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News from Around the Block – October 2012

Congratulations, Alisia - our newest "Mommy-to-be!" Congratulations to Health and Wholeness Pilates Instructor, Alisia Essig, who recently announced the exciting news that she is pregnant! Alisia is only 15 weeks along, but we're already counting down the days until we have another little one crawling around Studio B! ...Speaking of little ones... Health and Wholeness Massage Therapist, Jai Dee, is now certified in *Infant Massage* - which encompasses numerous benefits to the baby (for example: relaxation and better sleep, better digestion, and improved immune system, blood circulation, and skin condition...just to name a few) as well as the parents or caregivers. Infant Massage provides its benefits in four distinct ways: Stimulating all the body systems; Relaxing; Relieving; and Bonding and Attachment. Not in the "baby" phase? We still have plenty of great massage techniques to choose from, so check them out and see which is right for you! *End of October Indoor Boot Camp – Session starts Monday, October 22nd* Halloween is right around the corner (and the candy, sweets and other treats aren't far behind!) For many of us, late October marks the official holiday season kick-off, so start this festive time of year on the right foot! You'll get new challenges and more fun routines  to keep you on top of your game, so join us for another 4-week session of Boot Camp on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings at 6am at the Avalon Community Basketball Court in Arlington. Nina’s popular camps still have room, so read more and REGISTER today! *PLUS* Take advantage of the “Bring-a-Buddy to Boot Camp Campaign”:
  • Bring a friend who is new to boot camp and they get 2 FREE sessions (that's 12 for the price of 10!)
  • YOU get the same deal, too!
**For anyone following the Prop 37 news on consumers' right to GMO labeling, here is Michael Pollan's (author of The Omnivore's Dilemma) take on the California Ballot Initiative to label Genetically Modified Organisms...happy reading!** Health and Wholeness is a multifaceted fitness and wellness business serving Arlington and Alexandria, Virginia, featuring: Private and Semi-Private Personal Training as well as Group Runs and Individual Run Coaching, Mat and Circuit Pilates classes, Muscle Activation Techniques, Boot Camps, Nutrition Consultations and Food Sensitivity Testing, Acupuncture, Massage, Wellness Coaching, Infrared Sauna, Ionic Foot Soaks, and more!

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Think You’re Hard Core?

Written by Alisia Essig For years I have had a very muscular client named Alex as a regular in my Pilates mat classes. This guy is huge. I mean, it looks like he could crush me with his pinkie. Alex has a six-pack that I could literally wash my clothes on. However, he suffers from back pain. Years ago, when the pain became unbearable, he started seeing a physical therapist. After running some tests they told him that while he was very muscular, most were superficial, and he really needed to work on his deep supportive muscles. It was then that his physical therapist told him to take Pilates classes. Once he came to Pilates, he began to really understand what “hard core” meant, and his back pain went away. Most people are more conditioned to use the larger muscle groups, but in Pilates we work from the inside out and concentrate on using the supportive muscles near the skeletal frame. The emphasis is placed on mindful, focused, intentional movement. During each exercise we are reminded to activate through the “core” muscles before moving. These muscles include: 1) the Transverse Abdominals - the deepest layer of abdominal muscles that wrap around the torso like a girdle and work to stabilize the spine while allowing flexibility of movement 2) the Multifidus muscles - small muscles that connect and stabilize the vertebrae (bones that make up the spine and 3) the pelvic floor muscles - also known as your Kegel muscles. I see a lot of clients with injuries or weakness of the postural muscles, due to work, lifestyle, or improper exercise form. I tell them to think of a tree. Does it have all of its strength in its limbs? No. The tree is only as strong as its trunk and roots. Without a strong trunk, the tree would topple over. It's the same for human bodies. If we don't concentrate on building a good foundation and a strong trunk or core, we'll end up tight in some places and weak in others, injury-prone and susceptible to the pitfalls of our occupation or chosen form of exercise. Just like Alex, you may think you are “hard core,” but you don’t know what hard core really means until you take Pilates classes. Alisia Essig is a Certified Pilates Instructor at Health and Wholeness – a multifaceted fitness and wellness business in Arlington, Virginia featuring: Private and Semi-Private Personal Training as well as Pilates, Muscle Activation Techniques, Fitness Boot Camps, Nutrition Consultations, Acupuncture, Massage, Wellness Coaching, Infrared Sauna, Ionic Foot Soaks and more.

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News From Around the Block - March 2012

Wellness Bundles New Cleanse Workshop Looking to do some internal “Spring Cleaning”?  Later this month (March 24—the first weekend of Spring), Nina will be hosting a workshop on the topic of cleansing.  In addition to the two-hour educational event, the cost of the workshop will include a month’s worth of supplements, a week of infrared sauna, 2 Ionic foot soaks, 1 massage, a grocery-shopping list, weekly check-ins, and access to your coach via email.  For more details, click here. New Wellness Packages If you’ve read the top of our Synergy poster you know it says “Finding vibrant health is rarely about finding a missing link, rather it’s all about Synergy.”  To that end, our growing breadth of offerings has allowed us bundle different services into packages to help you create genuine and lasting change.  If you’re looking to transition to a healthy lifestyle consider our new Wellness Packages as a possible solution.  We don’t know where you’ll find this many services (aspects of wellness) in one place. Not only is each service outstanding, the bundles also give you our best rates!  A new you awaits on the other side! New Services Wellness Coaching As a part of our continuing efforts to be as holistic as possible we are proud to bring Professional Wellness Coaching to our list of services.  A Wellness Coach is a person in your corner who helps bring the critical thinking, action planning and accountability necessary to facilitate sustainable lifestyle changes.  Coaching is highly individualized and focuses on helping you make changes in the areas you’re most motivated to change.  We are so excited to offer this new service because we believe it can be one of the best ways to bridge intention and results, or in other words, bridge our other services in ways that are sure to bring results.  A wellness coach helps you discover insights that often are some of the most valuable life lessons you will ever learn.   What are you waiting for? New Massage Specialties Our massage offering just took a giant leap forward.  In addition to our outstanding Swedish, Deep Tissue, and Pregnancy massage, we are thrilled to now offer the following types of massage: Thai, Fijian, Ashiatsu, Reflexology, and Swe-Thai.  If you’ve not heard of them, then you’ve got to find out what you’re missing. Facial Acupuncture After much time refining her skills, our wonderful acupuncturist is now offering one of the best acupuncture niches around—cosmetic acupuncture, also know as facial rejuvenation acupuncture.  Each treatment will be a full body treatment and focus on facial health and rejuvenation that will leave you glowing and looking your best.  And if you’ve never had someone use hot towels on your skin you don’t know what you’re missing!  This service can be great for anyone dealing with skin issues on their face or just someone wanting to slow aging and have a more youthful appearance. Forget Botox and its side-effects, come get your youthful glow back naturally!  Nina has been trying it and loves it! New Team Members Janet Witucki –Wellness Coach In addition to being a Board Certified Coach (BCC), and Certified Wellness Coach, Janet earned her Masters of Science in Physical Therapy. She is also a certified Pilates instructor, and certified Strength and Conditioning Coach. Experience is truly a great teacher and it is the thousands of hours working one-on-one with clients that have honed her unique gift for coaching people to reach their goals. As a coach, Janet is an expert in facilitating change. It is her passion to help you grow and change in order to get the results and the life you desire. Her non-judgmental, client-centered approach coupled with extensive knowledge of the wellness arena and the team she surrounds herself with here are just a part of what makes Janet a great coach.  We are lucky to have her. Deb Millander –Massage Therapist Deb became interested in massage roughly 23 years ago while trying to relieve the body aches and discomfort her husband put up with while flying C-141's and later C-17's for the USAF. Her passion for massage became apparent in 1992, while stationed in Charleston, SC, when she gave birth to premature twins. While the 2nd twin, Joshua, was battling for his life at the Children's Hospital, Deb was asked to let him be a part of a pilot program for massage on preterm infants. By allowing a CMT to work 15 minutes twice a day for seven days, Joshua went from a 30% chance of survival to 100% and was allowed to be discharged soon afterwards. The power of touch! Deb enjoys helping clients relieve tension and stress from their daily lives through different massage modalities and specializes in working with specific soft and deep tissue pain and discomfort, helping expectant mothers work through some of the physical discomforts that come with pregnancy, and she is volunteering her amazing skills here with us.  Deb is married, an Air Force spouse (retired), has three sons, and has been homeschooling for the last 17 years. In her spare time she enjoys spending time outdoors, studying foreign languages, traveling with family, and raising French Bulldogs. Alisia Essig – Pilates Instructor Alisia graduated in Communications and Political Science from the University of Utah and completed her Masters degree in Public Administration at The George Washington University. While attending graduate school, Alisia starting having knee pain when she would run so she began taking Pilates and yoga classes for cross training. It was at this time that Alisia discovered her love for Pilates and she became very passionate in learning more about the Pilates method of physical fitness. Alisia originally certified in Mat Pilates in 2008 and comes from over 200 hours of teaching experience. In 2010, she advanced her training through BASI Pilates. Alisia strongly believes that Pilates can improve strength and flexibility by creating long, lean muscles. She provides instruction in Pilates Mat, such as various levels of stretching and strength including: physical stretches, breathing techniques, and strengthening techniques for participants of varying levels of fitness, skill, and ability.   New Events Tough Mudder Team After the success of last year’s team we decided to go play in the mud again.  Saturday September 8th in Frederick, Maryland—about an hour away from our Studios.  If you’re looking for an unforgettable event to train for come join us for the most challenging civilian obstacle course/race on the planet!  If you want to join us just send us a note and we’ll send you and invitation!  You’ve never had so much fun getting dirty! New Pilates Classes Last month we added a Tuesday/Thursday 6:00a.m. Pilates mat class.  Starting the week of March 5th we will begin offering our unique, semi-private Pilates Circuit Classes where we will use the Cadillac, Reformer, Wunda Chair and Mat.  These classes are 2-3 person classes that allow attendees to benefit from the Pilates apparatus (not just the mat) at a more economical rate than one-on-one session. Each class is $40 for 60 minutes.  Space in each class is limited so reserve your space today. Outdoor Boot Camp Weather permitting our first outdoor boot camp of the year kicks off March 26th.  Like our other camps, this one run M, W, F mornings at 6:00 and is $200 for new campers and $240 for veterans.  If you love to greet the day feeling like a million bucks because you had a challenging yet fun workout, you’ve gotta check out our boot camps. We’ve got new toys and new challenges this year.  Come play with us!  Hoo-Rah! Jeremy’s new MAT Masters Specialty! A big congratulation to our own Jeremy Rucker who successfully completed the challenging Muscle Activation Techniques Masters Specialty (how many of you know all 600 muscles, what they do and are able to put together a skeleton blindfolded?) He is one of only a few dozen Masters level specialist in the entire world and he’s here ready to help in any way he can.  If you’ve got some aches and pain, or simply some performance goals and you’ve not tried MAT you don’t know what you’re missing.   Jeremy is exceptionally knowledgeable, humble, and understands our holistic culture as well as anyone.          

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Pilates – The Missing Link in My Lower Back Rehab

This past summer I found myself with some pretty awful low back pain, the kind where you worry that if you bend over too far you might just keep going to the floor, or get stuck in the bent over position.  I hurt it, like a lot of guys do, by trying to lift too much weight and for about 3 months it would start to feel better and then one vigorous workout would send it back to being very, shall we say…delicate.  At times I moved around like I was 80 years old.  Being a trainer and a generally fit person it was weird to see myself move like some of my elderly clients.  But boy could I relate to what they must feel as they move through space. After emptying my bag of tricks with the exercises I knew to do for my core, plus rehabilitative measures like acupuncture, massage, chiropractic, proper sleeping position, ice, etc., I was starting to wonder if I had damaged something structurally.  I had Jeremy Rucker (our Muscle Activation Techniques specialist) go to work on me trying to figure out what muscles might be letting me down.  Turns out my back actually tested quite strong.  What he found however was that various abdominal muscles, as well as my hip flexors couldn’t even resist against light pressure.  It was like they were on a dimmer switch set to the lowest output.  They could move but had a tremendously low threshold.  Anything stressful basically turned them off.  In short my back was hurting because my abs and hip flexors were not strong enough to handle what my back was capable of.  Yet it was my back felt the brunt of their dysfunction. Armed with that knowledge I knew there was nothing better at strengthening the core than Pilates.  Now, I’m a guy who loves a good sweat, I like lifting toward the heavy (not too heavy) side.  I like getting somewhat out of breath, to really out of breath.  I like leaving a workout feeling the pump in the muscles and the clear mind that comes with a strong exertion level.  There is not much about Pilates that fits that description but nevertheless so many people swear by it that I knew it likely was what my body needed.  Besides, I was running out of health measures I knew of to help my back heal.  I had to try it. I had Heather Paris work with me for just 2 sessions and at the end of the first I could already feel the difference!  When I started my first session I could barely bend over far enough to touch my hands to my knees.  By the end of the hour I could reach down around my ankles.  The difference was amazing!  By the end of the second session I actually felt athletic again.  That was all it took.  I was hooked.  Since then I’ve made many of those exercises a part of my standard workouts.  I regularly “sneak” into the Pilates studio to practice what she taught me.  I’ve learned the cues my body is giving me that tell me when my body needs some Pilates. I cannot say how grateful I am to have such quality of life enhancing knowledge in my “hip pocket”.  If you’re core needs some help you’ve gotta try Pilates.  Do it well, precisely and often and you can’t help but feel the difference!   Here’s to moving like a kid again.  Thank you Heather! To your health, Christian Elliot – Personal Trainer, and owner Health and Wholeness LLC, Arlington VA

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Client Corner - Lindsay Huttman

What brought you to Health and Wholeness? I knew I could do better, simple as that. My workout included running once or twice a week and a sporadic soccer games. I wasn’t necessarily unhappy with my weight, it was more about how I fit in my clothes. Most women out there will know exactly what I’m talking about. My husband, on the other hand, does not understand that concept. In his mind, he always fits in his clothes.  HA! I even tried P90X, but that just wasn’t sustainable. If you’ve ever done P90X you know how annoying Tony can get after a couple weeks. So there I was, in a constant cycle of losing some weight, gaining muscle and once I got bored with that particular workout, my body went back to the way it was before I started. I was quickly losing motivation to maintain a routine with my work/travel schedule and my inability to get the results I knew were possible. When I started looking for a personal trainer, I specifically looked for a place that focused on more than just the traditional weightlifting workout, I really wanted a place that focused on many different aspects of fitness. A quick internet search and Health and Wholeness came right up! How many days a week do you train? I work out twice a week at Health and Wholeness, once a week with Christian focusing on weights, cardio endurance and anything that will ensure, as I get older, I don’t kill myself at soccer. The other day of the week, I work out with Heather in the Pilates room to work on my balance, symmetry and stretching. One day I’m breathless (Christian) and the other I’m mindful of my breath (Heather).  It’s a great combination! Outside of H&W, I usually do some kind of cardio on my own whether it’s a run in the neighborhood, soccer, or one of my old P90X videos. On a good week that’s probably three extra days, on a really busy week, it’s at least one extra. What are your biggest motivators? Before I joined H&W, I would have said looking good in a bathing suit. I mean seriously, who doesn’t want to have a mean beach body. It’s not that I don’t want to look good in a bathing suit now, but I’m motivated by the way I feel vs. what I look like. I feel great! In addition, I have a “small” competitive streak and any advantage I can get on the soccer field is ok me! A future consideration is our desire to start a family at some point in the future. I really want to be in great shape before we embark on that journey so I can provide a healthy environment for my baby to grow. What is the most significant change you have noticed since you started at Health and Wholeness? I have definitely lost weight and gained muscle, but I’m more excited about what I can do with the muscle. The most significant change that I’ve seen in my body has been in my ability to sustain physical activity for longer periods of time. The other change has been in my back. When I was stressed out at work, I used to get this pain in my upper shoulder area. I could feel my muscles twisting themselves into knots. I tried massages, stretching techniques and ergonomic chairs. No luck! After working with Christian and Heather, even though the stress is still there, the pain is gone. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my attitude towards food has changed dramatically! I’m not going to lie, I love food. I love everything about it, the grocery store, cooking, smelling, and eating. About the only thing associated with food I don’t like is doing the dishes! When I first met with Christian, I remember he asked me about my diet and I was very proud to tell him that I kept a fairly low fat diet and ate “really well.” Over time, Christian and Heather have helped me learn about how important good fats are to my diet if I want to stay healthy, active and, in the future (just in case my mom reads this, I’ll say it again: in the future) get pregnant. I knew processed foods (especially sugars) were not optimal and had already made some changes in my diet. H&W gave me the motivation to go further and really look for sources of food that are as close to their natural state as possible. I have really embraced the teachings of “Nourishing Traditions” and am working on making changes every day. I can honestly say, H&W has changed my outlook (physically and mentally) in the most positive ways. What have you learned about yourself since you started working with us? That I’m not lazy! I really gave myself a hard time about getting a personal trainer, I felt like I was failure for not being able to get the results I wanted by myself. After time, I realized that was not true! I work hard (although I may whine a bit) at training and in my workouts outside of H&W. It’s not that I’m lazy, it’s that I need help and that’s ok. I wouldn’t trade the results or the changes in my life over the past 6 months for anything. I’m proud to say that I have a trainer and I’m proud of the results I’ve gotten. What advice would you have for others just starting their own health journey? Get a trainer! Ok, ok I’m kidding. Seriously, it can seem so overwhelming, as if you are just starting up a mountain assent and the top is so menacing, getting there seems more unpleasant than actually trying. Don’t think about the top! Think about what you are going to do tomorrow. That’s it, just tomorrow. Reward yourself (I use chocolate, dark of course) and make the extra effort when you normally wouldn’t. That’s when I feel the greatest accomplishment. What would you want others to know about Health and Wholeness? H&W is truly a fun, supportive, safe place to make changes in your life. See you there!

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News From Around the Block - December 2011

A lot has been happening around here lately.  We’ve had our best year yet and we are looking forward to an even better 2012.  Here are some of the newest highlights: Tough Mudder - This past October we had a 15 person team all successfully complete one of the toughest "races" on the planet.  Wintergreen Ski Resort was the location of our roughly 10 mile hike through the hills, mud, freezing cold water, flames, electric shock and more.  It was an amazing event and a great sense of accomplishment.  We are looking to put together another team for the upcoming Saturday Tough Mudder in Washington DC next May.  If you're interested in joining us just let us know!  You can pre-register here http://toughmudder.com/events/dc2012/ Check out the video on their homepage to get a little taste of what you missed! http://toughmudder.com/ New Rewards Program - Just launched last month was our new Customer Loyalty Program. From simply showing up for appointments to posting about us on Facebook, making referrals and more there are many ways to earn points toward Health and Wholeness discounts.  Check out the “Track Your Rewards Points” button on our homepage for details. Holiday Special – This month for every $100 you spend you get a $15 gift certificate to give to a friend.  There is no limit on the number of certificates you can receive.  You can give them all to one person or pass them out to friends.  Certificates are redeemable for any of our services. Goodbye Ty - Tyson Dewees has moved back to Korea to be near his wife's family and pursue his dream of owning his own business.  We wish him the best and will miss him around the block.  Thanks for all you taught us Ty! New Toys – Coming this month we will feature a few new training toys like the ViPR, and Indian Clubs.  These new “toys” will enable us to work your muscles to build strength, coordination, and fluidity of movement in a way that we have not been able to before.  We can't wait to train you all with these!  And yes, they will be making an appearance at Boot Camp! Boot Camp – The new Boot Camp schedule for 2012 is now online.  Hu-rah!  You can find out all the details about these camps on our website and get registered online!  Come get yourself a great, unique workout to start the day, play with equipment you won’t find anywhere else, and feel a sense of fitness that is priceless.  You’ll never know what to expect when you show up…just that you’ll work hard, have fun, and if you want, get some social time.  Space is limited so sign up early! Cosmetic Acupuncture – After much time refining her skills our wonderful acupuncturist is now ready to offer one of the best acupuncture niches around—cosmetic acupuncture, also know as "facial rejuvenation acupuncture."  We are proud to be one of the few places you can find in here in Arlington, VA to offer this service.  Each treatment will be a full body treatment and focus on facial health and rejuvenation that will leave you glowing and looking your best.  This service can be great for anyone dealing with skin issues on their face or just someone wanting to slow aging and have a more youthful appearance.   Forget Botox and it’s side effects; come get your youthful glow back naturally!  Details coming on our website soon! New Pilates Instructor – We are proud to bring the lovely Alisia Essig to our team.  Starting next month she will be available to take appointments for one-on-one (apparatus), 2-3 Person Circuit Pilates classes (apparatus), and group classes (mat).   We are excited to bring her skills to our team and can’t wait for you to meet her.  Times for the Pilates circuit classes to be announced soon. New Semi-Private Pilates Class – Interested in some professional Pilates instruction at a reduced rate?  Starting next month we will be offering 2-3 person circuit Pilates classes using the fancy Pilates machines.  Class will be $40/person for a one-hour session (as opposed to $85 for one-on-one).  It’s a chance to get more personalized instruction and try Pilates in a way you can never experience on a mat!  Check back soon for more details. New Pilates Mat Class – Want to start your day with a workout designed to make you strong from the inside out, improve your posture, flexibility, and strengthen you from head to toe?  Come try a Pilates workout to get your body ready for the day.  Starting next month we will be offering early morning Pilates mat classes here in the basketball court.  Classes will be Tuesday and Thursday from 6-7am and will be $20/class.  Space is limited so sign up soon!  Details to be posted on our website in the coming week. New Book For Sale – Folk, This Ain’t Normal is Joel Salatin’s newest book and it is a pleasure to read.  Come pick up a copy of his witty, insightful look at how we grow our food.  Joel was featured in the popular documentary “Food Inc.” and the book The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan.  You won’t be disappointed.  

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News From Around the Block - June 2011

New Trainer We are proud to introduce Dave Shutler to our team. Dave has been involved in the fitness industry now for approximately 5 years, experiencing his own transformation in 2008 going from 255 pounds at 16% bodyfat to 205 at 5% bodyfat. Dave knows what it takes to transform not only your body but your mind as well. He worked for the United States Secret Service for 3+ years, going through some of the most intense of training while training for their SWAT team. He has been a Certified Personal Trainer with ISSA for 3 years and also became a licensed massage therapist through the National Massage Therapy Institute in Falls Church, VA in 2010. Dave has landed several fitness magazine spreads in the past few years and is extremely passionate about coaching and helping people to reach their highest potential through positive reinforcement and work ethic. Dave combines a extensive knowledge of nutrition and training with a humble, confident and "down to earth" attitude.  Come get an appointment with him before his schedule fill up. New Service - Acupuncture As part of continuing to grow into our name and bring a holistic approach to health and fitness, we will soon be adding Acupuncture to our list of services!  Having personally experienced the benefits of this powerful healing modality we are excited to be able to offer this service right here on the block.   Studio A is currently being transformed and we aim to have it ready for action next month.   Stay tuned for more details. Pilates in the Park Continues A new five-week series start this Saturday June 25th.  Come enjoy a great workout outdoors and experience Pilates for only $20/class.  You can register for it right on our website.  Just click on “Purchase a Service”.  Hope to see you there! Health and Wholeness Boot Camp The next summer Boot Camp session starts bright and early this Independence Day.  Come be challenged by 12 unique workouts with toys you won’t find at any other camp in the area.  Don’t miss out on sprints day either.  Anyone that can beat Christian in a foot race gets a free Personal Training Session!  We expect this camp to fill up so reserve your spot soon.  You can also sign up for this class on our website, just click “Register for Boot Camp”! New Natural Health Products We are proud to introduce new natural health products from Dr. Mercola, one of the most reputable and holistic websites/doctors in the natural health arena.  Come try out his excellent Whey Protein, Krill Oil, Whey Chocolate Bars, Toothpaste, Mouthwash and more.  You can also visit mercola.com to find out what make his products so special. Tough Mudder – Team Health and Wholeness If you’re looking for an event to train for this may be it.  Come play us in the mud for a 10-mile jaunt through the Wintergreen Ski Resort this October (23rd).  Be challenged with some of the most fun and toughest obstacles you can imagine.  Work with the rest of your teammates to accomplish something very few ever will, and make a memory that will last a lifetime.  Send us a message if you’d like more details.

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Fitness - All About Abs

Ah summer—the time of year we break out the bathing suits and show off the abdominal muscles we’ve been working hard on all spring.  You’re ready to show yours off, right?   I hope so, but in case you answered “no” however, here are my best tips to shape up your abs for swimsuit season.  Before I even get into a bit about the best exercises for the abs, let me first cover: Three Important Points: 1. Chiseled abs requires a pretty low body fat percentage.  Think 9-18 percent, depending on your gender.  What you see on the magazine covers are typically professional body builders with 2-10 percent body fat, and although it may look good in pictures it can actually be quite unhealthy to have your body fat that low. 2. In large part how nice you want your abs to look really just boils down to choosing your priorities.  Unless you’ve lost a LOT of weight and have a lot of extra skin, most people could have really nice looking abs.  The difficulty comes in deciding that having nice abs is really more important than a lot of our creature comforts.  Like most things worth having, to say yes to something (nice looking abs) means we probably have to say “no” to something else.   In that light, read the suggestions below and do some introspection to find out how important it really is to you.  Some people talk a good game as if they’ll do anything to be happy with their abs (or their body in general), but when it comes down to the lifestyle changes it takes to have nice abs, for a lot of people the lifestyle changes are not worth it.  That’s something you have to decide for yourself.  While it’s nice, there is more to life than a washboard midsection.  If you want it, give yourself time and patience. 3. The majority of the battle for nice abs is the diet and lifestyle end of things.   You may be excited (or disappointed) to know that your diet and lifestyle choices are probably 80% of the battle for nice abs.  You can do crunches till your back goes out, but if you don’t understand the factors below, a defined midsection will always elude you.  Below is the precursor “good stuff” you need to know about getting a set of abs people have a hard time taking their eyes off of. Lose Fat, Not Health. Dietary choices are obviously a huge component of sexy abs.  However, if you’ve spent much time talking to me about food you also know I’m not a huge fan of low-fat anything.  Nope I don’t think nature made a mistake when it put fat into things like cream, eggs, avocado, coconut, meats, etc.  Foods that have their fat content altered from the way nature presented them represent to me what I’d call, “nutritionism” (an attempt to use food to manipulate body chemistry for a short term goal)…not real, sustainable nutrition.  With apologies to the Biggest Loser’s dietary advice, while a low fat diet can lead to weight loss, too little fat in the diet also leads to other health problems and is just not worth it. Many people are surprised to learn that my diet is about 40+ percent fat and (gasp) I always eat the yoke!  Yet, my body fat fluctuates between 9-11%.  So if I’m not crazy (or from another planet) and eating 40% fat does not mean I will be 40% fat, what keeps people from having an aesthetically pleasing set of abs?  In my humble opinion, here are the: Top Seven Things that Keep People from a Chiseled Midsection:
  • Too Many Grains, whole and sprouted grains included, but especially refined ones like white rice, white bread, and white pasta.  If you’re a bread lover this one can be hard to take. Even if your grains are whole or sprouted, they are actually one of the hardest things to digest and can cause a lot of bloating which can make hard to even suck in your tummy.  If you care to, try going off all grains for a solid week and see if your gut does not feel (and look) better.
  • Sugar: The list of reasons to avoid sugar is long, but if you’re serious about sexy abs, you can pretty much look at sugar as kryptonite for your abs sculpting efforts (not to mention kryptonite for your immune system).  Staying away from sweets is easier said than done, but once you learn to get away from them I promise they really start to lose their appeal.  If you take a hiatus from sugar, if/when you go back to it you’ll find it is much sweeter than you remember and less enjoyable.  Next time you are tempted by something sweet perhaps you can consider how what your thinking about eating would look if you tucked it just under the skin around your tummy.  That’s probably where it’s headed anyway. What’s the saying…“nothing tastes as good sexy abs feel”?
  • Portion Control: Portions have pretty much gotten out of control in our society.  Marry capitalism, mass production, and the food industry and eventually you have the outrageous portion sizes we have today.  Go back and look at portion sizes we had in the 1950s and you’ll know what I mean.  As a general rule: Eat as little as you need to feel full and recognize that if you are eating real food (recognizable, non processed food) it is harder to eat too much.  Eat real food and your body is more likely to have its needs met and less likely to urge you to keep eating so it can find something nourishing.
  • Liquid Belly Fat a.k.a. Alcohol: I’m not here to tell you can’t enjoy some alcohol from time to time, but if you are serious about having abs you can be proud of, the short of it is alcohol will do nothing to help you look the way you want.   It is liquid sugar in an amount way beyond anything you’d ever come across in nature.  Drink it with any regularity and your body with think you are asking it to store energy for the future…and guess where it stores it.
  • Stress: Cortisol—you’ve probably heard of it.  It is (as far as we know now) your body’s major stress hormone.  One thing cortisol does is signal your body to store fat, particularly fat around the midsection, also known as “visceral fat.”  Cortisol is not necessarily a bad guy.  We need it to overcome stress, but the problem we get into is that most of us live in this state of moderate to high stress called “life.”   The times of low stress are often so infrequent that our bodies don’t get a chance to counterbalance all the cortisol we make and thus we store more fat than we burn.  What can you do to reduce your stress?
  • Medications: There are a lot of medications out there that directly cause weight gain, and even if weight gain is not a listed side effect, drugs are still toxic and thus they tend to get stored in your fat cells (doing so keeps them out of your blood).  If you’re taking any medications it may be worth considering what you and your doctor can do to help you get off the medications…for the sake of your abs, but also for other reasons.
  • Lack of Sleep: If you’re looking to lose belly fat and you regularly don’t get enough sleep it will be very challenging to have nice looking abs.  Lack of sleep is a stress to the body, which puts you right back to the point above about Cortisol.  If your body does not run on a good night’s sleep then your back up option is Cortisol.
And now that you know about 80% of what is takes to have nice looking abs, let’s talk about the 20% extra you can do in the gym to further define your midsection. Abdominal Training Reevaluated Forget crunches.  Forget sit-ups.  These two classics have their place, but they can also put too much strain on the low back and you can do much better when it comes to building abs you are happy with.   To find the best ab exercises let’s start by asking this question: What is the job of the abs? Looking at them from the perspective of how often we use our abs for the purpose of coming up off the floor from lying face up, it’s got to be what, 5% of what the abs do for us?   Not a high percentage right?  Nope.  Rather than helping us up from lying down, most of the time our abs (and low back for that matter) have the duty of holding our midsection stable so the other, more mobile parts (i.e. limbs) can move.  If we take a cue from the everyday movement perspective then perhaps the best way to train our abs is to get them to be exceptionally efficient at holding neutral positions while our limbs do something challenging.   This idea stands in contrast to the idea of doing a lot of flexing and extending of the spine.  To train this way requires us to have relatively strong limbs and a strong back.   Ah, now we’re getting somewhere. My Top Four Exercises for the Abs 1. Planks – there are lots of different ways to do them, some simple, some complicated.  For many, planks are a low back challenge.  The point is to get planks to be an abdominal exercise, and learning proper alignment is the key to making that happen.  Here are a few options to try out.  Try doing any of these for 1-2 minutes. 2. Ab Wheel – often nicknamed the “Ab Wheel of Death” by many of our clients.  There are very few exercises where you should round your back.  This is one of them.  Here are a few variations.  Try any of these from 5-50+ repetitions. 3. Pilates – You guessed it, Pilates is all about the core, and the precision of the movements you learn from it may be just the step you need to learn how to hold your midsection stable so the rest of you can move efficiently and become a calorie burning machine. 4. Sprints – This is the king of abdominal exercise.  NOTHING can rip up your abdominals like and honest, this-is-as-fast-as-I-can-run, sprint.  A true sprint cannot be sustained for much more than 6-10 seconds and it is the tremendous clamping of your core musculature that occurs in those few seconds that can leave your midsection unbelievable sore the next day.  You will never see an Olympic sprinter who does not have a chiseled set of abs.  Now before you race out the front door and dash 100 yards, recognize that to do a workout like that you have to already be in decent shape.  Sprinting is one of the most challenging exercises out there.  To go from couch potato to sprinting is a bit of a leap.  Build up to this exercise. Other Honorable Mentions BOSU Work – There are lots of different things you can do on a BOSU, try a couple of these and let your limbs move while you hold your spine stable. Ceiling Toe Touch – for those of you who must have a crunch, try this one.  Do it right and you only need about a ½” of movement.  Keep your legs straight (no bending at the knee) and vertical.  Lift (or attempt to lift) your hips and low back off the floor and lower with control.  Hello “lower abs”! Unstable Push-ups – You’re only limited by your creativity here.   Try different devices, use your limbs differently, but whichever one you choose just remember to keep your spine in neutral. Body Weight Pull-Ups – from what I’ve read this is the strongest contraction of the lower abdominal region of any exercise…even the dreaded ab wheel. Dragon Flag – how long can you hold this sucker?  This was Bruce Lee’s favorite abdominal exercise.  Legs and torso should form a straight line. Final Thoughts Seeing these in picture and trying them for yourself can lose a little in translation.  If you’d like to be coached through movements like this (or if you’d like to talk about structuring an eating plan) we’d be happy to talk about some Personal Training, Nutrition or Pilates options to help you make sure you are moving safely and efficiently.  Decide how badly you want chiseled abs, make it a priority and get after it. Here’s to showing off that midsection of yours! Christian  

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healthwholeness

News From Around the Block - May 2011

New Videos Want to know more about our services before trying them out, or maybe just want to see some eye-candy working out hard?  Follow us on Facebook where we will be releasing a new video every few days for the next month.  Here's where you can see the first one. Scheduling And Payment Software Starting next week clients will be able to see their trainer’s available appointments online and put in a request for a specific time.  Also, for your convenience you’ll be able to purchase sessions right on our website.  Try it out.  We’d love to have your feedback. New Trainer We are proud to welcome Leslie Ann Quillen to our team!  In addition to being a Personal Trainer, Leslie Ann brings a strong background in Martial Arts and Group Exercise to the team.  We’re lucky to have her.  Say hello when you see her around the studios and get in her schedule before it fills up.  Look for her bio on our website soon.   Pilates in the Park Pilates in the Park mat class ended Saturday, May 7th with a fantastic picnic!  To ensure that this great cost efficient option will continue on Saturday, May 21st @9AM, register with Heather by Wednesday, May 18th!  You can get five Pilates mat classes for only $100! Purple Heart Pilates Many people have heard of Pilates, but few are aware that the man who started it, Joseph Pilates, did so as a service to rehabilitate wounded soldiers who fought in World War 1.  Purple Heart Pilates is a new initiative Heather and her husband have started through his non-profit where Purple Heart military veterans can receive personalized Pilates training at no-cost.  We are so excited to be able to offer this!  Check out Purple Heart Pilates' Facebook page for more info and click "Like".  We would appreciate your help to spread the word! Martial Arts Special Offer This month only, your first two personalized, one-on-one Martial Arts lessons are half off – an $85 value. Christian’s Book In case you missed it last month, Christian began posting the rough draft of his book to our blog.  Give it a read and you may find that health never made so much sense.  Three posts are in, with more to come soon.  Check back often. Next Boot Camp Our next outdoor boot camp starts May 30th.  12 awesome, outdoor workout for only $240.  If you're looking for great, economical way to get/stay fit this summer boot camp may be just the kick in the pants you need.  Check out our website for more details.

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healthwholeness

News From Around the Block - April 2011

Christian’s First Book! For the last year or more Christian has been working on his first book.  It’s not finished yet, but this spring he has decided to put parts of it into blog form and he welcomes any feedback you all have to help shape it into something even better.  He is still working on a title so if you have any good ideas pass them along.  The book is a reflection of our health journey over the last 8 years and how we came to be the health nuts that we are.  His writing will be equal parts philosophical as it is practical and will present you with what are probably some of the most well-argued and intelligent health strategies you will find anywhere.  This endeavor makes him think one person might really be able to make a difference.  Happy reading. New Scheduling Software We have finally moved into the 21st century and gone paperless with our scheduling.  Soon we will be able to offer our clients the potential to go online and book and pay for services.   Stay tuned for more details. Studio Rearrange If you’ve not been in Studio C in the last couple weeks then you might not have seen our new more spacious set up.  Come check it out! Spring Boot Camp The next Boot Camp session start April 25th and it’s finally time to go back outside.  Check out our website or call Nina (571.242.4775) for more details.  NEW TOYS: This spring will mark the first appearance of tractor tires and sledgehammers at our boot camp.  Can’t wait to show our campers some fun new exercises! 2 New Pilates Offerings
  • Pilates in the Park: Come enjoy some springtime weather with an outdoor, not-too-early (9:00am) Saturday morning workout.  If you’ve never tried Pilates before now is your chance to do it for cheap—6 workouts for $100.
  • Pilates Introductory Offer: Experience Pilates in all of its grandeur.  Try out the fancy Pilates machines and feel your muscles working like never before.  We are offering a 30-minute consultation and 3 hour long, private one-on-one Pilates sessions for only $150.   Offer good for this month only.  Call Heather today to set up a time.  571 309-9434.

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