Three Ways To Improve Balance

Three Ways To Improve Balance

I’ve been learning A LOT of different things at my internship since starting it three weeks ago! It’s very hands-on and I’m definitely being challenging to think outside the box. That’s the whole point of an internship, right? One of the key components that is used a lot with the clients I work with at my internship is balance.

Not the balance like life balance…lol, although that IS a work in progress too, I talking coordination, agility, posture, body awareness, etc. It’s all important. For a while, I was working on it diligently with myself and my clients. Then I kinda forgot about it…oops. It can be one of those things that can easily be forgotten if you’re not actively working on it.

Balance was the one thing that I think got stale for me which is a reason it fell off my fitness routines. I’ve now been reintroducted to it and the various ways you can challenge it with equipment, eyes open vs. closed, kneeling vs. standing, and no equipment vs. foam padding or a bosu. The possibilities are endless. I’ve taken time to add it to my workouts and in my HEAT class through plyometric moves such as lateral bounds, lunges + single leg skips, or simply balancing one leg for as long as possible.

Unfortunately, we don’t know the level of our balance skills until its gone, like when we fall, for example. Just like working out heart for cardio and increasing strength with resistance training, we can lose balance too. Particularly as we age, it is another aspect of fitness that is lost after the age of twenty five.

So besides the fact that balance is forgotten, I figured I’d share a post on how to ADD it back into your routine to gain the benefits of improving balance. What’s so great about balance is that it doesn’t have to involve being sweaty. Weird saying I know. It doesn’t necessarily involve a high heart either. I like adding it into the end of a workout to calm the mind and ease into a cool-down. Before bed or part of a weekend fitness routine works too. I like to think that balance works body-awareness, also known as proprioception. You train your mind and body at the same time. If you participate in yoga regularly, balance poses are more then likely incorporated into the practice. Adding tree pose or pigeon pose counts when not on the mat counts too!

Do these three exercises without shoes. It gives you a sense of awareness and less support as soon as you step out of your shoes…what you want! I do two sets each side with five to eight reps each. Work up to three sets of ten or more reps or until you can easily add a challenge. Of course, try not to hold to anything! Having something or someone nearby if you do need the extra support is okay. Soon you’ll learn to not need it. 😉

Try these three balance exercises you can do anywhere and without equipment to work your balance:

  1. Tightrope walkStepping heal to toe forward and repeating backward. 
    1. Easy: Walk two steps forward and two steps backward
    2. Medium: Walk three-five steps forward and backward
    3. Hard: Walk three-fives steps forward and backward with eyes closed
  2. Three Point Star
    1. Easy: Tap your toe to the ground in the front, side, and back of you.
    2. Medium: Release toe from ground and repeat the three points
    3. Hard: Keep toe off the ground and repeat the three points with eyes closed
  3. Finger GlanceSupporting yourself on one leg, extend opposite leg out in front. Bend elbows at the ninety degrees and hold out in front of you. Raise one finger on each hand. The higher you lift your leg out in front, the harder it is. 
    1. Easy: One leg is supporting. Toe of opposite foot is on ground in front. Glance back and forth at fingers.
    2. Medium: One leg is supporting. Toe of opposite foot is off ground a half inch to inch off ground. Glance back and forth at fingers.
    3. Hard: One leg is supporting. Toe of opposite foot is off ground one to two inches. Glance back and forth at fingers.

Adding these exercises to your fitness routine regularly will over time help enhance your balance. Realizing this can also help my running, is one reason I’ve been incorporating it into my program. Although this can help train your mind, this is great neurologically and muscularly too. Just because we’re not “old” doesn’t mean we have to fall and hurt ourselves to realize balance training NOW is important. With these simple exercises you can improve sooner then later.

YOUR TURN:

-What is one part of fitness you know you can improve on?

-Anything you’ve been working on diligently that you’ve seen improvement in? What’s worked and what hasn’t?

-What does your weekend fitness routine look like?

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Strengthen The Low Back: Deadlifts & Core Warm-Up

Strengthen The Low Back: Deadlifts & Core Warm-Up

Happy Friday! Finished my first six week grad school class last week, and started my second one this past Wednesday! One down, last summer class to go. Before I start writing this, I checked out the syllabus and wrote out the semester in my planner for due dates of assignments, class topics, etc. I love my Erin Condren planner and it being so easy to plan and use, I highly suggest it if you like to write everything down!

Even with being in school, I decided to change up my goals and routine to incorporate one more extra day of strength training. I figured add in another day because I can make it happen with my schedule and having that extra workout keeps things fresh. See my post on squeezing in strength training into a hectic schedule hereOne exercise that is great for fitting into this time frame, is deadlifts, or any core exercise for that matter. Just like upper body or lower body, core deserves it’s own day too. What better way to fill the extra day of strength with all core, lower back, and abs?? I do core at the end of each upper body and lower body day, but I’ve really been enjoyed having these days just to focus here too along with mixing it up with a shoulder or arm day.

One thing I’ve concluded while working with clients that have desk jobs is that their core and lower back are especially tight and/or weak. No surprise right? I didn’t actually think of this, but I was getting a lot of the same comments from everyone like, “I feel so tight in the middle of back”, “I’m stiff constantly”, and “I have occasional neck/back issues.” Unfortunately, sitting for such long periods of time affects this. Yes, walking around during your lunch hour and taking the stairs helps, but at the end of the day, desk job employees can’t do a whole lot about the sitting part of their job. Unless, they get a stand-up desk which in my opinion, is the best option out there.

This is where I come into play. Although I’m not at work reminding them to walk around (although I’m sure they would like that!) I try and focus on regaining that strength and improving their low back and core when I do meet with them.

One key component of the dynamic warm-up (stretching with movement) I’ve done with them are:

  • Cat-Cows: It’s a yoga move it’s a great way to warm up the spine and core. It gently moves the core and spine up and down while easing low back stiffness.
  • Child’s Pose: No movement here, but a great way to release any tension between sets of Cat-Cows.
  • Torso-Twists: Rotating side to side from the waist gently twists the core and spine.

Perform each movement one after the next, ten to fifteen times each, three rounds through. Once warmed-up, I show my clients the proper form of the deadlift before giving them the weight. Deadlifts are tricky since they do incorporate the low back, an area of concern for some people. Once done correctly, they’re easy to grasp and provide so many benefits!

One mistake I find often is that people tend to add a squat to the movement. The squat isn’t necessary and tends to take away from the purpose behind the deadlift. The deadlift works to use the core, namely the low back, to lift from the hips up. I like to think of hinging at the hips/sticking the butt back as a way to describe the movement. Check out how to perform a deadlift here!

Another thing that worries people about this movement, is that we’ve been told our whole lives to “use the legs, not the back.” Yes, that is true, but properly recruiting the legs AND back is what is really key. Keeping the core tight is something that we don’t think of right away, but keeping it mind throughout the warm-up and into the exercise can help keep form together.

If you’re nervous about trying the deadlift alone, start with supermans. They work the low back the same way, but without the weight. You’re also on the ground which takes the thinking out of the movement. Check out how to perform the superman here!

Be sure to cool down and stretch the core once you’re done! The child’s pose is a good one post workout as well as the hamstrings toe touch. *BONUS* perform hamstring stretch sitting. It’s more intense this way because the floor is keeping your legs supported as opposed to standing up. Feel free to add a slight bend to the knees if you have tight hamstrings like me 😉 Work up to keeping the legs as straight as possible.

LET’S CHAT:

-Do you suffer from a tight low back? How do you keep it from getting cranky?

-Do you do yoga?

-Thoughts on stand-up desks?

 

What’s the Buzz on Online Personal Training? The Personal Trainer Perspective

What’s the Buzz on Online Personal Training? The Personal Trainer Perspective

Hey hey! It’s FRIDAY! Finishing up this two part blog post on what the hype is on online personal training. The first part of this topic I wrote from the client perspective. This second part is what its like on the other side of equation, the personal trainer behind it all.

First off, I wanna say that I LOVE offering this service. I made this clear in the first post, lol, but I’m repeating myself because its 100% true. It works well for me because my method behind my beliefs aligns great with this perspective of being online. I’m all about teaching and educating the client not just putting them through a bunch workouts. Being a personal trainer I believe education is just as important as reaching goals and getting results. Learning along the way is part of the journey. If I didn’t teach the point of the workout, and only just had my client do it, what good would it be? With these reasons, working online gives me a chance to explain and teach the workout with the client while the client works through motivation and effort.

Here’s the run-down on my side of online training. I treat the session like an in-person training session. I confirm the morning/afternoon of and treat it like a conference call. The clients I use it with use FaceTime with me so I can’t really say I’m using Skype or anything like that. I have my workout notes with me so I can keep track throughout the call. I tell them what they need equipment-wise (if they have it available), ask if they have water etc., as well as ask if they have anything in mind fitness related they wanna work on that day. I feel asking before a session and getting their input is important since they’re paying for my service, they should have a small say in what the game plan for the workout is (not the whole thing…lol but *small* say 😉 ).

When planning the workouts, I try not to make it too complicated for them. I take basic movements they’re already familiar with and add to them, usually like a kick, pulsing, an ab movement, weight, etc. so its fairly straight forward but still giving them an extra challenge. Since technology isn’t perfect, wifi can be an issue depending on the location of my client. I’ve had sessions that go in and out of the wifi which can at times can be most annoying. Thankfully I haven’t had that be too much of an issue. Lighting and camera angle is another consideration. I try to position myself so they can get multiple angles of a movement while seeing exactly how to perform it correctly. Lighting is important too on my end and their’s! No one likes being in the dark…literally and figuratively haha.

On the training side, it works great for me because I typically stay and “work from home.” Yes, I can technically train anywhere, but ideally I stay home because I’m moving around as much as they are! Sounds odd, but demonstrating moves would be awkward in certain places…think of me being at Starbucks and demoing pushups, squats, etc. LOL. Best part of training at home is getting other things in between online clients. Treating each online client as an important “phone call” I have to be ready to sit and take, I can do laundry, emails, or other business stuff right before I take the call! Once I’m done with the call, I can back to work instantly. Well, sometimes. 😉

Another non-fitness bonus on my side besides being productive between calls, I save on gas driving back and forth. I didn’t realize this until recently, but it really saves ware and tare on my car and milage. I large chunk of my gas goes to my business so saving where I can is most definitely helpful. As the client is performing the workout, I sometimes sit on my couch and drink coffee/tea, time each movement, basically sit some for the hour. I try and not get too involved in whatever I’m drinking (you know I love my coffee) but being able to chill on my couch is nice. I am moving around demoing so its never the entire time I’m actually sitting, but being in the comfort of my own home is nice and relaxing. However, with sitting/being at home during these calls, I don’t get many steps in as opposed to when I’m in person.

Overall, I love having and being able to offer online training! It’s a great idea to market and capitalize on as well as a turning point for the fitness industry. In a sense, this is what I feel will be the industry within the next few years. In-person will always be the norm, but seeing more and more of this type of service offered will become prevalent. I’m so happy to say that I am ahead! 🙂 Personal training is moving onto a whole new level and I can see gyms falling behind in this regard. Although I don’t foresee this being an issue anytime soon, gyms will have to up their PT game eventually. This reason alone is one of the reasons why I moved away from gyms altogether. I definitely made the leap to this concept of online on my own with my business, but looking back, it was totally worth it.

YOUR TURN:

-What do you think of my side on online training?

-Have you thought about doing online training or are you sold/not sold on the concept?

-What do you think the fitness industry will be like ten years from now?

 

What’s the Buzz on Online Personal Training? The Client Perspective

What’s the Buzz on Online Personal Training? The Client Perspective

As part of my small business, I offer online or FaceTime personal training to my list of services. In this day in age, everything we do is online or on our phones. Why not add personal training?? The client still gets a workout in–#noexcuses, results and progress is still made despite the distance, and motivation is taken to the next level. This is a two part post on online training with the first focusing on the client. Below are a few of the benefits for client: 

It is especially helpful for clients that constantly travel or are always on the go. I plan online training like I would a real-life personal training session. I have 1.5 clients that use this option…lol. I train my dad just online because he’s still in Delray Beach, my hometown. My dad always requests to do a workout when I’m in town, but until then I see him once a week via FaceTime. It makes for a good reason to stay in touch anyways and to squeeze in a workout. My other client only uses it when she travels, which is fairly often.

IMG_0503
Was working so hard, he didn’t notice I snapped a pic 😉

In case you’ve ever wondered, YES–online training is still safe and effective. It is a little different from in-person, and there is plenty of room for getting your money’s worth too. For those clients that just need instruction or are at a more advanced level, this is a great way to challenge and motivate them. Effectiveness here is based on motivation, so instructing via a formatted workout (explaining to the client what is expected of them) can be very beneficial. If a client is more of a first-timer to exercise/personal training, real-life would be a great first start. Learning movement patterns with cues and spotting before moving online, creates a solid foundation for later instruction.

Not only is online training good for staying ahead with their goals, but allows them to reinforce what they already know about different movements. It “trains” them to use what they learned during an in-person session, if they had that experience before. Although being the trainer I cue them throughout the movement, they also rely on themselves to become more aware of form, breathing, etc.

Only positive feelings last post workout via online! No more “guilt” because they were away and didn’t get in a workout in with me. As the trainer, I hold them accountable via email and text throughout the week even if seeing them in person. According to the couple clients I have that use it, they love staying ahead on their workouts knowing time isn’t lost just because they’re away. Although this method benefits me as the trainer in a few ways too, I would easily say that this is a HUGE benefit for them. Online changed the game on that one 😉  Technology, whether it be FaceTime/skype, email, text, even social media, is so powerful and impactful for this industry. I’m SO happy this is a turning point for clients of personal trainers, especially my clients! 😉

YOUR TURN:

-Have you heard or even used online personal training? Thoughts? Be honest, I wanna hear!

-Do you see this becoming a standard later on in gyms or just personal trainers?

 

Why Ladies Need To Pump Iron Too ;)

Why Ladies Need To Pump Iron Too ;)

I’m sure you’ve heard myths about how lifting weights can make women look/feel:”bulky”/”like a guy”/”unattractive.” I’ve heard that too…especially being a personal trainer. I primarily train female clients and that is one of the first things they tell me when talking about goals. “I want to look toned, but not bulky” or “I don’t want to lift heavy.” Every time I share the same answer: it isn’t possible because us women do not have the levels of testestorone males do. All of the sudden, they feel relieved and are ready to start lifting! (almost). Besides the myths, lifting weights is more then just great for our appearance. Below are reasons and benefits why you need to add strength training to  your routine:

  • Prevents osteoporosis–weakening of bones as women grow older that become brittle and fragile with age. This usually includes increased chance of falling and decreased bone density.
  • Increased muscle = lower percentage of fat–Cardio as we know helps burn fat, but muscle gains contributes to muscle growth which keeps fat in check. Muscle weighs more then fat and helps build a lean and toned look creating curves 😉
  • Metabolism jumps–muscle takes more energy to use and even at rest burns more calories then a heavy cardio session resulting in an increased calorie burn!
  • Lower numbers in blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol–we all wanna keep these numbers in check with cardio, but in the long run the added muscle gains helps keep these numbers lower for longer then just cardio alone.

Strength training doesn’t always include weights. Strength training can be anything that incorporates resisting gravity in one form or another. “Resisting” can your own body weight, resistance bands, dumbbells, sandbags, etc. The point is that your lifting something! Weights offer the best benefit (in my opinion) since you can challenge yourself with different amounts of heaviness! However, if weights seems intimidating to you (or just the thought around being a bunch of meatheads in the free weight area…you know where I’m going with this *insert rolling eye emoji*), feel free to use your own bodyweight to start off. Bodyweight strength training routines are awesome and require no equipment or gym! Don’t let bodyweight be the only form of strength training you get though, moving up from bodyweight to resistance bands or taking a group strength-based class can help immensely! Check out a couple bodyweight workouts to start off with here and here. Feel free to ask your local gym if you can get an overview of how to lift safely or think about getting a personal trainer 😉

Getting into a strength training routine of twice a week at minimum is all it takes to see a difference.  Start with two days a week and work up to three. Switch up your routine from a HIIT style/30 min workout, to a class, to muscle focused type workout (upper body/lower body or a push/pull) to keep it fresh. Don’t let yourself get bored! Keep switching the stimulus so your body doesn’t always adapt and plateau. Keep yourself on your toes while consistently challenging yourself. Check out the “workout” tab to see various routines to help switch it up!!

YOUR TURN:

-#THROWBACK! When was the last time you strength trained and what did you do, where were you, anyone join in, feelings or thoughts or your first time training? Have you gone 360 and changed it entirely or you’re still figuring out what you like? I wanna hear! We all start somewhere.

-Top three artists/music for a strength training workout…GO!

Why I Love Being a Personal Trainer

Why I Love Being a Personal Trainer

I celebrated my three year anniversary of becoming a certified Personal Trainer just last month! I can definitely say I’ve met some pretty amazing people, attended various conferences and workshops, and helped make a difference in people’s lives by helping them reach their fitness goals. This is just the beginning as to why I love my job!

I majored in Exercise Science from the University of Tampa this past May and I decided to become a personal trainer my sophomore year of college. With my love of running, getting fit, and my newly declared major, I figured it was a good idea. It would also give me the opportunity to work at school in our gym as a way to get experience and make some extra money. I talked to a few people about different certifications and ways to go about it, and I finally took the plunge and bought a package full study materials from the American Council on Exercise (ACE). I studied throughout the fall among my college classes (nuts I know) each week devoting Fridays, a day I had no class, as the day I would study for personal training. I would get up early and it would literally take most of my Friday to read the chapter, do the workbook pages for it, create/look over flashcards, watch the videos online, AND take the d@mn quiz. That was one lesson. Each week without fail, I got through the materials in about three months. I studied throughout Christmas break and on our family ski trip. I planned to take the exam at home before heading back for the spring semester…specifically on January 18th! After about four hours, I PASSED! I was so happy! The past three months of studying was worth it.

The past three years of training have been so rewarding, I’m so happy I decided to become a trainer. The studying and the test itself was tough, but besides that, it has taught me how to deal with people (both good and bad), stand up for myself, and challenge myself in the fitness world. Personal training is great because its a pretty flexible job and you are constantly on the go. Helping people get fit is fun, allows for creativity when creating workouts and plans, and is a hands-on application of knowledge. Working with a variety of people of different abilities and goals makes each client a new and exciting challenge. After college, I specifically chose to focus on in-home training, running based/interested, weight-loss, women, overall achieving a healthy lifestyle-type based clients. I also expanded my services to FaceTime. It wasn’t overnight, but the clients that were interested in my services also helped make my marketing. I gathered similar interests and goals from them as well as added my focuses, experience, and personality while creating my own niche. Everything is what YOU want, you are your own boss, another favorite part of my job. Becoming the trainer you want to become is all up to you!

Although I love what I do, it has its drawbacks like any other job. I can say first-hand that it is not always financially stable. Clients come and go as they want, availability changes, life happens, and sometimes that means a loss of a client of change of plans entirely. With  that comes less money or drop in compensation altogether. You work for your client and their needs, goals, availability, etc. (within reason) which in some cases means early mornings or late nights. Marketing takes time. Clients do not just come knocking on your door. YOU have to get them to knock. This is why I loved working at school as a trainer because people already knew me as, Ali: the sorority sister, friend, classmate, etc. and now personal trainer. Post college was tough. As a way to boost my business, I created this blog/website, my like page on Facebook: Ali Swank- Public Figure, and became an ambassador for a few fitness based companies such as Fit2Run-International Plaza, Momentum Jewelry, and Fitfluential. I established myself as blogger through Tampa Bay Bloggers, with my blog focusing particularly in running, but with an overall focus on living a healthy active lifestyle.

Throughout all the good and not-so-good experiences as a trainer, I can say I LOVE my job and am excited to continue this career throughout my life. I would say it definitely aligns with my vision of staying healthy, helping others get fit, and learning exercise isn’t boring, all while creating a positive experience. Side perks include working your own schedule…aka #girlboss, wearing workout clothes as part of everyday work…yes, I mean wearing yoga pants and nikes is perfectly okay ;), and helping others get fit and have fun! In a nutshell, this is my job…CHEERS to a new year of clients and experiences as working in one of the coolest industries–health and fitness!

Monday Motivation: Tired of Starting Over?

Monday Motivation: Tired of Starting Over?

Hellooooo!! Monday Motivation time. Been trying to get more ideas for topics, and this one came to mind! How many times does it seem like you’ve yo-yoed back and forth with a fitness routine or healthy habits? This time of year is notorious for that. Instead of setting the scale back ten pounds, use this time to figure out why you keep restarting. Below are some factors that may help you figure out why!

  • Not sure what you like/don’t like when it comes to exercise
    • Possible ideas: group fitness cardio/strength training classes, working out alone vs. a group/dependable workout buddy, mind-body workouts (yoga, barre, pilates), recreation (biking, running, swimming), social ties (running/biking club),  willing to invest in a  personal trainer? (see personal training tab for more info ;)), etc.
    • Take into your account your personality, interests, schedule etc.
    • Its okay to NOT like something!
    • Make a note of what you like and don’t like…e.g. like spin, but not a fan of the class time or instructor? try another!
  • Location
    • Possible ideas: outside at a local park, big box gym vs. private boutique style gym, female based gym (curves), travel time (close vs. further away), corporate fitness gym. Deciding on location can be a make-it or break-it factor since it is a reflection of how often you will go. 
  • Emotions (this may take more thought)
    • Possible ideas: underlying cause to feeling a certain way towards exercise, nervous, intimidated, open to new things, enthusiastic to making a change etc. If you struggle with investing in a gym because you feel intimidated/excited for change, ask yourself WHY do you feel intimidated/excited for change.
  • Costs/budget
    • Possible ideas: Exercise doesn’t have to be costly!! Gaining happiness and starting a healthy lifestyle doesn’t require hefty price tag, however it may mean a small investment to jump start your routine. Buying workout clothes from Target is more affordable then Nike, running/walking in your neighborhood doesn’t require a gym membership, and healthy recipes can be found on the internet (particularly on pinterest!).
  • FOOD!
    • Sometimes a big culprit is not exercise but food. Yo-yoing because you feel confused over calories, what a fat or carb is, what is good for building muscle, etc. is something that is immensely helpful in achieving our goals. Checking out resourceful sites such as acefitness.org on nutrition basics can make a difference. If its a combination, looking into Weight Watchers or Beachbody can help with both exercise and nutrition! If you are serious about investing your time in to eating well, utilizing a nutritionist or RD is the ultimate way to go!
  • Lifestyle Choices
    • Being on the go, eating out a lot, food choices (e.g alcohol consumption, minimal fruits/veggies), vegetarian, gluten-free, vegan, allergies, picky vs. non-picky eater etc. The little things you might not think of play a role too!

Even if you don’t make the effort now to do this, setting yourself up for success in the new year will still help you in figuring out what works and what doesn’t. Don’t be afraid to jot down thoughts in a notebook, bounce ideas of others, do some research on a topic, heck! try on different styles of workout clothes to see what stuff/brands you like and don’t like! What works for you may not work for someone else, so there is NO RUSH! Exercising and healthy living isn’t going anywhere so focus on you and do it right. Don’t be afraid to DIG DEEP and be HONEST with yourself! You know you the best! 😉

Why: Ali Goes The Distance

Why: Ali Goes The Distance

Thanks for visiting! I’m a University of Tampa graduate living in Tampa Bay; I love good coffee, teaching fitness classes, running, and visiting friends under the sun. I’m currently training for the 2016 Miami Marathon, so you can be sure to find me on the run! 😉

Fitness is my passion! I love helping people achieve their goals towards to be their best. I’m certified as an American Council on Exercise (ACE) Personal Trainer, AFAA Group Fitness Instructor, qualified in the TRX Rip Trainer, and a Barre Above instructor. I teach weekly classes and have personal training clients in the Tampa area; I’m also an ambassador for Fit2Run.

I came up with “Ali Goes The Distance” from a few ideas. Running was my first experience with exercise…EVER (see Starting From Square One) and fortunately it was a positive one because I’m still going strong today and love it more than ever. I also love long runs in general which prompted me to sign up for the 2016 Miami Marathon…yay!, one of the main reasons I started this blog and came up with the title. “Ali Goes The Distance” was created in reference to the 26.2 miles I’ll be running (eek!!), but also refers to the journey from achieving one goal to the next. It all takes the three ‘Ps’: persistence, patience, and positivity that makes the distance along the way rewarding.