Tag Archives: Fit girls

The Truth About CrossFit

I get this question a lot: “What do you think about CrossFit?” Here’s the thing…I could give you my opinions but they are just that; opinions. The real, objective truth about this controversial fitness company can be summarized when you understand the one thing that most people don’t realize about CrossFit and which applies to all of its locations. So, here it is…the truth about CrossFit.

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Drumroll please….

THE TRUTH:

CrossFit is NOT a franchise. It’s a licensed brand. Knowing this simple fact explains the entire controversy surrounding the CrossFit brand. Allow me to explain…

In most franchises, there are standards that franchisees must abide by. A gym franchise will have the same look, experience and employee standards from one location to the next. In licensing, all that is the same from one location to the next is the brand, the name. Everything else is basically left up to the affiliate who purchased the rights to license the brand.

On CrossFit’s website, the easy steps to affiliate with the brand are explained: “Write us an essay (application), license a name, set up a website, send us photos and you become part of the growing community of CrossFit affiliates.” Rights to this powerhouse fitness name are a matter of writing an essay, attending a weekend-long seminar, finding a location and insurance for a box, and paying an inexpensive, annual licensing fee. This will result in two types of box owners: 1) Professionals who go above and beyond to equip their facilities with best practices and seasoned professionals, and 2) People who are not professional in the way they recruit their employees and run their gym.

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This is what causes some boxes to have the best personal trainers in the industry and others to have professionals who lack appropriate credentials and experience. The discrepancy in professionalism leads to wide gaps in safety standards and exercise programming. Such significant differences cause some CrossFitters to be fiercely loyal to the brand and leaves other box members disillusioned as their safety is risked by instructors who can’t properly support participants during workouts.

So, there you have it. The good and bad rumors about CrossFit are all accurate. It depends on who you ask and where (and with whom) they have worked out. In truth, this isn’t very different from gym franchises. Every participant in any fitness program will have a unique experience contingent on a number of factors. It’s up to YOU to decide who you can trust, not just at CrossFit boxes but everywhere. The good, the bad and the ugly can exist in just about every fitness brand. Advocate for your health with informed decisions, a little trial-and-error, and knowing when to step away from a haphazard or dangerous exercise environment. There’s a better place waiting for you around the block.

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Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

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How to Stay Fit as a Busy Lady

 Thank you to our guest blogger, Natalie! Her contribution in the wellness industry, particularly for women, is awesome. Natalie helps remind us how easy it can be to stay fit in spite of a packed schedule (see below).

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When you have endless tasks and days, it can be hard to find time to focus on your health and fitness. It needs to be a priority for everyone, but finding the time to go to the gym or make healthy meals can be difficult with thin margins. Sacrificing time with our family isn’t the right choice every day. Staying up late to exercise isn’t a good idea either; sleep is crucial for fitness. So, how can ladies stay fit when we are so busy?

The answer is preparation and focus. Staying fit just doesn’t take place during certain hours of the day. Staying fit is a lifestyle that should encompass our entire day. Also, healthy living should be a goal for our children. If you have kids, you want to make sure they understand living a healthy life and are exercising on a regular basis. Start them off early so living a healthy life becomes the norm.

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Here are some great tips for staying fit as a busy lady:

Take the Stairs: So long as you don’t need to climb 50 flights of stairs, take the stairs instead of the elevator. It is an excellent way to get your blood pumping and burn some calories. Plus, taking the stairs is a great way to increase your number of steps per day. This is just a simple strategy.

Plan Quick Workouts: There is no rule that workouts have to be one session per day. You can break up your workouts throughout the day to fit your schedule. Make a quick, cardio workout for when you first get home. You will want to sit down and rest, but if you get it out of the way, you will feel even better. Another idea is to keep your gym bag with you. If you find yourself with extra time, you don’t need to run home for clothes. You may find a day a week when you can take a longer lunch break for a quick workout. Being prepared will give you more opportunities.

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Meal Plan and Prep: Part of staying fit is eating the right foods. There is no way to stay healthy and eat candy and chips all day, every day. One of the best ways to combat this is to make a weekly meal plan. Decide ahead of time what to make for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Meal prepping can cut hours of cooking out of your week and makes eating healthy easier. Select one day out of the week when you can invest two to three hours in the kitchen. One tactic I use is pre-making slow cooker meals in freezer bags. Later in the week, I can dump the bag in, turn the slow cooker on, and come home to a great meal. For easy lunches, one idea is to cook up a large batch of freezer meals. You need some containers that are freezer friendly. Cook salmon or chicken breasts. Then add a rice or potato side with a vegetable.

Invest in a Home Gym: When your time margins are thin, going to the gym will be the last thing on your mind. Instead of spending money each month on membership, consider investing in a piece of equipment or two so you can workout at home. Don’t forget; you can count things such as sweeping and vacuuming into your daily workout!

Carry the Right Snacks: Throughout your day, you are going to want a snack or two. Instead of grabbing something out of the vending machine, bring a few snack foods with you. They will help keep away cravings and eating junk food. Try things such as portioned out trail mix, granola bars, or fruit like apples or oranges.

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Drink Water: It is important to drink water every day. Your body needs water to stay healthy. Set a daily goal and try to reach it. Keeping water on hand will curb your desires for soda and other sugary beverages. Eliminating those drinks will decrease your calories each day. Plus, staying hydrated is one of the best ways to stay awake and energized.

Workout Schedule: Besides your quick, sporadic workouts, it is a good idea to make an exercise plan. Going to the gym or spending an hour working out each day won’t work when you are a busy lady. However, if you make it a priority and pencil it in on certain days, you won’t have to find the time to make it work. One idea is to head to the gym in the morning instead of after work. Bring your work clothes and change at the gym before going to work.

Try Interval Workouts: When you are short on time, you need the most efficient way to workout. You want to work all of your muscle groups while burning as many calories as possible. An interval workout is the best way to accomplish this goal. You do a movement for a given period, take a short rest, and repeat. Intervals can burn more calories than steady cardio in the same amount of time, if you really give them full effort and intensity.

Thanks again for sharing these tips, Natalie! Now ladies, get your game face for working out ON! 

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Guest Bio: Natalie Michele is a busy lady who is balancing parenting two toddlers and working as a pregnancy consultant. You can visit her blog at http://Maternityathome.com or follow her on Pinterest(http://pinterest.com/maternityathome) and Twitter(http://Twitter.com/maternityathome)

 

 

Are Fitness Trends Worth Your Time?

Every season an assortment of new fitness studios seems to appear on the market. There are popular new trends like intergalactic spinning (an immersive experience with CGI graphics) and pound (literally pounding to the beat of a drum while doing a mix of yoga and Pilates exercises), and old trends like aerial silk and mini trampoline workouts. These kinds of hip workout environments can cost $12-$35 per class. Are they really worth it?

The best way to decide if a fitness trend will take off or tank is to use my HABIT evaluation method. Ask yourself the following questions to decide whether a trend will fly off your radar or become a habit in your exercise repertoire.

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Are you afraid of getting HURT?

If you’re afraid of getting hurt or have an impending injury, you’re not going to move very freely during your workout. Restricted movements can actually lead to a greater risk for injury. When you regularly perform exercises in a shortened range of motion, you aren’t optimally strengthening the muscle. This creates a lose-lose situation where you’re not able to fully enjoy yourself AND you’re putting your body through the ringer. No Bueno.

You need to find fitness classes and experiences where you are confident that you can perform well enough to avoid injury. I’m not saying you have to be the best in class (then none of us would show up!), but you can’t walk in super intimidated or guarded. With your defenses up, your walls are actually at greater risk of crashing down because exercise form and flow suffer. So, if you’re terribly afraid of heights, maybe steer clear of the aerial silks? Freezing up or choking at 10 feet off the ground probably has some consequences…

Are the instructors ATTENTIVE?

The best exercise experiences have qualified instructors who pay attention to their participants’ needs. Rookie instructors are often so absorbed in trying to juggle everything (or in getting their own workout in) that they lack attention to details like participants’ form, smooth transitions and timely cueing. If the instructor or trainer seems to flounder right when you’re in need of some extra help to keep moving fluidly – and safely – through the workout, this probably isn’t a place worth your time and money, even if all the popular fitness websites and bloggers are hyping it up. They’re probably just trying to find something new to talk about!  
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Does it fit in your BUDGET?

I hear people say that they love Soul Cycle or Pure Barre classes but wish that they weren’t so expensive. Even the most popular exercise formats may be too much of a stretch for some wallets. If that’s the case for you, don’t sweat it. Don’t let the expense of certain exercise formats or gyms demotivate you. If it stresses you out to pay for pricey fitness, you’re not helping your mental or financial health either, both of which work in concert with your overall wellbeing. There are too many options out there to believe that only the most popular and expensive classes are going to get you into tip-top shape. There are plenty of nontraditional workouts to enjoy. There are also lots of free demo classes at studios to check out and affordable group workouts run by trainers in local parks (not to mention open running and cycling groups). The body and health you desire can be achieved by a number of means.

On the other hand, if you’re the type who is extremely motivated by the steep financial commitment of several hundred dollars a month (or more) for fitness, then calculate your losses every time you consider sleeping in instead of getting up for your workout. Those dollar signs can add up quickly, even from behind closed eyelids!

Is the experience INTERESTING?

Are you interested in the exercise trend and is it any fun?! If you’re going just because you hear it will give you great results, but you hate every minute of it, it’s probably not going to integrate into your list of exercises for the future, so why bother? Exercise can be hard and fun at the same time. Don’t waste precious money, energy and time on something that isn’t. There are too many unique options out there…and you know never know what trend is coming up next!

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Does it work with the TIME you have available?

I’ve seen it time and time again; people sign up for a morning workout program (even though they’re a night owl, not a lark) and think they will make the time for it. The first week or two they jump out of bed, eager to make their commitment stick. After a few solid weeks, they become wishy-washy, and by then end of the program they’re feeling guilty for having missed out on so many classes that they throw in the towel for the rest. It’s important to be realistic about what will integrate well with your work and life schedule. If you’re a social butterfly at happy hour or have lots of work dinners to attend, prioritize morning workouts. If sleeping in and a slow breakfast are requirements for getting you off to the right start, then consider a lunchtime or after-work exercise schedule. Once you find your optimal workout time, be consistent and get it done!


 

If you’re eyeing up a juicy new trend, or a popular oldie but goodie, make sure you to determine whether or not it will Hurt you, have Attentive instructors, fit in your Budget, be fun and Interesting, and work with your schedule and Time available for exercise. When you find an exercise class, group or program that has the potential to become a HABIT instead of a one-off experience, you’ve found a winner. Bounce, spin, lift, plie or run till your heart’s content! For better or worse, I’m sure there’s a workout somewhere that tries to fit all of that in under five minutes. It probably claims that you will lose 30 lbs. in a month by doing it too. Feel free to keep your guard up about some things, people!

 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

 

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The Ultimate Guide to Pre-Workout Supplements

Even as a personal trainer I spent my early career hesitant to approach the topic of supplementation. I was confused about some of the existing information out there and wasn’t sure about my stance on it. Today, I believe supplementation is a personal choice and one I encourage each person to consider and weigh for themselves. This infographic, so kindly provided just for us by Supplement Mart, makes all the confusing terminology easy to understand so you can make the decisions best for you and your body! Now raise a protein drink and cheers!!!

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Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

 

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The Similarities Between Parenthood and Personal Training

Happy Spring, WellnessWinz Readers!

I’m officially back from maternity leave! *Deep breath.* Let me tell ya, it has been a whirlwind. This entire lifestyle shift means that I may not be able to blog as much as I would like to for a little bit, but I will do my best to produce meaningful and relevant content when and where I can until a better rhythm is established (and my son is letting me get more than a couple hours of sleep at a time, lol).

To kick off my return to the blogosphere, we have a somewhat humorous post: The Similarities between Parenthood and Personal Training. That’s right guys, I went there. I’m bold enough (or crazy enough) to compare my experiences as a new mom to the personal training experience. It turns out that my little one can be just as tough and demanding as a boot camp sergeant! He is my new little boss man and he kicks my butt. I’m like “No more! Have mercy, pleeeaaasseee!!” and he’s all “You WILL NOT rest until you climb the stairs 50 more times to check on me, change 20 more diapers, and feel like your back is going to break from rocking me!”

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Just following his lead! 😉 

A lot of the lessons I’m learning as a mom parallel ones I have experienced through exercise. For example, oftentimes anxiety over a situation as a mom is worse than the situation itself. For instance, within 24 hours of writing this my husband and I experienced one of the biggest fussy streaks in our son’s life. Every 45-50 minutes (one sleep cycle), he would wake up wailing and would be inconsolable. He did this all day and all night. None of us slept and we were all extra tired and cranky as a result. I began franticly googling all sorts of mumbo-jumbo and determined that he was experiencing a sleep regression. I was so sure of this that I texted some of my mom-friends and asked how on earth they survived such episodes in their children’s lives. I had resigned myself to sleeplessness for the next few weeks and was depressed thinking about the cloud hanging over all of us, bleeding into my birthday week and my first Mother’s Day. A bit selfish, but true.

When the crying escalated to an off-the-charts level, I felt desperate. Surely this wasn’t just something weird about my son’s sleep development, right? I mean, I get it – any change in my sleep patterns and I’m a crazy person. I called the pediatrician and we agreed to have him looked at. It took the doctor all of a couple minutes and a handful of questions to get down to the bottom of this stressful situation: he was constipated. My mind spun a million miles an hour over this simple explanation behind the manic day we barely survived. As I calmed down I realized that the simplest explanation was the right one. It wasn’t a complicated situation with his sleep. It was simply a need to poop. Poor baby. Apparently mama’s milk is so easily digested and turned into little baby parts that pressure doesn’t always build up in a baby’s system to help eliminate waste. 

AEBC2C5C-A537-493C-86D0-A44BC4D0990F Crazy how he went from this tiny preemie …

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…to this happy big boy!

Similarly, a lot of people come to me wanting to lose weight via personal training and pour out all sorts of complicated reasons for why they have been having challenges with it. I get it; losing weight is a physical, mental, emotional and sometimes spiritual process. Unfortunately though, we can get so caught up in thinking of the reasons that we AREN’T losing weight (job, time, family, convenience, etc.) that we bypass the simplest explanations for what WILL help us: controlling our diet and managing an exercise schedule and/or active lifestyle. The anxiety over trying to find some complicated solution for weight-loss troubles can blind people to the simple truth: they put a fork into their mouths one too many times a day and never hit the gym! Not exactly a mind-boggling revelation, right?  If only we could drop our anxiety as parents and/or people looking to feel good physically, then we would see the answers to our problems with more clarity instead of fishing for complicated, far-reaching explanations. Or turning to Google for the umpteenth time.

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Creative ways to stay active! On-the-go napping!

As a mother and personal trainer, I’ve learned that wellness is a balancing act, that change is a universal truth we can’t shake, that hormones are boss, and that your own opinion is the most important in determining what is right for both your body (and baby). Another very tangible lesson is that perseverance pays off…

Moms are encouraged to do “tummy time” with their babies; 3-5 minutes a couple times a day placing the baby face down so that neck, back and chest strength can develop through the baby’s effort of trying to lift his head and press away from the mat. When my son was first born, a month early, he was way too little to even consider trying tummy time. At just over 5 lbs he would just lie on the mat like a fragile little bird fallen out of its nest. At best, he might occasionally lift his head a tiny bit. We’re talking an inch or less. It was hard to imagine he would ever be able to do more.

Like a good personal trainer mom, I kept putting my baby on the gym mat for tummy time a couple times a day. Some days he wouldn’t tolerate it and would squeal and cry until I picked him up and other days he seemed to get the idea. He would attempt to lift his head and look around (complete with grunts and pitiful gasps). Around two months of age he was able to press up and look around while also cooing. Cutest thing ever. And at three months he surprised us one day and decided to roll over! The personal trainer in me beamed with pride over this early accomplishment. Bit by bit he grew before our eyes and today the gym mat is his favorite place during play time. In fact, many times as soon as I lay him down on it, face up or face down, he breaks into a big grin and squeals with joy as he works to grasp toys with his hands and kicks his legs playfully. It’s hard to imagine that this evolution will also turn into crawling and walking one day!

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Tummy time pro!!! 

Isn’t it funny though…that a person (even a tiny one) can accomplish feats they were never physically capable of with just a little bit of effort on a regular basis? Like adults attending the gym or working out, there are days when my son just isn’t feeling tummy time and there are days when he loves it. It’s normal to have days when we don’t feel like exercising, but persistence will go a long way. All we need to do is bite off a little, manageable bit at a time and we will see results emerge.

In my first three months postpartum, I’ve taken a similar approach. I’ve stayed consistent in being active but have taken things gradually. Thanks to having realistic expectations for my physical abilities day by day, I’ve actually been able to exercise 78 days out of 102 so far. That’s only 24 days postpartum without some form of movement. Mind you, a good number of the early days were focused on simple things like going on a walk, doing basic (and safe) core exercises on a mat, and performing yoga balance poses to regain stability after labor and delivery. Let’s not ignore the fact that there were Kegels too…LOTS of Kegels. Around three weeks postpartum, I was able to resume light weights at the gym and light resistances on cardio machines for short periods. Around five weeks postpartum I went for my first run – and wow it felt incredible!! Especially since I no longer had a baby in my belly to carry along! Although these days I do push him along in the stroller and it ain’t easy!!! 

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Stroller workout adventures!

Today, three months postpartum, I’m able to do almost everything I did before pregnancy – maybe even more! I feel like my emphasis on core conditioning (which I used to not prioritize as heavily) has left me stronger than ever in my stomach. Also, I’m shocked at how my cardio conditioning never felt like it took a hit since I stayed active during pregnancy. On my first run I felt like my lungs and adrenaline could have carried me through a marathon (although in reality that’s probably a euphoric disillusion). Staying active has not been easy in the wake of caring for an infant and suffering major sleep deprivation, but exercise has been a life saver, just as it was for my mental and physical health during pregnancy. I would be stir crazy and cranky without it.

When I left the hospital after having my baby I was shocked that I still had about 17 lbs to lose. Today, I only have about 3-4 lbs of that left. The short 30-45 minute long exercise sessions combined with eating about 200-300 calories less a day (than needed for weight maintenance) has helped me shed a few pounds a month. Honestly, it hasn’t felt like the exhausting post-pregnancy weight loss journey I feared. This is thanks to taking things slow and approaching the process with balance – something I’m confident all of my readers can do in their weight loss and fitness journeys if they approach them with patience and perseverance. Any good personal trainer or parent will do the same, approaching things on a daily basis, not trying to rush through rearing a child or getting a client fit. There is a due diligence and process to both. It’s all about the little steps. The small things DO add up – for babies trying to lift their heads up off the ground and for adults trying to see one pound melt off at a time.

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Leaving the hospital 17 lbs heavier than before pregnancy

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One month postpartum

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Two months postpartum

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Three months postpartum thanks to just a little effort adding up!

Happy to be back with you all in the blogosphere!

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

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Gratitude: Why I Love My Thick Thighs

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’m asking readers to reflect on the following two questions: “What is your favorite part of your body?” and “What is your least favorite part of your body?” Now, let’s assess our answers and what they mean to us, starting with a little bit of my personal story. Today, I will share what has been my greatest insecurity through the years…

If I had to answer the first question myself, I would probably say my hair. I love that I’ve never dyed it and that it falls straight no matter what I do to it (even though that’s annoying when I want it curled…ahem, wedding day hair disaster…it was one thick, knotted and stringy mess by the end of the night). I love that my hair is the exact same as my mother’s and father’s and that the combination of my espresso locks and deep brown eyes has caused strangers to ask if I’m related to one of my older brothers (who yes, could very well be my twin if not for the five-year age difference).

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If I had to answer the second question…well…that one’s even easier. Since I was little, I’ve always had thick thighs. Other little girls’ shorts would hang loosely around their spindly legs while mine would sometimes cling awkwardly or bunch up at the crotch. My inner thighs are no strangers to chafing.

I vividly remember sitting beside a friend in elementary school one day. She looked from her lap to mine and said “look how much bigger your legs are than mine.” I blushed. Another time, I was in a swimming pool during the evening. The underwater lights cast shadows to the pool’s floor. A friend commented that she was told she has “perfect legs” because there were several diamond-shaped gaps between them when pressed against one another. I looked to see if my legs had the same gaps….nope. No gaps. Thigh to thigh, I had Just one single inverted triangle shape from hips to toes.

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As I got older, I noticed that I didn’t feel comfortable wearing skirts as short as my peers. If anything hit above mid-thigh, I felt I looked bulky. I craved the long, lean look that so many other girls seemed to have. I wondered how come I couldn’t get that same look, no matter how hard I tried especially since I wasn’t overweight. I was athletic. It seemed my days in high school playing field hockey didn’t help my cause. Even my dad would comment at how my legs transformed during pre-season (in field hockey you’re basically in a squat position for the majority of the game…go figure). Dance team practice would kick off right after hockey season ended. I would pull tight black spandex pants up my legs and groan.

In spite of my insecurities, I never let my legs get me down for too long. I have always been proud of my athleticism and there is little I can do to change the fact that genetically, my body prefers to store fat down south rather than in my stomach. The thickness of my thighs has threatened to be my undoing, but I have been quite decisive that I will never let them make me too self-conscious. In fact, my husband even likes them. 🙂

Who cares if I’ve had a few stretch marks on my inner thighs since middle school? So what if I have a tad bit of cellulite at the very tops of them (even at my very leanest body fat levels)? My body is healthy and strong. For THAT, I give thanks. For THAT, I applaud my legs. They have carried me through several marathons, the deserts of Arizona, the ocean depths of the Bahamas, and nine different sports. How on earth could I despise them? They have given me everything. They have given me freedom and energy to engage with the world around me. Their strength may even be what cushioned and protected me from more severe injury during a potentially life-threatening accident.

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In moments when insecurities have crept in, I’ve noticed that I’m not as caring and considerate of others as I want to be. The times in life when I let myself get hung up about my appearance were also the times that I wasn’t very selfless or giving. I don’t know about you, but that’s the opposite of how I want to live. I want to strive to always love others with openness and unbridled affection.

Can you take something you DON’T love about yourself and see it as a benefit? How do you take your “deficit” and see the positives in it? Ultimately, our greatest strength can also leave blind spots and what we perceive as our greatest weakness can also be viewed from a different, more positive light.

During this upcoming holiday season, I challenge you to adopt an attitude of gratitude. If you do this, then you will be more prepared to give to others. By loving ourselves first, we are primed and ready to have a giving heart. Isn’t that what the holiday season – and life at large – is all about?

Happy Thanksgiving Week!

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

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5 Great Exercises for a Full-Body Workout

5 exercises, full-body workout

These exercises are some tried and true winners! Only five exercises and you can get a full-body, time-efficient workout. It’s not like these exercises are the only ones you should know for the rest of your life, but they’re a pretty darn good start.

I hope you enjoy them – don’t hesitate to ask me questions or we can skype to make sure you’ve got the right form! Here’s the all-star line-up:

Squat + Wood chop

#1: Squat + Wood Chop

Benefits:

The squat targets your whole lower body, but, most especially, your glutes – aka booty! This is your powerhouse muscle. Think of it as the ringleader of your body’s other muscles.

The wood chop works your entire core as you brace and twist. We’re talking obliques, “six-pack muscle” and “corset muscle” all at once! Not a bad deal.

Form:

Squats – keep your body weight shifted back or into your heels as you bend down. Be conscientious of where your knees go at the bottom of the movement too – make sure you control and stabilize them so that they don’t drift inwards towards one another (puts excessive strain on your MCL, knee cap and joint – ouchy!).

Wood chop – twist through your core, not your lower body. Keep your abs pulled in so that you brace your body and can effectively decelerate the weight. Keep the weight closer to your body for more control or farther away for more challenge – your call! Just remember to work both sides of your body.

Lunge + Shoulder Press

#2: Lunge + Shoulder Press

Benefits:

The lunge is a slightly more advanced, split-legged version of the squat, so many of the benefits are the same. The lunge is more difficult to balance though, so you get an added challenge (and benefit!) of having to stabilize as you perform it.

The shoulder press not only strengthens the shoulder, as one might easily suspect, but also enhances posture! Yes, it’s true, the back muscles aren’t the only important ones when it comes to sitting tall and pretty! And for reducing back discomfort…that’s pretty important too, as I’m sure many of you would agree…

Form:

Lunge – keep your body weight evenly distributed between both legs for optimal form and muscle engagement. Your knees should each bend to about 90 degrees (helps ensure you’re working your glutes!). Try to find a focal point to look at if you’re feeling wobbly. Take your time if these are tough for you and begin by stepping forwards, not backwards, for improved balance.

Shoulder Press – your dumbbell should stay over your shoulder in order to engage all three aspects of the deltoid muscle. When your arm is fully extended, be cautious not to lock your elbow as that puts stress into the joint (a weight lifting no-no). If you’re having a hard time getting your elbow fully extended, try a lighter weight, turn your palms in towards your body (instead of facing out), or press up in between lunges instead of during them.

Chest Fly + Double Leg Lift

*PS – if you’re pregnant like me, it’s probably a good idea to modify this one. Note; I only did this for demonstration purposes. Email me for customized options based on your trimester: wellnesswinz@gmail.com 

#3: Chest Fly + Double Leg Lift

Benefits:

The chest fly exercise is generally harder for people to control compared with a chest press. This is because the arms reach wide with straight elbows, creating more challenge in the pectoral muscles. More challenge = better strength gains!

The double leg lift works off of a similar principle as the chest fly; you’re increasing your lever length (arm or leg distance from your center) and thereby upping the intensity of your exercise. The double leg lift is also a great way to stretch and thereby engage the lower part of your core; the abs have to work double time to help bring the legs back up from the ground.

Form:

Chest Fly – While lowering and lifting the arms, take your time. Be careful not to lock your elbows. Controlling the weight is important for good form and to ensure that you don’t drop dumbbells on your head! Due to this risk, loaded exercises while lying face-up on a bench or mat, should be given extra attention. If you’re ever wary of your performance, simply ask a nearby gym-goer to spot you. It may seem scary to ask for a spot but guys do it all the time, so they won’t be surprised if you ask. Who knows, maybe you’ll make a new friend or strike up a hot date?! Oh la la!

Double Leg Lift – Most important is protecting your back during a full leg lift. Since you have a long lever in this exercise (i.e., stretched out legs), the back may become strained if your core strength is not strong or if you’re tired while performing the movement. Thus, keep the rhythm slow (no bouncing/ballistic movements that could throw your back into a spasm) and actively engage your core by exhaling as you lift. You can also protect your lower back by keeping your abs and lumbar spine pressing gently down towards the ground the whole time. If you’re still experiencing strain in your back after implementing these guidelines, simply keep your knees bent or lower only one leg at a time as you perform the exercise. Keep modifying to easier options as you need – safety first! 🙂

Side Lunge + Row

#4: Side Lunge + Bent Over Rows

Benefits: 

Side Lunges are one of the most neglected lower body exercises around. Most often, they are avoided because people don’t know how to properly perform them. This is quite unfortunate (from this fitness professional’s perspective) because nailing the form on side lunges can help people improve full-body functional movements, hip stability and back comfort. I kid you not, I make 90% of my clients practice proper side lunge form on day one of their exercise programs. Yes, they’re THAT important. 

Bent Over Rows can be equally tricky when it comes to nailing down form. Again, the effort is 100% worthwhile because of the many benefits of having a stronger back, including improvements in posture, comfort and freedom of movement. And with all of the aforementioned generally comes stress relief, too!

Form:

Side Lunge- When you step side to side, make sure that your foot, knee and hip are all in one straight line (i.e. hip over knee and knee over foot). Your toe should be pointing straight forward. This seems like a minor detail but it’s incredibly important since the angle of your toe/ankle will dictate the angle of your knee. A lot of people tend to perform these with the toe pointing in the direction that they are stepping. There are two issues with this: 1) you don’t work your gluts very well because they aren’t fully stretching out, and 2) depending on how you distribute your body weight, you may stress the medial aspect of your knee. Thus, keep your body in proper alignment and distribute your weight back into your heel like you would in a squat (this will fire the glutes!).

Bent Over Rows – Be wary that you don’t allow your chest to drop towards the ground during this exercise. You should keep a long, tall spine and torso that are at a diagonal (not parallel) angle to the ground. Before rowing in towards your body with your dumbbells, allow your arms to dangle with gravity while in the bottom of your side lunge. It’s from this gentle diagonal angle (almost parallel with your bent knee) that you should begin your row. Keep your elbows tight to your sides during the row and squeeze your shoulder blades together at the top of the movement.

Plie squat + Frontal Raise

#5: Plie Squat + Frontal Raise 

Benefits:

Plie squats give you the ability to concentrate work into the glutes and inner thighs. I will venture to say that these are both areas that many women care about! 

Frontal Raises allow you to work through the anterior aspect of your shoulder. The reason I love this particular exercise combo, adding these raises in at the bottom of the plie squat, is because they allow you to work through the long muscles of your back. Yes, this exercise will cause you to naturally adjust your posture and spine to a taller, tighter position in order to perform it. Win – win – win!

Form:

Plie Squat – A plie squat is similar to a normal squat but your toes are turned out like a ballerina instead of pointing straight. While you are at the bottom of the plie squat, focus on actively pressing your knees wide, away from your midline. This will ensure that you’re engaging the right muscles while avoiding strain on the knee.

Frontal Raise – Raise your arms just to shoulder height. It may help to exhale during this movement. Be wary of lowering your arms really quickly as you will miss out on part of the toning and strengthening benefits that this movement affords your arms and shoulders. Lift AND lower with control.

ENJOY!!!

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

wellnesswinz blue sea