On July 14, 2017, I made the decision to go vegan –or at least to start a one-week challenge free of eating any animal/animal products to see what happens. I still have more research to do, but I'm sharing what I've learned so far after watching "What the Health" on Netflix.
Meet Nicole Cundiff, wife of former NFL placekicker, Billy Cundiff, mother of three, sister, daughter, and CEO. One of Nicole's most significant accomplishments is the success of her and her husband's foundation, Colleen's Dream, honoring Nicole's mother who passed away of ovarian cancer in February 2013. Her feature comes at a heartfelt time: Monday was World Ovarian Cancer Day and Sunday is Mother's Day.
I have been so apprehensive about writing this post but I think it could be cathartic and maybe help someone else. I'm pregnant! Such a blessing but nerve-wrecking at the same time. You see, I already have a 15 month old daughter and she’s a handful. Do I have the energy for one more, the love for another, the patience for another? These were all questions racing through my mind shortly after the confirmed pregnancy.
It’s funny; Jeff and I knew we wanted another child. We discussed it, kinda planned for it, and BOOM prayers answered. He was surprised considering the timing yet still excited. He went about his day while my mind continued to plan 9 months down the road.
After those initial thoughts dissipated, I began to criticize myself. I had such negative thoughts regarding my post- pregnancy body (yes, I was still calling it that), my laughable eating habits as of late, and my nonexistent fitness routine since arriving in Houston. One day, I am making excuses for myself citing the move, the vacation, Joy’s ability to walk, then other days I was on social media comparing myself to the graceful pregnant women that were avoiding maternity clothes, running marathons, eating vegetables and balancing their already full plates. I was in such a destructive place when I was supposed to be celebrating the incredible journey I was about to go on again and enjoying every minute I had left with my only child, Joy.
I know they say comparison is the thief of joy, but there is so much more to it— It had caused me to want to hide my pregnancy in shame. I had no problem waiting till the second trimester to share the news on social media because I refused to be in pictures for the first twelve weeks. Hence the reason I’m just now typing this at 20 weeks! I would run into old friends or acquaintances and make a deplorable joke about my weight gain. I would say, “oh, you thought I just got really big, don’t worry— I'm pregnant!” I was so uncomfortable with my rapidly changing body that I was looking for ways to deflect.
My poor husband; he was so confused. He couldn’t tell if I was happy, upset, or sad. It was such a range of emotions that I just didn’t expect to experience this time around.
After I had Joy, my baby weight journey started with abounding optimism, followed by more reasonable goals, met with extenuating circumstances and exhaustion. Fast forward one year, here I am pregnant again hanging out with those 10 pregnancy pounds from before. I wrote this piece to let you know you're not alone. We aren’t all rubber bands that are going to bounce back immediately, if ever. Our family (now of 4!) was a priority and life is unpredictable. If we’re being honest, had I paid more attention to the clock I probably would have been more adamant about my workouts and diet. Hindsight is 50/50 right?
I have since come to terms with my bulging belly and am enjoying the tiny kick and wiggles of the Allen baby. I also made a decision to get some help! I am working with Leah Egwatu of fitfoodiele.com (@fitfoodiele) who specializes in pre/postnatal fitness. Our weekly sessions have done wonders for my mental health and wellbeing. I make better food choices and feel strong again. I would highly suggest committing to something during your second pregnancy that makes you feel strong. That might be walking every evening or doing yoga. It could also be continuing modified versions of your workout and fighting the strong urge to indulge in ice cream every night.
No two pregnancies are the same but if you find a way to take control of how you feel, you will reap nothing but the benefits. Find a new way to enjoy your pregnancy. The stronger I feel, the less concerned I am about that fact that I broke out the maternity pants way earlier or the shirts I saved from last time around are a little tighter than I remember. I don't obsess over weekly bump pictures though I still take them!
I hope this helps someone that might be frustrated with losing the last few pounds, anxious about having another one or currently pregnant and loathing their swollen feet and soft tummies. We are all fighting struggles not documented on social media. Find your strength and carry on! We are capable of so much more than comparison.
Well ladies, the time has come. Football season is here. We have our checklists ready: stock up on team gear, tally up those that have put their dibs in on game tickets, collaborate on tailgates. All seems complete. Well except for one thing, how can I finally fulfill the promise I have made to myself year in and year out: to not spend any money on concessions! WAGS, the temptation is real. 1,000 calories later all intentions of standing your ground against the buttery aroma of popcorn and candy packs mysteriously floating down the aisle, have gone out the window. Guilty as charged. Well played stadium, well played.
I don't know about you ladies, but I am ready to come out of the season with a "W." Me: 20 Concessions: 0. (Okay realistically maybe 12:8 but who's counting?) So how do we do that with a margarita outside of every tunnel and friends saying "I'm hungry, you want some pizza?" Well, since you guys know I love lists, I'm here with another one to help you swerve those bad boys and come out of the game with a W regardless of the game score!
- EAT BEFORE HAND: I know many of us might do this already but, it is all about the timing. Whether you are eating at the WAGS tailgates or at home with the family, try to eat as close to game time as possible. You know your body, so time your meals out so that you are ready to eat something before kickoff. This helps to make sure you aren't hurtin' with hunger come halftime.
- FIND THE FAMILY ROOM: In some NFL stadiums you may have access to a family room as a WAG and if not you should suggest to the team's women's association leader to push to get one. In the family room you can typically find fruit and vegetable platters, waters and sometimes even sandwiches- all the things that can help you satisfy a food craving without going over the top on calories or having to spend money! Ask around to find out what perks you get as a WAG because there are plenty to be found, believe me.
- STASH A PACK OF TRAIL MIX: The stadium bag policy is that you have to have either a small wallet/clutch or that all items need to be placed in clear bag (check your stadium website for more info prior to showing up.) HOWEVER, I have found that when I bring my clear bag security does not go through every small pouch within that bag. So with that being said; if you can find a place to tuck in a small pouch of trail mix (almonds are known for their appetite suppressing effects) or another snack you may be able to beat the hunger until the game is over! (Disclaimer: I cannot promise they won't ever find your snack stash and make you throw it away lol.)
- CALM DOWN: In some people, stress and emotion can trigger "hunger." If you know that you are an emotional eater, anytime that you begin to feel hungry try to ask yourself "would I eat an apple right now?" If your answer is "no, I want some ice cream," then it is likely that you are not actually hungry but instead dealing with a food craving possibly due to emotion. Ladies, it is an emotional game...know the difference between emotional hunger and actual physical hunger.
- AVOID THE GUM: Studies have shown that gum (in particularly those with aspartame as a sweetener) may increase hunger. Personally, I used to believe that gum did the exact opposite so I would chew a piece when I felt the hunger coming on. Unfortunately, it only made it WORSE! So, do not.... I repeat DO NOT... start chomping on gum when you feel a little craving or you just might find yourself at the concessions counter 15 minutes later.
Lets go get those W's this season ladies!
When I was four years old, I began what I thought would just be a hobby. Playing soccer became my entire life and my identity as a person and I loved it. It taught me discipline, responsibility, and even gave me friends all around the United States. I never envisioned my life without it until I had no choice but to quit. When Life Hands you Lemons
In September 2011, I suffered my third and final concussion. At that point, I had played soccer year-round for 15 years. I had to reinvent myself as a person, find new hobbies and even new friends. God knew what he was doing. I transferred schools, met some really cool people and even discovered a hidden artistic talent. But, the best part is I had the oppurtunity to take my situation and make a change. I joined in a lawsuit against the NCAA that ultimately changed college sports forever. I was featured in Cosmopolitan Magazine, had interviews with Fox Sports; I was in articles everywhere. Even with all of this, I still didn't feel as though I had made a difference. It wasn’t until a week ago that I truly understood the magnitude of what I had accomplished.
Last week, I had the opportunity to speak to a group of children as well as their parents about the dangers of concussions. They were some of the most skilled and talented young athletes I have ever had the chance to witness and it was amazing. There was nothing like that (a platform to share about the dangers of concussions) when I was a kid growing up but that was when I realized this is what/who we do it for. Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy and Brandi Chastain were a few of the pioneers of women’s sports. They were the first group of female athletes to fill major stadiums and make a difference. They endured what they had to in order to make things better and easier for the generations to come. I’m not comparing myself to them except to point out the fact that things only change when someone has the courage to make it change. It’s like Newton’s First Law of Motion; “An object at rest, stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion...” I had to speak up for what I believed mattered. I couldn’t sit back and allow what happened to me to happen to someone else. In January 2016, the settlement changed the concussion protocol. The return-to-play rules following a concussion are now stricter and more clearly defined. There is a $70 million dollar fund to test for brain trauma; which is available to former, present, and future college athletes. The biggest difference that I have observed so far is that college athletes will no longer have to worry about losing their scholarships due to the inability to play.
There is nothing I would change about what I went through. I am blessed, and thankful that God used me to help make a difference. At one point, it was one of the worst experiences of my life but He only gives you what you can handle and by His grace, I am here today. I know that I have had the opportunity to do something that will help future generations which now includes my own son and daughter. That alone; is greater than any reward I could imagine.
With the world embracing on-the-go methods of fueling, the production of snack bars has skyrocketed! If you go into your local grocery store, you will find that there is a whole aisle dedicated to them! We all love variety right? The only problem is with so much variety you could spend 15 minutes in the snack bar aisle deciding between a mint chocolate or peanut butter crunch just to leave with the blueberry one. Even with that many options, you may not even need that particular bar nutritionally. Yep, I have been there too. So how can you find not only the healthiest bars but also the one perfect for you? By asking yourself this short list of questions; you should be in and out of the grocery store in record time with a purchase you won't regret later! Can you read everything on the ingredients label?
Since some snack bars are filled with junk like fillers, bulking agents and preservatives that neither you nor I can pronounce, your best bet is to go with the bars that contain a list of ingredients that you are familiar with. An added benefit is if you can count those ingredients on one hand! The less the better in most cases.
Where does the sugar come from?
When you look at the nutritional label, you can usually find "sugar" listed under "Total Carbohydrates." Its important to note that not all sugar is created equal, natural sugars found in milk and fruit are very different and more beneficial than added sugars like chocolate, High Fructose Corn syrup, sucralose and molasses. You may get lucky and find a label that will differentiate between the two by listing "added sugar," to make it easy on you as a consumer. However, if its showing you that it has added sugars then you should probably look for a different option. Alternatively, choose snack bars that use fruits as their base sweeteners, this can not only curb your sweet tooth but can also provide a serving of fruit!
What do you need it for?
Decide what exactly you will be using the bar for. Some people are looking for a meal replacement bar, while others are looking for the perfect pre-workout snack. Either way, pay close attention to what the bar is telling you about its purpose and and then take a look at the nutritional facts to make sure it can do exactly what it "guarantees." Key point, anything in excess has the ability to do more harm than good. In other words, instead of snacking on protein bars all day to cut carbs have one to pair with your workout and keep some vegetable packs on hand for the rest of the day!
Can you get more bang for your bar?
If you know you are the type of person that has a hard time incorporating healthy fats, vegetables, or even fruits into your daily food regimen; look for bars that can help fulfill some of these categories for you. Yes, "whole foods" always come first... but you also know yourself. Go for the next best thing and grab a bar that might sneak in some leafy greens or omega-3s! Happy Snacking!
It seems as though in this day and age, you can’t do anything without offending someone. When I first found out I was going to have a baby I knew for a fact that I wanted to breast feed. I had my heart set on it and was lucky to not have any complications. I understand it’s every woman’s choice and I whole heartedly support whatever a woman decides. However, I believe that a lot of new moms and even older generations aren’t as informed as one could be. If it’s not for you that’s okay but don’t make those who choose to do so feel uncomfortable. If you don't want to see it, don't look. Normalize Breastfeeding!Most men and women see breasts as sexual but my sweet 8 month old baby sees them as food. Why can’t they be both? Before bottle feeding and formula was created, women used wet nurses; women who breastfed another’s child. It was completely normal to breastfeed your child any and everywhere and it was even normal to pay someone else to breastfeed for you. When formula was created the advertising created to downplayed the amazing benefits of breastfeeding. Why? They did exactly what they were supposed to do-- worry mothers into thinking that breast milk wasn’t sufficient in attempts to make money. All of the early formula advertising I could find stated in some form, “the closest thing to mother’s milk.” My only question is: if their goal was to be as close to mother’s milk as could be, how could breast feeding not be what’s best!? My goal in this article is to not bash one decision or the other but, to simply inform (in my opinion) all soon to be mothers and even the general public about breastfeeding. It is one of the most natural things that you can do for your baby and for most mothers, producing milk begins the second you give birth. As I said in the beginning, I was blessed to not have complications with breastfeeding. If I had, I would have obviously used formula and I even chose to supplement with my son. Breastfeeding is hard work and can be very scary for new moms. You can’t tell how much or how little they eat every time because you can’t physically measure it. But, as long as they’re gaining weight and having regular bowels then the doctor says to rest assure that they are doing just fine. Breastfeeding is so much more than just feeding your baby. It is basically giving them a head start in life, making them less susceptible to a long list of illnesses as well as allergies, obesity and SIDS. Researchers have done studies to show the positive correlation between breastfeeding and cognitive development. There are even linked health benefits for mom! Breastfeeding helps with postpartum issues for instance, helping your uterus contract after birth, postpartum depression and lowering stress levels. It has also been discovered that it may help reduce your risk of ovarian and breast cancer. In addition to all the physical and mental benefits for my baby and myself, it is an incredible bonding experience that I could never replace. I am more than just a food source. I am her pacifier when she’s scared or in pain, her comfort when she’s cranky or doesn’t feel good. I am the one she looks for when she doesn’t know what she wants. It’s a beautiful bond that I will only get to experience for a small amount of time. Please don’t make me feel bad for it. Please don't ask me to go to the bathroom or to the car, if it truly offends you, you don't have to look. If my baby needs to eat, I am going to feed her. I’m not doing it to offend you or to show off my breasts. Please remember...It’s not about you, it’s about her.
There's a reason all of our bodies don’t look like those of Victoria Secret models. Its not because we don’t eat clean enough or train like olympic athletes. In fact, two people can eat the exact same very-healthy diet and follow the same exercise regimen, but have very different physiques. The reason this is true is because the makeup of our bodies are uniquely different.
Do you know what type of body you have? Im not referring to whether you look like a coke bottle or if you’re top-heavy; I’m referring to a pre-determined combination of your bone structure, bone density and musculature. Aside from other things, this helps determine the degree and the rate at which your body can lose/gain both fat and muscle. This is known as your Body Type, or Somatype. There are three distinctive Body types, but experts believe many people are a combination of two. In fact, it is ideal that you move away from the black and white, cookie cutter definition of your body type into a grey area that is a more fitting combination of two body types. With exercise and nutrition, this is possible.
The three body types are known as Ectomorph, Mesomorph, and Endomorph. While none of the three are “better” than another, each type has its own traits that presents its own benefits, needs and challenges for achieving a desired look through diet and exercise. The different body types are simply a starting point of what your body is and what you can do with it. Although you can’t change the framework, you can manipulate the muscles and fat on top of your skeleton to change your appearance. Learning which body type you have can really help you navigate your way through the gym, and the kitchen! You can stop spending countless hours in the gym with little progress, and start seeing the results that you deserve. Below you will find a short description of each body type along with valuable nutrition and training tips!
An ectomorph is our “hardgainer.” She’s our typical skinny friend who finds it hard to gain weight (not fair, I know! ). She has long thin limbs with stringy muscles and her shoulders tend to be thin with little width. Her fast metabolism causes her body to burns up calories very quickly.
** Training Tips ** * Needs to consume a lot amount of calories in order to gain weight. High carbohydrate tolerance * Workouts should be short and intense focusing on big muscle groups. * Supplements are recommended for gaining muscle and gaining weight * Eat before bed to prevent muscle catabolism during the night. * Long duration cardio not recommended (unless you’re going for the very fragile look). * Responds best to a diet consisting of 55% carbs, 25% protein, and 20% fat.
A mesomorph is our naturally athletic-looking friend. It doesn’t take much for people to assume she “played a sport”, which she probably has! She has a larger bone structure, larger muscles and she’s naturally strong. Although she finds it easy to lose weight, she also can pack on the pounds quickly.
** Training Tips** * Needs to watch calorie intake to minimize fat gain. * Workouts need to combine weight training at various intensities and cardio for optimal results. * typically respond best to a mixed diet, consisting of balanced carbs 40%, 30% protein, and 30% fat.
- ENDOMORPH The endomorph is our voluptuous friend. She gains fat very easily and typically has a shorter build with thick arms and legs. Her strong leg muscles are a huge plus in the gym!
** Training Tips ** * Endomorphs must always train cardio as well as weights * Supplements are not usually necessary as she builds muscle easily; high protein and fat diet is sufficient. * Most carb sensitive: benefits more from lower carb diets, with carbs being properly timed (for example, after workouts) * Typically respond best to 25% carbs, 35% protein, and 40% fat.
- Can I change my body type?
Again, your body type is just a starting point. It basically just tells you which training and diet path to take.. Whether you can stay skinny without exercise or can gain a pound just thinking about Macaroni and cheese (kidding), depends a lot on your body type. . You cannot change your body type in the sense that our endomorph friend will always have a greater tendency to put on weight compared to our ectomorph friend. However, our endomorph can change her body in the sense that she is not destined to being overweight, as long as she makes the extra effort with regards to nutrition and exercise. In the same way, an ectomorph will have to put in much more effort into adding size to her frame.
BODY TYPES IN THE NFL
Our Endomorphs in the NFL are our Linemen, who line up in the trenches. On offense, their main objective is to protect the QB, as well as create pathways for the football to be carried, by blocking their opponents. Their large size comes in handy, as they take up plenty of space which makes it hard for defenders to pass through. On defense, their job is to get to the QB and help break down the offensive play. Our Mesomorphs in the NFL generally include:
Some linemen Tight Ends Defensive Ends Linebackers QB's Running Backs We can argue that they are our most well-rounded players on the field. Their size allows them to be very physical and powerful, but also fast and agile. Our Ectomorphs in the NFL include but are not limited to, our Receivers and Safeties. They're generally very lean and very fast runners! Since they line up in the backfield, they're away from the line of scrimmage where much of the pushing and shoving happens, making extra body weight unnecessary.
The beauty is not the perfect body, the beauty is that no one is perfect.
"For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made..... " " My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth" - Psalm 139
It’s the off season! While having your player home for these few months is fun it also brings home lots of extra chores, and travel! We are all trying to squeeze in seeing everyone’s family and maybe (hopefully) a vacation before the off season ends. This means hotel gyms with limited equipment and no one to watch baby if you opt for a couples gains sesh. Here are some great no equipment cardio workouts to do on the beach, in the room, or in hotel gym!
- 30 Jumping Jacks for warmup (X standing crunches if pregnant)
Preform 30 of each repeating 3 times
Plank with hip tap
High Knees (Walking if pregnant)
Jumping Lunges (pulses if pregnant)
Jumping Squats (pulses if pregnant0
Jumping Jax (X standing crunches if pregnant)
- 50 Jumping Jacks for warmup (X standing crunches if pregnant)
50 Knees or regular pushups
50 Sumo Squats
50 Sit ups (50 Sec. plank if pregnant)
50 Side lunges
Keep repeating ladder preforming all of the movements 40 reps, 30 reps, 20 reps, 10 reps.
Always remember to stretch after you cool down! Happy Traveling!
Many of these questions may seem silly to you, and the answers to them may seem like common knowledge. However, they are indeed frequently asked, and frequently answered.
1. What's the best way to lose body fat?
A Clean diet (including plenty of water), exercise, and rest.
Cliché, I know. Some of you may have heard that nutrition is 80% of the battle. While nutrition is very important, that statement will relate to people in different ways depending on the goal and the activity of choice. For example, if you are trying to build a large amount of muscle, you may be advised to eat much more food than you are accustomed to. That’s because in order for muscles to substantially grow, we often need more protein than the average person. The food, paired with an effective strength building program, will allow you to lose body fat while gaining muscle size.
On the other hand, if a toned look is not your main priority, then you may be advised to consume more or less, depending on your current regimen. Nutrition is very important in losing body fat and in gaining muscle, but ultimately it’s the combination of the right diet and the right program that makes is the most effective. Neither proper diet or the correct training program is more important than the other.
Tip: Never starve yourself. Always put fuel in the machine for best results!
2. How can I get a flat stomach without losing my butt?
Unfortunately, you cannot spot reduce, burning fat in only one area and maintaining it in another. However, you can spot enlarge by adding size to a particular muscle or group of muscles. A body sculptor/body builder focuses on making muscles bigger and smaller in certain body parts, based on their preference. For example, if you want bigger glutes and a smaller waist, that's no problem. You’ll need to get to a very low body fat so that your waist gets small while incorporating heavy-weighted glute exercises with litte-to-no abdominal work in order to create that desired physique.
3. How often do I need to work out? For how long?
Well, that answer depends on the goal. A fitness professional can help you determine a game plan that will meet your individual needs. Regardless of the goal, here are some healthy guidelines to keep in mind:
ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) recommends performing physical activity three to five times per week for 20 to 60 minutes at a time. For a person who was previously sedentary, only three days per week may be needed to improve their fitness, but it will take more exercise to see further improvements. The level of intensity (target heart rate) for this physical activity should be at least 55% to 65% of your maximum heart rate (You can estimate your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220). When you are working at lower intensities, opt for more minutes, and vice versa. It is important that you do not progress too soon or exercise excessively, since both behaviors can lead to overuse injuries.
For more specific guidelines from the American College of Sports Medicine on progression, intensity, endurance training and more, visit the UCLA Nutrition Education Website.
4. Is it better to work out in the morning or evening?
You can make a case for either time of day, depending on your own status as a morning person, the type of workouts you prefer, and where your other responsibilities drop during the day.
Personally, I have found that I sleep better at night when I exercise in the morning. I seem to stay awake later and have a hard time falling asleep when I work out at night. In addition, I like to enjoy the endorphins and sense of accomplishment throughout the day rather than when it's time to wind down for bed. It’s up to you !
5. Cardio first, or weights first?
You might have heard that weights should be lifted before cardiovascular training to burn the most fat. I admit that I believed that for a long time. That idea was brought about because trainers believed that after depleting the muscles’ glycogen stores (carbohydrates) during strength training, fat would be used as the primary “fuel source” during the cardio portion of the workout. This is considered a positive scenario by many trainers since cardio is typically a non-stop activity where you tend to burn more calories, as opposed to strength training that is accompanied with resting time between sets. However, it's most likely the intensity of the activity (based on heart rate), rather than the activity itself that determines the “fuel” source.
Keep in mind:
If the primary goal is to increase aerobic endurance or lose weight, then you should perform cardiovascular exercise first. If the primary goal is to increase muscular strength, then the client should perform strength training first. Basically, in order to get the most out of the workout, the client should perform the most important type of exercise when he or she is not fatigued. Since many clients want to lose weight as well as increase muscular strength, alternating the order of the workout during different cycles of training is one way to satisfy both goals.
Starting your day right - bright and early with a healthy breakfast - isn’t incredibly hard. What can get you is the two minutes you have for a good lunch and the tempting option of fast food for dinner. Not to mention trying to squeeze in a workout in between carpool or errands. The way I have found to hold yourself accountable are fitness apps right on your phone! These handy programs allow you to track your calories and workouts so that one slip-up doesn’t derail your entire day.
Some great, simple apps are:
Mainly for the outdoor, naptime runner, it allows you to set weight loss and distance goals and gives you great training programs to follow. Runkeeper also lets you team up with friends or other runners so they can push you to be your best!
This app by Bodybuilding.com lets you create a profile with before and after pictures and gives you a ton of amazing workout routines to follow by some of the worlds top fitness pros! You can also rate and describe your workout in order to pin point exactly what pushes you harder.
This is more of a class scheduling app. You can sign up for all kinds of great classes in your area and keep track of how many you have attended. It also makes buying class packages so much easier!
With a huge database of foods and a barcode scanner, this app is perfect for busy bees on the go! Everything you’ve eaten and all your workouts are displayed in a really easy-to-read graph so you know exactly where you are in your daily goal. Users can join challenges and earn badges making losing weight more fun!
The term "core strength" refers to much more than your abs in a bikini! Your powerhouse, or your core, is the center of your body which creates the foundation for all movement. Core exercises train the muscles in your pelvis, lower back, hips and abdomen to work together properly leading to improved balance and stability. Weak core muscles make our bodies vulnerable and susceptible to poor posture, back pain and muscle injuries. Strong core muscles make it easier for us to do everything from running, to transporting groceries, to bending down to tie our shoes.
For a dramatic improvement in your fitness level, start by strengthening your powerhouse!
Core Strength Tips:
- Strengthen your hip flexors - People often ask me how to target the "lower abs". Many core exercises that help target the low abs require strong hip flexors. Exercises such as lying leg lifts, V-ups, hanging leg lifts and full body crunches can be difficult and cause people to feel discouraged. But before you give up, keep in mind that your leg muscles are included in your hip flexors. As your total body gets stronger, those exercises will get easier.
- Strengthen your lower back - Too much flexion without extension is never good. Strengthen the back as well as the front for beautiful, confident posture.
- Mix high repetitions and low repetitions throughout the week - Treat your abdominals just like any other muscle (this may go against what you have been taught). Some people will do 250 crunches in a single session but only three sets of 10 leg presses. As a rule of thumb, if you are trying to build muscular endurance (lean muscle) go for more repetitions. But while you are just starting out, a lower number of reps with a heavier load can help you build the strength you need for improvement.
- Twist and stretch but protect your spine! Don't forget about exercises that require torso rotation (they target your obliques), but be sure to focus on engaging your abdominal muscles and letting your abs do the work rather than your hips or shoulders.
- Free weights - You can get so much more bang for your buck by using free weights as opposed to weight-stacked machines. Free weights and standing exercises such as walking lunges and standing shoulder press requires a lot of core stabilization, while the weight stacked machines take that away.
- Be safe - When starting to work on improving your core strength, make sure you begin safely. Talk to your doctor to see if you are ready to be active and find out what you can do that is safe for you and your body. Begin slowly and consult a certified fitness professional if you are unsure about how to train and build strength in your core.
So you made it to the gym. Kudos!! Now what? If you’re anything like me, there have been days when you get to the gym and have very little sense of direction about where to begin! Follow these 3 simple steps to stop wasting your time and become more fluent on the fitness floor!
1. Decide WHAT, WHEN, and HOW
Start by pulling out your calendar.
Decide on what days you can commit, and how much time you will have. This will help determine the intensity in which you will need to exercise. For example, if you can exercise 2-3 days of the week, I recommended that you spend 60-90 minutes at each session. On the other hand, if you plan to exercise 5-7 days a week, then 20-30 minutes a day will suffice!
In addition, if you are doing resistance training, you will need to know how you will split the load throughout the week. For example, if you are training nearly every day, you may target only one large muscle group per day, whereas if you were training only twice a week, you may want to opt for total-body workouts. There is no perfect "split," but here are a some of my scheduling recommendations:
- DAY 1 – Lower Body
- DAY 2 – Upper Body (Push)
- DAY 3 – Core & Cardio
- DAY 4 – Lower Body (PlyoMetrics)
- DAY 5 - Upper Body (Pull)
- DAY 1 – Total body w/ emphasis on Lower Body (more time spent on lower)
- DAY 2 – HIIT (high intensity interval training, total body)
- DAY 3 – Total Body strength w/ emphasis on Upper Body
2. Choose Your Equipment
Choose cardio equipment (or choose none) and 5-7 resistance-training exercises. Have them handy.
It is important that you find some kind of cardio exercise that you enjoy. Cardio doesn’t always have to be on a machine. Cardio can be done by doing jumping jacks, jumping rope, running, etc. The important thing, especially during a warm up, is that your heart rate is elevated so that blood is efficiently pumped throughout your body (priming your muscles for the workload). After a 7-10 minute warm up, consisting of moderate exercise, it is then safe to spend a few minutes stretching.
After a few minutes of stretching and once your body has returned to a normal heart rate, you are now ready to strength train!
But what to do?
At the end of this article, I have included an "Exercise Bank" (e.g. Word bank on a Vocabulary test). When planning your next workout, have the list handy. Go to the bank and pick 5-7 exercises for your desired muscle group.
For weights, sets and reps, stick with the basics: 3 sets of 10 is a good place to start. When you’re not sure how much weight to use, consider how many reps you are doing. If you can do more than the desired repetitions, then the weight you’ve chosen is too light. If you cannot physically perform the number of repetitions desired then its too heavy.
- Warm up/Stretch.
- Perform your chosen list of exercises.
- Cool Down/Stretch.
The exercise bank contains names of exercises that are generally common knowledge and easy to find online. If necessary, use the internet as a resource to help you master the technique of each exercise.
- Push up (push)
- Pull up (pull)
- Flat bench press (push)
- Seated shoulder press with dumbbells (push)
- Incline Press (push)
- Single arm Dumbbell row (pull)
- Bent over Row (pull)
- Lat Pull down (pull)
- Seated Row (pull)
- Lateral Raise (push)
- Front Raise (push)
- Bicep Curl w/ Dumbbells (pull)
- Cable Tricep Extension (push)
- Flat bench Chest Fly (push)
- Reverse Fly (pull)
- Walking lunge
- Reverse Lunge
- Seated Leg Press
- Hack squat
- Back Squat
- Front Squat
- Leg curl
- Leg extension
- Seated Calf Raises
- Standing Calf Raises
- Glute Kick backs
- Glute Bridges
- Sumo Squat
- Hip adduction
- Hip abduction
- Jump squat
- Bulgarian squat
- Romanian Deadlift
- Good morning
- Alternating V-ups
- Russian Twists
- Decline sit up
- Oblique crunch
- Cable twist
- High plank
- Low plank
- Sit ups
- Full body crunch
- Straight leg lifts
- Captains chair leg lifts
- Reverse crunch
Happy lifting :)
Addiction. We all deal with it in one form or another. Among the popular vices include: smoking, gambling, and drinking. Mine? A little out of the norm. I developed this obsessive behavior of looking in the mirror. Sounds conceited, right? Except I'd go to the mirror 15+ times a day for the sole purpose of judging my appearance. In the spirit of post-Thanksgiving leftovers, I'd say I quit cold turkey.
Somewhat piggybacking off Kjerstin Gruys, who went one year without a mirror, I challenged myself to 30 days without my reflection -- no mirror, no pictures, etc. Check out my guidelines from my previous post, No Mirror November.
My Reflections Without A Mirror
Today was so much harder than I thought it would be -- seeing my reflection in sunglasses, windows, etc. It's hard to just look away. I keep thinking others are judging me based on my appearance. But no one said anything or treated me differently.
Day 2 - I'm actually thinking more about myself now that I've removed the mirror. I'm constantly obsessing over how I look -- if I have something on my face or if my hair looks crazy.
Day 9 - Well, my husband put on my mascara today in the car before our movie (cue whip crack - just kidding!). I can just imagine the people that caught a glimpse of that and thought we were insane.
Day 10 - Each day I realize the need to find my acceptance in the mirror lessens and lessens. People are treating me the same and not being rude. They're treating me like a human being. It's sad that their kindness surprised me.
Day 18 - Today was really hard! I caught a glimpse of myself in my phone screen. I spent the rest of the day obsessing over how bad I looked. I hate feeling this way.
Day 24 - Dre talked to me about my journey coming to an end and encouraged me to continue. I think I might.
What I Learned
I would be a bully if I talked, or thought, about people the way I do myself. For some reason I thought people were judging me as harshly as I do myself. I was actually surprised when people continued to treat me the same, despite my unknown -- probably messy -- appearance. How sad that I thought so lowly of others.
This past month has been quite the experience. Breaking a habit is nothing short of hard work. Abstaining from my reflection completely took me out of my comfort zone and forced vulnerability. Some days were harder than I thought, while others flew by as if I had been living mirror-free my entire life.
I struggled. A lot. There was day 21 where I cheated a little. Days I felt extremely insecure and days I didn't care. I realized I use the mirror as a comfort. But it's funny how I find comfort in something that makes me feel worse about myself.
It's quite the vicious cycle.
Give It A Try
Have you been concentrating or obsessing over your appearance? Refusing a mirror may be an extreme, but making it your goal to focus on more important things can be so rewarding. I took a dive into uncharted waters and it was scary. After just two days I had convinced myself that this challenge was detrimental to my well-being. But after just one week, I began to flourish.
By the final day, I felt this amazing sense of accomplishment and relief! I began to feel comfortable and focus on more important things than outward appearance. And it felt great.
My mirror remains covered.
At work I am considered to be a "fitness professional", a go-to person for all things pertaining to exercise. Although I do not counsel, It is natural for me to be concerned about each client's emotional and mental well-being, and that's simply because I do not believe that vigorous exercise is the answer to all fitness-related issues. I strive to understand and consider stressors and self-esteem as it relates to a person's motivation, their habits and any barriers that may prevent us from seeing progress. Many would agree that in order to be healthy, one needs much more than just the perfect combination of diet and exercise.
In fact, I boldly believe that in order to maintain good long-term physical health, we have to have good mental health that sustains our efforts. Sometimes exercise is the direct cause to bettering our mental health, and other times better mental health is the spark that enables a person to get moving!
What does mentally healthy look like?
People who are emotionally and mentally healthy are in control of their emotions and their behaviors. They are able to handle life’s challenges, build strong relationships, and recover from setbacks. They have a sense of contentment and a zest for living, and also the flexibility to learn new things and adapt to change. They also have a sense of meaning and purpose and they value balance between work and play. Self-care is a priority to an emotionally and mentally healthy person.
Do you know that you could be emotionally and mentally healthier?
The key word here is BALANCE.
Improving your emotional health is possible and it can add to your overall enjoyment of life. Our mental and emotional health has been and will continue to be shaped by our experiences. Early childhood experiences are especially significant. Genetic and biological factors can also play a role, but these too can be changed by experience. Here are some red-flag feelings and behaviors that indicate poor mental/emotional health and may require immediate attention:
- Trouble Sleeping
- Feeling down, hopeless, or helpless most of the time
- Concentration problems that interfere with your work or home life
- Using drugs, food or alcohol to cope with difficult emotions
- Negative or self-destructive thoughts or fears that you can’t control
- Thoughts of death or suicide
The good news is that not all negative thoughts and feelings require medical attention. Oftentimes, we just neglect certain areas in our life to focus on others, but we don't realize the harm being done. These negative thoughts and feelings can actually serve as a great indicator of an area in our lives that may need some extra attention, or some more "lovin'", as I like to say :)
So, join me in improving mental and emotional health! Here's how:
To build self-esteem: Do things that positively impact others. Helping others can significantly make you feel important, and help create a sense of meaning.
To overcome helplessness: Practice self-discipline. (ex. wake up 30 min earlier to prepare breakfast, volunteer time)
To feel more productive: Engage in meaningful, creative work regardless if you get paid for it. (write a blog, organize a charity event)
To beat boredom: Learn or discover new things. Try taking a class that helps your everyday life (ex. sewing, cooking), join a book club, travel, listen to a podcast.
To stop worrying: Limit unhealthy mental habits . Try to avoid becoming absorbed by negative thoughts about yourself and the world that make you feel anxious, fearful and depressed.
To feel complete: Appeal to all five senses (doesn't have to be all at once). Listen to music that lifts your mood, place flowers or art work where you will see it, have scents burning in your home, make a special dinner, get a massage.
To overcome loneliness: Get a pet. Its obviously not an option for everyone, caring for one can make you feel needed and loved.
To keep your smile alive: Enjoy some leisure time. Make it a priority.
To avoid bitterness: Make time for gratitude. Mediate, pray, or simply take a moment to pay attention to all that is good, positive and beautiful in your life.
♥ "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it" - Proverbs 4:23 ♥
It was June 14th, 2014 when I stepped on stage to compete in the Bikini Division at the FitSciences Championships. FitSciences Championships and SmartMoves Ent are non profit organizations that focus on combating Childhood Obesity within schools in Atlanta. The FitSciences Championships was held during the “Atlanta Health Expo” weekend that was filled with great events including a 1-mile and 5k run, children’s olympics, free health expo-seminars, health screenings, cooking clinics for parents, and activities for corrective and preventative approaches. Prior to making the commitment, I had just recently decided I wanted to try competing. I kept thinking to myself that I would probably do something like this when I was much older if I wanted to advance in my career. However, when this opportunity presented itself, Iwas completely SOLD and I had a few short months to get ready!
Overall, I would say I dedicated five months to preparing for this show. I had already been focusing a lot of my time on my personal health and fitness but I knew in order to build an admirable physique, I had to focus more time on strength training and dieting. After a few months of following weight-training plans that I found online and quitting bad dieting habits, I hired an amazing body-building coach named Kim Sullivan, who helped me turn my vision into reality! I first enrolled in the show, then I hired her! I knew I needed to first make the commitment in my heart before I announced my plans to my family and friends.
Kim quickly took over my diet and training routine, and for the next three and a half months, I truly grew as a professional. She handed me a new program every four weeks and it was up to me to follow it!
At the time, I was a full-time Fitness Professional on a NAVY base in my hometown, where I had the privilege of working very closely with our Active duty Sailors and their families. I enjoyed that job very much for two reasons: 1) I discovered my love for teaching Group fitness, and 2) I also had the resources available to me to take on such a commitment! Aside from work, my days consisted of meal prepping, early morning fasted-cardio, and an additional 1.5 hrs strength training almost every day of the week! I had only a little idea of what I was getting into, and although it was difficult at times, I am so very happy I gave it a try!
Back stage, I felt like such a Princess. My bikini was hand made by a friend’s mom and I personally made my Luau costume for the Theme-wear portion of the show. Backstage, I was accompanied by my sisters who helped me with my hair and makeup, and I had the rest of my family patiently waiting on me in the audience.
I ended up placing 5th overall in the bikini division, and although I did not receive the trophy, I was called to center stage for recognition amongst the top contenders.
My experience was truly one that I will always be proud of, but even then, I do not plan to do it again. Although I enjoyed the end result, I personally do not feel that the process embodied the well-balanced, healthy lifestyle that I desire. PLEASE comment below if you’d like to know more about my experience or have any questions about competing in general! :) Here’s what I ate on an average day:
4 egg whites 1 cup spinach 1/3 cup oats w/ 1 tbsp flax oil
4 oz orange roughy Asparagus (as much as you can eat) 2 oz sweet potato
4 oz chicken breast 2 oz new potato ¼ green peas 1 tsp olive oil
4 oz salmon 2 cup spinach leaves (shaved carrots) 1/3 mushrooms (1 tsp olive oil)
One 1/2 scoop protein shake
2 oz lean 99% ground beef 2 oz ground 99% turkey ¼ cup whole wheat pasta
1/3 cup scallops 3 oz flank steak Asparagus (as much as you can eat)
Vitamins & Glutamine
Philippians 1:6 ~ being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus