Health & Wellness

comfort

Small Changes That Tested My Comfort Zones

It probably has to do with Spring…or maybe I’m bored …or just tired of the routine. Not exactly sure what it was but I had this yearning to shake things up. Although my days are never the same, I am a creature of habit and have a very structured and organized routine in place, especially with my diet and fitness.

So to fulfill this desire to uproot my norm, I’ve been working on these 4 small changes the past few months and I am loving it! Not only because I stepped out of my comfort zones but I began to experience all these subtle shifts, mindfully and physically, that affect me throughout my days in a positive way.

 

#1 ENJOYING COFFEE AFTER 10AM

4-cold-brew

 

I’m addicted to coffee and have chosen to never live life without it. That overwhelming need for it really annoyed me. I hated the dependency and the longing I had for coffee every morning. I needed coffee ASAP otherwise I couldn’t function or I wasn’t at my best without it. That is such bull crap. That is the mental state and addiction talking, not the physical body. The morning is actually the worse time to drink coffee because our bodies naturally produce cortisol in the morning. Cortisol is the hormone that wakes us up and naturally carries us throughout the day. So it’s actually counter intuitive to have that morning cup of joe. You really don’t need it to wake you up, instead it confuses the body and will weaken the effect of caffeine leaving you with more of a dependency.

So I started having my cold brew coffee after 10am. In the beginning, it was incredibly difficult but as I stuck with it, I found myself forgetting to have coffee half way through my day and I was pleasantly shocked. When finally enjoying my cup, it became more of a treat rather than a need. There is not one day that goes by without coffee but I can say that I don’t need it to start my day and actually feel more awake during my morning sessions without it.

 

#2 WAKING UP TO A REAL ALARM CLOCK

alarm clock

I used to use Sleep Cycle as my alarm clock and to track my sleep patterns. However the idea of having my phone so close to my head (cancer stories and scares) and recently reading Arianna Huffington’s Sleep Revolution, it was time to banish my phone from the bedroom and actually purchase a real alarm clock. This was one of the best small changes I’ve made. It’s forced me to disconnect once I’m in bed (and not take another glance at Facebook or Instagram) and not check my phone upon wakening. Instead I wake up (to birds chirping and a sunrise wake up light), do some light stretches, take a moment and express gratitude (for having open my eyes to live another day and all my blessings), then get ready to conquer the day. I don’t reach for my phone until I am about to leave my house. Therefore my morning is not cluttered with messages or emails that may seem urgent and don’t compare to having a peaceful start to my day.

 

#3  GREETINGS IN AN ELEVATOR 

elevator

 

One of my Buddhist teachers, Peter Doobinin, always teaches us to acknowledge our aversions and get out of our own way to face them. And how taking certain small steps lead to bigger changes in our lives that in turn connect us to others and humanity. He would always use the example of the awkward quiet ride in the elevator. You step into an elevator (probably looking at your phone) and don’t even glance or acknowledge who you share that space with. So I started putting my phone away, making eye contact with that person, saying hello, and smiling. I have had so many interesting conversations, met so many people, and had such lighthearted experiences that always leave a smile on my face when I step off the elevator. Not only just in an elevator, I try to speak to everyone around me in small tight spaces with the intention of simply connecting even in the smallest way…a smile. 🙂

 

#4  NO MEAT, PLEASE! (At least for now…)

vegetable-powered-nutrition

After listening to Lewis Howe’s podcast interview with Russell Simmons, I began feeling a deeper sensitivity to animals, their slaughter for our feeding, and how their meat pollutes both the environment and our bodies. Plus so many other benefits to not eating meat that I started reading about. I suddenly became turned off by eating animal meat entirely. So there began my pescatarian stage and I’ve been at it for over 3 months. I must admit that I do miss a lean grass fed steak and a juicy burger from time to time but right now, I am enjoying the benefits of not eating animal meat.

Firstly, my hair grew 3 inches in 1 month (I KNOW!) and my skin glows more than it has since I was a teenager. I have had many ask about my skin care products and trust me, there is no secret serum. Secondly, I am digesting all other foods so much better. I don’t remember the last time I felt bloated or had any GI discomfort. I’ve also lost about 5 lbs without even trying. Not everyone will have the same response as I have but this has been my experience thus far. I am not saying that I will be pescatarian forever or even think of going vegetarian or vegan, nor do I judge anyone for eating meat. I am aware of all that meat has to offer. But for now I don’t mind eating meatless and continuing to reap the benefits.

 

I do like things in very specific order and way (so OCD!). Making these changes took some thinking and planning. I had to make sure I could commit and see it all the way through. If you catch yourself saying:

“Nah, I like doing it this way…” or
“This is the way I do it and it works for me…” or
“I need it…it’s just part of my routine.”

…then it may be time to step out of your own way and explore, experiment, and try something out of the norm. Consider making some small changes. Nothing major or permanent but something that will take you out of your normal routine and open your eyes to an entirely different angle of your day that you have never witnessed before. It may after all…be life changing.

best-out-door-work-outs

Guest Post: The Great Outdoor Workout

Guest Blog Author: Cathy Starnes

Far too many people associate fitness with the gym and don’t look at alternative methods to stay in shape. If you truly want to work out, there are lots of other ways to do it, including outdoor activities.

Outdoor fitness can be anything from a brisk walk to horse riding, but one aspect they all have in common is that they are far more exciting, and better for the soul than endlessly running on a treadmill. Today, let’s look at different outdoor sports activities, which you can incorporate in your fitness routine.

SOCCER

soccer

As the most popular sport in the world, you’re going to have an abundance of sources on how you can incorporate soccer into your fitness agenda. A proper conditioning program covers key elements such as endurance, strength, flexibility and agility, according to Bodybuilding.com.

Endurance is usually developed through walking or jogging, but it’s also important to use interval training as this can yield the best results and replicates an actual soccer game. Varying between low intensity (walking, jogging) and high intensity (running, sprinting) to make it more effective and dynamic.

Strength and conditioning relies mainly on ground-based, functional exercises like lunges and pushups. The former trains your legs using a wide range of motion without difficulty and this is crucial for soccer players. Pushups strengthen the chest muscles, which can aid players in their overall strength.

Power-focused routines, on the other hand, are used to develop agility. Jump squats and push presses are some examples of great exercises. Squats for instance, strengthen the glutes and hamstrings, which aid in fast and explosive movements like pivoting and a sudden change of direction before sprinting. Players do these actions often, which is why these exercises are vital for soccer players. Stretching, both pre and post workout, shouldn’t be neglected as well to improve flexibility and to minimize the risk of injury.

TENNIS

tennis

Tennis is another outdoor sport which is an effective method used to stay in shape. Canyon Ranch states the sport involves various movements: forward, backward, sideways and twisting. Internal organs such as the lungs and heart are strengthened as well due to it being very cardio-heavy. This then leads to an overall workout packed into a challenging and enjoyable activity.

There are also numerous drills which are used in tennis lessons that you can add to your exercise routine. These include jump rope, sprint-stops, back sprints and squat jumps.

HORSE RIDING / RACING

horse

Horse riding is much more unique as you have the chance to interact with a majestic animal. But before you can do that, you need to at least get in shape, as horse riding is more demanding on the body than you think. CNN explained how you can be as ‘fit as a jockey’ but you need to start by strengthening your legs and core first. It also has many other benefits, and teaches you self-discipline across a myriad of verticals.

Moreover, there are lots of famous jockeys that have shared the challenges associated with the sport including how they work hard to get or stay in shape. Three-time Champion Jockey and Betfair Ambassador Ryan Moore frequently shares his insights about riding different horses at various racing events. The veteran rider who contributes columns to Betfair Royal Ascot spoke about how he worked with six steeds in Day Five of the race meeting last year and highlighted that each horse has its own specific method of handling. The only way he succeeded was due to his discipline in terms of diet and exercise, which allowed his body the best possible chance to keep up with the varying demands of riding the horses which were individually distinct. Horse racing places huge importance on posture and core strength which are fundamentals for any new rider. When you learn these key skills it will also have positive results on other aspects of fitness too as these skills can be translated to other workouts.

In terms of motivation, trying something different is one of the best ways to motivate yourself to workout or you can check out these ways to kick yourself into gear. Maybe one of these sports is exactly what you’re looking for to have that drive towards improving your overall wellbeing.

steam

5 Steps To Avoid Getting Sick

We are just a few weeks away from Spring so the weather can be very temperamental. One day we’re freezing in our down jackets the next day we’re in shorts and tee shirts. This transitional phase and crazy temperature swings can break down our immune system, making us susceptible to a cold or flu. Our bodies tell us when we’re on the verge of getting sick. So once those signs show up, don’t wait… try my emergency kit and drop kick that cold ASAP. Because who has time to get sick…NOT US!!

This is my 5-step program when my immune system needs a boost to battle:

#1 FIRST LINE OF DEFENSE: UMCKA

umcka

The first signs of a cold (any and all symptoms), I run for Umcka and squeeze in a few drops repeatedly throughout the day. Best taken once the symptoms start to creep in, Umcka is homeopathic so it works safely with your body and no need to worry about side effects.

 

#2 SORE, ITCHY THROAT: APPLE CIDER VINEGAR
Apple_cider_vinegar

This healthful tonic which includes powerful healing compounds such as acetic acid, potassium, magnesium, probiotics and enzymes kill unwanted bacteria. It’s a crucial part of fighting off a dry, irritated sore throat before it evolves into an evil bronchial or chest infection. Also a good source of polyphenols, this fermented beverage provides numerous benefits to skin, digestion, immunity health, and helps to prevent cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, and neurodegenerative diseases. Make sure to purchase it organic and raw (one that includes the “mother”. I like Bragg’s) and dilute with water (so not to burn your throat – as I learned the hard way). Gargle several times a day until your throat feels better or make this a part of your nightly routine, like my mama does.

 

#3 ONLY ONE FUNCTIONING NOSTRIL: NETI POT 

netipot

How frustrating is this!? Breathing out of just one nostril (or worse…no nostrils) is a major inconvenience and makes functioning through your day so much more of a challenge. Nasal irrigation with a Neti Pot is not the most comfortable but very effective to thin out mucus, flush out and clear dry, crusted nasal passageways (EW!) so you can breathe again and avoid sinus infection. You do feel like you’re drowning and it’s a wet mess but bear through it and you will feel 100% better. For those with seasonal allergies, the Neti Pot will do wonders for you.

 

#4 HELP BEFORE MY HEAD IMPLODES: EUCALYPTUS ESSENTIAL OIL

steam
Anti-inflammatory, decongestant, antiseptic, antibacterial, and stimulating, are just some of the benefits of the eucalyptus leaf. It’s powerful medicinal benefits help to ease nasal congestion and help kill off the cold virus. You can apply eucalyptus essential oil (my fave is Olbas) directly on your nostrils or rub some in your palms and take a few deep inhalations through your nose. For those suffering major congestion, apply a few drops of the essential oil into a pot of boiling water. Place a towel over your head to trap the steam around you and take several deep breaths. You may need a break from time to time as the steam/heat can be very intense. But you will feel immediate relief, I promise you!

 

#5 I HURT FROM HEAD TO TOE: CALM MAGNESIUM & SLEEP

sleep

Sleep is one of the most powerful weapons we have against fighting the cold and flu bug. The hours you spend sleeping is the time when your body heals. Cells repairs during this time, hormones are released to promote tissue growth and reparation, your immune system is building back up so your energy levels increase. When you deprive yourself of sleep, you are not giving your body time to recharge so you can function at your best the next day. Every night before bed, I enjoy a cup of hot water with a whopping Tbsp of Calm Magnesium powder and make sure I get at least 6-7 hours of sleep. When you’re sick or for those days you’re feeling depleted, make sure to tuck yourself in earlier and get at least 8 hours of rest. It is vital to fend off illness.

 

There is no way we can function optimally at the levels we demand of ourselves every day when we’re run down and sick. With our daily schedules and responsibilities we want to show up 100% when we can. But when our bodies shut down from these annoying cold and flu bugs, our bodies are communicating to us to STOP AND TAKE CARE NOW! Remember, without our health we are NOTHING! These steps are easy…you just have to make the time for them. 🙂 TAKE CARE AND BE WELL!

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3 Tips: How to Motivate Yourself to Work Out!

alternate hand to foot kicks

Now that we have reached mid January, we should have some plan in place to work towards our intentions and goals for this year. As every year, most new year goals are fitness or health related. But where do you start and how do you keep that momentum going? Check out my 3 tips featured on Garage Gym Planner  that will help (and keep) you motivated all year long and reaching your fitness goals!

#1 FIND A FRIEND AND SET A GOAL

Working with a partner or in a team keeps you focused and accountable in reaching any fitness goal. Nothing like having like-minded people support and motivate you!

#2 JOIN A GROUP CLEANSE

Try a cleanse that will help support your workout routine. Consider eating clean and detox for 2-4 weeks. You will feel amazing and more than likely keep up with a cleaner lifestyle.

#3 TRY SOMETHING DIFFERENT

Think of an activity or workout you’ve always wanted to try, then do it. Make a list of all the things you’ve always wanted to do and have been making excuses why you haven’t done it.

 

For more motivational tips from other trainers and wellness experts on getting your workout in, check out their full article here.

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

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!

 

 

Header_blog_Rut

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!

new year

Don’t Resolve…EXPLORE!

To kick off this post, I want to send everyone wishes for a Happy and Healthy New Year! I am sure that we are all back in the swings of things gearing up for a productive start to 2014.

I was big on New Year’s resolutions…always gearing my mindset to focus and accomplish certain goals throughout year.  But then started to realize a negative connotation to it and began to hear it from others. There was always disappointment when a resolution wasn’t achieved or even started.  Some may experience an overwhelming feeling of impossibility and lacking initiative which sets off a chain reaction of frustration and a sense of giving up. So I’m sure you’ve already set your list of “resolutions” but I ask you not resolve but instead explore each of them.

Here is my simple list that I am super excited to explore!
1. Going upside down! Yes, I have faced that fear and am admitting to you all that I do not enjoy being upside down. It’s simply that I don’t like to fall.  Maybe there is a subconscious message about it but in all seriousness, I don’t like to lose control of my body and potentially crack my neck or break my back. I know…so dramatic.  But I am grabbing this bull by the horns and will go upside down in a handstand or forearm stand at least 5x a week. Totally doable and with the help of my yoga teacher, Phillip Askew, I know my feet will rise above the rest! I’m super excited for this ride as I explore tackling my fear of falling.

2. Chef Julia! I should either buy stock in Juice Generation or purchase a Vitamix.  Thanks to my brother and my sister-in-law, the latter is the answer. I shall now grind to make almond butter, mix to make soup, and blend to make green drinks. And explore what else I can do with this amazing machine. Going raw and cooking from scratch will help feed my body with cleaner and healthier foods. Looking forward to putting my skills to the test.

Vitamix

Vitamix 7500

3. Exploration Drogo! Every morning, I choose between 3 paths to walk Drogo. We see the same scenery, same dogs, same doggy owners, sniff the same scents and it’s just the same same same. Just last Sunday, I took a different path in Central Park and not only did I discover a rustic bridge that lead into a running waterfall but Drogo was ecstatically sniffing his way through. Twice a month, I will take Drogo on a different path and explore Riverside and Central Park while exposing his nose to different pee and poo scents. Can’t wait for the journey.

Drogo. Isn't he cute?

This is Drogo. Isn’t he cute?

4. Breath and Meditation Project. I consider this a serious project. It is something that takes a plan, coordination, focus, and set up. All of those efforts to step away from my crazy schedule to close my eyes and take deep slow breaths and/or to sit in a comfortable seat and meditate for at least 15 minutes. It is so tough to do but when I find the time for it, it feels so darn good! I’ll try this 3x a week and see where it takes me.

I have already begun my explorations and hope you all have, too. Accept the attempts you take (or lack of), acknowledge any difficulty or resistance you encounter, and simply experience the process. View your list as opportunities of growth instead of moments of achievements or failure. And most importantly…have fun!

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Props to Lauren!

I am dedicating this blog post to one of my favorite students, Lauren Riess. Her dedication, drive, and love for fitness helped her lose 100 lbs and finally get the flat stomach she dreamed of since she was a teenager. Her story and achievements are what makes my job so rewarding and so proud to have students like her.

For as long as Lauren can remember, she has always struggled with her weight. From 13 years of age through her college years, she fluctuated between 230 lbs to 270 lbs. Working out with a trainer, bouncing from one fad diet to another, controlling her urge to binge, and the emotional roller coaster that would take her from the high of losing weight to the low of accepting that she may be obsese forever. Her family encouraged her to eat healthy and stay active but as much as she tried, it was always an uphill battle. Lauren recalls, “I thought it was too late for me and for most of my life. I just accepted what I believed was my fate. Even when I was motivated and did lose weight through diets, I never to stuck to them. I would see success, lose 20 lbs and then quit.” The thought of having to continue on that track and commit to several more months of dieting and exercising only sent her back to depression and to inevitably give up again.

This yo-yo routine is common for those trying to lose substantial weight in a short time frame or for those that don’t have enough information or direction on how to. They jump on the bandwagon of fad diets (Hollywood Diet, Zone, Atkins, Cabbage Soup diet, Master Cleanse) that help you temporarily take off the weight but don’t help to keep it off or teach how to eat properly for the long run. It’s a typical set-up-to fail situation.

Lauren and I met at Crunch Gym almost 5 years ago. She was back from college for the summer and was determined to try again. She weighed 230 lbs when we first started and and lost 30 lbs in two months with me.  But once she returned to college, she gained the weight right back. Her struggle then was with what she considered “diet foods.” Choosing to have diet coke, 10 calorie Jello, SmartOnes, sugar/fat free options was her idea of eating healthy.  Her portions were large and eating patterns were uncontrollable and inconsistent. She had seen nutritionists who planned meals for her but she never stuck to them. She continued to “relapse into her old eating habits, not being conscious of portions, and lacking any desire to control herself around food”. Losing weight and being healthy was an insurmountable task that she felt she will never achieve.

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Lauren 2011

After college, she got back on track and lost 45 lbs bringing her to 206 lbs in 2012. Lauren states “I realized I had to see Julia again when I had lost that weight but although I was skinnier, I wasn’t healthier and was going down a path that would cause me to revert into the same mindset and habits that contributed to my failures so many times.” She was seeing a doctor who put her on a 6 week low calorie diet that consisted of shakes, protein bars, and soups – an unrealistic diet that would put the pounds back on. “After 3 years apart, I still always talked about Julia and how she changed my summer. Now that I was really ready to commit, I knew she was the only person who could help and continue to keep me motivated on this journey towards health.”

So here we are today! Lauren, 200%, committed herself to living a natural and healthy lifestyle – to  not only lose the weight but to become mentally and physically stronger so to never go back down that dark, scary, and overwhelming state that she experienced for over 10 years. She worked out 5-6 days a week (seeing me 2-3x), stuck to a “clean” diet without compromising her cravings. Lauren has lost a total of 100 lbs since the end of 2011 and 50 lbs of that with me since May 2012. Due to the substantial weight loss, excess skin was left around her midsection which became problematic during her workouts and a potential health risk.  In May 2013, she received a tummy tuck that has now given her a flat stomach that she has always wanted.

Lauren 2013

Now weighing 150 lbs (her lowest weight), she still trains with me 3x a week, sticks to a clean diet and cleanses with me 2-3x a year. We can now work on sculpting, toning, and defining her muscles. Students like Lauren are hard to come by.  So many come to me with a goal, reach it and then stop their workouts, go back to their old ways only to come back to me after 6 months.  Lauren has fully embraced the fit and healthy lifestyle that I teach and now lives it to this day.  She spreads the word of how exercising and eating right is what got her to her goal.  But mostly expresses her deep gratitude for the love and support from her family and friends and how she could have never done it without them.  Her mother and father are absolutlely adorable and I will never forget that day when they came to visit me after a run in the park with Lauren.  They greeted me with a beautiful orchid, a card, and a hug with tears in their eyes thanking me for changing their daughter’s life.

So although this post may seem like an ode to me and my ability to whip someone into shape…this is a feat that is rarely achieved and should be recognized.  So my hats to Lauren for being such an incredible human being and for being an exemplary student.  Keep up the great work!

*Thank you, Lauren for allowing me to write about your journey to health. Love you, girl!