I’m Back…

Hi friends … I know, I know. It’s been a long time. To say that the summer (okay, and I guess I have to say fall since we are more than a month in now)  was pretty busy. I assure you, I’ve been teaching, I’ve been training, I’ve been working, I’ve been enjoying life … but I think it’s pretty obvious what I haven’t been doing.

But I’m back. I know that before my short (okay, let’s be honest, it’s been like 4 months) hiatus I promised to be better about blogging. Clearly, I did not follow through. So I’m only going to promise that I’m going to try.

So, what have I been up to since (gulp) June? Quite a lot, to be honest. Sometimes I start to wonder how I have time to sleep, let alone breathe. I’m still teaching regularly, but my schedule has changed a bit (we’ll get to that). In July, I spent the annual week at the beach with the family. In August/September, I had the pleasure of attending my girl Emily’s wedding (my first trip to New Hampshire), and the boy and I returned to Hawaii (six days for me … a month for him). I got to the pool whenever I could on the weekends. Football season started, so I’m spending a lot of time watching ESPN (yes, often on the treadmill or elliptical).

As I mentioned, my teaching schedule has changed pretty dramatically in the last couple months. I first cut back on my Sunday classes, and eventually just gave them up all together. I loved teaching them, and I’d been on Sundays for what seems like forever … but at this point in my life, I knew that the only way I was going to get the balance that I really needed into my life was to actually have real weekends. So I cut back (just in time for the boy to start what I can only call insane amounts several weeks at a time of work travel … which is finally close to winding down). In September, I made another change – giving up my Piloxing class on Wednesday nights. I haven’t had the time to put into the prep that I really needed to give the class my all, and I was offered a cycle class at Sport&Health around the same time (and after a year of subbing and turning down my group fitness director – because I was already teaching on the nights she could offer me a permanent class). I decided that it was a good move – and a good change – for me at this point. I was proud to turn the class over to my girl Kim, who had worked hard training with me throughout most of the previous year. I’m sure she’s doing great … I mean, she did train with me and all 😉 So  yes, I’m teaching a ton of cycle now (Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday). But I’ve never made it a secret that cycle is my favorite class to teach (and pretty easy to prep for).

That said … life has been crazy, and I apologize for my absence. I know I’ve said I’ll place more priority on blogging (and quite honestly, I’ve thought about it many, many times without actually taking the initiative to, you know, write a post), and I do mean it. I’m going to try my best to be back and present, friends. And if you are in the NOVA area … come take a class with me:

Tuesdays (XSport Alexandria): 6 p.m. Cycle, 7:15 p.m. Pilates

Wednesdays (Sport&Health Skyline): 6:15 p.m. Cycle

Thursdays (XSport Alexandria): 6 p.m. Cycle

…and I tend to pick up weekend classes when the boy is out of town, so I’ll keep you posted on the “bonus” classes I’ll occasionally teach.

 

Advertisements

Good Form: The Key to Quicker Progress

People vastly underestimate the power of good form. But it’s amazing how this one little thing can make such a big difference.

One of the most important things to focus on not only when you are new to exercise, but at any time, is the positioning of your body – what is commonly referred to as your “form.” It’s an easy way to make your workout more effective, lessen your chances of injury, and, quite honestly, keep you from looking like you don’t know what you’re doing.

I’ll admit to being a bit of a stickler for form. If you’ve ever taken a class with me, undoubtedly you’ve had to endure the repeated chorus of “use your muscle, not your momentum,” “tuck your bellybutton into your spine,” “drop your shoulders down into your back pockets,” “keep your heads up,” “make sure your arms line up with [fill in the blank],” or one of the many other form cues I have a tendency to throw out there. I can blame – and thank – a particularly fantastic trainer I worked with several years ago, who to this day I still credit for teaching me all the little form, routine and nutrition tricks that really do have a huge impact on my workouts today.

That said, here are a couple quick little fixes that can help you get the most out of your workouts, with less chance of ending up with an injury:

  • Stand up straight. It doesn’t matter if you’re lifting, running, walking, or doing something else upright. It makes me INSANE when I see someone crunched over a cardio machine (You know why it feels easier? Because it is. Don’t be lazy.) The more you focus on your posture, the better your body will feel both during and after. Remember: pick standing over seated when you can – it engages the core muscles for a little extra work.
  • Think about your joints. Keep your elbows tight to your sides for bicep curls. Focus on keeping your shoulders down and lifting with your wrists for lateral raises. And whatever you do, don’t let your shoulders creep up into your ears (it’s terrible for your neck)!
  • Be aware of your core. There’s a reason it’s called a core – it is the center of your body, the powerhouse for everything you do. A tight core means stabilized muscles … which are easier to control … which are easier to keep in good form. This is exactly why I recommend Pilates for everyone – it strengthens the core (abs, back, hips), which is only going to make it easier for you to strengthen everything else.
  • Don’t be afraid to start light. I know, women are constantly being told not to be afraid to lift heavy, and men aren’t going to be seen lifting 10 lb. weights. But it’s always best to lift a little lighter than you think you really need to if you are new to something (or trying to correct form). It’ll help you build muscle memory … meaning good form can come naturally from there on out.

Take a little time to focus on your form during your next workout. It may feel a little different at first – but that’s a good thing! And please, PLEASE … stop hanging all over those cardio machines and throwing your weights. You people make me nervous.

Let’s Talk About Effort (a.k.a. My Thoughts on Low Resistance)

I have a confession to make: I’m that creeper next to you on the treadmill/elliptical/stepmill/bike. The one who will slyly peek over at the display on your screen. Sometimes, I’m impressed. Sometimes, I want to make sure I’m “beating” you (no, I’m not proud of this insane competitive streak). Sometimes, I’m wondering why you don’t man up and actually push yourself a little. Tonight, I felt like I was doing a lot of the latter.

So, here’s the thing: when it comes to a machine with adjustable resistance (ellipticals and spin bikes), I’m definitely more of a resistance girl than a speed girl. I do think speed has its place, and depending on the song I’m listening to, I appreciate a quick pace. But I love some hard, heavy hills. As I tell my Spinning classes, heavy resistance is what gives you those pretty lines in your legs. I have a preference for the Precor elliptical, which has a resistance scale of 20. I usually hover somewhere between 11 and 18, depending on which machine I’m using (and what song is playing). Which is what motivated tonight’s post.

This evening, I did a little shoulder workout, and headed upstairs for an hour on the elliptical. I’m planning on a long run tomorrow, so I figured I better go about medium effort tonight, because if the weather is nice, there is no telling how far I’ll actually go before I get bored and stop (last week it was about 9.2 miles. I set out to do 7). I situated myself in the second on three rows, just off center, and got moving. Here’s the thing … though I’m one of those weird people who actually does like cardio – I swear, we exist! – I tend to get bored pretty quickly. Even with the music pumping, and the tv on, I’m still people watching. Which usually sinks me into people judging. And by that, I mean looking at the displays of the screen next to and in front of me. And wondering what these people think they are accomplishing by keeping the resistance on the elliptical at a 5. And still moving at a slow pace.

Now, before you go judging me for … well … judging, let me admit that I don’t know everyone’s goals, or injuries, or abilities. But I’m that person sweating buckets regardless of what I’m doing. I actually had a lady ask me walking into my Spinning class (before which I for some unknown reason had an itching desire to run 5k … I said I’m not right in the head) a few weeks back if it was raining outside. It was not. I was just determined to finish my 3.1 in the 26 minutes I had before I had to open up the studio. Anyway, back to my point – if you look gorgeous when you leave the gym, you probably didn’t get much of a workout. Yes, there are a lucky few out there who don’t sweat like it’s August in Louisiana. But I’m certainly not one of them. And neither are most people.

I guess my point is just this: if you are going to take the time to go to the gym, and do something good for yourself, give yourself something to be proud of. If you can’t feel your legs working, your heart rate raising, your blood pumping, then you are likely not living up to your full potential. Here’s a fact for you: below a certain resistance, you’re not really doing the work – momentum is (this is especially true the higher up the incline on an elliptical – momentum is dragging your feet along, making it challenging to keep the leg muscles engaged – and get the benefits of the exercise).

If you’re slogging along at a resistance of 1 – yes, I saw more than on person set at 1 – you’d be better off doing something else. Anything else. You’re probably bored anyway. Challenge yourself. It is, after all, the challenge that makes you stronger – and breeds the will to work harder, to be more, to ultimately help build the body you never thought you could have.

All You Need to Know About Sports Nutrition

100300

You can see the original and find out more about Now Foods and Now Fitness here.

My Students are Becoming Instructors. I Feel Like a Proud Mama.

I know, I know. I’ve been a slacker lately (from a blog perspective). But there has been a LOT going on … and I have some exciting news to share – albeit about a week later than I really wanted to talk about it.

I’ve been teaching group fitness classes for about five years now, and it is, hands down, the most rewarding job in the world. Though it’s more of my free-time fun activity vs. my actual job (at least for now … someday …), I’ve found not only the success stories you hear, but also the relationships you build to be pretty amazing.

Which brings me to what I want to talk about today. I’ve had a few girls take the leap and attend certification classes for a number of formats throughout the years (and another one is picking up another certification soon). Let’s be honest: it’s easy to sign up for a class, but to actually take the time to practice, get an audition, rock it, and get hired by a gym? It’s a lot more difficult (and time consuming) than most people realize.

Which is why I was THRILLED to find out that last week, the first of my “babies” (yes, I’m claiming them now) did all of these things. My girl Kim has been a regular in my Piloxing classes for a while now, and took the leap of faith to get certified herself back in July. And last week, she got herself hired to sub at XSport.

Yes, there is still some work to do, and she’ll do a little team teaching and likely still practicing (and obviously, still attending classes). And the first couple classes may not be perfect (I’ll admit mine did not go as well as I would have wanted them to). But the biggest hurdles are already behind her. It takes a lot of guts to get in front of a room full of people and convince them that you’re not torturing them, you’re having fun with them. And getting a good sweat on along the way. Like anything else, once you’ve done it a few times, it becomes second nature. And as the classes pass, you’ll find what works for you, what works for the class, and how important continuing education truly is.

But I’m claiming “proud mama” (no, I do not have children, and yes, I am younger than Kim). To know that your passion has helped another person build that same kind of passion within herself? It’s incredible. And that’s what makes a great instructor: passion. Seeing Kim’s smiling face in class all these months, I know she has that passion. And I can’t wait to see her start rocking her own classes.

So, are you motivated to make it happen for yourself now? Here are a couple former posts that can get you going:

Finding a Group Fitness Mentor

How Do I Break into the Fitness Industry?

 

 

 

Strong-Fit-Beautiful Turns 2!

images (2)

Today is an exciting day here at Strong-Fit-Beautiful … we are turning 2! I would have never imagined that, when I took my girl Helen’s advice and started writing about what I love, it would have turned into something so incredible. I’ve been blessed that, as a result, I’ve had a lot of great opportunities – and been able to share a lot of great stories and advice – along the way. I’ve “met” some great people from around the world who are here for the same reason I am – because health and fitness are my passion, my love, the one thing that I can always get excited to talk about.

One thing that a lot of people don’t know about me is that I’m not naturally as outgoing and enthusiastic as I am when fitness is involved. While there is no greater feeling than stepping in front of a class, and chatting with those who have, truly, become my friends week in and week out, I can be pretty shy. I have a hard time letting people in a lot of the time. Which is why I think that I love teaching – I have the opportunity to be someone else. To be the me I wish I was. To feel like, even if only for a short time, I’m not being criticized or judged. In a lot of ways, I get the same feeling when I’m sharing my posts and communicating with all of you – it’s incredibly rewarding. Makes me feel as if I’m making a difference. Having an impact. And at the end of the day, that is the one thing I want out of my life – to know that I have made someone’s life better.

When I first started Strong-Fit-Beautiful, I was in kind of a sad place. I’d recently  had my heart broken – again – and I often found myself wondering if I had wasted many of my “good” years, too focused on the things that didn’t mean as much to me, and not enough on the ones that really did. I felt like I’d done a lot of work, lived a lot of life, and maybe didn’t have too much to show for it. But the truth is, I have realized that it’s the lows that make the highs that much sweeter. And there really is something better just around the corner – and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that when we feel we’ve been given all we can handle, the prize for surviving is within our reach (I can honestly say that in the last six months, I’ve had a lot more highs than lows … and everything kind of all hit at once … and yes, I wasn’t sure I could get any lower before that trend started a rapid climb upward). There have been many ups and downs since then, and though I don’t make a practice of sharing too much personal stuff too often, I’m glad to say that while life isn’t perfect right now, it is looking pretty good. I know that I have a lot of great people around me, supporting me, loving me and standing by me through those ups and downs. And I’m fortunate enough to do what I love part-time … even if it is only a few hours a week, teaching classes is truly the best food my soul could ever hunger for.

But enough of the sappy stuff, right? I’ve had a really great time writing Strong-Fit-Beautiful these last two years, and I’ve had some amazing opportunities come out of it. I’ve been fortunate to connect with some other incredible bloggers, both here in the U.S. and across the world. I’ve met a few of my readers here in the local area, and I’ve even enjoyed my five minutes of fame when one of my classes was featured on the morning local ABC news. I’ve had some great laughs from some of your comments (trust me, it makes me feel much more normal knowing that some of the same weird crap I see in my gym is not exclusive to my area … there are weirdos all over). More than anything, I’ve had FUN doing something I love (writing), and even more fun getting to discuss one of my favorite topics (fitness) on the regular.

So, to all of you who have helped Strong-Fit-Beautiful become what it is today … THANK YOU! You’re the best. As long as you’ll keep reading, I’ll keep sharing. I  know I haven’t been as good as of late about keeping up as I have in the past, but life has been crazy, so I’m trying my best (as my mom says, it’s tiring having a life, isn’t it? It’s something that’s kind of new to me). Here’s to another year of fun and fitness!

 

Check Out My Recent Interview!

I had an opportunity recently to do an interview with Lola over at Christsoldiergirl Fitness, and wanted to share the link for you to find out a little more about what makes me tick: http://christsoldiergirlfitness.com/csg-fitness-interview-with-strong-fit-beautiful/ We had a chance to discuss my background, how I got my start, what keeps me going … all kinds of good stuff.

Many thanks to Lola for taking the time to feature me on her blog – and, oddly enough, she just happened to post the interview last Tuesday (clearly life has been a little crazy lately if I’m just getting around to sharing the link now) … which was also my 33rd birthday! Hope you have a chance to check it out and see what she’s been up to as well!