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Month: June 2014

To all of you cardio bunnies:

To all of you cardio bunnies:

I see it every day in the gym. I used to do it myself. Spending 30-60 minutes on the treadmill, stair master or elliptical incredibly bored out of my mind. Also known as steady-state cardio, this method is not the best if you are trying to lose body fat yet keep muscle mass. Now don’t get me wrong, steady-state cardio is great for endurance athletes or if you are training for a road race, but if you are looking for a toned, chiseled, athletic body, this is not the method for you.The reason why this type of cardio is not ideal for long-term fat loss is because your body quickly adapts to it, so each week, you are burning less calories. It is important to keep in mind however that this type of exercise may be sufficient for the beginner gym go-er who has a lower level of fitness.

HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) is probably something you are starting to hear more about. It involves a bout of exercise at the upper-levels of your output, and can be close to maximal effort, followed by a rest period before repeating. Allowing your heart rate to increase rapidly, then returning to a manageable pace allows for a higher caloric burn in a shorter amount of time. Let’s compare your body to a car. When you start a car and go from 0-60 mph yet continuously slamming the breaks, you are using more fuel than going a steady 30mph down the road correct? The same applies to your body. What I love about HIIT is that you can be done within 15-25 minutes depending on your current level of fitness. Since you are using more “fuel” at a faster rate, you deplete at a faster rate as well, so those 60 minute treadmill sessions can officially be kissed goodbye!

Rachel Cosgrove, who is a gym owner and fitness guru in California is a huge fan of saying farewell to steady-state cardio and like myself has experienced both ends of the spectrum herself. When I was very into running, I did not have the energy or time for lifting weights after hitting 20-40 miles per week while training for my half-marathons. While I was in great endurance shape, my body was “skinny fat”. My muscle tone had completely disappeared and I felt wonderful, but my body was not where I wanted it to be, not to mention I was eating everything I’m sight after burning so many calories on my long runs. After now almost 9 months of heavy lifting and clean eating, my body has completely transformed. I love feeling strong and powerful, my muscle mass has increased and body fat has dropped drastically. HIIT has made me a happier and healthier fitness professional!

Since I like to run, sprinting is what I like to do for my HIIT sessions. Sprinting at maximal effort can:
〰Increase muscle mass
〰Reduce overall body fat percentage due to increased insulin sensitivity
〰Increase EPOC (Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption) which allows the body to continue to burn calories hours after a workout is complete.

Rachel Cosgrove elaborates on this issue in the T-Nation article attached below however I like to perform HIIT at a Fixed Work: Variable Recovery ratio. Basically what this means is using my heart rate monitor, I perform fixed work for 20-30 seconds, then recovery time depends on my heart rate. Once it lowers back down to about 120-130bpm, I start the process all over again. Right now I workout between 5-6 days per week so I try to sprint every other day. Here is a 4 week sprinting progression if you are just beginning!

Week 1: 5 x 10-15 second dynamic treadmill sprint
Week 2: 5 x 20yd body weight sled sprint
Week 3: 10 x 10yd shuttle sprints
Week 4: 5 x 20yd sprints

Remember to completely recover in between sets to get the maximal caloric burn!

http://www.t-nation.com/training/death-of-steady-state-cardio

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The next best thing to spaghetti and meatballs

The next best thing to spaghetti and meatballs

Ever since I stopped regularly consuming white-flour products including pasta, bread and everything in between, I noticed my stomach rarely ever gets bloated, I never feel too full from a meal, and I notice higher levels of energy. I’m not saying pasta (whole-grain or not) is bad, but just is not optimal for me. Being a 100% Italian girl, giving up pasta was not an easy decision however it became a lot easier when I discovered Spaghetti Squash. Now if you’re expecting it to taste exactly like a large bowl of spaghetti…get outta here! I think many people have higher hopes for this pasta replacement to taste exactly like the real thing- keep in mind it is a vegetable! There are so many ways to prepare this low-calorie, low-carb treat however my favorite is to top it with tomatoes, spinach and of course lean ground turkey meatballs. This quick, easy to make meal is delicious, satisfying and keeps me full without the “I want to lay on my couch and die for two hours after” feeling! So next time you are craving your favorite Italian dish, or heading to a family event, whip up a big bowl of guilt-free deliciousness to keep that healthy eating on track!

Clean Eating Italian Dream
Ingredients:
▪️1 spaghetti squash
▪️1 can 100% pure Tomato juice
▪️1/2 C grape tomatoes
▪️93% Lean Ground Turkey
▪️1 egg
▪️Mrs.Dash Garlic & Herb Seasoning

Directions

Slice the squash in half and scoop out the seeds/insides.
Sprinkle Mrs. Dash over the top of both halves, cover with plastic wrap.
Pop in microwave for 8-10min or until soft.
Combine turkey, egg and seasoning in a bowl. Roll into 1 inch balls. Sautée on stovetop until browned.
Sautée spinach.
Combine spaghetti squash, spinach, tomatoes, tomato juice in large bowl. Top with meatballs and for extra flavoring add some Parmesan Cheese!

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Do you have an ABsession?

Do you have an ABsession?

Do you spend over half of your workout focusing on an exercises? Is getting a six-pack one of your main fitness goals?


If you answered yes to either of these questions, this is the blog post for you. As a fitness instructor and personal trainer, I have done just about every ab exercise you can think of but it was not until I cleaned up my diet until I started to notice changes in my mid-section. Along with many people, I have always struggled with defining my abs. NEWSFLASH: everyone has abs, better known as our Abdominus Rectus and Exterior Oblique muscles. Whether yours are visible or not depends on how much fat is layered over them. Time and time again I hear the quote, “Abs are made in the kitchen” and while this is partially true, how much you want to define your abs depends on the exercises you do as well.

All too often I see men and women going from crunches to planks back to crunches in the gym. You can spend 30-45 minutes of your workout doing numerous abdominal exercises OR you can perform compound movements that work your entire body while strengthening your core at the same time as well as some weighted exercises to get that core where you want it to be faster. A few examples of compound movements include deadlifts, squats, and lunges. While spot reduction or trying to lose body fat in one specific part of your body is not possible (wouldn’t that be nice?!), dropping your body fat percentage and increasing your muscle mass overall will not only give you a more defined mid-section, but a more defined body in general.

So to break it down for you, I have created a series: FIT GIRL MOVES ABSolutely Stronger. Each week I will post a series of new core-specific exercises to not only work on defining your abs but to strengthen your whole body while increasing your cardiovascular fitness. Each week add this circuit to the end of your normal workout routine and each week I will also post a healthy eating tip to make sure your diet stays on point, but know that the cleaner you eat, the faster and more visible those abdominals will be.

Let’s finish up June and kick-off July with a clean, strong, body and mind. See Week 1 below!


 

 

Don’t wish for it, work for it

Don’t wish for it, work for it

I have never been a fan of the quote, “Good things come to those who wait”.


If you want something badly enough, why would you want to just sit around and wait for it? If you told me one year ago that I would be living in San Diego, California working at one of the I would have 100% laughed in your face. A year ago I was at a point in my life where I was happy, but I had settled. I settled with having decent grades, I settled with the relationship I was in at the time, and I settled with the fact that southern Connecticut was where I was going to start my “life” after college. It was not until the end of 2013 when I decided I no longer wanted to settle. I made a pact with myself to work harder in school, surround myself with positive, supportive people while getting rid of the negative ones, and started to look for internships across the country all while prepping for my first fitness competition. While my body was transforming before my eyes thanks to lifting heavy weights and eating clean, my mind was also transforming. I was achieving more than I ever thought possible at the start of 2014 including another half-marathon, the change to audition for the INSANITY Beachbody Talent Team in Los Angeles, and running the largest fitness event at CCSU and  it was only the beginning. If I sat back and waited for something better to happen, I would probably still be where I was a year ago- settled. Taking action and following my dreams was the best decision I could have made for myself. Sitting back and waiting for the right moment (that may never come!) is not the way to live your life.

No matter what your dreams are, whether they are big or small, you should be doing every single thing it takes to achieve them. My boss, Todd Durkin has declared the number “10” as the perfect number. If you put 10 into everything that you do, you WILL get 10 out of it. From someone who started off with nothing 17 years ago, to now being known as Personal Trainer of the Year multiple years in a row, worldwide motivational speaker and author of The IMPACT Body Plan, Todd is proof that if you want it bad enough, you WILL achieve it.

With that being said, “Good things come to those who WORK!”

Get after it, follow your dreams, never give up and most importantly, NEVER SETTLE.

 

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Finding balance: in all aspects of your life

Finding balance: in all aspects of your life

It has been a full six months since I have cleaned up my diet to where I wanted it to be. Eating healthy has been important to me the last year or so however when I began running intensely last summer I also thought I could “carb load” and eat whatever I wanted (including buckets…yes buckets of chocolate chip cookies). Around winter time when I decided to clean up my diet prior to starting prep for my bikini competition, I noticed such a big change not only in my physical appearance but in my energy levels, focus as well as my stamina during exercise. Eating whole, unprocessed foods had changed my life and although at times it was (and still is) a struggle, it was a goal that I set for myself and was able to achieve. That goal started half a year ago in December, now we are almost through with June and I still eat clean 90% of the time. To me, that is the key to my success. I don’t limit myself from anything. If I want an ice cream cone on the weekend, I will have and enjoy that ice cream cone. The important factor here is to realize you can still enjoy and indulge in your treats on occasion as long as you are continuing your healthy habits 90% of the time. When I first started eating clean, I was definitely way too hard on myself. If I did have a treat meal or indulged a little bit too much at a family party, I would immediately feel guilty, and really break myself down over it…especially during my fitness competition prep. I have realized through the ups and downs that creating that guilt inside was only adding more stress to my life and ultimately making me unhappy- it was not worth it! Now, I realize that eating clean 100% of the time is not realistic or healthy for me and having a well-deserved treat every now and then should be something that is enjoyable and normal. A great trick to creating a successful goal is to incorporate SMART goal setting.

  • Specific- Try not to be too general when deciding what you want your goal to be. For example: “To not eat junk food” would be too broad of a statement. Instead try “To eat more vegetables with every meal.”
  • Measurable- Make your goal something that can be measured. For instance, if weight loss is your goal, don’t just think “I want to lose weight.”, try instead, “I want to lose 2 inches around my waist.”
  • Achievable- An achievable goal will lead to creating more successfully met goals. Don’t specifically set a goal that you will not be able to reach.
  • Realistic- The worst thing you can do is set an unrealistic goal. You want to be able to succeed and the way to do so is to set the bar just high enough for you to reach it.
  • Timely- Set a time limit for yourself. This goal should not be dragging on month after month leading up to year after year. Short-term goals are just as important as long-term goals and can even help you achieve that bigger goal you have in mind.

Balancing clean eating is just one example of creating balance in your life. A successfully balanced life requires a nutrient dense diet, plentiful sleep, a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise per day for at least 5 days out of the week, adequate hydration, time with your loved ones and most importantly time with yourself. Set aside at least 10 minutes per day where you can be alone and have a “break” from life’s stressors. Exercising, and eating right should not be something that you are punishing your body with. If you are not enjoying the experience, it may be time to take a step back and ask yourself “why“. There are an unlimited ways to create happiness all while building a strong body and mind from the inside out.

One thing I have taught myself is that strength comes from overcoming the things you thought you could not do, but at the same time you have to know when you are being too hard on yourself. Finding and creating that balance is not an easy task to achieve, however once you find what works for you, you will reach the ultimate happiness.

~A

“Athlete vs. Non-Athlete, everyone should be deadlifting”-Laurence Ng

“Athlete vs. Non-Athlete, everyone should be deadlifting”-Laurence Ng

Deadlifts have always been one of my favorite exercises. Not only are they a compound movement or a movement that uses multiple joints to complete the action, they are considered an Activity of Daily Living (ADL) which mimics the act of properly lifting an object off the ground. The deadlift is a hip-hinge movement yet all too often throughout the many gyms I have been to, I see this movement being done incorrectly. Form should always come before weight, so if you are deadlifting 200lbs. with terrible form you are putting dysfunction over your fitness level.

A few key concepts to think about while performing a deadlift include:

  • Keeping a neutral spine with shoulder blades retracted
  • Push the hips back as opposed to down when reaching to set
  • Keep the head and neck in alignment- you should be looking more towards the ground (you can look at yourself in the mirror after!)
  • Keep the Rectus Abdominus and entire core tight throughout the movement

There are a variety of ways to perform a deadlift including one and two legs or arms using dumbbells, a barbell, a trap bar, or kettlebells. You are also using numerous muscles when performing this movement but the large muscle groups worked include the Gluteus Maximus, Hamstrings, Quadriceps, Erector Spinae (lower back), as well as the Adductors for stabilization.

Yesterday I was able to work with Laurence at FQ10 who is an Athlete Performance Coach/Personal Trainer while he coached one of his newer clients who is a high school baseball player recovering from a recent injury. Since this athlete was coming off an injury and was not at his peak level of fitness, Laurence had him perform hip hinges using a Dowel Rod to master the movement pattern. After successfully doing so, we progressed to the Trap Bar deadlift with lighter weight. One important cue Laurence used was to really squeeze the glutes at the top of the movement to lock out the hips. Laurence expressed to me that many individuals struggle with knee collapse during this movement. This is a common thing to see in the deadlift and is often seen in any squat movements in individuals who have weak Gluteus Medius muscles. If gone uncorrected, this can cause wearing of the MCL and knee pain so it is important to strengthen these lateral muscles. Sometimes proper knee tracking can be attained just from giving a coaching cue however using lateral band work can help strengthen and correct this problem.

Below I am demonstrating the correct way to perform a hip hinge, a kettlebell deadlift as well as a barbell deadlift. Remember, if you are just beginning to deadlift, practice the hip hinge movement before progressing to any weighted exercise! I will also be posting some lateral band work so check back to strengthen those Glute Meds!

 

~A

 

10 WAYS TO LOVE YOUR BODY

10 WAYS TO LOVE YOUR BODY

If you follow me on Instagram, you have constantly seen me post quotes about self-love, self-appreciation and of course taking care of your body. Between the media, and everything else we have to deal with in society these days, I feel like the appreciation we should have just to be living in a body has gone out the window. Many people including my friends, family, clients and at times myself, struggle with body image. The media especially has such a huge effect on how we “should” look or what we should wear. They have so much power over us that is used in such a negative way most recently with the photoshopped advertisements, celebrities performing crazy diets to slim down and of course my favorite, the “thigh gap” issue. Men and women of all ages are affected by the media in some way or another so to counteract that, I wanted to create a list of 10 ways to remind yourself to love your body.

 

She believed she could, so she did

She believed she could, so she did

Yesterday was easily the best day of my summer so far (yet I feel like I say that every single day living out here!). My boss, Todd Durkin, chose me as the female model for a video shoot with STACK Magazine which is extremely popular among high school and college athletes. Given all of my experience with photo shoots as well as some video work in the past, I felt confident that I could take on this opportunity with success. Now as with anyone, of course I was slightly nervous this being my first official debut in the world of sport performance however I knew that I had to keep my confidence up as I worked alongside one of the top Personal Trainers, fitness experts and motivational speakers I knew of who just so happened to be my boss. I had already worked so hard to just be at this internship so being given this opportunity within the first couple of weeks here was more than a dream come true. Leaving my family and friends on the East Coast and moving across the country by myself was not the easiest decision for me to make after graduation however I knew that if I opened this one door, many more doors would open and yesterday proved that to be true.

We started the day filming with the STACK media team at Westview High School which was the most beautiful high school I had ever seen. Todd and the team had a bunch of agility and speed drills planned for this portion of the day that Marques (the male model) and I would be performing under Todd’s coaching. Being a dancer my whole life and never having played field sports, a lot of these exercises were brand new to me but Todd was amazing at breaking them down for us, making sure we could perform them and most importantly made sure it was fun. I definitely got my butt kicked but being in front of the camera is something I have always enjoyed and felt natural at.

I was so inspired by Todd’s presence in front of the camera- we shot a total of 40 short videos that will be streamed starting June 30th on www.stack.com under Todd Durkin’s Season 2 of World Class Workouts and throughout the entire day Todd completed each video with such ease and only 1 take!!! I learned so much just from watching him in front of the camera and it really inspired me to not only get more creative with my own videos but to work on connecting with my followers and supporters.

I could quote Todd for days however one thing he mentioned to me yesterday is, “People are going to judge you within the first seconds of meeting you or watching your video. They are going to decide hey I really like this girl or this girl is boring.” That particularly stuck out to me and made me think about first impressions. Do you ever wonder what people first think of you when they meet you? This inspired me not only to get better at creating my videos, but motivating people right off the bat. I decided I want people to remember my name and think of me positively when connecting with them so I relayed that back to what I learned at my first day at FQ10 which was get to know people’s names and a little bit more about them. It is so easy to go about your day and not have an effect on someone…yet why not be effective? Make yourself known as the person who cares and you will bring only more positivity into your life each day.

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“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep balance you must keep moving.”- Albert Einstein

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep balance you must keep moving.”- Albert Einstein

      Arriving in San Diego car-less with only 4 miles between my apartment and Fitness Quest 10, I decided the best option for me this summer was to get a bicycle. Safe to say it has been quite some time that I have actually sat on a bicycle (if we aren’t counting spin class) so after spending two hours testing bikes out at our local Target, I finally settled on a shiny, purple mountain bike. Since I had spent so long trying to pick the perfect bike (wayyyy too long), by the time I checked out at Target it was dark outside. Just picture it: petite, blonde East Coast girl who hasn’t ridden a bike in easily 10 years had to cruise 3 miles home in the middle of San Diego. Yes I did in fact get lost and almost went into the wrong apartment but I made it back in one piece! Not only did I successfully make it home but I had developed a new love for biking, similar to the love I had developed almost a year ago for running. Driving my car around CT, I would see the occasional biker and often would get annoyed because they would be in my way yet never did I really stop to think WHY this person was biking. In San Diego, riding a bike is incredibly more common than it is in CT and I officially understood why. Like running, it was my time to myself to escape. Over the next few weeks I used my time on my bike to just think, feel the fresh air and fall in love with this city in a way that was new to me. Sure there are days that I did not want to bike to the gym JUST to workout some more before biking home, but at the end of those days I not once regretted it.

Biking does also have other benefits including increased cardiovascular function (my resting heart rate is down to 45bpm which is about the level of an elite athlete) as well as working those legs harder than anything I have ever done. I can honestly say I am in the BEST shape of my life from having to bike around the county as well as continuing my strength training.

I truly think that if everyone had to bike to their job for one week they would not only see their usual commute in a different way but they would really see the beauty of the life we get to live. Biking to and from my job, the grocery store (which is challenging when you need to buy eggs!) and anywhere else I needed to go provided a new adventure every single time and is part of the reason why I love this beautiful city of San Diego.

 

~A

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The perfect Sunday breakfast…without the guilt!

The perfect Sunday breakfast…without the guilt!

pancakes

Protein pancakes have always been a favorite of mine to make especially during my prep for my bikini competition. There are SO many different ways to make them as well as unlimited flavors however this past weekend I tried a recipe with Josh that may be my new favorite!

 

Ingredients:

2 egg whites

1 serving Whey protein powder (I used Vanilla but Josh used Chocolate Malt and both were good!)

1 cup unsweetened Almond Milk

2/3 cup ground oats

1 tbsp coconut oil

Directions:

Mix all ingredients in a blender until smooth and if time permits let chill in refrigerator for as long as possible.  Bring a skillet to medium heat and spray generously with cooking spray. Pour about 1/3 of the mixture into the pan or until it covers the entire surface. Let cook for 3-5 minutes until bubbles pop through then flip sides and cook until browned. Repeat until all of the batter is used, top with fresh fruit, peanut butter, or mix a little bit of protein powder with a tablespoon of almond milk for a healthy syrup!

Since Josh used a gainer protein his came out much more thick like pancakes while mine were thinner and more “crepe” like but both were so delicious and a great way to start our day before heading to the gym for legs and shoulders! It is so important to fuel your body before and after your workouts- so ditch the Eggo Waffles and cereal and try out this muscle-building recipe!

Serving size: 3-4 pancakes

Topping favorites:

  • Natural peanut butter
  • Bananas
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Almond Butter
  • Cinnamon