Category Archives: Beginner

Pave Your Own Road to London

The Olympic Trials were held a few weeks ago and, right now, the majority of Americans are still buzzing about them as the 2012 London Olympic Games draw nearer. As each round of trials aired, the athlete inside of many grew hungry. For some, it’s motivating to watch such talented athletes succeed in their sports. Watching swimmer Ryan Lochte win his heat – while drooling over his hot bod of course – or holding your breath while gymnast Jordyn Wieber goes for her beam dismount kind of makes you wish you could be there doing something amazing yourself.

After you get past the initial awe of watching the athletes compete – something that isn’t quick to go – you begin to wonder how exactly they got to the position they are in today. What pushed them to get there? What made them the best? The U.S. Olympic Team’s athletes harbor more motivation, dedication, and perseverance than any other  in their sport, but why?

HBO Real Sports recently ran a story about 100m hurdler Lolo Jones that sparked the interest of many.  The interview covered the harrowing story of Jones’ childhood and revisited her failure to qualify at the 2004 Athens Olympics and her loss at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games where she knocked down the ninth hurdle; that ninth hurdle is something that has haunted her for the last four years. As Jones stepped past the finish line of that cruel race, she sank to the ground and remembers, “I felt like somebody had just stabbed me in the stomach. I didn’t even have the energy to get up. I couldn’t even stand.” However, right after that she reminded herself, “You’re at the Olympics. You made it to the show.”

Jones’ setbacks didn’t stop her; she has pushed on. In the interview, Jones says she has been training harder than she ever has before. The athlete is hungry for the gold and after everything she has been through she has once again qualified for the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Jones literally ran away from her past and toward a brighter future. She had a tough road to London, but how she got there isn’t what is most important, it’s that she made it after everything she had to endure.

Now that you’ve learned about Lolo, I can assume that you’re sitting here wondering, “Okay, so how does this apply to me and my fitness goals? What does this mean for us, the ‘normal’ people?” Well, if you think about all of the times Lolo Jones has been turned away from the gold and the way she pushed forward after each setback, you may begin to see her drive and perseverance as inspiration. If you take what Jones and other Olympic athletes practice each day and work to apply their mental disciplines to your own life, your fitness goals and progress are sure to skyrocket.

It is important to remain positive and determined while training even if you are going through a slump or plateau in your fitness goals. Jones pushed harder each time she was at a loss, which is exactly what you should do in the gym. If you normally do twelve reps of each set, push for fifteen; the burn from those extra three reps will remind you that you’re stronger than you think. You’ll realize that, like Lolo, you can keep pushing to better yourself.

If you’re reading this, it’s safe to say you’re working toward a goal or, in the spirit of the Olympics, traveling on a road toward them. Enjoy the remainder of the summer Olympics and, while you’re at it, pave your own road to London because Nike is right, “If you have a body, you’re an athlete.”

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A Structured Day for Optimal Health – How Having A Routine Can Maximize Your Potential!

Women always have a million and one things on their plate at all times. The stresses of daily life can be too much to deal with sometimes, so we tend to get overwhelmed with all of the things we have to juggle – work, kids, cleaning, the never-ending dieting. When we get overwhelmed, we become stressed and, when we’re stressed, we turn to food for comfort. After you’ve had your first couple of Oreos, you come to this realization that you’ve cheated on your diet, and, once you’ve cheated, you get the “well-I already-screwed-up-so-I-might-as-well-eat-everything-in-the-pantry” mind-set. We all go through it – it’s a part of life. The only difference from that being a part of your life to living a healthy life is that you can learn to change it, so it doesn’t ruin your health or weight loss goals. You can eliminate this bad habit.

I know countless women who spend their time searching the internet for new ways to lose weight or get in shape – I used to be one of them – but I have news for you: There’s only one way to do lose weight or reach your health goals; it’s to live a healthy lifestyle. There is no certain diet that will lead you to your goals. For example, Atkin’s works, but only for a few months until you get sick of it, binge on bread, and realize that you’ve consumed way too much protein than is healthy. You can read and learn all you want about diet and exercise, but unless you do something with that knowledge, like incorporate it into a healthy routine, it’s useless. There’s no magic book, fitness DVD, or famous personal trainer that will change your life or do the work for you. The information is out there, and it’s great to acquire, but only you can make yourself use it. Jillian Michaels can’t come out of the TV while you’re watching “The Biggest Loser” and tell you to get off the coach and stop eating donuts. If you want to make a change for the better, you must get your head in the game and make yourself get off that couch. The best way to make a change in your life is by creating a structured day molded by new, healthy habits.

It is common knowledge that repetition leads to habit. The development of a habit isn’t something that happens overnight and I think that’s why so many women get frustrated with themselves and give up so easily. In order to create habitual structure or routine in your day, you  must practice and repeat the skills that will lead you toward a healthy habit and, ultimately, your optimal health or weight loss goals. Once you’ve continuously and successfully mastered the repetition of the new routine in your life, all of the things about dieting and working out that seemed so incredibly difficult before will take little to no effort at all! When you fit the right routine into your life and find a structure that works in your day, it will be a breeze for you to make progress.

Structure and routine will not only benefit your health, they will also allow you to achieve other goals in your life while organizing your thoughts and tasks. By planning ahead and already knowing what your day will consist of, you remove all unnecessary distraction from your day.

“[Structure] can also greatly simplify your work day and personal life, as your day won’t be overly chaotic and complicated, you can group similar tasks together and batch process them, and you can be sure of doing the things you really need to do. Most importantly, it puts you in control of your day, instead of putting  you at the mercy of the ebb and flow of all incoming requests. Without a routine, we have no good way of saying “no” to requests as they come in, and we are at the beck and call of every person who wants our time and every website that wants our attention. That’s not a good thing, not if you want to get the important things done” (Zenhabits.net).

It sounds simple and, for once, it actually is. Make a plan, stick to it, see results. Get your work finished, live a calm, organized life, and reach your health and fitness goals while doing it.

You’re convinced now, aren’t you? Well, now that you’re gung-ho for structure, the next step would be to create it. Here’s where you ask, “How do I do that?” Good question.

Follow these tips:

  • Every night create a list of what you plan to do the next day – start the list from the time you wake up until you go to sleep, make sure every part of your day is accounted for, and set times for the things you plan to accomplish.
  • Don’t make your to-do list/plan too complicated. Don’t clutter it with a high number of tasks that you won’t be able to accomplish.
  • Remember, repetition is important. If you don’t stick to your schedule one day, don’t be too hard on yourself. Sometimes life gets in the way and all you can do is the best you can. Learn from your mistake and follow through with your routine the next day. Each time you repeat the routine, it will become easier to follow.
  • Test out a few different plans/routines – write up a few and see which one fits best with your personality and schedule.
  • Keep a training log. It’s important to track what you’ve done in past workouts, so can move forward and progress in the gym.
  • Keep a journal of your daily meals/calories/intake. Being able to see day by day what you’ve eaten will allow you to see what works, what doesn’t, and what you should continue to do in your routine. What time you eat and what you consume is extremely important when eating “clean”. Plan wisely.
  • Each week, choose a day to take a progress picture. As your routine gets easier day by day, each week you will see changes in your body. The changes may be dramatic or almost unnoticeable, but it doesn’t matter as long as you are able to see results.
  • Have a positive outlook on your new plan/routine. If you treat it like it is only something you are doing to lose weight and view it as a punishment, there is very little chance that you will follow through with it and you are more likely to be unhappy while trying.
  • Be sure to include time in your day that is solely dedicated to yourself to do what you like to do – read a book, watch your favorite TV show, take your dog for a long walk, etc. If you enjoy your new routine, you will be more likely to stick with it.

Most important, you need to have confidence in your ability to accomplish your goals and must be motivated enough to follow through with your new plan. Each and every one of you is capable of achieving your goals, you just need to believe so. Take pride in yourself and make sure that you are making choices you will be happy with the next day. Let everyday be better than the last – make progress! I believe this post is like all of the other information out there; I’m telling you what you need to do, now all you need to do is actually do it! I know you can! Good luck!

Learn about “Optimizing Your Productivity with Daily, Weekly Routines” here: http://zenhabits.net/optimize-your-productivity-with-daily-weekly-routines/.

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The Benefits of Using Ankle Weights!

Before I begin, I would first like to speak of my own experience with ankle weights. As a gymnast, my coach would make me train using ankle weights. I would have to do my beam routines – layouts and all – with ankle weights on! All of the gymnasts would always complain because the routines would become too difficult as our legs were weighed down; it was hard to flip with so much extra weight on our ankles and it took a lot of effort to get our legs over our heads! After we completed the specified number of routines, we were then told to take the weights off and do the same number of routines without them. The routines I did when I took the weights off were extremely easy compared to the ones I did with them on. Over time, I found that doing my routines with ankle weights on gave me the strength to breeze through my routines. My core muscles strengthened and my skills became a lot easier for me as I grew stronger and gained more endurance. Today, when I do bootcamp-type workouts, I supplement them with ankle weights. I’ll do the first half of the workout with them on and the second half without them!

In this post, I would like to address the women who are in the beginner fit level. Don’t worry, ladies, you do not have to do beam routines! All I would suggest if you are just getting started with your exercise would be to walk! That’s it? Walk? Yup! You can reap countless health benefits from walking alone, but walking with ankle weights makes the cardio much more beneficial. “The added weight can increase energy expenditure, respiration rate, heart rate and training intensity, which can all have positive impacts on overall health” (Livestrong.com). If you have a hard time walking and you tire easily, walking with ankle weights adds intensity to each walking session and, eventually, you will be able to walk for a longer period of time as you’ve increased your overall endurance. When adding the ankle weights to your walking sessions, you will torch more calories than you would without them because your body has to work harder than it normally would. During your walking sessions, you can implement strength training by wearing the ankle weights. This way you will not only be burning calories, but you’ll also be getting stronger at the same time. Remember, the more muscle you have, the more calories you will burn at rest!

Although there are numerous benefits of ankle weight walking, you must make sure not to use them every time you are doing your aerobic exercise. The weights put extra stress on your joints and sometimes you need to give them a break! My advice would be to alternate on and off whenever you walk – use them one day, leave them behind the next!

If you need a little guidance, here are a few workout tips on how to walk with ankle weights:

  • Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.
  • Walk heel to toe.
  • Arms are always opposite of legs – if the right leg steps forward, the left arm is in front.
  • Maintain good posture – the ankle weights will be pulling you down a bit, so keep your back and shoulders upright.
  • Keep abdominal muscles tight – squeeze them during your walk!
  • Keep a steady pace.

If you want to change it up a little, you can also use the weights on your wrists to increase the strength of your arms!

If you are a little worried about using the ankle weights – you may not be confident in your ability to add the weight – don’t worry! Take some time to find your walking rhythm and when you feel you are able to add the ankle weights do so! Don’t feel you need to buy extremely heavy ankle weights. There are ankle weights of all kinds – there are different amounts of weight you can choose from, style, fit, etc. It is all up to your personal preference, but no matter which one you choose, you WILL benefit from them!

Head to your local Sports Authority to pick up some ankle weights! Browse some of the different kinds here: http://www.sportsauthority.com/family/index.jsp?cp=710958&categoryId=693991&pg=1

Source: http://www.livestrong.com/article/228090-benefits-of-walking-with-ankle-weights/, picture from: http://www.sportsauthority.com/product/index.jsp?productId=12072965&cp=710958.693991&pg=2&parentPage=family

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Why Are Vegetables So Awesome?

Vegetables are essential to incorporate into your diet when striving to obtain optimal health as they are low in fat, high in vitamins and minerals, and are great sources of antioxidants and fiber! Five to seven servings of these low-calorie veggies should be consumed daily. Vegetables don’t only offer outstanding nutritional benefits, but they can keep you satisfied as well. The picture says it all!

I do not own this photo.

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A Simple Introduction to Clean Eating

If you put a bag of potato chips in your body, your body will look like a bag of potato chips. It’s as simple as that. What you put in your body determines how your body looks and feels. If you put healthy foods in your body, you’ll look and feel great. Simple enough, right?

Clean eating is simple, but it’s difficult to master – at first. When beginning a clean diet, some women find that it takes a lot of dedication and preparation and are quick to give up and revert back to past eating habits. It’s easy to call up your local Dominos and order a large pepperoni pizza on your lunch break instead of bringing a smoothie you blended earlier that morning and it’s easier to grab Panda Express on the way home instead of cooking for yourself after a long day at work or school. Of course it’s easy, that’s why it’s called ‘fast food’, but it’s also the reason many women have a hard time staying on a healthy track. If you’re not a buff in the kitchen, no worries! You don’t have to be a gourmet chef to eat clean. You just have to be focused and dedicated to your new, clean lifestyle!

So, what exactly is ‘clean’ food? In order to eat clean, you must first eliminate all of the processed junk out of your diet. Remember, this junk is the reason you are here today. Alcohol, food high in fat, and all ‘white’ foods (sugar, bread, white rice, pasta, white flour, etc.) are NOT clean food options.  Now that you know what types of food you must get rid of, you must replace these unhealthy choices with clean ones. Lean meats, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains are important staples in a clean diet. Chicken and turkey are great sources of protein. Personally, I’m a big fan of fish for my protein, so I incorporate a lot of salmon, tilapia, and shrimp into my daily diet. Eggs are also a great source of protein. The vegetables you want to get a lot of are the green vegetables – spinach, broccoli, asparagus, and zucchini are my favorites. I also incorporate cauliflower, sweet potatoes, black beans, carrots, and mushrooms to my diet. Although I haven’t listed many vegetables, don’t forget that there are so many to choose them! You can find a list of vegetables here: http://cookery.newarchaeology.com/vegetables.php. Be sure to add fruits to your diet as well. Fruits such as mixed berries, bananas, apples, oranges, and any other you may prefer are all great options. Whole grains can be found in old fashioned/steel cut/rolled oats, brown rice, and whole grain bread! When snacking in between meals, choose healthy options like almonds or other sources of ‘good fats’, greek yogurt as it is high in protein, and protein powder to use in shakes.

I will be posting a video soon in which I will be going through the grocery store to show you which foods to choose and those you should avoid. One important tip to remember when shopping is to always look at labels – if there are a lot of ingredients, chances are the product is not a ‘clean’ option.

Here is an example of one of my clean eating days:

  • 8 a.m. – Protein Pancake (1 whole egg, four egg whites, 1/4 cup of oats – use Pam and cook in a skillet, top with sugar-free syrup and a handful of walnuts)
  • 11 a.m. – 1/4 cup brown rice, 1/2 avocado, 1 turkey burger (meat only, no bun)
  • 2 p.m. – Mixed Berry Protein Shake (1/4 cup Chobani vanilla Greek yogurt, 1/3 cup milk, 1/2 cup berries, 1 scoop vanilla protein powder, 1 scoop Glutamine – blend), handful of almonds
  • 5 p.m. –  Salmon with spinach and broccoli
  • 8 p.m. Chocolate-Peanut Butter Protein Shake (1 scoop chocolate whey isolate , 1 scoop Glutamine, 1 tbsp. peanut butter, 1/3 cup milk, ice – blend)
  • 10 p.m. – (1 hour before bed) Banana with peanut butter

I know I didn’t write it in my sample diet, but I drink lots of water! I always have a water bottle in my hand.

Preparation is extremely important when eating clean. You should eat about six small meals a day in order to get your metabolism burning all of those unwanted calories – there are 3,500 in one pound, so the more you burn, the better! Skipping a meal or waiting long periods of time between meals can slow your progress even if you are exercising. There’s a saying that diet is 70% of a healthy body while exercise is a measly 30%, so it is crucial that your diet is on point! Many fitness professionals tend to prepare large amounts of food on Sundays or when they have time before the busy week begins. During their preparation, they’ll cook all of their vegetables, proteins, and whole grains like brown rice then place them in different containers, so they are easy to grab on the go and great to bring to work to heat in the microwave. (already portion controlled) If you’re prepared and all of your meals are planned, you can only be successful!

Within the next few weeks, I will post a video my own food preparation that covers things like cooking in bulk, portion control, and packing the meals away for the week.

Now, you’re probably thinking it’s so expensive to eat healthy! Well, you’re wrong. Yes, it’s true that organic food does cost a bit more than processed food, but if you look at the big picture, you’ll realize that spending a little more now will save you a load of money in the long run. When you think about it, buying all of those frozen ‘health’ meals or lunches and dinners at fast food places actually costs more than it would if you were clean food shopping. You’ll save money by not having to see the doctor for high blood pressure, by not developing diabetes, by not paying for a dietician to help with weight loss to get your health back on track, etc. By eating clean, you take your health and your finances into your own hands. You can have a fat wallet while you reap the health benefits a clean diet offers!

I just wanted to give you guys a brief overview of the clean lifestyle. I’m going to be continuously posting clean eating tips, recipes, and nutritional facts, so check back every now and then to get some more insight!

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The Gym in What?

Girl Language! Many women are clueless when it comes to fitness and that’s totally normal! That’s why I’m here to help you learn and evolve into your confident, fit selves! I’m well aware that there is a huge scope when it comes to athletic abilities in women, so I will be providing heath and fitness tips for each and every type!

Typically, this blog will target two different ‘fit levels’: beginner and advanced. For each level, I will provide ‘clean’ eating recipes and tips, exercise videos, and daily motivation. This way, each and every one of you will have a variety of ‘fit tools’ to keep you motivated and healthy!

For the beginners, I will be posting home workouts as I know many women are intimidated by the gym – totally understandable! The beginner videos and posts will include a rundown of each exercise and perfectly comprehensible explanations of what muscle the exercise strengthens and how it should feel when being executed. The goal is to build confidence, so what I would hope to do is eventually introduce many of the ‘home workout women’ to the gym, so I will be posting videos about exercise equipment – what it is, where it is, and how to use it! The clean eating posts for the beginners will explain why clean eating is best for your body, when and what you should eat, and how to stay on track.

For the more advanced readers, I will be posting ‘bootcamp’ type workouts in various locations as well as bodybuilding workouts. I will also be reviewing workouts I find on Youtube.com to inform you what I find effective in each. New and challenging exercises will be introduced regularly for you to incorporate into your workout to keep things changing! In regard to clean eating, I will provide you with countless recipes and tips to keep your clean diet fresh!

As for me, I should probably introduce myself, huh? My name is Ashley! I’ve been an athlete my entire life. I was a level 10 gymnast before the age of thirteen and now I train as a bikini competitor. I had horrible eating habits my entire life even though both of my parents were bodybuilders, so when I quit gymnastics in high school, I thought it was alright to eat the same things I ate when I trained for six hours a day. Big mistake! I gained a lot of weight and was unhappy with my body for a few years. In college, I began to think about a career in bodybuilding and started to eat clean and exercise again. I felt energized simply from feeding my body healthy foods and gained more confidence when I began seeing results week by week when coupled with exercise. I kept at it and now it’s a lifestyle, not a diet! They say ‘it takes sixty-six days to make something a habit’. Why not start today?

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