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Bring on Spring!

A Quick Weekend Drive to Jones Beach Got Me Psyched for Spring!

A Quick Weekend Drive to Jones Beach Got Me Psyched for Spring!

I love to sleep. However, I didn’t mind losing an hour of snooze time this weekend thanks to Daylight Saving Time. Being able to hang on to the sunshine a little longer each day is definitely worth a few extra yawns.

I’m also ecstatic that there are only nine days left until the start of spring. Whatever’s been in the air this winter, I’m ready for it to move on out of here and bring on a new season filled with warmer temperatures and sunnier dispositions.

If you’re one of the many people who’ve been suffering from the “Winter Blues” now’s a great time to start shaking them off by thinking about some new moves to mix up your fitness routine. Remember, the extra hour of daylight nixes any excuse about hating to take that post-work walk in the dark. Come on people, use the light to boost your spirits and get moving!

Of course, if you’ve been hibernating all winter, remember to re-start your engines with care. Whether you’re taking on a serious fitness routine for the first time ever or if you’ve simply been on an extended, here are some reminders to help you safely spring into action:

  • Talk to your doctor. If you’ve never exercised before, you should make sure your heart is in good shape for a serious shake-up. If you’re already on heart medication or managing conditions like diabetes or asthma, it’s crucial to speak to your doctor about how to proceed with an exercise routine. Similarly, if you have any old injuries, it’s a good idea to make sure to gauge where you are in the healing process so you avoid activity that could set you back again.
  • Talk to a trainer. Even if I wasn’t a certified personal trainer, I’d suggest treating yourself to a session or two with someone who can assess any muscle imbalances, show you proper form and help you create a comprehensive exercise program that helps you reach your goals.
  • Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day. Start slow. Seriously. If you’ve been sitting on your couch all winter, it’s probably not a good idea to jump into a 60-minute boot camp class. Don’t know exactly where to start? Stretching, core work and cardio are always a safe bet.
  • No Gym? No Problem! If you don’t like the gym, well this is YOUR time of year! Treat yourself to a new pair of running sneakers or cross trainers and start pounding the pavement in your neighborhood or find some trails at a nearby park or recreation area. Or maybe you’ve always wanted to start cycling? Time to pick up the tennis racquet?
  • Got Gym? Check Out What’s New!  I visited my parents over the weekend, and if I’d checked the updated schedule at the New York Sports Club near their house, I would have arrived 20 minutes earlier Saturday morning and made it to Zumba!  Along with normal group exercise classes, smaller training classes are more popular than ever and now’s the time some of those classes may move outdoors. I know I can’t wait to start hitting it hard in Central Park again on Saturday mornings for Roberto Murichi’s killer workouts!

So, if you’ve been searching for some motivation to get moving, take advantage of the longer days and make this your time to shine. No doubt a little extra solar power could be just the boost we all need to fuel our drive to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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Birthday Reflections

What a difference a year makes!

As the celebration of my 38th birthday winds down, I can’t help but sit here and think about the plans I made on this very same date last year.

It was February 9th, 2011 when I made the phone call to reserve my spot for the National Academy of Sports Medicine‘s certified personal trainer exam. I started studying immediately following a weekend of birthday fun.  Three months later – May 21st, 2011 to be exact – I passed the exam. These days when I’m not busy with my full-time production job or writing posts for this blog, I brush up on my studies to create exercise programs for my personal training clients.

While I’ve thought about becoming a personal trainer since finishing my days at Northwestern University, there’s a whole other aspect of fitness I never expected to fall in love with in my 30’s. As a lifetime lover of dance and exercise, I’m not sure why I didn’t give Zumba Fitness® a try until November of 2011, but I guess that old expression really is true: better late than never. It only took one demo class to get me hooked, and a just last month, I became a licensed Zumba instructor. Now, I’m trying to figure out how to fit some practice and choreography time into my schedule along with my full-time job, personal training, blogging and the rest of life’s everyday hustle and bustle so I can actually start teaching Zumba in the spring.

For me, this is just the latest move in the you-can’t-plan-everything-in-your-life playbook. Even when you set a course, make a plan and list your goals – something may come along to throw things off course. And that something can be the best thing you never planned for.

Some birthday love at work

I’m excited about the start of a new year in my life. Like everyone else, there are trials and tribulations I’ve dealt with this past year that I’m happy to leave in the past. There are other challenges I’m struggling with today and will continue to grapple with tomorrow. But just like in years past, exercise will remain one of the few constants that can help keep my head on straight even on my most stressful days and lowest times.

So, I end this work week another year older. I’m not sure if that makes me another year wiser, but I am looking forward to discovering what lies ahead in the next 365 days and all the new opportunities to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Personal Training 101

Happy MLK, Jr. Day! I hope you’re enjoying the first long weekend of 2012.

I’m feeling extremely lucky to have kicked off the New Year enjoying back-to-back productive and life-changing weekends. Last weekend was all about becoming licensed Zumba® instructor. This weekend, I kicked my personal training goals into high gear.

Prep materials & paperwork for training sessions

While I’ve written about guiding my friend Jared along his journey with a first-time gym membership, this weekend I conducted my first official personal training sessions at Hype gym here in New York City.  I’m grateful to my colleagues Rebecca, Colleen, Lea and Lauren for signing up for these first workouts, and I’m already looking forward to the next round!

Each of these women came to me with a similar goal of reducing body fat and increasing the appearance of muscle definition, but each had her own unique background based on several factors including medical history and daily activities (e.g. wearing heels or sitting for a good part of the day because of her occupation). This is why it’s crucial to understand why a “one-size-fits-all” approach to exercise isn’t the best course of action. Just because your best friend has gotten great results from taking a certain group exercise class or running through a specific high intensity circuit on the weight floor doesn’t mean the same routine will work for you – especially if you’re body isn’t properly prepared for that type of workout.

This is where a personal trainer can help. Along with collecting subjective information about your general and medical history, we analyze crucial objective information (measurable data), as well. This includes performance assessments, one of most important being the overhead squat assessment. As I learned through my NASM instruction, this dynamic postural assessment is key in creating a safe and effective exercise program. Observing a person’s feet, knees, lumbo- pelvic-hip complex and shoulder complex while he or she performs an overhead squat shows which overactive muscles need to be stretched and which underactive muscles need to be strengthened. For example, a couple of the women had knees that turned out when performing their overhead squats. That meant we had to stretch the adductors (inner thighs), bicep femoris (hamstring) and tensor fasciae latae (TFL) as part of a warm up before jumping into the rest of the workout.

As far as the workouts are concerned, each woman has begun the first phase of her training: stabilization endurance. This includes lots of fun exercises like dumbbell chest presses and shoulder presses on a stability ball as well as bicep curls standing on one leg instead of two. These exercises have an added bonus: since the body needs to work harder to stay stable, you can end up burning a lot of calories. Each woman will remain in this phase of training for the next four weeks.

In the weeks ahead, I’ll keep you posted on their progress (here’s hoping they come back for lots of sessions!) and also share some specific exercise programs that will hopefully help you with your routine so you can have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

I Got Myself to the Gym. Now What?

You took the plunge and signed up for a gym membership. You change into your workout wear, turn on the iPod…and find yourself completely overwhelmed surrounded by a sea of equipment.  Don’t worry, you’re not alone.  One of my best gal pals from Northwestern University, Molly, recently posed the following questions:

“My problem with getting/staying fit right now is not knowing exactly what to do with myself once I’m at the gym. Should I just focus on cardio? (I’d like to lose a few pounds.) If so, do I stick with one machine like the treadmill and work on building speed and endurance, or switch it up and try the elliptical sometimes? Should I start again with the weight machines, which I haven’t done in a while? (I’d also like to tone up and gain strength.) Take a class?”

Two important points to address right away:

1) They key to losing weight is burning more calories than you take in. That can be done through cardio and/or resistance training. Whether you’re an exercise novice or seasoned gym-goer, your body will benefit most from a combination of the two.

2) Find what you like to do at the gym, and you will stick with it. Then with some help from perseverance, self-discipline and motivation, you can get the results you’re looking for.

Reminding myself how good I feel after a workout fuels my perseverance and self-discipline.  As for motivation, if you’re new to the gym, I strongly recommend meeting with a personal trainer at least once. Aside from helping you get familiarized with the gym, a personal trainer will also conduct fitness assessments to determine if you have any postural distortions that need correcting as part of your routine. In the simplest terms, you will learn what areas of your body need to be stretched and which need to be strengthened.

Many gyms welcome new members with a complimentary training session. If your gym doesn’t offer this service and a personal training session is not in your budget, then recruit a friend who does know his or her way around the gym to be your training partner.

Group exercise classes can also be a great source of motivation. With classes ranging from cardio kickboxing to Zumba, there is something out there for everyone. To avoid boredom at the gym, I’m a big fan of mixing up group exercise classes with your own program during the week.

Cardio is a topic that warrants its own blog post. For now, I recommend newcomers try the treadmill, elliptical and stationary bike for 10 minutes each. Determine which one you like best, then work on being able to run, stride or cycle for up to 30 minutes where you notice a moderate increase in your heart and respiratory rates.  Doing this five to seven days each week with two days of resistance training is a good workout plan to strive for.

One final note: it takes six weeks before something becomes a habit.  So, your first trip to the gym is the first big step in making exercise part of your routine to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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