Julia

NewYear2016

Not The Typical Healthy Resolutions You Should Consider

As we wrap up 2015, we reflect on the good, bad, what ifs, should and shouldn’t haves, and realize that changes need to be made for the New Year. So come January, we all begin the tradition of performing acts of self improvement. We go full force with the same ol’ resolutions year after year.

“Hit the gym every day!”
“I need to lose 15lbs!”
“I want to get big beefy arms!”
“I want a bubble butt!”

“I vow to stop eating carbs!”
“No more meat for me!”
“I give up on desserts!”
“I will allow myself only 1 glass of wine a week!”
etc…

But as usual, by month 3, we lose steam, get frustrated, and end up forgetting what we’re trying to achieve. So consider the not-so-typical resolutions. A resolution you can integrate and make part of your day to day. One so you’re not suffering every waking hour. One that you can experience a progression rather than failure. And maybe one that’s not so measurable so you can stick to it.

Here are some healthy resolutions you probably haven’t thought of but should definitely consider.

#1  START A JOURNAL
How appropriate, huh? Now you can write your resolutions in this journal so you won’t forget them. I actually find this really hard to keep up so I start small. Instead of daily journaling, I set one or two days to write everything I’m feeling at that moment. It could be absolutely nothing and I’m bored out my mind or it can be chock full of aggression and frustration or happiness and love. Whichever it is, it feels pretty amazing to put pen to paper instead of taking it out on my hubby. Huffington Posts breaks down some great benefits from journaling.

#2  TRY ONE NEW FOOD A WEEK
I am a creature of habit and literally eat kale and wild rice every day..and order the same take out every week…and eat the same snacks…and go to the same restaurants to order the same favorite meal. It’s annoying. Why? Because I fear bad food experiences. Why try something new when you can have your usual that’s always good? Well that’s why. Because it’s always good so why not explore something better? And if not better, at least you tried and now you know! So allow yourself to get out of your comfort food zone. Go to your favorite restaurant and choose a different entree. Research a new recipe. Go to the market and buy a fruit or veggie you rarely enjoy. Crave for something out of the norm, find it, and EAT IT!

#3  DO WHAT KIDS DO
When I was a kid growing up in Brooklyn, I was obsessed with double dutch and punch ball. I’m not thinking to run outside now to do both but try an activity that you’ve always wanted to do as a little kid or used to do. Some great activities would be: handstand, jump roping, play in the mud, hide and go seek, roller skate, skateboarding. It’s a great way to re-connect with your inner child and try something new while being active, too!

#4  DO LESS WORK
My brother will probably kill me for this resolution because he’s one of the hardest working people I know but I feel pretty passionate about this one. As I get older, I’m realizing how much time is lost from moments of peace and quiet and downtime. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had 2-3 jobs, basically working my ass off and around the clock. Having started my own business last year, I find myself working even harder and longer hours. If you’re one of the same, join me and consider setting some boundaries. Allow yourself to shut down after a certain time. Turn off your phone, computer, tablet and enjoy some QT with the people that you love or simply being on your own. Manage and maximize your time carefully so to be more efficient when working. This will help you find more time to relax and enjoy life (definitely apply this to your workouts, too).

 

You’re probably surprised that, as a personal trainer and yoga teacher, I’m not asking you to set weight loss goals or take more yoga classes. Through my years in the fitness industry, I see the motivation every new year followed by frustration months after. It’s disheartening to see people get discouraged because they’ve set goals that are too challenging to achieve simply because they don’t have all the tools. So when making your 2016 New Year’s resolutions, be realistic and kind to yourself. Consider one that you can actually stick to and make a part of your life…for the rest of your life! Or try one of my past year’s resolutions or these wacky resolutions. Hahah!

HAVE A SAFE AND HAPPY 2016!

 

keep calm

Stay Sane this Holiday Season

For the past 2 weeks, my days have been tireless and longer than usual. And it won’t get any easier as Christmas and New Year approaches. I’ve found myself just running from dawn to dusk tackling my day and running off adrenaline. The moment I get home, I feel drained, depleted and realize my entire day was one big fat blur.

This is the time of year when we are all tapped out. Schedules are maxed, time is limited, and lists are extra long. Squeezing in another commitment is nearly impossible. As we run-run-run and tick off the Wunderlist (I’m obsessed with this app), we are also losing touch with being present as the days pass. So the one thing that has helped me stay sane this holiday season is scheduling time (yes I actually put this on my calendar) to sit still and breathe.

Meditation helps to slow down a racing mind….calm the nerves…be more productive…live longer and fuller lives. The list goes on. But this artful technique to induce consciousness and train our minds is not an easy feat. Our so called “monkey minds” are hard to tame. It has taken me over 5 years to attain a calm and peaceful state in my meditation seat. I have tried them all but found these 4 techniques the most effective (and enjoyable) to help me get out of my own head and slow down.

flame

 – A DANCING FLAME –
I learned this technique during my yoga teacher training. Burn a candle and watch the flame flicker. Not only is it beautiful to watch but also very calming and instantly relaxes you.

 

binaural-meditation
 – FOCUS ON SOUND –
Sound association transports us to a fond memory. My favorites are sounds of the ocean and rainfall. These sounds take me to a serene space that relaxes my mind and removes all worrisome thoughts. There are several great apps with a wide selection of calming sounds like waterfall, rain drops, and crashing ocean waves. My favorite is Calm (even their website relaxes me).

Music and melody is also a great way to tune you out. Relax Melodies App not only has a variety of soothing sounds but guided meditations that are customizable too.

breathelungs
 – COUNT YOUR BREATHS –
Close your eyes – inhale deeply through the nose for 4 counts – exhale slow and full for 6-8 counts. Repeat. A very common and simple technique but it does take more focus as your mind can easily steer away. If it does, no worries, just stop and start again.

 

mala

 – MALA BEADS AND GRATITUDE –
Sit comfortably with your mala beads and think of one thing you are grateful for. Focus on that gratitude as you slowly push one bead at a time with your thumb and middle finger. Retrace the beads when you complete the string as many times as you’d like.

I know it sounds counterproductive to schedule yet another commitment in your day but remember that meditation is essentially resting the mind. So even if for just 2 minutes you capture the moment of being still and centered, you have achieved a different state of consciousness that is outside of your normal waking state or in this case, a frantic holiday state. This rest will help you find clarity and be more present as you chug away into your day. If it helps us to enjoy the holiday season just a tad bit more, I’m game. Have a Wonderful Holiday!! xo

Cocoa and chocolate isolated on a white

Do You Take Your Chocolate…Dirty or Clean?

When I first started “clean” eating several years back, I learned the rule on reading the ingredients on packaged foods. If the ingredients contained more than 5, were tough to pronounce or ones that I didn’t recognize, I need not eat it. Sadly, lots of foods that I have been enjoying for most of my life was nixed off the list. Such foods like sugar/fat free sweets, whole wheat crackers/breads, frozen desserts, fruit-filled yogurts, and more!

But the one fave food of mine that shocked me the most was dark chocolate. Its supposed healthy benefits were clouded by a list of additives, preservatives, sweeteners, dairy and fillers. All making chocolate an unhealthy choice. However it was one treat that I wasn’t about to give up so easily. So I started exploring the world of chocolate and the most natural it had to offer.

Let’s start with the most common ingredients you’ll find in “dirty” dark chocolate.
– Sugar, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners: used to lighten the natural bitterness in cacao
– Milk Fat: used to plump up the chocolate and give it a rich, creamy texture
– Soy Lecithin: an emulsifier that helps to bind the ingredients
– Saturated Oils: vegetable, palm, and canola oils are most commonly used to give smooth texture
– Cacao: dried seeds found in the pod of the Theobroma cacao pod that provide the rich taste of chocolate
– Cocoa Butter: vegetable fat extracted from the cacao bean to give chocolate its flavor and aroma

These ingredients do play a major part in creating a scrumptious chocolate bar but are they necessary? Sure…some are, like the obvious cacao. But just like all packaged foods, most are not and are used mainly to preserve shelf life, for bulk manufacturing, to lower costs, and increase taste and texture.

Here are some ingredients you’ll find in “clean” dark chocolate.
– Naturally derived sugar: coconut sugar, stevia, inulin, and xylitol are all great substitutes to the commonly used white, brown, palm or cane sugars
– Liquid Sweetener: raw honey, real maple syrup, and molasses are all great natural sweeteners
– Coconut Oil: a good alternative to using cocoa butter but has a slight coconut taste and scent
– Raw Cacao: processed at lower temperatures to ensure highest nutritional value. Not usually treated with alkalizing agents or additives
– Nut butters: almond and cashew are most popular. Gives chocolate its sweet, rich, and creamy taste

Do we have to sacrifice clean eating so to enjoy foods that we love? HELL NO! With the “clean” eating rage, we have choices and don’t have to opt for “dirty” chocolate!

Here are some of my fave “clean” dark chocolates that make life worth living. 🙂

1. NOT YOUR SUGAR MAMA
LOVE! (1) they use raw cacao (2) has consistency and taste of fudge (YUM!) (3) they use essential oils for flavor

not your sugar mama

 

2. HU KITCHEN
LOVE!
 (1) they use coconut sugar (2) comes in delicious and unique flavors  (3) also an amazing Paleo restaurant

HuKitchen

 

3. ADDICTIVE WELLNESS
LOVE!
 (1) they only use raw cacao (2) no processed sugar EVER (3) they use Amazonian superfoods and Chinese herbs

Addicitive-Wellness-Front

4. SACRED CHOCOLATE
LOVE! (1) made in 100% renewable energy facility (2) use maple sugar or inulin (3) they too like Chinese herbs!

sacred chocolate

 

5. ORGANIC NECTARS
LOVE! (1) they use Madagascar Vanilla for a rich, creamy, mellow flavor and texture (2) they use coconut sugar as a sweetener (3) they use non-GMO sunflower lecithin

Organic Nectars

*These brands are found in Whole Foods, Fairway, Trader Joe’s, Health Nuts and smaller health food stores. 

Because of raw cacao and the natural ingredients used, you will find a slight more bitterness in “clean” chocolate. But explore both”dirty” and “clean“. I guarantee you will taste the difference. It’s all about what you want to put in your body. Going raw, macrobiotic, paleo, vegan, organic, clean (or whatever label you want to use) is not easy.  Sometimes you just want to enjoy a piece of “dirty” chocolate. But for those that don’t want to steer too far away from their cleaning eating habits, now they don’t have to. Having options is a GREAT thing.  YAY FOR CHOCOLATE!

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Hey Man…You Need Yoga!

In the female dominated world of yoga, I’m actually seeing more men attending my yoga classes. Although the classes I teach are more of a power yoga style, they’re still coming week after week and I love it. It shows me that the old association of yoga being touchy feely, only for women and for hippies is finally making its breakthrough. Men are understanding the importance of adding yoga and stretch to their fitness routine and those who are consistent are seeing results.

With my experience in teaching yoga and performing personalized stretch sessions, it’s evident that yoga and stretch are great for the body and can increase potential in very specific activities. Here are some examples!

Mike Loves Yoga & Stretch
My good friend and trainer, Mike plays football and in order for him to be faster and more agile on the field, he needs to move in different planes of motion at max speed. If his hip flexors and rotators are tight, his ability of moving quickly and easily is limited to a very specific range. He can lack power in agility or move too quickly when tight which can cause an injury. Mike stretches with me once a week in addition to taking yoga classes.  Great job, Mike!

Manuel Loves Yoga & Stretch
My man loves his overhead squats! This CrossFit exercise requires specific muscle mechanics in order to execute safely and properly. So much mobility, flexibility, and stability is required in the shoulders, hips, hamstrings, glutes and adductors. Without a full range of motion or flexibility in those muscles, this exercise becomes increasingly difficult and unsafe to perform. Manuel spends at least 15 minutes after his workout to stretch, takes my power yoga class, and will grudgingly take a class with me. Yay Manuel!

Jonathan Loves Yoga & Stretch
Jonathan owns a finance company and barks orders all day long to over 100+ employees. He is consistently in demand and pulled in every direction. The stress and tension he feels every day is unbearable at times and the only way he can wake up the next morning to handle the pressure all over again is to create space in his body and mind. But that doesn’t come without challenge. In our stretch sessions, he is forced to succumb to specific yoga poses, stretches, and breathing that help release physical and mental tension. Without this, he would not perform at the peak level his work demands of him. Way to go, Jon!

There you are…solid proof that yoga does a man’s body good.
Here are 4 poses/stretches that all men can benefit from. So whether you perform agility sprints, deep squat, or run a successful company, these are the go-to stretches that will change your life!

LOW LUNGE (ANJANEYASANA)

lunge

Low Lunge

Benefits:
1. Stretches hip flexors (illiopsoas, rectus femoris, sartorius) and rear of the hips (piriformis and glutes)
2. Strengthens quadriceps of the front leg, helping to support and increase stability in the knee
3. Promotes balance and mental focus

Make sure to:
– Align your front knee above the ankle
– Drop your hips down, engage your abdominals to protect the lower back, and lift the chest up

DOUBLE PIGEON (AGNISTAMBHASANA)

doublep

Double Pigeon

Benefits:
1. Stretches outer hips (gluteal group, tensor fasciae latae) and lateral rotators (piriformis, quadratus femoris, gemellus, obturators, psoas, sartorious)
2. Increases range of motion at the hips
3. Therapeutic for stress relief and anxiety

Make sure to:
– Sit as far forward as you can on your sit bones or in front of your tailbone.
– Align your foot directly on the knee and bottom foot directly below the knee.
– Flex both feet to protect and stabilize the knee joint

DOLPHIN POSE (MAKARASANA)

dolphin

Dolphin Pose

Benefits:
1. Opens upper back, shoulders, hamstrings, calves, and feet
2. Strengthens core, arms, and legs
3. Calms the brain and helps to relieve stress and tension
4. Great prep pose for forearm stand inversion
5. Relieves headache, back aches, and fatigue

Make sure to:
– Keep the legs as straight as you can and press the heels down to the floor
– Keep a neutral pelvis and slight arch in the lower back
– Press firmly into the forearms to stabilize shoulders and upper back
– Draw shoulders blades down to relax the trapezius from overworking

RECLINED SPINAL TWIST (SUPTA MATSYENDRASANA)

spinaltwist

Reclined Spinal Twist

Benefits:
1. Stretches mid to lower back muscles, pectorals (chest), shoulders, hips and glutes.
2. Stimulates and detoxifies the organs
3. Lengthens, relaxes, and realigns the spine
4. Encourages blood flow and aids with the health and function of your digestive system

Make sure to:
– Adjust your hips to align with your spine before dropping your knee to twist. For ex: if you drop your left knee to the right, move your hips slightly to the left before doing so.
– Relax your neck and try to connect both shoulders to the floor
– Breathe deeply when you twist

There are so many more stretches and yoga poses that are beneficial but these are perfect to do when limited on time. They target the hips, shoulders, lower back and chest – the most commonly tight areas in men. Women can absolutely benefit from these stretches, too. All stretches are great as long your body is set up properly and they’re performed safely.

Yes…yoga and stretching can be boring, monotonous, time consuming, and painful. But we work so hard all day to compound, contract, and tighten our muscles with daily activity, workouts, and simply living life. Take the time to create space, lengthen, and reverse those effects so you can move freely and never feel limited in the potential of your body! Spend some time stretching after your workouts, take a yoga class or learn more about my Stretch Sessions. Now…Go Stretch!

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SERRATUS EXERCISES = STRONGER CORE

Since my last blog post on the “secret core muscle” and why it’s so important in our workouts, I’ve been obsessed with teaching my students how to target and strengthen the serratus anterior muscles. I want them to understand and feel the recruitment of these muscles and how they help increase upper body strength and develop a stronger, more efficient core.

Here are the exercises and tips that I’ve been teaching to strengthen and tap into the power of the Serratus Anterior.

SERRATUS PUSH UPS
I heart this exercise and love to challenge my yoga students by adding them to the sequencing. Not only does it help with deep breathing but it creates a drawing in effect that will instantaneously make you feel lighter.

 

ktszs

Targeting Tips:

#1 Stack shoulders directly above the elbows and keep body weight forward.
#2 Initiate the movement from the shoulder blades to isolate the upper body only.
#3 Press the forearms into the mat to round the upper back as much as possible.
#4 Avoid lifting or dropping the hips. Engaging the abdominals, glutes and legs will help.


CABLE  CHEST PRESS

The primary muscles worked are the pectorals (chest) and secondary muscles are triceps and shoulders. Simply adding scapula protraction and retraction is a great way to get the serratus anterior to engage making this upper body exercise a core workout, too.

cable pull down

Targeting Tips:

#1 Step one foot forward and engage the abdominals to maintain a forward lean.
#2 Begin to extend the arms ending in protraction (rounding) of the shoulders. Squeeze the shoulder blades together when releasing the arms to stretch the chest.
#3 Refrain from moving the hips. Keep movement in the upper body only.
#4 Exhale and round the upper back to fully engage the serratus and abdominals.


KNEELING CABLE CRUNCH

This effective exercise recruits the help of several muscles. Your entire upper body and hips help to stabilize and support the movement while the rectus abdominis and serratus are the target and synergistic muscles.

Pulldowns

Targeting Tips:

#1 Focus on articulating the movement from a flat back to a rounded back. Bring the elbows to the legs by curling the upper body down to the lower body.
#2 Keep back and abdominal muscles engaged when allowing the resistance to lift your torso.  This will help to avoid a swinging motion.
#3 Hips and neck remain neutral and stationary through the exercise.

TRY THIS!
3 sets of 15-20 reps of each exercise. Add weight or resistance to develop more strength and power.
Add to any upper body workout and get the core working. Add to a yoga sequence to discover deeper breathing and a drawing-in effect when coming up to inversions.

We’ve all heard it before “…working muscles that we never thought we had”. The Serratus Anterior are one of those muscles.  Focusing and strengthening this secret core muscle will create mind-body awareness and help you harness an untapped resource.  HAVE FUN!

 

serratusanterior

The Secret Core Muscle

I have been adamant about practicing my inversions these past few weeks and have reached a point where I’ve overcome the fear of going upside down and can now focus on the muscles engaged to get up and stay up. This is where I discovered the power of the Serratus Anterior.

What’s the deal with Serratus Anterior?
Known as the “boxer muscles”, the serratus anterior are the muscles that boxers rely on for multi dimensional movement and speed. Movements such as pushing, pressing, punching all stem from the strength and power of these muscles. Protraction and retraction of the scapula (shoulder blade) help strengthen the serratus and provide a strong and stable foundation for the chest and back to move from. This also supports your shoulder in rotational movements. Also when strengthened and developed, aesthetically, these are the sexy muscles that define the upper sides of your abdominal area.

Where can I find my Serratus Anterior?
Connected to your rib cage originating on the surface of the 1st to 8th rib, the serratus muscle wraps to the medial border of your scapula. Due to the wrapping, this creates a “wing” appearance and function that plays a crucial role in mostly all back and chest exercises. Because of its attachment to the ribs, the serratus also serves as a breathing accessory. Taking deep breaths will increase the internal pressure which provides stronger support for stabilization, action, and resistance.

Serratus_anterior_muscle_animation_small

Why the Big Deal?
Several reasons!
(1) Common in sports and exercise, shoulder pain and injuries comprise of 21% of the population with 40% of those injuries lasting over a year and treatments accumulating to an annual cost of $39 billion, according to NASM. Weakened serratus also contribute to neck problems due to tension, tightness and possible numbness down the arm because of poor circulation. Strengthening these muscles will help to provide more stabilization so your joints can remain safe and healthy.

(2) Let’s go back to the whole reason of this post…my inversion exploration! Because the serratus stabilizes the positioning of the shoulders, arms, and midsection and aids in breathing to create full expansion of the rib cage, it is the secret core muscle to getting up into inversions and maintaining arm balances. When activating the serratus in these challenging poses, you create a drawing in and “push up” effect (for ex: crow pose, peacock pose, headstand, forearm stand). When engaged, you will feel the power and lightness of your body with minimal effort.

(3) A common mistake in exercise is using the path of least resistance. We all want to use the larger muscle groups to power through exercises because they’re easier to recruit so we don’t feel the pain/burn as much. The serratus anterior is a muscle group that is not often seen but yet carry a load of power. However, activating these muscles are more about connecting and feeling rather than forcing and powering through.

Focus and great detail is needed to fine tune the serratus anterior. Although its power is evident in sports such as boxing, its “quiet” function is so important in more calmer activities like yoga. So instead of just pushing through your next inversion, arm balance, or back/chest exercise, take your time and connect to this secret core muscle. You’ll find that it’s almost effortless. Almost… 😉

*Check out my next blog post on some great exercises to strengthen your Serratus Anterior!

 

 

trx

Stretch with TRX

Total Body Resistance Exercise (TRX) is a suspension training program that’s known for its strength workouts. The exercises are functional, effective and all dynamically challenge your core by leveraging gravity and your bodyweight as resistance. Here is a great TRX exercise that gets the heart rate up while tapping into your core.

As much as TRX is known for its intensity, it also serves as a great tool to assist in exercises so one can develop better and stronger form. I love using TRX for my workouts but more recently discovered its assistance for getting deeper into yoga poses. Check out these great yoga stretches to try with TRX!

UPWARD FACING DOG
This pose is a back bend and requires strength in the abdominals, legs and upper body to hold the pose. Using the TRX will allow the hips to drop lower giving a better stretch in the abdominal wall and chest. Shifting the weight forward into upward facing dog can be challenging so be sure to engage the core and press firmly through the arms to help stabilize when moving.
Keep in mind! (1) Set up so that the straps are directly under the anchor point (2) Lengthening the straps will deepen the stretch but will also require more core strength (3) Press hands into the handles to push back to standing

updog

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LOW LUNGE TO STANDING SPLIT
One of my favorite hip openers is Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge). This pose stretches the hip flexors particularly rectus femoris and tensor fasciae latae (TFL) which are both very tight muscles due to prolonged sitting or overuse in exercise. Standing split is a balancing pose that challenges the core and leg strength while stretching the hamstrings. So combining the two poses is not only a great warm up but a great way to open up two very commonly tight areas (hip flexor and hamstrings). The release in both will immediately alleviate lower back pain and tension.
Keep in mind! (1) Twist the handles together so they make one big handle/one strap and line up directly under the anchor point (2) Keep the back leg in strap straight when in low lunge pose (3) Keep the front knee slightly bent when in standing split (4) Make sure to keep a flat back and chest up when in low lunge

Lunge

lowlunge

HALF ANKLE TO KNEE (PREP FOR TIP TOE POSE)
A very challenging hip opener as it requires flexibility in so many areas. All muscles in the LPHC (lumbo-pelvic-hip complex) must be open to sit in the full Tip Toe Pose. However modifying with half ankle to knee helps to release tension in the glutes and hip external rotators. The TRX straps will help with balance so that you can sit as low as you can while keeping a straight spine. Moving from seated to standing position will warm up the hip but also strengthen the quadriceps of the standing leg. This stretch will also help deepen your Pigeon Pose and Seated Ankle to Knee.
Keep in mind! (1) Keep your back straight and chest up (2) Very important to flex the foot placed on the knee to protect the joint (3) Move hips back (as if sitting in a chair) when bending the knee (4) Don’t be afraid to use the arms to help pull up to standing

ankleknee

Stretching is an essential part of being fit. Without full of range of motion, your body is restricted to complete any exercise or pose in its proper and ideal form. Find time to incorporate stretching and/or a yoga practice into your weekly fitness routine. Using fitness props such as TRX straps, blocks, yoga straps, bolsters will aid tremendously on modifying and assisting so the body is aligned and working safely, efficiently and pain free. Now…Go Stretch!

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Get Out of Your Rut!

The inspiration for this post came to me after subbing a yoga class last week. I must have a completely different teaching style than the original teacher – the feedback I received from the students made it loud and clear. Some students didn’t take to my style and left (it happens!) but several students approached me after class with curiousity, expressed they’ve been taking the same class for years and I was exactly what they needed. Nice compliment but this got me thinking that these students (even the ones who left) were in a “rut”.

A rut is a habit or patterned behavior that becomes dull, unproductive and really hard to break. Don’t get me wrong…”ruts” in fitness is not necessarily a bad thing. You’ve been doing the same exercise for years and you’re fine with that. These students found a teacher they love and stuck with her. I am sure they advanced their practice, learned a whole lot and was happy attending her class. I have been taking the same yoga class for years so I’m guilty of it myself. But there’s a lot to be said in trying something out of the norm and exploring anew…different teacher, new kind of workout or exercise, dancing or playing a sport.

Here are 4 reasons to get out of your rut and explore something new!

#1 A humbling experience
I was shy to try boxing because I never felt I had it in me or that I would look silly doing it. Well, I looked ridiculous and had no clue what I was doing. I was programmed to move the same way for so long that I had to re-train my body to do something totally different. Even something as simple as standing in a boxing stance was hard for me. Slipping was just asking for too much. My first few sessions with my boxing trainer was ego shattering but also a very humbling experience. It forced me to get out of my patterned ways and back into breaking movement down into simple steps.  Learning this sport made me feel so uncoordinated but it also got me to connect with my body again. When learning a new exercise or movement, your neuromuscular junction is retraining, reprogramming, and creating new patterns. This enhances and promotes mind body connection keeping the nervous and muscular system in constant communication. A frustrating and eye opening experience but one that was so worth it!

#2 Get out of your comfort zone
I get it…no one likes to be uncomfortable! Stepping out of a comfort zone can be very challenging because it requires us to dig a little deeper and tap into a space that we don’t normally go. Your body adapts to the same exercises and workouts and will stop advancing at some point. You may be worried about not knowing anyone in a new class, not being able to keep up, unfamiliar with the techniques, or using different muscles, etc. Just remember that everyone started in that very same place. Once you get out of your own way, jump in without any doubts, you’ll immediately find comfort in everything that you do.

#3 Connect with new people
Community is a huge part of fitness. Every studio or gym has its own culture and with that brings a group of people that share common interests. Once you get out there to explore, you are surrounded by like minded people that are all there to work hard. This is a great environment and opportunity to meet new people. You never know who you’ll meet at your new dance or bootcamp class.

#4 For the better of your body
We all need to get shocked from time to time. If you’re repeating your workouts, bored, lack enthusiasm, unmotivated, then guess what…so are the muscles in your body. In order to continuously challenge the body and grow, you need to shock it every now and then. And the only way is to try something new. Without a doubt, you will move differently and use muscles that you never knew you had. I recently started taking Pilates and that class kicks my butt every week. I always pride myself on how strong my core is so I was shocked at how difficult it was for me. Well, I’m hooked now and am realizing that it’s helping me heal an old injury at the same time feel stronger when doing inversions. Who knew?

We often don’t know what we need until we are introduced to it. We all make judgements on what works for our body and what doesn’t. But how do we really know until we try it. If you even have the slightest curiosity on trying a new class, don’t think twice and just go! If you’re bored and need a change, that is all the reason to check out a new teacher or class. The biggest take away from getting of your “rut” is simply being able to say you tried. That’s all you can ask for! So with the new year approaching us, tis the perfect time to get out of your old exercise habits. Get out of your comfort zone, be humble, meet new people, do good for your body and most importantly…HAVE FUN!

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Workout Before (& After) You Pig Out!

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It’s when I really take the day off, hang with my family, laugh, play games, and relax. I know most of us love all of the above but let’s face it…we’re more excited about gorging our faces with multiple servings of turkey, stuffing, potatoes, and pie. I’m not for pigging out but I know how delicious the dishes are on this holiday (my mom makes the most amazing stuffing…hands down!). So if you plan on stuffing face all day long and consuming, what the news has reported, well over 3,000 calories in one sitting, then working out is a MUST!

Here’s a quick and effective workout to do before and after your feasting marathon:

Blast the Calories with Cardio: 20 minute treadmill workout

3 min     5.0 – 6.0 speed at 5.0 incline
2 min     6.0 – 6.5 speed at 8.0 incline
1 min     6.0 speed at 3.0 incline
2 min     7.0 – 11.0 speed at 3.0 incline
1 min     4.5 – 5.0 speed at 3.0 incline
2 min     5.0 – 6.0 speed at 6.0 incline
2 min     6.0 – 7.0 speed at 8.0 incline
1 min     6.5 – 7.0 speed at 1.0 incline
1 min     7.5 – 11.0 speed at 1.0 incline
1 min     3.5 – 4.5 speed at 1.0 incline
2 min     6.0 – 7.5 speed at 3.0 incline
1 min     5.5 – 6.5 speed at 1.0 incline
1 min     4.0 speed at 1.0 incline
*Please modify by decreasing speed only when needed.

Blast the Belly with Core Work: 3 sets back to back

1. Elbow Plank to Hand Plank: 1 minute total
Stay in elbow plank for the first 30 seconds then press up into hand plank for another 30 seconds.

2. TRX Mountain Climbing: check out my post for instructions. Can also be performed without TRX.

3. Alternate leg raises: 20 reps on each leg
Support your neck with your hands then press your lower back into the floor to lift your shoulders up. Lower one leg down then switch legs. 

4. Elbow to side plank: 10x each side
Start in elbow plank. Shift your weight onto your right side, stacking your feet into side plank. Then go back to elbow plank and switch to the left side.

5. Hand plank reverse crunch on stability ball: 15 reps
Set up in hand plank with your shins on a stability ball. Perform a reverse crunch by rolling the ball towards your chest while keeping your shoulders on top of the wrists. Extend your legs and repeat.

Let’s get to work! Work hard, burn those calories, and enjoy your Thanksgiving meal…guilt free! Have a happy one!

 

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So Fresh + So Clean!

Everywhere you look, someone or something is telling you that your body is toxic, filthy, dirty and you need to clean your gut and diet. Working out and eating right is just not enough. A crucial part of living a healthy and fit lifestyle now consists of blending, juicing and cleansing. Skeptics think cleansing is a fad and only out to make money. While others stand behind the benefits of cleansing. So what are these benefits?

Here are just a few:
#1 Get rid of the crap. We don’t eat healthy all the time. Years of drinking, fried foods, cheesy pizzas, and drowning brownie sundaes get stuck in our system, particularly in the lining of our intestines. Cleansing helps to clear out the pipes and flush out the crap so we can eat more and digest effectively.

#2 Make a healthy change. Doing a cleanse is a wedge between our old ways and a new way. Eating the same foods day in and day out puts the body in a slump (especially the wrong choices in foods). Daily habits can also become addictions (need for coffee, sugar, fried foods, etc). Deciding to make this change prompts other physical changes in the body such as improved skin, higher energy levels, stronger immune system, healthy and strong hair and nails, increased vitality and an overall improved sense of well being.

#3 Boost weight loss. Cleanses are great to help drop those few extra pounds. The shift in your usual eating habits and focus on eating clean or raw will help you lose that last bit of weight…plus more.
*I love MindBodyGreen’s article on more great benefits of cleansing.

Cleanses

The rage of cleansing has brought on numerous juice bars with their own line of cleanses and nutritionists/holistic doctors concocting their own program. Making the choice for the right cleanse to be very overwhelming. Here are a few cleanses I highly recommend and who they’re perfect for.

Be Well by Frank Lipman’s Cleanse and  Dr. Alejandro Junger’s Clean 
These two are my fave because you can actually eat on these cleanses. In order for me to function, I need to be able to put solid food in my mouth and chew. Both programs ask for clean eating supported by daily shakes and supplements. A week to 3 weeks long of dedication and commitment is necessary for completion.
Perfect for: (1) active people (2) those looking for a permanent and overall change in their diet and lifestyle

Organic Avenue’s Love Easy and Cooler’s Raw Cooler
These cleanses are short and sweet (offered in 3 or 5 day programs)! Both provide a one stop shop with juices and foods, although a bit pricey. But nonetheless their options are fresh, mainly plant based, gluten/dairy free, and most importantly delicious.
Perfect for: (1) those new to cleansing (2) those who don’t cook or are limited on time (prepared and ready to enjoy) (3) Looking for an easy transition cleanse that won’t take up too much time or energy

BluePrint and Suja’s Original Fresh Start
Purely juice based, these cleanses sound easy but can be pretty challenging. Although both programs are stocked with yummy fresh juices, relying on liquid alone is a tough feat especially for those new to cleansing or have had poor diets all their life.
Perfect for: (1) those that have cleansed before, have restricted diets and looking for a re-boost or reset (2) looking for quick results in short time (increased energy, weight loss) (3) not too serious about cleansing but are curious

~ Ejuva
This is for the no joke, “I’m super serious about my gut health”, and raw/vegan advocates that want to intensely clean out their guts.  Ejuva is an herbal body cleanse that eliminates and detoxifies from your throat to your bum. Designed in 4 phases, each step prepares you for a deeper detox into the next phase for an overall gradual cleansing that is easy on the body. This program takes you through all steps of cleansing: fasting to juicing to raw meals. Most have reported Mucoid Plaque as their end result.  The accumulation of partially digested and putrefying matter sits in the intestines and is extracted during this intense colon cleanse. Eeeekk…did I mention that this was a serious cleanse?
Perfect for: (1) those who have done cleanses and are really looking for a more substantial and intense cleaning (2) those with chronic ailments, allergies, digestion problems and have tried everything else.

Especially with Autumn underway, most are looking to cleanse for several reasons: post summer binge drinking, bored, needing a challenge, lose weight before they put it back on for the holidays, or taking their health and wellness to the next level. Whatever the reason is, be realistic and choose a cleanse that will best fit your lifestyle. Don’t set yourself up for failure only to feel worse in the end. If you’re not ready for the longer cleanses, start short and work your way up. Cleanses are here to stay and will be there when you’re ready. Happy Cleansing!