Posts Tagged exercise

Use the Force at FORM{yoga}

The teacher, Mandy, and I after class.

The teacher, Mandy, and I after class.

Studio: Form{Yoga}

Class: Use the Force

Class description from website: CHALLENGE YOUR PRACTICE AS WE EXPLORE SOME JEDI-MIND TRICKS….JUST KIDDING (KINDA). A more challenging and energizing practice, this strengthening class is for students looking to explore and expand their practice. In this class we will build upon our best alignment to explore some of the more advanced postures of yoga. This class is vinyasa-based and may include short tutorials (aka Jedi mind-trick tutorials) on arm balances, inversions, deep backbends, and other gravity defying postures. The class will also include modifications and a range of options for students to work towards these postures at their current level.  You will burn calories (tons of them). You will sweat. You will work your core. You will challenge yourself.  You will transFORM your practice. Please bring a strong understanding of the fundamentals of the asanas and unpack your humility as you will experience a more intense and challenging practice.  Bring water and a small towel to soak up the sweat. A regular vinyasa yoga practice recommended but not required.

form store front

Location: 2752 E Ponce De Leon Ave, Decatur, GA 30030

IMG_7964Cost: $15 drop in but they have specials for new students.  Get to class 10 minutes early so you can fill out paperwork and pay for class.

What to Bring: Yoga mat, water, and towel.  Cubbies are provided for you belongings

What to wear: Comfortable clothes.  Yoga pants, leggings, tank top, t-shirt etc.  Shorts are never the best option for yoga as you never know what poses will give the person behind you or next to you an impromptu peep show.  You are required to remove your shoes in the reception area.

Class size: Small.  There were 11 people including me.

Lower level studio.

Lower level studio.

Props used: Yoga blocks and blankets (all provided by the studio.)

Volume and type of music: Low volume.  Mandy calls her playlists “an eclectic blend of genres” and that is the perfect description.

Impact: Low impact.

Modifications: Any good yoga instructor will always give modifications.  Mandy gave several options for most of the poses and we always had the option to go to child’s pose.

Format of class: This 60 minute class was exactly like the class description on the website.  It was a nonstop class that focused on building strength…although we didn’t get to the Jedi mind tricks this time.

We began class in child’s pose (the calm before the storm) and then jumped right in.  We warmed up with several vinyasas (this word simply refers to sequential movements that interlink different postures to form a continuous flow) and were given the option for additional chaturangas (basically a triceps push up).  The first 30 minutes (give or take…I lost track of time) was mainly standing poses.  We were given several modifications for each pose, from a beginner option to an advanced option.  We visited a few arm balances, again with options for different levels of practice, and eventually took our mats to the wall to practice inversions (upside down poses).  During this period, Mandy spent time with the class newcomers, teaching tripod headstand, while most of her other students worked on handstands.  We finished our practice with the option to do bridge pose or full wheel pose (back bend) and then ended class with a much needed savasana (corpse pose).

Encouraging atmosphere at FORM.

Encouraging atmosphere at FORM.

What to expect:

  • A great strength/resistance training workout.  Yoga incorporates lunges, squats, push ups and so many other bodyweight exercises that are excellent for building strength.
  • A guided practice that you can customize to fit your personal level of yogi-ness.
  • An opportunity to practice arm balances in new ways.
  • A judgement-free atmosphere.
  • Hands on adjustments.  I find this to be a necessary part of any yoga practice so you can get a full understanding of certain postures.  If you don’t like people touching you, I would tell the teacher before class.  This applies to any yoga practice.
  • A laid back teacher who maintains a fun and all-inclusive atmosphere.
  • A lot of poses accompanied by instruction and clarification.  Mandy packed a lot into 60 minutes but I never felt rushed or pressured to keep up with anyone’s elses pace.
  • Some sanksrit when referring to different poses, but also fun names you may not be familiar with.  For instance, we were given the option to do baby crow, teenage crow, or big boy/big girl crow.  Definitely not a stuffy studio.

Who should take this class:

  • People who have a basic understanding of proper form when practicing yoga.
  • People who are looking to build strength.
  • People looking to enhance their inversion practice.
  • This class is not for beginners but there are several beginner classes on the schedule.

I was lucky enough to have my mom in town with me this week so she was able to come to class!  After retiring from her position as a cantor two years ago, she went through yoga teacher training and became an RYT-200.  At the age of 68 she regularly practices yoga and teaches classes so I asked for her take on the class.  I now give you my mom’s two cents about the class:

“Mandy provided a well thought out flow with a lot of poses that had clear and concise instruction.  I didn’t find myself having to look up all the time to see what a pose was, or how to get there.  We were given freedom to modify poses when necessary.  It was a thoroughly enjoyable practice.”

From left to right: Me, Mandy, my mom!

From left to right: Me, Mandy, my mom!

Thank you to my the owner of Form and my instructor, Mandy, for a fun and energizing practice!

Even the bathroom is encouraging at FORM.

Even the bathroom is encouraging at FORM.


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Hit me with your best squat.

I squat, but I won't be borrowing pants from JLo anytime soon.

I squat, but I won’t be borrowing pants from JLo anytime soon.

If I see one more “She Squats” picture or Squat challenge I’m going to scream!!  (Insert scream here, because I probably just saw one.)  Yes, the squat, when done properly, is a very good exercise and should definitely be incorporated into your workout program, especially considering the fact that we squat throughout the day. (e.g. sitting, standing, going to the bathroom, picking something up).  However, it is NOT the end all be all to a fabulous fanny.

I love squats.  I do them in my warm ups, I do them in my Dance Fitness classes, I do them in my Jazz classes (plié anyone?) and I drink a lot of water so you better believe that I’m doing a few extra squats all day long from my excessive water consumption.  The problem I have with this squat obsession is that a new myth has reared it’s ugly head in the fitness world…that squats will give you the ass of a 22 year old Brazilian volleyball player.  Yes, squats work your glutes, but getting that round, bubble yum bum like JLo is not going to be achieved by doing squats.  It is a combination of exercise, diet, and GENETICS!!!  You cannot dictate the shape of your posterior, it is determined by your parents.  You might be able to increase the size of your glutes a bit with heavy weights and intense, hard work, but you won’t be able to turn it into an apple bottom with anything short of a miracle…or plastic surgery…or butt pads.

Your glutes are muscles, much like any of the other muscles in your body.  Doing 100 biceps curls everyday for 30 days is not going to increase the size of your biceps.  Bodybuilders dedicate serious time and energy to their workouts and consume A LOT of extra calories to achieve muscle gains so you participating in a 90 day squat challenge is not going to help you gain much muscle.  Not to mention, gaining muscle is INCREDIBLY difficult.  If you’re lifting with heavy weight and fueling your muscle with the proper diet, you might be able to put on 1 pound of muscle in a month.  Might.

Back to the squat.  This exercise does not isolate the glutes, it also works your quads and hamstrings.  Ergo, doing many squats to build that booty will also give you well-muscled thighs.

Do not think for a minute that the bootylicous bum that you see on Instagram with booty shorts wedged in the crack is just from doing squats.  Those bodacious ladies with tiny waists and junk in the trunk were blessed at birth and use exercise as a way to keep their rears from hanging down to their calves.  Not to mention, posing does wonders for a not so ample rump.

Moral of the story, if you think that by doing a 90 day squat challenge you’re going to end up with “an a** like Serena” think again.  You will end up with improved lower body strength, probably some achy knees and a little bit of emotional irritation from not achieving the results Instagram told you that you would get.  Bottom line, (no pun intended) exercise your entire body.  You STILL, in the year 2014, cannot spot train.  You must do exercises that use every part of your body and eat a balanced diet to achieve the fit body of your dreams.

And just so I don’t leave you high and dry, here a few other glute exercises for you to add to your booty boosting repertoire.

Posture check!

Fix your posture!
Bad posture: Left Picture
Good Posture: Right Picture

Bridge (Hip Extension)

Bridge (Hip Extension)
Start: Top Picture
Finish: Bottom Picture

Single Leg Donkey Kick with Resistance Band

Single Leg Donkey Kick with Resistance Band
Start: Top Picture
Finish: Bottom Picture

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Baby Step To a New Body In the New Year! A Workout For the Absolute Beginner.

It’s resolution time!  Set your self up for success by making small, achievable resolutions that are realistic for you.  If you are a complete couch potato, and have been sedentary for a long time now, you don’t want to jump in to a new fitness regimen full steam ahead.  Go slow.  Break yourself in.  Get your mind and your body used to working out!

The perfect way to do this is with my Baby Step Circuit!  In the video below, I show you 4 different exercises to get you started on your fitness journey.  Start with 5 reps of each exercise (in other words, do each exercise 5 times) the first week and add 1 rep to each exercise every week until the end of the year.  By the end of the year, you’ll be doing at least 56 reps of each exercise!  That’s incredible!

I recommend doing this circuit 3 times a week.  Go slow!  Think of this as your warm up to becoming a fitness junkie.  Good luck, Happy New Year, and GO!

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Universe Weekend Recap


Backstage at Fitness Universe 2013

Wow!  What a weekend!  After months of preparation, Universe Weekend has come and gone.  For the first time, I placed in the top 10 at an international show and I am pumped!  A competitor’s primary goal is always to win, but I am more than satisfied and incredibly happy with my 8th place finish at the 2013 Fitness Universe competition.  I am especially pleased since I watched a video of my performance on Saturday and it was not up to par.  My energy was low, I wasn’t fully warmed up, and I just know I can perform better.  All things considered, 8th place, with a tie for 2nd place in the bikini round, is more than fine with me.  (On a related note, congrats to the first ever Ms. Fitness Universe Pro Division winner Anca Bucur and to the winner of the Fitness Universe Open Division Kristy Lee Wilson!  Both of these women are power houses!  Incredibly talented, beautiful, and super nice!)

It took an enormous amount of preparation and training to get ready for this show and there is no way on Earth I could have done it without the help of my incredible sponsors, Sean and Nancy Keenan of Enjoy Life Concepts.  Their sponsorship took an incredible amount of stress out of this process.  The financial burden of competing is huge, ask any competitor, so not having that weight on my shoulders (pun intended) left me with more energy to train harder.  On days when I didn’t want to workout or practice my routine or go to yoga, I thought of them and that kicked my butt into high gear.  I cannot thank Sean and Nancy enough so I hope that you will support them by frequenting their awesome establishments, both located in Decatur, Napoleon’s Bar and Grill and Harbor Bar and Fish House.  Both restaurants have an incredible selection of delicious, healthy choices, and some more indulgent dishes if you’re feeling frisky!  Check both of them out on Facebook!

Napoleon’s on facebook             Harbour on facebook

I would also like to thank my support system.  I am so fortunate to be surrounded by so many supportive people, my family, my friends, my clients, my Dance 101 students, my Dance 101 coworkers, and so many others who are always there to give me words of encouragement and inspiration.  Whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, by text, by phone, or in person, your positive and kind words fuel me and keep me working hard every day.

Now that this competition is over, it is reflection time.  This past weekend was incredibly inspiring for me, not only because I was surrounded by so many women and men who worked their butts off (or worked their butts on, I should say) to prepare for this show, but because I was able to spend time with two incredible women who happen to be both friends and students of mine.  They travelled to Miami to cheer me on at 9am on a Saturday.  Following the show, I was able to spend part of the weekend with them and listen to stories about their lives.  Learning more about their backgrounds and watching them work even as we enjoyed a meal or walked down Lincoln Road inspired me to push myself harder and keep working to achieve my goals.  We all need inspiration and this past weekend, they were my inspiration.  I am excited to push forward and see what I can achieve in this coming year.  Thank you, Nancy and Kathy, you are wonderful role models and friends and I am honored to have you both in my life.


WIth Nancy and Kathy after the show! Thank you for your support, ladies!

I used my travel time in the car today to reflect on their stories and my own experiences of this past weekend, and as I drove through Alligator Alley, I came to the decision that I will be competing again in November in Las Vegas!  It’s only appropriate, I am a Gator, I was in Alligator Alley, and Gators win, it’s what we do.  So, I have to keep trying until I do!  Get ready Fitness America, I’m coming for you!


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March Madness Movement


Me with Magic Johnson at the 2000 Final Four Championship game in Indy. We lost to Michigan State, but what an incredible experience!

Ah, March Madness.  My fondest memories from college are from this time of year.  As a member of the University of Florida Dazzler’s Dance Team, I was given the opportunity to travel each year to tournament sites all over the country.  Seattle, Atlanta, Charlotte, Nashville, Indiana, Chicago, New Orleans.  All incredible experiences!   But it wasn’t all fun and games.  Being on the sidelines requires hard work, practice, and dedication.  You make think it’s just about being cute, but behind the sequins, lycra, and pom pons (yes, pom poNs) there’s a lot of sweat…and maybe even some blood and tears.   

Since Atlanta was fortunate enough to be the host city for the 2013 Men’s Final Four, I invited the spirit programs from Louisville, Michigan (should’ve been Florida, but I’m not bitter…maybe a little), Syracuse, and Wichita State to participate in a friendly, early-morning competition consisting of exercises that a generally healthy person can perform at home.  The exercises I chose mimic some of the movements that are executed by cheerleaders and dancers (and some limber mascots) during basketball games.  

Watch as Miguel Martinez and I referee what turned out to be an intense competition!

The first exercise is a squat with a front kick.  We all know that squats are excellent for strengthening the glutes, quads, and hamstrings, but by adding a front kick between each squat we are involving more of our core and relying on balance to switch our weight from 2 feet to 1 foot.  When performing a squat it is important to keep your weight in your heels, pressing through your heels to stand and making sure you only kick to a height that is comfortable for you.  Performing this movement while holding dumbbells can add some resistance and involve your arms.  Only squat to a level that is comfortable for you.  Hip flexibility varies so while you may not be able to squat deeply, you can still perform an efficient squat by holding your chest up, sticking your booty out, keeping your knees tracking over your toes, and keeping your weight in your heels.

The second exercise is simply a get up.  It’s nothing complicated, literally just standing up from a seated position on the floor and sitting back down on the ground.  This happens a lot during games if you’re on the sidelines, especially if your team is hitting a lot of baskets.  It’s more difficult than you may thing so if you’re trying this at home, it’s okay to use your hands.  As it becomes easier, try doing it without your hands for a bit of challenge.  This is an excellent exercise to practice because you never know when you might fall and need to get up on your own.  (Side note: you don’t have to perform the get up as fast as my friends in the video, keep in mind, they were competing for the title win!)

The last and most advanced exercise is the X jump.  This is a milder form of a toe touch and a more extreme version of a jumping jack.  It is important to land with bent knees and to press through your heels when taking off from the ground so you can involve more of your glutes.  The X part happens in the air when your legs and arms are splayed into an X position.  If this exercise is too difficult, please stick to jumping jacks until you have built up stamina and strength.  (Same side note as before: no need to perform these as fast as my friends in the video, they were competing to be champions of the CNN Fitness Bracket!  Congrats to the Cards!)

Good luck building your sideline stamina!  I hope you have a greater appreciation of cheerleaders, dancers, and mascots the next time you watch a sporting event!


Thank you to Seth, Megan, & Wu from Wichita State, Brittany, Lexi, & Louie from Louisville, Heather, Paige, & Otto from Syracuse, & Alex & AJ from Michigan for exercising with me!

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Let’s hear it for the dads!

My dad and I flexing for the camera.

Check out my website!

I grew up in what most would call an unconventional situation.  I had a working mom and a stay at home dad.  My brother and sister were out of the house before we moved to Florida so it was just the 3 of us.  Since my mom had an extremely sporadic schedule, my dad was usually the one shuttling me around between school, Hebrew school, dance lessons, and band practice.  My dad was the one who cooked and my mom did the cleaning (I would do it when I was forced to.)  Every day was the same, we were creatures of habit.  My parents would take turns screaming at me to get out of bed in the morning (I was not and am still not a morning person).  I would end up missing the bus (intentionally), so my mom would take me to school since it was down the street from where she worked, while my dad got ready for the gym.

After leaving CT, it was just the 3 of us.

My dad is like clock work.  Every day he gets up, eats breakfast, and works out. It has been like that since I can remember.  Working out was a regimented part of his day.  You may not find this extraordinary, but I left out one major detail, my father had a stroke when he was 41 and was left with limited use of his right side and limited speech.  Despite this obstacle (understatement), my dad still manages to get up every day and work out to the best of his capabilities.  I think his drive, determination, and dedication to fitness is what made me want to share the joy of exercise with the world.  Hence, my current profession.  I saw what exercise did for my dad over the years and I saw that, despite his limitations, he made no excuses.

Both of my parents are active, in fact, my mom is currently working on her yoga certification (go mom!), so they both encouraged my love of activity, but people are always saying how they are impressed by mothers who are able to stay home, take care of the kids, and still work out.  Well, what about the dads?!  My dad took care of household chores, cooking, our 2 greyhounds, getting me to all of my extracurriculars, and still managed to get his butt to the gym.  I’m still impressed by this because at 77 years of age, he still gets up every morning, eats breakfast, and then works out.  Beast!  I am not belittling mothers by any means, but since I grew up in an equal parenting household, it upsets me that dads don’t get more recognition, so I thought it would be nice to celebrate active dads!

Family dinners were an everyday occurrence!

What a nerd! Running Nerd, that is!

Look how excited I am to dress up!

Since my parents don’t have to schedule their activities around me anymore, I asked one of my active father friends, Jarian, how he manages work and family, and still finds the time and energy to remain physically active.  I met Jarian at the RunningNerds 5K in Atlanta.  My instincts told me immediately, “This dude is awesome.”  He was decked from head to toe as a nerd, and if you know me at all, you know I like to dress up too.  Come to find out Jarian was more than just a running nerd, Jarian was an exercise fanatic. And his passion for fitness is a passion shared with his family!  I told you he’s awesome! I have great instincts.

Here’s a little bit about Jarian and how he balances work, fitness, and most importantly family!

What is your job?  New Home Warranty Management. When you buy a new house you get a warranty. If anything goes wrong or if you have a question about your home you call me.

How many hours a week do you work?  50 hours

How long have you been married?  6 years

How many children do you have?  Jani Gwen -7  Jarian Andru-4 and Jackson Wayne-2

Do you try to have family meals?  No ‘trying’ when you do it!  So yes we do.

How do you manage to workout between working and being a father?  I have to fit workouts in whenever possible, and have enough time to spend with the kids.  For a long while I was able to exercise at lunch while at work, but now it is after work.  It’s about to change to 5 AM, so the little time I have in the day can be better spent with the kids.  I will have forever to workout, but the kids won’t be this age forever.

What is your favorite exercise to do with the family?  We love to do family runs at running events.  They also love to run with me on my cool downs.  They do pull ups and push ups me, and even climb on my back for a little resistance.  We also chase each other and wrestle A LOT! (drives momma crazy most of the time).  So there is not just one favorite, we love to do it all.

Push ups are way more fun with dad!

Any tips for first time fathers getting back into shape?

  • Make sure you are doing it for you and your family.  They need you alive and healthy, and to see the example you set on many levels such as: healthy living; being fit; being active; as well as seeing you being dedicated to a goal and purpose.  What a great way to do something “selfish” that also benefits your family.  Dad’s need support too, so you want to make sure your family is behind you and giving you that support!   
  • Get your diet right.  It will have the greatest impact on how you perform, and help you get the results you want…and keep them.  What you eat is what fuels your body.  Eat a healthy, balanced diet, and feel the power and energy.  Eat an unhealthy, unbalanced diet, and feel tired and rundown.   
  • Keep it simple with basic moves and routines, unless you are trying to bulk up.  Start small and build on that.  Think of it this way, if you give your girlfriend a diamond ring on your one month anniversary, imagine what you are going to have to do on your one year anniversary.  Start small to achieve big and long-lasting results!

A family that plays together, stays together!  Jarian and his wife, Jasmine, getting a little family time in at the Sweetwater 5K.

So remember boys and girls, don’t forget to celebrate your dad!   On average, men live about 5 years less than women, so show dads some love and support and help better their stats!

If anyone has any fun family activities, please share them in the comment section below!

And Dads, please share your tips on how you balance life, family, work, and activity in the comment section below.  Gooooooo dads!

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I’m on CNN!

In case you missed me on CNN!

Click here to watch my CNN segment on yoga at the park!

Don’t forget to check out my website!

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I’ve fallen off the wagon, and I can’t get back on!

I worked my butt off knowing that I had this photo shoot coming up!

Check out my website!

There is nothing harder than starting a new fitness and nutrition regimen…other than restarting a fitness and nutrition regimen.  The healthy-lifestyle wagon constantly has people jumping on and falling off.  And believe me, it can happen to the best of us.  So what can you do when you fall off the wagon and can’t manage to jump back on?  Well, instead of wallowing in your sedentary, junk food bloat, here are some positive steps you can take to get yourself back on the wagon.

First, it helps if you have something to work towards.  In most cases, people are more apt to stick to a fitness and nutrition regimen if there is an end goal.  A competition, an audition, a photo shoot, a friend’s wedding, your wedding, a class reunion, a doctor’s appointment, vacation, wearing a bathing suit in public, going to the gym for the first time, or any other event in the near future.  I am stressing ‘near future,’ so that the end is in sight.  This way you will be less likely to fall of the wagon before your final destination.  A good way to ensure your loyalty to an exercise and nutrition program is to hang up something symbolic of your goal, in a very conspicuous location.  That symbol can be the bikini or speedo (for you men out there) you want to wear to the beach, or a dress you plan on wearing for a big event, or maybe even a hip little tennis outfit for your tennis league.  Those are just a few ideas to help keep you focused!

If I was feeling lazy, I tried on these shorts to get me motivated for my shoot!

Second, set realistic fitness and nutrition goals to get you to your big event.  If you have insane will power and self control, then more power to you.  Do a 180 and tackle your exercise and diet renovations head on.  If you’re like a majority of the population, you’ll need to start small and work your way towards health guru status.  Here are some nutrition goals you should try to work your way up to:

  • Eat breakfast every day within 30 minutes of waking.
  • Eat every 3 hours.
  • Eat lots and lots of veggies and a moderate amount of fruits.
  • Choose whole grains over refined grains.
  • Choose low fat and fat free dairy products over full fat dairy products.
  • Choose leans meats, fish, legumes, and nuts/seeds as your protein sources.
  • Limit fried and high fat foods.
  • Try to get 30-60 minutes of cardio exercise 5-7 days a week.
  • Try to get 30-60 minutes of strength training 3-5 days a week.

Before you have a nervous break down from reading this list, remember to start small.  Think of each point on the list as a body part that you’ve managed to hoist back onto the healthy wagon.  If you’re not doing any of the things on this list, then you’re nowhere near the wagon.  So start with one thing to get a hold of the wagon, even if the wagon has to drag you along, then add one more thing every week until you’re completely back on the wagon, sitting in the drivers seat.

Third, make sure that you’re hopping back on the wagon for you.  Many people jump back into health and fitness regimens for all the wrong reasons, and two of the worst reasons are to get revenge on someone, or make someone jealous.  WORST IDEAS EVER!  Get healthy for you, not for your ex, or the captain of the cheerleading squad that was mean to you in high school, or your dance teacher that said you were fat, or your bridezilla friend who thinks that bridesmaid dress looks bad on you because you’re fat…not because the dress itself is hideous.  There are so many positive effects of exercise and a healthy diet, that it would be silly to allow your driving factor to be something negative, i.e. that negative Nelly.

I know Jen isn’t really motivated by revenge (since she’s always in great shape), but don’t let revenge or jealousy drive you!

Finally, go easy on yourself.  If you slip a little, don’t beat yourself up.  We’re human, we make mistakes; it’s what we do best.  You might miss a workout, or slip and fall on a chocolate chip cookie that happens to land in your mouth.  Oh well.  Just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and move on.  No sense in dwelling on the past when you’re trying to move forward!

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