Category archive: Published Articles

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Welcome to the Circus! Aerial Silks as a Workout

There is something particularly mesmerizing about an aerial silk performance–the aesthetic grace, the defiance of gravity, and the incredible body strength of the acrobats make for an amazing spectacle.

Aerial silks is a form of aerial acrobatics that takes its style from contortion, suspension, and trapeze, and applies them to long lengths of silky fabric for a breathtaking aesthetic. Aerial silks have made their mark in the famed Cirque de Soliel, and, much like pole fitness, has recently opened itself to the market of alternative fitness classes. Recently, I had the opportunity to take aerial silk classes and I fell in love with it! So, if you’re looking to explore a fun, new alternative as part of your fitness routine, give it a go!

What to Expect:

When you first start, you’ll be working with a knot, rather than loose silks. This will allow you to build the strength and skill sets to complete forms and poses properly, without the risk of letting go and falling to the ground. However, unlike some other skill-oriented classes, you can expect to learn a lot in your first few classes–several poses and techniques per class, as opposed to one. This keeps things fresh, exciting, and dynamic. As a result, you will progress quickly and truly get the value of your lessons.

You should expect bruises; as you are using your body in new ways, you may find yourself sore or sporting some “signs” of your new work. Also, as you will be hanging by your armpits, hips, and back, red and purple markings on the skin at points of pressure is practically inevitable. Own these marks as a sign of your progress!

The majority of aerial silk classes are either taught in circus schools or pole fitness studios, so you can expect your instructors to be fun, positive, and even kind of quirky. This is a huge benefit to your learning–their enthusiasm will encourage you to feel confident, sexy, and graceful, even when out of your element. Embrace the energy and reap the rewards.

Tips to Prepare:

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! At some point, you will be spending a lot of time upside down and not being properly hydrated when you are suddenly inverted may lead to a colossal head rush and wave of nausea. Bringing a bottle of water to sip on will help clear your head and settle your stomach, if you happen to feel this way.

Wear a loose fitting top or at least something with sleeves. Normally, when you go to an exercise class, a form-fitting top over a good sports bra is the way to go. Not with aerial silks. Without good sleeves, you will burn your armpits. In my first few classes I heard plenty of horror stories about this one! I also recommend a comfortable, supportive sports bra to keep your girls in place as you bounce, hang, drop, and swing through the air.

It is very important to warm up and stretch, particularly in your hands and wrists! Wrists are the most commonly injured body part when it comes to circus training and, when you’re holding your body weight entirely in your grasp, you’ll understand why. Roll those wrists, stretch your forearms, and make sure after your class they receive some TLC.

Soon we’ll see you flying through the air with the greatest of ease!

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Stuck At Home Workout Secrets!

This article was written for and recently posted on ActivewearUSA – go check them out!

Arnold Nelson Photography

I’m a gym rat, so when my regularly snow-free city got a massive dump of the white stuff, I felt completely out of sync for the four days I was snowed in. Not being able to get to the gym is like having a fight with your best friend: you feel guilty, annoyed, and anxious because all you want to do is return to normal. And you can’t.

Fortunately, I didn’t allow my forced immobility to keep me from working out, but it had been a long time since I’d done an at-home workout. I was forced to be creative and re-evaluate my routine for the week and, along the way, I picked up a few tips to share:

Lacking Heavy Weights?
Increase your rep range. If you’re normally curling 25s for 8-10 reps but only have a set of 10s at home, try pushing for 15-20.

Remember, the key to effective exercise is to go to muscle failure, rather than just an arbitrary number. Therefore, do as many reps as you can until your body refuses to do another! This technique can be stretched as far as needed. For example, rather than squatting resistance, I alternated 100 squats, 50 single-leg squats, and 100 walking lunges in as many cycles as I could manage. Not only was this an effective workout, it was intense!

No Weights?
Resistance bands are a common alternative in a fitness-oriented household, but if these are nowhere to be found, head to the kitchen! Try soup cans, household items, or milk jugs. Considering that a gallon container weighs nearly 8.5 pounds when full, you can definitely create enough weight for resistance. One friend I spoke to during our snow week was front squatting with his guitar amp – anything can be used as resistance, as long as it is done safely!

No Equipment?
No problem! Turn to body resistance exercises such as pushups, lunges, squats (and one-legged squats), burpees, planks, tricep dips, and crunches. You’ll be amazed at how good you feel. Body resistance exercises are often neglected when we’re at the gym, however they are extremely effective and beneficial. They force us to actively engage stabilizer muscles and small muscle fibers that are not engaged in an isolated exercise.

Not Sure What to Do?
Workout DVDs can be extremely effective when you’re in need of a guide, but the majority are designed to require extra equipment. It might be time to dust off that DVD collection and sweat it out.

The other option is to be creative! Use your homebound status as a chance to experiment with targeting your muscles from new angles using new grips and with new equipment you may never have thought of before. You might find that your couch makes an awesome support for dips or that washing dishes with calf raises burns more than your current gym routine.

Good luck! And remember, eventually you’ll make it back outside!

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Where Are My Abs? How To Build A Great Abdominal Foundation!

This article was written for Muscle and Strength, look for it now in the January 2012 issue of Natural Muscle Magazine!

When people start working out, they almost invariably go straight for their abs. And perhaps it is reasonable – the abdominal area is where people are most acutely aware of carrying extra weight, bloat, or softness, and it is the spot almost all people want to see direct improvement.

What’s more, having a great set of abs is the primary marker of ‘fitness’ in the general world. And when the abs don’t seem to be improving any more drastically than the rest of the body despite receiving the most attention, people get discouraged and begin to think that perhaps they are just not genetically capable of building a tight, lean six pack.

However, as we should all know, there is no effective way to spot-fix a body part. Regardless of how manycrunches you may do, an isolated focus is an ineffective way to change your body, especially when it comes to your midsection.

In order to train your abs for the best results, a full-body approach is necessary. In fact, if you are carrying extra weight in your abdominal area, chances are it is not the only culprit. Bearing this in mind, there are two key concepts that are crucial to building a strong foundation for ripped abs: Engage, and Diet.

Engage:

Rather than going straight for the crunches, consider that the most effective way to see improvement in your abdominal areas is to hold off on direct and exclusive ab exercises until you have begun to reduce your overall body fat percentage. Why? Like all other forms of resistance work, ab exercise increases the growth of muscle, and muscle under fat has a tendency to look like more bulk.

This is why some people get discouraged with their middle thickness despite heavy ab workouts – they have the muscle, but the fat overtop is hiding their achievement. This is not to say ‘neglect your abs entirely until later on’, as this would be a serious detriment to your fitness goals. Strong core muscles (Abs, obliques, back, glutes, etc) are vital to all other types of workouts — without them, you could seriously injure yourself, especially while lifting.

So what do you do? You engage. Engage your core muscles in everything you do. Squeeze your core tight when you jog, when you squat, when you do jumping jacks, when you do push ups, when you lift weights, when you do pull ups, when you do ALL types of workouts. If you are doing squats and not even thinking about your abs, you are missing out on the full potential of what that move can do for your body! Is it not better to work more at once?

Abdominal engagement can be done anywhere – in the office, at home while cooking dinner, or even while enjoying your favourite evening TV show. By doing so, the strength in all your core muscles, especially your abs, will start to improve, while you are working on melting the fat from all areas of your body, and building a nice frame of lean muscle. You will be surprised, when they softness burns away, that you have a nicer, flatter stomach to work with, and finally give that extra attention to.

Diet:

Here, the old adage of “abs are made in the kitchen” truly needs to be stressed! What you eat and how you eat are fundamental to the aesthetic results of your midsection; if your diet is not en pointe, shredded abs are not going to develop. Even the fittest of people will noticeably bloat and soften when they consume something full of sugar, fat or sodium – and this shows most in the midsection.

It must be emphasized that a diet full of processed, sugary foods will be a serious detriment to the fat burning process that will uncover your strong, toned abs. If you want to have a great six-pack, your focus needs to be on eating clean, eating at proper intervals, and most importantly, eating enough! If you’re not getting enough calories to support your caloric burn and exercise activity, your body will begin to cling to fat as a survival instinct.

Eating smaller, more frequent meals that comprise of lean proteins, whole wheat or whole grain complex carbohydrates and bountiful portions of veggies are the best way to ensure that you are left feeling satisfied and energized with every meal, while still shedding fat from your midsection to reveal your abdominal foundation. So never forget to think about what you are eating, and how that one thing will reflect on your body, especially when you want to see firm, taut abs.

Overall, these two key concepts are crucial for building the best, strongest and most aesthetic foundation for your midsection. Utilizing these tricks will help you to sculpt your abs into the six pack of your dreams!

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Tips for Getting Through the Holidays!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This article was written for Muscle and Strength

The advent of Thanksgiving commences the holiday season; a time for togetherness, giving, and of course, lots of delicious dinners and desserts. What is a health oriented individual to do when it seems everyone else is indulging?

The holiday season is a difficult time to stick to health goals as we all know — certainly contributing to the upcoming New Years’ Resolutions surrounding wellness. But this does not mean we should throw our carefully crafted discipline to the wind! So in light of the approaching holiday challenges, I present to you my survival tips for making it through the holidays with a clear conscience, no guilt or regrets, and less worries for your waistline.

Don’t go hungry. Temptation is much easier to resist if your stomach is not growling at you. Save overindulging later by eating breakfast and lunch on holiday dinner days. This way, you will not feel ravenous while selecting what you put on your plate.

Watch portion sizes. Follow the Plate Proportion Rule:Protein and carbs should make up 1/4 of your plate, whereas veggies should take up half. By setting a visual guideline for yourself, you will prevent overindulging on filler such as mashed potatoes and gravy, and ensure you get a serving of vegetables that you may have otherwise passed on. Fill your plate reasonably, and avoid seconds. The second helping will not taste better than the first!

Be condiment conscious. Have your vegetables without the cheese sauce and your meat without the skin or fat. The slimmer alternatives are just as delicious, and you will save an enormous amount of calories. Do not add extra salt, and you will avoid bloat. NO Gravy! Gravy is as empty in nutritional value as a soda, and just as potent in calorie content. Avoid!

Eat slowly. Allow your mind the time it requires to communicate appetite satiety to the rest of your body. Holidays are often culprits of overeating, given the tendency to enjoy as much as we can, as quickly as we can. Everyone has had the experience afterwards of “I ate too much!” Avoid this by savoring your food, and reap the rewards.

Do not consume empty calories. Liquids, such as wine, beer, juice and soda, contain no nutritional value. Each is filled with sugar and calories that we often not even considered when we eat. Save these calories for the food; stick with water. Not only will you be able to enjoy more, but water consumption will help you feel more full.

Stick to your guns. Aunt Mabel shouldn’t guilt you into having her famous cheesy potatoes if they are not part of what you have allotted for your planned plate. Remember that these are your goals, and what someone else does, or says, does not affect you. Only you have the power to improve yourself. Do not give that up!

Have some. Just be wise. Remember that indulging every now and then is perfectly acceptable! In fact, it has been shown that those who ‘cheat’ occasionally, are more likely to stick to their diets in the long run. This is a result of satisfaction; it is easy to resent your healthy choices if you receive no enjoyment.

Like a child who knows good behavior will earn him periodic privileges, we can accept our parameters, if the payoff is worth it. In the end, if you choose this option, just be wise about your choices. The piece of pie may not turf your results, but a whole pie and whipped cream might. Be reasonable.

To conclude, I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season, and I look forward to any comments or tips you might have about how you make it through the holidays in a healthy way!

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Easy Diet Tips that can Change Your Body!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This article was written for ActivewearUSA.

Eat breakfast.  I cannot stress enough the importance of eating within an hour of waking. Not only does this fuel you with adequate energy for the day ahead, it also jump-starts your metabolism, which will keep you burning calories and fat at an elevated rate throughout the day. And I know for those who don’t eat breakfast, the majority will respond they just can’t eat breakfast because it unsettles the stomach.  You need to STOP making this excuse! The reason your stomach doesn’t respond well to breakfast is because you aren’t used to it; like any diet change, it takes time to adapt. Stop whining, start eating breakfast, and in two weeks, you’ll no longer have an issue.

Eat every two to three hours.  Nearly everyone in the modern world understands or has heard that the traditional three meal schedule we structure our society around isn’t the healthiest or most effective way to eat. Instead, try eating five to six smaller meals throughout the day, spaced apart by two to three hours.  This keeps your metabolism running smoothly because there are no long stretches without fuel; when those periods happen, your metabolism drops off and your body tries to conserve energy.  Smaller meals are also more comfortable for your digestive system; no bloating, no “I ate too much” feelings, because you will have never allowed yourself to get that hungry!

Eliminate empty liquid calories.  Nothing you drink should have caloric or sugar content. You gain no satisfaction from the surprising amount of calories you drink, nor is there truly any nutritional value that warrants their consumption. This includes soda, alcohol, and juice – yes, juice. It’s not as healthy as you think!  One serving of orange juice is a whopping 250 calories with 20 grams of sugar!  (Comparatively, a can of Coke has 27 grams.)  Instead, opt for zero calorie beverages such as water or tea. Not only will you remove excess sugar from your diet, you’ll flush toxins from your system, gain more energy, see improvements in your skin, and reduce cellulite!

Even if you cannot remove liquid juices entirely, consider removing one can of soda a day which saves you around 679 calories and 189 grams of sugar a week!

Make “processed” a dirty word.  There should be no room in your diet for processed foods. This means anything that has been fried, pre-cooked, and packaged, such as frozen dinners and junk food (chips, chocolate, soda, even non-natural peanut butter; all these items have been processed). Instead, opt for things in their natural or whole state; buy your meat uncooked and prepare your own meals, invest in whole fruits and vegetables, and look for natural peanut butters. By removing the preservatives and unncessecary chemicals from your system, you will feel more energetic, and your body will function more efficiently!

Consider simple replacements.  Switch from white bread and rice to whole wheat and save yourself the additional processing that these foods undergo. Switch out your normal yogurt for a no-fat Greek yogurt and save mass amounts of sugar while gaining protein.  Switch from regular to natural peanut butter and lose fat.  Replace your condiments with low-sodium, low-sugar versions and watch your bloating and water weight disappear.

These are a few easy steps you can take to make positive changes in your diet, your health, and your overall fitness outcomes. Now isn’t that worth it?

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How to Motivate Others

This article was written for ActivewearUSA.

Motivation is the key to your success: it can make or break your diet and workout plan, encourage consistency, and help push you through to the next level. Motivation is what gets you out of bed an hour early to get in a workout before the work day, and it’s what keeps you from indulging in that disastrously tempting bowl of ice cream in the evening. Everyone knows just how important motivation is, yet some people find motivation extremely difficult to come by. Stress, time crunches and the road blocks that life throws at us are often the cause of these dips in our motivation levels, and once one falls off the motivation wagon, it can be very difficult to board again.

Similarly, we all have that one person in our lives who just isn’t motivated. They may complain about the way they feel about their bodies, yet they never seem to follow through on the initiative to start exercising or adopt a healthy diet. It can be very tough when these people are a member of our immediate family, best friend, or significant other: all you want to do is help them succeed, and realize their greatest potential, right? It is because of this, that whenever I am interviewed, I am always asked “How can I motivate my girlfriend to work out?”, “how can I convince my friend who constantly complains about their weight to eat healthy?” or “how can I get my family member to join me in the gym?” It is a concern to health-minded individuals to share their happiness with others!

However, as Steven R. Covey once said, ““Motivation is a fire from within. If someone else tries to light that fire under you, chances are it will burn very briefly.” No truer words have been spoken on the subject – when you want to achieve something, it is not the photo on the wall that pushes you, it is that inner voice that tells you “Yes, I want this, and I want it badly.” Encouragement is intensely valuable, but if the fire’s not burning, you can’t blow on the coals!

So how then can you motivate the people in your life? Is it possible to help make a difference?

The answer is yes! And I have the secret: Set an example.

If you’re looking to encourage and motivate someone else, chances are that your own personal motivation is on track. And that is fantastic! Keep at it! By continuing on the path of health and fitness, not only will you reap the results and become happier and healthier, the people in your life are going to be aware of your successes. This is motivating! I am not suggesting that you should brag about your progress, or talk of nothing else, but if you are constantly making healthy positive choices, it will have an influence on those around you – and a bigger one than trying to convince them to do something they just don’t want to.

Setting a positive example for the people in your life is the foundation of motivating others, but it is not all you can do. Sometimes, subtle actions are paramount. Become an encouraging workout buddy! People are often more receptive to the idea of working out if they don’t have to go it alone, and if they know they’re going with someone who can make it fun! Become a great hostess! Throw parties, and serve your most delicious clean eating recipes – you’ll have people asking for them before the night is over. Be the outing planner! If you are stuck in a rut going out to eat at unhealthy restaurants with your friends, plan a picnic instead, or a day at the beach or even a fun drop in swing dancing class! Bearing these ideas in mind, not only will you help motivate those around you, you will find yourself even more fired up!

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A Day in the Life of a Fitness Model

This article was written for ActivewearUSA.

As a fitness model, I must maintain a body that can be camera ready within two weeks of a shoot date, and sometimes I don’t even have that much time. Casting calls can come as short as 24 hours notice, so it is absolutely crucial to be eating clean consistently, and keeping to a dedicated workout routine: I’m in the gym six days a week. Training for a shoot is a little different than regular training. Normally, I am a heavy lifter, and I focus on the heavier weights for fewer reps in order to build the muscle. However, when I am shooting, my workouts for the week before shift to a higher rep count with lighter weights, to help bring out and carve the defined look that I’m aiming for.

For a shoot, I allow myself a week to adopt a preparation diet: for the first few days, I consume high quantities of water and sodium, and low carbohydrates. A low carb diet will help to blast fat and shred the muscles, while excess water and sodium flush out your system and keep you hydrated. By mid-week, I taper down my water and consume an absolute minimum of sodium, to ensure minimal water retention. On the day of the shoot, I will try not to eat anything before shooting if possible. The less you eat, the less your stomach will swell, and the tighter you will look. However, if the shoot is in the later afternoon or evening, not eating before hand is unsafe, if not just impossible. So I will usually eat a light breakfast of egg whites, and any other meal will be a protein shake.

The morning before a shoot is very involved. I wake up, have my breakfast, and head to the gym for a quick weight lifting circuit, and some plyometric cardio. To use the old cliché, having a ‘swell’ certainly helps to enhance the active look of muscle. Then it is time to prep myself – normally, the photographer and I have already confirmed a general theme or style for the shoot so my outfits will already be packed, but I ensure that all my additional maintenance (showering, exfoliation, shaving, moisturizing, manicures and pedicures) are done on the day of the shoot for the best look.

Once you arrive on set, makeup application can take anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour. Makeup for the camera is very different than what you might wear for a night out as it often has to be darker and more exaggerated to hold its presence over varying light sources. It truly benefits to be patient with the makeup artist, as their meticulousness makes you look better. During the make up process, the photographer lays out their plans for the shoot, numbers outfits, and tests the lighting – it too helps to be patient with lighting, as it is the key to a spectacular photo.

As soon as the camera is clicking, I start to move. I’m aware of where my hands are, if my muscles are held tight, if my face is catching the light – all the while maintaining an expression that is intense, genuine, and appealing. I am not a static poser- I never hold the exact same pose for more than one click of the camera unless requested. Everything is a motion, and the slightest movement can change a picture. Turning your eyes, exhaling, shifting your hand, everything creates a new moment. Depending on the shoot, I must be en pointe and focused for 1-3 hours of shooting time – sometimes more, especially when on location shots are needed. I have to be ready to self direct, but to oblige what the photographer asks. I have to prepare to bring my best no matter how cold or wet I may be, and keep it looking as if this unnatural pose is the most natural thing in the world. It is a challenge… but it is also like living art.

 

When the shoot is over, it’s time to eat.

 

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Women Beyond Pink

This article was written for ActivewearUSA

When you think pink, you think ‘female’. For ages, the color pink has been associated with femininity, and all things girly; from newborn babies, to women’s causes, to the bulk majority of our cosmetic products, pink is predominantly a girl’s color.

But is that all that defines us? Can women only be represented by the color pink? Don’t get me wrong, pink is fine, it can bring a little sass to an outfit and it’s a great option for women who love it.  But, despite the overwhelming abundance of the feminine hue, there are some women who don’t like pink – and I happen to be one of them. It has never been a color I was fond of, nor was it flattering on me — not to mention I am a redhead!

Yet, when I walk into any sports store to pick out a new sports bra or a cute pair of workout pants; I am left almost inevitably with only two options: black and pink. Needless to say, I own a lot of black sports bras. So I am often left wondering; how come our options are not as versatile as we are? How is it that the modern woman is left limited in how they express themselves and what makes them feel good in the gym? Where is our power of creativity? For those ladies who adore pink, more power to you, and I urge you to rock it confidently, but I’d like for a moment to speak for the girls who prefer an array of colors: we should not just get to choose between pink and black if green makes us feel hotter, and orange gives us more confidence! If you look hot in yellow and stunning in red, then why not have the option to take that to the gym?

It was only when I began to shop online for active wear at sites like ActivewearUSA was my monochromatic frustration lifted – here, I find that one can find the best variety of the best brands, while pushing the boundaries by offering a vast array of colors and patterns. Truly, these exciting brands are breaking the molds, and ensuring that any woman with any taste or any color preference can find what makes them look and feel fabulous, strong, and sexy  — even if that happens to be pink! So I offer cheers to ActivewearUSA for pushing the boundaries of what defines ‘feminine’ workout wear, and defining women beyond pink!

 

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