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Work That Core!

Photo by: Leslie Hassler

Photo by: Leslie Hassler

Believe it or not, this Motivation Monday brings us three weeks into 2017. Know what that means? We’ve also reached the halfway point for those New Year’s healthy resolutions to start feeling like second nature. So whatever you do, don’t give up now!

The extra good news is there’s still time to tweak your routine to make this your strongest year yet. I couldn’t let this building phase of January pass without an important reminder about one area of training all of us need to incorporate into our routines regardless of where we are in our fitness journey. Whether your passion is power walking; running; cycling; dancing; swimming; weight training or boot camping, there is one area of the body no one should ignore: the core. My repeat readers already know I’m probably one of core training’s biggest cheerleaders. Why? It’s simple: without a strong core, the rest of your body can suffer. Seriously.

The core is much more than just those “six-pack abs.” It’s actually the part of the body made up of the:

  • Lumbo-pelvic-hip-complex
  • Thoracic spine and
  • Cervical spine.

The core is where all movement begins and where we find our center of gravity. The muscles in the core are broken into two categories: the stabilization system and the movement system. If the stabilization system doesn’t work properly, then your body will make compensations to move, and those compensations can ultimately lead to injury. For example: you could have strong “abs” (rectus abdominus), external obliques and erector spinae, but weak stabilizing muscles in your lumbo-pelvic-hip complex. Without proper stabilization, extra stress is placed on your vertebrae when you move, and this can lead to low back pain and possible injury.

So, today I implore everyone to add my all-time favorite core exercise to your routine: the plank. The following photos taken by Lauren Bachner at New York City’s Hype Gym show the start and finish positions for a plank. (I also added a leg lift option for an advanced option.) Aim for two sets of 12-20 reps. Training tips: In either version, be sure to draw in your navel and squeeze your glutes before you raise your body off the floor to form a straight line from head to toe. Hold for two to three seconds before dropping to the ground to re-start. 

Another bonus when it comes to planks: they are a great exercise for Tabata training. Click here for a refresher on how Tabatas can take add some spice to your fitness routine.

So now I want to know what is YOUR favorite core move? As we continue to make our way through 2017, I look forward to learning what my readers of all ages and skill levels are doing to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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Motivation Monday x Three!

Photo by Leslie Hassler

One Fit Chick…Photo by Leslie Hassler

We made it to the first Motivation Monday of May! Every month brings new opportunities, and I’m happy to report this one started off with a bang. Once again, I can thank my time in Twitterville for making it happen.

It’s been nearly two years since I met fellow fierce fitness femmes Monica Gauntt and Lori Ross. They’re actually part of about a dozen tweeps that make up our #fitfam. (For you non-tweeters, that’s short for Fitness Family.) We live in all different parts of the country, but during the past couple of years, we’ve said virtual hellos almost every morning to get moving; sent multiple shout-outs to keep us energized throughout the day and even sent hugs and prayers via cyberspace to help each other power through injuries, job losses, divorces, deaths and other challenging times.

Monica and Lori took their relationship beyond Twitter to become 2fitchx. Each fabulous “Frista” has overcome major hurdles in her quest to find a healthy balance in this crazy ride called life. Lori lost 125 pounds and Monica broke free of the yo-yo dieting prison and other unhealthy habits. They share their very personal stories along with tips and motivational messages in a weekly radio show. I was honored to be a guest on that show just this past Friday.

Meets 2FitChx, Lori & Monica

Meets 2FitChx, Lori & Monica

Please click here to find out what happens when three fit chicks get together. (The fact that we’re all blonde just adds to the fun!) I hope you’ll find some motivation to stay on track with your own health and fitness goals in our candid, fun-filled banter ranging from the workouts we love to how “stripping” has changed our lives. (Bet that piqued your curiosity!) Be sure to catch Monica and Lori’s future shows on Fridays live at 11 am CT or 6:00p CT for the replay. Listen on Indio Radio via the tunein app on your smartphone or  IndioRadio.com. You can check out the archived shows 24/7 at 2FitChx.podomatic.com.

I’m still blown away by some of the amazing people I’ve met through social media, and Monica and Lori are part of a group of that keeps me motivated. Even positive peeps like me can have a low day now and then, and I’m thankful for 2FitChx and the other members of my #FitFam who inspire me to chase my own dreams to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Bring on a Strong Fall Season!

Stabilization Before Strength Photo by Leslie Hassler

What’s Your Definition of Strength? Photo by Leslie Hassle

We made it to the first Motivation Monday of the fall of 2013!  As you repeat readers know by now, this bona fide beach bunny is beyond ecstatic about leaving this particular summer behind and kicking off a whole new season filled with new opportunities and adventures.

If you’re still working on defining your health and fitness goals for the season, let me offer a little guidance that may help. The guidance comes in the form of a question. It’s an important one because there are so many answers, none of which is wrong and all of which are tailored for the individual who answers it. Here it is:  what’s your definition of strength?

Here’s the definition you’ll find in Webster’s dictionary:

  • the quality or state of being physically strong
  • the ability to resist being moved or broken by a force
  • the quality that allows someone to deal with problems in a determined and effective way

Those three bullets are a great starting point for what the heart of the word means. Deciding if one or all of them is the driving factor behind why we want to be strong is crucial to finding our motivation to incorporate fitness into daily routine. Maybe you want stronger muscles to lift weights or your growing children. Maybe you want a stronger will to follow your dreams and not be distracted by fear and doubt. Maybe you want to grow tougher armor to not be hurt by the people and things that try to break you.  Whatever your motivation, exercise is one of the best ways to gain the strength you desire to tackle each and every day of this sometimes crazy life.

When I look at my own life, adding Physique57 classes to my weekly training routine has helped me feel physically stronger than ever. The total body workouts have especially helped me conquer the lower back pain I’ve experienced on and off for years.  My lower body is finally getting the strength training I admit I avoided for far too long.  On the emotional front, that physical strength has actually helped my mind stay sharp and focused even when unexpected and sometimes unpleasant distractions are thrown at me. The discipline I follow with my workouts motivates me to stay on track with other areas that are part of an essential recipe for my overall health and well-being, namely fueling my body with healthy food every few hours and staying on a sleep schedule. Working to keep those ingredients steady in this ever-changing life help me stay strong and ready to overcome the obstacles that sometimes seem too much to bear when they first attack.

Remember, whether it’s a desire to put your strength to the test in a fitness competition or have more energy to play with your kids on the weekends, we can all rely on our strength to help us handle the toughest of challenges. Figuring out why you want that strength in your life will help you put some plans into action so you can have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Make Your Home Move You

Keeping free weights close at hand is an easy way to workout at home! Photo by Leslie Hassler

Keeping free weights close at hand is an easy way to workout at home!
Photo by Leslie Hassler

While I write these posts hoping to get everyone off the couch, the reality is there are days we get sidelined from hitting the gym or taking a run. However, being trapped in the house because your kid is home sick or you got caught up on a spring cleaning marathon doesn’t mean you can’t sneak in some activity. So on this Motivation Monday, I offer some simple ways to make your home work for you when it’s the only option you have for a quasi-workout:

TV room/den/family room:

  • If you can bear the esthethics, switch out your favorite chair with a stability ball so you’re forced to sit with great posture and engage your core while watching TV.
  • Stash resistance bands, free weights, a medicine ball and a foam roller in a box so you can grab something to work with while you’re reading or watching TV. If I can stash these items behind a chair in a corner of my 585-square-foot New York City apartment, you can find room in your place, too!
  • Instead of fast forwarding through commercial breaks on your DVR, use those few minutes to bang out some hover squats. Lift your body a few inches off your couch or chair, hold up to five seconds and lower down and repeat. (Don’t forget to draw-in your navel and press your heels into the floor to engage your glutes.) Go for 10 reps before stopping. Keep going until your show resumes.

Kitchen:

  • Bang out some wall sits and/or wall pushups while waiting on your food to cook.
  • Use a counter for balance to do calf raises & squats while waiting for water to boil, coffee to brew or veggies to steam. 
  • Give the gadgets a rest and put your forearms to work by using a manual can opener and chop veggies instead of tossing them in the food processor.

Bathroom:

  • Do some calf raises while you brush your teeth and/or hold two-second “cheek” squeezes for each glute.
  • Leave workout gear on a shelf or hanging on the towel rack. Since this is the first room most of us hit first thing in the morning, having your gear ready to throw on may be the small push you need to break a sweat afterall.

I realize these small moves won’t produce the same results as a normal power walk or run or hitting your weight circuit or favorite exercise class. However, on those days when your routine gets sidelined, every little bit helps when it comes to finding ways to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

New Month…New Chapter

Re-Focused & Ready for the Season Ahead!Photo by Leslie Hassler

Re-Focused & Ready for the Season Ahead!
Photo by Leslie Hassler

No matter what I do, I can’t figure out a way to slow the hands of time. Here we are nine weeks into 2013 and 17 days away from the start of spring. I know I’ll have no problem saying good-bye to this particularly brutal winter. I also know it’s time for me to get my body, mind and spirit focused on what I want to accomplish in the season ahead.

That means working toward obtaining some of the goals that reach beyond the walls of the gym. Like everyone else, my overall health and well-being are affected by the personal projects I take on. That includes getting the last continuing education units needed to complete my  NASM re-certification by May. My psyche is also affected by the projects I’ve put off for too long. One in particular has weighed heavily on my mind during this dreary season and is no doubt one of the reasons behind some sleepless nights. After getting things started in a frenzy back in 2012, the project now sits in a well-organized folder just waiting for me to pick it up and get it going again.

No one asked me to get involved in this project. It’s simply something I’ve wanted to do for myself for a long time. However, it took me until this moment to accept that in order for me to make it happen, something else has to give. As I sit here and put that thought in writing, I guess you could call this post my coming to terms of what needs to be done.

With the exception of vacation and holiday time, I’ve been posting blogs three times each week since July of 2011. As a writer at heart and lifetime fitness fanatic, it’s been wonderful having this platform to share tips and stories and hopefully help motivate a few people to follow a healthier lifestyle that works for their reality. However, I need to scale back on the time I spend here so I can focus some of that energy on my bigger project. It’s just like when I had to make the difficult decision last year to put my independent personal training sessions on hold. I hated to stop. However, between my full-time job in corporate video production; making it to the gym for my own workouts; maintaining healthy relationships with my family and friends and taking care of my own health, well, there are only so many hours in a day. Sometimes you need to take a breath, figure out what priorities haven’t been getting the attention they deserve and then accept the fact that in order to change that, something that made sense a few months ago may not work at the present moment. Of course, that’s part of life. You make plans and other things happen, but you can’t just give up on what you want. You adjust and you move forward. That’s what I’m doing now.

My plan is to continue posting on as many Mondays as possible. It seems to be the day I get the most feedback on my motivation-themed musings. Don’t be surprised to still read my thoughts about a new group exercise class, vacation experience or some inspirational quotes. Of course I worry I may lose some followers, but some decisions come with a certain amount of risk. You’ll still see me on Facebook and Twitter and I’ll look forward to any emails with questions about health or fitness-related topics. I thank you ahead of time for supporting me as I sharpen my focus on what I want to accomplish as I creep toward celebrating the big 4-0 next February.

As I step back and re-group, my hope is that maybe some of you will do the same. Use these waning winter days to think about what priorities you want to attack this spring. Whether it’s prepping for a fitness competition, losing a few pounds before beach season, finding a more rewarding career, getting a degree or spending more time with family or friends, put your thoughts down on paper and get cracking. Sometimes saying no is harder than taking on more than you handle, but that difficult choice can sometimes help you put your heart and soul into the one thing you want more than anything else. Whether it’s starting something new or letting go of something that’s been holding you back, remember, you are stronger than you think. Each of us holds the ultimate power to make decisions that will keep us moving forward on the never-ending journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Quick Hit Workout Wednesday

Workout or Chill Out? Each Has its Benefits for Your BodPhoto by Leslie Hassler

Workout or Chill Out?
Each Has Benefits for Your Body
Photo by Leslie Hassler

I really don’t know where the time is going, but here we are kicking off the eighth Workout Wednesday of 2013!

As the nickname suggests, this is the one day each week where I tend to push it even harder than usual at the gym. Also, the fact that I’ve found a new group exercise class to add to my arsenal of calorie-busting, muscle-boosting workouts makes Wednesday one of my favorite days of the entire week!

As I spent most of yesterday traveling back from Texas and didn’t have time for a typical workout, I’m even more eager to get back in action today. It’s amazing how good you can feel after one day of rest. In fact, there are countless studies out there proving why you need to take at least one day off each week. It’s during the rest that your muscles recover and actually have time to grow.

If you need more evidence that taking a day or two off can actually be beneficial for your well-being and possibly help you amp up your energy levels, I’m sharing a recent article from NYTimes.com. I’d love to hear your thoughts about it!

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/13/why-four-workouts-a-week-may-be-better-than-six/?src=me&ref=general

There are certain weeks when life will throw some curve balls at you and put the brakes on your typical fitness routine. The key is taking things one day at a time and making this day work for your life at this moment. If this Workout Wednesday turns into your rest day for the week, remember, down time is a crucial component in the never-ending journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Find Your New Motivation

Set Some New Goals & Knock 'Em Out of the Park!Photo by Leslie Hassler

Set Some New Goals & Knock ‘Em Out of the Park!
Photo by Leslie Hassler

Happy President’s Day!

Guess what? Remember those health and fitness resolutions you made at the start of the year? Well, you’ve reached a major milestone as we’re seven weeks in to 2013. You may remember from some of my previous posts that it takes about six weeks for new behaviors to set in as habits. If packing your gym bag has become as routine as brushing your teeth before going to bed or you look forward to that daily dose of carrots and celery – kudos to you!

You’ve made it this far, so whatever you do, don’t stop now! On this particular Motivation Monday, I encourage you to sit down and set some new goals for yourself to keep your momentum in tact. Think about something that will keep you pushing through your weight training circuits; making it to that group exercise class on time and chopping veggies for the work week.

Maybe there’s a spring break trip in the not-so-distant future that involves pulling the bathing suit out from the back of the closet. Perhaps there’s a wedding, reunion or other special occasion that you’d like to show up for feeling your best.

Of course, your motivation could stem from your desire to gear up for a whole new season of new activities. This could be the spring you start training for your first 5K or marathon. Maybe you’d like to be able to play a sport with your son or daughter or simply have more energy for outdoor activities like hiking or cycling when the weather gets nicer.

If you’re still searching for your motivation, here’s a bit of humorous encouragement courtesy of the Huffington Post last week. (Thanks to my friend and colleague Joe for sharing this link with me!)

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/12/funny-gym-signs-photos_n_2568261.html?utm_hp_ref=comedy#slide=2034858

Remember, following a healthy lifestyle isn’t a sprint to the finish. It’s a lifelong marathon filled with countless opportunities to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Flexibility Fix

Guess what? You’ve made it to the sixth Workout Wednesday of 2013!

In about another week, the exercise and healthy eating habits you started in January should start feeling more like a part of your daily routine. So whatever you do, don’t give up now!

Don't forget to stretch!

Don’t Forget to Stretch!
Photo by Leslie Hassler

I’m actually a little miffed with myself that it’s taken me until this point in the new year to remind you about one of the most crucial yet often overlooked part of a well-balanced exercise program: flexibility training. One of my biggest regrets in my life-long love affair with fitness is that it took me far too long to incorporate a healthy amount of flexibility training into my own routine. Since many of you are still working out some kinks in your exercise program, I didn’t want this habit-forming time to end without reminding you to take care of the kinks in your body, too!

What kind of kinks am I talking about? Well, unless you’re a runway model, chances are your posture isn’t the best thanks to countless hours spent sitting at a desk crouched over a keyboard or stuck behind the wheel commuting or shuttling the kids around town. If you’re on your feet all day or paint houses or work in construction, you can also suffer from tightness thanks to repetitive motions.

While I can’t assess the exact points of tension in your body, one of the most common problem areas are the latissimus dorsi, or lats, in your back.  I know when I’m on deadline at work and don’t take enough breaks to step away from the computer, my lats start screaming for some TLC.

So on this Workout Wednesday, here’s a look at one stretch for this sore spot that I think is worthy of an encore performance: the static latissimus dorsi ball stretch.

  1. The prep: Kneel in front of the stability ball with one arm on the ball and the other hand on the ground. (Training tip: For the arm that’s on the ball, make sure your thumb is pointed up.)
  2. The move: Draw your navel upward and reach forward with the arm that’s on the ball. You will feel a stretch along the side of your torso into the lower back.
  3. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds. Return to start position, switch sides and repeat.

Photos by Lauren Bachner
At Hype Gym

For an active variation on this stretch, you would prepare for and execute the stretch the same way. However, once you reach your arm forward, hold the stretch for 2 seconds, then roll back to the start and repeat for 5-10 reps. Switch sides and repeat.

As we move forward in 2013, don’t be surprised to find I re-visit the importance of flexibility training in any fitness program. Taking care of those tight muscles is a surefire way to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Workout Wednesday: “Romper Room” Style

Laura_DeAngelis-8445

Smile & Remember:
Fitness CAN Be Fun!
Photo by Leslie Hassler

So here we are, four weeks after the start of 2013 and you’re sticking with those plans to make this year a healthy one. Way to go! If you’ve had a few off days, don’t sweat it. (Remember, this is the gal who abandoned her chopped veggies for a steady infusion of chocolate treats during a five-day vacation in Amsterdam!)

On this Workout Wednesday, I wanted to tell you about the new group exercise class I’ve become addicted to. If you’re looking for me on a Wednesday night, chances are you’ll find me front and center at the “UXF Burn” class offered at the New York Sports Club not far from where I live. NYSC describes the class as a 45-minute combination of cardio and strength training that can burn up to 600 calories in one class. However, I think the words of my high-energy instructor Lou offer a better definition of what makes the cross-training experience such a rush: “It’s Romper Room for adults.”

Lou starts us off with the necessary warm-up and then gets our hearts pumping with some killer cardio circuits for the first 25 minutes of class with a wide variety of moves including jumping jacks, ice skaters and high-knees. We then keep our heart rates up as we move through high-rep / moderate-weight circuits to work every muscle group with exercises ranging from squats with bicep curls to lat rows and kickbacks. Last week, instead of the whole class doing the same strength-training routine at once, she divided us into two sides for a “face-off.” Each side of the class had a series of six exercises to complete in 90-second intervals before switching sides. These included:

  • Bridge with chest press using a 15-20 pound weight
  • Jump rope
  • Double crunches
  • Dips using a step
  • Pikes

“Romper Room” indeed! The variety of exercises and the non-stop movement between each one makes this class fly by in record time for me. I can honestly say I have so much fun during this class I almost forget I’m actually working out, at least until the sound of my pounding heart fills my ears and sweat blinds my eyeballs!

I realize you may not have access to a class exactly like this one, and you may not even have any interesting in seeking one out. However, I hope telling you about my excitement over the addition to my routine serves as a reminder that exercise can be fun and even fitness veterans like me are always looking for new ways to enjoy working out. Whether it’s jumping rope or trying a new group exercise class  filled with moves that make you feel like a kid again, remember, variety is a key component to staying on track with your plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Happy 1st Workout Wednesday of 2013!

Oh Yeah - You Got This!Photo by Leslie Hassler

Oh Yeah – You Got This!
Photo by Leslie Hassler

Happy New Year, everyone! If you’re like a lot of people, you probably just wrapped up a holiday season filled with friends, family and yes, a lot of food. In between the cheer, there’s also a good chance you made up your list of  New Year’s resolutions and some kind of health and fitness goals rank in the top spots. So I couldn’t think of a better time for my first post of 2013 to appear in Cyberspace than the first Workout Wednesday of this new year!

While I love seeing so many new enthusiastic faces at the gym in January, I hate the fact that many of those newbies are long gone by March. So, I kick off 2013 with a few tips that I hope will help anyone who has decided THIS is the year they’re finally going to make those fitness resolutions stick long after Old Man Winter has made room for Spring.

  1. What’s Done is Done. Don’t waste your energy regretting the occasions you overdid it during the holidays. I have my own memories of indulging in a  one too many cocktails or homemade cookies. Today is a new day.
  2. Adjust the Attitude. Think of exercise as a “chore,” and you’ll be done with your new routine in no time. Instead, turn exercise into “Me Time.” No matter what kind of stress I’m dealing with at the office or at home, the time I spend working out is the one time my brain goes into neutral. Whether I can spend a quick 30-40 minutes or a luxurious 90 at the gym, the only “noise” filling my mind during those precious minutes is my favorite music. So, use exercise as a break from the ordinary, and before you know it, you’ll be looking forward to sweating out whatever ails you.
  3. Step Back for a Reality Check. Saying you’re going to exercise seven days a week is one of the easiest ways to set yourself up for failure – especially if you haven’t worked out one day in the past several months. The first day you miss, you’ll be discouraged. That makes it too easy to say, “Well, I just blew the whole week, so forget it!” A better approach is to aim for a minimum of three days each week for the first month. As you start experiencing the endorphin-rush and other benefits from exercising, you’ll want to spend more than three days working out. Discouragement aside, everyone should take a  minimum of one day off  each week to let the body rest.
  4. Find the Right Fitness Fit. Santa left you the latest version of the “Insanity” DVD program under your tree. Meanwhile, all your exercise DVDs still have the plastic wrap on them and they’ve been hanging with the dust bunnies under your bed since last year. Why not return the new program and put the money toward a cool pair of sneakers and some moisture-wicking workout wear? Grab a friend – who you’ve also resolved to spending more time with! -and start those power walks or sign up for exercise classes together at your local gym or community center. Have no idea what to try? Splurge and hire a personal trainer to get you started on the right track.
  5. Avoid Extreme Food Restrictions. If you deny yourself something you truly enjoy for too long, it’s only a matter of time before you break down and go overboard. So, the chocolate bar you could have had last week turns into five chocolate bars, washed down with a chocolate shake and a side of cupcakes two months later.

I leave you with this reality: there will be “off” days. Even as a lifelong fitness enthusiast, there are times I simply don’t want to workout and all I want to eat is red wine and chocolate. It happens. Just don’t let one bad day throw you off course.  Just wipe away the crumbs, prep your gym bag and remember tomorrow is your next chance to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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