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Month: April 2014

Sitting: It’s hazardous to your health!

Sitting: It’s hazardous to your health!

Do you work at a job that requires you to sit for the majority of your day? The most recent research has shown that sitting for the majority of your day can increase your mortality rate. A professor of mine, Dr. Jason Melnyk, included me in a presentation he gave to other employees at CCSU titled, “Move to Improve”.(The entire presentation can be viewed below!) We already know that a sedentary lifestyle can impact your health negatively, however I’m sure not many people realize sitting for multiple hours each day can also lead to negative health effects. Some of you may also be thinking,”Yes, I sit all day at work but what if I exercise?”

The answer: Prolonged sitting is a risk factor for mortality independent of physical activity. While physical activity is extremely important and is recommended 3-5 days per week for at least 30 minutes per day by The American College of Sports Medicine, prolonged sitting is thought of as the “new smoking” in its effect on your health.

So what can you do to stay active throughout the day besides taking a walk during lunch or stretching out a little? Try the 7 minute workout! This short, easy to follow workout can be done no matter how small of a space you may have. If you have more than 7 minutes try multiple rounds! There is also a super awesome workout timer on www.7-min.com.

 
 Being sedentary for too long is not only detrimental to your health but to your brain. Adding movement throughout your day can also reduce stress, increase productivity, and better decision making therefore allowing you to be a better employee. For more information, refer to the powerpoint presentation created by one of my inspirational professors (and fellow half-marathon runner) Dr. Jason Melnyk here: Move to Improve
To all of my stairmaster lovers:

To all of my stairmaster lovers:

Last week as I was getting my daily dose of cardio in on my favorite machine (the stairmaster) my new friend Brian (who is a trainer at The Edge in Hamden—> if you go there book a session with him!)  gave me an interesting read. At first I was just excited to divert my attention away from staring at the clock but after realizing what he gave me I was even more intrigued.

When I do my cardio I do whatever I can to keep myself occupied because I get extremely bored unless I’m running outside. So while on the stairmaster I often step sideways and occasionally turn around and step backwards. Brian gave me a study to read titled “Comparative Effect of Forward and Backward Stairclimbing on Cardio-respiratory Parameters of Apparently Healthy Young Adults”. To sum it up, they tested 31 individuals (16 in the forward stairclimbing group and 15 in the backward stairclimbing group) all of whom were at similar cardiovascular fitness levels over an 8 week period and found that forward stairclimbing is more effective in increasing cardiovascular endurance than backward stairclimbing. Interesting, but it doesn’t stop there! Not only does backwards stairclimbing produce no cardiovascular benefits, it forces you throw off your posture, use the hand rails (we’ll get to that later), as well as leave the majority of your forefoot hanging off ultimately striking with your heel. None of which are natural movements of the body and ultimately not effective if you are trying to gain benefits.

After reading these articles I was interested to see if sideways stairclimbing was beneficial or not and found that it certainly can be beneficial to your adductor (inner thigh) muscles HOWEVER holding onto the railing whether you are climbing forward or sideways can decrease the effectiveness of using this machine. I know what you’re thinking, “But if I don’t hold on I’m going to trip!” It runs through my mind all of the time and the advice I can give you is to slow it down. You can go at speed 15? Yet you’re slouching over the railing and holding on for dear life…not only does that reduce workload but you’re causing bad posture and not even slightly improving on your balance or coordination. Take it down a few notches,climb at a comfortable pace and as you get used to not holding onto the rails you can increase the speed. You WILL find this to be so much more challenging and in turn you will get a more effective, intense cardiovascular workout.

 

 

References:

http://www.ajol.info/index.php/ajprs/article/view/82207/72367

http://voices.yahoo.com/is-using-stair-climber-backwards-beneficial-worthless-11313558.html?cat=50

 

Bikini Prep comes to a close

Bikini Prep comes to a close

Well…..I almost made it! 12 weeks of bikini prep is coming to a close (slowly but surely). I can truly say that this experience has been the most amazing journey so far. I have learned so much about nutrition and training, but mostly I have learned so much about myself. The discipline, will-power and stamina I had to have since Christmas was something I never thought I could achieve. I always stalked pro-bikini competitors and envied their lifestyle. How could someone have that much self-control? This sport really is just as mental as it is physical and although it took some major getting used to, as soon as I started seeing results I was hooked. My little runner’s legs turned into strong quads of steel, my abs starting to poke through more clearly and my biceps….well you be the judge of those guys! I wouldn’t trade the past 12 weeks for anything. I am thankful for the ups as well as the downs because they taught me I can accomplish whatever I set my heart out to do.

Life is all about finding balance. One of the main lessons I took from this prep was exactly that. I wanted to prove to individuals who follow this blog,  girls who look up to me and even my family and friends that you do not have to deprive your body of anything to achieve the body you desire. Although I was strict about counting my macros, my carb intake stayed high throughout this entire prep. Why? Because I love carbs(duh)….the right ones and because my lifestyle called for just that. I was not about to give up running, teaching intense aerobics classes or doing an of the activites that I love so I could look good in a bikini. Many people tried telling me there was no way I could train for both half-marathons I had planned this year and for a bikini competition,many people doubted how I was prepping for both activities and….well guess what people- here I am! One half-marathon completed and did I lose any muscle? Negative, I actually put on pounds of it! There is never one way to go about achieving your goals. You have to find a way that fits your needs and most importantly a way that makes you happy. As I posted before there was a short period during this prep where I was becoming unhappy. This was ONLY because I was starting to listen to the way others wanted me to go about things and not follow my heart. Once I took a step back and realized what was happening was when the magic occurred. I ran the fastest 13.1 miles in NYC that I possibly could have with this awful winter training season and I was more confident than ever with my body. As I always say, “DO WHAT YOU LOVE!” The moment someone tells you you aren’t capable of something is the moment you decide to prove them wrong.

I am taking in these final days of prep completely. Although I am slightly depleting my carbs for the next couple of days and I am slightly on edge(LOL), I know I can push through harder than ever and finish exactly where I want to be. In my head I have already achieved my goal and that is all that matters to me. The next 5 days I plan on laughing as much as I can and have the most fun while bringing the best package to the stage on Saturday. I can’t wait to see all of the other beautiful women and handsome men that have worked as hard as I have the past couple of months. In my eyes, we are all winners. Stay tuned for a post show update and video blog!!!

Zucchini Patties Recipe

Zucchini Patties Recipe

I was actually really surprised at how delicious these turned out to be! I found a recipe on Pinterest but had to alter it slightly for Bikini Prep. Here’s what I did!

Ingredients:

-2 medium sized Zucchinis

-3 eggs

-3 tbsp Mrs. Dash Garlic seasoning

-1-2 tbsp Coconut Oil

Using a Julienne peeler, grate the Zucchinis in a bowl, combine the other ingredients and mix together.

Heat skillet and melt coconut oil. Grab a handful of the zucchini mixture and form it into the best ball that you can (doesn’t stick together very well but do your best!)Plop it into the skillet and let it cook for 2-3 minutes or until it browns then flip it over. When all of the mixture is used, put the patties on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 5-10 minutes. Let cool and enjoy!

The NYC Half-Marathon

The NYC Half-Marathon

Leading up to race day I’m not going to lie I was nervous. This training season had been WAY different than my summer/fall training season. Last year I was running 30-40 miles weekly, no strength training, and eating whatever I wanted (giving into the “myth” of carb loading). I was lean, and felt pretty great. Come December (after already signing up for two half marathons) I decided randomly to prep for a Fitness Bikini Competition. People thought I was nuts: training for two completely different goals, but this was not out of character for me. I tend to think I can do it all (hence the Superwoman nickname). So, I proceeded to lift 5-6 days per week, packing on muscle, and running when my legs would let me. Between the AWFUL winter we had, and my hatred of the dreadmill, training for my first  race in NYC was incredibly challenging. I lost motivation to run, I almost dropped out of the race and my confidence had just gone way down (running wise). It dropped so much that I could barely get through 4 miles without stopping, which made me even more upset. Then: magic happened. 4 days before the race I set out to run 10 miles. I knew if I could get myself through 10 hilly miles in North Haven, then I would 100% be able to complete 13.1 in NYC. I lucked out with a beautiful Spring day and not only ran 10 miles, but renewed my love for running, and ran faster than I had in months. It’s like something clicked in my head telling me that not only was I completing this race but I was completing it well. I was also surprised that after my longest run since the Fall, I was not very sore and recovered quite quickly. I can thank resistance training for that. Sure my legs have SO MUCH more muscle on them than they did last year, but they are strong. They can handle those miles much better than my legs of the past. This was the most exciting learning experience for me. Not only did I prove everyone wrong who said I couldn’t do both goals, but I was able to do the two things I really loved: running and lifting. 

RACE DAY: March 16th, 2014
Yes, I woke up at 3am on race day. Yes, I took the 4:30am train from New Haven to Grand Central. Yes, I was wandering around the city like a lost puppy for a little while BUT I saw a fellow runner and asked to share a cab with him to Central Park where the starting line was. All morning I had planned on walking there to use it as a warm-up mile….but I quickly talked myself out of that when I realized how cold it really was.  I know what you’re thinking, “You shared a cab with a complete stranger at 6am in New York City while you were alone?” Yes, simply because the runner community is unlike any other. We are all pretty much the same person: and when you are releasing crazy endorphins like that: we’re usually the happiest of people you will meet.

After chatting in the cab, I soon found out my new running friend was a cop, also from Connecticut. (So for all of you who were worried, worry no more.) Not only did he just begin running a few months ago, but he completed the NYC Full Marathon as his first ever race! I am always inspired by individuals who begin running, complete something as accomplishing as a full marathon, and continue racing. That just shows how contagious this sport really is. Arriving at Central Park was exciting. Just think, 20,000 runners and who knows how many spectators all coming together for this event at 7am on a cold winter day. My luck continued to escalate because there was a HUGE line for security to even get to the start and my wave was about to start in 10 minutes. Luckily my new police officer buddy got us to cut the entire line, I gave him a big hug with good luck and we went our separate ways. Funny how certain people can make such an impact at the most unexpected times. I was grateful!

As I made my way to the start so many emotions were running through me but the one that was taking over them all was determination. I’m the type of person that when I know I need to do something, I do whatever it takes to do it. I decided right then that I knew I was going to finish that race and do it under two hours. I decided that no matter how hard I had to force my legs forward, or how long I had to hold my bladder (LOL) it was going to be done. My wave kept inching forward, and before I knew it we were off.

Running through Central Park was not only beautiful but it gave me time to reflect. I reflected on how far I have come in a year, on past races, and even on past training runs that stuck out in my mind. A year ago I had never run a race (seriously) before yet here I was cruising through New York City running a half-marathon. That factor alone I think is what kept me going throughout the entire race. We made our way through Central Park in its entirety and as we were exiting I was getting exhilarated because the tall skyscrapers were starting to take over. Looking straight ahead was no longer an option. I made sure to slow my pace (just a little!) and enjoy the views that were surrounding me. Running down an empty Times Square was a once in a lifetime experience that I hope to never forget. The crowd was going wild, my music was blasting and even though that was only Mile 7, I already felt accomplished. Feeling what I felt running down 7th Avenue is EXACTLY why I love the sport of running.

We proceeded our route to the West Side Highway and I knew at this point it was pretty much a straight away until the finish and not only that but it was also probably going to be the most challenging part of the course. I have to say all in all I felt completely energized up until Mile 10. I fueled this race with Generation UCAN: a unique carbohydrate known as “SuperStarch” (I will link their website below) and honestly don’t think I would have been able to run without it. GenUCAN has been my savior on ALL of my long runs and races and I would never use any other Goo/energy source as they have messed with my stomach. By Mile 10 I was getting a little fatigued but never as bad as any of my other races where I would fatigue by Mile 6. This factor kept me going. I had already come 10 miles, what’s 3 more right?? Right and with that thought I completed those 3 miles as fast as my legs would take me. The last Mile was through the tunnel, which I was not a huge fan of running in the dark so I think that also sped me up a bit but when that finish line was in sight: it was all business. I pushed my body to the extreme, giving every single drop of effort I had left to get me there. When I saw the clock only said 1:51 thats when I was 1. pumped that I finished within my goal and 2. even more pumped to get my medal! The energy from the volunteers was outstanding and they really made me feel so special giving me my medal and my goodie bag of treats. As I saw other runners reuniting with their families I did wish I had someone there to cheer me on however: since running my last race alone, it is somewhat fulfilling to go on these adventures by myself: knowing I can succeed in anything I want to do. (Plus I had a million messages from my family and friends to look forward to reading on the train home)

March 16th, 2014 was a day I will always remember. Not because I ran 13.1 miles and got a medal, but because I set a goal for myself and although I got off-track in preparing for this goal, I still achieved it. Never give up on your dreams no matter how big or out of reach they may seem. If you think you can- you can!

Your life is only as full as your heart

Your life is only as full as your heart

Writing this with a heavy heart this morning, I feel the need to address it.

        About two years ago when I first started teaching my outdoor Bootcamp classes at CCSU, I was challenged as an instructor. Anyone who knows me knows my classes (especially one like Bootcamp) are not low-impact aerobics. They include a lot of jumping, plyometric and high-skill movements for a heart-pumping workout. One day during my 12 noon class I had a new girl show up. I always get very excited over new clients and welcomed her into my class as I would anyone else. As we started moving around, I noticed she was struggling with some of the exercises and was having a hard-time jumping so I had her modify some of the movements which seemed to work a lot better for her. We powered through the rest of the class and at the end I will never forget what she said to me. “Thank you for allowing me to participate in your class and being patient with me, a lot of others would have told me to leave.” I was feeling a couple different emotions at this point: upset that another instructor would turn away someone incapable of  performing in a class, and although I had noticed she seemed to be very underweight I was confused. I encouraged her to come back and went back down to my office where I expressed my confusion to my boss to find out that this young girl was struggling with a severe eating disorder.   

       Being such a young instructor myself, I never had to deal with something of this nature, but I learned from my boss and from researching on my own that I (unknowingly) handled it correctly. Exercising was her escape and by me allowing her to escape was my way of helping her heal. At first I was confused (along with the other staff at RECentral). How could we let this poor girl come to workout and take these high-intensity classes? I just didn’t get it. Then I sat down, and thought about what made me happy, what I could always turn to in order to crush a bad day: exercise. This girl was a lot more like me than I had realized before and although sometimes it was hard for me to understand, I wanted to help. Becoming more than an instructor: becoming a friend was important. I had come to find out later running was something we both shared love for. I realized once you got her talking about certain things, she would light up and come out of her usually quiet shell. Just last week we were discussing after one of my classes about how much she had missed running and took so much interest in my upcoming half-marathons. People have asked me about them numerous times, but this girl understood why I loved to run. 


      It has been a few months since I have actually had her in class, and last week was the first time I saw her in a while. Elizabeth “Ellie” Sloan passed away yesterday. I am deeply saddened by the news but I know now she is running around free and with as much excitement as she can express. I will be thinking of her every time I go out for a run and am dedicating my first half marathon of the year, The NYC Half in 9 days to her. She taught me that even during the weakest points of your life, you still have the power to do what you love. 


   Rest in Peace Elizabeth <3




Eating Disorders are a serious emotional and physical conditions that can have life-threatening consequences for males and females. They are not a fad, phase or life-style choice.  For more information and education please visit:


www.nationaleatingdisorders.org

A physique is more than just a hot body

A physique is more than just a hot body

To me, it is not just about having abs, or a perky booty, or toned arms. These are all added bonuses in my book. I don’t workout everyday and sometimes twice per day to sit at home and look in the mirror at my abs. Now don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my body and what it has become especially over the past few months but to say I do what I do to just look good would be a complete and total lie.

Being a woman and having a great physique is more than just about what you see on the outside. There is more to it than just a hot body. What I love about my body most is that money can’t buy it. I work hard for my body. It doesn’t just show bumps and curves in all of the right places, it shows dedication, discipline and to me the most important factor: self-respect. It’s easy to say yes to ice-cream, to say yes to sleeping in, to say yes to going out to binge-drink with your friends. What’s hard is saying no. No to the cookies that my Dad bakes for my sister that USED to be my favorite, no to sleeping in my warm bed that extra hour every morning, and at first the hardest no was to my friends who wanted me to come to the bar every weekend. That however has gotten easier because the friends who understood my goals have supported my decisions and the friends who didn’t understand are no longer around. My life used to be a constant party that did include binge drinking just like most college students and then one day I decided is this really what I want? Do I really enjoy not remembering my nights out with my “friends”? Waking up feeling more than awful, bloated, sick for sometimes days? This wasn’t me or what I was meant to do. I no longer wanted to be like everyone else, I wanted a change. So that’s what I did. My entire lifestyle went from margaritas to protein shakes. I haven’t had a sip of alcohol in 5 months and I do not plan to. I am choosing to make my body the best it can be INSIDE and out. I am choosing to live my life with a clear mind, clear eyes and a clear heart. 

We are given one amazing structure to live in. Why pollute it with processed food, alcohol, toxins, and all of these unnatural products we are sold today? When did that ever become the right thing to do? Let’s face it, the world we live in has changed and continues to change daily however you can still enjoy life by limiting these factors and living your life the best way YOU can. I am not here to preach to you about turning your entire lifestyle into a clean one but make changes that will make you happy and improve your quality of life. It’s what’s on the inside that counts.

Chickpea Cookie Dough Recipe

Chickpea Cookie Dough Recipe

Yep. It sounds gross I know but it was DELICIOUS and surprisingly tasted like cookie dough! (My weakness) give it a shot and satisfy that sweet tooth! I love keeping my cheat meals clean because my body functions and responds way better to clean foods. Here’s the recipe 🙂

1 can chickpeas

1/4 cup oats

1/8 cup maple syrup

2 tablespoons natural peanut butter

1/8 tbsp baking powder

1 tbsp pure vanilla extract

2 tbsp dark chocolate chips (or as many as you desire)

Mix everything except the chips in a blender. Add the chips in after and enjoy!

Carbohydrates: The good & the bad

Carbohydrates: The good & the bad

The idea of carbs are simplistic in most peoples minds: “Carbs will make me fat.”

This may be true if you consume mostly simple carbohydrates which are simple sugars with very little nutritional value to the body.  There are two types of simple carbohydrates:

Monosaccharides consist of one sugar. These are our lovely fructose, galactose and glucose molecules.
Disaccharides are two monosaccharides linked together. Examples of these include lactose, sucrose and maltose.

You may not have been familiar with those two terms before however I can be almost certain we all know that fructose and sucrose have been red flags when it comes to searching for healthy food products.

Some examples of Simple Carbohydrates include:
~White flour products
~Table sugar
~Yogurt
~Candy
~Fruit
~Fruit Juice
~Chocolate
~Soda
~Packaged Cereals

Now I know what you’re thinking: fruit?? I thought that was good for you??
Fruit has sugar in it. Personally I love fruit however I know that it is important to not over-do it when consuming it.

Now on to the “good” carbs!
Complex carbohydrates are made up of a chain of three or more sugars rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals and because they are more complex, it takes our bodies longer to digest them.  They do not spike insulin as quickly as simple carbs and can leave you feeling full for a longer period of time.

Some examples of Complex Carbohydrates include:
~VEGETABLES
~Whole grains
~Beans
~Lentils

I put major emphasis on vegetables because so many people do not know or consider them carbohydrates! I get a lot of emails from individuals stating that they don’t eat carbs and then send me their current diet which is full of veggies. Truth: Veggies are carbs and GOOD ones at that! 

Now that you are generally educated on what different types of carbs are, it is important to understand that our bodies use carbs are fuel. They are one of the 3 macronutrients (the other two being protein and fat) that we need in the largest amount simply for the reason that they give us energy. In the absence of carbohydrates(glycogen) in the body, there is no other choice for our body to then resort to using protein from muscle tissue as fuel (AKA see ya muscles).

So how much carbohydrate do you need? 
Although there is no recommended daily carb intake your diet should consist of 40-60% carbs, but remember choose the healthier complex carbs! If you perform resistance training, it is HIGHLY important to include carbohydrates in your post-workout meal as the body’s glycogen levels are depleted leaving the liver and muscles craving nutrients.

Post-Workout Snack Ideas:
~Whey Protein Shake & Banana
~Multigrain Rice Cake with Peanut Butter & 1/2 Banana
~Homemade Hummus & Multigrain Pita Chips
~Tuna on Whole Wheat Bread Thin
~Low-fat chocolate milk (YES! Awesome protein:carb ratio and great for recovery)

I went from eating (at least) 3 bagels per day in high school and in the beginning of college (See below for evidence) and now I stick to getting my carbs from vegetables, brown rice and potatoes! Not only does my body thank me but my body composition is entirely different.

The overall message: Don’t be afraid of carbs. Now you are educated on what the good ones are and how you can incorporate them into your diet. Now go eat some! 🙂

Renewing my inspiration to run

Renewing my inspiration to run

Running. I started off hating it when my mom forced me on a 3 mile run with her when I was about 12. In the past year, it has grown to be one of my favorite things. From summer, to fall, to winter, I have made my way outside. Sometimes for training, sometimes to clear my head, and sometimes just because I was happy to be alive. That to me is the best part about doing something you love…it always applies.

Lately my main focus has been on my bikini competition, but I was determined  to not stop doing my first love. Although I have not laced up my running shoes quite as much as I did over the summer ( I was averaging at about 40 miles per week), my other workout regimens including INSANITY and resistance training has greatly(and surprisingly to me) improved my running! I not only feel stronger, I tire less easily, I am able to go longer without my legs wanting to give up on me and my cardiovascular fitness has greatly improved due to INSANITY that I rarely am ever sucking wind when I run.  I was slightly worried after deciding to do this bikini competition that my two half-marathons I had previously signed up for weren’t going to be my fastest, but that has all changed now that I am 4 weeks out from the New York City Half Marathon. Last week, I ran my first 8 miler since the fall and I felt better than ever. This week I plan on running an easy 10 on Friday and although my 6 today were extremely cold, windy and icy, my time was still exactly where I wanted it to be (49 minutes).

Running is something I see myself doing for life simply because I am at my happiest when I run. There is nothing (that I discovered yet) that gives me the same feeling as running whether it is 3 miles or 13.1 and my goal is to run in as many new places as possible. Not only because it’s fun to run around different scenes, but because every time I lace my Saucony’s up and step outside, I find out something new about myself and it is usually a good thing. Love your body, love your life.