Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Burpee: A "Love" Story

Most people have a love hate relationship with them.  They love the burn but hate actually DOING them.  Yet you can do them anywhere.  That's the beauty of them.

And probably the only thing beautiful about them.  Their reputation isn't the best and the name isn't even remotely attractive.  Burpee?  Really?  But they are awesome.  I swear!  Not only do they work your entire body, they make you stronger, they burn lots of calories, they are great for conditioning, and you can add them to almost any workout.

If your bored with the plain ole burpee here are a few variations that will spice things up a bit:
  • Bosu Ball Burpees (flat side up)
  • Weighted medicine ball burpees - slamming the ball on the ground after each rep
  • Burpees w/dumbbells - adding a hammer curl into shoulder raise at the end)
  • Single leg burpee on the TRX - keeping one foot in the TRX
For an extra heart rate boost add a push-up in the beginning and a jump at the end (unless you're using dumbbells then don't add the jump). 

Who knows, maybe you will learn to love burpees. Or maybe just tolerate them.  Either way you will love the results. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Swiss Chard and Singing

I'm addicted to The Voice.  You know... the show with Adam, Usher, and Blake?  Oh right, did I forget Shakira?  I kid, I kid!  I wish I could carry a tune but unfortunately my vocal abilities end in the shower. However I do have some skills on the keyboard as I have been playing the piano all of my life and admittedly I'm pretty good, but that's a story for another post. 

Anyway, one of the things I absolutely love about this show is that from beginning to end is based solely on talent alone. We are an image obsessed society and this show goes beyond the face. The mentors want contestants on their team based purely on what they hear, not what they see. Each of the singers have their own style, sound, tone, pitch, range... and yes, look.

It's actually refreshing.

Most of us are (including me) are guilty of looking through magazines and wishing we were as beautiful and thin as the gal on the runway or as fit as Ms. Olympia.  We are our own worst critics and watching The Voice helps me put things in perspective.  It's not about how skinny you are, or how long your hair is, or how many freckles you have.  It's about recognizing your own talents and beauty.  We are all unique.  If we weren't, this world would be a boring place to live. 

And of course as I am typing I am reminding MYSELF of this as well.

On another note, I made a simple but tasty Swiss Chard & Kale salad last night.  Added some olive oil, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, crushed red pepper, garlic, and Mrs. Dash seasoning.  Mixed it all together and let it sit over night.  It was delicious. 

Although I knew the benefits of Kale, I didn't know much about Swiss Chard other than it was a little "sweeter" than it's cousin.  After some research I found out some interesting info about this leafy vegetable: 
  • Beneficial for regulating blood sugar
  • Helps protect the liver
  • Great source of vitamins C, E, beta-carotene and the mineral manganese, and a good source of the mineral zinc = ANTIOXIDANTS
  • Outstanding supply of vitamin C, K, and magnesium which supports bone health (click HERE to read my post on Osteoporosis from a couple years back)
  • Rich in Omega 3 fatty acids
  • Good source of fiber
  • Adding Swiss Chard to your diet can help prevent iron-deficiency anemia, and vitamin-A deficiency; and believed to protect from cardiovascular diseases and colon and prostate cancers
Not only is Swiss Chard one of the healthiest foods around... it originated in Sicily.  No wonder I love it!

Almost as much as I love The Voice. 


(7 weeks and counting until Mid-Florida!)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Zone Out The Negative

They call it the Prowler.  I must have pushed this thing 4 times up and down the turf this morning thinking it would be a good way to wake my muscles up at 5:45 am before hitting some shoulders. 

Note to self:  don’t.

Or at least don’t start off with so much weight. 

I seriously almost died.  Ok, so I’m exaggerating, but it was really difficult and I ended up taking off the 2 top plates towards the end just so I could finish.  After a good 15 minute rest (true story), I decided it was time to attempt to make my shoulders burn just as much as my lower half did.  Sure enough I was successful.
I was so proud of myself for waking up this morning without hitting the snooze button and had so much energy that warming up did not even cross my mind.  I just wanted go.  I paid for it though, who rests for 15 minutes?????  

In other news, over the weekend our team met for a posing session up a Crunch Fitness.  A couple of new faces were there along with the few gals whom I have gotten to know and connect with through this journey.  And after spending even just a couple of hours with them I felt more than blessed to have such amazing women on my team.  Not to mention it’s nice to have a support system that truly understands the need for, but not-so-pleasant taste of boiled chicken and asparagus. 
Because some don't.

Seems like so many people are quick to offer unsolicited advice when it comes to contest prep, training, and diet.   And most of those people have never stepped foot on a stage or know anything about the competing world.  Sometimes I try to explain that it’s all a science, but most of the time I just listen to what they have to say and then move on.  I know my body I know what I need to do and NOT do in order to get it into (for lack of a better term) “trophy shape”.   If I eat boiled chicken, there is a logical reason for it (I swear there is!).  If I do nothing but glutes one day, there is a logical reason for it.  If I do only plyos and abs one day, there is a logical reason for it. 

To me there is nothing more frustrating than someone telling you what you need to work on or what you need to eat.  Especially if you don’t ask.  I told a friend on Sunday that as hard as it may be, she has to zone out all the minutiae.  It's not easy (even for me) to clear out that type of energy. I used to let it consume me. I used to question myself, every exercise, and every meal. Not anymore.

I've come to learn that everyone is an expert and they are going to have an opinion... but if you allow their views of what you should or shouldn’t do get to you, you will go crazy and lose focus. 

Not to mention I'm sure I already have A.D.D. and don't need the added distraction!



Monday, April 8, 2013

Mama Mia!

Self Control: the ability to exercise restraint.

…..especially at an Italian Festival smack dab in the middle of contest prep.

The Festa Italia.  Where a true taste of Italy comes to Ybor City every year and local Italians and Sicilians celebrate their heritage with grape stomping, bocce ball, music, wine, and yes FOOD.  And not just any food.  Food that my Nanas used to make from scratch (minus the recipe).  A pinch of this, a dab of that and before you knew it lasagna and cannolis (my favorite!) were in front of us. 
Yesterday was a plethora of not only cannolis, but risotto, sfinji donuts, meatballs, pizza, sausage, ziti, rigatoni, ravioli, gelato, cheeses, biscotti, pignolata, and thousands of other delicacies that my brothers and sister and  I grew up on. 
Part of the day was spent volunteering while the rest was spent socializing and running into friends and family members who I hadn’t seen in months.  My family and I attend pretty much every year and it's always fun day. 
….Until the words “no thanks” became a staple in my vocabulary as my siblings and I were passing each and every vendor. Saying no to all that indulgence was not an easy task especially when everyone around me sparking their taste buds in manicotti and Italian Ice. Although I did have a mini bite size sfinji donut along with some meatballs and they were delish!
But I know my limits.  I also know my weaknesses when it comes to food, especially Italian food (oh, and Cheez-Its).  When I eat, I eat and enjoy every last bite.  During the off season is one thing, but now is a whole different ball game.  If I give in to any sort of temptation it sets me back by making me crave more of the same junk food which in turn can hurt my metabolism and mess with my mindset.  So I have to try my best to remain consistent, be held accountable, and keep my goals in mind.  

Last night after the Festa I was at dinner with my family at Boca and a cheese plate was going around the table.  I love cheese. I had to say no to cheese. It was not a happy time in my life... haha.  Anyway, we were talking about contest prep/diet and my older brother asked when my show was. I told him June.  "June?!?!?!?!?  That's 2 months away. I thought it was like Tuesday morning... you can't even have cheese or salami?  It's protein!".  He was kidding of course and it was funny.  Believe you me, deep down in the depths of my stomach I DID want it.  But I had to have will power. I had cheated earlier in the day (see above) and knew that was all I could afford to do.
Don't get me wrong, falling off the wagon happens to the best of us but we have to get back up and keep going.  Think of the bigger picture whether it's getting on an NPC stage or just wanting to look great in those new white pants for spring.  Always stay motivated.   And staying consistent year round will make it much easier to exercise at least some sort of self-control when when you are face to face with that big plate of fettucini alfredo or gourmet cheese plate.


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Walk Your Walk

You are beautiful.  Don’t underestimate yourself and who you are.  Tap inside and discover it.  It is our weaknesses - fears, tears, or whatever that makes us strong.  And when we are weak His strength is made perfect (Cor 12:9). 
That was part of a conversation I had with a friend of mine yesterday.  Not to get biblical or spiritual in a fitness blog, but for ME those words were powerful and something inside said "write!".  

Having gone to a new church for the past couple years I have learned that so many things in the bible parallel our lives.  Whether it’s personal, work related, fitness related, or just someone who wants to understand it a little better.   It is our “owner’s manual” so to speak.   Finding strength through God’s solace is what has kept me afloat on days when I feel like I am sinking.  It’s that faith which has gotten me to where I am today.  I am not perfect by means but one thing I have come to fully understand is that in the midst of chaos, the big guy above is always in control.  He will give you everything you need to walk your walk.
I love children.  I want them to succeed and excel in whatever they put their hearts and minds to do.  I watch the coaches at the Performance Compound work with these aspiring athletes.  I watch them encourage these young kids and teens.  Each of them has their own unique strengths that no one else has and the coaches know exactly what to do to make them better, stronger, faster…. so that when they get on the field, or track, or court, confidence and performance will shine through.   The coaches are giving them everything they need to walk THEIR walk. 
Find your path and walk it to the best of your ability.  If you believe in a Higher Power trust that it will guide you and encourage you just as the coaches at the Performance Compound do with their young athletes.
The feelings and struggles in my life are very real but knowing that there is a bigger blueprint in place helps me focus.   And in a way it also helps me stay focused in the gym.  On days when I’m just not “feeling it” I think about the goal I am working towards and know that He is going to help me stay on course. 


Monday, April 1, 2013

Believe It And Achieve It

Training and life have affected my blogging.  It shouldn't...but it has.  The days seem too short and before I know it it's 2 months later and I haven't made one. single. post. 

10 weeks out from the first show of the year.  My biggest show to date.  It's not a national qualifier but could be a precurser to the following 2 shows which ARE.  No matter what is going on in my life, in my mind, in my heart, or in my soul I am determined to stay focused and keep my eyes on the prize.

I keep this picture below for motivation and inspiration... 1st, 2nd, 3rd (in that order) from The Arnold:

Believe it and Achieve it
(thank you Cheryl!)

So I keep pushing along... eating clean (which after yesterday's Easter feast my Sicilian family had - my cheat meals are unfortunately coming to a halt - sigh) yet eating more, lifting heavier, doing less cardio and getting my mind right!

They say less is more.... and it couldn't be more true when it comes to cardio and contest prep.  I went from teaching 6 spin classes a week to teaching 2.  Something I did not do last year.  And some days I would double my cardio.  True story. 

But this year is a very different scenario.  Now I'm at 30-45 minutes a day...if that!  I am all about muscle confusion so my cardio varies from day to day on the days I am not teaching spin.  And some days I don't do any at all.

Plate Pushes
Sled Pulls (forward run/back pedal)
Sled Pushes
Sprints (on a incline)
Plyo's - jumping, burpees, mountain climbers, box jumps etc...

And what a difference it has made. All the running and spinning was eating away at the muscle I was working so hard to build.  And now (so far, anyway) I am preserving my muscle and it shows which is a plus for this long and lean 44 year old gal.  As long as I continue on this cardio path, keep eating more red meat, and keep lifting heavier.... one day someone will be blogging about what an inspiration I am to them just like the women above are to me. 

HA... one can hope, right?

Friday, February 1, 2013

Protect Your Heart - Literally

So tomorrow is the day I meet with the Rockin Rican along with 2 other gals to discuss our plans for the upcoming NPC season.  Since one of my resolutions/goals for 2013 is to qualify for Nationals and attempt to maybe… hopefully… get my pro card I’m sure she will change my diet from last year and my working out will have to be altered with less cardio (yikes!) and heavier weight (yikes-squared!).   I am kidding.  To be honest I am actually looking forward to the change up this year.  I tend to get super lean towards the end so I’m excited to see what she has in store for me.
Stay tuned :)

On another quick note... today marks the beginning of Heart Disease Awareness Month.  And yes, I'm wearing red.  Heart disease is often called the "silent killer" and is the leading cause of death for women and men in the United States.

It kills more women than most cancers combined and the symptoms pretty much go unnoticed until it's too late.  More often than not, any sort of chest pain or discomfort is mistaken for heartburn or indigestion.  I had a co-worker who lost a female cousin a few years ago because she had "heartburn" for a couple of days, ended up having a heart attack, and left behind a husband and 2  young children.  She was wasn't even 40.  And it could have been prevented.  You can find the symptoms of heart disease HERE

High blood pressure, smoking, high cholesterol, and obesity can increase your risk.  Diet and exercise can play a huge role in fighting the disease.

Heart disease runs in my immediate family so I have made sure I know what to look for if something doesn't seem right.  Remember, the best defense is awareness and education. 

.... And THAT'S one to grow on!


Friday, January 25, 2013

No Sleep = No Bueno!

It must close to a full moon because not many people were hiding the crazy last night.  Here's how the series of events unfolded:

5:00 pm - a car full of seemingly middle aged men runs a stop sign a block from my house.  It was not a 4-way stop.  Get the picture?

5:05 pm - I get home only to find 4 extra large garbage bags full of leaves (thank you Mr. Yard Man). Since Friday is garbage day I roll my big blue garbage can to the curb like I do every week.  As I'm rolling I realize that it's heavier than normal and I know I hadn't added anything since the night before. Anyway I open the lid and it's filled to the rim with MORE leaves!!  (curse your Mr.Yard Man)  He's lucky I didn't have anything else to dump in there... like real garbage!

5:20 pm - hit the gym... an hour of cardio on the Gauntlet and then a little back and lots of abs. 

7:00 pm - Leave the gym and car #2 is actually stopped at a stop sign coming off an overpass, doesn't see me coming, and starts to pull out.  I swerve, she stops.  Really people?

7:15 pm -  Walk into Whole Foods (which could possibly be the best place ever), grab a basket... proceed to get some yummy soup, veggies, cucumber salad, chicken, water and a couple other items.  As I am at the checkout the gal who is bagging groceries asks... wait for it... "do you need a bag?". 

HUH??  So needless to say I was slightly annoyed a a little stressed.

The one thing that actually went RIGHT last night was my sleep.  I'm a restless sleeper.  I probably need new pillows.  But at my last visit to the great Dr. Heim I was telling him that although I don't have any problems FALLING asleep, it's the REM sleep that's the issue.  He said daily stresses (including people running stop signs) can cause a deficiency in Magnesium.  Working out is also an added stress on the body. And since I work out more than the average person, my Magnesium levels are most likely low. 

So he gave me a Magnesium supplement to take right before I go to bed and it's amazing what a difference it has made.  And when I don't take it my sleep is no bueno :(

Here are some interesting facts on this chemical in our bodies which Dr Oz says 68-75% adults are deficient in:
  1. Low Magnesium can cause fatigue, anxiety, weakness, and irritability, leg cramps, and restless leg syndrome
  2. Magnesium help with blood pressure and can aid in preventing a heart attack or stroke
  3. Helps to optimize the use of oxygen in order to burn calories and feel more energized
  4. Calms the nerves and relaxes the muscles
  5. Regulates Calcium levels in the body and for us middle aged women, Calcium is essential to prevent Osteoporosis. But too much Calcium can deplete Magnesium levels. Calcium has a role in making muscles contract while magnesium is needed to make the muscles relax. Interesting, right?
  6. Food naturally rich in Magnesium include spinach, broccoli, molasses, kidney/lima bean, nuts (almond, hazel, cashew), wheat bran, lentils, oatmeal, quinoa... just to name a few.  So EATS YOUR SPINACH!
That's all for now!  For those of you in Tampa have a safe and fun Gasparilla!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Finding Your Niche

Well I have survived yet another birthday.  While I feel humbled that so many people acknowledge the day of my birth (thank you Facebook!), the thought of a birthday celebration/dinner where the attention is solely on me makes me uncomfortable.  Call me crazy, but I like to keep things low key.  It's just part of my wiring.  And I'm ok with that!  Maybe it's the middle-child syndrome, who knows.

One thing that was brought to my attention on Monday was that I should probably re-name this blog "Fit In My MID 40s".  Really?  Thanks for the reminder.  Even though I don't FEEL 44, it just sounds old.  But you're only as old as you feel, right?  Right.  RIGHT!

So last week I was interviewed by a local paper for an article they were doing on different gyms in the area. With so many gym opening and closing they wanted to get different perspectives on what people look for when they have to find a new place to workout.  I was one of those perspectives.

The big thing is that people need to find their niche.  What they love or even LIKE to do.  I have friends who only do yoga because that's what they love.  They find inner peace and enjoy the tranquility of it all.  And most of them can torque their bodies in ways I can't even fathom doing.  Others love Crossfit.  It's the the latest craze. They love the power lifting aspect of it all.  And some love spinning.  I have students who don't do anything else BUT spin.  They like the cardio, the endurance, the music, and the fact their their legs are shot after only 45 minutes. Then we have runners (which was me in a former life) who get their endorphin rush when they reach that "runners high".  I get it, I've been there!  It's not to say that any one of these is better for you or will put you in better shape than the other... it's about what you ENJOY.  Keeping active is such an important part of healthy living and choosing not to workout because it's boring or torturous is only doing a disservice to the body that the good Lord gave each of us to take care of.

If you are one of those people who absolutely hates to workout, I challenge you to try different activities.  Walk on Bayshore.  Hit up a Hybrid class.  Play some beach volleyball.  If you belong to a gym grab a group fitness schedule and see what looks interesting.  If you don't have a membership anywhere or your gym doesn't offer classes, check out independent studios (yoga, pilates, cycling, crossfit, bootcamps, etc..).  I promise you, you WILL find something you can't live without. 

And if it's lifting weights in your garage, than so be it. 

Once you find your niche you will be amazed at how much effort you will put into it.  That effort will turn into results you never thought you'd see.  And it's because you actually take pleasure in doing it.  If you don't like what you are doing you will never get your mind right to move forward.

One of my favorite pages on Facebook is CallMd Plus (check them out and "like" it if you can).  A great company which is always posting links to awesome health related articles and lots of motivating pics.  Last week they posted this "food for thought":

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Pushing Plates & Pulling Trees

Well, it's Tuesday and my 7ft Christmas tree is official down and lying pitifully in my front yard waiting for the nice garbage truck to come take it away.  It makes me kind of sad because my house looks bare without it.  However I also feel empowered because not only did I put the tree up by myself... I also took it down and dragged it outside on my own.  Ahhh... the art of attempting to be independent.  Placing it upright in the stand without it leaning like the Tower of Pisa was definitely not an easy task, nor was taking it down without it crushing me like the Towing Inferno.  But I did it nonetheless and felt pretty darn good about it! 

Just like I felt pretty darn good about getting back on track with my training and workouts over the weekend.  Sunday I attended a group training class with a girlfriend but Saturday I was on my own.

After teaching class at The Compound on that morning I decided to to do a full body workout.  I started with lat pull downs.  3 sets.  In between each set I did 45lb plate pushes on the turf. Then I went on to shoulder presses, arms, squats, walking lunges, abs and repeated the plate push in between each set.  You don't need to be a rocket scientist to figure out that THAT is ALOT of flipping plate pushes!

If you're not familiar with what they are, here's a visual: 

No, that's not me but a client who so graciously let me photograph her!

Anyway, these are great for the quads, hams, glutes, core and it gets your heart rate up.  It's best to use either a smooth surface or turf (if your gym has some).  Carpet or rubber flooring may be a little harder. The amount of paint on the flat side of the plate will determine how difficult it slides.  Try to use a plate with little or no paint or rubber like coating.  Instead use an old school plate like the one above.
  • Make sure the plate is set with the smooth side down on the ground or floor.
  • Place your hands just slightly behind the mid line of the plate.
  • You will get down low just like a sprinter ready to explode out of the starting blocks.
  • Position yourself behind the plate so that your shoulders are not over the plate but behind it.
  • Keep your core tight-belly button to spine. 

  • You're ready to push! 

    Gals, if you're a beginner I would start off with a 25lb plate and only go a short distance.  Your heart rate will soar even going 10-20 yards.  Keep in mind that this is much harder than it looks and practice is necessary.  Along with a good rest period before going again. 

    Speaking of rest, after taking down that tree on Sunday evening I was on my couch for the rest of the night flipping channels until I finally landed on the season premier of Downton Abbey... and it was at that moment I knew my day was complete!