Sunday, February 24, 2013

Kick butt with Capoeira!

A few weeks ago, I was invited, as a FitFluential Ambassador, to attend a fitness class led by celebrity trainer Brett Hoebel.

Brett Hoebel, also known as "El Capitan," is the founder of Hoebel Fitness and a trainer on NBC's The Biggest Loser season 11.  His online bio explains how his "mind-body" approach comes from his experiences in both Eastern and Western disciplines, combining his educational background (dual major in psychology and biology, plus biomedical science courses) with his martial arts training in capoeira and Muay Thai kickboxing.  With 15 years in the field, he's become an expert in group fitness, weight loss, and personal training.

We met at a New York City 24 Hour Fitness for the evening class.  As a small aside, I have to mention how impressed I was with the 24 Hour Fitness facility.  It was clean and spacious--two things I've learned not to expect from NYC gyms.  Definitely a place I wouldn't mind traveling to to work out!

Downstairs, beyond the endless strength training machines and areas, was one of two class rooms.  When I spotted fellow FitFluential Alfonso in one of them, I knew I was in the right place!  I was also pleased to reunite with several members of the Greatist team, including founder and CEO Derek Flanzraich and growth director Laura Schwecherl.  I'm also a proud Greatist Ambassador, so it was nice to meet some other members of the team, too.

But, there wasn't much time for catching up!  Soon, Brett was front and center and the workout was on its way!

Beginning with some dynamic stretching, Brett first led an intense 20-minute capoeira-inspired workout, part of Brett's upcoming "20 Minute Body" online workout videos.  Capoeira is a Brazilian martial arts program. I hadn't been familiar with the term, but some of the moves were things I did (and loved) from other kickboxing-style classes.  Balance and power are how I would describe it, and LOTS of legwork.  These 20 minutes were just plain awesome.  I wanted to stop and record some video for you, but I didn't want to miss a second of this workout!  It had the non-stop pace of fitness classes that I love so much.  I didn't dare stop to reach for my camera until it was over.

Fortunately, a friend at Greatist snapped this shot of me & Brett!
Read their recap here.

After a short breather and sip of water, we moved on to a 4x4 workout.  This is four moves, four times through, with only a short break between sets, for a total of 16 minutes.  All you need is your body weight and a 4x4 space.  The moves were focused and definitely burned.

At one point, Brett skipped a move and went back to it after.  He admitted, "I know I went out of order. I'm drunk off lactic acid... My bad."

:) Like I said, it burns.

A glimpse at the workout:

I'm pretty sure I couldn't feel my legs the next day.

...But that didn't stop me from accepting an invitation to round two!

Of course, I said, "Count me in" and marked my calendar!

So, this morning, I made my way to a different 24 Hour Fitness location to be led, once again, by El Capitan.  This class would be a slightly different workout, one called "Nitro," that did also contain many similar martial-arts moves.  It was more similar to the "20-minute workout" part of the previous workout in that it was nonstop, heart-pumping, leg-burning capoeira-inspired moves.  In other words, pretty awesome and right up my alley.

The "Booty Time" (aka "drop and do squats until Brett decides to end the torture") intervals were less lengthy than in the 20-Minute Body workout, which was somewhat a relief, but there were plenty more ginga moves included to work the legs, and squats were incorporated into other moves throughout the workout.  Plus, there were no breaks. Just move, punch, squat, lean, jump, turn, repeat.  

The awesome music just made it feel like we were learning a fun dance routine, if the dance routine was a kick-butt martial arts workout.  After both workouts, I was sweating and reaching for my water.  Fun and effective, this is definitely a workout I'd like to do regularly!

Thank you Brett and 24 Hour Fitness for introducing me to capoeira!  Hope to see you back in The Big Apple soon.

Dare YOU to try a martial-arts workout!  Check out Brett's website or classes at your local 24 Hour Fitness.  

Friday, February 22, 2013

Friday Favorites

These are a few of my favorite things...  This Friday, instead of featuring interesting articles, I'm sharing some things I've been loving lately, A through E.  

I used to snack on these all the time. Why did I stop?  Apples are the perfect snack!  They're portable, stay well in or out of the fridge, and are ridiculously satiating thanks to all that water and fiber.  Last month, I started stocking up again.  These are now a staple, once again, in my home and work refrigerators.

Banana Chobani
Ah, Greek yogurt, my love.  I was comfortable in my plain Chobani groove for a while, until the end of January, when I received an awesome package.

Inside, I got samples of the new Chobani Bites, cute little 100-calorie snack cups, with a flavored yogurt and mix-in, to boot.  The Fig with Orange Zest was interesting, for sure. I do love figs!

Different flavors for you to try!

What I fell for even more than the "Bites" was the 6-oz Low Fat Banana.  I usually buy plain Greek yogurt, with the occasional vanilla-flavored for a sweeter dessert.  This, though, didn't feel so "flavored."  It's as though I chopped up the banana and mixed it in, myself.  Granted, the ingredient list is ever so slightly less desirable (to me) than the plain, but still natural and still delicious.  Love these and can't get enough!  With some cinnamon, I'm good to go.  Heaven in a cup, any time of day.

New Flavors!

Think I've got enough?
(Nope--no such thing as too much Chobani!)

And, to top it all off, the kind folks at Chobani sent me a Chobani spoon so I could dig in!

To sum it all up: I'm in Chobani heaven.

I first learned how to deadlift at CrossFit, and it's one move that's stuck with me.  It seems to work the whole body, and I feel it, always.  I feel it as I descend. I feel it as I rise back up. I feel it 15 minutes after my workout, and I especially feel it the next two days.  It makes a difference!

Want to incorporate deadlifts into your strength workouts?  Ben Greenfield shows us how:

Don't forget to warm up with dynamic stretches first!

Everyday Paleo
Here, I should also specify which outlet I'm talking about, because the Everyday Paleo Website contains so many diverse resources!  I started with the podcast, and now also frequent the blog.  Sarah Fragoso and Jason Seib are a wealth of information.  Both have new books out!  I haven't read them yet, but I can tell you that the podcast and website are such accessible resources, for answers addressing the science, the applications, and the psychology behind a paleo lifestyle, incorporating all aspects: fitness (and personal training!), nutrition, paleo recipes, stress, sleep, practical applications, social factors... the list goes on and on. They cover it all!  And I can't get enough.  Download and subscribe to the podcast here.

Have you tried any of these favorites? If yes, which ones do you love, too?  If not, dare you to

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Dynamic stretching

I first heard the expression "dynamic stretching" early on in my fitness career, back when my only workout was a Jillian Michaels video, viewed for free on Exercise TV On Demand.  My limited exercise experience before that included playing soccer and softball, as well as gym class's dreaded Mile and occasional weight room rotations.  Suffice it to say, I didn't know much.

What Jillian Michaels taught me in her 30 Day Shred was that we warm up the body with movement, through dynamic stretching.  That is, we open up our joints and wake up our muscles by moving our bodies through a range of motion, rather than holding a static stretch (like those we did in gym class) before our workout begins.  Save those static stretches--holding a pose over many seconds or longer--for when the workout is complete.

I still hear Jillian's voice like it was just yesterday...  Here's an example from a different, more recent video of hers, but the idea is the same:

You get the idea.

Jillian was my sole guide to fitness at the time, so I trusted her and it stuck with me.  I warmed up dynamically on my own, and scoffed when group exercise instructors kicked off class with static stretches.  But was this correct?  Why is dynamic stretching better than static?  Fortunately, Steve Messineo has some answers.

In 5 Reasons Why Dynamic Is Better Than Static Stretching, Messineo explains how dynamic stretches involve continuous movement throughout the exercise in order to gain muscle flexibility.  He then lists five reasons why dynamic stretching is more effective in increasing muscle flexibility and overcoming pain from injuries.
  1. Promotes blood flow to the region, thus warming up the muscle. 
  2. Allows increased flexibility for more than one muscle group at a time. 
  3. More comfortable than static stretces, because not holding the muscle in a stretch for too long. 
  4. Promotes strength and stability.
  5. Give more bang for your buck; you'll complete a total-body warm-up in only 4 to 5 minutes, compared with 10 minutes of static stretching.

Definitely check out the article for more details!  He explains how dynamic stretching accomplishes the above, and how these benefits, in turn, prevent injury.

So I'll continue with my dynamic stretches before working my muscles, and I dare you to do the same!

If you're a runner, try this dynamic warmup from FitSugar to get your legs ready to pound pavement.

The Get-Fit Guy confirms that static stretching can make you weaker rather than reducing injury risk, so he recommends a dynamic stretching warmup that includes arm and leg swings, torso twists, jumping jacks, or fast running. Try these! Move your body through a full range-of-motion before you get to work.

You can also check out's Warm Up Exercises for Weight Training.

Dare you to try some of these dynamic stretches before your next workout!

How do you stretch before exercising?  What's your favorite way to warm up? 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Hang Loose for Heart Health

It's FEBRUARY!  Aside from my birthday month, it's also Heart Health Month.  

Today, I dare you to celebrate by hanging loose, relaxing, de-stressing.  Take note of the constant pressure you put on yourself, your body, and your heart.  Where can you ease up?  Where can you lessen the load?  What is really important? What can others help you with?

MOMentumNation brought Heart Health Month to my attention.  They're focusing on heart health all month long by sharing helpful tips, information, and critical facts for YOU and your ticker.  Check out the website for daily heart health tips from Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum and other heart-healthy fitness and health-related content.

For example, they've got advice on getting heart-smart using your technology, a list of 3 ways to love your heart, and a run-down on what you need to know about women's heart health.

While food and fitness choices do play a vital role, chronic stress is one of the biggest heart disease risks for women.  Together with MOMentumNation, I dare you to take care of your heart by taking care of yourself.  I want you to take some time during this frigid February for YOU.   Do something that you enjoy.  Smile.  Relax.

Let go of chronic stress, hang loose, and have fun.  Happy Heart Health Month!

How do you take care of your heart?  What activities help you de-stress and hang loose?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Friday Features

Some quick "Friday Features" for you -- some articles and posts from the recent past that I found interesting, and hope you do, too!

Jill Coleman of dares you to Take Action by using a simple tool: "The Alternative".  By considering the alternative, you may find the motivation to stand up and make a difference!

Are supplements really necessary?  Chris Kresser answers: Yes and No.
This actually makes a lot of sense. Dare you to learn how.

Sarah shares running tips for beginners.  My favorite?  "If you have time to run, you have time to stretch."  So true and so important!

Chef Katelyn considers the ways that CrossFit has Changed Her Life.  
This goes way beyond fitness, so give it a read!

Just one month in, are you looking for some sane, healthy, productive, and possible resolutions to work into your 2013?  Carrie Brown has some great suggestions.  Some are on my list already; what can you add to yours??

The New York Times addresses going  Gluten-Free, Whether You Need It Or Not.  The article takes a look at proponents of all sides of the debate: those that reserve GF for those with Celiac Disease only, arguing GF for those who have a clear sensitivity or intolerance, and GF for, well, everyone

And, while we're on the subject... Learn how MizFit conquered gluten without fear.