Running for Pelvic Health

In my experience thus far as a personal trainer, I’ve met a variety of women at different stages of fitness. I enjoy the assessment process, asking relevant questions about health, fitness and eating habits, using that information to design a program to help my client become “Stronger Fitter Faster”, my tagline. However, after a recent conversation with Women’s Health Foundation (WHF) founder, Missy Lavender, I have come to realize there is a huge piece of my assessment that I have been missing especially in my female clients: pelvic health.

Yes, pelvic health. Continue reading Running for Pelvic Health

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#FitRamadan move(s) of the day

We are now into the 2nd third of Ramadan, where we dip into our fat reserves. It’s hard. We are tired, we are grumpy, but we must not forget the beauty that Ramadan brings. The month of fasting is not meant to change our schedule, but rather change our hearts, and make us better human beings. These ten days are the days of forgiveness. For those who are continuing some semblance of an exercise routine during Ramadan, bravo! It’s not easy, is it? Here is a workout I did today, before I did light cardio (2 mile walk). Safe to say, I’m a little light headed at the moment 😀

Remember! If you are lifting weights, go lighter and add a set or increase repetitions.

This is a great set of exercises that incorporate pushing and pulling motions for the upper body. These moves require balance, which will challenge your core.

Aim for 3 sets of each

Upper Body Challenge - Intensify your training by engaging your coreBalancing bicep curl – 12 reps, each arm – raise one leg and flex your knee and perform the bicep curl. Complete the reps and switch sides

Tricep Extension  – 12 reps – with a dumbbell or resistance band (see video). Or you can perform skull crushers on a bench

Bent Over Row with weight plate – 12 reps – or you can use dumbbellsUpper Body Challenge - Intensify your training by engaging your core

Leaning One-Arm Side lateral raise – 12 reps, each arm – lateral raises work the front and middle deltoids

Forearms to Hands BOSU Plank – 10 reps, each arm (see pic) – if you don’t have a BOSU handy, you can easily perform this move from forearm plank to hand plank

Smith Machine Pull-up for 60 seconds, or 10 reps (see pic) – if you don’t have a Smith Machine at home (who does?) then take a resistance band shoulder height, and shoulder width apart and extend out, hold for 20 seconds, feeling the resistance.

(Photo credits from FitnessRx.com)

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#fitRamadan move of the day

#fitRamadan move of the day: http://youtu.be/2JW-mRL8cB0

Overhead tricep extension

Step on one end of the band, and ensure there is enough tension in the band to extend your hand up straight.

Bend your elbow so it is pointing up, you can use your other hand to support it up if need be.

Begin extending your arm up and lower for one repetition.

There should be enough tension in the band that it is challenging, but not too much that you cannot complete 8 reps easily.

Be sure to breath out on your extension (raising your arm up).

Perform 3 sets of 8-12 reps.

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Move Every Day

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Let’s do this! A great way to keep yourself moving in Ramadan is to break up your routine in little chunks. A tabata is a GREAT way to do that. In its truest form, a tabata is a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout* that you can knock out with an impact in as little as 4 minutes. What is HIIT? A HIIT session, such as a tabata, will start with a warm up, and move into 6 to 10 cycles of work and rest periods.  Advanced athletes will maintain a moderate level of intensity during the rest / recovery periods, while beginners can slow down or literally stop. The only thing you need to keep in mind is the 2:1 work:rest ratio, and you can create a tabata for anything. For example:

Jump rope tabata

Work: 20 seconds
Rest: 10 seconds

Repeat 7 more times for a total of 8 cycles (beginners can do 4-6, advanced can do 8-10). 

I’ve created bootcamps with tabata circuits, giving bootcampers the biggest bang for their buck. You can work multiple muscle groups with varying degrees of intensity. For example, after the jump rope tabata, you can move to an assortment of bodyweight exercises such as an air squat, a burpee, a mountain climber, crunches, even sprints! You can create a great circuit without any equipment!

Here is a photo from an outdoor fitness park in San Francisco. Hopefully it will conjure up some ideas to get you started on your first Ramadan tabata! Go easy and slow if a tabata is new to you, keep in mind your fitness level and what you will be capable of while fasting.

Do something small every day
Do something small every day

 

* Be sure to check with your physician before beginning any strenuous exercise program*

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Be Fit for Ramadan

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By Ayesha Akhtar, MPH, CPT

O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may become righteous. (Surah Al-Baqarah: Verse183)

With Ramadan approaching in just a few short weeks, many of you, like myself, are wondering how to maintain a level of fitness throughout the month of Ramadan, so as not to lose endurance and muscle tone (neither are completely true). Fear not! There are several habits you can adopt throughout your day, and can maybe even enhance the spiritual aspect of fasting by giving you a little extra energy here and there. I’ve share below some of my own lessons learned. Feel free to share your own!

For my readers who are not familiar with the logistics of Ramadan, allow me to share. Fasting for 30 days during the month of Ramadan (one month on the lunar calendar) is one of the five main pillars of Islam. This year, Ramadan begins at the end of June. Physically and mentally able Muslims (there are several exemptions) will fast from dawn to sunset, abstaining from food, water, smoking, and sex during those times. At sunset, it is tradition to break fast with a date, which is essentially a superfood, water and the company of others. It is such a beautiful time of togetherness and camaraderie. Many faiths participate in fasting on some level. The first few days are tough, then your body gets into a groove, the last 10 days are hard, knowing the end is near. It is a time for physical cleansing, and spiritual resetting. Many will attend the Mosque for prayers more often than, others prefer to stay at home. We end the month of Ramadan with Eid ul Fitr, a celebration lasting three days, with gift giving galore!  Continue reading Be Fit for Ramadan

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Race Recap: The party is over…

If you have ever been a part of planning a huge party or a wedding, then you get it. That empty feeling you have as the last guest leaves, and your heart swells up with joy and your mind is sorting through all the new memories you created. Maybe you are wondering, when will I see them again? It’s a dramatic sentiment, but it’s exactly how I am feeling now, post-triathlon. I feel like I said goodbye to a dear friend. One that I trained with for months and months. It kept me company every day and because it was new, every week was exciting. I loved the highs and lows of learning how to swim all over again. Oh, and the gear?? Buying a new swim suit after YEARS. Experimenting with goggles, paddles, flippers and buoys. Some things I never knew existed for the water before this year. The drama with my bike, wavering between, ‘will I like triathlons and if so should I buy a road bike’, or ‘Nah, I’ll just hybridize my mountain bike and deal with it’. I installed a bike computer and pedal cages which made me feel accomplished. I had the run covered, no sweat. But it was tricky learning how to successfully complete brick workouts from bike to run!

The 2014 Esprit de She Sprint Triathlon. Here’s how it went down.

The standard 4am wake up call: adrenaline woke up me and got me out of the house. I was in transition by 5:30am, set up all my gear as you can see below, and started eating my overnight oats. That was one of the smarter things I did that morning…

sweet bikes to my right and left...
sweet bikes to my right and left…

Then my fellow race pals and I decided to walk the T1 and T2 paths to familiarize ourselves with the course and stay warm. Transition would close at 6:45am, so by this point, we had about an hour. It was really great to walk around and see everyone’s transition setup, especially swoon over the elite bikes! That’s when it really hit me that my mountain bike with hybrid tires wasn’t going to cut it.

Before it all went down...
Before it all went down…

 

The 750 m Swim

Swallowed some EnergyBits tablets and it was time to head out. Grabbed my goggles and swim cap and we made our way. I had a mylar blanket to keep myself warm until my start time of 7:52 (Wave 14). In my mind I was thinking, I’ve got this! All I need to do is get into a groove and I’ll be set. I had NO IDEA what I was in for. For those of you who have done a triathlon, you know what I’m chaos I am referring to! A friend and fellow racer from my running club did warn me that it would take about 100-200m before my nerves would calm down / HR would come down. What I wish I had prepared for was that feeling of ‘HEY, is that woman trying to drown me?!?!’ Surely she is not, she is trying to do exactly the same as me, which is find some space and get into a groove. I was so anxious I had to flip on my back and swim backstroke for about a full lap. It’s simply very hard to swim well when you are constantly being kicked and smacked. No lane lines to see where you are going, you constantly have to look up. I kept trying to look out for my vista points but would lose them moments later. Maybe that’s just the beginner’s swim, and now it won’t happen again? I know I lost a LOT of time panicking and doing this. Despite the drama, my total time for the swim was 19 minutes.

T1: 4:58

Couple notes on T1. My bike was racked towards the end of the entry, so it was a long shuffle from the swim. Getting my bike off the rack – should have practiced after racking it in the morning. Lesson learned.

The 13.3 mile Bike

Got the bike off the rack, grabbed a fig bar, water bottle was already loaded but I FORGOT to add a Nuun tablet. And rushed out to mount. I had taped a Clif gel to my bike the night before so that would be my source of carbs for the ride. THE WIND WAS AWFUL. It was a double loop course so I thought I’d be safe on the way back since I was getting so much headwind, but no, not at all. Wind found me head on both ways, both times. Drank water every 5 miles, took the gel at mile 8. All I can say about the bike is that I was being passed up by mostly everyone and their mom and by the end if I heard someone say “On your left!!” one more time, I was going to S C R E A M! I made a point to pass up a few people and finished strong with a lousy 54 min.

T2: 3:37

Notes on T2. There is be no reason why this cannot be under 2-2 1/2 minutes. Especially because I was not wearing cycling shoes. Alas, I racked my bike, took off the helmet, grabbed the visor, Garmin but FORGOT my bib. I ran out, stepped on the timing belt and it wasn’t until a woman quickly called out ‘HEY you forgot your bib!!’. I ran back to transition and ran back out. So there’s my awful T2 time.

The 5k Run

The run was awesome! I got into a meditative groove right away, knowing it is my strength. However, the last race I did was the Soldier Field 10 mile and I cramped at mile 8. The cramping got me through the finish line until my legs started spasming so bad that I was wheeled into the medic tent. All I kept thinking about was thanking God for giving me the opportunity to race today, and to please keep my legs in check and let me just get through pain-free! And I did!! Also, I don’t race short distances so there was no time to complain :) My average pace was 8:27 and my time was 26:15 (53/246). I will say one more thing, the finish line deceived me. There were two timing belts, placed about 20 m apart, I don’t know WHY I nearly stopped at the first one, until I heard a woman yell out to me to KEEP GOING (maybe the same one who said my bib was missing??). I have never ever done that in any race, so either fatigue set in or the race layout is all wrong :)

Overall

I know there was room for improvement in everything I did. And that’s the beauty of your first time, you create the framework from which to improve and make modifications. My overall time was 1:48. I planned for 1:45, mostly because it sounds like a really great number. Otherwise I have nothing to compare this to, so until I sign up for another sprint triathlon, which I will, I will happily take my beautiful medal and enjoy the fact that I set out to complete a triathlon, and now I can finally say, I’m a triathlete!!

Hopefully the first of many
Hopefully the first of many

 

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Cramp My Style

Cramp My Style

Why do I cramp on race day, and not the hundreds of miles I put on the pavement beforehand?

Competition.
Competition.
Competition.

What I have always loved about running is the competition. Against myself, not everyone else. I race to win, against myself. Around mile 8, I checked my Garmin and I knew I was going to beat my time from last year. So I asked myself, “Is this as fast as I can go right now?”, and kicked it up. My legs had other plans and my muscles weren’t having it. Muscle spasms, on both legs, down to my feet all the way through the finish line.

Competition. It’s a nasty beast, but character building. Life changing. I crossed the finish line and swore I would NEVER do it again, but here I am now, fondly enjoying my finish line picture (yes I will purchase it), dreaming about what I could have done differently. Maybe the cramping and post-race first aid experience wasn’t all *that* bad? (Yea, it was).

Until next year!

4/5ths of our strong Sunday Morning Running Club
4/5ths of our strong Sunday Morning Running Club
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UAE weightlifter Amna Al Haddad eyes the 2016 Olympics

I came across this inspiring interview by UAE weightlifter Amna Al Haddad. Pushing the boundaries as a Muslim woman, and as an Olympic hopeful!

I love to see women lifting weights!

UAE weightlifter Amna Al Haddad eyes the 2016 Olympics.

I’m also excited to approach Ramadan differently, from a fitness and exercise perspective. I underestimated myself last year, and relaxed quite a bit. I’m going to be maintaining my lifting sessions, but at a lesser intensity. For me, regularity will be more important than stopping altogether.

 

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#PoweredbyBits: Review & Giveaway! + Winner!

Travel tin
Travel tin

Recently I joined a weekly #Runchat twitter chat sponsored by ENERGYbits. I was very intrigued to learn more as I had increasingly spotted their travel tin all over on Instagram by fellow runners and plant-based athletes. Organically grown spirulina for energy? Heck, I’ll try anything once. I was very excited to receive a sample to review and tell you how you can win a sample for yourself. I also have a discount code for you!

What is spirulina algae?

Spirulina algae is a super hero in the world of super foods. Research done by NASA showed that that 1 kg of spirulina had the nutritional  equivalent of 1000 kg of fruits and vegetables! (Yes, NASA feeds astronauts algae!)  Spirulina’s nutritional pedigree is so impressive that The World Bank, NASA and Olympic athletes have all declared spirulina to be the most nutritious food in the entire world. Why? Well for starters, it effortlessly and naturally boosts your energy like an energy drink, energy bar or coffee  but without the downside of chemicals, caffeine, calories, gluten or sugar. Gram per gram, there is no denser source of nutrition than spirulina algae. (www.ENERGYbits.com)

What are the ENERGYbits tabs?

Have you ever (un)intentionally drank ocean water? The tabs remind me of the salt water and of seaweed. They’re very small and can easily be swallowed with any liquid.

I looked at the tin of dozens of tabs and thought, ‘How on earth am I going to take 30 right now?’. For those of you who aren’t the pill popping, vitamin consuming types, this may pose a problem. I decided to start easy and take a few at a time.  I took 5 tablets every 90 minutes and found them to be remarkable. I had sustained energy throughout the day, which included numerous exercise activities (swimming, running and lifting). The tabs are VERY green, so it’s best to swallow them instead of chewing.

They have the highest concentration of protein in the world (64% protein which is three times the amount of protein in steak), over 40 nutrients, and are just one calorie per tab. 

The next couple of times I took the tabs I was expecting similar results, and I tried them at different times of the day, knowing when I would be at an energy deficit. I was pleasantly surprised that the bits delivered every time.

Just a handful of 30+ bits will not only fill you up, they will meet most of your daily nutritional requirements, and all for just ONE calorie per tab.  

I’ve taken my fair share of energy gels which often leave my stomach unsettled. I had absolutely no negative after effects from the tabs.

Why does this product work?

Spirulina is a nitrogen based algae, and since nitric oxide opens up your blood vessels, taking our ENERGYbits® will give your brain and your body a steady and natural supply of oxygen and nourishment.

Screen Shot 2014-05-06 at 8.52.33 AM

As any plant-based athlete knows, searching for protein sources can be a full-time job. These bits not only sustained me with energy throughout the day enduring multi-sport training, but it also curbed my hunger, revved my metabolism and helped me avoid the infamous 3pm slump. Perhaps the best benefit from the product was that the day after I did a mini practice triathlon, I was not sore or overly fatigued in any way. These tabs are essential for endurance training. Here are some listed benefits of the algae spirulina tabs (and I most certainly can vouch for most of them):

Best used for:

  • Increasing Energy

  • Increasing Endurance

  • Increasing Mental Vitality

  • High Protein Snack

  • Curbing Hunger

  • Meal Replacement

  • Reducing Fatigue

***Leave a comment below, or click HERE to enter yourself in a raffle to win a sample tin of ENERGYtabs! They also provided me with a discount code for you. Enter the word “BLOG” into the coupon box and the 10% discount will be instantly applied.***

 

** Raffle winner–>

Congrats!
Congrats!

To learn more about ENERGYbits, join their Health and Fitness Twitter chat, held Tuesday nights at 8pm (EST) at #PoweredByBits

You can also find them at www.energybits.com or at http://www.pinterest.com/energybits/fit-with-bits/

They say carrying a tin of ENERGYbits is like carrying around a salad and a steak! Check out the nutrition label:

ENERGYbits Nutritional Information
ENERGYbits Nutritional Information
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Exercise and eat for your body type

Hello!!

I haven’t posted in weeks! I’ve been busy training for my triathlon and making significant gains in the swim department. Recently, an article on body types caught my attention and I found the correlation between knowing your body type, exercise and diet to be very interesting. Do you know your body type?

The media has us brainwashed to believe that the thin, white ideal for women, or tough, muscular and cut men are the standards of beauty. That anything else is a ‘work in progress’. Deep down we know not everyone has or wants to have a runway ready body, and most certainly we don’t find ourselves amidst these types in our everyday lives. We are inundated with ridiculous magazine covers with headlines such as ‘Get Kate Moss’ workout’ and that leads the woman to consider, ‘Ok, if I get her workout, then I have a greater chance in looking like her’. The poison seeps into the subconscious.  The tagline they are noticeably excluding is, ‘only if you are also an ectomorph like Kate Moss’. So, the next time you catch yourself coveting someone else’s body, consider your own body type first.

Body Types
Body Types

 

There are three body types for men and women and once you know what you are, you can be liberated from the thought of trying to fit into a mold that is simply unattainable, or that is not yours. They are: ectomorph, endomorph and mesomorph. Most people are a combination of two or more types. The ectomorph is the skinny, thin-framed individual with little fat. They are usually not athletic and have little or no muscle tone, which is why they are often referred to as ‘skinny fat’. Most supermodels are ectomorphs, which has unfortunately contributed to the thin, white ideal of women. Many ectomorphs can eat whatever they want as their body metabolizes food very quickly.

Endomorphs, however, have more body fat, tend to be overweight, have a smoother, more round body and are bigger-boned (than ectomorphs). They have a slower metabolism and take longer to lose weight.  Endomorphs are not the morning ‘go-getters’ and need a little prodding to be active. Don’t despair! Get a gym buddy or hire a personal trainer to help motivate you. Further, let this knowledge be the inspiration for the way you exercise and eat. Unfortunately we see large-framed, oversized women struggling to lose weight to fit into skinny jeans that are not designed for them.

Mesomorphs are naturally active, athletic, and respond quickly to any weight training and are naturally lean and strong. They also gain fat easily when they are not active. Because they have broader, squarer shoulders, mesomorph women tend to have an hourglass figure, whereas men have a “V” or rectangle shape build.

The purpose in knowing your body type(s) is to boost your self-esteem.  Additionally, it is to understand the body’s mechanics. Ectomorph people may be under the impression they are ‘fit’ or ‘healthy’ because they don’t carry extra weight. This is often referred to as ‘skinny fat’, as they have no muscle tone. However, this can often lead to unhealthy binging and eating habits as they are under an illusion that they are otherwise healthy.

I am a combination of mesomorph and endomorph. I have a small-framed body but am (and always have been) very athletic. I have a quick metabolism and find it easy to gain muscle, and am freakishly strong. :) Knowing my body type allows me to design workouts and maintain a healthy diet that is just right for me.

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