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Getting to know Silvia Kramska

Getting to know Silvia Kramska

Think owning your own business takes grit? Multiply that by two, add the gruelling training demanded by fitness competitions and you have an idea of life for Silvia Kramska, founder ofOpen to Play clean protein and Real Food Organic Nutrition. A qualified nutritionist and strength and conditioning coach, Kramska shares her formula for keeping a balance amid apparent chaos.

I have always been part of an active environment centred on wellness. I started to play tennis when I was five years old and continued to play professionally until I was 17. I lost my way health-wise for a while after that, so when I moved to Melbourne I promised myself that I would work in an area that truly makes me happy.

My Open To Play protein business came about when I was prepping for my first fitness competition; I couldn’t find a clean, simple and healthy protein anywhere. I figured there must be other people struggling with the same issue and so I decided to create my own.

I’m proud to say that Open To Play proteins are now one of the cleanest products on the market. The products are designed to be a healthy addition to anyone’s diet – they’re all natural, have only three pure ingredients (including grass-fed whey), and are lactose and gluten free. 

I wanted to make sure the proteins were suitable for anyone no matter their age, gender or activity level. Natural protein can supplement your regular diet, assist in your recovery after exercise and can help support growth and repair of your muscles.

My everyday nutrition is very balanced. I love to start my day with lemon water and I place a lot of focus on the quality of the foods that are going into my body. I eat organically wherever possible and I don’t eat gluten or processed sugars.

I do enjoy my pancakes once a week, on the weekends. I think it’s important that your daily nutrition isn’t causing you stress and to accept that you won’t get it perfect every day.

My current training regimen reflects my off-season preparation and I am focusing on growing my upper body for competition. I am doing heavy upper-body sessions three times per week, and three leg sessions per week focusing on glute development. 

I like to incorporate at least two HIIT sessions per week into my training program depending on my energy levels. I always make sure I listen to my body and rest when I need it. 

I manage stress by soaking in a magnesium salt bath every single night. I also love taking time out to just relax at home, or head to the beach during summer with a good book. 

I wake up early every day because I like to get a training session in while everyone else is still in bed. I then head over to my café and help to set it up for the day, get my team motivated and post on my social media accounts. After work I will normally fit in another gym session and in the evening I make time for family and friends. 

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Getting to know Silvia Kramska

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collette mcshane

5 minutes with The HIIT Mum

Pocket rocket and mother-of-one Colette McShane, aka. @TheHIITMum, is a fitness force to be reckoned with. Here, we chat to her about supplementation, passion and just getting stuff done.

I love helping others achieve good health because there is nothing more satisfying than seeing people achieve what they never thought possible. I love making a difference in people’s lives – a lot of parents write to me to say they are getting fitter and healthier, making it easier for them to play with their children.

I always kick the day off with a big, healthy breakfast as it sets the tone for the rest of my day. I make a yummy omelette, frittata or poached eggs with lots of vegetables. Lunch and dinner is anything from stirfry to healthy curries or Mexican-style wraps – again, with lots of vegies and lean proteins.

I snack on the Healthy Way range from Chemist Warehouse, as it’s accessible, varied and forever expanding. I love their vegie chips, all their nuts (I am walnut and almond crazy) and the trail mixes for snacking during the day. 

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5 minutes with The HIIT Mum

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Being Brooke Stacey

Being Brooke Stacey We chat to February 2017 cover model Brooke Stacey about all things about self, body and fitness love.

On self-love

Self-love is so HUGE! It can start at a young age and grow with you or it could have never been established and you have to find it and create it. At the end of the day we all want to be loved and feel good about ourselves. It is so easy to compare our weaknesses to someone else’s strengths and feel bad about our self. The key to self-love in my opinion is to maximise our own potential by strengthening our weaknesses, and embracing, sharing and nourishing our strengths. When you realise and own that there is only one you and no one can replace that, you can also delight in the gifts you are given to share with the world. When you love yourself, it is a positive cyclical reaction and will be seen in everything you do and will be felt by everyone you touch.

On body love

Body love can be so tough for women. Our bodies go through so much in our lifetime between puberty to childbearing years to post-menopausal years. It is so important to put your health first throughout your life, to embrace and pull through all of these challenging times in our lives. When you take control over your health, you feel better about yourself physically as well as mentally and spiritually. When you feel good about yourself, and have a positive body image of yourself you can perform all tasks with greater ability. I think it is important to control the controllables and maximise your own potential to be the best you. After you do that, you can’t help but love all of the gifts and differences we all have and share at the same time.

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Being Brooke Stacey

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Why Do I Need An Activity Tracker?

There is no escaping fitness bands nowadays, from TV ads to appearing on your friend’s wrist, they’ve fast becoming a mainstay in the UK. There’s such a range of bands and purposes that you’ll probably be able to find one for any niche (want a tracker to stop you from slouching?

Yep, that exists. Want to see how hard you can kick a ball? Yes, sir.), but at the core of almost every device out there is the ability to track steps, calories and sleep.

They’re not the most sexy of subjects, but they’re three of the most crucial to our health

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Why Do I Need An Activity Tracker?

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Sarah Storey’s cycling tips

Dame Sarah Storey DBE, 11 time Paralympic Gold Medallist and four-time Gold Medallist at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, shares her wisdom

If like H&F’s Emma Wall you have signed up to the London to Brighton Bike Ride to raise funds for The British Heart Foundation, these Olympic-worthy race tips will be invaluable.

Sarah says:

1. Get comfy! Saddle and bike comfort is very important as you will be pedalling for at least four hours to complete the ride. You need a good pair of shorts with a padded support and also need to make sure the balance of your weight on the bike between the handlebars, saddle and pedals is right. A good local bike shop will help you with all these things and ask them about buying “chamois cream” for your shorts, which is very important on long rides.

2. Pace yourself. This is important with your preparation for the event and the event itself. Gradually build up your miles on the bike during your preparation phase. During the ride itself remember this is not a race. You will finish strongly if you go a bit easier than you think you need to at the start.

3. Fuel correctly. Eating and drinking are both of the upmost important during a ride of this length and you may need to practice doing this on the bike. If not whilst moving, then remember to take plenty of short breaks to get the food and fluid inside you. Drinking before you a thirsty is very important and eating something small every half hour will stop you getting hunger pangs or worse still running out of energy altogether.

4. Always wear a helmet and do all your practice and preparation rides using the helmet too. It might well save your life one day.

5. Enjoy it! This is the most important part for whenever you get out on a bike. Enjoy the feeling of freedom, the fresh air and the beautiful English countryside.

Keep up to date with H&F’s fitness challenges with our fantastic subscription offer – 3 issues for £1!  

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Sarah Storey’s cycling tips

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Diet Doesn't Need To Mean Denial

Clean eating. We’ve all seen it held up as the best way—the only way—to live a fit life, look and perform like an athlete, and not die before our time. Of course, clean eating has a dirty little secret: It always comes alongside its greasy sidekick, the cheat meal.

This makes me sad, and it irks me. I’m talking about the whole clean/cheat setup, and really, the whole idea of “clean.” I’ve spent time on the darkest side of clean eating—namely an eating disorder—and I think it’s time for this way of thinking to die. My job now is to spread the gospel of flexible dieting.

Many of you might be familiar with that term, but it’s probably from misguided articles and forum posts ridiculing the idea of IIFYM (aka, “if it fits your macros”). If you’re a clean eater, you may have made some snarky remark a time or two about us flexible dieters being unhealthy. Perhaps you’ve even commented on our moral character. We’re bad people, we’re going to hell for eating pretzels, and we should be ashamed of ourselves because we eat our baked potatoes with butter. The gall!

Enough with the snarky name-calling! Let me show you the truth, the way, and the light to food freedom! The first step is to debunk the most common myths about flexible eating.

“Enough with the snarky name-calling! Let me show you the truth, the way, and the light to food freedom!”

Myth 1

False! Eating a bunch of crap is … well, crap. That’s the typical American diet, and it’s far from what constitutes flexible dieting.

Key components of flexible dieting include
  • Overall mindfulness of macronutrient and micronutrient intake, whether you count macros. This means that you’re aware of approximately how much protein you consume, and that you also get sufficient fiber.
  • Understanding that treats and junk food are allowed, but not as the norm. I like to recommend an 80/20 rule. Other people lean toward 90/10; that still feels fairly restrictive to me.
  • Portion control. This is vital. There’s a difference between 1 doughnut and 12, and you don’t abuse this. Think a handful of gummy bears rather than a whole bag. A small serving of sweet potato fries with a chicken salad. A glass of wine to complement a steak.

So what do flexible dieters eat? Primarily whole food sources, with a sprinkling of fun indulgences on the side. If the typical American is going to eat a croissant and a glass of orange juice for breakfast, he is not a flexible dieter. What a flexible dieter might do instead is throw in an omelet with that meal, keep the croissant, and then choose better carb sources for the rest of the day. Why? Because, a croissant is a treat.

Believe me, I’ve definitely tried to get in my protein and fiber through junk food alone, and it can’t be done. There’s no realistic way to meet your daily nutrient needs through chocolate and gummy bears. Besides, who wants to survive on a steady diet of nothing but sugar and fat? That would make anyone sick. In fact, it’s making plenty of people sick all around us, all the time. It’s called type-2 diabetes.

And if you do end up having a particularly treat-heavy day, then the next day, you rein it in a little. You don’t obsess over it; you don’t worry about it; you just move on. It’s all about checks and balances. Don’t mistake that for bingeing and purging—there’s a big difference.

Myth 2

What’s healthy about a restricted food list? There is nothing positive that can come out of putting a whole slew of foods off-limits and shackling yourself to specific food items. Let’s take a look at your clean diet for a second:

Meal 1: Oats and egg whites for breakfast
Meal 2: Chicken, white rice, and almonds for lunch
Meal 3: Protein shake with a banana post-workout
Meal 4: Lean beef and green beans for dinner
Meal 5: Casein or cottage cheese before bed, maybe with peanut butter

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. And let’s be honest, I’ve given a generous portrayal of a clean diet there. The real thing is often far, far more repetitive.

Yes, I understand that consuming a nutrient-dense diet is incredibly healthy. But that’s not what “clean eating” is. There is an incredibly high correlation between exclusive eating (i.e., limiting food choices) and binge eating. This is no coincidence. Study after study has shown that as soon as you deem a food forbidden, your desire for it increases even more, even if you may have never wanted it in the first place.

Not allowed to eat chocolate? All of a sudden, that’s all you can think about.

On the flipside, having the option to consume a treat doesn’t mean that you will necessarily chow down on it. Rather, it means that you won’t be using up your willpower to actively resist the food.

Myth 3

You tell me what’s worse for your health:

  • Eating a square of chocolate every evening, savoring every bit of it, and then moving on with your life, OR
  • Hurriedly scarfing down not one, not two, but three whole chocolate bars in one sitting with no self-control whatsoever and then feeling guilty—not to mention bloated—for the entire next day, if not longer.

I think the answer is obvious.

Newsflash: It’s entirely possible for a flexible dieter to eat the same way as a clean eater most of the time. Yet come Saturday night, the clean eater may go out to dinner for his weekly cheat meal and have a burger, French fries, and a milkshake, followed by cheesecake for dessert, and then come home and eat everything but the kitchen sink. The flexible dieter, on the other hand, can have the same burger and French fries and have no problem stopping there. Hell, he may not even finish the fries because he’s reasonably full and feeling satisfied.

Do you see the difference here? The flexible dieter hasn’t lost touch with what satisfaction feels like. Throughout the week, the flexible dieter stuck to whole food sources not because he had to but because he wanted to. He had no problems whatsoever with controlling his food intake on the weekend.

“But sugar is bad for me,” a clean eater might proclaim. Well, did it ever occur to you that the only times you allow yourself to consume too much added sugar is when you binge?

Sugar itself may not be the culprit. After all, apples contain sugar. It’s the massive quantity of added sugar you consume in one sitting that makes you sick.

Myth 4

Not all flexible dieters choose to count their macros. But for those who do, the guidelines for determining macronutrient guidelines aren’t too different from those of bodybuilders and other strength athletes.

Namely, protein intake is usually around 1 gram per pound of bodyweight, and carbs are 0.6-1.5 grams per pound, depending on goals, the leanness of the individual, carb tolerance, body type, metabolic capacity, age, and activity level. Fats fill in the remaining calorie allotment. People who are striving for muscle gain naturally will have a higher calorie allotment, 16 times bodyweight or upward. People who are looking to lose weight would start off closer to 10-12 times bodyweight.

Let’s use me as an example. I’m a 24-year-old female mesomorph, 115 pounds, with approximately 18 percent body fat. I train five days each week with a low-to-medium activity level for my job. I would calculate my maintenance macros for training days as follows:

Total Calories: 115 pounds x 15 = 1,725
Protein: 1 g/lb. bodyweight = 115 g, or 460 cal (4 cal/g protein)
Carbs: 1.5 g/lb. bodyweight = 173 g, or 692 cal (4 cal/g carbs)
Fats (total remaining calories): 1,725 – 460 – 692 = 573 fat calories, or 64 g fats (9 cal/g fat)

Some flexible dieters like to carb cycle between training days and off days like I do, not only for the physiological benefits but also because it affords them the leeway to fit in higher-carb treats on training days and, conversely, higher-fat treats on off days. My off-day macros might look like this:

Total Calories: 115 pounds x 15 = 1,725
Protein: 1g/lb bodyweight = 115 g, or 460 cal (4 cal/g protein)
Carbs: 1 g/lb. bodyweight = 115 g, or 460 cal (4 cal/g carbs)
Fats (total remaining calories): 1,725 – 460 – 460 = 805 fat calories, or 89 g (9 cal/g fat)

Having 89 fat grams for an off day would allow me to consume foods including, but not limited to full-fat cheese, coconut oil, nut butters, and maybe even some fried goodness.

This is just one of many possible approaches to the macro puzzle. Flexible dieting is all about honoring your personal preferences with regard to macronutrient amounts, food choice, meal timing. This will allow you to adhere to your program and consequently yield the best results.

Myth 5

Look up #flexibledieting hashtags on Instagram and all you’ll see is the ice cream, Pop Tarts, and burgers that we consume. But what the pictures don’t tell you is that those foods actually make up a small portion of our daily food. We typically don’t show off the chicken breast, sweet potatoes, and veggies we consume. Why? Because it’s way more fun to talk about our treats.

So no, a cheeseburger is not the same thing as eating a high-quality cut of protein. But if we decide to order that burger, it’s because we’ve been eating well recently, weighed our options, and perhaps even factored the meal into our macros. We’ve decided that that’s what we truly wanted to eat, and we have no qualms about indulging our taste buds for a night.

Again, flexible dieters prescribe to an 80/20 rule or some variation. We care about our health just as much as a clean eater does, but we also understand that to make a lasting lifestyle change, we need to create sustainable habits. We have no timeline to get to where we want to be; we’re all about enjoying the ride.

Are you a flexible dieter? If not, what are you waiting for? Freedom awaits you. Are you a clean-eating diehard? Make your case in the comments.


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Diet Doesn't Need To Mean Denial

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5 fitness tips from Rita Catolino

5 fitness tips from Rita Catolino When Rita Catolino says she’s working out less and enjoying life more, without losing an ounce of muscle, we listen. Hard.At 34, fitness model Rita Catolino has never looked better. And contrary to common assumption that women’s bodies peak in their gravity and hormone-assisted 20s, the March WH&F cover model says science favours the opposite thesis.“My methods and movements have evolved from a strict bodybuilding regime to a more functional, hybrid style of training,” says the trainer. Older women also have learned from experience what works for them and don’t waste time on what doesn’t.“I have already experienced many changes in my own personal goals in my training and how to attain them.” The best part, Catolino says, is that rationalising her workout schedule to honour commitments as a mother and motivational speaker hasn’t adversely impacted her fitness.

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5 fitness tips from Rita Catolino

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Facebook And Fitness: Maria Kang Interview

One evening in September 2012, Maria Kang, a 32-year-old wife and mother in Sacramento, published a loaded Facebook post. It read, “What’s your excuse?” a message made knife-sharp by its juxtaposition with a grinning, super-fit mom and her three toddler boys—a handful for anyone. The response was overwhelming; overnight, her Facebook page blew up with thousands of likes and plenty of vehement criticism. Kang found herself the subject of wide discussion as “the Facebook fit mom.”

“I was in shock,” she says of the initial outpouring, good and bad. Kang believes her Facebook post became a Rorschach test of sorts. Some folks embraced her as an inspiring role model; others saw her as a poster child for social media “fitspiration” taken to an obnoxious extreme.

Fast-forward to the first anniversary of the post, and Kang reposted the image along with what she called a “non-apology” lobbed at the haters who had dogged her over the preceding year. “What you interpret is not my fault,” she wrote. “It’s yours. The first step in owning your life, your body, and your destiny is to own the thoughts that come out of your own head. I didn’t create them. You created them.”

This post, once again, went viral, skyrocketing her Facebook audience from 78,000 to 288,000. She began frequenting national media platforms, including CNN, Yahoo!, Nightline, and Time. She was interviewed on morning shows in Australia, Britain, Germany, Brazil, and the Philippines. The fit mom became a global fitness phenomenon.

The exercise provocateur recently chatted about her newfound celebrity and her longstanding fit-mom movement with Bodybuilding.com, the site where she got her start as a fitness writer in 2004.

Q Do you remember when and how you got the idea for that first Facebook post?

It came from that popular catchphrase “no excuses,” which you see a lot in the fitness world—especially when people like paraplegics and the elderly overcome incredible odds to be in great shape. I thought, Wow, I’ve had three kids in three years—born in 2009, 2010 and 2011—and I’m in pretty good shape.

When I posted that photo my son was 8 months old; it’s not like I was posting it eight days after giving birth. I gained my pregnancy weight, and I took the same amount of time to get the pregnancy weight off. So I felt like it was a realistic portrayal.

Originally, I took the photo to update my Facebook page. I’ve been a writer and a fitness person for a number of years, but I’ve never been a paid fitness model; I just have an abiding passion for fitness. I hadn’t taken any professional pictures of myself for 10 years, because I had gone through a lot of stages in my body. I gained 30 pounds before I was even pregnant with my first child, because I had an eating disorder. So I wanted to use this image to update my profile picture.

Some people might think you have social media consultants recommending what will go viral, but it sounds to me like this just sprang unfiltered from the mind of Maria Kang.

Whenever I post a picture, I never think it is going to go viral, first off. I think there are a lot of misconceptions about me. I don’t have a team of people, I don’t have an agent, I don’t have a PR agency—I don’t have anyone. This is just an example of following your passion and your gut and living and breathing fitness. It comes from a good place.

What triggered that second, bigger wave of popularity—or notoriety, depending on your perspective?

I was approaching the anniversary of the photo first being posted, and I started getting a lot of hate mail again. I seldom respond to people who say negative or hateful things, but one particular email read: “You should be ashamed of yourself. You’re a bad example to women. You are a poor representation of a woman and a bad mother.” I thought: This is ridiculous. I’m tired of people using me as a scapegoat, and frankly, I’m a little bit pissed off.

It took me all of about five minutes, but that morning I wrote a “non-apology,” which basically said, “Whatever you perceive this picture to be, it’s your fault. If you hate this image, then get used to hating many things in your life because I have no control over that. Let’s focus instead on the bigger issue, which is obesity in America.” That message, coupled with the photo, made it go viral.

Some of the public critiques you’ve received have been strident, which makes me wonder if the private messages have been downright nasty.

There were some who were really quite mean to me, but the majority of people have been supportive. You often hear the loudest voices, and a few boos can drown out a lot of cheers if you let them. I’m showing people the possibilities. I’m trying to be an inspiration, and I have been an inspiration.

Any regrets about being the catalyst for this controversy?

It sounds so cliche, but I believe in living your life without regrets and owning every action you take. It hasn’t been an easy journey, though; let’s say that. This touches something deep within my personal history.

“I believe in living your life without regrets and owning every action you take. It hasn’t been an easy journey, though.”

In my mid-20s I battled an eating disorder. My mother struggled with obesity. She had type-2 diabetes in her 20s, strokes in her 30s, heart attacks in her 40s, and a kidney transplant before turning 50. She’s still alive, but she didn’t make it to my wedding because she was taken to the emergency room.

She can’t blame her genetics, either. She didn’t work out, still doesn’t work out, and she doesn’t watch what she eats. I feel strongly that you need to take care of your body, your temple, your vessel—whatever you want to call it—because that’s the only thing you own in this world.

My telling people that there aren’t a lot of excuses; that being overweight is, more often than not, your own doing—that’s what pissed a lot of people off. I’m trying to empower the overweight by letting them know they can change, but it’s really tough for many of them to wake up and take accountability.

Readers may not realize that you actually got your start in fitness writing on Bodybuilding.com.

I was a new fitness manager in San Francisco and so inspired by fitness that I wrote this piece about 10 universal life principles as embodied by fitness. I sent it to Bodybuilding.com because I used to read that website when I was on the exercise bicycle.

That was my favorite website. It’s where I got a lot of information, so I was excited when it was posted. I continued writing for the site.

Your involvement in the intersection of motherhood and fitness well predates the Facebook controversy, right?

Since 2012, I’ve been running a private Facebook group page where thousands of moms connect daily to talk about fitness. I noticed that these women wanted to connect, and they wanted answers, and they wanted to do what I did. Farther back, in 2009, after the birth of my first child, I started a mom group in the park. We worked out together without sacrificing time with our kids.

I took this concept and replicated it. I created an official guide, put it out there, and within two weeks, I had 200 group leaders. Now we have more than 700 leaders in 24 countries ranging from Aruba to Canada to Columbia.

There is a large movement of moms who want to make a difference. They want to be a hero in their community and a healthy role model to their children. To change the obesity crisis in America, we have to start at home. You can’t raise a healthy child if you’re an unhealthy parent, and I think that’s where we are all getting it wrong.

I know this from personal experience. Through my nonprofit, I supported programs in elementary, middle, and high schools that focused on the kid, and they were largely unsuccessful. I grew so discouraged and frustrated. Then I realized that the programs that work are those which incorporate the parent and the child. So that’s what I’m focused on.

What would you say to people who would argue that it’s none of your business whether they are fit, fat, or somewhere in between?

“I’m really trying to guide and inspire and lead.”

I’m the type who will say to somebody, “You are beautiful, but you are unhealthy, and I’m saying this because I care about you.” I’m not afraid to tell people about something I’m passionate about.

And while health is an individual matter, I believe our national healthcare system represents a collective responsibility. We pay for each other’s care, and it’s really important for us to not condemn each other or insult each other, but rather try to lead or guide each other. That’s what I’m trying to do.

Some of your critics contend that you’re shaming the overweight, and that your tone is punishing rather than encouraging. How do you respond?

I’m not insulting, condemning, or shaming anyone. I hate that word, “shame.” Shame and guilt are internal feelings that must be already present in someone’s mind in order for them to sense it. If they react negatively to my image and the word “excuse,” then they must be feeling they aren’t doing something they know they should be doing.

We all know exercise and eating healthy are important, but the vast majority don’t practice it. I’m really trying to guide and inspire and lead. Being healthy is a lot better than being unhealthy, and that’s just the truth.

What do your children and husband think about all of the attention you now receive?

My kids don’t think anything about it, and my husband knows that I’ve been doing local media on health and fitness for years, and that this was my path. So he’s like, “I didn’t know it was going to go that fast,” while I’m thinking, “It took me a long time to get here!” [laughs] I started writing about fitness in 2003, and finally someone is noticing me.

How do you manage healthy meals for yourself and your three boys?

I make regular food that other moms make; it’s just that mine is a healthier version. My kids love my turkey meatballs, sweet potato fries, and they love the spaghetti I make. We make pizza together all the time. They love it. My kids eat a lot of fruit and other whole foods.

“The biggest thing is that I try to control my kids’ palates, so they don’t crave unhealthy, addictive foods.”

The biggest thing is that I try to control my kids’ palates, so they don’t crave unhealthy, addictive foods. I’ve noticed that when they go to a lot of parties [at their friends’ homes], they don’t want to eat my dinners as much; it doesn’t taste as rich as what they’ve just been fed.

You talk a lot about the need to work out. So how do you train?

I train intensely 5-6 days each week, and my workouts haven’t changed much in 10 years. Three or four of those workout days revolve around resistance training. For each body part, I usually do at least three exercises, 3 sets per exercise, 10-15 reps per set, resting 30 seconds between each set. I try not to waste a lot of time because I don’t have a lot of time, so you will often see me supersetting [movements].

I do at least 30 minutes of cardio on all five or six training days. Most of my cardio is high-intensity interval training using running, stair-climbing, or spin class.

I suggest a lot of the same things you guys suggest. A lot of women ask me, “How do I get a really lean midsection?” and “How do I build my backside?” Obviously there’s no such thing as spot training. In order to attain a certain level of leanness, you need to be lean all over. That means you have to weight-train your entire body over the course of the week.

Hit The Gym With The Facebook Fit Mom

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Facebook And Fitness: Maria Kang Interview

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2 Stories Of Survival: How Fitness Saved Morgan Wehmer And Elizabeth Aguilera

When it comes to diseases, lots of syllables often make for a scary diagnosis.

Take melanoma, for instance. Elizabeth Aguilera has it and, according to her doctors, always will. Every two months she meets with a specialist to look for spots on her skin, have them tested, and determine whether to have another surgery. At the tender age of 24, she’s had four already, to remove seven cancerous patches of skin from her stomach 2, leg 3, and hip 2.

“I check myself all the time,” says Elizabeth, a spokesmodel for Oh Yeah! Nutrition. “As long as I keep consistent, and go every two months for the rest of my life, I will be fine. If it advances to a stage 3, or 4, it will get into my lymph nodes and organs. I just have to monitor it.”

Take anorexia–not a disease, but a disorder. Morgan Wehmer, Elizabeth’s sister, has wrestled that dietary demon and lived to tell. She was bullied in high school and took extreme dietary measures because she felt like it was the only thing she could control.

The sisters deal with their dilemmas, with their syllables. They lift each other in hard times. That is what families do.

THE BIG SISTER

Treatment and surgery are intense, and a body needs rest. Elizabeth strives to put in max effort in the weight room, but with regular treatment and surgery, she’s not always able to. She has to be careful, patient, and confident. Each day presents a challenge.

Elizabeth’s efforts inspire her younger sister, Morgan, “On her most horrible days, she’d post the most inspirational things,” says Morgan. “The things that upset her the most, she’d turn into positives for other people. And it was therapeutic for her. It gives me strength should I ever want to complain, give up, or slack off. She’s my other half. How can I slack if Liz would go 110 percent?”

“The sisters deal with their dilemmas, with their syllables. They lift each other in hard times. That is what families do.”

Even before her diagnosis was delivered, Elizabeth was fit, but with her life in the balance, she has taken it to a new level. She took the stage in 2013–in part to mark a check on her bucket list–and finished fourth. But her doctors asked her to take a break in 2014. Her goal to turn pro remains unfulfilled.

That bucket list was lengthy but the sisters have shortened it in the past six months. They worked as models and did photo shoots. Liz has asked photographers not to “edit out” her scars. She wants people to see them. They are markers of his past, and she wants people to know that cancer survivors can still be models.

THE LITTLE SISTER

Morgan Wehmer was suffering from anorexia. She is a tall girl, with long arms and legs, so when she dwindled her body weight down to 113 pounds, she simply looked ill.

In high school, she seemed like a regular kid. She was heavily involved in extracurricular activities, had a boyfriend, and was an athlete. She loved organized dance and sang in the choir. She played softball and ran track. She got good grades and never got into trouble. She was a good kid.

But, high school brought unforeseen torment for Morgan. She was bullied by older, taller, more athletic girls, who called her names. They’d walk behind her and shout “slut” to terrorize young Morgan. That was her first significant freshman experience. “That’s not what you want to happen in that foreign land,” Morgan says. “Girls … there’s never a reason. Girls can just be so, so mean. [Elizabeth] would get into fights with them and protect me.”

The bullying continued for years. Morgan tried to bury the jabs and insults, but their effects manifested in other ways. She and Elizabeth, tight as toddlers, grew apart as they fought through adolescence. When Morgan needed protecting, Liz had her back in the school hallways. When she wasn’t around, the taunts intensified.

When the pressures of dating, studies, incessant bullying, and self-image worries left Morgan reeling, she took control of the one thing she could: food. She started to cut back calories, skipped meals, and found excuses to avoid the dinner table.

“Stop fighting yourself and start fighting for yourself.”

“There was faulty thinking before, and after,” Morgan says. “I feel like I am talking about a different person now. Food was the only thing I could control, but I over controlled it.”

Elizabeth was one of the first people to notice the changes in Morgan. She fought off the mean girls, but anorexia was a more elusive and subtle foe. “Everyone was worried about her,” Liz says. “She was in denial about it.”

THE LIFTER SISTERS

Morgan stewed in her own torment, her thoughts growing more and more negative. Her family broached the subject to little avail. It strained the family, and Morgan saw it. She says something changed in her psyche.

“All of my thoughts about food and what I needed to eat to keep me going…all of that was faulty,” Morgan says. “When I realized I was looking at things in horrible ways, there was this light switch. I can never go back to that.”

What is Anorexia?

Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by a person’s intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat. People who suffer from the disorder may practice unhealthy behaviors such as extreme calorie restriction, only eating specific foods, or skipping meals frequently. Treatment includes counseling, nutritional rehab and training, and various support therapies.

She began to research nutrition and very slowly gained her weight back. It took two years, and it’s still an ongoing struggle. She wants more muscle. Morgan’s research produced some unplanned results. She fell in love with the study of nutrition and decided to pursue dietetics as a profession, before switching to another health-conscious field, nursing.

“I wanted to do it the right way, the healthy way,” Morgan says. “I ate a lot of healthy foods, basically double what I am eating now. I was doubling up on carbs and healthy fats, along with working out. I used machines, free weights, and bodyweight exercises. I wanted to build muscle, and it took time.”

While Morgan was flipping the script on her education, Elizabeth learned she had melanoma. Thus began an endless series of exams, scans, surgeries, biopsies, and doctor visits. She took monthly flights to Jacksonville for treatment, then flew back to school for coursework, determined to graduate.

“Looking at Morgan now, it’s hard to tell that she was anorexic.”

“I can’t even fathom how I’d feel about having a constant unknown diagnosis,” Morgan says of her sister’s plight. “As these spots appear, she has to get them cultured and then wait weeks for results.”

To make matters worse, Elizabeth’s husband was deployed overseas as a member of the U.S. Navy. She graduated college during his absence and underwent treatment while he was stationed in Japan. Their separation further alienated the struggling older sister, but she had Morgan to lean on. It’s not that their roles reversed. Morgan didn’t become a “big sister.” They simply grew closer, and each time one faltered, the other offered support.

“Everything is about your attitude and fighting for what you want in life,” Elizabeth says. “I wanted to start my life, and [melanoma] put me on hold. It gave me time to start doing more things. I sat down, wrote down things I wanted to do.”

THE THINGS WE HIDE

Looking at Morgan now, it’s hard to tell that she was anorexic. If you don’t notice Elizabeth’s scars and ask her about it, you might not know that she has recurring skin cancer. Just imagine what all the other lifters are going through. How many battle confidence or body-image issues? Who is sick? Who is mentally ill? You can hide a lot of pain under your gym clothes.

What is Melanoma?

Melanoma is a deadly form of skin cancer. Cancerous growths develop when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells triggers mutations. Skin cells multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors. Causes include ultraviolet radiation from sunshine and tanning beds. Melanoma kills an estimated 9,000 people per year in the United States alone.

Morgan suffered from the mental anguish of anorexia for two years before she started to pull out of it. Even then it took two more years before she felt “over” it. It’s hard to talk about. Subjects like this aren’t exactly locker-room chatter. “It’s sensitive subject matter to talk about, but it’s happening a lot more than people think,” Morgan says. “It’s something that needs to be addressed.”

Magazines and infomercials boast about fat-loss techniques, playing on image fears. Fitness and nutrition make headlines, but profound subjects like disease, disorder, and death get overlooked by our mainstream social conscience. “A lot of people talk about weight loss, which is great, but at the same time there are problems that people don’t talk about every day,” Elizabeth says. “People are still battling disease every day, but it’s good to see that there are people getting through these things.”

NEVER ALONE

The distance between a healthy lifestyle and a debilitating one is not as great as you might think. A doctor’s diagnosis or a bully’s attack can change everything.

The support of a sister, a brother, a friend, or even a stranger can help reverse a slide. “[Morgan] came out of it, graduated high school with honors, and she had a greater sense of health and well being,” Elizabeth says. “It changed her life and her career. Everything she went through happened for a reason. It made her who she is today.”

To work on the items on their bucket list, the lifter sisters created a website, a Facebook page, and spread their message via social media. They use Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, BodySpace, and their website to reach people all over the globe, and not just to people with cancer or eating disorders. They’re out to help anyone who asks.

REFERENCES

  1. www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/melanoma
  2. www.cancer.org/research/cancerfactsstatistics/cancerfactsfigures2013/index
  3. www.anad.org/get-information/about-eating-disorders/eating-disorders-statistics/
  4. seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/melan.html


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2 Stories Of Survival: How Fitness Saved Morgan Wehmer And Elizabeth Aguilera

Posted in Bodybuilding, Exercises, Nutrition, Uncategorized, Weight lossComments Off on 2 Stories Of Survival: How Fitness Saved Morgan Wehmer And Elizabeth Aguilera

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Muscle Manifesto: 5 Principles Of The Lifting Life

In the world of iron, there are no achievements that comes without great sacrifice and exertion. It takes the deepest kind of commitment, self-knowledge, and hard work to wholeheartedly pursue peak fitness, supreme athletic performance, and to transform the human physique into an arresting sculpture hewn in adamantine muscle. Pursuing your iron goals can be the most gratifying experience you have, but it can also be a lonely business.

“You’re born alone, you often train alone, you go onstage to compete alone, and you die alone,” says Twinlab Fuel Team Militia member Ronnie Milo, an accomplished bodybuilding competitor.

But Milo and his thousands of peers in the Militia around the globe also believe to their rock-hard cores that “alone time” is no excuse to become isolated. They know they can achieve more together, as long as they are united by the right ideals. Strong principles, they know, transcend any specific goals or geography and can make anyone, anywhere better and more capable to move any weight.

These are the five principles making up the Fuel Team Militia Manifesto. They’re not for the flighty or smug. They’re for strong men and women who want to be as strong as they look, and live as strong as they lift.

Meet the Militia

Ronnie Milo

Occupation:
Sales rep, Twinlab
Athletic Goal:
Competitive bodybuilder

“I want to be proportionate, work on my weak spots, and make sure I give 100 percent in the gym.”

Jason Wheat

Occupation:
Firefighter, Florida
Athletic Goal:
Powerlifter, coming back from pec injury

“My goal is to compete in powerlifting again.”

Chris Thompson

Occupation: VP of Sports Nutrition, Twinlab
Athletic Goal:
Ripped physique

“I just want to be as strong, hard, and lean as I can be.”

1 Together, Stronger

The Militia is dedicated to bringing together competitive athletes, powerlifters, meatheads, newbies, and physique junkies of all ages from all backgrounds and walks of life. No matter where or how you train, they believe that you can benefit from being in a supportive, inclusive community dedicated to training at the highest level.

“The Fuel Team Militia is for everyone who is dedicated to getting stronger, being better at what they do, or is interested in the fit lifestyle,” says powerlifter and Militia Field General Jason Wheat. “We get together as a group to do gym invasions; we inspire each other, cheer for each other, and motivate each other toward our goals.”

“We get together as a group to do gym invasions; we inspire each other, cheer for each other, and motivate each other toward our goals.”

When Militia members hold a gym invasion, it’s about strong lifters joining together to push each other to their limits. That could mean helping a teenager new to training hit his or her first 135-pound squat, or cheering on beasts like Milo and Wheat as they squat so many plates that you need a calculator to do the math.

The only thing that matters: Each guy gives his everything to push himself and his brothers, every rep, every set, every time they step into the gym.

2 No Ego

Every lifter was once a beginner. To get better, faster in your training it helps to draw on the wisdom, knowledge, and experience of guys who have been banging iron for years. But when you don’t even know what you don’t know about training, it can be intimidating as hell to work up the nerve to ask someone bigger and stronger than you to take time out of their training routine to help you out. The Militia firmly believes in breaking down these walls.

“There’s a stereotype that guys who like to train are just big, dumb, and egotistical,” says Militia member Chris Thompson. “We want to change the way the world looks at guys like us and create a paradigm shift so that the biggest, baddest guys in the gym will also be the coolest, most helpful, and encouraging guys in the gym.”

To get better and faster in your training it helps to draw on the wisdom, knowledge, and experience of guys who have been banging iron for years.

To do that, Militia members like Thompson, Milo, and Wheat go out of the way to be a resource for other people in the gym, whatever experience level, size, or shape they might be.

“It’s a ‘pay it forward’ kind of deal,” says Milo. “I had older, more experienced guys help me out when I was younger, and in the Militia we feel it’s really important that we be there for other guys, too. I make a point of saying hello to everybody at the gym and making people feel comfortable asking questions.”

3 Sacrifice Is Mandatory

“If it was easy to be huge or have six-pack abs, then everyone would be huge with six-pack abs.”

While the Militia welcomes people training toward any goal from anywhere on the spectrum of strength and fitness, sacrifice is mandatory. Without it, Militia members know, nothing great can be achieved at any level of training.

“If it was easy to be huge or have six-pack abs, then everyone would be huge with six-pack abs,” says Wheat. “I don’t always want to get up at 6 in the morning to do fasted cardio, but sometimes that’s what you have to do to get the results that you want.”

Wheat works on a search and rescue squad based out of a firehouse, and like everyone else, temptations abound at work for him in the form of sweets and treats. “When you have Girl Scout cookies in front of you, you have to think about not letting your Militia brothers down and eat chicken and broccoli instead,” he says.

All those cliches you’ve heard about how results taste better than any treat are popular for a reason: They’re true. Refuse to sacrifice and you sacrifice your chance to be great.

4 Commit to Consistency

Sacrifice goes hand-in-hand with another Militia guiding principle: consistency. “The key to success is consistency,” says Thompson. “Practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes consistent. Perfect practice makes perfect. Being a Militia member means you strive to get closer to perfect practice through consistency, and you help your Militia brothers to be consistent, too. You see a kid squatting with poor form and help him do it right and help him get on the right path.”

Being in the Militia means being a teacher and a leader for your fellow members, but just as importantly, for anyone else you encounter in the weight room or in your life. Put another way, it means living how you lift, embodying consistency and dedication to greatness in how you carry yourself, how you interact with others at the gym, the training you do, and in your diet, too, no matter how tough it might be.

Being in the Militia means being a teacher and a leader for your fellow members, but just as importantly, for anyone else you encounter in the weight room or in your life.

Thompson’s job as a Twinlab executive means he frequently travels for meeting and business. But even on the road, he sticks to the same macros at every meal—45 grams of clean protein, 40 grams of carbs from fruits or vegetables, and 17 grams of healthy fats. When he’s hungry or has to do fasted cardio, he’ll reach for a packet of Pro Series MVP Fuel to stay sharp.

It’s a routine Milo knows well, too. “People think I just train and sleep all day,” he says, “but I have a job in sales, and I’m in planes, cars, or face-to-face with accounts. We do what we need to do.” For him, that often includes packing a day’s worth of meals in his car and eating in parking lots between appointments. It means booking hotels near grocery stores on the road so he has access to healthy, clean food.

“There have been times when I’ve made cream of rice using a hotel room coffee maker,” he admits. It’s a total commitment to consistency, but once you make it and accept it, it stops being a challenge and becomes a simple expression of your lifestyle.

5 Compete and Encourage

Milo and Wheat recently made a two-hour road trip from their home base in Orlando to Jacksonville for a gym invasion with other Militia members. “We had 18 guys there training together,” says Wheat. “We were mixing it up, pushing each other. One of the guys there was 140 pounds when he started training with the Militia—now he’s 160 pounds.”

At the end of the workout, Milo and Wheat and other members took turns deadlifting, and when 405 was loaded on the bar, their 160-pound friend stepped up and said he wanted a shot at it. “He’d never pulled 405 before,” says Milo. “But we told him to visualize lifting it, to picture himself doing it.”

He stepped to the bar, pulled—and locked it out. “We were giving him so much encouragement, the whole gym came over and started cheering for him,” says Wheat. “And then he picked it up again and pulled one more rep.”

Competition doesn’t have to happen on a stage, and it doesn’t need a medal to legitimize it. This slender lifter was competing with the iron, with the athletes around him, and most importantly, with every former version of himself who had ever set foot in that weight room. The competition never stops, because there are always bigger mountains of iron to move.

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Muscle Manifesto: 5 Principles Of The Lifting Life

Posted in Bodybuilding, Exercises, Nutrition, Sports nutrition, UncategorizedComments Off on Muscle Manifesto: 5 Principles Of The Lifting Life

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