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Typical Squatting Cues. Typical Foot Misplacement. Bigger Squat.

Any advanced weightlifter can attest that a 60lb increase in strength is absurd and very uncommon, especially in a single training session. Yet, it happened. Eyes Straight Ahead

Chest Up

Butt Out

Shoulders Back

Elbows Pulled Inward

Elbows Under The Bar

Crush The Bar

Back Tight

Shoulder Blades Tight

Big Breath; Push The Belly Out

Stay On The Heels

Sit Back

Butt Moves Back, Stays Back

Keep The Knees Moving Back

Try To Keep The Shins Vertical

Toes Out

Knees Out

Knees Over The Toes

Spread The Floor

Push Out, Not Up

Bar Speed! Bar Speed! Bar Speed!

These are some of the most common squatting cues you would hear from just about any coach. In short butt back, chest up, and stay grounded.

Yes, these are great for a beginner, but what about the more advanced lifter who isn’t hitting big numbers? And what about the foot, ankle, and toes? What about the pressure points or torque?

Yes I know, knees out, butt back, spread the floor, I got that. But what exactly does that mean? Pronation, supanation, or neutral?

For most individuals, the cues above have lead to this type of movement

The heel contact was great but did you notice the toe box and instep of the foot? They move away from the ground.

This, my friends, is the common error left unattended to by most coaches.

You can’t jump high by driving your heels into the ground. Try it. Seriously, stand up drive your heels into the ground, pull the toes up slightly, bend through the hips and knees, and jump as high as you can.

Let’s back track for a second. Let me paint the background to this story real quick.

Over the past year and a half my squat was decent, 1 rep max at 305lb, deadlift at 405lb, bodyweight at 175. (BW X ~1.75 and BW X ~2.33)

Based on my bodyweight, a 350lb squat and 440lb deadlift would be appropriate. (BW X 2 and BW X 2.5)

These numbers also indicate and reveal my hip/ham dominance vs my hip/quad strength or lack there of.

“The squat is a quad exercise. Most people have forgotten that.” Jason Ferruggia

So what the heck has been holding back my gains?

Certainly not my training programs or nutrition, no way.

Stuff like this bothers me to no end. So much that I have a Rogue S2 squat rack in my bedroom, no joke, I take things like this seriously.

The good thing is that on Wednesday (November 6) it clicked; my horribly weak front squat went from 115lbs for 6 to a clean and deep 175lbs for 8,

That’s a 60lb gain incase you weren’t in the mood to do the math.

Any advanced weightlifter can attest that a 60lb increase in strength is absurd and very uncommon, especially in a single training session. Yet, it happened.

With just one single small movement that helped my quads fire up in effort to push the bar back up to a standing position.

Here’s what I did.

Instead of driving all of my weight into my heels, I simply redistributed my weight throughout my foot, ~70% through the ball of my foot with the remaining ~30% through the back half of my foot. I also made sure that my instep did not leave the ground, therefore increasing my ability to utilize my entire foot as a stable foundation of force.

In short, I adjusted the angle of my shin and pushed more through my forefoot.

Remember the video from above? The evaluated toe box and ankle roll? I redistributed the weight to ensure ground support, and then utilized the support.

Driving the majority of your weight through your heel simply reduces the amount of quad activation you can get through the dominant and strong quad muscles.

The quads push, the hamstrings pull, and the glute contracts in an effort to stabilize the pelvis.

Check out the differences between my old squat position compared to the new.

Old left, new right.

Here's what it looks like in motion. Watch the set up and execution.

Dedicated to your strength gains,

Carmen

Comments Submitted by David on 12/21/13:

Very useful Carmen, followed the link from RIC and jay's tip -off in the weekly wrap. I was interested in the BW to lifting ratios you quoted and the dominance / muscle imbalances behind max load capabilities. Would love to here more of this stuff in the future.

Top man

David

Strength Training Injuries & How To Avoid Them

Just like our training routine, we have a compensation routine, and the sad thing is, we are more comfortable in our compensation routine because we have been doing it for an extended period of time without knowledge. A few months back I was working much too hard on my business and not as hard on my well-being and self. It happens to all of us and usually takes something horrific to wake us up and realize what is really going on. We get off balance.

My off balance usually ends up being a stupid injury that is created by skipping daily program details. This time around it was a strained intercostal and tight quadratus lumborum (QL).

Pain sucks and I’d argue that acute annoying pain is worse than a broken limb because it seems to take a longer and more dedicated amount of time to diagnose and resolve it.

The majority of injuries that are related to strength training most often come from a lack of focus.

What I mean by the lack of focus is that we don’t always stay true to the details needed to execute the task.

Sure you can drop a kettlebell on your foot or head or fall while performing a complex barbell movement, but I’m talking the small things that make up the big picture.

When it comes to sports injuries weightlifting comes in dead last.

source: usa weightlifting

So where do most of the injuries erupt from?

Within the details of your training program. In this case, your mobility or stability work or more commonly known as “warm up and cool down”.

So why am I telling you this?

Because we have to dedicate more of our time to getting ourselves out of our compensations and into a more conscience and stable environment.

If you enjoy working out then you must enjoy feeling good and looking good.

You can’t look good if you don’t feel good.

A few months ago I was absolutely terrible about warm ups, post stretch, and down time mobility. When I say terrible, I mean nonexistent. And that is the exact time that my annoying injuries hit and sidelined me for almost four weeks.

It wasn’t until Chris (Chris’s Kitchen) came over to hit “the hill” for some sprints, in which I couldn’t participate, and that’s when I realized what had happened and how it happened.

As Chris and I were talking about our current strength program and being ridiculously awesome and staying that way for life (you know, the lift big, eat big kinda stuff), it dawned on me that my aches and pain weren't just a slight strain or pull but inflammation mainly caused from my own ignorance of skipping out on key components of training, the mobility work.

daily tools

What I'm saying is that the exercise part is the easiest and your injuries lay within the details of your program. Avoid nagging injuries by following these five simple steps.

1. Schedule more time for you and your body.

2. Surround yourself with top-notch people who care about you (friends, family,

coaches, and other trainees).

3. Listen to what those people say.

4. Foam roll, lax ball, and use resistance bands to stretch daily, without excuses.

Ten minutes will do wonders.

5. Avoid rushing, that’s when you get hurt. See #1

Bonus: Be happier.

The simplified version looks like this > take time to realize the good around you, listen to your friends, family, coaches, etc., roll on the ground daily, move your body through all ranges of motion and avoid skipping the crucial components that make up the big picture.

And that, folks, is the way to avoid strength-training injuries.

Yes, it really is that simple. You will always find the answer hiding within the details when you stop and assess them.

Dedicated to your health, Carmen

Grading Your Health

We are currently in the middle of a Fall fat shed challenge here at Ambitious Athletics. Members who participate in the challenge receive personalized education and quality one-on-one attention throughout. Here’s a beefed up email I sent out to the participants awhile back. I thought everyone could learn from it.

---

You can work your ass off and do everything right but still lack optimal progress. Sleep and stress are crucial to one’s success and must be regulated like your training and nutrition.

Quality strength and conditioning + nutrition + sleep + stress management = optimal results

Quality strength and conditioning – strength train 3-4 times per week, heavy condition once per week.

Nutrition – knowing your metabolic rate and what body type you are is crucial for macronutrient set up.

Sleep – 7 quality hours of shuteye, no excuses. Manage your time better.

Stress – chill out! Hate your job? Quit and find something you love. Need a change of pace? Follow the green signs hanging above the interstate to your new dream spot.

Results – do you want ‘em or not? Things that are worth achieving don’t come easy.

Stress test: __Blank__ often stresses me out.

Write your answer down and begin to work on dissolving the issue.

Think about it - stress causes anxiety and anxiety ties your stomach in knots which then wrecks havoc on your eating and sleeping patterns, while the food that you do eat and semi shotty sleep pattern attempts to rebuild, rejuvenate, and balance hormones (cortisol). Stress doesn't allow for a full rebuild or rejuvenation. It becomes a cumulative cycle that you must break to restart your healthy habits.

Sleep test: __Blank__ often prevents me from getting 7 quality hours of sleep per night.

Write you answer down and begin to work on dissolving the issue.

Check out your body after you get a solid 7 hours of sleep on the weekend compared to during the week, most people can easily tell how much tighter they look after quality sleep. Also, record your mood changes and overall mental well being. Take pictures of yourself all week long. No, not duck face Instagram selfies, real full body pictures, like the ones your ex boyfriend would post of you after your tweenage breakup. But seriously, take a picture, it lasts longer and definitely speaks more than 1,000 words.

As far as achieving results, this is a reminder that your exercise program stimulates muscle growth while nutrition builds muscle growth and creates fat burn; more muscle equals more fat burn. Which means you've got to eat, and eat clean. You wouldn't starve your car or feed it garbage like Marty's DeLorean Time Machine and expect for it to run efficiently would you? This isn't some Back to the Future movie, it's real life.

Everything in Moderation = moderate results.

Your homework: 1 week

1. Check your value of clean meals. Say you eat 4 meals per day X 7 days of the week = 28 meals. 90% success = 25 perfect meals. Anything below that will provide you with minimal success.

2. Record your solid sleep hours. Every morning upon waking, write down the total hours that you slept. Separate weekday and weekend hours.

3. At the end of the week grade yourself.

Grading scale

A = 95% perfect meals & 35+ hours of sleep (49 hours incl. weekend)

B = 90% perfect meals & 33.5 hours of sleep (45.5)

C = 85% perfect meals & 29.5 hours of sleep (42)

D = 80% perfect meals & 26 hours of sleep (38.5)

"C’s may earn degrees" but won’t land you the body that you truly seek.

Extra credit: At least 10 minutes of uninterrupted meditation/self reflecting/me-time per day.

Are you happy or unhappy with your grade? Record your grade below in the comments field.

If you’d like more help, sign up for coaching here.

Hope this helps.

Dedicated to your health,

Carmen

Comments Submitted by Melanie on 11/19/13:

for 2 weeks, i have been an A, but i was a C for a looooong time after i moved away from Carmen and couldn't train with him any more :/

Maybe It's Time That You Stop Trying To Lose Weight

No matter what, some people will just never get it. They’ll over think it or just continue to search for some magic rather than just putting in the hard work. Keep in mind that if it’s worth it, you’ll find a way, and the great things in life never come easy.

Here are five of the many reasons why you need to stop trying to lose weight:

1. You’ve been trying the same stuff for too long and have accomplished slim to none.

2. You’re doing too much cardio and need to reevaluate your strategy.

3. You’re treating weight loss and fat loss the same.

4. You’re lying to yourself when you say that you’re a healthy eater.

5. You don’t have a system to follow or a coach to hold you accountable.

Take all of that in for a second. Evaluate your current situation, and ask yourself if any of these ring true. Have you been doing the same stuff for an extended period of time with little to no results? Why? Do you really want to change? And finally, what’s holding you back?

1. I’m sure that when you first started doing what you are doing now things felt great; a new you, a new program, and a good kick in the butt in the right direction. But then it happened. It started to not feel great anymore, you began feeling like the old you, it felt just like the same old program, and now you need another kick in the butt just to get you to want to do it again. I hear you.

The body adapts quickly because of its love hate relationship with change. It’s not a big fan of change; we have hormones and other regulatory chemicals that maintain homeostasis.

BUT, if you want your body to change, you have to cycle your strategy.

The strategy is to follow a program that allows your body to adapt, allows it to make its changes i.e. get stronger, influence digestive issues, weed out crap food, understand movements and their execution, etc. etc. After about 4-8 weeks depending on your experience, it’s time to make a few modifications like increasing weights, changing calories, making healthier pairings, and moving faster among other things.

My buddy Todd Bumgardner tweeted, “the body adapts with consistency, not randomness.” #truth

2. Cardio isn’t going to help you look “toned”, it will make you look like a hipster/skinny fat. Plain and simple, if you want to look like you workout, then you have to workout, and cardio should just be cardio, once or twice a week, done! You’re better off taking the time to understand how your body moves and what and why which muscles are used during a lifting session. Stick to picking up heavy weights and exerting energy to build muscle.

Fit friend, Molly Gallbraith tweeted, “If you’re new to training, prioritize strength. It makes achieving other goals like fat loss, hypertrophy, etc. much easier. “ #truth

3. Weight loss and fat loss are two totally different terms and are often misused. If you’re six feet tall and weigh 732 pounds, you need to lose weight, fast. If you’re 5’8” and weigh 200 pounds you need to shed fat. This is where the argument of calories in vs. calories out goes out the window. For the not so fat person, restricting calories to rid fat won’t be the best way to maintain muscle mass and keep a healthy looking body. Simply adjusting what and when you put your calories in your mouth will become the rhyme and reason to your fat loss journey.

Read Jill Coleman’s “12 Habits of Lean People” blog post for great tips.

4. The people who say they are healthy eaters and have belly pudge aren’t healthy eaters. I’ve never come across a person who sticks to non-processed foods, minimal fruits, lots of vegetables, grass fed meats, healthy fats and who exercises a few hours a week look like a piece of crap. What you look like on the outside reflects what you look like on the inside and the things that you put in your mouth. Recently on our facebook page I explained this in greater detail… see the research below.

“Eat like shit, look like shit. It’s pretty simple stuff.”

5. I’m sure that we can all agree that if we need to get from point A to point B in a certain time, driving without directions is a horrible idea. Then imagine that at every intersection you came to one of those mileage destination totem poles. That’s the kind of road map that Men’s Health, Shape, Muscle & Fitness magazine, and other media outlets in the health and fitness industry have hooked you up with; an information no road map overload.

Working with a coach who has a well established system and who has turned out healthy and measurable results eliminates the destination totem poles and provides you a map like the new iPhone/Google maps – from point A to B with a few different options to fit your adventure. Don’t like back roads or tolls? Out! Don’t like red meat? Out! A coach who has traveled these roads will get you there with turn-by-turn directions, all you have to do is listen, pay attention, keep moving forward, and stick to your directions.

Get Started with your coach today: Ambitious Athletics 2-week FREE Trial

Dedicated to your health,

Carmen

Gaining 12 Pounds of Lean Muscle

If you know me well enough, you know that I’m not one to talk about myself or toot my own horn, but today is different, I’ve got to share this with you… This past weekend, my wife (so weird to say) and I jumped over to Chicago for the weekend to see Pearl Jam play at Wrigley Field and to explore the Windy City for the first time.

Yes, Pearl jam was amazing and Chicago is awesome.

Aside from exploring the city and experiencing Pearl Jam at Wrigley, I had the pleasure of hanging with two of my favorite people in the fitness industry, two dudes whom I have the utmost respect for and look up to, Tyler English and Jason Ferruggia.

If you don’t know of these two, I suggest you get to know ‘em and connect with them both here.

Tyler English Facebook / Twitter

Jason Ferruggia Facebook / Twitter

Not only are they good people, they take the same approach as I do when it comes to your health and strength; NO BULLSHIT.

Tyler English is a Professional Natural Bodybuilder, Real World Strength Coach, Two-Time International Best-Selling Author, Entrepreneur and Transformation Coach, and just wrote and released the Men’s Health Natural Bodybuilding Bible.

Jason Ferruggia is the Trainer to the Gods, King of the West, author, old school hip hop head, entrepreneur, die-hard NY Yankees & Giants fan, and Lord Chief Rocka of the #RenegadeNation.

The weekend concluded, we were back in DC and it was back to health as usual when I got an email from Jason - check it out below.

To say I was honored is an understatement.

When you read the email below, I want you to think about your own goals

- Have you set up a realistic time frame to achieve your goals?

- Is the effort that you’re putting in consistently progressing you towards your goals?

- Do you have a coach who has “been there, done that” and is helping you eliminate the guesswork?

- Do you have a support system? read this

Going forward, you have three options;

1. Get started on your goal by joining me at Ambitious Athletics

2. Hook up with Jason in the Inner Circle, or

3. Pick up Tyler’s new book.

Dedicated to your health,

Carmen Sturniolo

From: Jason Ferruggia <info@jasonferruggia.com>

Subject: How Carmen gained 12 pounds of lean muscle

Date: July 23, 2013 12:38:45 PM EDT

To: Carmen Sturniolo <carmen@ambitiousathletics.com>

I was in my favorite US city, Chicago, from last Thursday to Sunday. Friday morning I tried to meet up with my buddy, natural pro bodybuilder, Tyler English, for a workout but we just couldn't get the timing right.

Instead I walked across the street from the W hotel on Lakeshore Drive, where I was staying, to Ohio Street beach and did a conditioning session. There's a big cove of Lake Michigan right there where tons of boats come to hang out on the weekends and people go to swim laps. In waist deep water I ran sprints for 30 seconds then swam for 30 seconds. I alternated this on and off for 20 minutes until I was properly gassed.

If you have bad knees and have access to it, running in shallow water is a great, low impact workout.

After a couple hours at the beach Jen and I showered up to go meet everyone at Wrigley for the Pearl Jam concert. One of the people we met up with was Dave Jarzebowski, a long time Renegade Inner Circle member, who I have had the pleasure of meeting when he came to train with us a couple years back at Renegade Gym.

Dave looked significantly bigger, which made me proud. He also looked happier and less stressed; two things I place a great a focus on and discuss often. We talked about training, his daughter Alice and how he was liking the recent move to the Windy City.

I also had the pleasure of meeting up with Carmen Sturniolo, another long time Renegade Inner Circle member, who I had previously met when he attended a workshop at Renegade Gym last year. He's one of the coolest, most down to earth, classiest cats you'd ever wanna meet. So to see him looking so much bigger and achieving his goals made me very happy.

With a Big Show slap to the chest and a grab of the traps I asked Carmen, "how are you so massive? You look great, man."

Jen echoed my sentiments and Carmen told us he's been crushing food and training hard, following all of the principles laid down in the Renegade Inner Circle. He said he'd gained 12 pounds since we saw him a year ago.

And he wasn't an ounce fatter as far as I could tell. That's 12 pounds of lean, hard earned muscle. Now, to some of you who are used to reading supplement ads that doesn't sound like a lot.

But ask yourself when the last time you packed on 12 pounds of muscle was. Are you significantly bigger than you were this time a year ago?

Or are you just spinning your wheels like everyone else?

And keep in mind that Carmen is 31 and has been training for a while. With insane dedication and no over-thinking or wasting time, 12 pounds of muscle in 12 months for an advanced trainee is AMAZING.

He was able to do that because he didn't piss away 12 months second guessing everything or trying 99 different systems like most people do. He stuck with one thing and got the job done.

That's how you make progress.

Relentless dedication, Jason Ferruggia Strength & Conditioning Specialist

Pregnant, FOOD, More Food, and Exercise

Pregnant, FOOD, More Food, and Exercise Welcome back! In my second and final installment of Staying Fit During Pregnancy, I will focus mostly on food cravings, weight gain, and weight loss after baby.

You can read the first installment here.

First off, if there is any chance you might become pregnant, doctors recommend you begin taking at least 400 micrograms of folic acid every day. Taking folic acid (a B vitamin) before and during pregnancy can prevent birth defects in a baby's brain and spinal cord. I could not stomach traditional prenatal vitamins (made me feel like I was going to throw up), so my doctor told me a regular supplement would be just fine.

There are many key nutrients that are important during pregnancy. Calcium and Vitamin D for your bones and baby's as well. Protein is crucial for your baby's growth, especially during the second and third trimesters. And iron to prevent anemia. If you are concerned that you are not getting enough of these nutrients through your diet, it would be helpful to consult your doctor about taking supplements.

Some foods that the Mayo Clinic recommends avoiding during pregnancy include: seafood high in mercury, sushi, unpasteurized cheeses, raw or undercooked meat, and excess caffeine and alcohol. Personally, I had no problem with this.

Now let's talk about the cravings and food sources that helped me make sure I was getting enough calories in :) . I definitely had cravings, and they differed somewhat during my first and second pregnancies. When I was pregnant with my oldest, I literally laid out an ice cream sundae bar every, single night. Ice cream, chocolate sauce, M&Ms, sprinkles, whipped cream, you name it. The second time around, I wasn't very interested in ice cream at all. In the beginning of my second pregnancy, I was insatiably hungry. I felt like I was eating from the moment I woke up until I went to bed. And I wanted salty carbs. I am generally not a salty carb fan, so this was surprising to me.

Other random things I craved while pregnant:

1) Sprite and Slurpees (pregnancy #1). I drank a Slurpee pretty much every day during my second and third trimesters. Thank Heaven for 7-11.

2) Utz Party Mix. Don't know what that is? Good, you would never eat it unless you were pregnant or stoned. Some godawful mix of Cheetos, BBQ Fritos, Doritos,Tostitos, and who knows what else?! Sold at the CVS.

3) Sandwiches; specifically, the Surfside at Jetties and the #300 at Wagshal's. I would walk into Wagshal's and whoever was behind the counter would immediately say, "Number 300?". Both contain salty pork products. Which leads me to…

4) BACON!!! There could never be enough bacon. I once went to a brunch buffet with a friend and came back to the table with a plateful of about 15 strips of bacon. She looked at me and deadpanned, "Wow, you weren't kidding when you said you've been craving bacon.". And, yes, I ate it all.

So, how much weight did I gain? Current recommendations say that if you are at a healthy weight, you should gain between 25-35 pounds during your pregnancy. They say it is not necessary to "eat for two" and that you only need about 300 extra calories per day. I say, if you are healthy and the baby is healthy, don't worry about this!

Pregnancy is not a time to restrict what you eat or count calories, for that matter. Besides, anyone who has ever experienced a pregnancy craving knows that they must be satisfied, so enjoy it!

The first time around, I did not get bigger anywhere but my belly. I looked just like my normal self, only having swallowed a basketball. Now, you can move your middle finger away from your computer screen because the second time around was an entirely different story. If you can imagine a hippopotamus crossed with Jabba the Hut, you can envision what I looked like during my second pregnancy. I was bigger pretty much everywhere.

The truth is, I really don't know exactly how much weight I gained during my pregnancies. I was fortunate to have a doctor who trusted me to weigh myself alone in the restroom, so I would just add a pound or so every time I visited him. Why would I do such a thing?! Because I knew that I was healthy, my babies were healthy and I didn't need to know that if I sat on a teeter-totter with my 6'3 tall husband, I might send him flying up in the air!

I should note that by the end of both pregnancies, I slowed down significantly in terms of workouts. About a month before giving birth, I stopped strength training and just took it easy on the good ol' elliptical. I did what I could until the bitter end, though.

I am going to go ahead and skip past the labor and delivery part (keeping with the PG theme) except to say thank God for epidurals! Amen.

I really had no expectations for how long it would take for me to lose the baby weight. I believe this is a healthy approach. I asked my doctor how long I should wait to exercise after I gave birth and he pretty much told me I could start whenever I felt ready. He knew that I had exercised consistently the entire time I was pregnant. This does not apply if you have a C-section. You definitely must follow your doctor's orders. I began with easy walks a few days after giving birth and slowly built up my exercise program again. Just like you did throughout your pregnancy, it is just as important to listen to your body after you give birth and not push or pressure yourself. I am not going to say how long it took me to get back to my pre-baby state, but I will say it was much quicker than I ever expected. And I attribute this 100% to staying active throughout my pregnancies, despite all the bacon.

Stay strong, feed the cravings.

Tara

Your Motivation is Hindering the Results You Desire

F motivation!

You read that right. Fuck motivation.

I say that because the motivation most people use to get to the gym could actually be negating their results.

I’m sure you and I are alike on some days. Some days you love to work out and other days you loathe the idea.

Some days you don’t even really know which mood you’re going to get when you walk out the door.

And we know that showing up is half the battle.

If you train with me then you have heard me say it over and over again, “It’s not that you should want to train forever, but you should want to have the ability to train forever.” So doing a little something each day should NOT come from motivation of losing weight, getting strong, increasing mobility, or the dumb ass marathon you signed up for.

The motivation should come from your desire to have the ability to train 70 years from now.

Yes, add 70 years to your current age and you should want to live and have the ability to take a nice walk around the neighborhood for at least that much longer.

But the problem stems from the idea of wanting to look better. Media has helped just about every person transform their goals into looking just like the airbrushed cover model on the Women’s Fitness magazine who happened to win the good looking gene lottery and hasn’t been in a gym for most of her life. Truth.

If you flip your mindset from the cover model motivational factors to focusing on the idea of moving better and making your body feel better, then I can assure you that your body composition goals will begin to accelerate from toddler strides to leaping bounds.

So before you say “F it” and decide the couch and some lame ass reality TV show is a better option, think about what good you did for you body today. I’m certain that you have already spent the majority of your day strapped to your desk chair staring at the computer screen in a hunched over position.

I guarantee that if you just show up, you’ll find that whatever was holding you back from getting to the gym will actually fuel your workout and you’ll feel ten times better after you complete your training.

Even if you just get out for a long walk or work on some soft tissue stuff, you’ll at least be doing something good for your body and its long haul.

Check out an old interview I did for the Washingtonian Magazine Well + Being section about taking days off. There is always something you can do to better yourself.

As I mentioned above, showing up is half the battle. The other half, as I see it, is working on building an outstanding life. So reaching for the perfect cover model body isn’t going to do anything but make things worse. Work on training your body and mind to be something awesome and begin enjoying the ride.

Dedicated to your health,

Carmen

>> Care to share your goals or what exercise means to you? Leave a comment below

Training During Your Pregnancy

Hello Ambitious Athletes, My name is Tara Lamond. I have trained with Carmen for several years, and he has asked me to write an article about exercise during pregnancy. While I have no board certification when it comes to this topic, I have given birth to two amazing, healthy and happy children and I exercised from beginning to end during both pregnancies. I will try to keep my first column here as PG as possible, so guys, it is safe to stick around if you would like.

I have always been avid about fitness, so I had no doubts that I would want to stay active when I became pregnant. It is well known that exercise during pregnancy leads to healthier moms and healthier babies. From conception, to labor and delivery, to postpartum recovery, exercise makes everything better. And before we go any further, let's clear up one of the biggest myths about pregnancy: it lasts for TEN months, ladies. Whoever started the "nine month" rumor was probably a man, because it is ten. 40 weeks. Just had to put that out there because when you get to the nine-month point and still have four more weeks to go, you could get very upset. Now that we have that cleared up, I figured that I would think of some questions that you might ask me about how I stayed fit during the 20 months I spent pregnant. So, yes, I will go ahead and interview myself!

Q: How was it working out during the first trimester? Did you have any morning sickness?

A: I have to start out by saying that you should ALWAYS discuss your plans to exercise with your doctor first. I was fortunate to go into my pregnancies with a high level of fitness and no complications. Any good doctor will give you the green light to maintain an exercise program throughout your pregnancy. Now, if you are a casual jogger, it probably wouldn't be the best idea to become a Crossfit competitor once you find out you are pregnant. But that is not because you might harm the baby, it is because you might harm yourself! The most important thing is to listen to your body. I will say that I had the hardest time of my life motivating myself to exercise during the first trimester. I felt nauseous all day long and was overwhelmingly tired. I was not one to use pregnancy as an excuse, though, and then there's Kerri Walsh: She won an Olympic gold metal for beach volleyball while in the very early stages of pregnancy!

My main battles during my first trimesters were morning sickness (which to quote Prince William truly is "all-day sickness") and fatigue. Oh my gosh, was I tired!! For those who don't know me, I think it is safe to say that I am a high-energy person. According to my own mother, from the day I turned one, I never took another nap. But do you know the scene in "Old School" when Will Ferrell gets a tranquilizer dart shot in his neck? I reenacted that scene every day at 1:00pm on my desk at work. Thank goodness I had a lock on my office door because I was literally incapable of keeping my eyes open. I would have to put my head down and sleep for 30 minutes! And did I leave work, go home and sit on the couch for the rest of the day? No, I wiped the drool off my cheek, tried to rub the sleeve prints off my forehead and dragged my butt to the gym! It was hard and I did what I could, but I always felt better and more energized when I was finished.

Q. What types of workouts/modifications did you make while pregnant?

A. Like I said earlier, the most important thing is to listen to your body. If I were to boil down my workouts during pregnancy, I would say that I worked out for half as long and half as hard as usual. That just felt right to me. I also found that I had to avoid high impact activities. This was not because I thought that running or jumping would be detrimental to my pregnancy. It was because it made me feel like I had to pee every ten seconds! I have many girlfriends who were able to run throughout their pregnancies and felt great doing so. I personally felt like there was an 8-lb dumbbell laying on top of my bladder. For me, the elliptical machine was my best friend when I was pregnant. As Carmen has said, they should have just presented me with the machine after I gave birth like one would a retired jersey. I am no longer a fan of the elliptical, but it served me well during both pregnancies.

As for strength training, I kept up with that during both pregnancies. Obviously, I had to modify some of the exercises I did and work around the belly. You should know that the hormones produced during pregnancy cause the ligaments that support your joints to become more relaxed. Always make sure you are adequately warmed up. It was interesting to see others' reactions to my lifting weights while pregnant. Most folks were supportive and would say things like, "Your baby is going to come out in running shoes and flexing its muscles". There was one guy at the gym, though, who was visibly stressed whenever I picked up a dumbbell. He would literally rush over to me at the end of the set, take the weight out of my hand and put it back on the rack for me! I so wanted to find him after I gave birth to tell him how perfectly healthy my baby was, but alas, I believe the stress of seeing me do bicep curls with my big belly drove him away from the gym.

I must mention two final things. You may read some articles suggesting you not lie flat on your back while pregnant because it could restrict blood flow to the uterus. When I questioned my doctor about this, he informed me that this would only become a concern if one did so for long periods of time. I would recommend checking with your own doctor, though. And balance can also be a concern during pregnancy. You are now carrying significantly more weight in the front, so make modifications as needed.

Well ladies (and gents if I didn't completely scare you away), I hope that sharing some of my personal experiences have been informative. Stay tuned for next month's edition when I answer more of my own scintillating questions such as: How much weight did you gain? Did you have any cravings? How did you lose the baby weight? And if there are any topics that YOU would like for me to cover, just leave em in the comments field below!

Tara

Note: Ambitious Yoga Coach Emilie Dworkin is certified to work with pre and postnatal women and advises all pregnant women to work at their comfort levels within a safe and guided exercise program.

15 Essential Items for Every Fitness Enthusiast

Having trouble finding something for your fitness enthusiast friend for the holidays? That friend could be yourself too. It's ok to buy stuff for yourself. Below I've listed items that I believe every person who lifts weights and keeps their bodyfat in check should own.

TRX

Squat Shoes

Lifting Straps

Chalk

Minimalist Shoes

Resistance Bands

Ambitious Athletics Tshirt

Foam Roller Gym Boss Interval Timer

Post Workout Recovery Fomula

Gymnastic Rings

35lb Kettlebell

Athletic Greens

Vitamix Blender

iTunes gift card

Train smart, eat big.

Relieve Holiday Stress by Flipping Life on Its Head

It’s that time of year again: the holiday season is upon us. And as much as we all love the lights and 24/7 tunes, it’s no secret that the holidays create their share of stress, as well. Finding that perfect gift and spending eight hours straight with your in-laws may translate into a nagging cold, aching bodies and cluttered minds. But have no fear. There is a solution. Turn Your World Upside Down

To clarify, I am not suggesting that you make any drastic life changes. Drastic life changes and stress don’t mix, so return the sports car, cancel the move to Europe, don’t profess your love to the girl you met last night at the bar. When I say “turn your world upside down,” I mean practice yoga inversions.

Afraid of going upside down? Don’t worry. Inversions can simply be defined as any pose where you heart is higher than your head and they range in complexity from Balasana/Child’s Pose to Pincha Mayurasana/Feathered Peacock Pose. The good news is that ALL inversions share the same benefits.

They:

• Reduce stress Yes, the holidays are stressful, but an easy way to reduce stress all year long really is the gift that keeps on giving!

• Relieve pain in the spine and overworked muscles Tired of sitting at your desk for 8 hours a day? Inversions reverse the effect of gravity and relieve compression. Body a little beat from 100 burpees? Inversions give your body the R&R it needs to recover for 100 more.

• Improve circulation Think about those salmon swimming against the stream of water. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could help them get to their destination by changing the flow of the water? Think of inversions as doing just that: helping your blood to get where it needs to go.

• Strengthen bones, ligaments, the core and more Are you a lefty? Imagine if you decided to start throwing with your right hand? Your body may be pretty strong right side up, but upside down is a whole other ballgame. Inversions challenge the status quo and make you stronger in the process.

• Improve posture, balance and concentration Balancing on your head in Headstand isn’t easy and requires discipline and poise.

• Enhance immunity It turns out standing on your head can keep colds at bay, too!

• Combat insomnia Inversions have a calming effect, meaning you’ll catch your Zs easier and with fewer interruptions.

• Change your perspective – literally! You don’t have to change your beliefs to change the way you see the world.

I know what you’re thinking. Where do I sign up, right? But before you jump into a handstand before finishing this article, a quick word of caution. All inversions are not for everyone (for example, many inversions are contraindicated for people who are pregnant or menstruating, or have neck injuries, epilepsy, high blood pressure, heart conditions and eye problems. For that reason, I highly encourage you to only practice inversions under the supervision of an experienced yoga teacher who can guide you through the process, including the preparatory poses that prepare your body to go upside down.

That said, I will leave you today with one of my favorite inversions that nearly everyone can do anywhere, anytime, anyplace.

Vipariti Kirani/Legs Up the Wall Pose

So what are you waiting for? Move that end table away from the wall, kick up your legs, and flip life on its head for a happy (and stress free) holiday season!

Namaste,

Emilie

Real Men Do Yoga

Attention fellas and ladies who know fellas. It’s time we cleared the air about a commonly held, but rarely discussed, yoga myth. Contrary to popular belief, yoga is not just for ladies. Dudes need yoga, too. Don’t believe me? Just ask any one of the millions of men around the world enjoying the innumerable physical and mental benefits of yoga.

There’s actor Matthew McConaughey, who attributes his lean muscle mass to his yoga practice. Did you see those abs in Magic Mike? Or musician Sting who credits his 20-year practice for keeping him fit (with guns a blazin’ at 60, I might add) and stress-free. Oh and then there’s LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, Sean Burke, Tom Brady and the entire roster of the Philadelphia Eagles who count yoga an essential part of their training regimens. And that’s just the beginning.

So what is it about this ancient discipline that keeps these real men saluting the sun? For starters, yoga:

• Improves athletic performance. The increased flexibility and range of motion generated through a regular yoga practice translates into greater efficiency in all athletic movements – from longer strides to higher jumps. As an added bonus, yoga teaches you to synch movement with breath, meaning a little less gasping and a little more working out.

• Reduces muscle cramps and tightness. Giving your muscles and joints a little TLC on the mat allows you to shorten and ease recovery time. Wouldn’t you like to stop saying “man, I just don’t bounce back the way I used to?”

• Builds strength. Just because you are using your body weight, doesn’t mean you aren’t building strength. Sure, big biceps and lats say “I pump iron,” but they aren’t necessarily a sign of total body strength and control. Yoga builds strength gradually and evenly, so you know how to activate the right muscles when you need them. In particular, yoga targets the often neglected core, which is an essential element of any athlete’s arsenal.

• Prevents injury. Looser muscles and lubricated joints mean your body is ready to combat whatever comes its way – whether that’s an unexpected tackle in a flag football game or one of those famous Brick Monster’s in Georgetown that have a way of sneaking up on you.

• Reduces stress. Whether it’s through meditation, pranayama breathing techniques or the postures themselves, yoga teaches you how to shut out the crazy world around you and take some time to chill.

• Improves mental focus. Yoga requires patience, discipline and your total concentration. A wandering mind during Handstand, for example, could be your invitation to an unwanted face plant. Regularly challenging your mind to shut out external stimuli and turn your focus inward is a hard earned skill that you can turn to again and again on and off the mat.

One thing is for sure. All of this goodness doesn’t come easy. Yoga can be tough – especially if you’ve lived a life of gym-going with little interest in stretching. I’ll be honest when I say that there is no one who breaks a sweat faster, breathes heavier or grimaces more often than the yogi who walks into his first yoga class. But, you know what they say: no pain, no gain. A little investment of your time now, can reap big rewards later. So the next time your wife, girlfriend, lady friend or significant other asks you to join her for a yoga session, remember: real men do yoga. Are you one of them?

Namaste,

Emilie

Escaping Pain; How I Banished Years of Pain in Just 75 Minutes

What do you do when you’ve got a nagging pain in your hip, a tight shoulder, an out of place rib, or something that just doesn’t feel the way it should? Go to the family doctor or orthopedic, right? No.

Many new avenues in medicine have recently demonstrated success in fixing nagging pains, aches, lost range of motion and so much more, helping folks stay out of the surgery room and in their daily activities.

This post is all about questioning your doctor, getting a second opinion, finding the right person to help you, and staying as far away from the knife (surgery) as possible.

This is a MUST READ for discovering new methods of sports medicine that help reduce pain and get you back to your old self, fast.

Over the last few years, I’ve lived with some sort of pain, muscle soreness, tightness, pinching, loss of motion, altered movement, or some other annoying ache. Talking with other people, I’ve come to find out that I’m not the only one that suffers from some of these issues.

I’m sharing this with you because I want you to know that you don’t have to live in pain; you have options. There are ways to relieve it, and it doesn’t have to involve drastic measures.

Here are two examples that have caused me major pain; - 2009, a partially tore labrum while playing on a softball team that never practiced. - 2010, when purchasing a new bike I was not correctly fitted by a certified bike fit specialist.

These mistakes went on to cause me an enormous amount pain. That pain resulted in me having to alter my gait, turn muscles off, and prohibited me from making major strength gains.

It might not seem like major injuries that would cause years worth of pain, but if things like these are not addressed properly, they will not only affect the injury site but much more.

I won’t go into all of the details, but I will explain some of the symptoms I had and the steps I took to get where I am now. This way, you may be able to relate to and quickly solve any pain or discomfort issues you may have.

Shoulder from softball injury

I was young and dumb and wasn’t aware of other practices outside of the emergency room, orthopedics or chiropractors. When my shoulder stayed tight, achy, and began to lose range of motion and strength, I automatically thought my structure was messed up and by using the process of elimination I chose to go see the ortho. Although he did properly assess me, he stuck me with a needle, ordered an MRI, and gave me the option of the knife or no knife. Steps taken to relieve pain: - Orthopedic visit; Arthogram, MRI, surgery or Physical Therapy - Chiropractor - Foam roll daily, multiple times, with extremely dense objects. - Massage Therapy

Right Hip Flexor Complex

The tight, aching, pinching pain below my hipbone started as a come-and-go type of pain. It eventually caused a discrepancy in my gait and athletic achievement through altered muscular contractions. Basically, because of the tightness in my hip, other muscles surrounding my hip began to alter how they functioned and began to dominate movement when they were supposed to just help movement. This is a bad issue that became worse.

You see there is a lot more to the way your legs and hips work together and much more to it than people just saying they have tight hips. More than just a “hip flexor” actually crosses your “hip” (from your leg to pelvis). So tight hips could mean a lot of different things rather than just your Psoas, Illiacus, Tensor Fasciae latae, amongst others. Steps taken to relieve pain: - Orthopedic; gave me a topical cream to apply twice daily and prescribed Physical Therapy - Twice a week Physical Therapy (was counterproductive to issue + no daily assessments) - Chiropractic; was prescribed 2-3 times per week visits. This was only a band-aid to the issue, which means it only helped for a few days at a time. - Foam roll daily, multiple times, with extremely dense objects. - Massage therapists

There it is, approximately two and a half years of nagging, achy, tight pain that wouldn’t go away. It sucked, it prohibited me from making major strength gains, made me hate riding my bike, made walking uncomfortable, running was hardly an option, and sitting sometimes hurt.

I’m writing this to help you better understand the options outside the doctor’s office and how to alleviate minor or major pains that you may experience that doesn’t allow you to live, but holds you back in some cases, which can result in you feeling like you have to give up on activities that you enjoy doing. There are options.

The entire time I was being treated for my hip and shoulder I knew it wasn’t a structural problem (skeletal) but a muscular or tissue problem. The issue was that I didn’t know who or how to treat it.

The setbacks that resulted and caused chronic pain were from adhesions in my soft tissue. For more of an in depth understanding, read this for more about soft tissue adhesions << Must read >> Damaged soft tissue - My issue

How I banished years of pain in just 75 minutes

Enter Active Release Technique and Muscle Activation Technique

I believe that these two techniques are some of the most underrated and powerful treatments offered when it comes to pain relief and muscle damage. The sad part is, not many people know about them.

A couple of weeks ago I scheduled my ART assessment, have had two sessions post assessment, and haven’t felt better since birth. Hip and shoulder pain GONE all in less than two hours of work.

In the days following my first session I went back to all my lifts (squat, deadlift, Olympic lifts) that caused hip discomfort and performed each of them stronger, more explosive, and most importantly, pain free.

To give you an idea of ART, think foam rolling your most painful area then imagine if the foam roller was also tattooing you at the same time, that’s what it feels like, it’s that good! (Actually, it really hurts, but it’s the best pain you’ll ever feel.)

Personally, I have not done any form of Muscle Activation Technique so I can’t speak on any pros or cons but I wanted to provide you a better understanding of two forms of pain relief.

I’ve provided you with a couple videos below, as well as the pages where you can find local practitioners to help you. I’ve also teamed up with the local ART specialist in DC to help you with the cost of each visit. (Most insurance is accepted).

Watch these videos for a better understanding of the two practices.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fnrmj2bgubU (ART) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5HgezgRiaos&feature=related (MAT)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGryZakf25U&feature=endscreen (MAT) Your local DC Specialist Dr. Paul Glodzik Washington Injury and Sports Performance Clinic http://www.wispc.com

This is the guy that works on me and has agreed to give 20% discounts to anyone who mentions my name.

I hope you learned something here and will seek out these professionals who can help you and relieve any pain that you may currently have.

If you’ve found this to be helpful please click the “like” button on our Facebook page, leave a comment below, and please share this post with anyone who you feel can benefit from these techniques.

Dedicated to your health, Carmen

Getting FIT to Run; 3 Steps you need to follow

"Get fit to run, don't run to get fit." Winter, I mean summer, I mean spring…. is here? I think…

Since we’ve been graced with an extremely mild winter, we’ve had more opportunities to get outside and exercise; most notably, you’ll see a surge of runners cruising the streets.

And who can blame them? We’ve had great weather, so why not get outside, exercise and explore the area?

But before you hit the pavement and jam to your favorite running playlist, there are a few important steps you should follow to help you get the most out of your run: Below, I've listed what I believe is most important.

#1: Get FIT for New Running Shoes

I’m telling you this first because it’s the most important (yes, there is something more important than your playlist or running outfit, though this does fall under the outfit category). I’m telling you this because a lot of what goes wrong with our bodies starts at ground level (our feet) and moves north.

That pain in your knee could easily be a result of wearing flat shoes that don’t provide any support to your high arches. This leads to knee pain (or runner’s knee), which leads to your jacked-up hip, low back problems, right earaches and, of course, your left stink eye. Ok, everything up to the back was true!

You get what I’m sayin’? I hope so.

Get yourself to a reputable running store in the area and specifically tell the sales associate:

“I run and exercise X times a week, log about X amount of miles per week, and have never been fit properly for a pair of running shoes. I need your help.”

Personally, I’m a loyalist and traditionalist, so when I find something good I don’t go anywhere else. I’ve been showing my love and support to the Fenty family at Fleet Feet in Adams Morgan for years now; such a solid shop!

However, if you can’t get to Fleet Feet DC, there are plenty of other shops around the area that I’ve heard good things about.

Fleet Feet DC - http://www.fleetfeetdc.com

Georgetown Running Company - http://www.therunningcompany.net/

Potomac River Running - http://potomacriverrunning.com/

Pacers – http://runpacers.com/

Here’s an old video I shot with Shawn Fenty a few years ago with an old VHS camcorder (kidding), but here you go.

#2: Establish a WARM-UP Routine

Now that you’re looking the part with the proper footwear, it’s time to act the part and get a good warm-up routine together.

Chances are you’ve got a desk job that keeps your butt inactive and in a seated position for the majority of the day. So, before you begin your run, it’s important to warm-up those muscles and get them ready for the trip ahead.

Ever heard the acronym KISS? Keep It Simple Stupid. This awesome acronym is applicable to a lot of things in life, but today it applies to warming up. Keep your warm-up simple and make it regular just like your morning routine.

Here’s an old school video that I shot a few years ago using a routine I really like. It makes everything from the hips down ready for a run. Give it a try and laugh all you want. I was a skinny triathlete during this shoot.

Our Bootcamp warm-up is hands down one of the best you can do for your entire body.

#3: Map a Route with HILLS

Why?

1. Because running hills puts less impact on your body, specifically the force with which your foot hits the pavement, and encourages proper running form. Uphill running puts more weight on your forefoot instead of your heel, which is actually the proper way to run. Abandon heel to toe strike and shorten up your stride.

2. Running uphill is much harder than running on a flat surface.

3. Hills burn more calories.

4. Hills develop greater strength.

5. They provide greater cardio conditioning.

6. After you get good at them, running on flat surfaces is a walk in the park.

7. It’s a new challenge! Can you push yourself to the top? If not, you’ve got a new challenge along your route. And if you can get to the top? OK, shave 10 seconds off that hill climb, and 10 more, and 10 more… Too easy? Climb it again.

8. New challenges = goals

9. Small accomplished goals = less steps to the big goal

10. Because if reaching your goals was easy, everyone would hang out on ellipticals and watch TV.

Need some inspiration? Here are a few of my favorite hills to climb: Listed from easiest to hardest

1. 29th St: Begin on Calvert St. NW. Finish at Cathedral Ave. NW. (Steady slope, moderate length)

2. Rock Creek Park (Woodley Park Metro) Begin in RCP behind the Omni Hotel, finish on Calvert St. NW (short, sweet, and steep. Grass surface available too)

3. Macomb St. NW: Begin on Connecticut Ave. NW. Finish at Wisconsin Ave. NW.

4. Porter St. NW (from bottom to top) begin in the valley between Connecticut Ave. and Adams Mill Rd. Finish on Wisconsin Ave. (super long)

If you have a favorite running store share it with the rest of us. Got a favorite dreadful hill that you love/hate? Let us know that, too!

Happy hill climbing in your fancy new footwear!

Dedicated to your health and success,

Carmen

How Yoga Will Not Wreck Your Body: 4 Tips

Hi AA friends, Many of you may know me as the friendly neighborhood yoga instructor at Ambitious Athletics, which is why it’s appropriate that my first blog post would be on … well … yoga! ☺

In this week’s New York Times Sunday Magazine, you may have seen the column “How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body” by William J. Broad, which offers the perspective that yoga is inherently risky, providing several examples of students who have suffered injuries and other ailments as a result of their yoga practice. I encourage you to read the column, if only to ensure that your only perspective on the article isn’t my own.

As you might have guessed, I had an immediate reaction to the title of the article, but not just because they were criticizing my line of work, but, more importantly, because, as a student of yoga for many years, I have been practicing precisely because of all the amazing benefits yoga brings me … from increased strength and flexibility to peace of mind and, most importantly, fewer injuries – not more.

As I dug through the article, it got me thinking about how the negative yoga experiences shared in this column came to be and what words of wisdom I could share with all of you to ensure that you only see the good side of yoga (as I do). What follows are my best recommendations for reaping all the benefits that yoga has to offer and ensuring a safe and rewarding experience every time you hit the mat. I can only assume that the students whose stories were featured in the NYT piece weren’t operating with these tips in mind:

How Yoga Will Not Wreck Your Body: 4 Tips

1. Listen to Your Body. The most surprising part of this article was the suggestion that yoga cause injuries and ailments in practitioners. I mean, yes, Savasana can sometimes feel like an out-of-body experience, but this isn’t The Invasion of the Body Snatchers. You are still in control of your own body. Right? For that reason, only you can know your limits. Enter all poses with great care and, if something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. A good teacher will always offer modifications for poses, so never feel like you have to go into headstand just because everyone else is doing it. This leads me to …

2. Don’t Let Your Ego Takeover. In yogic philosophy, we talk a lot about the ego and, in the simplest terms, how the ego can often stand between you and your goals. It’s not about getting rid of your ego (you can’t, we all have one!), but it’s about getting out of the way of your ego and not letting it drive your actions. In the great words of Carmen Sturniolo, if you’re going to compete with someone “compete with yourself.” Yoga is challenging enough when you’re focusing 100% of your attention on what you are doing. Don’t worry about how great Morgan’s Warrior 2 is or how far Melissa can bend into Patchimottanasana/Seated Forward Bend. When the ego takes over, that’s when someone gets hurt.

3. If You Don’t Know, Ask. This is an important one. At Ambitious Athletics, whether in yoga, with a resistance band or on the TRX, we pride ourselves on offering clients very clear direction when it comes to alignment and proper form for every exercise. And we repeat those instructions over and over and over again – not because we like to hear ourselves talk, but because your safety is our #1 priority. But, not all teachers and coaches have the same philosophy. In fact, in some yoga classes, the instructors will simply tell you the name of the pose and nothing more. My personal opinion is that classes of that kind are for the more experienced practitioner … someone who might as well already be a yoga teacher, because they know every pose, including alignment points and actions, by heart. If that doesn’t sound like you, I would encourage you to seek out teachers whose classes focus on proper form and alignment. But if nothing else, when in doubt, ask your teacher or coach for more information. Your bodies will thank you.

4. Mix It Up. I am stealing this one from Carmen’s last post, but I think it bears repeating. Variety is the spice of life, people. Mix it up a little and your bodies will thrive. I know I differ from other instructors here, but I would never advise a client to make yoga his/her only form of exercise. A regular yoga practice is an essential part of a well-balanced fitness program thanks to its measurable impact on the body and mind (think improved strength, flexibility, breathing, posture, mood and more!), but it isn’t a substitute for strength training and cardio. After all, isn’t yoga all about balance anyway?

In short (because I know this post wasn’t), Practice Safe Yoga! What did you think I was going to say?

Namaste, Emilie

2012: Don’t make things harder than they need to be. Your guide to a simplified fitness routine

Ambitious Athletics Washington DC Fitness Every year, a large amount of people say for their New Years resolution that they will drop 5, 10, 15 lbs., go to the gym twice weekly, eat healthier, etc. Whatever it may be I never hear anyone talking about how they are going to sustain their goals. Remember, most people lose sight of their resolutions within weeks or end up gaining the weight they wished off.

But it’s not just skipping workouts and bad nutrition choices that can lead to failure. Sometimes it’s the content of your workout that can stand between you and your fitness goals. Let me explain, most people have a pretty standard gym routine and for most guys they start with good ole bench press on Monday. For women, it’s mass amounts of cardio. Tuesday is a little more of the same with a few other variables. The funny thing is most people end up doing the exact same routine week in week out for months on end and most wonder why they aren’t achieving greater results.

The human body is an amazing machine that easily adapts to the stress placed upon it (good stress, not your asshole boss). Think about when you travel to unfamiliar places. After a few days, maybe weeks, you begin to adapt to your surroundings, understand the culture a little more, where you can get decent food, etc. The inside of your body adapts just as quickly.

What I’m saying is that you need to switch things up every now and then.

What I’m not saying is that you need to completely ditch yesterday’s exercises every time you workout.

Keep it simple. Focus on these six things: 1. Map yourself a routine 2. Choose 3-5 strength exercises 3. Choose 3-4 body-weighted exercises 4. Learn the CORRECT form for these exercises 5. 8-12 reps per exercise 6. Keep the rest to a minimum between sets

Keep it simple, don’t over think it, stay the routine, and kill it when you’re in the gym.

Time to switch things up?? Focus on these five things: 1. Don’t completely nix exercises 2. Consider switching things up by doing the same movements in a different way, with a dumbbell, barbell, cables, chains, etc. 3. Rotate the order of exercises 4. Continue to get stronger by progressively adding weight 5. Increase reps for bodyweight exercises

Lets look at an example:

Strength:

Bench Press with barbell, 8-12 reps, 90 seconds rest – switch to – Bench Press with dumbbells, 8-12 reps, 60 seconds rest.

Bodyweight:

Continue to increase repetitions, control form, and increase speed.

Keep it simple, get stronger, and stay the course toward your 2012 fitness goals. Dedicated to your health, Carmen

Really want to swtich things up? DC Fitness Bootcamp, your two-week FREE trial

Resources

Need your own resistance band, protein, meal replacement, or foam roller?? Then you're at the right place, I've created this page just for you. Below you can view the websites of the companies I've partnered with to provide you with the best of the best. These are the exact companies I go to to provide myself with the tools I need to live healthy everyday.

Resistance Bands :

Protein, meal replacements, vitamins, krill oil, and more :

TRX suspension trainer

Interval Timer

Foam rollers, kettlebells, barbells, weightlifting shoes, everything.

12 Minutes of Christmas for Fat Loss.

My gift to you this Christmas is a killer workout that you can do anywhere any time. Please leave a comment after you finish the workout. Now that we are almost through the battlefield, aka the holiday season, we have to figure out our strategy going forward to protect what we've gained, not in weight, but success.

Before you just throw it out there and say "in 2011 I'm gonna lose weight and get my body back!", be sure you know what you're getting yourself into. Don't blow this goal by over committing to some obscure goal that is so ridiculous that you'll fail before you even take off.

It's said that some 80% of people who create their ambitious "New Year" agenda fall flat by February 28th.

What I'm saying here is, don't shoot for the moon to land amongst the stars. Yeah it's a cute saying and all but in reality it is a soft way of saying "I lost." Shoot for the moon, land on the moon, and stick your freakin' flag in the ground with confidence. Have a plan to get there.

It's very simple, create a path to your destination. Use these three steps to refocus your direction and succeed

1. Your goal should be based on what YOU truly want (not what you think you want)

– This is easy, leave your pessimism at the door and get after it

2. It should be measureable and include check points to evaluate your progress

– Know where you are going

3. There should be a formula to guide you to the end result

– This is absolutely the key to success; ever see a house or building built without a blueprint? Neither have I

You can start with this workout.

Merry Christmas!

Carmen

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Why I dislike "The Biggest Loser" - A Guest Rant

While I was out the other night with a group of friends we all got on the topic of health and fitness, it usually happens after people ask me what I do for a living. I got into a discussion with one of the women about the TV show the Biggest Loser and let me tell you, she had little good to say about it. I myself am not a huge fan of the show, I can count the number of episodes I've seen on two hands, but I'm not really going to knock people losing weight. This women told me how she thought about it and when she was done I asked her if she wouldn't mind putting it into writing for me so I could share it with others. She did, and here it is.....

Enjoy it and leave a comment below

Before I start naming reasons why I don't like The Biggest Loser, I will acknowledge that the overall mission of the show is great; helping people lose weight. I'm all for encouraging a healthy lifestyle through exercise and good eating habits, and broadcasting The Biggest Loser is a great way to show people that is is possible to lose weight and dramatically improve your health. I appreciate that the contestants on the show lose weight through activity and diet, and not fads, surgery, or medications. I also appreciate that witnessing obese people lose a ton of weight can be very inspirational, encouraging, and motivating to viewers who are in the same predicament. However, there are many reasons why I am NOT a fan of The Biggest Loser.

SAFETY

How safe is it to lose 20 pounds in one week?? Isn't it recommended that if you're looking to lose weight, a safe and healthy loss would be 1-3 lbs/week? These contestants are pushed from a sedentary lifestyle to one that is scheduled with 4-5 hours a day of strenuous exercise. This kind of stress, physically and emotionally, can't be good for their overall well being. I haven't done any in depth research on interviews with the contestants, but I will be willing to bet a lot of money that injuries happen on the show that aren't brought to viewers' attention. The weekly weigh ins are just a push to see who can lose weight the fastest - this does not encourage the "lifestyle change" that many people would associate with a major weight loss plan. Sure, I could probably lose10 lbs in one week if I didn't have to work, didn't eat, and exercised for 8 hours a day - but is that what we should be encouraging people to do?

MOTIVATION

It's all about the money. Why is money the motivating factor for people to come on the show? Would they do it if there wasn't a cash prize at the end? People have argued to me that it's not about the money. They believe people try out for the show because there are opportunities presented to them that wouldn't exist normally. Well duh! Why do you think celebrities look the way they do? They have personal trainers, personal chefs, personal assistants, etc. So then I wonder, if money isn't the motivating factor, why are these people trying out for the show? What would happen if NBC took away the $250,000 grand prize? What if, instead of the money going directly to the winner, the winner could use that money for something to benefit the community? What if the $250,000 was donated to a program that would help lower income families learn about healthier food options. What if that $250,000 was used to construct a community park that encourage outdoor activities for all ages? Contestants go on that show because there is a chance to win a shit load of cash at the end. Instead of being motivated by having a long, happy, healthy life, they want the money. That is just plain disappointing.

TRAINERS I would never hire Jillian and Bob to train me. I am a firm believer in behavior management through positive reinforcement. I don't see any positive reinforcement happening on that show. I don't think that screaming at, being rude to, or humiliating contestants is a good way to get them to lose weight. And that seems to be something that has dramatically changed over the past few seasons. Remember when they had that one trainer, Kim? She was too cheery and positive for the show. They got rid of her and brought back Drill Sargent Jillian. And Bob has turned into quite the dick head as well.

EMOTIONAL HEALTH

The contestants on The Biggest Loser are humiliated to no end. Let's take people who are severely obese, cram their fat bodies into unflattering spandex, and have them step on a scale for the world to see how pitiful they are. I've never seen a fat person work out in spandex. Why can't they wear shorts and tshirts like normal people do? I also don't think this show treats the underlying condition for why these people are so overweight. Everyone thinks of bulimia or anorexia as eating disorders. But the contestants on this show are certainly suffering from an eating disorder, however we don't feel as empathetic to them because let's face it, half of America is obese. We see these people as lazy and gluttonous. I wish NBC would spend a little more time treating the underlying problems for why these people have let themselves get the way they are. I also don't know what the rate of weight gain is for people after the show. That would be an interesting article to read.

And the people who show up in masses for the casting call, I never see a turnout like that at my gym........ just sayin'

Agree / Disagree? I would love to read your thoughts

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Movement Prep

I am so sick of not seeing more trainers and people put this in to action. Movement preparation is one of the most import steps in taking strides to a healthier and better moving body. What movement preparation is not; 1. Warming up on a treadmill 2. Using external weights for pre-exercise movements 3. A quick jog 4. Quick and easy

Have you ever showed up early to a professional baseball, football, or soccer game and seen the athletes going through their stretches and conditioning drills? You are watching movement prep. Notice the focus; most of these guys have their ipods in and are mentally and physically prepare themselves, they are not jumping around like idiots, they are focusing on allowing their bodies to move freely so they can play at 100%.

Movement preparation is simply taking your body, with no external weight added, through movements that may be used during your workout. You should use the three planes of motion to create kinetic awareness and proper muscle activation and recruitment.

To paint a picture and understanding of what I mean, picture this: It’s leg day and you want to begin your workout with some movement preparation. One exercise you may see often is a forward or rear lunge with a simple torso rotation toward the knee that is in front of you. The key here is to maintain balance and stability during this movement.

As mentioned above, movement prep is not quick and easy. This is the most important part of your workout because of the use of the motor skills involved. While performing the lunge with rotation one must use spatial awareness, balance, stability, coordination, and strength. It is not a quick exercise and takes more time to do properly than you may think. Most people believe this is a simple and fast movement, and are often times seen falling over while trying to attempt it.

Professional athletes warm up before games and practice because without those conditioning drills and stretches they are more likely to injure themselves. Injury often means no playing time, and a lack of playing time often means no paycheck. Take it from the professionals - practice movement prep, it really is that important.

Stay Competitive. Have Fun.

The 3 Rules of Youth fitness by Brian Grasso

As a member and certified Youth Fitness Specialist of the International Youth Conditioning Association I wanted to share something from the creator of this organization. A shared blog entry from IYCA Founder and CEO, Brian Grasso

When I look around the industry, I find myself becoming more and more discontented with the view. It seems that there is a never-ending litany of new, innovative and advanced techniques in the field of strength and conditioning that are, in essence, just re-fabricated models and methods that have proved tried and true for literally decades.

This is especially true at the youth level where we tend to walk the fine line of wavering between dummying down adult-based prescription and creating ‘novel’ schemes of building the same results that can, and are developed through the standard basics.

When working with young athletes (aged 6 – 18) I implore you to resist the temptation of thinking too far outside the box and instead concentrate your time and effort on both pondering and answering these 3 specific questions:

1.Is this Concept vs Cool? 2.Is it Recipe vs Chef? 3.What’s the difference between Athletes & Non-Athletes?

Let’s examine those further.

Concept vs Cool

Do we really need another 90-minute seminar that teaches Fitness Professionals ‘150 Awesome Exercises on the BOSU Ball’?

Or a certification that has 80% of its content based on sample programs for the specific demographic in question?

Our industry has become a ‘cool’ extravaganza. The more daring, off-the-wall, dazzling and ‘neato’ an exercise or training system is, the more popular it becomes. Ironically, the less effective it more often than not is, as well.

Lost in the sex appeal of watching fitness models slathered in man tan parade as ‘fitness gurus’ and performing the newest stunts on unstable surfaces (because that evokes a proprioceptive response and burns more calories, you see) is that we seem to have ditched our sense of ‘concept’ as it relates to exercise and performance gains.

I’ll be the first to admit that it’s mesmerizing to watch an incredible display of athletic skill being performed and that the symptomotolgy of the training program in question often seems worth the potential (i.e. beads of sweat pouring off one’s head as proof of the exercises difficulty and subsequent effectiveness). But as Fitness Professionals and Youth Fitness Specialists who have stood up, raised their hands and declared themselves worthy of the task of caring for a population in such desperate need of a clarion voice, it’s disconcerting to know that we fall prey to this circus show time-and-time again.

In the ‘Concept vs Cool’ argument, I want nothing more than for you to use common sense when determining value and worth of a training program or exercise:

It looks cool, but what’s the concept behind the suggested benefit? Although I’ve never considered science the linchpin of anything in fitness, are there any research conclusions that can back the claims? One exercise or sample program does NOT a training system make… Where does this fit in? Can it work with my young athlete’s life and honor what they need from a growth, development, long-term and tertiary life considerations? Does the risk-reward equation produce a sum that’s favorable?

Recipe vs Chef

I mentioned the reality of some certifications or products being as heavily weighted as 80% sample-based programs. I want to examine that notion a little farther.

I’m the biggest fan in the world of ‘Done-For-You’. I like time-saving. I enjoy experts who really know there stuff giving me a glimpse into their brains and how they do things from a practical standpoint.

But I stop at the water’s edge every time… Sample programs are nothing more than a ‘glimpse’ into how they would do things WITHIN THE SITUATIONS THAT ARE UNIQUE TO THEM. Without question, there are universal realities that can be applied to all young athletes irrespective of situational factors, but there is also a sensibility in programming that suggests individuality holds the key for optimum success.

What are the training ages of the young athletes the sample-program wielding expert has just given you? How do they differ from the kids you train?

What pre-cursor and preparatory elements were put in place from a technical perspective prior to the expert using these specific training programs?

What are the psychological differences and weight-room conduct variances between a 16 year old at Beverly Hills High versus a 16 year old at Compton Tech? How do young athletes who attend historically championship high schools differ from kids whose high schools have never even made the playoffs?

Do the socio-economic factors relating to a particular high school demographic cause more or less stress to the young athletes in question than a high school who sits on the other end of the demographic spectrum? Does this factor affect nutrition, sleep patterns or other forms of regeneration?

How many young athletes does the expert have to work with at one time? How large is the space they’re working within? Are the equipment options the same as they are for you?

Thus, the need for our industry to understand the concept much more than the practicality of how it’s applied.

Concept appreciation suggests that you get the ‘what’ and the ‘why’, and are therefore fluent in figuring out the ‘how’ as it relates to your specific situations.

Athletes vs Non-Athletes

This topic deviates away from the fitness industry at large and speaks more to the issues related to youth fitness, but it carries a very similar tone as the ‘Concept vs Cool’ and ‘Recipe vs Chef’ arguments.

A 10-year old soccer player needs nothing different in terms of training than a 10-year old basketball player. Moreover, an 80-year old superstar baseball player should have a training system that has a remarkable resemblance to the one an 8-year old, non-athletic, overweight child should be following.

And thus the linchpin of the entire ‘concept’ contention – training programs of any merit follow the inherent and natural, organic features of the organism itself. An 8-year old soccer player and an 8-year old overweight child have one discernable quality in common; their age.

Now, chronological age is by no means the only or even best way of determining the training stimulus needs for anyone, but it does provide a general backdrop of necessity; especially from a developmental perspective.

All aspects of coordination (balance, kinesthetic differentiation, rhythm, spatial awareness, movement adequacy) are most optimally developed when the human organism is very plastic and pre-peak height velocity. Although the progressions or regressions of specific exercises may vary, these characteristics must be present in any training program written for young people.

Here are some key questions to ask yourself:

--> Is my training program more specific to the sport or the relative needs of the young athlete based on age?

--> Am I being varied and multi-lateral in my approach to movement, or concentrating on reflecting the innate patterns of positional play?

--> Am I programming for the things this young athlete DOESN’T experience or get exposure to in the sport they play?

--> Do I know for sure if this 8-year old overweight child will not grow up to be a star quarterback? If the answer is ‘no’ (which it is) then should my training system be more regulatory in terms of human potential and less concerned with the symptoms associated with the young person’s current lifestyle?

Cool vs Concept.

Recipe vs Chef.

Athletes vs Non-Athletes.

Three things I want you to consider very closely.

Brian Grasso has trained more than 15,000 young athletes worldwide over the past decade. He is the Founder and CEO of the International Youth Conditioning Association – the only youth-based certification organization in the entire industry. For more information, visit www.IYCA.org