Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Mountain Biking = Fun Workout & Date Activity

With my new work and commute schedule, Scott, my SO, and I have been exploring different activities to keep us both active on our dates.

This past month, I've been trying my hand with outdoor activities. Scott is quite the outdoors lover, so he suggested I give mountain biking a try. He didn't have to twist my arm for me to say "yes". Given that I have massive quads, I figured that mountain biking would be a piece of cake for me.

I wasn't willing to invest thousands of dollars for a top of the line bike, so we headed to a Super Center to get a basic functional bike for $90.

Our mountain bikes ready to be ridden!
Scott took me out to Nisene Marks State Park in Aptos. Nisene Marks has a trails for beginners and the more advanced rider. After a warm-up on the Fire Road (a low incline road that goes through the entire park), I got brave and rode trails alongside the Road. After pedaling for a good hour my quads, glutes, and hams were on fire! Not to mention, my bottom was sore from the bumpy ride. That hour was just a warm-up. Another two hours whizzed by quickly! Exploring the trails and breathing in the fresh air was such a refreshing change of pace that I forgot how hard my body was working pedaling and adjusting to the terrain. 

Trail off the Fire Road
Slow and steady does down this bumpy trail.
My tips for first time mountain bikers:
  • Learn how to properly use gears (and ratios if your bike has it) to maximize your pedaling efforts. This will prevent you from fatiguing your legs early. Rule of thumb is higher gears for lower incline, lower gears for higher inclines. 
  • Hydrate along the way. You can burn up to 500 calories an hour (depends on body weight and fitness levels). This means whether you feel it or not your body is working hard and sweating to keep cool. 
  • Be brave. Try all types of trails, terrains, and hills when you go out. The ride down is always worth it. I took a good fall myself trying to pedal up a small hill :)
  • Riding on the different terrains and up and down hills worked worked all the major leg muscles: quards, hams, and glutes. My core and lower back got worked too. Keeping a tight core through the ride helped alleviate pressure off my lower back from being in a sitting position for three hours.

Although I wanted to duck under this fallen tree while riding on my bike, Scott advised against it for safety reasons :)
Since our first ride, we've gone out several more times to Nisene Marks. This last time, we hiked up a steep hill for a good 30 minutes. As much as I complained about my burning legs and fatiguing upper body from lugging my bike along, the feel of the wind on the 10-minute ride down was so awesome!

Me and Scott - Safety first! Remember to wear at least a helmet.
Any other "active" date ideas? I'm thinking about batting cages for a great ab workout or a steep hike somewhere... What do you think?

Happy Training,

Monday, October 3, 2011

CrossFit Total: Power Your Dead

CrossFit Total is my all-time favorite WOD. It's the ultimate test of functional strength and involves no cardio :) I'm always excited to see what kind of progress I've made in 5 months. Our last CFT was in May. I also love CFT because I get to do one of my favorite lifts: the deadlift. Having strong form creates the power in the lift. Below are my tips on how to get power out of your dead. 

 {warm-up to the max rep lift}

As always follow proper deadlift protocol: keeping a slight bend in your knees, keep your back flat, core in tight, and chest up with shoulders rolled slightly back. 

To make sure that you pull the bar up parallel to your body, walk up to the bar, rather than roll the bar to your leg. Walking up to the bar will position the bar as close as possible to your body. When you roll the bar close to your legs, you risk the bar not being perpendicular to your body plane. 

Mixed grips are solid. I prefer these to regular or reverse grips on the bar. My arms are less fatigued after multiple reps with mixed grips. Regular or reverse grip are repeated lifts fatigue my forearms quickly and of course the weight starts to uncurl my fingers mid-lift... super uncomfortable and unsafe :/

{Analisa getting a deadlift PR under her belt}

Before you lift, focus on keeping your form tight. Once you are ready to lift, don't hesitate. Engage everything you have to pull that weight off the ground. Also remember to quickly "open your hips" to get that real power. Once off the ground, exhale as you straighten up. As you bring the weight back down, continue to keep your form. I've seen people drop the weight after they stand up straight. This can cause your lower back to round out and pull as your fall with the weight rather than controlling its descent. 

{our scores}

CFT (1 max rep lifts)
Squat 180# (failed 185# attempt)
Shoulder Press 95# (PR!)
Deadlift 205# (failed 210# attempt)

What are you PR (personal record) lifts? Any tips for a max rep workouts?

Happy training!

Monday, September 19, 2011

"The Dreaded 'enter Company name here' 15"

I thought the "Freshman 15" was a once in a lifetime battle. After freshman year of college, I was supposed to be out of the clear -- all-you-can-eat meals were suppose to lose their appeal. It hasn't. Our company has lunch catered in every day and packaged snacks galore. Apparently as an adult, the "Freshman 15" has evolved to "'enter Company name here' 10" or even "15".

{that's right - no parking, it's bootcamp time!}

In an effort to help us manage the "dreaded 15," our company has sponsored an on-site bootcamp - three days of bootcamp and one walking class a week. Pretty cool deal. All we have to do is show-up dressed to workout at 5:30p in the parking lot. Last week, I was able to attend a class. I was impressed that so many people (at least 12) showed up after a long day of work. So awesome that people were up for it and everyone was a good sport. The trainer put together a set of exercises to accommodate the range of fitness levels. It was a mix of exercises that challenged your body weight strength.

Below are the exercises that we did. You can create your own backyard bootcamp by rotating through the back and leg exercises until you complete three sets of each. Add in a cardio option in between each exercise and voila, you've created your own bootcamp. Ideally, you want to run through the exercises, including the cardio, without breaks. Until your endurance is built up, break as needed and hydrate throughout the workout.

The Workout


  • 10 5-count push-ups (slow and focused push-up)
  • 1 minute to 90 seconds of supermans (Lay flat on stomach. Raise arms straight out front and squeeze glutes to bring legs up. Hold position.)


  • 1 minute to 90 seconds in Sumo squat position (add in air punches or arm circles)
  • 50 "butt kickers" (staying in a modified handstand push-up position, jump to kick your butt... I can't find a video of this, so I am not sure if this is what the exercise is really called)

  • 1 minute of scissor kicks
  • 1 minute of plank
  • 1 minute of oblique raises (side planks)
  • 15 V-sit-ups and 30 second hold at the end

Cardio options

  • 20 jump squats in place
  • 1-3 minutes high knees in place
  • 1-3 minutes jog in place
  • 1-3 minutes of mountain climbers

Happy training,

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Just Add Rings and Water Tube...

Last week and this week in training, we had fun with functional body weight exercises that also focused on core strength.

Rings and Swiss balls are two mediums that require your core to engage in order to remain stable during the movement. To get the full effect of engagement of our cores, my trainer incorporated hanging rings and a water filled tube for some of the exercises. Using the rings and the tube forced us to focus on our technique and brought us an awareness of our core.

1. Modified Muscle-Up

{getting ready to row - keep your shoulders rolled back and core
tight before you begin}

Muscle ups are one of the toughest CrossFit exercises to master. It requires precise technique and strength. For beginners, this is an excellent exercise to work your lats, triceps, and core.

I break out the exercise into two parts... partly because the middle part (the transition) is difficult :) The first part is the row (pictured above). Position yourself under the rings so that your chest is underneath the rings. Row your body up to the rings. Think of being in an upside down push-up position.

Then the transition into the dip position... Use your core to bring yourself upright as you swing your legs back. You can also use a small hop to get yourself into the upright position until you get the transition part down.

{last position of the movement - trying to keep from swinging}

In the dip position, remember to keep your shoulders from shrugging and keep your elbows straight as your lower yourself down. It's normal to feel your triceps shaking - they're trying to stabilize. As you gain more strength, this will lessen. Then extend your elbows back out to complete the movement. This exercise was tough to get with an iPhone camera because of the shakiness :)

2. Weighted Scissors with Water Tube

I am not sure when this water tube appeared at the gym, but it's been incorporated into a lot of our ab routines. The tube is filled about 3/4's of the way with water. The swishing water inside requires your core to constantly work.

{Analisa and I getting in our scissor kicks.}

You can modify your scissor kicks by doing them in the crunch position. This will work your upper and mid-abs too. In lieu of the water tube, you can use a medicine ball or dumbbell.

3. Sit-ups with OH Water Tube

{Beauty of working with a partner is when you get tired, slightly tipping
the water to the other side to lessen your load :P}

For this exercise, you do a regular sit and press the tube up as you come up. You can do this exercise with a medicine ball or with a dumbbell to add resistance.

What techniques do you use to engage your core just a little more in your exercises?

Happy training,
Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Getting Back To It

I'm a few weeks into my new job and am back in the gym as of this week. My goal for 2011 is to compete in my first figure show. I now have 4 months to make this happen.

Monday was my official day back with training with the girls. My trainer had us focus on strength training our back and core.

{yeah! I completed the entire first set unassisted :) }

The workout included usual back exercises with twists to maximize efficiency and stay focused on utilizing strength and good form to get through the workout.

{My first time doing hex-bar DL's -- felt a little silly . This is before getting into position btw.}

{being diligent about not overextending my back}

The Workout
Turkish get-ups
Caged deadlifts
Close-grip pull-ups
Alternating single-arm kettlebell swings
Kettlebell shoulder presses

I'm excited to be competition focused again.

"Every day counts" is one of my trainer's mottos. In the short-term, I have two simple goals to incorporate my fitness lifestyle into my new workplace:
  • to not snack on junk food at work (I have my shaker and tub here now)
  • find a convenient gym nearby work for lunchtime workout

Happy training!
Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Powerlifter Turned CrossFitter

Before my competition days, there was CrossFit - one of my first loves. I've heard CrossFit described as "not focused on technique", "makes people pass out", or "too hard to try"... at least by those who haven't tried it.

My former mentor and friend Brandon was a definite skeptic. Coming from a competitive power lifting background, Brandon was not sure that CrossFit was for him. As part of his training for Tough Mudder, Brandon decided that CF would help his endurance for the race but he would to lose some strength. But he was wrong. A few WOD's in he has a bruised ego and is addicted :)

{yeah, only a CF'er would demonstrate handstand push -ups anywhere anytime}

This past week was his first full week of CrossFit. Brandon's first ego bruising happened when a guy 80lbs lighter than him outlifted him by 50# in the front squat. After he got over his defeat, he realized he had to check his ego and focus on fixing his weaknesses. As with any successful fitness program, goals or milestones need to be set. Brandon's goal is to be able to do King Kong by Christmas... talk about hardcore.

{weighted push-ups make for good party tricks.}

I admit, if I was a first time gym goer, CrossFit would be slightly intimidating, especially from the press its been receiving. In my experience, the exercises are modified to an individual's strength and ability. Although you are encouraged to keep pushing and not to immediately give up at the first sign of potential failure, you are encouraged to listen to your body. The natural camaraderie of the community creates a fun and supportive environment that keep you doing your best.

The recent CrossFit banter with Brandon has been a friendly reminder for me to get myself back on track with training. I am itchin' to work on my kip now :)

Anyone CF or thinking of trying it?

Happy training,

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Happiness = Work/Life/Training Balance

Three weeks ago, I hit my tipping point and tipped. I took a much needed, although unplanned, break from training to get my affairs in order and clear my head.

Like most you, I juggle work and training. Generally I find training to be my outlet for stress, especially for work –related stress. When work-stress becomes overwhelming I find it difficult to stay focused on training and prep.

{in La Jolla, California a week after I was suppose to compete}

My tipping point came when I tried on my suit two weeks before the San Jose Show. After months of getting myself mentally ready and going through prep, I still wasn’t able to lean out enough. I felt so disappointed in myself seeing how I looked in the suit. Competing is a big mental game. I wasn’t happy with my results in the gym or at work. Both were becoming demotivating. My trainer said if I compete that I need to do it right and that the shows will still be there. I took her advice.

When stress becomes too much, I tend to shut out everything and focus on fixing whatever the problem seems to be. In the end, this all leads up to a big decision, after five years with my employer, I resigned. Tough decision to make, but I joined a thriving organization and am now surrounded by others who love what they do and feel valued.

During my time off from training, I decided to enjoy my free time. I am definitely going to prep and compete for a show in 2011, so I know this freedom wouldn’t last long. I enjoyed warm weather outdoors and sunsets – something that I don’t get to see often when I’m in the gym.

{warm weather and beautiful beaches in La Jolla}

{sunset at Natural Bridges Park in Santa Cruz, Ca}

{sunset over the natural bridges}

This is my first week at my new job. Next week, I am back in the gym and will be ready to prep. Happiness really is priceless as cheesy as it sounds :)

{enjoying 106 degree heat walking through Joshua Tree National Park}

It's only my second season in the NPC and it's okay that I'm still finding my groove in balancing my goals and my life in and outside the gym. I think it's okay because I want to do everything well and because its fun. Feeling rejuvenated and ready to go already!

Happy training,


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Stairway to Hell

300 steps tucked away in the Communication Hill neighborhood of San Jose is where my trainer held her Friday afternoon session for her Summer Fit Camp. I took a late lunch to enjoy the sun and the training.

{bottom of the Stairway to Hell}

I am a fan of running stairs. It's not as boring as just regular running and hurts my knees less than running on pavement. Also, I'll do anything to get my glutes in shape. What could be better than drills on 300 steps in 88 degree weather?

{it's really not that bad, just pace yourself}

Before I left the house this morning, I remembered my hat, sunglasses and sunscreen and completely forgot to grab my water bottle of my desk at work. DON'T FORGET WATER! Luckily Dean brought extra bottles (thanks Dean! :). Definitely important to hydrate during workouts, especially when training in the heat.

{Sob giving her quads a good stretch before we got started. Good form
tip - keep both thighs parallel to each other, keep the bent
knee pointed downward.}

{On your marks, get set, go!}

The Workout

Run laterally up the stairs and jog down. One set with right and one with the left leg leading.
3 sprints up and down the stairs
Walk around a loop around the neighborhood for the cool down.

Of course the sprints couldn't be that easy. We were to beat our first sprint time in either the second or third sprint. If we couldn't, we had to do a "buddy run". Basically, running with our trainer on our backs :) None of us ended up doing that.

{my strategy was to pace myself going up and then make-up my time coming down.}

We made it and back to work pretty close to an hour later.

{my trainer and the guys}

Happy training,
Nathalie :)
Friday, June 24, 2011

Getting Those Summer Buns

Summer is finally in swing in San Jose! We've had a fantastically hot weather week. With hot weather of course comes the bathing suits, short shorts and skirts. If you are like me and suffer from "long back" (as one of my friends calls it), your glutes need constant attention in order to keep its shape or give it any shape all. To perk up your buns in your summer outfits, try the set of exercises below. It's a great way to build muscle and also work your core.

The Routine

Smith Machine Sumo Squats
superset with
Smith Machine One-Legged Squat

{Smith Machine Sumo Squats
left: start position, right: end position}

For weighted sumo squats and one-legged squats, I prefer to use the smith machine because of the safety features of the machine (the bar can be locked onto the rack easily) and because the machine only allows vertical movement, it's allows me to lift more than I would normally be able to lift with a free bar.

For tips on squats, check out this post. The difference between an ordinary squat and a sumo squat is your feet positioning. To assume the sumo stance, you will need to put your feet slightly more than hip width apart and turn your toes out slightly. This stance will work your glutes, hams and inner thighs more than a regular squat stance. I focus on squeezing my glutes and inner thighs as a I come up from the down position.

{Smith Machine One-Legged Squat
left: start position, right: end position}

One legged squat - whether weighted or unweighted really burn my glutes. When I do them weighted, I like to place my back leg on a stool rather than put my leg in front of me. It's tougher to stabilize weight on my back with my leg in front of me. Same rules of squatting apply to this exercise too. For this exercise, I focus more on bringing my back knee straight down and pushing up with my glutes and hams of the front leg. Continual reps really make it burn.

Any other exercises that you do to get your glutes in shape?

Happy training,
Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Progress Report: New Countdown Begins

I've been aiming to do the West Coast Classic (next Saturday). With one week left, I am not ready. My body fat percentage is still too high for figure.

Last weekend, I finally weighed myself. I still have about 12 lbs of body fat to lose. I'm the same pant size as I was three weeks out from Excalibur last year, so wasn't expecting my weight to be as high as it is. I am definitely more muscular than I was at Excalibur and am carrying the same body fat percentage as I did three weeks out from Excalibur, so my weight makes sense.

At this point I can't use my pant size to determine progress. Even though I am not a fan of weighing myself, I need to use my weight as a measure of my cardio conditioning.

My new goal is the San Jose NPC show on July 9th.

{modified one arm rows}

The go-forward plan nutrition plan for the next 18 days includes no more artificial sugars (aka no Diet Cokes) and only carbs in the morning (aka no more brown rice). I can do this. I just need to do it. Everyday counts as my trainer says. After our pep talk today, she put us to work.

{underhand rows=good cardio and for lats}

Thanks to the great weather, we had a fun workout outside. Not an outdoor bootcamp one. My trainer just moved the equipment outside for us.

{kettbell swings = good for legs and core}

The Workout

200 walking lunges with kickbacks
100 kettlebell swings
50 clean squats 65#
50 split jerks 65#
3 rounds of 250m underhand rows
3 sets of reverse pikes
25 each arm of one-arm rows

{split jerks = good for upper and lower body}

This year that I promised myself a six pack (of abs) on my birthday and to do my first figure show. I've made the excuses and now I just need to do it. The next 18 days are going to be really fun!

Happy training,
Thursday, June 16, 2011

Get Your Glutes in Gear with SDHP

Today was our first session this week with our trainer. After her well-deserved extended weekend, she was ready to get us in gear with a total body endurance workout that kicked our butts, literally -- rowing, SDHP, pushups, and abs.

{I'm baaaack!}

Push-ups and rowing, you've probably heard of. But SDHP? SDHP are sumo deadlift high pulls. This lift is particularly fun because it's an explosive lift that hits my favorite muscle groups, glutes and delts.

I consider this lift to be an advanced lift. If you don't have your deadlift or barbell high-pull form down, I'd recommend doing this with very light or no weights to work on your form before attempting to do this with weights. Because it is a modified deadlift, poor form can lead to a lower back injury.

Tips On Proper SDHP Form

This video has a great movement breakdown of SDHP. The move is dynamic so it's difficult to explain via still pictures. When done in an explosive manner, the move will look like the demonstration in this video.

Below are quick tips to be mindful of before you get started:

{the start position}

SDHP is the combination of three moves that lead into each other as they are performed:

1. Sumo position: Position feet wider than shoulder width apart and point toes outward. This position is a great way to get extra focus on your glutes and inner thighs.

2. Deadlift: Keep the bar close to shins, your back straight and core tight. Hips are high. Be mindful of keeping your shoulders back and chest up as you are flowing through the deadlift part of the exercise.

3. Barbell high-pull: As you pull the bar up, remember to lead upward with your elbows and to keep the bar close to your body.

The transition from the deadlift to the high-pull is where the explosion happens. Again, please view the videos above to see how the transition is done.

{Amy in the end position.}


1500m row
120 SDHP
120 Push-ups

Reps could be partitioned into as many sets as we wanted as long as we completed all the reps.

{Broke down push-ups and for SDHP 65# into 4x30.}

{3x500m rows}

Of course, a training session wouldn't be complete without abs.

{incline sit-ups with two-arm medicine ball chest pass}

{"rainbows" aka holding in a sit-up position and pass a weighted ball hand to hand}

{Amy was happy that she remembered her gloves today.}

{Putting our trainer to work :P }

How was your workout today?

Happy training,
Monday, June 13, 2011

Nutrition Is Everything: Protein

Really it is and there’s no getting around it. If you want to make strides in your health or your physique, your current eating habits are probably not helping the cause.

I'm a believer in first setting your fitness goals - reasons for why you want to modify your eating habits. Is it for general health, to lose body fat, or to gain muscle mass? This should drive your modifications. Once that's determined, slowly incorporate your plan into your lifestyle. Sudden changes to your normal routine will not be sustainable and make your more tempted to cheat or binge. Healthier eating is a lifestyle not a crash diet.

{my 2nd meal of the day is 6 egg whites and 1/4c of oatmeal}

Protein consumption is something that I get asked about often. Below is my take on it and how I've incorporated it to meet my fitness goals. Remember protein intake is only a piece of overall nutrition.

My Goals
1. To increase lean muscle mass
2. Decrease body fat

How Protein Supports My Goals
My caloric intake supports daily function and heavy workouts. Depending which week it is, my protein intake ranges from 175-200g of protein. I eat protein throughout the day. Your body can only absorb so much protein in one sitting. So I constantly fuel it for muscle growth. My first meal post-AM cardio is a protein shake, followed by eggs, then my next two meals include chicken and my last meal is steak. If you're training and especially on heavy lifting days, protein and carb intake 30-45 minutes before and after your workout is recommended. Protein and carbs will help fuel your muscles as well as help with recovery.

{earlier in prep: meals 1, 2, and 3}

How Much Protein?
Rule of thumb for those wanting to gain muscle mass is 1g-2g of protein per kg of body weight. You can incorporate lean protein into your meals by adding in

- 6 oz of chicken or white fish (~28g of protein)
- 1 scoop of whey protein (~25g of protein)
- 1 c black beans (~30g protein)
- 1 egg white (~3g of protein)

Dressing Up Your Protein
Eating protein doesnt' have to be boring or bland, especially if it's chicken or fish. There's a handful of sodium-free spices mixes that I've been coming across at the grocery store that have been making seasoning easier. My new found favorite way of cooking chicken in grilling. Chicken is even juicier than when baked. One of my gym buddies recommended boiling and shredding chicken for salads. Here's 2 meals that you'll frequently see me with on and off season :)

1. Small salad with 4 oz of grilled chicken and onions

{This salad is usually paired with a cup of vegetables or 1/2 avocado.
Onions whether raw or grilled add heathy flavor.}

2. 6oz of grilled chicken with side of asparagus

{2 oz of asparagus is pictured above. Usually a full meal would
be 8-12 stalks of asparagus.}

3. 4 oz of chicken with 1/2 avocado

{Avocado in moderation is a source of "healthy fat" that can be added to your
nutrition plan. I like to use it as the "sauce" or "dressing" to my meals. This is a
common on-the-go snack for me.}

Taking it to go... if you know you're going to be out and about, make sure you pack a lunch box. I drive around the Bay Area to client sites throughout my day, so prepping and packing a cooler is a must.

4. 6 egg whites scrambled

{I even eat eggs in the car while I'm driving. Just bring napkins too}

Here's two articles that I found helpful about protein:

Do you have any tips or recipes for chicken or fish? Or know of other foods that are high in protein?

Happy training,