Introducing Forum: On Fitness

One of the many benefits of this job is that I have access to experts in just about everything. Say I need an eggplant recipe. I email Chef Nicole at Stomping Ground. Wondering if a particular pair of shoes works with an outfit? Text a selfie to Elizabeth at The Hive. Skin looking dull? Pop in to see Angela at Bellacara.

That’s really our mission here at Stylebook, to provide a place where you can get great advice from trusted, local experts. In this new feature, Forum, we’ll bring our experts together so that you can get to know them a little better, and we can get their insight on their areas of expertise.

Future Forum posts will feature our experts in fashion, beauty, and design, but we start today with our fitness pros: Dr. Megan Brown and Sara VanderGoot of Mind the Mat, Adrien Cotton of Fitness on the Run, and Kat Zajac of Ascend Cycle and Underground. Read on for their go-to workouts, what fitness myths make them crazy, how they stay motivated, and what they want you to remember most.

 

 

If you have only 30 minutes to exercise, what would you do?
What if you only have 10 minutes?


 

Kat

I love short workouts! You can get a really effective, total body workout done in a short period of time. Given the recent snow day, I did an at-home body weight workout that took me about 24 minutes. It was 10 reps squats, 5 reps push-ups, and 10 reps sit-ups, for 20 rounds. So in total, you complete 200 squats, 100 push-ups, and 200 sit-ups. The goal is to move through the exercises as quickly as possible, while maintaining good form.

For 10 minutes, you could do an interval-style workout. At the start of every minute, do 10 jumping squats and 5 push-ups. Use the remainder of the minute as recovery. Repeat for 10 minutes.

 

Megan

It depends on what I’ve done in the days leading up and what my schedule is moving forward, so it would be anything from 30 minutes of running (with 30 percent hilly terrain), or 30 minutes of HAWT Pilates (read: high-rep glute work, body weight exercises, deep abdominals, and cardio all in one).

If I only had 10 minutes, I would drop to hands and knees and lift my leg in the air for hundreds of reps and in all different angles while squeezing my butt with my brain.

 

Adrien

If I had 30 minutes, I’d do a five-minute block, two 10-minute blocks, and another five-minute block. Blocks are when you set the stopwatch and complete a certain number of movements, like two to three, for a certain number of repetitions or time in that time period. I usually get in about four rounds of each exercise in 10 minutes.

The first five-minute block is a very “flow-y” warm-up — which looks more like a cheetah, monkey, or bear crawling, yoga movements like Downward Dog, or Cossack squats — simply moving around while really breathing through my nose, focusing on my movement only and nothing outside of my session. Since I’ll be working on goals like pull-ups, I’ll do some neck mobility, scapular (the area behind your shoulder) and core activation (planks, hollow holds, dead bugs, rolls, etc) to make sure I use core.

The first 10-minute block would be something from my short list of goals. Right now, I’m working on a few Kettlebell movements, increasing my pull-ups, and my endurance. I want these all early in the workout since this is when I’ll have the most energy and can give my best effort.

The second 10-minute block would be something with a “hip hinge” like a ball slam 10 times (FUN!), a push like a push-up or press or squat, all between six and 10 repetitions “laddering up,” and a pull like a pull-up or row or lunge without any weight.

Last, I’d build in something fun at the end for a real heart-pumping finisher like kettlebell snatches since I’m working on re-certifying again, or I could grab the battling ropes and work on completing a round for :40 with a :20 rest until the five-minute block is over. I don’t stress about what it is; I really aim to have fun while doing it.

 

Sara

If I had 30 minutes:

Joint Warm-Ups for five minutes: Circle hips, roll shoulders, wrists, ankles and knees. Spine: from standing roll up and roll down. Neck: face forward and draw a circle with your nose on an imaginary wall in front of you.

Dynamic Stretching for five minutes: Dynamic Stretching means that you are moving as you stretch rather than holding a stretch. Move from Downward Facing to Plank back to Downward Facing Dog. Move from Downward Facing Dog to Lunge and back to Downward Facing Dog.

Squats for five to 10 minutes

Core Work for 15 minutes total: Forearm Plank three times, 1-2 minutes each time; Forearm Side Plank, three sets on each side, hold each set for 1-2 minutes; Bridge Pose: hold a block between the thighs and squeeze block. Roll hips up and press ribs on the back down into the floor. Continue squeezing block and pulse hips up. Do three sets of 30 pulses each time. For each set move your feet further away from your hips.

If I had 10 minutes, I would do Joint Warm Ups for two minutes, Dynamic Stretching for two minutes, Squats for three minutes, and Forearm Plank (three one-minute sets).

 

Can you do this? Should *we* do this? Why or why not?


 

Kat

Yes, I can do that. Should you do it? That depends. I think this is an advanced movement that requires significant core and shoulder strength. As a former gymnast, this exercise would have been a part of our normal routine. But for the everyday recreational exerciser? I would say it’s not necessary. There are much better and safer exercises that could be used to strengthen the core and shoulders that minimize the risk of poor form and injury.

 

Sara

Yes, this is a great pose for increasing core strength. But, like Kat mentioned, if you are dealing with weak core muscles or have recently had a baby, you may want to lift your hips a bit and scoop your tailbone under. This takes undue pressure off the low back. If you are doing this position and your low back is collapsing, be sure to make this adjustment so you don’t injure yourself.

 

Megan

 Yes. Yes. YES! But make sure you are recruiting the actual core muscles. People talk about “core,” but what does that really mean? The deep muscles need to be recruited. Think about drawing your abdominal wall up toward the ceiling as your bum stays down. That opposition helps stabilize your spine and recruit the actual “core” muscles.

 

Adrien

Yes, I can do this. I’m always working on mobility, since I tend to be tight, and this warm-up will address that. I want to get as strong as possible now in my 52nd year on this beloved earth, so I want to continually build strength.

Everyone should strength train, everybody young and old. Strength training can include movements that consist of no weight at all or heavy weight. Our bodies are the weight in strength training. It bolsters our immune system, builds bone density, fosters confidence, and makes you feel like SUPERWOMAN when you do it, and even more so when you reach a goal. It burns tons of fat, builds tons of muscle, helps build grip strength, and improves your posture.

 

 

When did you know you wanted to make fitness your career?
What keeps you motivated?


 

Megan

I started out as a Physical Therapist and I saw how unhealthy people can get when they don’t exercise. I also noticed there were special populations with specific needs who could benefit from the clinical exercise prescription from a physical therapist, special populations like pregnancy and post-pregnancy, low back pain, weekend warriors, etc. Everyone has a need and I wanted to deliver it.

I stay motivated when I see how many people have not believed the science out there: exercise will save your life, immobility will kill you. Exercise will prolong your life and prevent disease.  So why aren’t we all doing it every day? That keeps me motivated.

 

Adrien

I grew up a total tomboy in Southern California, the land of all things fitness. I always knew I wanted to devote my life to helping others. I had a 17-year hiatus in politics and public affairs yet ended up here — sharing the benefits of being fit — because I truly feel like I was destined to this vocation of health and wellness. I’m now moving to a new vocation: helping people know what it feels like to be well, not just fit.

I am motivated by our clients, and by others who give life their best shot and crush it. I am motivated by our children at home who inspire me to stay strong as an ox and to continue to challenge them in any game or sport.

 

Kat

Fitness has always played a significant role in my life, and I think one of the first decisions was when I chose to get my Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science. Our Ascend community and team keep me motivated. Watching them be successful in achieving their goals and hearing their positive feedback about Ascend reminds me why I always put in the extra effort. Seeing that impact is so important and it’s the most fulfilling part of this job.

 

Sara

For me it started with the calming and grounding benefits of linking breath to movement, which is Vinyasa. For me, it is a form of meditation in motion. I felt the benefits of it as a practitioner and became so passionate about it that I wanted to share those benefits with others. What keeps me motivated is knowing how I feel without it. When I don’t practice yoga regularly I feel lethargic, grumpy, and resentful.

 

 

Who is your fitness mentor / guru / crush, and why?


 

Megan

Obviously, the late Mr. Joseph Pilates. He started a brilliant method and system of exercises that continue to evolve. My guru and crush is Tracy Anderson. I am a neurological physical therapist by trade and her methods and philosophy align with my background in developmental training.

 

Kat

Oh gosh, I have many, and many of those are people in our community at Ascend who inspire me with their hard work and dedication. I’ve seen many real-life transformations that just make me so proud!

But if we’re talking fitness influencers on social media, one of my faves is @hannaheden_fitness. Not only is she super fit and a bad ass, but she has a crazy yet approachable personality. I really just love to watch her work out!

Then as a mom and fitness business owner, I majorly crush on @mrsduley. She owns several fitness studios in Oregon and through those studios she is always giving back to her community. She is honest and funny about balancing mom life with her business and I love how she keeps it real.

 

Sara

For yoga and meditation, Don & Amba Stapleton and Jonathan Foust; for meditaion, Tara Brach.

 

Adrien

My fitness career has been filled with studying people I really respect. First, my coach, Max Shank is my number one fitness mentor. Max has taught me over the past eight years how to make movement fun, how to breathe, how to treat my body, and, honestly pretty much how to live a rewarding life.

I admire others like my friend Phil Scarito, who continues to inspire me with his wisdom on my strength training movements; my friend and fellow Kettlebell’er Jen Meehan, whose strength is awe-inspiring; Dan John who taught me more in one day than I think I’ve learned in 15 years about how to treat and read clients. I read and adore Mark Sisson and religiously take in the counsel of Craig Ballantyne. As a student of wellness, I could go on, but I’ll stop there.

 

 

What fitness myth bugs you most?


 

Megan

Anything that says “core” without actually recruiting the true core muscles, that is, those that are closest to the spine. It’s a fine line between recruiting the correct stabilizers versus targeting the dominant muscles that are not built to stabilize the spine efficiently. The word “core” gets slapped on so many methods without the expert, skilled instruction required to truly call it core. Side note: core muscles are not just the abdominals.

Also, that lifting light weight doesn’t get you stronger…don’t get me started.

 

Kat

“The harder/more intense the better.” I see so many people get injured or burnt out from pushing their bodies so hard. There are so many myths and bad advice out there, and it can be extremely difficult to navigate all the different recommendations and tips. Don’t get me wrong, I love crushing an intense workout, but it’s not something I’d recommend for every day of the week.

And “calories in = calories out.” The quality of your food is just as important, if not more so, than the quantity that you eat.

 

Adrien

I concur on the counting calories. It kills me. It’s not all about the calorie burn. It’s about the journey for true wellness and contentedness with who you are. We have one life: don’t waste it counting calories.

 

Sara

“Only flexible/fit people can do yoga.” Nothing could be further from the truth. The essence of yoga is to show up on your mat and see what happens for you, no matter who you are or what shape you are in. It’s about showing up and being present with yourself, your aches, your pains, your physical limitations, your self-judgements, and letting it all be there on the mat and still choosing to breathe and move in any way that works for you.

 

Yoga is a personal practice; it’s not a competition. You could go to a Power Flow yoga class and spend the whole time lying down on your back on the floor if that is what you need to do for yourself that day. It truly doesn’t matter what the people around you are doing. It is about being true to yourself.

 

Having said that, this does not mean that students should not make an effort to choose classes that align with their fitness and skill level. They will get the most out of those classes. Studies show that students feel the best after taking a class where skill level and level of challenge are aligned.

 

 

What should readers do when one of us gives advice that
seems counter to what another of us advocates?


 

Kat

Ohhhh, I like this question! I just had a similar conversation with my husband about nutrition, and my answer would be: if it doesn’t feel right, or if it’s not working for you, then don’t do it. We are all different — different genes, different strengths, different goals, and different needs. One of us might recommend something that fits “you” and someone else might recommend something that fits another person. The challenge and beauty of fitness and wellness is that it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach.

 

Sara

Great question! There are so many fitness experts and opinions to go with them. There is value and truth in each expert’s opinion. Ultimately, it is important to find out what works best for your body. So, try out many things and then make your decision on what to stick with based on what works best for you.

 

Megan

All of us have different backgrounds, varied experiences, and preferred methods. I’ve certainly gathered my own bag of tricks over the past 20 years in this industry, and I have strong opinions. But at this point, we still have an epidemic in the country, so I’m happy people are moving and exercising! Find something you enjoy and stick with it.

 

Adrien

And readers can reach out to all of us! There is so much information out there and some can be really confusing. So let us know and we promise you a call or email response to explain.

 

 

Besides exercise, what is your top recommendation for overall wellness…
and do you practice what you preach?


 

Megan

Intermittent Fasting all the way!!! It has changed my life! I practice it consistently, not only for the list of long-term health benefits but also the effect it has on weight management and maintenance.

 

Adrien

Have an abundant mindset. Mindset is the name of the game in this game of life. An abundant mindset will lead to more rewarding and fruitful days.

 

Sara

Reduce stress is my number one recommendation. After that, sleep well, eat whole, unprocessed, and organic foods, and move your body in some way every day. I do for the most part practice what I preach. When I don’t, I just feel off center and yucky. I guess I am one of those people who doesn’t have much of a choice, not to pay attention to my wellness, because when I don’t, I am not much fun to be around.

 

Kat

Be kind to yourself, and make sure your fitness and wellness goals are your own. Don’t start up a wellness habit just because your friends are doing it or because someone else told you that you should. When you have true ownership in your goals, you’re more likely to stay committed.

Do I practice what I preach? I try!! 🙂

 

 

What’s one, lasting message you’d like readers to remember?


 

Adrien

It’s not all about the fitness, readers. It is about wellness.

Kat

Set the bar high, keep working, and remember you are enough.

Megan

Exercise every day. Don’t over think it. Just move. Every day.

Sara

Consider fitness an essential form of self-love.

 

1 Comment

  1. Caroline Deitch says:

    I LOVE this segment!! & all the beautiful people who contributed too ;-). So great.

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