Don't be left out!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Kettlebell Ladder Workout

This is one of my favorite kettlebell workouts for beginners and veterans alike.  With increments of low reps for each move, participants are able to execute each move with proper form without too much fatigue.  It's also a great way to help ingrain the movement patterns of a squat and a deadlift.  Although they have many similarities, they are two very different moves.

Remember, regardless of your experience, please move through this workout at your own pace, resting as needed.  If at any time you feel your form start to break down, stop, rest and reset.

For total beginners, try moving through this workout for ten minutes.

For a review on proper kettlebell swing technique, check out my "how to" post here!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

How To: The Turkish Get-Up

It never fails, every time I practice Turkish get-ups in the gym, someone always gives me a, "what in the hell are you doing?" look.

To the unfamiliar eye, a Turkish get-up or TGU can look a little awkward, but when done correctly, this functional, full body movement has many benefits.  As Brandon Hetzler from Strong First points out, the long list of perks include:
  • Promotes cross lateralization (getting right brain to work with left side)
  • Promotes upper body stability
  • Promotes lower body stability
  • Promotes reflexive stability of the trunk and extremities
  • Ties the right arm to the left leg, and left arm to the right leg
  • Gets the upper extremities working reciprocally (legs too)
  • Stimulates the vestibular system (1 of the 3 senses that contribute to balance)
  • Stimulates the visual system (the second of 3 senses that contribute to balance)
  • Stimulates the proprioception system (3rd oft he 3 systems that contribute to balance)
  • Promotes spatial awareness
  • Develops a front/back weight shift
  • Develops upper body strength, trunks strength, and hip strength
That's a pretty impressive list of benefits for just one movement but it's not easily executed.  

While there are a few different styles of TGUs and a spectrum of ways as how how to include them into your routine (including but not limited to: assessment, warm-up, corrective work, strength gains focused,  finishers, etc) I'd encourage you to master a body weight or light weight dumbbell/kettlebell before progression to more advanced versions like heavier kettelebells or barbells.  

I've broken the Turkish Get-up into 7 segments as follows: 

  1. Lay face up, on the ground.  Rolling over to grab the kettlebell, push it up so it's directly above your right shoulder.  Bring your right knee up so your foot is flat on the ground.  Place your left arm and leg at about 45 degrees out away from your body.  
  2. Pushing through the heel of your right leg and left arm raise up to your elbow.  Be sure to keep the kettlebell (or fist if your practicing with body weight only) directly above your shoulder with your eyes on it the entire movement.  
  3. From the elbow, press up onto your palm
  4. Press your hips to the ceiling in to a three point bridge. Keep the kettlebell in line with your shoulder and wrist.  
  5. Swing your left leg back though behind you, and place your knee on the floor
  6. Press up off your left hand into a half kneeling position
  7. Again, keeping the KB directly above your wrist and shoulder, come to standing.  
  8. To finish the movement, follow the steps back through in reverse order.
Important tips to remember: 
  • Begin with a body weight get-up first.  If it help to replicate the proper positioning of a weight, place a shoe on top of your knuckles and try to keep it in place the entire movement.  
  • Keep your shudders packed (shoulders down, away from your ears, and shoulder blade flat)
  • Keep your wrist in a nice straight line with your knuckles.  (see photo below)
  • If your struggling, don't get frustrated.  This is a complex, difficult move to perform correctly.  Spend a 5-10 minutes practicing 3-4 times a week and you'll see improvement.  

Proper wrist position for a Turkish get-up
Your turn:  Have you tried a Turkish get-up?  

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Open For Business

I whole heartedly believe that lifting weights has the ability to help women find inner and outer strength, feel confident, feel empowered and beyond that, a girl who lifts is pretty bad ass.  And who doesn't want to be bad ass?

Next to my family, there's nothing I'm more passionate about than helping women feel comfortable in their own skin AND in weight room.  In my opinion, the two go hand and hand.  The confidence that can come from lifting naturally seems to spill over into other areas of life, which will leave you a force to be reckoned with.  

You don't have to look far to discover the many benefits of including strength training in your workout routine but with all the information (and misinformation) out there, it can be overwhelming to get started on your own. 

That's what I'm here for!

For many months now I've been trying to figure out a way to help more women get started on the right foot lifting weights without spending every night in the gym training clients in person.  Enter ONLINE TRAINING! Why it took me so long to think of this…I don't know, but I'm super stoked to offer an online training option to women who are looking for…..
  • Personalized workout/training plans 
  • Video form checks as needed
  • Accountability and support via email, text, phone calls, etc (which ever way works best for you)
Would I love to work with you in person?  Absolutely!  But the reality is, not everyone belongs to my gym, not everyone lives in the area, not everyone wants/needs in depth attention that comes with personal training and finally, not everyone can afford multiple personal training sessions.  Nonetheless, 
I want to help.  I want you to succeed.  I want you to reach your goals. 

Each online training package will be tailored to meet your needs and schedule, and there are no minimum ability requirements.  I'm happy to work with you whether you can do 20 push-ups or none at all.  

I'll be honest, because I'm new to online training and I promise to give my undivided attention to tailoring workouts that suit you, answer questions and providing unlimited amount of support, I'm limiting my online training to five women (for now).  If you're interested or have additional questions please don't hesitate to contact me via email or through my Facebook page for details on pricing.



Thursday, October 2, 2014

Building Confidence in the Weight Room

I have to brag for a minute about a few gym friends of mine.  This group of ladies approached me about getting started with weight training.  These women were no strangers to the gym as most of them attend multiple group classes a day.

They all have a great workout routine already but when it came to weight training they were a little unsure of where to start.  I offered a few suggestions and I'm happy to report that a few of them are enjoying the New Rules for Lifting for Women training program!  Ok, happy is a total understatement.  I'm truly giddy for them.

They're off to a great start but ironically enough these women all had the same thing to say about it….they all wanted to get more confident in the weight room.

They aren't alone.  I hear this from a lot of women.  The weight room can be an intimidating place.  There may be equipment you're not familiar with,  people who look to be serious lifters, you're probably out in the open for people to watch your form, no teacher to tell you what to do…. I get it.  I totally get it.  If you put me on a stair mill I'd feel the same way.

So what do a lot of women do instead?  As I mentioned on Facebook, it looks like to me that they gather a few pieces of equipment and set up shop in a small corner of the gym to complete their strength routine.

Quite a lot of you commented that you too experienced some anxiety in the weight room, completed your workouts in a designated women's area and/or felt intimidated and a few of you noted that at least women in the corner are doing a strength workout.

It's understandable that women feel like this.  I too felt anxious stepping foot into 22nd Street Barbell despite pervious lifting experience.  Here's the thing though….in my opinion the corner isn't good enough.  Sure the corner workout stuff can be a stepping stone to ease into the real deal but it shouldn't be your final destination.  I know you're probably thinking, "What do you care where I do my workout, Annie?  Get off my back" right?

Honestly, I'm not here to make anyone feel bad if you're cozy in the corner.  I want to encourage you because you're capable of more than a corner workout.  Everyone is.  Here is what I see typically happen….If you limit yourself to the corner (or whatever isolated part of the gym you're in) there's a chance that you're also going to limit yourself to the same equipment and movements week after week.  You also might be too nervous to grab heavier dumbbells, too anxious to try pull-ups (or modified pull-ups), and too self conscious to learn proper form for a barbell squat.  So instead, you stay safe in your corner, in your comfort zone.  Eight weeks go by, you finish your strength training program and figure that's all there is- totally missing out on exploring your true potential.  To me, it's like saying you been Chicago when you really just had a layover at O'Hare.  It's not quite the same experience.

There is no denying the fact that some of you may be able to get a killer workout in your corner sanctuary, experience some strength gains and I completely understand that not everyone is as interested in lifting as I am but if you want to take your lifting to the next level you have to get out of the corner. By staying in the corner you're robbing yourself of the powerful experience that comes with conquering the weight room.  To me, the corner symbolizes lack of confidence, and I don't want anyone stuck there forever!  It's not just about physical strength gains.  It's also about gaining the confidence that you can walking to a room, do your thang and not give two shits what anyone else is thinking.  And that type of confidence doesn't stop when you leave the gym.  I promise you it will spill over into all areas of your life.  Of course if you're happy with the results you get in the corner, stay there.  Otherwise, I don't want any of you to miss out on that.  I really, really don't.  And THAT's why I care.

While I could give you a list of ways to ease into lifting in the weight room like...
  • Ask gym staff for times of day it's less crowded
  • Ask a friend who has experience lifting to go with you
  • Hire a personal trainer to take you through workouts in the weight room
  • Research how to execute any moves in your workout ahead of time
…but the best way to build confidence in the weight room is … spend time in there.  

Pretty scientific right?  I know it's not a magical cure but it works.  The truth is you just gotta get in there and start.  Feeling at home in the weight room won't happen over night but with each workout you complete you'll feel a little bit more confident.  If it helps, pick one, just ONE exercise you know you can do well and do it in the "real weight room".  The next time, pick two exercises.  Keep adding until you're comfortable.

Finally, I think it's important to note that some of those meat head looking dudes you might find intimidating may actually have something of value to offer you weather it be a form tip, a new move or a spot during a heavy lift.  Some of them might have big muscles and tattoos but they're not all assholes.  In fact, I've gained a ton of lifting knowledge just from listening and watching to those tatted up, buff dudes.

Your turn:  Have you ever felt uncomfortable in the weight room?  
If so, how did you build confidence?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness: Good or Bad?

In today's fitness world where depleting, exhausting, strenuous workouts are worshiped, being "sore" after a workout has become a right of passage.  Pinterest and InstaGram accounts are filled with fitspo images like those below, and being sore is worn like a badge of honor.

Love it or hate it, the muscle soreness that can follow a workout is referred to as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).  People are most likely to experience DOMS when they participate in a new activity/movement or when a familiar activity is completed with higher intensity.  It typically peaks at 24 to 48 hours after the activity and should improve shortly thereafter, but it can vary greatly between individuals.

Though the exact cause of DOMS is slightly debatable and complex to say the least, it is thought to be caused by microtrauma, specifically, micotears in the muscle fibers which can cause inflammation in the muscle.  To put it more simply, its the breaking down and rebuilding of your muscles.

In addition, research has suggested that specifically eccentric contractions (lowering a weight in which is causes the muscle to lengthen) may cause an increase in the likelihood of DOMS than other movements, which may explain why exercises like squats and RDL's leave us fearing stairs for days afterwards.

Anytime you start a new program, activity or introduce new movements into your routine you can expect some soreness to follow but is being sore after every sweat session an indicator of a good workout?  Yes and no.  Let's just say, it's complicated.

Bret Contreras and Brad Schoenfeld wrote a great article for the Strength and Conditioning Journal examining this topic.  While there has been a fair amount of research connecting DOMS to hypertrophy (enlargement of muscle cell size) there has also been equally as much if not more research suggesting that muscle soreness caused by DOMS should not be your only indicator of a productive workout.

Before you start your next leg workout with the goal of making sitting on a toilet painful consider these important points from the Contreras and Schoenfeld article…

It could be your genes:  DOMS can vary greatly from individual to individual.  Some gym goers experience soreness more often while others experience it hardly ever.  In other words, just because your lifting buddy is bragging that he's not sore at all but you can barely walk, doesn't necessarily mean he's stronger or better conditioned.

Some muscles may be more/less prone to DOMS: Anecdotally, Contreras and Schoenfeld note that some muscle groups may be more or less prone to soreness and despite the lack of DOMS, strength gains can still be made.

Regular exposure to specific activity may decrease DOMS: Frequently engaging in an activity may help to reduce muscle soreness over time so what leaves you stiff and sore initially may eventually taper off even though your strength may still be improving.   

DOMS may potentially cause reduced range of motion and strength:  In addition to general muscle soreness, reduced range of motion, local swelling, tenderness to touch and even decreased muscle strength can also accompany DOMS.  If these symptoms haven't fully resided, or at least improved, by the time your next workout rolls around you could increase your risk of injury.  In fact one study showed that exercise induced muscle soreness (which happens shortly following exercise as opposed to days later) can have neuromuscular effects lasting up to ten days following exercise!

DOM may potentially reduce motivation and excitement: Muscle soreness may not just affect us physically.  Although a bit inconclusive, research has suggested that DOMS may decrease motivation for future workouts.  If you find yourself dreading or even worse, skipping your next workout due to DOMS you may want to dial it down a notch.

Because many factors such as genetics, muscles trained, frequency of training, etc all play a role in the presence (or lack there of) of delayed onset muscle soreness it should not be the only measure of a productive workout.

Unfortunately, the verdict is still out as to whether treatments such as exercise, walking, massage (including foam rolling), stretching, supplements, or hot/cold therapy truly help but in the mean time including a proper warm-up and easing into new activities could aid in prevention of delayed onset muscle soreness.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Start with a Stroll: The Benefits of Walking

Walking has many benefits.

Wait…don't leave yet!

I seriously debated giving this post a title totally off topic because I'm convinced people poo-poo the idea of walking far too often.

As you know, walking has been around for centuries, safe for the majority of populations, can be done with little equipment (just shoes really…and clothing.  No naked walkers please), completed indoors or out and can often be a great way to exercise with a friend or get some needed alone time.

I know you know walking has benefits, but just in case, here's a quick reminder form the American Heart Association.
Research has shown that walking at least 30 minutes a day can help you:

  • Improve your blood pressure, blood sugar levels and blood lipid profile
  • Enhance your mental well-being
  • Reduce your risk of osteoporosis
  • Reduce your risk of breast and colon cancer
Despite all these reasons listed above I often hear comments like….

-I don't feel like I'm working hard enough when I walk
-Walking isn't difficult
-I don't even sweat
-I feel like I should be doing more

A few nights ago, I took a short, solo walk around my neighborhood.  The air was just a bit chilly.  The leaves are starting to change.  It was almost dark.  It was just perfect.  I'll admit, I was feeling a little down because I didn't plan well enough to get a workout in earlier in the day and "settled" for a quick walk before dinner.  Keep in mind, I had already worked out the six days prior to this so my guilt of not working out was stemming from unrealistic expectations, not from a lack of actual workouts.  In less than thirty minutes my mood was lifted, my stress decreased and I was more energized.

It occurred to me then I place entirely way too much emphasis on the physical benefits of exercise and often under value the mental and emotional benefits that come from even the simplest of movements like walking.  Exercise doesn't always need to be hard, difficult to leave me in a pool of sweat to be valuable.  Judging from the feedback I get when I suggest walking to others, it would appear that I'm not the only one who thinks this.

I could refer you to studies like this, this or this to prove to you that walking can help reduce anxiety, improve self esteem, and lift your mood almost instantly but it all really boils down to this equation

The psychological benefits of exercise can be just as important as the physical ones.  

A blog post titled, "The 'Do Something' Principle" by Mark Manson popped up in my news feed yesterday.  I don't know Mark and this happened to be the first ever blog post of his I've read, but in this particular post he pointed out that doing something, anything can lead to more.
"Your actions create further emotional reactions and inspirations and move on to motivate your future actions. Taking advantage of this knowledge, we can actually re-orient our mindset in the following way:
Action –> Inspiration –> Motivation

The conclusion is that if you lack the motivation to make an important change in your life, then do something, anything really, and then harness the reaction to that action as a way to begin motivating yourself."
May I suggest that that "something" Mr. Manson is talking about could be….a walk?

That walk just might lead to an improved attitude, which could lead to making better choices, which could lead to better health.  As Mr. Manson pointed out, once you get the ball rolling, let the momentum take over.  Exercise doesn't always have to leave us utterly exhausted to be beneficial.  Sometimes it starts with a simple stroll.


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

"All About That Bass": Body Positive Music?

Last week a mature debate started when Mandie from Women Are Hungry posted her thoughts on Meghan Trainor's summer hit, "All About That Bass".  Trainor's song has found residency on iTunes top ten singles for many, many weeks now but it seems it's stirring up quite the conversation.

Fans of the song claim it's a much needed, upbeat, retro sounding tune that celebrates thick(er) women while critics are turned off about terms like, "skinny bitches" and "boys like…". One online publication even rewrote her lyrics for her to be more inclusive.

Do I like the song?  Yes.  Am I offended by it?  No.  Do I have way more offensive music in my library than this? Yes. Actually, I'd be embarrassed to share some of the lyrics in the songs I listen to.  Do I critique every single line of every song I listen to like some have with Trainor's song?  No.

Do I think you should like the song?  I don't know- that's for you to decide.

While I do enjoy the song, what I really enjoy is discussion that's surrounding it.

Regardless of what side of the argument you fall on, I hope we can agree that phrases like "skinny bitches", offensive or not, aren't necessary, and insulting someone else to prove a point should never be in vogue.

While I do think that Meghan Trainor's song had good intentions to promote a body positive image for girls and women, music that promotes self-love isn't a new concept. As my friend powerlifting blogger friend, Janis,  pointed out there are many songs and musicians that have been around for years that promote self-love, compassion for our bodies and acceptance without throwing stones at others.

So if you found you found yourself disappointed in Trainor's song (or even if you didn't), check out these top picks for body positive music for an instant mood boost!

"Video" India Aire:  

"Freckles" Natasha Bedingfield

"Try"  Colbie Caillat

"Brave"  Sara Bareilles

"Shake It Off" Taylor Swift

Your turn:  What's your favorite body positive song?