Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Traveler Tips 2.0

You know what the airport is great for? People-watching. During my layover this morning, I noticed that while the majority of the general population is at least somewhat overweight, the exception to that seems to be the business traveler. How do these road warriors stay fit while surrounded by (overpriced…grrrrr) airport food and all the temptations that come with life up in the air? 

Last year, I began traveling more for work and did a blog post about ways to stay fit on the road. Since then, I have continued to learn from some of my colleagues and want to share what I’ve learned with you. Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Mike Manning, fitness and living healthy enthusiast. Together, we have come up with our Traveler Tips 2.0. *For more from Mike, check out his blog!

1. Do your homework Mike used Gogobot to compare hotels for a recent trip to Maui. If you have flexibility in your hotel selection, try to find one with a fitness center, pool, or even fitness classes. No fitness center onsite? Try calling. Many hotels partner with a local gym to provide their guests access. If you are a member of a corporate/franchised gym, see if there are locations where you are going.

2. Earn your vacation It’s officially race season, and there are 5k/10k/half marathon races in almost any popular vacation destination. Adventure races, triathlons, and team relay races are also growing in popularity. Consider booking a vacation around one of these events. Many events are family-friendly as well, with special children’s races. As a race participant, you may be eligible for deals on your hotel or excursions. Indulge in that special vacation food guilt-free! May I recommend DisneyWorld?? Find races in any location here.

3. Make it a fitness retreat Getting bored with your workout? A vacation can be a great time to try something completely different or rekindle your love for an activity by trying it in a different way or new location. “Fitness retreats” are growing in popularity. Check out a few recommendations here.

4. Relieve stress Let's be honest - sometimes vacation can be just as stressful as a business trip. Making time to work up a sweat will help lower stress levels and boost energy, which will allow you to make the most of your time away from home.

5. Take it with you No, you can’t put a set of dumbbells in your suitcase, but many fitness programs/accessories are completely mobile! 
  • Resistance Tube - This little gem can be used for a great total-body resistance-training workout! Check YouTube for examples of ways to use your resistance band or tube and to be sure you are doing so safely. 
  • TRX system - This is Mike's personal favorite travel accessory. Work out from the comfort and privacy of your own room! 
  • Your favorite fitness DVD - May I recommend the BRAND NEW Shaun T program, Focus T25? All workouts are only 25 minutes! 
  • Smartphone apps - Stay on track on the road. I particularly love MapMyRun to find the perfect route, no matter where I am and MyFitnessPal to help track my calorie intake. For a little family challenge, download a free pedometer app to see who takes the most steps during a day of sightseeing!

      Just remember - you spent too much time and energy getting into shape for a vacation to throw it all away once you get there!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Fitness Guinea Pig - Pure Barre Review

Fitness Guinea Pig is back, and this time she’s bellied up to the barre. The ballet barre, that is. Recently, I got to experience my first barre classes at Pure Barre in Leawood, KS. This was a true FGP (Fitness Guinea Pig) moment that had me completely out of my element. Barre studios/classes are popping up all over the place, so I wanted to see what the fuss was all about. Armed with a Groupon for 2 weeks of unlimited classes, I decided to check it out. **Disclaimer – this is simply my personal experience with one specific barre studio and is not necessarily representative of all barre classes**

Stepping into the studio for the first time, I felt like the elephant in the room, literally. My first class was fairly empty, about 6 students. I was at least a head taller and about 25 lbs heavier than every single one of them. So…going unnoticed is out. To make matters worse, I must have missed the memo explaining the uniform of full Lululemon attire and Pure Barre branded grippy socks…although I whispered a tiny prayer of thanks that I had at least worn some cute-ish gray and pink socks instead of my normal white workout socks. Sadly, no one had these gems:

Growing up, dance was something I never got involved in, which I admittedly regret now that I’m old with no grace, rhythm or flexibility. The instructor came in with long, lean muscles and leg warmers, and I thought, “Finally, I get to bring out that inner ballerina that’s been trapped for 30 years!” We were sent to get equipment, which included a set of light hand weights (3-5 lbs), a resistance band and a cantaloupe-sized kickball.

The first 10 minutes of class were spent in the middle of the room with hand weights. The whole premise of the class is to enter the “shake zone” with each muscle. This is accomplished primarily by doing exercises with a very small range of motion (“pulses”). We worked shoulders, triceps and biceps before putting the weights away.

Next, we finally stepped up to the barre. Finally – I was going to unleash my inner swan! I was disappointed that we never used the barre for anything that resembled anything I've ever seen a ballet dancer do. 

My Expectation
Eventually we sat on the floor below the barre and did some exercises that I think were supposed to work the butt, but I found that my poor flexibility had my lower back or hip flexors screaming long before any muscle actually got fatigued.

We moved to the back barre, where we bent forward at the waist at 90 degrees and I learned the value of a tight-fitting top. We then worked our glutes, still using small pulses to completely fatigue a muscle. We finished with some seated ab work/stretching that was very pilates-esque.

Ultimately, I enjoyed my time at Pure Barre, but I could only see it realistically being a small part of my fitness regime. 


  • The music - upbeat, familiar pop songs
  • Hands-on instruction - body position is critical, and instead of actually doing the workout themselves, the instructors routinely walked around the room to make form adjustments where needed
  • The fashion - FINALLY, a place to wear those leg warmers!

  • The price - a monthly membership is $220, or $20 per class (volume rates apply - for full pricing, visit the website). I also peeked at the price tag on the tank tops for sale at the studio...yikes!!
  • Monotony - there is only 1 type of class at Pure Barre. The specific exercises varied a little from class to class, but they were all pretty much the same. After about 3-4 classes, I was bored.
  • Results - a lot of time is spent isolating smaller muscles, so the heart rate doesn't get elevated much. The class would be fine for overall toning, but if you have some pounds to lose, you will need to add plenty of cardio in addition to your barre class.
Format: In-class, in-home barre workouts also available
Calories Burned: ~ 400 per hour
Sweat Factor: 2 (on a scale of 1-10)
Prerequisites: None, although a fair amount of flexibility - particularly in the hamstrings and hip flexors - helps
Equipment: all required equipment is provided: small hand weights, mat, resistance band, small ball
Fitness Level: any
Impact Level: minimal
How to Fit In: the clothes! Non-grippy socks are the tell-tale sign of a novice. Clothes should be tight-fitting, but since there is very little impact, there's no need for tons of support. The pros wear fitted tanks under slouchy tops. Leg warmers are ok!

Have you tried a barre class? Share your experience!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

It's Not About the 6-Pack: Fitness for Cancer Patients

Recently I had the opportunity to meet Melanie Bowen, a Masters student who has researched alternative nutritional, emotional and physical treatments on those diagnosed with cancer or other serious illnesses. Some of her research relates to fitness and how it can produce better outcomes in cancer patients.

Two weeks before I graduated high school, my mom was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). One thing she said during her illness has stuck with me to this day. One day in the hospital she said, "If I ever would have known that there was anything in my life I could've done to prevent getting this disease, I would have done it hands down."

Disney Princess Half Marathon 2011 - Race Beneficiary: LLS

Now, Mom was a healthy, active person, and unfortunately we don't know what causes AML, but we  do know that obesity is a significant risk factor for multiple types of cancer. In a 2007 NCI study, it was estimated that over 84,000 new cancer cases were diagnosed due to obesity. That's 84,000 moms, dads, spouses, friends, who received this earth-shattering diagnosis because of something that is absolutely preventable. This is the driving factor behind my work as a fitness coach - to prevent one person from losing their loved one too soon.

Through Melanie's research, she has found several factors and considerations for how and why fitness can be an important factor in preventing and navigating a cancer diagnosis:

1. Prevention - physical activity may remove carcinogenic toxins from the blood, effectively managing blood sugar levels and maintaining a healthy blood pressure, protecting the heart.

2. Coping with stress - exercise is known to boost the mood and increase a person's ability to cope. Cancer treatments also wreak havoc physically, and staying active can help flush toxins through the body and allow medications to spread through the blood stream more quickly. It also helps fight fatigue and nausea - common side effects of cancer treatments.

3. Modifications - a disease or treatment may require a change in fitness regimen. Adjust for both comfort and enjoyment. Consider yoga, swimming or cycling for an aerobic workout that's gentle on joints.

4. Remission - once in remission, regular exercise can reduce the risk of recurrence. What a great time to celebrate and take full advantage of a new, healthy lifestyle!  Many communities offer fitness programs specifically for those in remission.

*For more on this topic from Melanie, please visit her site.*

So, you see, "this fitness thing" isn't just for muscle-bound men taking 50 different supplements and lifting 50-lb dumbbells. It's not just for cute, petite little Kelly Ripa lookalikes decked out in Lululemon. Fitness is for every BODY, and it just might save your life.

If you've seen Randy Pausch's Last Lecture, you know about "head fakes" - when he says the lecture wasn't for the audience...it was for his kids. So here's my head fake: Fitness isn't about the 6-pack. It's about being around for the people you love.

If you or someone you know is ready to make a change, I would love to help in any way I can. Please contact me.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Just Start.

Just Do It. Nike's tagline has been a staple for as long as many of us can remember. I actually really like this slogan and its application to fitness. It cuts through all the crap, all the excuses. "I'm tired," "I'm not coordinated," "I don't have time." Nike challenges us to forget all the things telling us we can't and just do it. But what do you do when "it" seems insurmountable? Or you don't even know what "it" is? I'd like to amend that slogan for anyone who struggles with any excuse for not working out. 

My slogan: Just Start.

Last weekend, I had the amazing opportunity to meet and work out with Shaun Thompson. You know him as "Shaun T" from Insanity...or maybe you recognize his face abs.

The event was part of a Team Beachbody training where I also got to meet some other inspiring people.

First I met Doris. I would guess Doris is in her late-40s. She purchased Shaun's program, Hip Hop Abs, several years ago. Like so many in-home fitness programs, it sat on a shelf, lonely and unopened. One day last year, Doris found herself overweight and unhappy, and she decided she had to do something. Just start something. She popped in her Hip Hop Abs DVD and just started. Then the next day, she started again. Now, a year (and 129 lbs later), she is still going and happier than ever! She ignored those voices in her head telling her she was too big or uncoordinated to do the dance moves, and she went for it anyway. 

Then just before Shaun came out, the group was introduced to Jeannie. A 2nd-time mom, Jeannie fell into an innocent habit of napping on the couch holding her newborn. Then napping turned into napping/snacking. After several months of this, Jeannie was trapped in a vicious cycle of Exhaustion-Napping-Snacking-Depression-More Exhaustion-More Napping...AAAAHHHHH! Jeannie got fed up and fired up and ordered Insanity. She lost her baby weight (plus some) and her depression, but what she's most proud of is that she is setting an example for her children that physical activity is a normal part of everyday life. What a gift!

No matter where we are in our fitness journey, every single day, every workout, every meal, we all start again. We don't have to wait for a new year or for Monday. Ignore all the reasons not to, and just start

If you or anyone you know needs help just getting started, I encourage you to email me. I am sponsoring a Beachbody Challenge Group and would love to add some more people who are ready to commit to just start for as little as 30 days. Receive free online coaching and the opportunity to win cash prizes, while doing the fitness program of your choice (ALL fitness levels welcome). Adam and I will be doing Insanity!

And in case you need any more incentives, check out some of the current deals from Beachbody:

$25 off on P90X Challenge Packs and P90X2 Challenge Packs: Save a total of $80 with these comprehensive packages including nutrition, fitness, AND support at the lowest price ever offered on 2 of the most popular fitness programs in the world.

$22/month savings FOR LIFE when you place a chocolate or greenberry Shakeology HD order before March 31 (email me for information on how to redeem this offer).

Sunday, February 17, 2013

I'm Here to PUMP (clap) You Up

Hi, I'm Janet, and I'm a cardio addict. So, it may be surprising that today's topic is a strength training class, BODYPUMP. I always disliked strength training in high school and college because I was scrawny. I couldn't lift as much as my teammates, and we always worked out in pairs, so having to adjust the weight down on the machine when it was my turn was difficult for my inner competitor. And then about a year ago, I discovered BODYPUMP, a barbell strength training class put out by New Zealand-based organization Les Mills (not to be confused with the LSU football coach).

**Climbing onto soapbox** Before getting into the specifics of the class, let's talk about why strength training is important. First off, for you ladies, I'm not talking about bulking up to bodybuilder form. In the words of Hans and Franz, "hear me now and believe me later," but you WILL NOT gain mass (a.k.a. "get bulky") simply by lifting weights, even heavy weights. Bulk is created by testosterone, which we simply don't have enough of to create that effect. Here are some of the ways strength training will get you results that cardio won't:

  • Fat burning - strength training creates "afterburn," where you continue to burn calories for 1-2 hours after your workout. In addition, once you've created muscle, it takes more energy for your body just to support those muscles. For every 3 lbs of muscle, your body burns 120 calories per day just doing NOTHING!
  • Look and feel great naked - in the words of my friend Krissa, "Skinny people look good in clothes. Fit people look good naked." It works wonders for your confidence too. A 2006 study showed that after a 12-week strength training program, women's body image improved significantly. Nothing is more attractive than confidence!
  • Stay in the game - stronger muscles protect our joints from injury. This is especially important if you play sports or do high-impact cardio training that wears on your joints. It's also increasingly important as you age. **Stepping down from soapbox**
So, back to BODYPUMP itself. Get there early because this class is always crowded, mainly because it's one of the group fitness classes that draws both men and women. Yes, even Adam likes BODYPUMP! I know, men hesitate to step foot in a group fitness studio, but PUMP is different. Adam said, "I always though I was strong, but this class is hard. It's a different kind of strong." 

Like other Les Mills classes, the format of BODYPUMP is the same each release. There are 10 tracks (songs), each with a specific purpose. The music is great - a combination of songs you recognize (from many genres) and lesser-known techno/dance-type music. We work muscle groups mostly from large to small:

1. Warm-up 
2. Squats  
3. Chest 
4. Back 
5. Triceps 
6. Biceps 
7. Lunges
8. Shoulders
9. Core
10. Cooldown

You will do the same workout for about 4-6 weeks before your instructor begins changing up some of the tracks. The repetition allows you to benchmark where you are and see progress from class to class in terms of how much you're able to lift. 

Your instructor will give you guidance for how much weight to lift for each track based on your warmup weight. If you're new, start out small, with maybe 5 lbs. on each side of the bar. This is the lowest weight you should have on your bar throughout class. 

The music and moves are "choreographed" just enough to keep your brain active, but not so choreographed that they require any sort of rhythm or coordination. Also form is really important to avoid injury and to work the correct muscles. Pay attention to your instructor for guidance on certain moves. 

Ready to try a class? If you're in the KC area, multiple 24 Hour Fitness and YMCA locations offer BODYPUMP. You can also find a class using the Les Mills class locator tool

No gym near you? Group fitness not your thing? Need to work out on your own schedule? There is also an at-home workout program available for purchase. Check out the Les Mills PUMP banner here.

So here's BODYPUMP in a nutshell:

Format - Group Fitness or in home
Calories Burned (average)  - about 400 in class, plus afterburn
Sweat Factor - 6 (on a scale from 1-10)
Prerequisites - none
Equipment - all required equipment is provided by the gym or is available through the in-home program (step with 4 risers, barbell with various weight plates, mat), but weight lifting gloves are incredibly helpful also.
Fitness level - any
Impact level - minimal
How to fit in - learn the Les Mills lingo:
  • Release - a full workout, numbered sequentially, a new one is put out by Les Mills each quarter. We are currently on BODYPUMP 84. Use it in a sentence: "When does the new BODYPUMP release come out?" or "I like the music from Release 82 more than the music from Release 83."
  • Track - a particular song, with its corresponding moves. Use it in a sentence: "The shoulder track we did today was really difficult."
  • Launch - a quarterly party when the newest release is first debuted at a club. They begin with a 15-minute technique presentation and are attended by personal trainers. If you're brand new to strength training, this is a great option to ensure you're starting off on the right foot. At 24 Hour Fitness, membership is NOT required to attend a launch event, so please let me know if you'd like information on when the next one is.
Have you tried PUMP? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comment section! Thanks for reading, and remember:

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Those who can't teach...coach

Once upon a time, not so long ago, I planned on becoming a high school math teacher. In the words of Lindsay Lohan in Mean Girls, math is "the same in every language." It's objective. It's black and white. There is one right way to get the right answer.

It seemed obvious. I liked teaching, I liked math, I liked teaching math. But when I got into student teaching, it just didn't fit. Why? Because I didn't want to convince people to like (or want to learn) math. I wanted to teach people who wanted to be there. In case you don't remember high school, there's somewhat of a shortage of teenagers who are excited about math.

Fortunately, I've found an outlet for my love of teaching. Turns out, I'm passionate about more than math. Anyone who has experienced first-hand the pain of losing a friend or family member, especially at a young age, would tell you they would do anything to have that person back. In the startling reality of our country's obesity epidemic, I see a LOT of very young people in danger of losing their mother or father, sister, brother or best friend because of something that is almost always preventable and reversible. I may never be able to bring back anyone I've lost, but if there is even one person I can help save from an early death, that's one less person who will have to celebrate life's milestones without the ones they love the most.

This passion for fitness is why I became a fitness instructor almost 2 years ago, and it's the same reason I have recently joined Team Beachbody as an online coach. Anyone on a personal fitness journey is there because they want to be, or in some cases, they need to be. But where to start? There are THOUSANDS of health/fitness products/services available. Which ones work? The good news is that most of them work, if you stick with them. The key is finding that program that is right for you. It has to be appropriate for your fitness level and consistent with your interests, goals and lifestyle.

My personal fitness journey started as a child. I loved playing sports of all kinds. My neighbor Brian and I were convinced Sports Illustrated for Kids (or "SI for K" as we called it - yes, we were that cool) was going to feature us for playing the most different sports in one day. As a multi-sport athlete through college and into my fitness career today, I have experienced a LOT of different workouts. I've decided to dedicate this blog to reviews/information about many of these workouts. So, whether you're in a workout rut or you haven't worked out in years, I hope you will be inspired to try something new.

So stay tuned, and please let me know if there are certain workouts/programs you'd like to see featured here! Consider me your fitness guinea pig!