4 Reasons You Shouldn’t Work Out Alone

Personal Trainer at Asheville Family Fitness

Getting into the right exercise class is no easy feat. There are so many factors which contribute to your overall enjoyment, engagement, and success.

For one thing, every single instructor has a unique personality, teaching style, and preference when it comes to structuring the class. Some teachers are bubbly and perky; others are more quiet and methodical. Some teachers prefer a circuit-style class; others prefer the whole group to stay together.

You might resonate with the way Ross explains a particular technique, but feel confused when Trish or Susan teaches the same exercise. (Or vice versa. No disrespect, ladies.)

Then there’s the other people in the class. Some people go to class for the social benefit — they like to chat and giggle. You might like that too! Or…perhaps you’re an introvert who prefers to “get in and get out.” You might find all that chatter distracting.

Scheduling also comes into play, of course. If you work, you probably have very specific times when you can get to the gym. So even if there IS a class during that time, the odds of all the above factors lining up at exactly that time are pretty slim.

BUT. If you can find a class that works for you on every level? You’ll double the value of your gym membership (roughly). Here’s why:

1) Accountability

Raise your hand if you’ve ever spent 45 minutes on an elliptical machine, watching Celebrity Name Game and more or less goofing off. Could you work harder? Probably. Will you work harder? Eh.

Here’s the most fun part about being a personal trainer and/or fitness instructor: we can tell how hard you’re working. We can see that you have a little bit more to give, and we feel 100% confident that you can do it.

It’s not about being “mean” (although we do derive some pleasure from the curses and complaints that come our way); it’s about giving you what you came for — a workout.

Accountability means you’re less likely to goof off. And when you’re consistently being encouraged to push a little bit harder, you’re getting ten times the benefit. Every time.

2) Camaraderie

Even if you’re not a giggly chatterbox, there’s something about slogging through your workout with the same group of people, week after week, that makes it easier (and more fun). It’s that spirit of, “We’re all in this together.”

Witnessing someone else push through their limits is super inspiring, too.

And over time, you start to look forward to seeing your classmates every Wednesday morning. On those days when you just want to stay in bed, thinking of all your peeps and how they’ll miss you is often just the push you need to make it to the gym at all. (Which is also a form of accountability, BTW. It all fits together.)

3) Instruction & Supervision

Oh boy. This is the core of our mission at AFF — making sure you’re doing things properly. Ask any trainer who’s been in the business for a while, and they’ll regale you with all kinds of examples of crappy exercise technique they’ve witnessed over the years. We hate it.

Let’s take push-ups, which is my personal pet peeve. Incorrect push-ups do nothing for you, except maybe exacerbate whatever tension and discomfort you already have in your neck and shoulders. While a correctly done push-up is quite possibly the best total-body, no-equipment-needed exercise you can do.

Maximum bang for your buck.

And, it’s also true that executing a proper push-up takes a lot of time, practice, and coaching. Especially if you’re starting with the jacked-up posture most of us computer-sitters have (I say as I hunch over my laptop).

So, it stands to reason that the 45 minutes spent in a class, learning and practicing proper technique over and over again, far outweighs the hours upon hours you might devote to awkward squats and improper push-ups.

Note: If you do prefer to work out alone, taking just a few of our FunGx classes will provide you with the technical guidance you need to make those solo workouts way more safe and effective.

4) Commitment

When you have a secret plan to hit the gym by 8AM every morning, but nobody knows about it or expects you there, you can blow it off with little to no consequence.

But if you’re registered for a class at 8AM and you don’t show up, people will notice. The instructor for sure, plus your buddies who typically expect you there (see “Camaraderie”).

Even if it’s all in your head — instructors don’t really get mad when you don’t show up; these things happen all the time for any number of reasons — it’s still an effective tool.

Humans hate not following through. Saying you’re going to do something, and then not doing it, feels sh*tty. It eats away at your integrity.

And I’d wager that that feels even worse than just dragging your butt to the gym…even when you don’t want to.

Do YOU prefer coming to class over flying solo? What keeps you coming back?


Fitness classes at Asheville Family Fitness

Have you ever been to a class at a big gym? (Not naming any names of course.)

Typically, you’re in a large studio with at least 15 other people. The instructor stands up front, working through choreography that even Fred Astaire would find troubling. The music is loud and poppy. And the other people in the class all seem like they know exactly what’s going on.

But you don’t. You can’t keep up, or you don’t understand why you can’t feel those squats in your butt. Your knees hurt, but you figure it’s just because you’re out of shape.

Well…you’re wrong about that.

Your knees shouldn’t hurt. Ever. Or your back, or your neck, or your shoulders.

The problem with these types of classes — well, there are a few, actually — boils down to two factors:

  • The size of the class (i.e. the inability of the instructor to give personalized guidance to each participant)
  • The experience and training of the instructor

In the first scenario, it’s just a numbers game. You have 45 minutes to give all these people what they think they came for: a kick-ass workout. If you take ANY extra time to help old Millie in the back learn how to squat properly, the rest of the class suffers. It’s just not possible.

And the second issue is, of course, a generalization. Fitness professionals can get hundreds of different certifications, and the general gym-going public isn’t savvy enough to know the difference between one set of impressive-looking credentials and another.

But broadly speaking, group exercise instructors are not the same thing as personal trainers. Anyone can get a Zumba certification, for instance. Even you! Just Google the next training, pay a few hundred bucks, and in one weekend’s time you’ll be a certified Zumba instructor.

(I’m picking on Zumba, but it’s true for most group exercise certs. I’m guessing at the specific length and cost.)

In other words, oftentimes a group exercise instructor is only certified to teach that class specifically. The Les Mills series (BodyPump, etc.) is another example.

They aren’t necessarily trained in anatomy, proper body mechanics, or injury prevention — unless they seek it out elsewhere. They don’t study the interpersonal issues related to fitness coaching, like motivation, accountability, and what to do when your client doesn’t do what you say (which is important, because clients ALWAYS rebel).

You’ll notice at AFF, that our “classes” are different.

The small size means we can take five minutes to help poor old Millie with her squats. The various levels of our Gx classes further ensure that Miss Millie will be surrounded by peers with similar experience and abilities.

We don’t have any large-scale, poppy music, complicated classes. We only offer classes that directly help with what you NEED from your gym membership (not just what you think you want..see what I did there?) — safe, functional, effective exercises that have a cumulative effect on your strength, posture, flexibility, and endurance.

This includes our aquatic classes as well as our yoga offerings. (Yoga teachers, by the way, participate in a months-long, intensive certification process, including supervised hours, internships, and rigorous training.)

Also, most of our FunGx classes are taught by certified personal trainers, which signifies a huge leap in education, experience, and knowledge.

When you show up for one of those classes, what you’re actually getting is a small-group personal training session. (Which, by the way, would cost you at least $50/month at most gyms, plus you’d have to find your own group. At AFF it’s included in your membership.)

We don’t do this to be snooty, or to thumb our noses at all the hard-working group fitness instructors out there.

We do it because we believe it’s the best way to help Asheville get truly healthier. Because of all the people who join our gym after hurting themselves, feeling ignored, or just not knowing what to do at a big gym.

We do it because we don’t just want to take your money and let the chips fall where they may; we want to actually help you get better/stronger/faster/slimmer. And dumping you into a cookie-cutter class with 20 other people isn’t gonna cut it.

We do it because we care.

And isn’t that what you really came here for?


The Secret to Reaching Your 2016 Goals

Blank journal

Oh goody! Another goal-setting article. Maybe THIS will be the one that actually sticks. Maybe THIS one won’t be the same regurgitated advice you read every single January.

Ever wonder why bloggers and magazines can get away with publishing the same New Year’s Resolution content, year after year?

It’s because every December 31st, when we look back at that year’s resolutions, we realize we didn’t accomplish what we set out to do. At best, we only got halfway there. At worst? We abandoned our well-intentioned resolutions by Valentine’s Day.

In other words, it doesn’t work.

This year, why don’t we try something different?

I’ve got two new goal-setting techniques that’ll shake up your 2016 planning (and give you a fighting chance of actually reaching this year’s goals).

The Desire Map

The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte is a method that reverse-engineers your goals by first identifying the ways you want to feel on a daily basis. If the underlying purpose of setting goals is to feel good, why not start with the feeling and work backwards from there?

Using this method, you work through all the ways you don’t want to feel — tired, bored, uninspired stressed-out — and slowly drill down to the specific ways you DO want to feel.

These differ wildly from one person to the next, and you’re encouraged to get as detailed and specific as possible.

Once you’ve identified these “Core Desired Feelings (CDFs),” you plan your yearly, monthly, and daily goals accordingly. The idea is for you to start feeling the way you want to feel more of the time. ALL of the time. Starting today.

For instance, say I set a goal to attend my favorite yoga class once a week, every week in 2016. If I follow the traditional method, that’s all I do. Set a goal, try to accomplish it, and either succeed…or don’t.

But why? WHY do I want to go to that class every week? Because…I want to feel fluid and strong, like my body is expressing its full potential.

If I start with those feelings instead…well, the world is my oyster. What things can I do that make me feel that way? Running. Hiking up a mountain. Making out with my husband. Taking “computer breaks” to stretch out my wrists and elbows. And yes, that yoga class.

This way, I don’t have to wait until that once-a-week class to feel that way; I can work things into my day (every day) that help generate those CDFs.

And what happens when you feel the way you want to feel? You’re happy. Which is the whole point.

Sound too touchy-feely? Then check out this next method.


Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown is a book, a philosophy, a way of being. It’s not something you DO; it’s something you ARE.

Instead of spreading your efforts over many activities, chores, and priorities, you spend some time identifying the one or two that are most important, and let everything else fall away.

You can imagine, this is easier said than done. It means giving up or saying NO to lots of good (even great) opportunities. It necessitates some big trade-offs.

When it comes to goal setting, an Essentialist only picks ONE GOAL to focus on at a time. So for 2016, instead of asking, “How can I do it all?” ask yourself, “What’s the most important thing I need to do?”

This accomplishes two things:

1. It clears away the mental clutter and decision fatigue that come with taking on too much.

2. It will dramatically increase your chance of success. Essentialism forces you to gather all your resources (mental, emotional, financial, time) and focus them like a laser beam on one goal.

Either way, the message is clear: less striving.

How ’bout just enjoying yourself this year instead of working so damn hard?

That’s a resolution worth keeping.

Arrivederci AFF!

Samantha Pollack, Holistic Health Coach, owner of Insider Wellness

It’s been fun, y’all.

You’ll still see me working out in the gym, and I’ll be continuing to manage this blog for the next six months or so.

Meanwhile, check out my new gig! The company is called Abundant Yogi, and they offer lifestyle coaching and business training for wellness entrepreneurs, creatives, and other professionals who want to make lots of money doing what they love.

I’m one of two main bloggers over there, as well as the lead copy writer. It’s a fabulous team and I get to spend every day working in my greatest area of strength and passion. That’s what we call a win-win, folks.

My thanks to all of the gym members, blog readers, and staff members for filling these past three years with laughter, love, and lots of burpees.

Samantha Pollack, Holistic Health Coach & owner of Insider Wellness





P.S. Check out some of my most popular pieces!

How I Found My Calling: The Misadventures of an Overachieving Perfectionist

7 Words or Phrases that Take Away Your Power

Never Run Out of Money Again with This Simple Budgeting Tweak

Are Our Kids Smarter than Us?

Not Flexible Enough for Yoga? Read on!

Hilary Drake, yoga instructor

Hilary Drake addresses the common misconceptions & resistant thoughts that prevent some people from starting a Yoga practice.

“I’m not flexible enough to do Yoga.”

“I’m just not relaxed enough to meditate.”

As a Yoga Teacher & Therapist, I hear these resistant phrases so often. I immediately envision Scooby- Doo cocking his head to the side, making his “Errr??” sound.

Can you imagine a patient sent to Physical Therapy by an Orthopedist recoiling with: “I just don’t move well enough to do these functional movement exercises?” Or a client working with a Personal Trainer excusing themselves with “I’m not fit enough to build my strength with weight-lifting.” No? Me neither.

Logic falling short, the words just don’t line up. So what’s the deal with Yoga? Or rather, what has happened in the public perception to skew the truth of Yoga?

I totally understand how the popularized images of high-fashion, pretzel-bendy yogis signal the brain to compare and to separate self vs. other. For most of us, deficit mentality is no stranger. Our inner-critic, strong, sits upon the shoulder, waiting for that vulnerable moment to chime in with another “I’m not enough” message.

Unfortunately, this has created a wide gap between the healing practice itself & the people who could truly benefit from Yoga: those faced with body/mind challenges in need of a diverse set of tools to deal with life’s complexities (read: each and every one of us).

I’m at once 1) disappointed that our image of what Yoga is has strayed so far from its unique potency as a healing practice for EVERY BODY and 2) determined to play a role in dismantling the unrealistic image that’s alienating so many individuals from Yoga’s true wonders.

I’m going to say something, and at first, you might not believe these words.

Yoga, in its true form, is for everybody. Yoga is for EVERY BODY.

And you are, in every, single, way “enough” to do this thing we call Yoga. We are missing the Yoga Boat if we buy into an over- simplified, long-legged & stretchy, calorie-burning, image-centered concept that Yoga is about achieving specific shapes with the body, or that there is one way to express Asana (posture). Ancient Vedic Sage Patanjali guided “Yoga is the practice of stilling the mind.”

And he outlined a belief system on how to cultivate that bliss: through “right” social conduct, self-discipline/spiritual observances, physical practice that prepared the mind for meditation, breath practices, withdrawal of the senses, single-pointed concentration, meditation, and finally – union, or interconnection with all living things / the divine.

His age-old description of the yoga path is what, deep down, every human being wants today: PEACE and connection.

And the physical flexibility piece? Not so much a focus.

“It doesn’t matter how deep into a posture you go, what matters is who you are when you get there.” – Max Strom.

In the Yoga tradition, the “Kosha Model” outlines the dimensions inherent in every human being. In Western terms, these dimensions correspond to our physical, physiological, intellectual, emotional and spiritual “bodies” or selves.

Yoga is a holistic health care system because it offers us tools to look at and explore who we are from all of these different angles. True Yoga has no fixed agenda for your physical body. The awareness of our thoughts, physical sensations and the intersections between the layers that make us human is what makes yoga a practice. NOT a task, goal, or posture to be completed or achieved.

The good news is, when practiced safely with the individual’s needs in mind, Yoga is actually pretty great for those who are less physically flexible.

It can also bring balance to the physical body for strengthening and stabilizing. Yoga’s gentle movements, paired with the breath, support healthy joint function and ease muscles toward enhanced mobility.

Yoga can dampen the body’s pain response, and it (should) feel good to the body to move in this way.

But let us not assume that Yoga is a practice physical in nature for all practitioners or that it has to be to be called Yoga.

Quadriplegics practice Yoga through breathing and imagined movement.

Yoga Nidra, translated as “Yogic Sleep,” is a deep relaxation practice requiring NO movement, just presence of mind.

If you are breathing, you can practice Yoga.

Yogic breathing eases stress and regulates the nervous system, countering the effects of agitation/imbalance. Focused breathing leads to enhanced mental flexibility, releasing negative thought patterns and making room for expansion in our self-awareness & the world around us. The ultimate flexibility!

In the end, yoga is so much less about self-improvement or achievement of flexibility or any other end than it is about self-acceptance. You ARE enough. Already! You don’t have to change anything. At your essence, right here, right now, in this moment, just as you are, you are enough.

If you are alive – if breath is moving in and out of your body – and you walk, limp, or roll into my therapeutic class or private session, know that you are enough.

Access to that transformative truth is one of Yoga’s most profound gifts.

So, come. Join us.! And feel – maybe for the first time in a long time – just how truly enough you are for this practice we call Yoga.

Hilary Drake is a Yoga Therapist on staff at Asheville Family Fitness & Physical Therapy. She also teaches at the Asheville Yoga Center and is the Owner of Thrive Yoga Therapy, a private Yoga Therapy practice. 


The Newest, Coolest Healing Modality You’ve Never Heard Of

Paige Gilchrist, yoga instructor

Paige Gilchrist weighs in on the benefits of yoga therapy at Asheville Family Fitness.


It’s true that all yoga—whether you’re taking a class (especially at AFF) or practicing on your own—has the potential to be good, healing medicine for the body and mind. Yoga helps you breathe and stretch (not to mention balance and strengthen) in joyful ways that create a sense of openness and ease in your joints and muscles—and often in your emotional state and thoughts.


At AFF, we’re expanding on yoga’s inherent healing potential by offering one-on-one yoga therapy sessions that more directly apply the tools of yoga—physical postures, breathing practices, mantras, meditation, and more—to conditions ranging from chronic pain and insomnia to stress, anxiety, and surgery recovery.


Here are the top 9 reasons to give yoga therapy a try.


1) A private yoga therapy session is all about you. We’ll take time to listen—to your goals and objectives, to the specific needs of your body, to your energy level and emotional state, to your whole story—knowing that what’s going on in the rest of your life and in your mind and emotions has an affect on your body.


2) AFF has staff yoga therapists, which is pretty innovative for a PT clinic and wellness center. In addition to being certified yoga teachers, we’re graduates of a rigorous 300-hour yoga therapy training program at Asheville Yoga Center. We’ve also each completed a three-month clinical internship at AFF, which exposes us to a broad range of conditions and treatment plans and helps ensure that our approach is consistent with and complementary to other AFF treatment you may be receiving.


3) We’re backed by facts. Scientific research on the effectiveness of yoga therapy is growing, and we’re paying close attention to what it has to say. Clinical trials and other studies have focused on yoga therapy as an effective part of a treatment plan for addressing mental health and cardiovascular, respiratory, and musculoskeletal issues and in mitigating cancer symptoms. Researchers have also found therapeutic yoga beneficial for many chronic and lifestyle-related conditions, from diabetes and heart disease to headaches and high blood pressure.


4) Even given that research, we won’t pretend to have all the answers—but we’ll ask a lot of questions: Is this comfortable? Does your breath get shallow or ragged when you try this? Do you experience a little more ease when we make this adjustment? In other words, we’ll explore and experiment together, knowing YOU are the key to what treatment is most supportive and effective for you.


5) Speaking of adjustments, we’ll modify like crazy. The goal is never to have your body look or behave a certain way in a specific pose, but to use variations of yoga poses and sequences (and other tools, such as breathing) to help you meet your goals, whether that means easing lower-back pain, lifting your mood, or something else entirely. As the yoga therapy saying goes: It’s not whether you are ‘good’ at yoga, but whether yoga is good at you.


6) And speaking of modifications, we’ll likely use a lot of props – yoga blocks to bring the floor closer to you in a standing forward fold, for example, or a chair to make a balancing sequence more accessible. We can also draw on other props or tools that are a wonderful aspect of yoga, such as breathing and relaxation techniques, guided imagery, and mantras or affirmations.


7) We’ll work in a way that supports other practices you may be doing or care you may be receiving. If you’re a PT patient at AFF, we can collaborate closely with the PT staff to build on treatment plans that have been beneficial (see #2 above). But regardless, we’ll help make sure yoga therapy is a unifying aspect of your wellness plan that complements all the rest.


8) If it’s among your goals, we’ll help you develop a home practice, feel ready for a yoga class, or empower you to get more of what your body and mind need in the classes you’re already attending. Creating a simple homework plan is a standard part of a yoga therapy session.


9) Perhaps best of all, in a yoga therapy session, we have the luxury of sinking into yoga’s holistic model of healing. We’ll welcome you as a whole and unique person, not a collection of symptoms. We acknowledge that the physical aspect of who you are is not separate from who you are on a mental and emotional level. We’ll consider all the different layers and try to bring them into balance in an integrated way, in a way that you can continue to access yourself.


To find out more about yoga therapy — and even try it out for yourself — attend any of the following free classes, going on all month at AFF.

Paige Gilchrist is a staff Yoga Therapist and teaches a weekly Restorative Yoga class at AFF. She completed her teacher training at Asheville Yoga Center, is Yoga Alliance certified, and holds advanced certification in Therapeutic Yoga. Her warm and welcoming style will invite you to stretch, strengthen, balance, move energy, release stress and tension, and cultivate peace and joy you can take with you back into the world.

3 Things you Can Do THIS WEEK to Get a Head Start on 2016


person sitting at beach, thinking

This week is always weird — the limbo between Christmas and New Year’s. You’re back at work, maybe, but the schedule is off. Kids are still home from school. There’s a full week of December left, but it all feels kinda pointless.


It’s really just one big countdown to 2016…and THEN you’ll get organized. THEN you’ll get your diet back on track. You’ll finally get organized, set some goals, and make some progress on That Big Thing You’re Doing Next Year.


This week is still a week for resting up and relaxing — especially now that the chaotic antics of the holiday are behind you. But waiting until 2016 to plan 2016?


That’s the surest way to get behind the 8-ball.


What would it be like to enter into a new year fully clear on what you want and how to get there?


Different. Right?


There are three — simple, not-at-all-stressful–things you can do to give yourself a head start. And the good news is, even if you only do part of these, you’ll have a better January than ever before.


3 Things You Can Do This Week to Get the Jump on 2016


1. Plug all your travel plans & days off into a calendar for the entire year.

With the holiday craziness fresh in your mind, you’re super clear on what you can do better next year. Obviously it’s a whole year away, and things change, and you can’t possibly know the date of next year’s holiday parties, but if you know what’s already set in stone, when those invitations start coming next year, you’ll have more clarity on what to say no to. (Hence, not overbooking yourself. Hence, not burning out.)

This also gives you a lot of clarity around the best time of year for vacations, out-of-town guests, and other larger commitments. If you’ve got a big life goal or project, you can play with milestones and deadlines throughout the year to make sure you’ll make it.


2. Declutter.

Like I said, not stressful at all, right? 😉

Having recently decluttered my office for the first time in FOUR YEARS, I realize this could take a while. (It took me over a month last summer.) Start with easy items, like your spice drawer. Ditch all the random koozies you collected throughout the year. Do a precursory sweep of your closet and dresser and take all the stuff you never wear to a homeless shelter. Start the year without a bunch of extraneous crap in your house.


3. Pick ONE GOAL to focus on in 2016. Get rid of all the other ones.

Over-reaching with your goals is a very human, very stupid thing to do. Of course — we all want to lose the holiday weight, quit sugar forever and ever, start sleeping 9 hours a night, make more money, be better about keeping in touch with our sister, watch less TV, and take the dog out more frequently.

But realistically, you can only do one thing at a time.

Let me repeat that: YOU CAN ONLY DO ONE THING AT A TIME. Maybe instead of asking, “How will I get it all done?” you could ask, “What’s the absolute most important thing for me to do?”

Spend this week noodling on that one thing, and suddenly you’re looking at actually accomplishing what you set out to do in 2016.


Because the difference between ANOTHER YEAR of unmet goals and forgotten resolutions, and a year where you actually keep your promises to yourself?

It’s all in the details, baby.

Ready for the workout

In searching for the perfect 30-minute holiday workout, we came across this infographic that illustrates an easy-peasy, no-equipment-needed, really hard-looking sequence.


Here’s the workout:

“Perform 3 rounds of 12-15 reps of the following supersets, resting 0-30 seconds in between.” (Supersets mean you do two exercises back to back.)

1a) Tuck Jump
1b) Push Up

2a) Squat
2b) Mountain Climber

3a) Tricep Dip
3b) Glute Bridge

4a) Jump Plank
4b) Superman


Some of these moves are pretty advanced for the AFF crowd though. So we’re breaking it down and offering some modifications. If you don’t see one of the exercises listed below (like squats), that means you can leave it as-is.


There’s no getting around squats. Tough luck.


Instead of: tuck jumps | Try: knee hugs

Stand tall with your core engaged. Shift your weight into your left foot, then lift your right knee into your chest and hug it there. Try to avoid hunching or rounding your back; rather, use your core muscles to bring the knee in and help it along by gently pulling it in with your arms. Hold for a second and switch, slowly transferring weight into your right foot and lifting your left knee. This is a great balance, posture, and core exercise.


Instead of: push-ups | Try: planks, or modify your push-up

Hold your push-up starting position for up to one minute, concentrating on using your CORE muscles and shifting your shoulder blades down your spine to create length in the neck. There’s a muscle right under your armpit that stabilizes the rib cage (it’s the same muscle that makes Michael Phelps look like he has fins.) See if you can find it and keep it “on” throughout your plank.


Instead of: mountain climbers | Try: planks w/knee tucks

Holding a high plank position, slowly bring your right knee into the chest, lifting the hips slightly and rounding the back to emphasize the core engagement. Return your right leg to its starting position, then repeat on the left side. Eventually, you’ll build up a rhythm, and when you’re comfortable, you can progress to the full mountain climber (oh joy.)


Instead of: tricep dips | Try: Crab hold / Inverted tabletop

No matter what you call it, the idea is the same: Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Position your hands behind you, palms on the floor, fingers pointing toward your bum. Using your strong arms and your glutes, raise your hips off the floor and hold. You’re trying to get your torso parallel to the floor – but if your shoulders are tight (like mine), that won’t quite happen. Your feet should stay directly under your knees and your arms should be as straight as you can get ’em. This is a shoulder and glute strengthener/stabilizer.


Instead of: jump planks | Try: planks with hip abduction

Holding a high plank position, lift your right leg and send it straight out to the right. Keep your hips level, your knee locked, and your toe pointing straight at the ground. Return to start and repeat on the left side. Try to minimize any hip-wiggle during the switch. This is an AWESOME glute builder. You can do this for time, or count your reps. One minute oughta do it.


Holiday workout? Done.



5 Simple Strategies to Prevent Holiday Weight Gain

Girl Running on Bridge

The holidays are known for many things: taking time off from work, catching up with family, deeply discounted shopping, wearing ugly sweaters…and throwing a Santa-sized wrench in all your healthy habits.


There are cookies. Potlucks. Eggnog. Unavoidable changes to your everyday routine.


And before you know it, that five pounds it took you all year to lose is right back around your midsection, like it never left.


With all these changes, making time for exercise is usually the first thing to go. Add that to elevated stress levels and nonstop temptation, and putting on holiday weight seems inevitable.


The good news is, it doesn’t have to be.


Wouldn’t it be nice – for once – to make it through December without having to rebuild your entire health routine from scratch?


If you can implement these five simple strategies, you’ll do just that.


Make drinking water your number one priority, every single day. Aim for 2-3 liters per day, and try “front-loading” – start early and drink most of your water by 4 or 5 pm. This is about more than just hydration — the mindfulness required to keep up with this habit will transcend into other areas of your life as well.


No sugar after 7pm. Nothing kicks you into a holiday sugar spiral quicker than sleep deprivation. And nothing contributes to sleep deprivation more than a late-night sugar binge. By cutting off your consumption earlier, you create a healthy cycle: the more well-rested you are, the more energy you’ll have to make healthier choices throughout the day. And so on.


Take a freakin’ walk. There are SO many reasons to skip your workout in December. If you’re a student, you’re slammed with exams. If you’re a professional, December is often a crazy time of wrapping up projects and squeezing five days’ of work into two. If you can get to the gym, great. Even if it’s just for 20 minutes. But if not, take a walk! Anytime you can fit it in. The movement will help circulate your blood and lubricate your joints, and the fresh air and daylight will help combat Seasonal Depression.


Re-evaluate your traditional foods, and see if you can make any upgrades. As long as I can remember, my grandmother baked at least 7 different kinds of Christmas cookies. And YES — those particular types of cookies are a weak spot for me, because of the nostalgia (and the sugar). But as an adult, I’ve realized that Christmas is just as good with 2 or 3 different varieties, AND we’ve been able to swap out some natural sweeteners and different types of flour, to make them a little more healthy. Traditions can evolve as you evolve.


No matter what, eat a healthy breakfast. Breakfast is the one meal that’s least affected by the holiday crazies. Keep it simple, like scrambled eggs with spinach on whole grain toast, or a nourishing smoothie. If you’re traveling, stock up on some fruit and nut butter. By starting the day off healthy, you’re more likely to keep it going the rest of the day. And hey — if you spend the rest of the day drinking eggnog and eating chocolate, at least you got some nutrients at breakfast.


None of these are meant as hard-and-fast rules. Obviously you’ll sneak a cookie before bed sometimes, or have leftover pie for breakfast one day. That’s all part of the holiday fun. The mistake comes when you make yourself wrong for those things and beat yourself up.


That’s how sugar spirals start — so you better watch out!