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,
Tuesday, June 7, 2011

21s -- Build Muscle & Break Your Plateau

Regular or hammer curls? Doesn't matter because I'll fake smile through either. The exercise that I spite most is the dumbbell bicep curl. Compared to the rest of my muscle groups, my biceps have always been the weakest -- "all show, no go." Because I don't change up my bicep routines often, they are boring and I've plateaued at around 15# for db curls.

This week for upper body day (chest, triceps and biceps), my trainer threw in what she calls "Magic 21s". "21" comes from the number of reps need to complete one set. The set is broken down into 3 smaller sets of 7 reps (2 partial rep sets and 1 full set). The magic is the fantastic pump after you get through three sets of 21 :)

Here's a breakdown of the 3 sets that get you to 21.

The first 7 reps are partial reps that start with a half a bicep curl and ends with curling the weight up towards your chest. As you bring the weight down to begin your next rep, stop when your arms are perpendicular to your body.

{text on the right should read " protect your lower back."}

The next 7 reps are also partial reps. The start of this movement is the same as above, except this time, the movement ends with you extending the weight down towards your quads.

The last set of reps are 7 full range bicep curls. All the way down and all the way up. You are suppose to work your way through all 21 reps before resting. If you are just starting out with this technique, rest as needed but don't stop or let your muscles cool down before you continue. Push through it.

The technique is an effective way to build muscle and change up your usual curl routine. Incorporating 21s into your routine every 4-6 weeks is also a way to break plateaus. Your muscles can't just use muscle memory to get through this. Men's Fitness has the best quick explanation of 21s that I've found online.

I usually work 21s in between a chest exercise. The muscles are usually fatigued by the time the full range bicep curls are done, so a little more recovery is needed in between sets. You can use a barbell, dumbbell or even cable machine for 21s. For me 3 sets of 21s is much more palatable and fun than 3x15 regular curls.

21s are commonly used for squats too.

Try it out and let me know your thoughts.

Happy training,

Warm-up Your Morning

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am NOT a morning person. Hence, the difficulty with getting AM cardio into my routine. For me, it's mental game of to get myself past the "it's too cold to get up" or "the sun isn't up yet, why am I?" or "just one more snooze" excuses. And once I get my AM cardio routine going, the results of a conditioned physique and the rush of endorphins before work is more than worth it.

{rise and shine!}

One of the coping techniques that I've developed to get myself out of bed is to stretch as soon as I am done turning my alarm clock off. I usually wake up with sore muscles from the workout the night before, so stretching feels really good. It gets blood pumping through my body. I like to imagine the increased blood flow oxygenating my recovering muscles. Benefits of stretching include increased mobility that can help prevent injury later.

Here's a few stretches and moves that I use to warm-up my morning:

1. Cobra

This is an easy one to start with since you can just roll onto your stomach to do it and you don't have to fully commit to getting out of bed just yet. It's also not good to stretch cold muscles so this a good one to start your routine with.

Cobra stretches out abs. To really feel the stretch in your abs, make sure to keep your shoulders relaxed (as opposed to shrugged or up to your ears). Keep your legs flat to the bed. Only your hips up will be moving. The more flexibility you have, the taller you can bring your chest up.

2. Warming Up The Knees

I have a knee injury from running Wharf to Wharf from a few years back, so my knees tend to get stiff in the morning from the heavy use. Warming up the knees is a move that I learned from Tom Rankin. The best way to get your knee joints warmed up is to actually rub them. When my knees are feeling stiff or if I'm going to endure a heavy leg workout, I definitely give them a vigorous rubbing. It's basically moving your hands in circles over your knee caps to get the synovial fluid warmed up.

3. Overhead Stretching

Finally out of bed, I do this to stretch out my back and chest. I keep my core in tight, clasp my hands together and take a deep breathe as I stretch up and then side to side.

4. Side to Side

While I'm at it, I progress into these stretches. This helps with stretching out my chest, lower back, and gets some blood flowing into my abs. Again keeping my core in tight and with my hands behind my head, I twist from side to side. If you want a good pec stretch, you can also open and close your arms while they are behind your head.

5. Push-ups

Yes, push-ups. Push-ups against your bed is an excellent way to get your heart rate going. If you are just starting out with fitness, modified push-ups are an excellent way to build up your strength. If you are a regular gym-goer, it's modified so you won't be exerting all your energy in getting a few in. Push-up engage your abs as well as your back. As you get stronger, you'll start to think that these are just a warm up. Remember to keep your body aligned as you go through the movement to prevent injury to your lower back.

6. Jumping Jacks

If you still need a wake-me-up move for the morning, try jumping jacks. A set of these will definitely get your heart rate up and blood pumping. I usually get a set in if I am on my way to AM cardio and I need to get myself pumped up for the day ahead.

Do you have any morning rituals that help you get your morning started? Of course, I don't do all of these when I first wake up. I usually do 4 or 5 depending on what my schedule entails.

If you're already stretching and getting yourself pumped up for your day, why not take that extra step and take the dog out for a brisk walk or head to the gym for a 20 or 30 minute AM cardio session? :)

Happy training,