be performed during the class. During strength training workouts, even after a pre-workout warm up, it is recommended that the first set of each exercise be performed with less weight before performing working sets at higher intensity.  Stretching by itself is not a warm up, but may be performed afterward. 


A cool down period of gradually decreasing exercise is just as important as the warm up.  Again, aerobic exercise at a low intensity works well.  This is also a great time to stretch, mediate and then perhaps enjoy a short sauna. Remember to bundle up if it is cold outside.  Leaving the gym sweaty makes the body work harder to maintain its normal temperature. 


Exercising Outdoors in Cold Temperatures. It is even more important to warm up before exercising outdoors in cold temperatures. Begin with a walk or gentle calisthenics before running, cross country skiing or other winter sports activities.  Never stretch when the body is cold. Divers who enjoy snowboarding and downhill skiing may have the option of warming up in a resort fitness facility before hitting the slopes. Stay as warm as possible without overheating before, during and after these activities.  Stay well hydrated before, during and after exercise and recreational activities in cold weather.  


Dress in layers with a quick dry base close to the body.  Protect hands, head, feet and face from the extreme temperatures.  Exercising in cold temperatures may not be recommended for divers with heart and respiratory conditions. 


Remember diving is not a workout.  Ice diving (as shown in this cool photograph) requires special protection from the elements and unique safety protocols.   It is highly recommended that divers who enjoy diving in extreme environments achieve and maintain a high level of physical fitness.


Calories Burned in Cold Temperatures. The body utilizes slightly more energy to regulate normal body temperature in cold environments such as diving in cold water.  However the additional calories from temperature are negligible. Exercise exertion, which during diving is to be avoided as much as possible, is what produces higher calorie burn.  Generically speaking, a diver utilizes approximately 300 calories during a typical dive – about the same as going for a moderate to fast walk for an hour.




Is blowing raspberries good for scuba divers?

Blowing raspberries is very different than blowing bubbles while scuba diving but can still be a lot of fun. Most of us probably don't remember the first time we blew a raspberry as part of discovering our mouth at the age of just four to five months old. We most often blow raspberries to make others laugh because of the sound and the tickling sensation. It is usually an intimate gesture as it involves using the lips and tongue on another person's belly to make a "pbbbt" sound. Although it originated in cockney slang, blowing a raspberry is widely and cross-culturally understood and practiced.

Similar breathing techniques are practiced during childbirth, by woodwind and brass musicians, yoga enthusiasts, and to help relieve shortness of breath. It is sometimes referred to as circular breathing. It requires breathing in through the nose and controlling the breath that is stored in the cheeks as it passes through pursed lips. In fact, this technique is used when playing the Digeridoo which might come in handy for divers visiting Australia. Blowing raspberries is often used to warm up for vocal performances such as singing and public speaking.

During SCUBA activities when divers are mouth breathing, circular breathing by inhaling through the nose is not possible and blowing raspberries into a regulator isn't necessary. However, on dry land the technique may be one more way divers can develop breath control for relaxation underwater and optimizing use of air while diving.

The term blowing raspberries also references a raspberry tart and a sound of derision. But there is nothing condescending about the raspberry. It is an excellent source of good nutrition. Although a leaner belly may diminish the sound of blowing raspberries, eating raspberries may help divers maintain a trim waistline. One cup of raspberries has only 65 calories, 5 grams of sugar, 15 grams of carbohydrates, 1.5 grams of protein, 0.8 grams of fat, 8 grams of fiber, 186 grams of potassium, calcium, magnesium, vitamin B6, Iron and Vitamin C. Nutritional properties of raspberries are also thought to help prevent cardiovascular diseases and inhibit the growth of cancer cells.

Divers can stay healthy and have fun eating and blowing raspberries.

10-Minute Sand Dollar

Tiny sand dollar found during my beach walk.


Years ago, during one of my open water certification dives in La Jolla, California, I remember seeing my first field of sand dollars.  Hundreds of dives later, I still enjoy seeing them underwater or on the beach.  I affectionately call them glory dollars and think of them as gifts from the sea.  Imagine my surprise when during a recent beach walk I found this tiny sand dollar.  Amazing!


On this particular day I did not have time for my usual long beach walk.  This tiny sand dollar reminded me that every little bit counts.  Studies show that exercise bouts of just 10 minutes in duration are beneficial for overall health and reducing the risk of illness and disease. Ideal short-term exercise sessions for example include walking a mile in 12 to 20-minutes. For weight loss, longer exercise sessions at slightly higher intensity are recommended.


Even if divers cannot get outdoors for a walk, opportunities to increase physical activity can be incorporated into a daily routine by taking the stairs instead of an elevator or parking as far from entrances as possible.  One of my fitness clients has just started to ride his bike to work.  It is only 15-minutes each way, but this increases his physical activity by 30-minutes five days a week in addition to our training sessions together.


And there is even better news.  The more divers exercise the greater the benefits.  Health is no small matter, exercise is the great equalizer and the results are Amazing! 

Fitness Tips for Staying On Track During the Holidays

It 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.


Read more by Gretchen M. Ashton:  Healthy Holiday Eating Tips for Divers

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