Food for Back to School Mania – Part 1 – Breakfast of Champions!

Back to School Road Sign

For some of you less fortunate, you’ve already started the sprint called BACK TO SCHOOL! My family and I are facing this unavoidable chaotic time with white knuckles. We are putting on a brave face as we organize the school supplies that I purchased last month. I know. That’s ridiculously early, but I was shamed into doing it early by my hyper- organized friend and neighbor, Colleen. Fortunately for me, that’s all I got done early. Wouldn’t want to change my entire persona in one year. I’m trying to remain “real”… also I can’t possibly have more forethought than that. A little tip, buy the already sharpened pencils. It’s totally worth the extra money because you’ll just break your new pencil sharpener trying to sharpen the 52 pencils you’ll try to jam in the always too small pencil bag.

Clearly this post will not be about organizing your children for the back to school death march. This one will try to give you some guidance regarding feeding the above mentioned children during the school year. I will try to give you the strength to resist reaching into your wallet to hand over the $ for the kids to buy their lunch at school. This also includes dodging the temptation of putting money on their accounts for substandard “food” in the cafeteria. I’m going to empower you so that you can send your offspring out the door well fed so they don’t fall apart at school. We want them to learn enough so they are actually able to leave the house after college and don’t return to live in your basement. These are the thoughts that haunt/inspire me daily. Realize that these will just be ideas and guidelines. You can just put your dreams of a meal plan, grocery list and recipe box away with your dreams of being the next American Idol.

This post will be part 1 of a series. It just occurred to me that I never read a super long post. I know I’m not alone so for those equally attention challenged, I give you …

Part 1
Breakfast of Champions!

I see you. It’s early. No one has anything they need. All efforts to be prepared the night before have been thwarted. Everyone is moving like a sloth, not moving or spinning out of control like the Tasmanian Devil (PLEASE tell me you get that reference). No, I’m not peeping in your window. I’m living this life, just like you are and I know it’s maddening. The idea of feeding anything besides the dog sounds impossible in the middle of all of this! Fear not. We can do this!
1) Make ahead
2) Easy assemble
3) Eat whatcha got

1) Make ahead requires you to set some time aside to make a few dishes so you can just grab, heat and eat. Here are a few of my favorites.

Baked egg cups – Do yourself a favor and use cupcake liners unless you enjoy scrubbing your muffin tins for an eternity or believe, as my husband does, that magic fairies clean your tins while they soak for 3 days (they never show up). If you are making these ahead, you will want to cook them until the yolk sets and then wait for them to fully cool before chucking them into a re-sealable bag to stash in the fridge. Make them your own by using Canadian bacon or adding other favorite ingredients. If yolks freak your family out, whisk a mess of eggs and add your favorite other ingredients and pour them into the ham/bacon lined cupcake liner tins and bake until set. Here’s the link for the original recipe –

egg cups

Baked oatmeal – This is a family fav! Peanut Butter, Banana, honey baked oatmeal. This is so much deliciousness in one pan!

baked oatmeal

This recipe is my version that I have tweaked to bump up the nutritional value

*3 Cups old fashioned rolled oats (not quick oats)
*1/2 cup brown sugar
*1 ½ cups milk (skim, almond, coconut almond, rice – whatever you prefer or have on hand)
*2 large, very ripe bananas – mashed up
*2 eggs or ½ cup of egg whites
*2 tsp of baking powder
*3/4 tsp of salt
*2 tsp of vanilla (just splash a bunch)
*1/2 cup of natural peanut butter or almond butter (again, just blob in a bunch)
* ½ cup of chia seeds (optional but a power house full of omega 3’s and fiber)
*big squeeze of honey ( I didn’t even try to measure this)
Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl and dump into a 9×13 baking dish sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes or until the top is crunchy. Cool completely, cut into squares and refrigerate. Serve warm with cold milk and top with cold berries or grab out of the fridge and head to the bus stop.

Breakfast burritos – this is truly a “put whatever you want in the burrito” burrito – this is not a recipe. It’s a guideline, a map of sorts.

breakfast burrito

*Scramble a bunch of eggs, egg whites or a combination of both and add whatever your family prefers. We like diced, canned green chilies, spinach, chives or cilantro. Set them aside to cool.
*Cook thoroughly crumbled breakfast sausage, bacon, Canadian bacon or my family likes the Morningstar vegetarian breakfast sausage. Set that aside to cool.
*Shred or buy shredded cheese of your choice or use blobs of goat cheese or feta.
*To give the burrito a little more staying power, you can add prepared shredded hash browns to the assembly line.
*Find a wrap of your choosing. They vary in size and ingredients. We like the whole wheat, carb smart variety. Take into consideration the size of the appetite you are trying to feed. I will beg you to choose a whole wheat version. Warm it slightly so it will be more pliable.
*Now get assembling – Resist the urge to make a HUGE pile. The burrito/wrap will not close if you make it to huge. Simple concept. – First place the wrap on the plate, scoop some egg mixture onto it, next the meat, cheese, potato, a little more cheese and wrap it up. Double wrap them in plastic wrap tightly so they don’t dry out. Heat and eat in the morning. This is a hearty breakfast. You may have to experiment to figure out how big to make them. I will be making smaller ones so they heat up faster. My daughter will probably eat one and my boys might eat a few. God help me.

2) Easy assembled breakfast – keep some key ingredients on hand your family can throw a breakfast together in no time.
Yogurt parfait – vanilla or plain Greek yogurt, berries, granola of choice. Layer it all up in a bowl or cool glass and you are good to go.
Peanut butter, honey and banana toast/whole grain frozen waffles –top toast or waffles with natural peanut butter, sliced bananas and drizzle with raw honey.
Cream cheese roll up – whole grain tortilla, light cream cheese, no sugar added fruit preserves all rolled up.
Smoothies! – frozen banana, frozen berries, vanilla almond milk, handful of spinach if you can sneak it in (blend it in the liquid first so you don’t have chunks of spinach floating around), scoop of vanilla protein powder or vanilla Greek yogurt. Blend it all up and slurp it up using a fat straw. Don’t use a skinny one. It’s a tough way to start a day.

3) Eat whatcha got! – One of my favorite things to do is have the kids pull out leftovers from dinner. Make extra at dinner and the kids all fight over who gets to finish it in the morning! Who says you need to have “breakfast” food for breakfast. There are no rules. Lots of us have breakfast for dinner and we all know how popular that can be.

My parting thoughts – Think protein, good carbohydrates and good fats. You need to be sending your kids and yourselves out the door ready to attack the day. A breakfast loaded with simple sugars will have your family unfocused and drowsy by 2nd period or by the time you get off the train. Protein gives you the staying power and keeps your blood sugar from spiking. Good carbs from whole fruit, vegetables and whole grains last longer and are a powerhouse of nutrients. Good fats keep you satisfied, are good for your brains (we need brain food) and taste fantastic.
If you have any other ideas, be a share bear and leave it in the comments below. Be brave. Try something new. Think beyond Pop Tarts and a bowl of cereal. Some days that’s all your brain may be able to put together. That’s okay. Make it the exception and not the rule and your family will be just fine.
That’s it that’s all for part 1. Keep an eye out for Part 2- Lunchtime Lowdown!- coming soon.
Until next time…Live well!
Toni Kuhel


My mom’s story. My story. Your story.


Whenever I meet a new client, a new family or stand up to speak in front of a large group of people about health and wellness, I think of my mom.   I think of all the years she worked tirelessly to provide for our family.  I think of all the nights she came home from work as a pharmacist to work on her continuing education credits. I think of all the times she complained about how unfair things were at work or how terrible this person or that person treated her.  I remember her successfully putting down cigarettes once and for all after 10 long years of trying. I saw her constantly struggling to control her weight by trying everything under the sun. .. everything but eating right and exercising.  I think about how she developed high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and eventually suffered the mini strokes that started the house of cards falling.

My mother passed away on April 18, 2013. Her passing was full of drama and totally on her own terms, much like most of her life.  I will tell you all about that in a little bit.  I never told her, but she is the reason that I began to walk this walk. I never told her, but I bet she knows now.

Most of you don’t know that my mom was sick for a very long time.  She suffered a devastating stroke six years ago. It left her wheelchair bound, her entire left side unusable, completely dependent and a shell of her former self. The week before she died, she suffered the stroke that took the rest of what was left of what we would consider “her.” That’s the Cliff’s notes version of the life I wish could’ve been different.  I wish she didn’t suffer. I wish she didn’t miss all the great things she missed. I wish she had the chance to enjoy the retirement she earned. I wish that my kids, nieces and nephew could’ve had a memory of a healthy Lola. Lola is the Filipino word for grandmother.  Unfortunately, this is the memory I have of both of my Lolas as well.  Strokes run in my family.

On April 18th our school district closed due to flooding for the first time ever. The rain hampered all the plans that my family members had for work, visits elsewhere and of course school. I remember thinking that the rain during that 24 hour period felt epic. It was surreal. I was the only one at the hospital in the morning and my mom was hanging on.  It was clear she was waiting. Within 5 minutes of the last family member arriving, she took her last breath and was gone.  I remember having to walk to the nurses’ station to say, “My mom just passed away.” I said it like I was asking for another blanket. In truth, it felt like someone else was saying it. I heard myself and although I was praying for her suffering to end, it killed me to say it.  That’s the end of my mom’s story.

My style of consulting, training and educating is generally upbeat and comes with a “You can do it!” message.  What lies just below that is the “You HAVE to do it!” sense of urgency that I feel.  I have seen firsthand, up close and personal, for many years, what happens when you don’t do “it.” I don’t want to put my children or my husband through what my family and I had to witness and suffer with my mom. I don’t want my family to walk her walk either. I want something better for them. I want something better for everyone that comes to me and I want it for everyone hasn’t come to see me. I just want it for everyone. 

I learned a lot from my mom.  I learned what I wanted for my life and what I didn’t want.  A few of those lessons:   Attitude is everything. You have nothing if you don’t have your health. Take risks you believe are worth taking. Family first. Laugh long and hard. Always say “I love you.” Life is short.  

As you read my blog posts or KuhelGirl Fitness, Inc.  FB status updates, listen to me during our training sessions/consults/public speaking engagements, or hear a story told over the fence, I want you to know that all of it comes from a very positive place. It comes from me wanting you to take control of your story. I don’t know everything, but I will share everything I know. I’m always learning and looking for inspiration in an effort to teach and inspire.  Now you know why I’m so passionate about health and wellness. I don’t want anyone to have to wish for a different story.

Until next time…Live well! – Toni Kuhel





Fighting Change


Change is hard. Change is uncomfortable. Change is exciting. Change is good. Change is necessary to grow. Change is scary. Change is…

However you choose to end that sentence will frame how well change goes for you. For everyone, change is one or all of these things. I envy those rare individuals that view change as nothing but an amazing opportunity. I fall squarely in the pool with those that think change can be all of the above mentioned things. Daily, I strive to be that person that embraces change with outstretched arms and wiggling fingers that beckon eagerly for bigger and better things. Unfortunately, self-doubt and hesitation sneak in and the fight is on! This isn’t true for all instances of change. Small things like a new haircut or exotic recipe; I can handle without much of a skirmish. Bigger things like career shakeup or sending the kids to sleep away camp for the first time set the stage for endless rounds in the ring with me, myself and I. It is true that neither of the last two examples are things to take lightly and that the first two examples are not earth shattering, but there is no doubt that there is room for getting more confident when considering change.

You are probably wondering why I feel the need to share this with anyone. It’s simple. As a personal trainer and a consultant for families who seek a healthier lifestyle, the “C” word is one that comes up and is met with any number of reactions. I see widening eyes, folded arms, eyes rolling way back, walls going up brick by brick and yet sometimes I see eagerness. I will address the eagerness in a minute, but the push back is what I want to hit first. The point is, change is hard for me too. You and I are in the same boat to some degree. Let’s move forward together.

I have clients that have ranged from the age of 10 to 82. Everyone comes to me from somewhere on the continuum of willingness to change. Anyone that comes to me on their own has made the conscious decision to change something. Anyone that comes “encouraged” by a loved one or as part of the family that has been signed up is usually less open to change initially. Regardless of which camp these clients originates from, changing behavior that has been a part of daily life is a hard pill to swallow.

It takes anywhere from one day to forever, to make a lasting change. Of course, my job would be much easier, streamlined and lucrative if I could get folks to make lasting changes for their health and wellness in one day. It doesn’t take forever, but it can feel like it if individuals pump the breaks on suggestions for reasons they can’t give me. One thing I always ask clients and frankly myself when I get resistance about a suggestion is, “Why not?” Some slick clients, not always children, say “Because.” After they are subjected to my lecture about needing to answer me in at least three words we usually get around to the real answers.” It’s hard. It’s different. I don’t’ want to”. Blah, blah, blah. I am not as insensitive as it may seem so hang on before you go log on and leave a scathing comment in the comment box. I am listening.

What I consistently hear entrenched in all the explanations of “why not” is simple. Everyone wants the results without the hard part. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it, I would be out of a job and we could all go home happy, healthy and not at all put out for the experience. The risks that accompany the suggestions I make are all a matter of thinking…thinking that you, the client, can do it. That’s it. That’s all. Go ahead. Try and come up with a reason why you won’t make a change required to benefit your health and wellness ( of course this comes after getting clearance from your doctor to begin any exercise program or diet change – just to make that clear). I’m waiting.

One of my favorite sayings is, “Get out of your own way!” You are the only one standing in the way of what you really want. You want better health, faster race times, longer distances, toned arms, strong legs, a longer life, a better life??? Quit coming up with reasons that don’t hold water. Quit saying you can’t. Quit saying you don’t want to change. If you want something else for yourself, you want change. So, CHANGE already! Some days will be harder than others, but if you keep pushing yourself and asking yourself what you really want, the change will be easier.

A quick word to those eager beavers that are all about making every change, all at once…I love it! It is not totally unheard of to be completely inspired to jump in with both feet and want to drag everyone in the pool with you. Think of how you feel on January 1st. Now think about how you feel on February 28th. Inspiration is a wonderful thing and I work very hard to provide inspiration. I also know we are starting a clock on how long said inspiration can last. Anyone can do anything for a short amount of time. The true success story is someone that can make a change that lasts. You significantly increase your chances of making a lasting change by easing into it. More is not always better. More is sometimes just more. So, taking baby steps and changing your lifestyle one change at a time is what I always recommend. Be inspired. Get motivated. This is a journey, not a race. To steal from Nike – “There is no finish line.”

I hope you can see yourself somewhere in this blog post. We are all a work in progress. Whatever the change you seek and however you feel about it, know that you are not alone. My wish is for all of you to realize that you deserve a life of health and that you have it within you to make those uncomfortable changes. If you need a little push or support, I’m here for you too. Email me at , check out my website at or find me on FB on my KuhelGirl Fitness, Inc. page.
Until next time…live well! -Toni Kuhel

Marathon Weekend

I had a weekend that I will never forget.  It was defined by tears of joy, pride and relief.  Saturday morning was the race that was over 1 year in the making.  My friend/client Jessica had to stop training last year for a half marathon due to medical issues having only completed a long distance of 5 miles.  She was devastated but put on a brave face and dialed her training back and completed a handful of shorter distance races.  We worked hard all year focusing on walking faster with a little bit of jogging and lots of strength training.  The half marathon that was impossible a year ago was a reality for her this Saturday.  I was fortunate enough to be able to accompany Jessica for the last 3 miles of her journey.  Like all first-time long distance finishers, she was battling emotions, pain and fatigue. She never gave up.  She kept putting one foot in front of another.  I left her a quarter mile away from the finish so I could watch her run across the finish line with victory arms raised high.

Tears were flowing from Jessica, her parents, her grandmother and me.  Her eyes are now focused on the Disney Princess Half Marathon in February.  We will be looking to increase her pace and grab yet another medal for her.

Sunday was Marathon Day for my former client Becky and me.  This would be Becky’s first and my second.  I didn’t get to see Becky, but  we communicated via text and Facebook. Becky became a Half Marathoner last year and after she finished working with me, she went on to finish a few more half marathons.  After watching the Chicago Marathon last year, Becky set her sights on participating this year.  She trained long and hard and definitely smart.  The reason I didn’t see Becky on race day is because she started farther up in the corrals with all the fast people because she belonged there.  I belonged in back with the sweepers and that is just fine with me.  She finished with a time of 5:10 on a day that was hot in a field that was crowded. An amazing feat for a first time Marathoner! Welcome to the club Becky!!!

This year the Chicago Marathon had a different feel for me.  My little brother, Rich was going torun his first marathon.

He is a strong, fast runner and I was anxious to see him succeed.  I met him early for breakfast and we walked together to the corrals.  I hugged him and left him with the speedy runners and looked to take my place much further back.  Last year I had Team 40/10 (Julie and
Colleen) to freak out with while standing in the corral.  Not the case on Sunday.

Chicago Marathon 2011 – Sunday, October 9, 2011

I will say that standing in the sea of thousands of fellow runners was surreal.  It wasn’t as hot as last year, but I found myself sweating from nervousness.  I was waiting in a crush of people but yet I was alone. I really missed Team 40/10.  I took the waiting time to go over my race plan and talk myself down from freaking out.  I made the mistake of trying to run the Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon continuously and paid dearly for it as I didn’t have the gas to finish strong. Knowing it was going to be hot, I realized I had to utilize a 3:00 run/1:00 walk strategy that I had been using for my long and hot training runs.  I planned to run the first 2 miles straight to get out of the initial log jam and then turn on my pacer to remind me when to walk and run.

After the national anthem and the announcement that the wheelchair racers and elite runners were off, we all inched forward toward the starting line.  It felt like a 2 mile shuffle.  It hit me suddenly that I had to go to the bathroom despite having gone twice in the last hour.  Oh well. I had to suck it up for the meantime. We passed piles and piles of discarded clothing and water bottles.  My feet stuck to the pavement as partially emptied GU packets oozed after being thrown to the ground by runners fueling up just before takeoff.  3…2…1 – Go! And I was off.

I started my Garmin which would keep my time. My corral didn’t start running until about 20 minutes after the gun went off and I didn’t feel like doing the math every time I passed a clock.  I was lucky enough to receive a text from Alex to look for him and the kids on a bridge just before mile 1.  I saw them and they saw me. We blew kisses and waved. They yelled and rang their cowbells and shook their precious sign. 

After mile 2 I turned on my pacer and waited for the first beep that would signal my first walking interval.  Beep! And so it went for miles and miles and miles.

Having done this race last year, I knew I could look forward to almost 2 million spectators with signs, noise makers and encouraging shouts.  I took mental pictures all along the way.  Somewhere between miles 5 and 6 it became crucial that I stop for a potty break.  Apparently this was the case for all the runners in line in front of me too. UGH! I stopped my Garmin as I left the course and started it again as I reentered the course. It seemed like an eternity and I panicked as I saw the flood of runners going by while I stood and waited.  I knew this would eat into my chance of bettering my official time from last year, but I was still hopeful.

It took a lot of restraint to listen to my pacer and take the walk intervals.  The miles ticked by one by one. I found a group that was using a similar strategy and I became preoccupied with passing them and being passed by them.  That was the case for a few miles until I lost track of them at particularly crowded water stop.  I stepped in 3 potholes on the course. Each time I thanked God that I was quick enough to pull up and not land fully on a turned ankle.  Any one of those potholes could have taken me out of the race. Along the way I tried to remember when to
look for my friends and family. I was lucky enough to spot everyone I knew except for one that was at mile 22.  I blame a fried brain and tired body for that. I felt like I was passing all those runners that went out too fast. I was sure I made the right decision to run/walk.

This is not what we need at our house. Hiding these NOW!

One of many cooling water stops that saved me on the course.

Although I felt so much better this year, mile 23 still felt  like mile 100.  The heat was not as bad as last year, but I am admittedly a terrible warm weather racer. It became obvious that I wasn’t going to have the PR I wanted, but I wanted a little one at the very least.  I looked at my Garmin and I knew if I didn’t pick it up for the last mile I wouldn’t meet my goal.  So I dug deep, choked back tears as I approached the finish line.  I threw my hands up as I do at the finish of every race.  I looked at my watch and saw 5:58.  Last year I saw 6:01. I got myself an unofficial PR. My official finish time was 10 minutes slower than last year. Such is life.

After the race I heard from my brother that his goal of 4:30 escaped him. He ran the first ½ on pace and suffered terrible leg cramps for the entire last half of the race. He would run 100 yards and stop and stretch and that was how it went for 13 miles. He told me that he was hoping I would catch up and so we could finish together.  He had a huge lead and still finished well ahead of me.  Congrats to Rich for finishing under the toughest of circumstances. I don’t know that I could have done that for all that time.

Although my race was not what I expected or hoped for, the other people in my life experiencing their first half and full marathons made up for it.  After a full night of dreaming about running and hearing the beeps of my pacer, I’m icing my legs and writing this post.  I’m thankful for an injury free race. I’m praying for the racers that were not so fortunate, especially the 35 year old veteran marathoner and fire fighter that collapsed 500 yards from the finish and later died.  It makes me realize that although I am slow, I’m thankful that I can do this crazy thing at all.

My favorite sign of the day…”There will be a day that you can no longer run. Today is not that day.” To all the volunteers and spectators I say THANK YOU!  I’m convinced that no other city could make 26.2 miles of torture such an amazing experience.

Until next time…Live Well!

Toni Kuhel

Is this a trip or a vacation part 2

Okay, Okay, I realize part 2 of this series is incredibly late in coming, but hopefully not EVERYONE has gone on their summer vacation already.  This is also a really long post because I just don’t want to risk posting part 3 in October.  Stick with me.  Lots of good stuff if you just read to the end.  Might want to grab a handful of almonds and a cup of tea before you get started….

Plan your meals. Alex is an amazing trip planner so I tapped his expertise.  He planned our travel route and our meal stops.  Some stretches of highway have absolutely no place to eat. Now I’m not saying you can’t be spontaneous and just go where the wind blows, but make sure you have supplies or your pickings may be slim. If you are heading to the airport, try to eat before you get there.  Your options are a bit hairy once you hit that corridor lined with “food” stalls.  If you get there and you are ravenous, dig into your snack bag and have some nuts and a gulp or two of water and wait a few minutes.  Once your head stops spinning and your belly stops grumbling you can make a healthy choice.  You know what to stay away from.  Look for stuff you recognize as fresh food. Try to get a meal that balances your plate with mostly vegetables, a bit of lean protein and a good carb.  Avoid fried, creamed, glazed things.  You are about to board a plane. You’ll run the risk surprising your body with bad food after you’ve been good to your body for a while.  Who wants that kind of a surprise on an airplane? This is also a good reason not to make bad food choices on a road trip where the sign almost always reads “next rest stop in 56 miles” when you need it NOW.

When choosing a place to eat, resist the urge to turn into any parking lot that holds a sign that flashes “all you can eat!”  It should actually read “all you should NOT eat!”  I don’t trust a sneeze guard.  Having worked with young children for 10 years and having raised 3 kids ages 10 and 13  (the 13 year olds are twins –don’t worry, I can count to 3), nothing can contain a little person’s sneeze.  I’ve tried to dodge them and it’s just futile so I have little faith in the 3 ft wide Plexiglas’ ability to “guard” any size sneezes.   Also those steaming trays have been sitting for how long?  Does much of it look like “real food”? We Americans are very big fans for getting our money’s worth at the cost of our health.  Just because you paid $x for your buffet privileges does not mean you have to try to put the place out of business.  I understand that cruises have incredible buffets 24/7 and that the cruises are lots of $$$. You’ll DIE trying to eat your money’s worth.  If you honestly, honestly (if you say it twice you really mean it) have no choice but to belly up to the buffet, then minimize the damage. Put salad and veggies on your plate first.  Watch your cheese, nuts, and dressing (reasonable amounts) or use vinegar and oil. Look for lean protein. So that means pass up the chicken fingers and fried chicken and go for the grilled, skinless chicken breast.  You can do this.  Make the choice. Encourage your family as well.  If your kids are new to the concept of buffet dining then it’s your job to teach them how to do this.  Take them to veggies first and put the protein and carb on the plate last.  You must allow the kids to get one dessert!  Get some fresh fruit to sit alongside the cakey, flakey, gooey thing.  Stress that a little bit of a sweet treat, once in a while, is just fine.  Decadent dessert is an exception and not the rule!


  • MOVE!  When we road trip, we go prepared.  If you want to see a grown woman with her face pressed against the window mouthing “save me!” just cram us all into a car for 5 hours straight.  We plan to stop somewhere- anywhere, every 2 hours or so.  By that time someone- has to “do” something,  is on someone’s side of the car, or is touching someone. We pack a jump rope, a blow up beach ball (deflated or it isn’t going to fit), a baseball and couple of mitts, and bubbles.   These things can be used any place we stop and everyone in the family can use them.  Wait…Alex can’t jump rope, but he does try.  In fairness I can’t throw a baseball well so I guess we’re even.  Thank goodness for bubbles.  If you can, plan your trip to have lots of walking opportunities.  You’ll see the sites at a slower pace and see things you would have surely missed while riding on the trolley, bus, boat thing.  Plan activities that are actually active. Make sure you bring your snacks and water.  You do not want to see the Kuhel family walking anywhere when we’re hungry or thirsty.  It’s quite the spectacle and we rarely find ourselves in that position, but hang on to your ears when it does happen. It’s why I don’t glare at families when their children are having a melt-down. Those of us with children have all been THAT family.  When you are at an airport, be a good little soldier and stay off the people movers.  Okay, you can ride one, but that’s it!  You’ll fall off the end anyway because you’ll be looking for your gate when the yellow warning strip comes.  Save yourself the embarrassment and get your heart pumping for a different reason. Drag that overstuffed carry-on luggage all the way to the gate and you’ll get a mini workout in.  Being stuck on a plane for hours on end can be miserable.  Try and stretch every so often.  Make nice with your seat mate if they are on the aisle.  He or she is the gate keeper to your salvation when you need to stretch your legs.  Drink lots of water.  You’ll need it and it’ll be understandable when you have to ask to step over your airplane buddy yet again. 


  • Enjoy yourself.  A lot of the tips I mentioned above will help minimize your stress level.  You know your family and yourself.  If you need to stop the car every single hour or someone is going to die…you better stop.  If you only have one day at a destination then go ahead and ride the thingy so you can see it all.  If you over indulge at one meal make sure it stops at one meal.  Forgive yourself and then treat yourself well by making good choices going forward.  There always seems to be that moment on the trip when all the stresses come to a head and you say something your parents yelled to you when you were the one in the backseat.  My dad had a few original ones, but most of them were pretty universal.  Pretty good for an immigrant from the Philippines.  Two frequent favorites were “Don’t make me come back there” and “We are going home right now!” To avoid saying things you swore you’d never say when you became a parent, make sure to close your eyes and breathe.  Take some time to observe your family enjoying the trip.  Don’t over plan so you’re rushing, but don’t under plan so you’re bored. Find the balance.  Play music.  Turn off the music. 


We all deserve a break from time to time.  When we leave the safety of our home to go on an adventure, we should take our healthy lifestyle with us.  Maybe sometime in the future the world will make it easy for us.  Until then we need to make living well easy for ourselves.  Be prepared and the fear of bad choice making will leave you.  Go out and get a few more bumper stickers, bad t-shirts, useless magnets, and miniature spoons (never understood those) to add to those growing collections.  You deserve it!  Just make sure you pass up that cart serving overloaded waffle cones on the walk up the hill to the shop.  You are supposed to be collecting junk not pounds.

Till next time…live well! Toni Kuhel

One Giant Step Closer to the Marathon


Well it’s day 2, post ½ marathon and my quads have yet to forgive me. Walking up and down the stairs has been quite the endeavor and particularly hysterical for anyone watching. It’s time to put into words the toughest ,non-child birthing experience to date for myself.

Sunday, June 13th was a day that snuck up on me like a cat on a clueless bird. I had run my longest run of 10 miles over a week before and a few really short runs and then BAM, it was 5:00 a.m. race day. I had received lots and lots of Face Book posts encouraging me and now it was time to make good on my statement that I was going to participate in my first ½ marathon. The entire week before the run, I sat with tears in my eyes as I saw the forecast for Sunday. It was going to be 90 degrees or monsoon like. Miraculously the weather maker smiled down on us once again and we had absolutely perfect running weather. It was cool, foggy and slightly drizzly. I said a quick prayer of thanks for the weather and said a reeeally long prayer for an injury free run. I met my fellow Team 40/10 members Julie , Colleen and Marcia at a bench not too far from the starting line. Marcia and Jim volunteered to be our official sherpas and photogs by schlepping our crap and snapping pics of us throughout the event.

Julie’s husband Tom made his way toward the front of the corral while the rest of us were more than happy to start behind the other eager beavers. Julie, Colleen and I stepped under the starting line banner together and jockeyed for position for about 2 miles. Mile 3 came and Colleen was off to the races. Julie and I stayed together til mile 4. Up to this point we were feeling pretty good, but I kept telling Jules we were about 1 minute ahead of our usual pace. Julie and I commented as we passed the 5K marker that not too long ago we were sweating about completing that distance. We came upon our first water/Gatorade station. Julie had a GUpacket which I have deemed as gross as the name sounds, and I had some Cliff Shot blocks. Jules dropped her second GU packet in the frenzy to get the first one out. I think that saved her from having to ingest another gross GU packet, but I know she really wanted it for later in the race.

It was soon after that when Julie began to leave me in the dust. That pace was just not working for me anymore. Most of the run is a blurry combination of my heart rate popping really high as I encountered slight hill after slight hill, a myriad of gorgeous houses with a “for sale” sign in front of every other one, and mile after mile after mile that seemed to go on and on forever. I survived the killer hill at mile 7 by walking up it like every person around me. I had visions of being the sole walker up the hill, but we were all hurting as we dragged ourselves upward. I was a bit hopeful when I caught a glimpse of Tom coming back after he hit a turn- around point only to be devastated by the realization that the turn- around was miles and miles ahead. I couldn’t believe that I was approaching the 10 mile marker 4 minutes ahead of when I had previously covered that distance. I was really hurting but I was bursting with pride. I couldn’t believe I could still push on. I was with it enough to notice a number of shirts like “13.1 is half of nothing”, “embrace the cheese”, “team ____” and a few shirts from previous races. I was particularly irritated with Mr. “13.1 is half of nothing” until I saw him stretching out what looked to be a wicked leg cramp at mile 12. Apparently ½ of nothing was a whole lot of something he couldn’t handle. Now I’m being petty so I’ll stop . Along the way I high fived some adorable kids, waved at Jim and Marcia, and tried to look like I wasn’t dying as I passed about 17 official race photographers.

Finally I heard cries that promised that the finish line was “just around the corner/over the hill/almost there”. Amazingly I finally saw the finish line and I could hear the rest of Team 40/10 screaming for me as I approached. They had all finished well ahead of me, but I was ecstatic all the same to see them. The finish times were as follows….Colleen 2:18:52 (10:36 pace),Julie 2:24:46 (11:03 pace),Toni 2:35:12 (11:51 pace), and of course Tom, who smoked us all: Tom 2:04:47 (9:32 pace). I’m glad to report we all finished injury free and thankful for another exhilarating experience together. I totally can’t imagine tacking on another 13.1 miles to that 13.1 miles, but it wasn’t long ago that I couldn’t imagine running more than a mile for any other reason than running from a large animal.

Me, Julie, and Colleen - Team 40/10 pre-race

Until next time…Live Well, Toni Kuhel (1/2 marathon finisher!!!)

Team 40/10 - post race/ posing in front of the ambulance, not getting into it!Official finisher!

Official finisher!

Early lessons

Clearly I’ve been lagging in my blogging duties.  I’m hoping to get back at it on a regular basis  so here goes nothin’…

As a novice runner, I’ve learned a few things in this early part of training for the marathon (this is part of the reason I’ve been short on blogs). 

Patience is priceless.  A few of us Team 40/10 members are learning to be patient with our  40-ish year old bodies as we push ourselves toward our goal.  Although all of us want to feel like we could run the 26.2 miles effortlessly today, it’s obvious that this deal is going to take some time.  We are all learning to get used to listening to our bodies.  When we don’t listen, our bodies revolt by yelling louder in the form of increasing pain and weaker runs.

Perseverance is going to get me through this. Just put one foot in front of the other. I know that I’ve learned to love the time it takes to do a long run.  I’m spending the majority of my life trying to get things done quickly.  The long run is…long.  I have no goal for my long runs except to get the miles on my shoes.  Sure it would be nice to finish a sub 4 hour marathon, but I’m just looking to finish and learn some things about myself along the way.  Sometimes I run listening to my music. Sometimes I listen to the wind, traffic, dogs, birds, and my own deep breathing.  Every time I run it’s a chance to think about everything and nothing all at once.  If I didn’t put in the time and effort to get in my run, I would miss out on that precious time. Who knew I would get so much out of lacing up my shoes and heading out the door. 

I’m confident I can do something that I didn’t know I could do.  I’ve never, ever been a distance runner.  I’m built like a sprinter with short, thick legs that are loaded with quick twitch muscle fibers.  Now that I’m pushing myself to do more ,I feel a bit more like a distance runner each week.  It’s a curious thing that Team 40/10 is trying to accomplish.  We are all learning that we can do what we do what we didn’t know we could do.  At first I thought I was running away from the fact I am turning 40 this year.  It seems as though I’m now running headlong into my 40’s with a goal to set more fantastic goals. 

I have such gratitude for my health that allows me to train for such a big event.  I’m thankful for a supportive husband, family and circle of friends that all make it possible to believe that I can do this.  I’m so incredibly grateful for Team 40/10 for the opportunity to train, laugh, cry, complain and celebrate together all the steps along the way.

I’ve learned a lot about patience, perseverance, confidence and gratitude in these early months of base building.  Imagine what I’ll learn once official training begins.  Now what will you learn from reaching for your health and wellness goal? Did you set a goal yet? Well, get on with it then!!!

Until next time…Live Well! – Toni Kuhel

What a pain!

Ugh! Ow!!!! My tummy HURTS! As much as I know that I brought this belly ache on myself, it hurts no less. I have been pretty clean with my food…whole food, whole grain, lean protein, lots of fruits and veggies, adequate water…then came this weekend. Chicken wings with awesome neighbors(clearly my deadliest weakness) and being trapped in a sports complex where a chili bag (bag of Fritos, scoop of chili, and neon orange cheese sauce) seemed like a viable food choice at the time. My body has no idea what to do with this influx of fat, salt and other unidentifiable ingredients. My stomach, formerly iron clad, is now very used to eating what our bodies were made to eat. This is a sign. No matter how good you think it’s going to taste, crap (aka – junk food) is not good for a body. As uncomfortable as I am, I am grateful that this error is self-correcting. I’m not in a great hurry to feel like this any time soon. “Everything in moderation” is a good motto. Well, except for maybe a chili bag, which might have to go in the “never, ever again in life “category.
Sadly, this is not my only complaint of the post. Ouch! My foot hurts too. My hopes for injury-free training for the marathon came crashing down last week. I felt a little twinge in my left heel during my last long run. Morning came and the twinge graduated to an official pain. I’ve resisted the urge to run through the pain. You will be quite impressed when you realize that I would have been much more stupid in my younger days. As I creep towards the big 4-0, I know that ignoring pain and pushing myself past it, is rather counterproductive. I am itching to run as the Shamrock Shuffle is just around the corner. Although I feel like a slug waiting for this pain to resolve, I know this is the right thing to do. Waiting a little while to recover will pay off. I know I’ll risk lasting injury if I push my luck. For now, the sideline is a fine place for me.

So despite all the aches and pains of the last week, I find I’ve learned a lot. I know it doesn’t seem as though I’m all that healthy at the moment, but ultimately I’m making good choices. Do yourself a favor and learn from my experiences as well as your own. Enjoy your vices in moderation lest your healthy new you will revolt! Listen to your body and rest it when you get injured. I’m hoping for a better couple of weeks for me and of course for all of you as well.
Until next time…Live Well! – Toni Kuhel

Get going toward your goal!

After a few days of not being able to carve out the time or dig deep enough to find the motivation, I did it.  I laced up my shoes, put on my new running hat and gloves and hit the road.  One of the last few days was supposed to be my long run of the week.  I’m sure most of you can relate with my attack of procrastination. Can I get an “AMEN!”?  When you are lacking motivation, everything becomes an obstacle. Let’s face it, when motivation is MIA, there doesn’t really need to be a reason NOT to do what needs doing.  So when we find ourselves unmotivated, where do we turn for motivation?

For me, last week’s long run didn’t happen until today, which is technically a new week.  I’m a bit ticked that I let the week go by, but I’m thankful I found the gumption to get on with it today.  I could spend the rest of the day beating myself up for coming up short on my weekly mileage but I won’t. It’s not going to help me.  As I sit here post long run, I’m analyzing why I kept putting off this run.  Was it my work schedule, the pile of impossible laundry, my very needy daughter, my boys’ wrestling schedule, my husband’s workload, the weather, the time of day? What? WHAT????  If I’m being honest, I was a bit afraid that I wouldn’t be able to complete the run.  I had predetermined that 4.5 miles was the goal.  My runs during the week were 2 to 3 mile intervals on the treadmill and not so much fun.  It’s also cold outside.  Freezing cold.  I had built this long run up in my mind to be a big, giant, huge monster and I ended up getting in my own way.  Today registration for the Chicago Marathon opened.  If I was going to be afraid of a little 4.5 mile cold run, how was I going to even entertain the idea of completing 26.2 miles of who knows what kind of weather in October (it could be 30 to 85 degrees)?

This morning I decided to just do it. It’s winter, so waiting for nice weather is just plain futile so today was going to be as good as any other.  I finally got out of my own way.  The run was amazing. I feel great having done what I had been putting off for days.  It wasn’t so bad and I’ll have to remember that as my long runs continue to get longer.

You are going to have to set your weekly goal. Is it adding more produce to one meal each day …2000 calories burned on your heart rate monitor/week… 3 days of strength training/week….walking 15 minutes for 4 days/week …2 yoga classes and a Pliates class/week…drinking 6-8 glasses of water a day?  What is your goal?  Make it measurable and that makes it infinitely easier to track if you are meeting your goal.  It also helps you know when it’s time to bump up your goal or add another one.  I challenge you to get out of your own way.  Dismiss obstacles and don’t create bigger ones. Whatever your goal, it is worth reaching.  It is a change in the way you are currently doing things and change can be uncomfortable.  Chances are, the change won’t be as bad as you are making it out to be in your mind.  You can do it.  The best motivation is the kind that comes from within.  Dig deep. Refocus. Recommit.  Motivation can come from others in your life.  Make sure you find someone who is in your corner.  My corner is occupied by Team 40/10 and they are my collective rock and hold me accountable.  I have to fess up that my long run leaked into this week’s workout.  I have to suffer the consequences of the occasional  tsk, tsk, tsk, but I also know that they have been in my shoes as well.

Now that the manic energy of the New Year’s resolution frenzy has worn off, it’s time to get down to business.  Set your measurable goal, get out of your own way, get motivated and get going!!! You will falter along the way, but the true test will come when you decide what to do after a wobble.  Get up, brush yourself off and put on those running shoes, pick up that salad fork, grab that glass of water, examine that exercise class schedule and start again. It’s a new week so…..

Until next time….Live Well! – Toni Kuhel

How to survive 2 falls in 2 days

I’ve just gotten home from work and removed the “dork” sign from around my neck.  I fell twice in two days. Yup! You read it right. TWICE in TWO days.  This did not happen in the privacy of my home or even in my own driveway.  The first fall was as I was leaving the gym.  I was oblivious to the fact that it had been drizzling freezing rain all evening.  I was stepping off the curb and quite literally touched my toe to the ground and just like that….I was on my rear with my knees sprawled and my bag on my shoulder.  I scanned the parking lot thanking God that no one witnessed this epic fall –  and then I heard “Are you okaaaaaay?”.   The brief relief I felt only a millisecond ago was now replaced with humiliation. I got up and assured this very concerned gym goer that I had not suffered any life threaten injuries.  I swallowed my pride and shuffled the rest of the way to my car because the entire parking lot was black ice.  It gets better or worse, depending on if you feel bad for me or if you are enjoying this.  Today I was just visiting with some co-workers and decided that I better set up for my client. I was in a great mood and had a bounce in my step.  I took a short cut and stepped over a box of protein drinks and again, quite literally touched my toe to some wet tile and BAM! My feet flew from under me and I had no chance of saving face.  I felt like it was in slow motion with my hair, arms and legs all flying everywhere.  It was ungraceful at best and hilarious to watch, or so I was told.  By whom you ask? Oh yeah, you guessed it. EVERYONE I know at work. Well maybe not everyone, but lots of people anyway.  I had to withstand all the concern which was quickly followed by pointing, laughing and the inevitable jabs at my athletic prowess.  I had to laugh too because it was a spectacular spill that would probably gotten me a 10.0 in the Olympics.

As entertaining as this account of my seemingly unlucky two days has been, I have another reason for sharing this story.  I find myself quite lucky to have survived these two falls with injuries limited to a bruised ego and a reputation at work as “the girl who falls down”.  Let me first clarify that I was not drinking, tired or otherwise impaired.  I can’t explain it.  At  first glance one might think that I am a klutz.  I may very well be a bit klutzy, but I had as much control over my body as I could have as I was falling.  I did not throw my back out, land on my back, break my wrist or land on my head.  I am a personal trainer that works in a gym and I’m a big believer in incorporating functional training in with what you would consider “gym “ exercises like lifting weights and doing crunches.  I believe this kind of training saved my  a**.  Functional training looks at the way all parts of the body work in sync to complete a movement like walking, reaching, bending, climbing etc.  It’s meant to enhance all aspects of fitness – strength, flexibility, balance, speed and coordination.

Functional training exercises utilize your body weight, medicine balls, resistance bands, kettlebells, and BOSUs among other tools.  There are various progressions of lunges, squats, twisting, balancing, pushing, pulling and coordinating movements.  Form is everything.  Before trying anything, as always, getting clearance from your physician and getting professional instruction from a personal trainer are good ideas to increase your chances of safely training.  The point I’m trying to make is to consider thinking outside the proverbial box.  Think of fitness as more than just running on a treadmill or doing endless leg presses.  Who wants to be sidelined by a shoulder injury because you were reaching for something in the backseat?  Do you want to be sitting on a couch because you twisted your ankle stepping on uneven ground?  How does straining your back while holding on to the hand of a fit –throwing two-year old sound? You may be able to do 100 crunches or bench press 300 pounds, but could you emerge injury free from not one, but two falls in two days? I will say that my guardian angel was probably sitting on my shoulder, but I also give credit to all the functional training I do by myself and with my clients for sparing me from a trip to the emergency room.   I hope you never fall or get injured doing just everyday things. Increase your chances of remaining and getting healthy by varying your exercise routine to incorporate more than just six-pack abs, bulging biceps or slender legs.

Until next time…Live Well! – Toni Kuhel