FITDIVER® Blogging Above and Below

FITDIVER® Blogging Above and Below

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

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 might 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.” â€ª


Nutrition for Scuba Divers: Healthy Holiday Cider

Served hot or cold this cider helps fend off winter illnesses. Gretchen M. Ashton, Photographer
A cold or the flu can prevent water sports enthusiasts from their favorite activities.
Scuba divers, surfers, snorkelers, stand up paddlers, kayakers, wind surfers, and swimmers are exposed to the elements year-round. This cider may be enjoyed chilled to cool off on a hot summer day or as a hot beverage to warm up and refuel during the winter months.
This healthy holiday cider helps boost the immune system
a nd prevent other health maladies.
Healthy Holiday Cider is loaded with vitamins A, B1, B2, C and E. Along with the fruit juice, added coconut water contains important nutrients such as potassium, calcium, and sodium which help maintain and balance hydration. The natural sugars fructose and glucose help maintain energy, and the high fiber content helps keep digestive and elimination systems of the body functioning well. Combined anti-oxidant and anti-carcinogen properties of the pear, kiwi and watermelon help to prevent and lower high blood pressure, reduce the risk of stroke and protect cells from the damage of free radicals which can be produced during physical activity. Pear juice and cinnamon both help sooth a sore throat, a kiwi contains more vitamin C than an orange, and the lycopene in watermelon helps reduce respiratory inflammation. Cinnamon helps lower blood sugar and sooth muscle spasms among other healthful properties.
Healthy Holiday Cider
Using a juicer, wash and prepare the following:
1 Whole Pear (small to medium)
1 Whole Kiwi (rub the skin gently underwater but keep the peel)
1 Cup Watermelon (remove the rind)
1/2 Cup Coconut Water
1/2 Teaspoon Cinnamon
For more information about fitness and nutrition for diving:

Scuba Fitness Featured Exercise: Strong Abs for Scuba Diving

All scuba divers have “wash board abs” - some just have a
load or two of laundry resting on top.
Whether they are visible or not, abdominal muscles are essential in supporting the back and stabilizing the body through complex movements associated with scuba diving. Without question a balanced abdominal strengthening program is an important component of scuba fitness and should be developed in conjunction with back strengthening and flexibility early in an exercise program. The challenge is finding the best method for individual divers to strengthen the abdominal muscles without creating or aggravating certain back conditions. While the basic crunch is considered the most effective abdominal exercise, it is not necessarily an option for divers with upper back, neck and shoulder conditions or weakness. Divers with bulging discs and/or low back complications may also find ball exercises difficult or contraindicated to their condition. Contrary to popular belief, it is never appropriate to place an unstable torso on an unstable apparatus. Numerous studies demonstrate, with the exception of the Oblique Abdominal Muscles, all muscles of the abdominal walls are engaged at a greater intensity performing exercises on benches or solid surfaces rather than an on exercise balls. Maladies of the back include misalignment from accident or injury, skeletal deviations such as scoliosis, degeneration and disease such as arthritis, and pain from tight hamstrings, lack of physical activity, and/or muscle imbalances. With a few modifications to the basic crunch and a variety of efficient abdominal exercises that also strengthen the back, divers can protect and work around maladies of the spine improving the overall condition of the back while safely advancing abdominal training to a more intense level.
Remember, strengthening the abdominal muscles and reducing body fat around the torso are distinctly different types of training. Aerobic exercise is the key to leaning out the waistline while resistance training strengthens the abdominal muscles.
Performing the basic crunch in this fashion reduces recruitment of the hip flexors and allows more focus on the anterior abdominals. Begin with a natural position of the spine. If needed a small folded towel or pad may be placed under the low back for added support. Contract the abdominals (pull the belly button toward the spine), place hands behind the head for gentle support, lift the chin upward and inhale deeply through the nose. Exhale while continuing to pull the belly button toward the spine and lifting the upper body as shown until the curve of the low back flattens against the floor or pad. Increasing the lift of the upper body any further would involve enough other muscles to become less efficient and increase risk of injury. Inhale while maintaining the abdominal contraction and lowering the upper body to the starting position and repeat.
Modification: Divers with precluding conditions of the upper spine, neck and shoulders may perform the abdominal contraction portion of this exercise for repetitions without raising the upper body and with a pad under the neck.
For a complete torso strengthening workout for scuba diving purchase FitDiver® Abs Mobile App at Google Play and App Store on iTunes.
For more information about fitness for scuba divers and the ScubaFit® Diver Course visit

Sweet Potato stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

Sweet Potato stuffed Portobello Mushrooms are a delicious meal for scuba divers focused on eating healthy this holiday season. As the main course or a side dish all divers will enjoy the earthy fall flavors and aromas. Vegetarian divers rely on the portobello mushroom as a meat substitute. The mushroom has small amounts of macronutrients; is naturally low in calories, fat, and sugar, with nearly equal amounts of protein and carbohydrates, and a good amount of potassium. The portobello mushroom has a neutral mild flavor that is a blank canvas for seasonings that satisfy a wide range of taste preferences. This version of stuffed portobello mushrooms is prepared on a cedar plank to add smokiness. 


Sweet potatoes have less calories than yams and are a good source of potassium and vitamin A.  One cup is about 120 calories, with zero fat, six grams of sugar, 27 carbohydrates, four grams of fiber, and more than two grams of protein. The serving portion of sweet potato in this recipe in a large portobello mushroom cap is about one-half cup.


Sweet potato stuffed portobello mushrooms make a great warm and

hearty meal before or after scuba diving.




3 large portobello mushrooms for main course or six medium for side dish.

2 medium to large sweet potatoes.

1 medium Italian squash.

1 onion - optional.

3 Medjool dates.

1/2 cup  of roasted and salted Pepitas.

1 teaspoon of each: Garlic (fresh, powder or juice), sage, cinnamon, salt and pepper

1/2 cup olive oil.




Preheat the grill or oven to 375 degrees. The oven may already be hot from baking the sweet potatoes. (see below). If using a plank, soak in water for 20 to 60 minutes. Bake the sweet potatoes in the oven at 400 degrees for 45 minutes then peel and mash ahead of time. This is also great way to use up left overs. To keep calories, sugar and fat low, butter and brown sugar are not added to the sweet potatoes for this recipe. Grate the uncooked Italian squash into thin strips. If adding the optional onion, grate it into thin strips and mix with squash. Wash and remove the stem from the mushrooms then gently pat dry. Mix olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, and all of the salt, pepper, sage and garlic for basting the mushroom. Remove the pits from the dates and dice into small pieces.


Stuff the Mushroom:


Place the mushroom caps on a cedar plank or nonstick tray. Brush them with the seasoned olive oil. Place a layer of grated Italian squash (and optional onion) in the mushroom cap. Add several tablespoons of mashed sweet potatoes forming a mound rising from the mushroom cap.  Sprinkle the stuffed mushroom and filling with dry cinnamon and chopped dates.  


Grill or Bake:


Grill or bake large mushroom caps at 375 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes.  Smaller caps will take less time. Baste the mushroom cap with the seasoned olive oil about half way through the grilling or baking time. When juice begins to run from the bottom of the mushrooms cooking is usually complete.  Removing the mushrooms now keeps them from getting soggy or soft.  If you wish, the broiler may be used for a couple minutes to brown the tops.  The dates are delicious when a bit crispy.




Place the cooked sweet potato stuffed portobello mushrooms on a serving tray and sprinkle the tops with the roasted and salted Pepitas.




For more fitness for diving information and healthy eating recipes for scuba divers visit ScubaFit.

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Subscribe to FitDiver Magazine.


Sand Beneath My Feet

Photo credit: 


During my years as a competitive power lifter I utilized cross training to enhance my performance.  Each summer I selected a completely different activity from my usual training to stimulate mind, body and spirit. One of my most memorable experiences was the season when I took instruction in Goju Ryu, an Okinawan style of Karate.


Goju Ryu is a close contact encounter with hard and soft techniques. Although Goju Ryu includes kicks, takedowns and throws, most of my training was centered on grappling, circular hand motions, breathing and concentration. 


My favorite workouts were at the beach practicing Katas. Katas are prearranged sequenced movements for exercise and training used widely among the martial arts. Other exercises included the low and very wide stance generally referred to as a "sumo stance" which was incredibly effective leg training for the big lifts of the squat and dead lift. My Sensei seemed to float across the sand and my task was to simply stay face-to-face with him while in this sumo stance position.  At the time it seemed impossible but I did my best and experienced improvement. 


The breathing technique was amazing! Beginning with an inhale through the nose I was told to imagine the air flowing down into my abdomen curling around in a constant flow.  The inhale, and the exhale which was a reversal of the process, was practiced with a goal of lasting as long as possible and timed with specific body movements.  I continue to practice and benefit from this breathing technique, especially for exercise and scuba diving.  My Sensei also taught me to listen to the breathing of others; valuable awareness when presented with an opponent, but for me especially helpful when training fitness clients.


While walking at the beach I sometimes stop and try to perform the Sanchin Kata as I did that Summer; standing in knee-deep surf, focusing on the horizon, with the sand gradually washing away beneath my feet. Arigato Goju Master.




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

Fitness Confidentiality for Divers


It 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


For more information about ScubaFit.

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Aerobic Exercise Improves Mental Performance for Divers

The "runner's high," a "feel better" sensation often experienced by long-distance runners, is generally attributed to high levels of endorphins in the the brain.  Researchers have known for some time that exercise increases endorphin production. In addition to improving the efficiency of the heart, lungs and vascular system, aerobic training can actually produce an anti-depressant type of effect including improvements in emotional and intellectual health. 


Aerobic exercise improves mood stability often allowing those under a doctor's care to reduce anti-depressant and anxiety medications.  Improvements in self-esteem, increased confidence, and a more positive outlook for the future are also benefits of the effects of physical activity on brain chemistry.


Studies indicate that aerobic exercise improves mental acuity resulting in better concentration, enhanced ability to direct thoughts, and improved memory, all important mental performance activities for divers. Further neurophysicological advantages include a reduction in the symptoms of diseases such as Parkinson's, improved sleep patterns, and diminishing the craving responses during smoking cessation.


Cardiorespiratory fitness is essential for scuba diving.  Incorporating aerobic exercise in the diver's daily routine is definitely not a "no-brainer" but it isn't difficult to achieve.  The results of the above-mentioned studies were accomplished in only five weeks with 30 to 60 minutes of exercise three times a week.  


Examples of aerobic exercise are walking, jogging, running, swimming, rowing, cycling, jumping rope, aerobics classes, and dancing.  Fitness centers and home gyms provide equipment such as treadmills, stairclimbers, ellipiticals and exercise bikes. Aerobic exercise may also be performed outdoors almost anywhere and can be a family activity, social time for moms while children are at school, or tranquil time alone.  


Being Coachable

Fitness boot camp was fun and I learned something new.


Whether learning to scuba dive or accomplishing goals for scuba fitness;

Being Coachable is a mature attitude of learning and

collaboration essential to being a healthy and competent diver.


Recently I won a gift certificate for a month of fitness classes.  As a fitness professional in high demand my schedule is usually booked.  As a necessity my own workouts are typically self-trained sessions at unusually early and late hours.  However, this time I had an opening in my schedule that matched an early morning fitness boot camp.  It felt great to be coached through a workout for the first time in many years.


10 years ago while I was power lifting competitively I had the pleasure of training with both a coach and teammates.  I later coached power lifting athletes more than twice my age. At the same time I owned a private fitness facility and mentored a team of eight personal trainers.  Together we conducted 150 private fitness appointments and classes each week.


At monthly team meetings, in addition to discussing necessary day-to-day business like many companies, each trainer shared a list of business and personal goals; what was added to the list or accomplished since our last meeting.  A common goal and requirement for employment was maintaining current credentials with continuing education; in other words learning something new.  Since my personal trainers were well educated I knew they had the knowledge to bring the best fitness coaching to their clients.  Beyond that, sharing our goals with each other helped us to get to know each other better and encourage each other. We made direct positive impact on each other’s success; such as client referrals or team training clients during alternating vacation schedules.


One of my mentors said, “Everyone needs a coach.”  I changed it to “Everyone needs a coach sometimes,” because I believe we can each be self-motivated enough to make some improvements on our own.  However, there is definitely a place for seeking out a professional to move beyond our own resources and limitations, and learning something new is often a requirement to reach high levels of performance. It is important to choose coaches carefully.  Both dive instructors and fitness professionals need to carry current and proper credentials.  Divers will often find the most committed and successful instructors are those with regular and consistent continuing education. Good instructors and coaches will respect that an individual is reaching out to them for their expertise and inspiration, and be certain not to exploit or take negative advantage of their position in the relationship. Good students will bring their personal best all the time - physically, mentally and emotionally.


In the book “Awakening the Olympian Within” compiled by Jim Naber, Olympic Gold Medalist Nancy Hogshead, the most decorated swimmer in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, wrote, “Success is a Learned Skill.” About Being Coachable, she said:


“Everyone talks about finding a mentor or mentoring others, but few talk about the skills needed to be mentorable, to be coachable.  I define being coachable as giving another person permission to demand the very best of you.  I don’t mean following someone blindly, ignoring your ideas or principles.  I’m talking about having a goal big enough that you’re willing to step outside your comfort zone – in your relationships with others – and to allow someone else to contribute.”


Fitness boot camp was a lot of fun and I am going again tomorrow...and I did learn something new.


Divers and dive instructors can learn more about fitness for diving at:,, and, .

The Pomegranate Gift


A Story for the Heart


Last week a friend of mine who is recovering from a heart valve repair received a bottle of pomegranate juice as a get well gift. The pomegranate gift was perfect. Pomegrantes contain polyphenols with powerful antioxident properties.  The touted health benefits of pomegranate juice are sometimes losely and broadly stated, so I wanted to bring sound information and studies that are particularly interesting for divers.  


Here is a link to nearly 300 studies found at the National Institutes of Health, National Center for Biotechnology Information


The American Heart Association shares a potential warning about drug interactions with pomegranate juice similar to grapefruit juice, and recipes for women's heart health mentioning the benefits of folic acid and vitamin C found in pomegranate juice.  Studies and discussions center around the heart, blood, cancers and diabetes.  One major conclusion is that there doesn't seem to be any adverse effects of pomegranate juice consumption regardless of whether studies prove the benefits.  


There does seem to be a clear inidication that more research will add to the existing data showing benefits of consuming pomegranate juice as part of a healthy diet may include hellping to reduce blood pressure, improve cholesterol, slow prostate cancer and limit atherosclerosis.  Remember, antioxidants help counteract free radicals (damaged cells that can lead to disease).  


There's more to the  story . . . 


My friend's surgery was two-weeks ago and he is already walking three miles a day and has returned to half days at work. The surgery was performed by Dr. James Hemp, Chief Surgeon at Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego with the assistance of da Vinci robotics. A few years ago, one of my fitness clients also received the same surgery by Dr. Hemp. Having personally observed the results and recovery from this less invasive method of heart surgery, I encourage anyone anticipating surgery to research the da Vinci method to see if it is an appropriate option.  I have also had an opportunity to meet Dr. Hemp.  He is a highly respected, trusted surgeon, and a remarkable individual. Dr. Hemp and his team at Scripps have made an amazing contribution to the quality of life for both my friend and my client. Wattch this video to learn more: Community Lecture for Robot-Assisted Cardiothoracic Surgery (Part 1 of 3) - James Hemp, MD


Red Kuri Squash and Pumpkin Soup



In the most recent issue of the FITDIVER® newsletter I shared a winter squash recipe for Spaghetti Squash.  Here is another winter squash recipe for you.


This beautiful Red Kuri Squash makes a nice soup turreen for my pumpkin and red kuri squash soup. 


  • 1 small white pumpkin
  • 1 small orange pumpkin
  • 1 medium to large Red Kuri Squash
  • 8 ounces of vegetable juice (like V8) and 1 cup of water OR 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice


Cut each squash in half and remove seeds. Lay squash halves flat side down in 1/2 inch of water on an oven sheet or microwave safe cooking tray. Bake at 425 degrees in the oven for about 30 minutes. Only takes 15 minutes on high in the microwave. Clean squash from the skin with a spoon and discard the skin. Place the squash in a blender, add 8 to 12 ounces of vegetable juice and 1 cup of water OR 2 cups of vegetable broth. Season with 1/2 teaspoon each of black pepper, salt, nutmeg and allspice. Blend until soup consistency. This is a savory soup and is very good cold or hot, but not in between.

Scuba Fitness: Labor Day is a great time for a lagoon outdoor workout



Exercise is NOT recommended 24 hours before or after scuba diving making it challenging for divers to both dive and exercise during traditional two-day weekends. The three-day Labor Day weekend  however affords divers an opportunity to dive several times and still enjoy a scuba fitness workout. Long weekends also provide opportunities for extended exercise sessions, family fitness and fitness as part of outdoor recreation.


While scuba diving itself is not a workout, activities on or near the water that may be interesting to divers include stand-up paddle boardingsurfingkayakingcyclingbeach walking and hiking.



Many of our local lagoons are undiscovered playgrounds for the entire family. The Aqua Hedionda Lagoon in the City of Carlsbad, the location of the North Coast YMCA Aquatic Park, even allows swimming and boating. All vessels require day or annual use permits, so plan in advance. The Batiquitos Lagoon Foundation is hosting its 7th Annual Lagoon Clean Up in October.  The clean up offers participants a two-hour kayak tour of the area.  Buena Vista Lagoon is a favorite of fisherman.  All the lagoons offer amazing opportunities for bird watchers and naturalists.


Once of the best forms of outdoor exercise for scuba divers is walking on the beach. South Carlsbad State Beach offers a 3.9 mile stretch of beach with moderate terrain for most ages and abilities.  Depending on the diver's fitness level, the sand and surf, set a pace of between 12 and 20-minutes per mile. Check the tides before heading out.  Low tides for Labor Day are extremely low in the early morning and evening.  Early-to-mid morning and mid-to-late afternoon appear to be the best times for walking this weekend.  


Remember to use sun protection, wear comfortable clothes and athletic shoes, and bring a small snack and water.  Enjoy the long weekend.




Super Heros and Super Sports - What's Yours?

This morning as I anticipate the official opening of the Olympic games, I am thinking about my Super Sport.  If I was able to create a new sport and use super human powers within the game, what would it be? 

Living near San Diego, and greatly exposed to Comic Con finishing just before the Olympic games, it seems my imagination is haywire.  Or is it?


This past week I enjoyed an in-depth conversation with my adult son about super heros.  The conversation, primarily about Batman, began with the fact that he is the only hero that is fully human, a vigilanty really, but all for GOOD. Batman became the caped crusader against crime because of the murder of his parents.The discussion was prompted by a news piece with Dr. Langley about his book, Batman and Psychology: A Dark and Stormy Knight. The conversation was fascinating and imaginative. My son thinks Christian Bale makes the best Batman. Yet, he agreed  with me that Adam West is in a class by himself; "he created the character".


When I was a little girl, I tied a beach towel around my shoulders and pretended I was Batman.  I'd run around singing "na-na-na-na-na-na-na, Batman!"  My version of the television theme song.  My younger sister's name is Robin so I was always Batman. Of course, that meant she got to say the cool words like, "Holy Smokes Batman". 


But Batman was not my first superhero.  Mighty Mouse and Popeye took center stage in my early years and later Wonder Woman left her impression.  


It wasn't until I reached my mid thirties that I discovered my affinity for these super heros was a part of my DNA. While I tried out for every sport in school, once past the softball and volleyball teams of junior high school, I wasn't competitive. It seems I was not meant to discover my super sport until later in life. Girls were not allowed in the weight room where I attended school.


When I finally discoverd the gym, little did I know I would discover my true strengths and the inner most depths of my being.  There really are no words to describe being able to perform something that comes purely and naturally from one's physical and mental abilities operating at maximum for one goal - lift the weight, kick the ball, swim, run, jump . . .  .


So with today's opening of the Olympic games, my adrenaline pumps with the athletes. I am very excited! So excited, that I am thinking about Super Heros and Super Sports.  Let the games begin!


Gretchen M. Ashton, bench pressing 218 pounds in 2003.




FitDiver® Featured Exercise: Basic Crunch

Exercise:  Basic Crunch with Feet on Wall

Level:  Beginner to Advanced


Performing the basic crunch in this fashion reduces recruitment of the hip flexors and allows more focus on the anterior abdominals.  Begin with a natural position of the spine.  If needed a small folded towel or pad may be placed under the low back for added support.   Contract the abdominals (pull the belly button toward the spine), place hands behind the head for gentle support, lift the chin upward and inhale deeply through the nose. Exhale while continuing to pull the belly button toward the spine and lifting the upper body as shown until the curve of the low back flattens against the floor or pad. Increasing the lift of the upper body any further would involve enough other muscles to become less efficient and increase risk of injury.  Inhale while maintaining the abdominal contraction and lowering the upper body to the starting position and repeat. 




Modification:  Divers with precluding conditions of the upper spine, neck and shoulders may perform the abdominal contraction portion of this exercise for repetitions without raising the upper body and with a pad under the neck. 



FitDiver® Mobile App for Scuba Diver Fitness


"Navigating the waters of fitness for scuba diving may seem daunting however, these tried and true exercises for the major muscles of the upper body are as certain as the tides to develop A Treasured Chest."

ScubaFit® debuts the first in a series of mobile fitness applications for scuba divers. To purchase the application click here.  Available now in the Android Market, and soon in the Apple market, search for it by "fitdiver" or locate it in "scuba diving" or "fitness". Link to the application through the website at Divers may also find FitDiver® on Facebook and Twitter.


"It is the only fitness application for scuba divers you'll find, but we have more on the way," says Gretchen M. Ashton, CFT, NBFE, and founder of ScubaFit®.  This project compliments the PADI ScubaFit® Diver Distinctive Specialty Course, co-authored by Ashton.  Gretchen explains, "While all divers now have access to our specialized workouts, the exercises will be most meaningful for divers who have completed the ScubaFit® Diver Distinctive Specialty.  Both instructors and students have the greatest understanding of the benefits of physical fitness for divers and the applications function as an extension of the certification.  The workouts encourage all divers to embrace a healthy, fit and active lifestyle."


FitDiver® Workouts are based on sound research including a health profile of the diving community and the unique physiological demands of the underwater environment. Scuba diving is often considered moderate-intensity activity. Yet, there are differences in the physical requirements for diving depending on the type of diving and the conditions. Diving may be recreational, technical, industrial or military. Conditions vary greatly in water temperature, visibility, currents and surf. Further, other stresses on human physiology must be considered in an underwater environment. Along with the proper gear, divers must also prepare with proper training, including physical fitness, for safety and performance. The ultimate physical fitness recommendation for scuba divers is to be in excellent health; free from disease, medical conditions and injury. As we go through life, we often have difficulty maintaining this clean slate. It is important for divers to know how to become and remain physically fit, prevent illness and injury, and rehabilitate and manage conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart problems, and obesity.


In addition to improving health and quality of life, physical fitness for scuba diving:

  • Improves transportation of oxygen to muscles 
  • Reduces amount of air used
  • Extends bottom time
  • Increases physical endurance and reduces fatigue
  • Facilitates carrying less weight
  • Improves mental acuity
  • Reduces the risk of decompressions sickness (DCS)
  • Improves agility on boats and uneven terrain 
  • Improves comfort and movement on the surface and underwater
  • Improves fin-kick efficiency and diving performance


Certain to capture the interest of scuba divers, the featured exercises were photographed at the Ponto Beach Overlook in Carlsbad, California, with the beautiful Pacific Ocean as a backdrop.  This location is an excellent site for running stairs with the spectacular view as a reward.


The application(s) are developed, designed and marketed with the expertise of Phrogger InteractiveGraphic Design by Briejb designand Loren Kurz, Fitness Model. For more information contact:

Volunteers needed to "Dive The Coast" for ocean organizations


CALIFORNIA – Divers along the 1000 miles of California coastline are gearing up for the largest mass scuba dive in the history of diving. Test dives are being done to gauge dive distance, depth and air, all of which will be formulated for diving longer distances during Dive the Coast scheduled for June 2013. Dive teams will first perform calibration dives to determine distance. Additional dives are relay dives where one team dives a distance then hands a flag to another team and so forth.

Volunteer divers and organizers to help with promotion, planning, and future dives are still needed. Dive the Coast Chapters have been formed in San DiegoOrangeLos AngelesSan Luis Obispo,MontereySanta Cruz and San Francisco counties. Visit to contact the coordinator for each county. San DiegoLos AngelesOrange and Monterey counties also have FaceBook pages. Coordinators are still needed for Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Mateo, Marin, Sonoma, Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties. Contact to become a coordinator and/or supporter.
Upcoming events and news statewide include:
March 17, 2012, Los Angeles: Join divers in Los Angeles for a series of dives with the goal of covering the entire Palos Verdes Peninsula. Day one divers will cover at least three miles, fromMalaga Cove to Rocky Point, with possibly another four miles added on to reach Old MarinelandCobblestone Beach. For more information, call or email Brian at 661-270-6072,

La Jolla Cove, California


May 5-6, 2012. Orange County: Coastkeeper and OC-DTC will be promoting Dive the Coast at theScuba Show in Long Beach.  OC-DTC participated in the 31st Annual Avalon Harbor Clean Up atCatalina Island on February 24th, 2012.  Participants were interviewed by Dominic Arizona Bonuccelli who was at the event filming his new Lonely Planet adventure roadtrip airing on  BBC America in a few months. 
June 8-10, 2012 - Dive the Bay, Monterey: Join divers from across the state for a weekend of camaraderie and diving in beautiful Monterey, home to some of the best diving in the state! The event begins with a social gathering Friday night, then two days diving the entire Monterey Bay as a prelude to the statewide event. "Dive the Bay" is really just an opportunity for everyone to meet, swap stories, play with any sea lions and harbor seals that might be hanging around - but mostly, to build excitement about, and support for, 2013! For more information, call or email Chris at 408-694-7483,
The goal of Dive the Coast is to bring divers across the state together for a common goal and to raise money for ocean conservation and education organizations. It will also provide an opportunity for divers to explore areas of the state where they would otherwise not go, and gives exposure to the sport as a whole. Organizers are coordinated by county and each of the 15 counties select deserving organizations to benefit from their fundraising efforts.
Kimberly White, founder of Dive the Coast, originated the idea in Santa Cruz in August 2011, and participants have since been conducting outreach to dive clubs, dive shops and non-profit organizations, as well as forming partnerships to help accomplish this epic endeavor.

Pros Team Up to Bring Fitness to Divers

PADI approves brand new ScubaFit® Diver Distinctive Specialty Course


Dive and fitness instructors alike can now become certified to teach fitness to divers.  The Padi ScubaFit® course was developed by Gretchen M. Ashton, a certified fitness trainer and Stephen Mendel, a multi agency scuba instructor.


The PADI ScubaFit® Diver Distinctive Specialty Course offers new opportunities for instructors and dive shop owners to improve the health, performance and safety of their diving clients and increase diving participation.  Divers who are fit are much more likely to enjoy their diving experience and to dive more often. Classes are forming now.  For more information, interested instructors may contact: or


Ashton is a diver and the owner of ScubaFit®. She is an International Sports Sciences Association Personal Trainer and Fitness Therapist, National Board of Fitness Examiners Personal Trainer, World Champion Hall-of-Fame Athlete, and scuba fitness writer. Her training success, unique coaching style and innovative work establishing a health profile of the scuba diving community also resulted in the FitDiver® program.


Mendel, owner of Premier Scuba Diving, is a NAUI and Los Angeles County Instructor Trainer, PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer, CMAS and Handicapped Scuba Association and a First Aid/CPR/AED instructor. He has extensive diving, teaching and leadership experience along with a longtime and ongoing participation and interest in fitness. He is also a voice over artist with many projects to his credit.


Ashton and Mendel acknowledge both the inspiration and practical importance of Dr. Glen Egstrom’s groundbreaking research and the meaningfulness it brought to this first of its kind course. Egstrom, Professor Emeritus of Kinesiology at UCLA, is renowned for his extensive contributions including the UCLA Diving Safety Research Project and over 100 publications on the topics of dive training and safety.


“We believe that our collaboration provides the best knowledge, resources and experience to bridge the worlds of diving and fitness. We encourage dive instructors and fitness professionals who select this specialty course to enhance the teaching and learning experience by working together whenever possible, for the common good of all divers.”


The purpose of the PADI ScubaFit® Diver Distinctive Specialty Course is to teach divers who are new to fitness an effective approach toward the establishment of a foundation of general fitness and fitness specific to diving, as well as an understanding of the physical demands of diving.


The course serves as a safe and supervised fitness program for diving. This specialty familiarizes divers with the skills, knowledge, planning, organization, procedures, techniques, problems, hazards and enjoyment of being physically fit for diving.  Divers will learn how fitness greatly improves diving performance and reduces the risk of injury and illness.


For those divers with experience and knowledge of general fitness, in addition to the above mentioned topics, they will learn activity specific exercises and training concepts that will enhance all their diving activities. All divers will also be given an introduction to the basics of nutrition and the necessity of maintaining hydration during diving.


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