Thursday, December 29, 2011


I have decided that 2012 is going to be the best and strongest year yet, provided the end of the Mayan calendar simply means it was time for the Mayans to buy a new calendar, as opposed to the end of the world.  But hell, even if it is the end of the world, I plan to be one of those growly, sweaty, ash-covered-yet-healthy-and-muscular people who crawls out of the rubble and bravely forges a new life out of the remains.

In 2011, I had set the following goals for 2012:

-surpass a 200lb. deadlift-- DONE!  I hit 215 last week!  :-D  

-press the 24kg bell -- I am making progress towards this goal, but haven't hit it yet.  Right now, I can get the 24kg up about halfway.  I did, however, press the 20kg bell, which I have been trying to do for about two years now!

-pullup with 20kg -- Again, this is something I've made a lot of progress towards, but have not done fully yet.  I can pull about halfway with the 20kg at this point.  (Seems to be a pattern here!)

-master that damn handstand-- I am sorry to say, this was not something I spent much time on this year.  I got very wrapped up in my other goals, and this one fell to the wayside.  It's been on my goals list just about every year for the last several years, but I never seem to work on it.  I should probably either come up with an attack plan for this one, or leave it alone for now.

-pass CK-FMS--  I still have a video portion to send in for CK-FMS (which I will hopefully get done this week), but I did get my FMS cert.  :)

-pass RKCII-- DONE!!


My health and fitness goals for 2012 are as follows:

-Press that darn 24kg.
-Deadlift 250lb minimum.
-20kg pullup.
-Finish and publish my cookbook and my other book!
-Easily bend the Iron Mind white nail (or better!)
-Scroll the 3/8" x 3/4" x 30" (or better!) bar
-Tear a stack of at least 25 high-quality playing cards in half
-Consistently tear at least 500 pages of phone book
-Roll a frying pan

Lofty... but doable.  :)

What are your goals for 2012?  Make them specific-- the more specific, the better.  Let's see how we progress!

Here's to a strong, happy, healthy, and non-apocalyptic 2012.  :)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My Own Personal "Most Influential" List of Health and Fitness People

Not long ago, this post went up:  The 100 Most Influential People in Health and Fitness 

And while it has some good entries, I found it lacking, and that many of the people on there were not people I respect or trust (I'll leave it up to you to guess which ones).  That having been said, here's my own personal list.  It is in no particular order, so whoever is #1 is no more or less important than whoever is #28.  This list is also incomplete and ever-growing.  As I'm doing it off the top of my head, I'm sure there are plenty of people I'm forgetting.  That is why I'm leaving it up to you to continue it for me.  Feel free to add on as you feel fit.  :)

1)  Jack LaLanne.  Without a doubt, Jack inspired the heck out of me.  He performed feats in his 70's that most people couldn't dream of doing in their 20's, and he was the epitome of health and fitness all the way to the end.  With Jack's entry, I'd also like to add all the other folks who met this ideal, like the strong and spry Joe Rollino (felled at 104 years old by a van, not by any illness), the amazing Terry Robinson ( )or the less famous folks like this guy:  and this guy:

2)  The Mighty Atom.  The Mighty Atom was a sick kid who was told that he would die of tuberculosis.  He proved the doctors very, very wrong, and at 5'4"and 140lbs, he was one of the greatest strongmen of the 20th century.  He continued to perform his amazing feats well into his 80's, and he is a model of what many modern strongmen/women hope to become.   Along with The Mighty Atom, I'd like to include all the other incredible strongmen and women out there, like Jill Mills, the amazing Katie Sandwina, a strongwoman in a time when women were not "supposed" to be strong, Slim the Hammerman, Bud Jeffries (and his insanely strong 14-year-old son, Noah!!), who has been instrumental in my deadlift and bending training, the amazing Dennis Rogers, Logan Christopher and his amazing hand-balancing, flexibility, and feats of strength...  I could go on and on, but I only have so much room.

3)  Pavel Tsatsouline.  I first met Pavel, believe it or not, at a Learning Annex flexibility class he was teaching in 2006.  I had never heard of him before, and had no idea he was about to change my life.  It is because of Pavel (and Mike Mahler, but I'll get to him in a second) that I was inspired to earn my RKC and RKC2 certifications, as well take any class he teaches that I can get my grubby little hands on.  Pavel is a brilliant (not to mention phenomenally strong, mobile, and flexible) guy, and I am honored to know him.

4)  My brother, Brad Schoenfeld.  Brad gave me my start in the fitness business, working part time on weekends at his training center in Westchester County, NY.  He made me realize my passion for this business, and he inspired me to take it further.  Brad has accomplished so much in this industry.  He has contributed an insane amount of research and education, and was just very deservedly named NSCA's Personal Trainer of the Year.  I could not be prouder of my big brother, and I am so lucky to have a mentor like him.

5)  Mike Mahler.  Mike was assisting at Pavel's Learning Annex class (see above), and I was very intrigued by him.  Here was a total vegan like me, who was extremely strong, muscular, and lean.  I wanted to do what he was doing.  I did some research about him and quickly signed up for a kettlebell workshop of his in Vegas.  After that class, I was hooked on the bells, and the rest, as they say, is history.  Mike is a font of information about hormone optimization and nutrition, not to mention about strength and endurance techniques.  He's also just a great guy who cares a lot about animal welfare.  He impresses the crap outta me.

6)  Kenneth Jay.  Kenneth "Dane of Pain" Jay defies the laws of physics with his insane strength despite his extremely tall stature, knows more about the human body and its workings than is probably legal, and and he was also my team leader when I went through the RKC program.  I am ever indebted to him for his guidance, and in awe of his ever-growing knowledge. 

7)  Dave Whitley, Mark Reifkind, Mark Toomey, Jeff O'Connor, Mark Cheng, Dan John, Andrea DuCane, John DuCane, Peter Lakatos, Geoff Neupert.  I apologize sincerely if I am forgetting anyone here.  These are the folks who have had a strong hand in my RKC education, and I am forever grateful to their tutelage.  A large part of what I am able to do, I am able to do because of the folks listed here. 

8)  I am also hugely awed every day by all the strong, wonderful, beautiful women I know who show that iron isn't just for boys.  I'm inspired constantly by women like Neghar Fonooni, Delaine Ross, Fawn Friday, Adrienne Harvey, Laurel Blackburn, Gabby Eborall, Petra Van Baar, Laura Nepodal, Lauren Brooks, Aniko Balazsik, Judit Lantos, Stina Albihn, Karen McDowell, Diana Volante, Nia Shanks, Jen Comas Keck, Alli McKee, Valerie Hedlund, Nikki Schlosser...  I am leaving out sooooo many deserving people here due to lack of patience with typing, but they know who they are.  And if they don't, I'll be sure to let them know.  

9)  Gray Cook.  There is no doubt that Gray Cook is brilliant, and because of his Functional Movement Screen process, the athletes that go through FMS screenings tend to have among the lowest injury rates in their industry.  I've been to many of Gray Cook's lectures through the years, and I always come out of them feeling like the dumbest kid on the block.  Being around that much smart can do that to a girl.  

10)  Speaking of smart people, Dr. Eric Cobb is one of the brightest lights in the biz (in my humble opinion).  I am learning a HUGE amount from him that has made amazing improvements in my own training and in that of my clients, and I can't wait to learn more.

11)  Ken Blackburn.  Ken is phenomenally strong, chock full of knowledge, and just a hell of a nice guy.  He got me interested in competition-style kettlebell work, and while I'm not quite ready to compete at the moment, I am certainly inspired by him, and will be calling for his instruction when I'm ready.  

12)  The entire cast of Cirque du Solel (and anyone else performing feats like these).  The ability to do a freestanding handstand is phenomenal.  The ability to do a freestanding handstand on one arm on a trapeze holding 5 other people whole sitting on your own head is mind-boggling.  Flexibility, strength, and mobility.  You wanna see it?  These people are where you look.

To Be Continued.  I have so, so many other people I'd like to put on this list, but it would take forever to write them all.  So who else should be on this list?  Which health and fitness folks have influenced you the most?  I will certainly add more of my own in the comments section in the coming weeks.  :)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Rant of the Day

Today, I feel like ranting.  

Lately, I've been seeing this picture floating around the Interwebs:

Let me 'splain to you why, exactly, this is the dumbest "case" ever.

So, this is Mimi Kirk.  In this video, she was 71 years old.  She is a raw food vegan.

This is Donald Watson, the creator of veganism, hiking to a mountaintop in his mid-90's.  

This is Jack Lalanne at age 93.   He promoted a vegetarian diet and did not believe humans needed milk or meat.

This is Mike Mahler.  He's been vegan for years and years and years and looks pretty darn good (almost 40 years old).

This is my friend Ken Blackburn, vegetarian, and looking rather fabulous at 41 (he's the big, bald dude-- not the little white puppy):

This is Melody Schoenfeld.  She'll be 40 in less than 2 years.  She's been vegan for almost 12 years.

 So, seriously, what's your point?

 These guys are all carnivores:

And these guys are all vegetarians:

And you know what?  I wouldn't mess with any of 'em.

Here's my point:

There is more than one way to do things, and this goes quintuply (is that a word?) for nutrition and fitness.  Anyone who tells you that their way is the best/only way is someone not worth listening to.  Everyone's body is different, and what works for one person may not work for another.

So, does being vegan mean that you're doomed to a life of weakness, flabbiness, and wrinkly skin?   Clearly not-- just as being a meat-eater does not guarantee you the fountain of youth and huge muscles.   If it works for you, do it.  If it doesn't, find what does.  But, holy crap, stop with the giant generalizations.  It's ignorant, it's annoying, and it's wrong.

/end rant

Questions?  Comments?  Post 'em here!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

How To Survive The Holidays Without Resembling Santa

Well, it's that time of year again.  Starting on Halloween and going through January, there are sweets, cakes, and foods that belong on the Naughty List all over the place.  For those of us trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle, it can be pretty rough waters.  Never fear-- here is a great plan of action to survive the holidays fit and satisfied!

If all goes accordingly, you'll still be able to fit through the chimney come December...

1)  STAY ACTIVE.  The holidays is not the time to get lazy.  Keep moving.  Play touch football.  Swing your kettlebells.  Do your bodyweight exercises.  Do sprint drills.  Whatever it is that keeps you moving, do it.  My workouts are short and intense, lasting 30 minutes or less most of the time (unless I decide to go for a marathon swing session).  This holiday season, I'm planning to do two days a week of clean and jerk workouts with some easy light-to-medium swing work on my off days, and hopefully one day of heavy pressing and deadlifting only because I love it.  This kind of training keeps your metabolism elevated while not overtaxing yourself.

2)  FIND SOME "YOU" TIME.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again-- stress is a killer, and it keeps the pounds on, too.  Holidays are a prime time for stress, what with in-laws and families and cooking and prepping and cleaning and whatnot.  Take some time out and relax a bit.  Make sure you are getting enough sleep, too.  All your hard work won't pay off very well if you don't rest and de-stress.

3)  EAT HEALTHFULLY.  On the holidays?  How?  I'm glad you asked.  My holiday table will be filled with healthy dishes such as roasted root vegetables (something like this, perhaps: ), Brussels sprouts (lots of great, simple recipes to be found out there, like this one: ), collard greens (here's my favorite recipe: ), and such.   Recipes that call for flour will be made using sprouted flour (I buy it online from here: ) or, at minimum, whole-grain flour (not ideal, but if I run out of sprouted flour, this is what I turn to next), and recipes calling for sugar will be made using erythritol ( ) whenever possible, and when it is not possible, I will be using coconut sugar ( ).  I tried this great experiment last year on my unsuspecting partygoers, and everyone was shocked that I did not cook these foods using sugar and white flour.

What are your holiday health and fitness plans?  Post 'em here!

I wish you and yours a very happy and healthy holiday season.
This was last year's Thanksgiving table at my house.  :)  'Twas yummy.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

It's a Stretch.

A lot of my clients ask me about stretching-- when should they do it, how long they should do it for, how often they should do it, etc.  And I generally tell them they can stretch on their own time if they want, but not before or while they are exercising.

First of all, if you are stretching to increase flexibility, research shows that you will need to stretch both the target muscle and its opposing muscle (for instance, hamstrings and quadriceps) for a minimum of 5 minutes each, which would mean 20 minutes for one set of muscles (one target and one opposing per limb).  That's a little longer than you've been stretching, huh?  Not only that, but about half of the effects of an eight-minute stretch are lost within 30 minutes (Ryan ED, Beck TW, Herda TJ, Hull HR, Hartman MJ, Costa PB, Defreitas JM, Stout JR, Cramer JT. The time course of musculotendinous stiffness responses following different durations of passive stretching. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 2008a: 38: 632639).  Not the most efficient way to gain flexibility, in my humble opinion.  

He stretches, probably.

A lot of us have been raised with the idea that stretching reduces injury and helps us perform better when we play our sport/do our activity.  However, research is pretty fuzzy on this.  There are a plethora of studies showing that stretching will decrease strength and power in the short term (for instance:  Avela J, Finni T, Liikavainio T, Niemela E, Komi PV. Neural and mechanical responses of the triceps surae muscle group after 1 h of repeated fast passive stretches. J Appl Physiol 2004: 96: 23252332, McBride JM, Deane R, Nimphius S. Effect of stretching on agonist – antagonist muscle activity and muscle force output during single and multiple joint isometric contractions. Scand J Med Sci Sports 2007: 17: 5460,   Manoel ME, Harris-Love MO, Danoff JV, Miller TA. Acute effects of static, dynamic, and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretching on muscle power in women. J Strength Cond Res 2008: 22: 15281534.   As far as injury prevention goes, several studies show that stretching has no effect ( for instance, Van Mechelen W, Hlobil H, Kemper HC, Voorn WJ, De Jongh HR. Prevention of running injuries by warm-up, cool-down, and stretching exercises. Am J Sports Med 1993: 21: 711719, Pope R, Herbert R, Kirwan J. Effects of ankle dorsiflexion range and pre-exercise calf muscle stretching on injury risk in Army recruits. Aust J Physiother 1998: 44: 165172), while others show that it might possibly have a positive effect in reducing muscle strains (  Ekstrand J, Gillquist J, Liljedahl SO. Prevention of soccer injuries. Supervision by doctor and physiotherapist. Am J Sports Med 1983: 11: 116120 Bixler B, Jones RL. High-school football injuries: effects of a post-halftime arm-up and stretching routine. Fam Pract Res J 1992: 12 (2): 131139)  

So what does this all mean?  Honestly, it means more research is needed.  My own personal take is that stretching likely doesn't have much benefit unless you really enjoy stretching.  And when it comes down to it, if you feel like you improve from it, then you should do it-- no one else's body is quite like yours, so if your system responds well to stretching, then no one should stop you from continuing your practice. 

What do I recommend instead?  I've found mobility work to be very useful for my strength and flexibility needs.  I'll post more on that another time.   Stay tuned.  :)

What do you think?  Do you stretch?  Does it help?  Post your thoughts here!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

New article coming out!

I have officially been published (ahead of print) in the Strength and Conditioning Journal! Here's the article I co-authored with Jeff Harrison and my brother, Brad Schoenfeld.
 Woo hoo!  :)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

You Can't Always Get What You Want (But You Can Get What You Need)

Sometimes, I need to remind myself of exactly the things I tell my clients all the time.   Today was one of those days.

Not very long ago, I hit a personal deadlift record at just over double my bodyweight (205lbs), and, of course, I wanted to repeat it and try to surpass it.  So I decided to try to try to repeat my PR today, and guess what-- I couldn't budge it.  Nor could I budge 195lbs, which I can usually pull.  I settled for 5 sets of one repetition at 185lbs, and I was very disappointed. 

But the fact of the matter is this:  Sometimes, I'm just not going to be able to lift at full capacity.  Some days are just going to be "weaker" days.  I have to remember that I did an insane amount of swings last week, and I may be in recovery mode for a little while.  I may not have gotten enough sleep, I may be fighting something off, or my body might just not be ready to do a maximal lift right now for some unknown reason.  So for now, I'll just do lighter lifts, do plenty of "greasing the groove" work (working on form with around 70% or so of my max), and try a max lift again in a week or two. 

Frustrating?  Yeah, kinda.  I love my heavy lifts.  But these are lessons we all have to learn.  Rest is just as important as work, lighter lifts can be very valuable, and the body will perform maximally when it is ready to do so.   We simply can't perform at 100% all the time. 

So I'm just going to have to listen to my own advice, suck it up, and back off for a while.  My body will thank me in the long run, and my lifts will get better as a result. 

Oh, and I need to remember that there was a time not very long ago that I couldn't budge 185lbs, either.  Progress is progress, no matter how you slice it.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

My Birthday Swing Challenge

As you may know, I love, love, love kettlebell swings.  They are a phenomenal way to simultaneously build strength and endurance, and I just think they're fun.  I took my swinging love to an extreme this week.

On October 4th, I turned 38 (eep!) years old.  And my birthday challenge to myself this year was to do 100 swings for every year of my life.  (That's 3,800 swings for those of you not keeping track).  I ended up doing 4,000 swings (couldn't help adding the last 200), and since that happened, I've had a lot of people asking me questions.  So this blog post will hopefully answer them.

Q)  Are you insane?
A)  Yes.

Q)  What weight did you use?
A)  I did all my swings one-handed.  I used a 16kg bell for the first 1,000 swings, and then had to drop down to a 12kg for the sake of my hands.

Q)  Did you take breaks?
A)  I took around 5 minutes between each set of 1,000 swings.

Q)  How long did it take you?
A)  The whole thing took me about 2 hours, including breaks.

Q)  How often did you switch hands?
A)  For the first 300 or so I switched every 20 swings, and then I switched every 10 swings for the rest (going to 20 when I could).

Q)  What did you learn from this experience?
A)  I knew from experience doing high-volume swings that my hands would take a huge beating.  In my own practice, my hands tend to start tearing between 900 and 1200 swings.  So I have been looking for hand protection that wouldn't get in the way of my swings.  Most gloves bunch up too much in the palms for me, so I ended up deciding to try nylon gloves, like the kind women wear with evening gowns, and cut the fingers off hoping that would nip any slipperiness in the bud.  I made two mistakes:

         1)  I didn't try swinging with the gloves first, and
         2)  I started swinging with a bell I almost never swing with (a competition-style bell as opposed to a regular bell).  The handle is different, so for that kind of volume, it can make a difference to the grip challenge.

As it turned out, the gloves I chose, while perfect in that they did not bunch,  did, indeed, turn out to be very slippery.  So what happened was, the handle slipped from the top of my palm to the middle of my fingers, and it created huge blisters (which is why I had to drop to a lower weight).  I ended up putting the fingers I had cut off back on my two middle fingers to help avoid friction on them.  Fortunately, this prevented any tearing of the skin, but I am left with some pretty nasty blisters.  The good news is, my palms escaped with no issues.  :)

Blister, L. hand.  There's 2 more on my R. hand.

Q)  How did you feel afterwards?
A)  Great!  Sweaty!  And, oddly, taller!  I took my dog for a long walk right after finishing, and I felt like I was walking a lot taller.  I think keeping my spine that straight for that long definitely had many benefits.

Q)  Are you sore today (the next day)?
A)  Not really.  I feel a little sore in my upper and lower back, but nothing too crazy.

Q)  Are you going to do this again?
A)  Let's just say that my 100th birthday is going to be one heck of a day.  :)

Friday, September 30, 2011

It's Only Natural

If I had a quarter for every time someone insisted that what they were eating was healthy because it's "natural," well, let's just say street parking would not be a problem for me.

Here are two thoughts about "natural" products:

1)  There is no-- I repeat, NO regulation on the word "natural" in products.  All it means is that some portion of the product, at some point in time, came from a natural source.  It sounds healthy and lovely and whatnot, but theoretically, one could claim that Pop-tarts are "made with natural ingredients," since they have wheat in them.

2)  A lot of things are natural.  Sugar is natural.  Lard is natural.  Arsenic is natural.  Just because it's natural doesn't mean you should ingest it.

Also, "natural" and "unprocessed" are two different things.  I like the latter.  As a general rule. the closer it is to nature, the better it is for you.  So, for instance, an apple is better than apple juice is better than Apple Jacks.  Stick with veggies (lots and lots of veggies!!), fruits and (preferably raw/sprouted) nuts, minimally processed, healthy oils like coconut, olive, and avocado, sprouted beans and grains, and, if you eat meat, organic, humanely-raised, naturally-fed meat.  If it comes in a box or a bag and has a lot of ingredients, chances are it's not as "natural" as you think it is.  

On a side note, "Granola" also does not equate to "healthy" most of the time.  Most granolas are extremely high in sugar, and if it's from one of the major cereal companies, chances are, it's also fairly highly processed.  So make sure you check labels and stick to low or no sugar granola with high-quality, minimally-processed ingredients. 

Questions?  Comments?  Post 'em here!

Friday, September 23, 2011


It's amazing how much of a role psychology plays in your health.  I'm not talking about just for strength training (the mental aspect of that is fascinating and fodder for another blog), but for your general health habits as well.

One of the fun little things I like my clients to do is send me either a food diary or a photograph of everything they consume.  I like the photograph technique best, as it tends to keep people more honest.  I've found that with food diaries, people tend to "forget" snacks, underestimate portion sizes, practice quite a bit of-- let's call them "creative writing techniques"-- and such. 

Here's the thing-- while fudging your food diary might be good for your creativity, if it doesn't reflect reality, you're lying to yourself.  And if you're lying to yourself, you're the one who suffers for it in the end, as you're not going to reach your goals.

I have one client who, in her food diary each day, would include a fast food-type meal, cake, cookies, etc. and follow it up with, in parenthesis, (treat).  What this comes down to, psychologically, is that by calling these meals "treats," it makes them sound like they're once-in-a-while events when, in fact, she was "treating" herself every single day.  My advice to her was to stop calling them "treats" and admit her diet wasn't as clean as she was leading herself to believe, and then make the necessary steps to clean out the remaining dietary junk.


Another client of mine informed me that she was going on a business trip, and therefore her diet would suffer.  "There will be soda," she said.  My response to this was that she had a choice about the soda, and, for that matter, everything else she eats.  Business trips are not a rare occasion in her life, and using them as an excuse to jump off her fitness plan is simply not an option.  I actually used to be a computer consultant, and I would travel 5 out of 7 days a week.  I managed to eat healthfully no matter where they sent me-- I found out where the supermarkets were and bought veggies, and I perused restaurant menus for healthy options (they do exist, and a lot of places will custom-make a plate for you, too).  Ordering extra steamed vegetables, forgoing fried and/or sugary foods, sodas, juices, pastries, and breads/rice, and making smart entree choices is pretty easy in most towns.  So no, business travel is not an excuse.

I've also noticed a trend in clients prefacing any not-so-good food they eat with "a teeny tiny piece of..." or "just a really small amount of..." but, of course, no exact qualifiers.  How tiny is tiny?  Are you really being honest with yourself?  And, remember-- a lot of "tiny" adds up to one "big."

The fact of the matter is, if you tell yourself that eating junk is OK, you'll eat junk.  If you tell yourself it's OK to stop exercising, you'll stop.  If you give yourself permission to be unhealthy, you'll unhealthify yourself just like that.  On the converse, if you stop giving yourself loopholes and hold yourself accountable for how you treat your body, chances are, you'll be a lot nicer to it, and you'll be very happy with the results.

Think about it.  The choice is yours.

Questions?  Comments?  Post 'em here!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Pet Peeve of the Day: Rounded-back swing starts! Argh!!!

I've been seeing a lot of people trying to revert to a rounded-back swing start lately.  I'm not sure if it's because they think the first swing doesn't really count, or if it's lack of awareness, or if it's just laziness, but whatever the reason, it's a surefire way to injure your back.  So please, please, do your swings (and all your other movements, for that matter) correctly from the moment you set up!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Woo HOOO!!!

I am posting this: 
1) for all the people who think lifting heavy weights makes a woman "bulky," 
2) for all the people who think vegans can't be strong and healthy, and 
3) because I am really, really psyched about today's PR. :) 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Who's Your Saboteur?

I've been in this business for a long time, and in that time I've noticed that certain things tend to be people's undoing when it comes to healthy lifestyles.  Here's a few, and some ideas on how to turn this all around:

1)  Your kids.  "One for you, one for me... two for you, two for me..."  Yep, admit it.  You feed your kids, then snack on what they're eating.  And I can't even begin to tell you how many people have told me, "I don't buy the sweets/chips/junk for myself-- it's for my kids!"


Guess what-- if you're the one buying the food, you're the one who determines what your kids eat.  The earlier you give them a taste for healthy eating, the more likely they are to stick with it.  One of my clients has been heeding my advice with her two young sons.  On a recent vacation to the beach (which used to be an event that centered around gorging on junk), she laid out fruit and veggies to snack on, and her kids ate it up.  Here's some ideas for kid-friendly snacks:

-"Fudgsicles:"  Get some unsweetened chocolate almond milk and mix in some stevia or erythritol to taste.  Freeze in popsicle molds or ice cube trays (cover tightly with plastic wrap and stick in some popsicle sticks), and enjoy.  In a similar vein, you can blend together any fruit you like with unsweetened almond milk and do something similar.

-Frozen blueberries and frozen grapes.  I swear up and down that frozen blueberries was my favorite snack on the planet when I was a kid.  I liked them even more than candy.  And I loooooved candy.  You can also take a banana, peel it, coat it in some *very low sugar* or sugar-free (sweetened with erythritol or stevia or similar) dark chocolate, dip it in some crushed nuts like walnuts, and freeze that.

-Dried fruit and nuts mixed together.

-Make mini-pizzas from sprouted pita bread (Ezekiel makes a great one), no-sugar-added spaghetti sauce, a little bit of cheese (or your favorite non-dairy cheez-- I love Daiya), and all the veggies you want.

-Make sandwiches with sprouted grain bread and almond butter (and maybe a little pure fruit spread on top).  Cut them into fun shapes with cookie cutters.

2)  Your friends and family.  People often claim that their healthy eating plan is spot-on-- except for when they go out with their friends, or during family events.  I had one client who had a "dessert friend"-- every time they got together, they'd go out to eat and always get dessert.

Just another bite?

What seems to work best in these situations is to let your friends and family know what you are trying to achieve, and ask for their support.  Ideally, they will respect your wishes and not force their eating habits on you.  Who knows-- you might even inspire them to eat better.  If they simply cannot respect what you are trying to do, you need to either find new friends (obviously, your family is harder to replace, so you might have to keep them...  :) ), arrange non-food-related activities with them (perhaps turn your "dessert friend" into a "hiking friend!")  , or simply stand firm in your decision to eat healthier and decline the foods you know you shouldn't be eating in favor of the healthier choices. 

3)  Your job.  I have a lot of clients who simply cannot resist the candy jar/donut box/cupcakes/etc. that always seem to by lying around at work.

Don't fall for it!!

I feel your pain-- I know how hard it can be to resist these things.  If this is you, my suggestion would be to keep ready-to-eat, healthy snacks around (raw almonds, baby carrots, sprouted bread and almond butter, etc) and munch on those whenever the urge to grab something else strikes you.  Or just take a walk, if possible, when the cravings hit.  But say no.  It helps, also, to let your co-workers know that you're trying to live a healthier lifestyle.  Hopefully they will get the picture and try to help you out in your endeavors by keeping the crap at bay.

What about you?  Who's been sabotaging your healthy lifestyle, and how are you going to stop it (or how have you stopped it already)?  Post it here!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Do You Need To Detox?

It seems like everyone I know is on some kind of detox plan, from boxed colon-blasting fiber concoctions to milk thistle "liver cleansing" things to enemas to bizarre grapefruit-based diets to who knows what else.  And inevitably, people always seem to ask me what I think about detoxing. 

You know what?  I think everyone needs to detox.  But I don't think that means taking shots of lemon juice, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper and nibbling on leaves.  What I do think that means is getting rid of all the toxins in our lives and making them as healthy as possible.  Here's my detox plan.  Personally, I think it beats the hell out of anything that comes in a box (or out of a hose).

Um... no thanks!

1)  STOP EATING TOXINS.  Clean up your diet.  If you've been reading my blog, you know how important this is.  Posts like this make it easy:  What it comes down to, basically, is this:
-Stop putting processed crap in your body.  White flour, white rice, cookies, crackers, processed meats, fake "meats," 99.999% of breakfast cereals, sodas, fast food... just stop it.  This stuff is slowly poisoning you, and, if nothing else, it's making you fat, slow, and weak.  So get rid of it.
-Cut out sugar as much as possible.  Reasons:  see above.  More reasons:  it's more addictive than cocaine, says one study:  (and I can speak from experience how horribly addictive sugar can be: ).
-Buy locally-grown, seasonal, and organic/pesticide-free whenever possible.  This food tends to be fresher, more nutritious, often cheaper (especially if purchased at a farmer's market), and doesn't have any mysterious poisons on it.
-Eat lots and lots and lots and looooots of veggies.  Especially green ones.  They are very low in calories, nutrient-dense, high in antioxidants, and some veggies like spinach are even able to "arrest" toxins in the body and prevent them from being absorbed. 
-Don't be afraid of healthy fats.  Healthy dietary fats (think nuts and seeds, avocados, extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil) are probably not what is making you fat and giving you heart disease.  Simple sugars/carbohydrates are.  I have touched on this in other entries, but this will be spoken about in more detail in future blog posts.  Promise.  For now, just trust me.  Or do your own research.  Either way, healthy fats are good for you and may even-- gasp-- help you lose weight and improve your heart health.
-Drink lots and lots and lots and loooooots of water.


-Overdoing it.   If you're like me, you tend to burn 300 candles at 800 ends.  And if you're like me, you're eventually going to get burnt out or make yourself ill.  Having just come off a few days recovering from a fairly high fever, I learned this the hard way.   My body forced me to take a break, so now I need to listen.  While I know it's not feasible for me to change or drop anything from my schedule at the moment, I do know I can back off my training a bit (I've been training hard 5 days per week lately; I can and should make this 3 or 4 days) and work on getting longer and higher-quality sleep (I've been going to bed too late for the time I have to wake up).  I am taking steps to make this happen.  One of my favorite quotes (which I didn't come up with, but I don't know who did) is:  "You're never going to look back on your life and wish you'd spent more time at work."  Figure out what you can change in your schedule to prevent burning out, and make good on it.   Make some "you" time, make some time for your loved ones, and get more sleep.  Find a way to destress regularly-- stress is a killer.  You'll be far healthier and happier in the long run.

-Underdoing it.  Are you sedentary for no physical reason?  Have you left your dreams by the wayside because it was too hard to pursue them?  Are you languishing at a job you hate just because it's easier than looking for a new one?  Get up.  Move.  Dream big (no one says you have to make a living doing it-- just find a way to incorporate it into your life.  This is why I sing in a band in my free time).  Start searching for a career that makes you happy (if you're going to spend 8+ hours a day there, you might as well love what you do during those hours).  But never, never settle just because doing something else is "too hard."  Another quote I love is this:  "If you think lifting weights is dangerous, try being weak. Being weak is dangerous." (Brett Contreras)  Don't be weak.  

-Making excuses for bad habits. 

-Self-sabotaging.  This sort of falls in the same category as making excuses, but still deserves a say.  A self-sabotager often feels that they don't deserve good things, is worried that a good thing won't last, or is worried that a good thing will require too much work to maintain.  A self-sabotager also might simply not be ready for a positive change yet (much like a smoker will not be able to quit unless they are truly ready to quit).  If you're self-sabotaging, you need to figure out why, and nip it in the bud.  This may require some support, either from supportive friends, a therapist, or some other outside source.  But in the end, you are the one who needs to get out of your own way-- no one can do that for you.

-Drugs, smoking, and overindulgence in alcohol.  If you're doing it, you probably already know you're doing it.  If you already know you're doing it, you probably already know why you shouldn't.  You don't need a lecture.  You just need to stop.  Find a way that works for you-- rehab, therapy, hypnosis, quitting cold turkey-- whatever works-- and make it happen.  

-Pharmaceuticals.  I know I may start a bit of controversy in saying this, but I do not believe in taking any pharmaceuticals unless it is absolutely necessary.  This includes things like anti-inflammatories, cough syrup, pain medication, etc.  I have a few reasons for this:

              1)  These things mask symptoms-- they don't cure the problem.  And if you have a symptom it is either telling you not to do something so that you don't make matters worse (i.e. pain), or it is helping your body rid itself of something (i.e. fever, coughing).  Either way, you're better off finding the root of the problem and getting that taken care of, rather than just masking the symptoms.
             2)  These things have side effects.  They can affect your liver, kidneys, heart, alertness, and more, and any of these effects can be far more dangerous and long-lasting than the symptoms you are trying to mask.

So if your symptoms aren't absolutely unbearable, try to deal with them until the root of your problem is cured.  In my opinion, you'll be better off in the long run.

3)  GET RID OF TOXIC PEOPLE.  This one is probably the trickiest.  If you're like me, you tend to see the good in people, especially those you care about most.  But when it comes down to it, everyone knows toxic people.   I know I've had more than my share.  I've spent years in relationships with toxic men, maintained friendships with toxic people, and it wasn't until I was free of them that I realized how much better my life was without them.  If anyone in your life makes you feel poorly about yourself, makes you cry (or want to cry) on a regular basis; if anyone in your life tries to stand in the way of your happiness, tries to prevent you from doing the things you love, tries to tell you who you can and cannot be friends with; if anyone in your life tries to bring you down when you're happiest, is jealous of your successes, seems to revel in your hard times, or never seems to be there when you need them most; if anyone in your life ever harms you physically-- GET THEM OUT OF YOUR LIFE.  I have found that the highs and lows of my life seem to weed out many of the most toxic people I know.   This article was recently posted on and is worth a read, and this article was published earlier this year and is also worth checking out (I was personally involved with someone just like that for a long time, and it took a while before I realized it).

Now, of course, there is much to be said for toxic air and water as well, but these things require political action (although there is plenty you can do personally about living a more environmentally-friendly life as well-- but that would require about 400 blogs in and of itself).  

This having been said, if you manage to do at least a good percentage of the above, you're not going to need to drop half your bank account on lemons and cayenne pepper, and you're not going to need to stick any hoses where hoses should not be stuck.  Your liver, kidneys, and circulatory system will do their job, and your mind will be more at ease.  

Questions?  Comments?  Post 'em here!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The 5 Movements No Workout Should Be Without (in my humble little opinion)

I plan my training around three simple concepts. 

"You do, Melody?" you ask, hanging on the edge of your seat.  "Do tell, do tell!"

Well, since you're so eager to know, I'll lay it out for you:

-Do movements that get the most "bang for your buck," i.e. multi-joint, big muscle movements.  These tend to burn the most caloric energy, be the most efficient movements for the highest number of muscles and joints, and-- extremely important to me-- save oodles of time.  I don't know many people who want to spend hours working out in the gym.  I certainly don't. 

-Do movements that help you reach goals and/or enhance your lifestyle.  If you're a golfer who throws out your back every time you swing, that may give you a clue as to what you're going to need to train, and how you're going to need to train it.  If you want to enter physique competitions, your training is going to be much different (and your diet is going to be phenomenally strict).  If you just want to be able to lift your Rottweiller's 50lb. bag of dog food without a problem, well, there's plenty of ways to train for that, too.

-Lift heavy.  If you're not trying to get stronger, lose body fat, or obtain better physical functionality, I guess you can disregard that one.

That having been said, there are a few moves that just about everyone should be doing, no matter what your goals or lifestyle.  These are based off basic human movements (hip hinge, squat/lunge, press, pull, abdominal stabilization).  And, since I know you are foaming at the mouth, wondering what these movements are, here you go:

1)  THE DEADLIFT (hip hinge):  The deadlift is, without a doubt, one of the best exercises I know.  It is an amazing abdominal and lower back workout (more about that here: ), builds power in the hips and glutes, strengthens the upper back and grip,  and is just an all-around badass exercise.  There's a reason a lot of foofy gyms have a "No Deadlifting" rule.  It's noisy.  It's intimidating.  It's badass.  Foofy gyms don't tend to condone much badassity.  Moral of that story:  if you belong to a gym that doesn't let you deadlift, find a new gym.

Now, I get a lot of clients who have been taught to deadlift by doing a sort of toe-touch thing-- legs straight, spine bent, trying to hit the ground with light weights.  This is not a deadlift.  Now this, right here, is a deadlift:

OK, so most of us mere mortals aren't going to do this our first time out.  But you get the idea.  This might be a little more doable:

Kettlebell swings go into the deadlift category.  The swing is simply a ballistic deadlift with a different intention (i.e. to ballisticly swing a heavy object out in front of you as opposed to simply lift it off the ground).  I am personally a huge fan of high-volume swings (I try to do a set of at least 1,000 once a week or more).  This has gotten me into phenomenal cardiovascular condition (running, jumping rope, etc, are no longer a challenge to me, and the 14-mile round trip killer hike I did up Mt. Wilson barely got my heart rate up, although my feet were pretty tired by the end of it), and has significantly improved my strength in many areas. 

2)  THE SQUAT/LUNGE (squat/lunge, duh):  Your leg muscles are the largest muscles in your body, so why not work them the way they were designed to work?

In case you were wondering, this is how you were designed to squat.  Not that half-squatting, don't go below 90 degrees, body at a weird angle thing people tend to do.  Do you see this baby complaining about knee pain?  I didn't think so.
The squat and the lunge are two of the most effective ways I know of to work just about the entire lower body.  Your hips, knees, and ankles all have to work hard, and your midsection does a lot of stabilization as well (especially when you add weight-- in front, in back, overhead, unilateral, etc-- and then we get your upper body involved, too!).   If you're not squatting, you're doing your body a huge disservice.  If your body's dysfunctions keep you from squatting properly, fix 'em and get squatting.

3)  OVERHEAD PRESS (push):  The overhead press is an absolute favorite of mine.  Single hand, double hand, straight presses, jerks, push-presses... all of them build great strength and integrity in the shoulder, arm, and core.  I especially like doing this with kettlebells, as the weight placement pulls you backward, which provides a different stabilization challenge for the ole abs and makes them work harder.

This video is of a push-press, as I am still working on a straight press with the 20KG.  But never fear, it's on its way.  :)

4)  PULLUPS (pull):  The pullup rocks my world.  Part of it is likely because I was a fairly weak kid and could never seem to do them at all until relatively recently.  Now I suspect I might be part monkey.  The pullup strengthens the grip, arms, back, abdominals, and ego.  Once you master that pullup, you start feeling mighty good about yourself.

ABDOMINAL STABILIZATION:  Although the deadlift and pullup are phenomenal ab exercises, I do love to add in some extra stuff.  I do heavy full situps with kettlebells on my chest, hanging leg raises, and also spend a lot of time with the ab wheel, doing rollouts from my toes.

The guy going these in this video is 71 years old and pretty tall and lanky.  So no excuses for you.

Of course, you can also do them from your knees, as the same guy does here:


So there you have it:  my must-have 5 that I believe just about everyone can benefit from.  What do you think?  Questions?  Comments?  Post 'em here!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Weighty Issue

A few of my clients are very, very concerned with their body weight.  Many of them have a goal weight they'd like to get to, and those numbers loom large and heavy on their minds.  We've been led to believe that the numbers on the scale equate to our bodies in a way that they just don't, and this can be problematic.

Weight, as in "scale weight," is important for people who compete in sports in which weight plays a role, such as horse riding, boxing, wrestling, biking, and such.  As a tool for body composition, however, it is of little importance. 

Your weight basically tells you what your body weighs, all components considered.  Denser objects will weigh more than less dense objects, and yet will take up less space.  So a pound of feathers, for instance, will weigh the same as a pound of rocks, but will take up much more space.  Muscle is much more dense than adipose tissue (i.e., body fat) is.  Therefore, two people who weigh the same may be completely different clothes sizes simply because of their body composition (and because of the distribution of that composition). 

See what I mean?
So while your weight may be a decent baseline measurement for you, it should not be what you base your goals on if you are solely on a fat loss path.  And if you are gaining muscle (which, if you're trying to lose body fat, you should be doing, as muscles boost your metabolism significantly), you're likely going to weigh more than you think you should.

Measurements that make much more sense for those looking to get leaner would be:

-body fat measurements
-waist/chest/hip/arm/leg/neck circumference measurements
-how your clothes fit

So, seriously, if you're still obsessing over that scale, it's time to hide that thing in the closet or give it to Goodwill.  Look in the mirror and see the changes happen there.  You'll be much more satisfied with your results. 

Questions?  Comments?  Post 'em here!

Monday, June 6, 2011

@#$%^ Cellulite

If I had a quarter for every person who has come to me asking how to get rid of her/his cellulite, I'd never have trouble with meter parking again. 

Here's my layman's explanation of cellulite:  Take some pantyhose, and put a stick of butter in there.  Now squeeze.  This, sortakinda, is what cellulite is.  It's just body fat that's escaped the connective tissue that generally holds it together, and it lies beneath the skin and blobs around there.  And there it stays, like a nasty, annoying house guest who never plans to leave. 

Skin looking a bit like this these days?

Cellulite comes from a number of sources.  It definitely has a hereditary component (thanks, Mom and Dad!).  Age has some say in it, as does total amount of body fat.  But the fact of the matter is, you can have extremely low body fat and still have cellulite.  It's just One Of Those Things. 

There are a million creams, lotions, potions, and procedures out there that claim to target cellulite.  The problem is, most of them don't work.  A few people I know have reported some success with caffeine-type creams, but this is all hearsay.  Studies (such as this one) confirm that most cellulite creams and massage treatments such as Endermologie are not effective in reducing cellulite.  Liposuction is also generally a bad idea for this-- getting fat removed from an area close to the surface of the skin will simply result in pitting and bumpiness (and I don't recommend lipo for anything, anyway.  Ick, yuck, ptooey). 

So what about exercise?  Well, diet and exercise will minimize the look of cellulite, mostly by building muscle and helping to smooth things out.  But the unfortunate fact is, all you can really do for cellulite is minimize the look of it with healthy habits.  If you have it, you'll probably continue to have it in some form no matter what you do.  So keep on eating healthy, keep on exercising, and learn to love your body with all its imperfections.  Life goes on, cellulite or not.  Enjoy it.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Supplementally Yours

In a perfect world, food would be enough.  There would be no irradiation, no genetic modification, no pesticides.  In a perfect world, everything would be seasonal, locally and sustainably grown, and grown in nutrient-rich soil.  In a perfect world, everyone would have a complete diet, and in a perfect world, no one would have any need for anything more than that.

This is not a perfect world.

Supplements have a bad rap.  A few months ago, I was talking to someone about the viability of a vegan diet, and gave several examples of people (including myself) who thrive on it.  The response was, "Yeah, but they all have to supplement a lot."  My response was, "Of course they do.  You probably should, too."  The fact of the matter is, no matter how healthy you think your diet is, chances are, it could use a little supplementing.  Granted, I take things to an extreme, as I live and breathe health and nutrition, but most people could stand to, at minimum, take a good multivitamin.  (I do my multi in the form of a Vega shake made with unsweetened almond milk for breakfast every day, and add into that a greens supplement, as I strongly believe you can never have enough greens, and a berry supplement for inflammation control, as inflammation inside the body leads to serious illness).

These are the supplements I take every day, and the reasons I take them.  I know it sounds like a lot; it hasn't been a big deal for me and it's become so routine that I don't really think about it much.  I know that my lifestyle isn't for everyone, but it works really well for me.  And, while I am very, very conscious of my diet, I am absolutely not a "food is fuel" type person.  I love food.  I love good food.  I cook a lot, and I go out to eat a few times a week.  My life is not on hold because of my eating choices.  This is just for informational purposes; do with it what you will.

Oh, come on.  It's not that bad.

-Strontium:  Very important for bone health.  I wrote about it in detail in this post.

-Hyaluronic Acid:  Hyaluronic acid has been proven in study after study (like this one, for instance) to improve joint integrity, relieve arthritis, improve wound healing, and more.  Arthritis runs in my family, and as I work with my hands a lot and do a lot of heavy lifting, staying as pain-free as possible is very important.  Plus, I'm a klutz and have cats with pointy feet, so anything that speeds up wound healing is a good thing in my book.

-A vegan DHA supplement (made from algae):  As a vegan, the fatty acid DHA is hard to come by through diet alone.  It is generally found in fish oil.  DHA has been linked to the prevention of mental decline (and I can use all the mental help I can get!  ;) ), is protective against cancer and renal disease, and much more.  I highly recommend all vegans take a vegan DHA supplement.

-CoQ10:  As you may know, my father had his first heart attack at age 33, and had a slew of other heart problems throughout his life.  I make sure I take care of my heart.  CoQ10 is one way I do this.   This coenzyme has a strong role in heart health, and is being studied for its role in cancer prevention.   It also helps with migrane headaches, Parkinson's Disease, periodontal health, and shows potential in increasing lifespan.  In short, good stuff.

Resveratrol:  This phenol is the reason that wine is supposedly good for you.  Well, wine also leads to breast cancer in women and adds a lot of calories to the diet (plus alcohol tends to stimulate the appetite, all of which leads to weight gain) while the resveratrol alone seems to inhibit breast cancer, so I'd rather just take the phenol and call it a day.  Resveratrol has been shown not only to improve heart health, but to be useful for preventing a host of age-related chronic diseases, so it is definitely on my list of must-takes.

Turmeric:  for its anti-inflammatory and brain health-enhancing properties.  More on that here.

GPC/PS (Glycerophosphocholine, phosphatidylserine):  This powerhouse combo of complicated-sounding chemicals is a one-two punch for Alzheimer's prevention and brain health.  (GPC)(PS)   PS has also shown applications for sports recovery (very useful for me!).


No, I don't do steroids.  I do, however, take supplements that have been proven to help muscle recovery and improve muscle growth, such as these:

-BCAA (Branched Chain Amino Acids) :

-Mucuna Dopa:

-Beta Alanine:;

-Creatine Monohydrate:  Creatine supplementation is extremely controversial, for some reason.  However, the fact of the matter is, it is one of the most researched sports supplements out there, and there is little to no evidence that oral consumption of CM (about 5-20ish grams/day) has side effects or that it causes liver or kidney damage, as many people like to report.  What it does do, and has been proven to do over and over, is increase muscle strength and endurance in healthy adults.  As a matter of fact, it even shows significant benefits to those with neuromuscular diseases such as ALS.  As an added benefit, creatine supplementation has been shown to benefit cognitive abilities

So yeah, in a perfect world, all of this would easily come from our diet.  But when it comes down to it, we could all need a little help (some of us more than others).  Supplementation is not a bad word.  As a matter of fact, it's a word that will likely significantly enhance, if not save, your life.

Questions?  Comments?  Post 'em here!