How to Build a Resistance Training Program

As a trainer and fitness enthusiast, I’ve always had a lot of people coming to me with their questions about health and fitness (our main reason for starting this blog!)  One thing that I hear over and over again is that people like to strength train and want to be stronger, but they don’t know how to do that on their own.  If you’ve ever felt like this, don’t fear…we’re here to help!  We could go into depth and talk for hours about building a program or even just a single workout, but we’ll spare you and just provide a brief overview to give you a good starting point.  Below you’ll find a couple of key components to keep in mind when putting together your resistance training program.

1.) Exercise Selection & Weekly Split – There are countless ways to split your strength workouts.  For example:

  • Full Body
  • Upper Body vs. Lower Body
  • Push vs. Pulls
  • Legs vs. Chest & Tri’s vs. Back & Bi’s
  • Anterior vs. Posterior

No matter how you decide to split your workouts, it’s important to remember to stay balanced!  So what does that mean?  If you take a step back, and look at the major muscle groups in the body, you’ll find the following:

  • Legs – Quads AND Hamstrings/Glutes
  • Chest
  • Back
  • Shoulders
  • Core
  • Accessory muscles – arms, calves etc

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In order to stay balanced and give yourself the best shot at staying injury free, it’s so important to train all of these groups and keep in mind that you need to balance opposing muscles.  For example, if you’re training legs, make sure that you’re not only doing exercises that target your quads, but focusing on strengthening your glutes and hamstrings as well. If you work your chest, make sure to work your back that same week (or same day) etc.

This might not be perfect for everybody…we are all built differently.  If you have an imbalance or a weakness, you may need to focus more on one particular part.  I have found that most clients need help on their posture.   This may be from sitting at a desk all day, driving a car, typing on an iphone, holding a baby etc. Strengthening the back and stretching out the chest muscle are especially important for these people.  Because of that, I usually focus on two back exercises for every one chest.

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Another way to look at this is to balance your pulls and pushes.

  • Vertical Pull – Pull Down or Pull Up
  • Vertical Push – OH Press
  • Horizontal Pull – Row (Seated, Bent, Inverted)
  • Horizontal Push – Push Up or Chest Press

2.) Rep/Set Range & Rest Periods – The reps, sets and rest for your program will change based on your goals.  Below is a pretty simple chart that shows the parameters you should be lifting for your particular goal.

Strengthtraining

3.) Weight Selection – Selecting weight can be tricky if you aren’t on a strict strength/power program and don’t know your 1RM (1 rep max.) If you are new to resistance training and you really aren’t sure what weights to start with, err on the side of light and increase from there.   It’s really import to ensure that your form is on point and you aren’t sacrificing it to lift heavier weights. (Read: challenge yourself with weights, but don’t injure yourself!)  I always tell my clients that if you can easily complete ALL reps on the final set with no problem, then its probably time to increase.  You should be struggling/failing on the final set.

4.) Progression/Regression – As you get stronger, exercises will start to feel easier.  In order to keep improving, you must continue to challenge yourself.  Obviously adding volume (reps & sets) and/or increasing the load (weight) will make an exercise more difficult, however there are a few other ways to challenge yourself:

  • Increase complexity – Try putting 2 moves together.  For example, add an overhead press to your squat (thruster.)
  • Decrease base of support – Stand on something less stable (BOSU) or take the exercise to single arm/leg (pistol squat.)

It Never Gets Easier

5.) Form – We recommend having someone critique your form before moving onto very heavy weights, but we’ll give you a couple of general rules that hold true to most training basics.

  • Stance – Feet should be shoulder width apart – This will give you a solid base of support
  • Weight in Heels – Ensure that your knee is inline with your heel – Your knee should not go beyond your toes   *Note: for power moves, your weight will shift to your toes throughout the move…as it will when you jump.
  • Toes – Parallel or slightly turned out
  • Knees – Pointing  in the same direction as your toes
  • Core – Tight
  • Shoulders –  Down and back – Keep your shoulders away from your ears & do not tense…unless you are actively performing a shrug
  • Keep a Neutral Spine –  Do NOT round your back – Head, shoulders & butt should all be in one line

Below is a sample workout that hits the whole body.  For more examples, check out some of our other past workouts on our instagram or facebook page.

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As we mentioned before, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to strength training, but we are hoping this gives you an idea of where to start!  If you’re brand new to resistance training, it’s always helpful to start out with a trainer to ensure that you’re executing everything with proper form. If you still are lost or are interested in a2a designing a program for you, contact us!

A few of my favorite paleo recipes!

It’s been 2 weeks since the end of the 30 Day a2achallenge and I wanted to share some of my favorite paleo recipes with you all!  I did some serious experimenting in the kitchen during those 30 days and I learned a lot!  If you follow us on Instagram, you’ve probably have already seen these, but I though I should post them here so we can all access them a little easier!  If you have questions about any of the recipes, you can leave a comment below or shoot us an email at average2athlete@gmail.com.

Chicken Marbella

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Ingredients:

  • 4-6 chicken breasts, cut in chunks
  • 1 head garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1/4 cup dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup pitted prune
  • 1 cup dried apricots
  • 1/2 cup pitted Spanish green olives
  • 1/2 cup capers with a bit of juice

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients above, cover and let marinate, refrigerated, overnight.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Arrange chicken in a single layer in one or two large, shallow baking pans and spoon marinade over it evenly.
  4. Bake for 40 minutes

Stuffed Peppers

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Ingredients:

  • 3 peppers (to stuff)
  • 2 peppers chopped
  • ½ onion chopped
  • 1lb ground turkey
  • 1 cup mushrooms chopped
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 3-5 garlic cloves

Directions:

  1. Cut pepper in half & place on baking sheet face down
  2. Bake peppers at 350 for 15-20minutes
  3. Saute onions, peppers, mushrooms & garlic in 1 pan
  4. Saute ground turkey in separate pan
  5. Combine turkey & veggie mix in one pan, add diced tomatoes & sauté together.
  6. Stuff peppers

Coconut Chicken

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Ingredients:

  • 3 chicken Breast
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1 cup #coconut flakes
  • coconut oil

Directions:

  1. Cut Chicken breast in chunks
  2. Beat 2 eggs
  3. Combine almond flour & coconut flakes in separate bowl
  4. Dip chicken in eggs, then in almond/coconut mix
  5. Cook in skillet w/coconut oil
  6. Served with Grilled Pineapple & Snap Peas

Spaghetti squash with ground turkey & side of bokchoy

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Ingredients:

  • 2 spaghetti squash
  • 1lb ground turkey
  • 1 can marinara sauce
  • 1-2 cups mushrooms
  • 3-7 cloves of garlic
  • olive oil
  • 2 heads of bokchoy

Directions:

Spaghetti squash

  1. Cut in half length-wise
  2. Scoop out “guts”
  3. Place on baking sheet – Cut side down
  4. Bake at 375 for 35 minutes
  5. Scrape squash with fork

Meat/sauce & Bok Choy

  1. Slice Mushrooms
  2. Mince garlic
  3. Split garlic & mushroom mix in ½
  4. Sauté in olive oil in 2 separate pans
  5. Cook meat with mushroom & garlic in 1 pan
  6. Cook bokchoy in other pan for about 1-2minutes (as soon as leaves start to welt, take out!)

Chicken & Cashew Lettuce wraps

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Ingredients:

  • 2 peppers
  • ½ onion
  • 3 chicken breasts
  • 1 head romaine lettuce leaves
  • ¾ cup raw cashews
  • curry (to taste)

Directions:

  1. Dice peppers, onions & chicken
  2. Sauté together
  3. Once almost cooked, add raw cashews & sprinkle curry
  4. Serve on lettuce

Banana & Berry Fruitcake

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Ingredients:

  • 9 ripe bananas
  • 5 eggs
  • 4 egg whites
  • Cinnamon (to taste)
  • Berries of choice

Directions:

  1. Mix/Blend banana, eggs, whites & Cinnamon
  2. Pour in greased baking tin
  3. Sprinkle mixed berries on top
  4. Bake at 325 for 45 minutes!

Cauliflower Mash

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Ingredients:

  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 1-3 Tbsp Oil (I used coconut oil)
  • ¼- ½  cup water
  • Salt/Pepper

Directions:

  1. Steam bundle of cauliflower (over cook)
  2. Add cooked cauliflower to blender
  3. Add water, oil & salt to taste
  4. Blend (Use blender or food processor)

Happy Cooking!

-Kayte

Who doesn’t love a CHALLENGE?

We are about half was through our January a2achallenge, the Whole30!  We’ve made it over the hump, Yay!  If you have been participating in this months challenge, we hope that you are enjoying it as much as we are.  I really started to tell a difference within days of cleaning up my diet…especially after the Holidays!  At this point, 15 days into the challenge, I have more energy and almost don’t want any chocolate (almost!)  That’s been my biggest demon; my sweet tooth!  On the bright side, I’ve been very creative with some sweet alternatives using fruits.  It sounds like most people have at least one craving that lingers a little longer than others and that is really where the challenge comes in! What is your hardest craving to kick and how are you handling it?   We want to hear about your experience during the challenge:

  • What is the hardest part for you?
  • How do you feel?
  • Has it changed you?
  • Do you have any new favorite paleo recipes?
  • Did you take before and after pics?

Share your story by replying in the comments below or by sending us an email to average2athlete@gmail.com.

So, even though we still have about half of the challenge left, what’s the next step?  It’s time to start preparing for after the challenge…once we complete the Whole 30.  Over the next 2 weeks, take some time to reflect on how you feel and to think about what you want to add back into your diet.  Remember, you took this challenge for a reason!  There is no sense in cleaning up your diet if you are going to jump right back into old habits.  If you need any help or tips with what to do after, check out our post from the last challenge or just ask us.

Keep up the good work #a2achallengers!

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Enough about the current challenge, let’s talk about some other challenges out there!   If you follow our Instagram or Facebook, then you probably have seen our handstand/headstand pictures from December and know that we were doing an inversion challenge.  We challenged our fitfam to get inverted everyday in December.  Handstand, headstands or even just hanging upside down. We got some awesome feedback from so many of you and we realized how much we LOVE doing things together with our friends and followers!  This thought sparked the idea of doing the whole30…which got our wheels turning even more!

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So, what’s next?  In February, we are challenging you to fail!  That’s right, you read that correctly!

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We’ve deemed next month’s #a2achallenge as #FebruaryFails and we are asking you to embrace your failures!  Share a video of you failing, falling, or losing your balance. Don’t be shy.  We want to see your outtakes & see your human side…Nobody’s perfect!  Failure shows that you’re stepping outside of your comfort zone. Let us see your fails, or as we like to think of it, your path to success by tagging us @average2athlete, #februaryfails & #a2achallenge!

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Finally, the last challenge that we have been working on is a “Workout of the Week” or as we are calling it, our “a2aWOW.”  We will be putting out a short WOD (under 15 minutes) for you to tack on to the end of your workout or do in a time crunch.  We encourage you to video these workouts and share them with us by tagging #a2awow!  We can’t wait to see all of the different variations and twists you guys put on it!

Week 1 a2aWOW

Week 1 a2aWOW

As always, Thanks for reading and being part of our #fitfam!

On To The Next One! Looking forward to a great New Year after an incredible 2013

I can’t believe we are only days away from New Years Eve and the start of a brand new year! It’s been way too long since my last post, so I thought that I’d share a brief recap of what I’ve been up to this past year!  A new year filled with infinite possibilities always gets me thinking about what I hope to accomplish in the future, so I’ve also decided to share my goals for 2014!

My 2013 Year in Review

I started the year off with a bang and had 2 amazing trips with the NBA just before we started this blog.  I was lucky enough to travel to London in January to cheer for the Knicks vs. Pistons Game during the London Live series. Then in February, I traveled to Julia’s hood, Houston, Texas for the NBA All Star Games!

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In March, Julia and I decided to partner on a Health & Fitness venture to inspire & motivate and help people find their inner athlete…thus, average2athlete was born! We’ve had such an amazing time making videos & posts, trying & sharing new recipes, developing our page & our voice and mostly interacting with so many awesome people via instagram, facebook & the blog!  If you are reading this now, Thanks for following!!  Our first event after a2a was born was the CMC Intrepid event in April.  If you haven’t done so yet, check out our recap!

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In May, we started our first a2aChallenge….a modified 25 day Whole30 Challenge. (Side note: We are starting another Paleo Challenge January 2nd if you’d like to join!)  At the time, I had no idea that this challenge would double as the start of my competition diet!  In June, after about 4 weeks of prep, I competed in the Fitness America New Mexico pageant, where I ended up winning the Fitness division and earning my Pro Card!

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The month of June ended up even better than it started!  Not only did I run my first ever 5k race with the Clean Water for Haiti Organization, but my sister was married June 22, and I celebrated my one year wedding anniversary all in the same week!

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Moving onto July, every year my family friends and neighbors volunteer for an adaptive water ski clinic with Three Rivers Adaptive Sports.  This is one of my favorite weeks of the year.  There are so many incredible athletes that come out to ski….it’s so inspiring and a good reminder of the important things in life!

"If I can do this, I can do anything."

“If I can do this, I can do anything.”

The remainder of the summer held a Wedding in Vegas, being crowned the 2013 Equinox Burpee Champion, a Tough Mudder, an abbreviated neighborhood triathlon – named “Mini-Thon”  and another CMC event with some of my favorite fitness friends!!

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The Fall was almost as jam packed as the Summer!  It started it off with a Bachelorette Party in Nashville, complete with a Bull Ride and Line Dancing! I also went hiking for the first time in upstate New York at Mohonk and I can’t wait to go again!

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In October, I was given the opportunity to go on another amazing trip around the World with the NBA for the Global Games Pre-season circuit.  We got to travel and perform with the Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers & Philadelphia 76ers in Spain, Philippines & Taiwan!

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As the fall wrapped up and winter officially started, I had one more Wedding, a great Thanksgiving with my family, the most unbelievable surprise 30th Birthday Party EVER and an amazing Christmas week!

That’s a tough year to beat, but I’ve been taking some time to think about how I can grow in the new year.  While I don’t love the idea of a “News Years resolution” that can quickly be abandoned, I do like the idea of a fresh start…a time to set some new goals.  I wanted to share my goals for the year so you can help keep me accountable!

2014 Goals

Fitness

1.) Be more active on the blog & write more frequently!  Stay tuned for more frequent posts in 2014!  And let us know what you want to hear about by sending us an email average2athlete@gmail.com

2.) Be more consistent with my nutrition.  I do so well when I have a short term goal ahead of me, but its not always easy in between to stay away from the sweets! I am hoping that the Paleo challenge that I mentioned above will help start the year off right!

3.) Try new things!  Specifically, in the next 12 months, I want to do Crossfit, Soul Cycle, Yoga, Olympic lifting & go Rock climbing.

4.) Program for myself and stick to it.

5.) Improve skills – Pull-ups, Pistols, HSPU, Muscle ups & Double-unders.

Career

1.) Group Fitness – Get certified & start teaching classes.

2.) Further my education with additional workshops & certifications – Crossfit, KB, Animal Flow, TRX, FMS.

3.) Build Private Training Business – Expand private client base in NYC as well as virtually.  (Send us an email for more info!)

Financial – SAVE MORE…..Duh! 🙂

Spiritual/Social – So these are a little more “Big Picture” & more of a guideline or a vision than actual goals, but I think they are a good reminder of how I want to live my life.  So I am going to print these out along with my goals to hang on my wall so I am reminded everyday!   (P.S. I’m a sucker for quotes, and a lot of these go along with my favorites!)

1.) Be present, Live in the moment.  Don’t stress about the future and forget about the past.

“There are only two days in the year that nothing can be done.  One is called yesterday and the other is called tomorrow, so today is the right day to love, believe, do and mostly live.”

2.) Don’t set limits.

“The only limitations we have are the one’s we set for ourselves.”

3.) Remember what’s important. Find the good in people and take each relationship for what it is.

“Be Kind; Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

4.) Don’t speak poorly of other people and don’t judge them.

“Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people.”

5.) Enjoy a little downtime & appreciate each days accomplishments.

Let go of the need to do more and be more; for today, you’ve done the best you can, and that’s enough.”

6.) Stay positive. Volunteer. Make a difference.

That about wraps it up!  If you made it this far, thanks for reading!!  We would LOVE to hear about you goals, so send them our way!

Happy & Healthy New Years to you & yours!

Best,

Kayte

Fitness New Mexico Win and Pro-Card Status!

Three weeks ago, I had the opportunity to compete in the Fitness New Mexico Pageant in Albuquerque…and what an amazing weekend it was!  I ended up taking 1st place in Fitness and earned my ProCard!  The show is put on by the amazing Cristin Kiburz as part of the Fitness Universe Tour.

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This show was by far one of the most organized, laid back and fun shows that I have done! The whole weekend ran so smoothly, which helped keep the stress levels low. If you aren’t familiar with the competition circuit, check out my post from last month about the world of competing!  I wanted to give you guys a behind-the-scenes look at the trip and what it was like in the final hours before we stepped on stage!

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I arrived at the airport Friday afternoon, with my carry-on suitcase full of swim suits, costumes, clear heels, gaudy jewelry, make-up and tanner…and a cooler packed full of chicken, asparagus and yams!  (Chicken and asparagus every 2.5 hours leading up to the show…yams and chicken every 2.5 hours starting Friday night through Saturday to fill my depleted muscles!)  At this point in the game, my water intake had been cut to about 24 oz and was going to be cut in half again Saturday until after the show.  I had met up with my Pittsburgh friends Lori and Krystle at the airport in Dallas during a layover. We rode through the desert to the Route 66 Casino Hotel where the show was hosted…this ride really drove home how different New Mexico is from New York City!

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New Mexico Desert

Once we arrived at the Hotel/Casino Friday afternoon, we headed over to registration, which is really the first time all the competitors are in the same area…and there were a lot of them across all of the different divisions!! (Fitness, Figure, Bikini, Muscle Mania and Model)  Aside from meeting (and sizing up) the competition, registration is also great because we usually get free samples and fitness gear from the show sponsors…this show actually included one of my own sponsors, Nutrishop!

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Registration

After registration, the Fitness girls got to check out the stage and mark through our routines.  It’s definitely helpful when we get to observe the elements before a performance.  This floor was cement, so I’m glad I got to try a few passes before going live!

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Fitness Stage

Then it was off to shower and apply tanner! The tanning process is somewhat messy and can be long and involved….and usually requires some help!!  I think I pretty much have it down to a science now when it comes to avoiding looking too much like an Oompa Loompa! Two layers of Jantana and two layers of dream tan and I’m good to go! The tanner is so messy, the hotel actually requires competitors to bring their own sheets!  After the coats had dried, it was off to bed!

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Lori’s tanned feet!

Saturday morning came early with a competitor meeting at 7am! Lucky for us, Fitness didn’t have to compete in prelims, so we had the rest of the day to primp…hair, makeup, nails etc!

Once the show started at 5, it was a whirlwind!  We started the fitness division with the routine round, which involves a theme, music, and a costume.   I chose hunger games and channeled my inner Katniss!

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May the odds be ever in your favor!

One of the challenging things about fitness (aside from the tricks & skills,) is the quick change into a swimsuit and the transformation of our hair into a glamorous “down-do”.  After this was all done, it was onto the swimsuit round and the infamous bikini walk!

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The show was streaming live on webcast, so my whole family watched and cheered me on from PA and NY! I’m so lucky to have such a solid support system!

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PA family on top, NY on the bottom

Once all competitors had finished, it was onto comparisons and awards.  The judges like to see the competition side by side one last time before handing out the awards.   I was so surprised when I ended up getting 1st place and my Fitness Pro-Card! There were so many great competitors and with only one month to prepare, I was hoping to just go out there and do the best that I could!  All of that hard work during the month of May really paid off!

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Getting my Pro-Card means that I can only compete in certain Fitness America Professional shows against the other top girls out there!  The next professional and amateur show is actually this weekend…if you are interested in seeing what it’s all about, you can stream live via webcast all weekend from the Fitness Universe site! I won’t be competing in this show, but I’m considering one in September in A.C. The “SuperBody” is a Professional show but also has the amateur division as well and is a Pro-qualifier.  Anyone else interested? More to come on this one later!

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And finally, what would a competition be without a cheat meal!  I’m not usually one to promote un-clean food on a fitness/health blog, but so many people have been asking what my post-show meal was! So if your are against cheat meal pictures…look away!  I always seem to go for the chicken quesadilla and some chocolate post show!

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Big thanks to Cristin and the Fitness America crew for such a great weekend!  Good luck to all of the competitors this weekend down in Miami!

You’ve seen a few pics from the weekend, but for more pictures of the show, check out our Facebook page!

-Kayte

The Home Stretch – Tips for AFTER the a2a Challenge

If you have been doing the 25 Day a2a challenge with us, we are in the home stretch!  Only 2 more days left! This challenge means different things to everyone and no matter what your reasons were for starting the challenge, we are glad you joined us! So now, what’s next?  Well, we have some tips and suggestions for AFTER the challenge. Hopefully these will help you continue on the healthy path you have been on these past few weeks!

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1.) Evaluate how you feel and Recognize how far you have come.  Take notes about any changes that you’ve noticed with your weight, body comp, energy levels or allergies/irritation from food.  You may find that you love this way of eating!

2.) Don’t jump back into your old eating habits all at once – If you decide to add back dairy, grains, processed sugars etc, don’t add it back all at once.  Try adding one thing at a time and evaluate how you feel.  You may find that dairy or processed sugar really makes you feel crummy!  But if you add it all back at the same time, you won’t be able to identify what it is that makes you feel that way.

This goes for alcohol too!  With the Holiday weekend approaching, it’s important to remember that you haven’t been drinking for almost a month!  Definitely enjoy yourself, but take it easy…moderation is key!  Don’t let one Holiday weekend sabotage all of your hard work!

3.) Avoid the “because I can” mentality – To Piggy back off the last tip, try to avoid eating something just because you haven’t had it for 25 days.  If it’s something you have been craving the whole time, then go ahead and allow yourself a meal or 2 to indulge…but DON’T have it just for the sake of having it.  Before you splurge, evaluate and make sure its something you really want!

We have noticed that it’s become much easier to stay away from some of our old favorite cheats…the cravings have pretty much disappeared!  Before you allow yourself to return to an old unhealthy favorite, take a minute to think back about how much harder it was in the beginning of the challenge to eliminate these foods.  Now that your body has changed and craves healthier foods, do you really want to return to your pre-challenge habits?

4.) Make a plan – We have said it before and we will say it again, “If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail!”  This applies to how and when you will reintroduce food, how you want to eat going forward and when/if you will have your cheat meals! If you have a plan for all of these things, you will be less likely to slide down that slippery slope.

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5.) Set Goals for the long-term and short term – Having something to work towards, even small goals, will help to keep you on track! Write them down and keep them somewhere you will see every day!

6.) Maintain the Support of family and friends – Make sure they know that this new way of eating is important to you.  Who knows, it might even rub off on them!

We hope that you have noticed some great changes over the past few weeks! We love how this challenge has made us feel and plan to continue with the idea of eating Paleo 80% of the time and non-paleo 20% of the time.  If you decide to adopt this idea, figure out how many meals/days a week that is for you and plan ahead! The occasional cheat meal can be an important part to staying on track and keeping your sanity, but there are a few things to keep in mind!

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Keep us posted on your progress this week!  If you took before and after pics, send them our way!  Let us know your weight loss, body fat % loss or just improvements in how you are feeling!  If you have a blog or want to share your story, send us the post or entry and we may feature it here!  Leave a comment, shoot us an email or just tag us on instagram @average2athlete.

If you haven’t seen on Facebook or Instagram, we are doing a giveaway this week for the best challenge recipe.  Share your favorite a2achallenge recipe on your social media page before Thursday at noon and tag us @average2athlete, the challenge #a2achallenge, and the giveaway #a2agiveaway for your chance to win! (More details on out Facebook & Instagram.)

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-Kayte & Julia

The World of Fitness Competitions

If you follow us on Instagram, then you may already know that I decided last Monday to compete in a Fitness show on June 1st in New Mexico! I wasn’t planning to do any shows in the near future, but the opportunity came up and I couldn’t turn it down!  If you know anything about competing in the fitness world, then you know that 4 weeks is definitely a VERY short prep!  However, if you aren’t too familiar with this industry, you are in good company! I get a lot of questions from people about what a Fitness competition really is:

Is it body building?   What do you have to do?  What are the divisions?  What do you get if you win?  How do I get involved? 

So, I thought I would give a little run down to help clear some things up! If you are thinking about making the decision to compete, there are a lot of different factors to consider to help you decide what’s right for you.  I am not too familiar with the male divisions, so I apologize in advance if this is a little girly!

Kayte Natter

Female Divisions – Obviously not everyone has the same build or fitness goals, so they have created divisions for every one! If you are considering entering a show, take a look at some of the body types that are in each division and decide what suits you and your physique goals in order to help decide the best fit.  Each division is judged using different criteria….and yes, this does involve walking and/or posing in a bikini in front of a lot of people!  Here is an overview of the breakdown:

1.) Fitness – This is the division that I compete in.  While there is a swimsuit round in all the divisions, this one is unique in that it also involves a routine round.  The routine can involve anything, but should highlight your particular skills like dance, gymnastics, cheer and strength! The fitness look generally is athletic, fit & toned.

Kayte Natter

2.) Bikini – The appearance for this division should be fit, toned and feminine with the proper conditioning.  These ladies can strut and pose in a way that best highlights their strengths.

3.) Figure – These competitors generally carry more muscle than fitness or bikini competitors.  Often, unlike the bikini and fitness divisions, these competitors may have mandatory poses, whereas bikini & fitness choose their own.

4.) Body Building – This is just what it sounds like…ladies are judged on the mass, symmetry  & leanness of their body. This division, like figure, generally has set poses.

Competitive Organizations – There are many different organizations that host shows….and they all have slightly different rules, division requirements, pro status’ and prizes (if any.)  Some of the most well known are below:

So, if you’ve decided to compete and already picked a division and organization, what’s next?  Here are some tips on getting started:

Pick a show – Choose a local/smaller show for your first one.  It’s nice to work the kinks out in a small arena so you are comfortable when you hit the big stage!

Get a coach or mentor – Thank fully, I had some friends that had competed in the past.  They gave me some great advice and connected me with my fitness mentor Sheri McCall Vucick.  Sheri gave me the rundown with tanner, let me borrow her suit, gave me a meal plan, workout plan, music and helped with my routine!  She is kind of a rock star!

Sheri Vucick

Get a Meal Plan & Diet – Depending on the coach or program you choose, they may or may not provide this, but it is soooo important! You need to have a specific nutrition and training program that will be designed to make sure you peak on your competition day! This will also include drinking a TON of water!!

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Practice your walk, posing and routine (if applicable) – Those girls who step on stage may look like it comes to them naturally, but you better believe that they have walked miles in their heels to make sure it looks perfect!  It is so important to practice walking and posing!

If you have ever read Oxygen magazine, then you know Lindsay Messina.  She has put together a great group of women who work together to prep for competitions. If you are in the New York area, check out the New York Divas.  They meet most Saturday mornings for a workout and then practice posing and stage walk.  Check out one of Lindsay’s videos on the stage walk here.

Get your gearHere is a short list of what you will need once you make the decision to compete

  • Swimsuit/Bikini – Styles may change based on the division you select
  • Competition heels  – Generally clear and not too high that you can’t walk in them!
  • Tanner – Practice this before stage day!  I love Jantana & Dream Tan, but you have to find what works for you!
  • Glitzy jewelry – The more bling the better!
  • Costumes/Gown –Depending on the division/organization, you may need themeware or a gown.
  • Music/Theme/Costume  – If you decide to do fitness, you’ll need these for the routine.

Have Support – Last but certainly not least, you have to have support from your friends and family!  Competing can be like a roller-coaster, especially towards the end and after a competition.  It’s so important to surround yourself with positive people who will help move you towards your goal!

Girls of Steel

Girls of Steel

If you are in the New York City area and would like some additional information or help with competition prep, I also offer privates for posing and routine choreography.  Message me for more info: average2athlete@gmail.com.

Metabolism Rundown and a2a Egg Muffins

First off, I hope everyone participating in the 25 day a2achallenge has been enjoying these first few days!  We have had such a great response from so many of you who have stepped up to the challenge! Stay motivated and keep sending those “a2a approved” healthy meals and recipes our way!

I know this challenge came at a great time for me and I’m excited to see how I feel and look after 25 days.  If you are looking for the “challenge approved” egg muffins that I made earlier this week, they are at the very bottoms of the post and have really come in handy so far!

Since one of the objectives of this challenge is to restore a healthy metabolism, I thought I would take this opportunity to dive into what metabolism really is.  It can be a huge player in fat loss…either working for or against you.  This has actually been a hot topic in my daily life lately, as I have been working with a client on how to repair a damaged metabolism. While repairing metabolism is a little more involved then we’re going to get today, I’ll be sure to post more about that in the future and share my own story.  Today I’ll just run through a general overview about metabolism and how you can boost yours!

So what is Metabolism? 

Metabolism is a function of the body that processes food into energy.  This process establishes the rate that we burn energy (calories) and determines how quickly we gain or lose weight.  Essentially, our body is constantly burning energy…metabolism drives the amount of energy that the body burns in order to maintain everyday activities like eating, sleeping, sitting etc.  There are many different factors that affect metabolism,  which include:

  • Body Composition – More muscle generally leads to higher metabolism
  • Age – Metabolism slows as we get older
  • Sex – Men generally have a higher metabolism than women
  • Foods – The kind of food and timing of meals can impact metabolism
  • Activity (exercise) levels – Exercise can help boost metabolism

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If you are starting to fear that your levels may be a little low, don’t panic!  There are a number of things that you can do to increase your metabolism. I came across a great article, listing 23 ways to boost your metabolism and I have highlighted some of my top picks below:

1.) Build muscle – Simply put, having muscle burns more calories than fat…yet another reason to pick up those weights!  (If you haven’t yet, check out Julia’s posts about lifting heavy and Strong is the new Skinny.)

OK, maybe not THAT much muscle!!

OK, maybe not THAT much muscle!!

2.) Do interval training – Among other great benefits, this increases metabolism and resting metabolic rate.

3.) Eat smaller meals more frequently  – This helps keep your engine revved and your metabolism high!

4.) Incorporate certain metabolism boosting foods into your diet:

5.) Drink more water!

6.) Sleep more

7.) Avoid fad, or severe low-calorie diets – These can actually end up slowing your metabolism down by tricking your body into thinking its starving!  The result is starvation mode!

While I know that this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to metabolism, I hope that it helped to give a general idea of what metabolism is all about and what you can do to help give it a boost!  If you still want a little information about metabolism, check out this article.

Now for the Egg Muffin recipe!  Feel free to incorporate some of the metabolism boosting foods into these eggs.

Egg Muffins

Egg Muffins

Egg Muffins

Ingredients:

  • 6-8 Eggs
  • 1-1.5 cups whites  (Feel free to try a different ratio depending on how many yokes vs. whites you want…this can also be made with just 12 whole eggs!  I did 8 eggs & 1 cup whites this time.)
  • Veggies of choice (I used broccoli & onion)

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Combine eggs into a bowl & mix
  • Pour eggs into greased muffin tin
  • Place COOKED veggies into each muffin cup
  • Bake for 25 minutes & allow them to cool for 5
  • Tip: Use a knife to loosen the sides of eggs from the pan.

Enjoy!

-Kayte

Counting Sheep

The other night, I shut down my computer at 11:00pm and already knew that with the alarm set for 4:30am, I was a far cry from getting the recommended 8 hours of sleep.  As I lay there and tried to will myself to sleep as quickly as possible, my mind took off!  I starting thinking of every little thing to put on my to-do list; ideas for new blog posts, workouts, client programs, vacation plans, bills etc…you name it!  I tried over and over to quiet my mind, but it was no use.  As I watched the clock roll past 11:30pm, 12:30am and finally 1:30am,  I became increasingly more panicked and obsessed with falling asleep! The longer I lay awake, the worse I knew the next day would be. I’m sure you all know the feeling…when you walk around half awake, groggy and delirious.   Sure enough, the following morning, there was no amount of coffee that would make me feel 100% with-it.

While 2.5 hours of sleep is an obvious deprivation, I often have the attitude that I can do without 8 hours and can make it through the day on a solid 5.5 or 6. However, running on less than 3 the other day got me thinking about how important sleep actually is to our health.

My niece Lilly, who fell asleep in the middle of dinner this week!!

My niece Lilly, who fell asleep in the middle of dinner this week!!

We are all so focused on our day-to-day tasks like work, errands, training and groceries that we often don’t give enough thought to the importance of sleep…turns out, sleep is actually the most important activity of our day! Sleep is the only time your body has to regenerate itself, rebuild muscle and strengthen bones. No matter where you are in your fitness journey or what your goals are, sleep is essential for muscle gain and fat loss! Said best by the National Sleep Foundation, “Sleep Deprivation is the royal route to Obesity.”

After taking a closer look into the role that sleep plays for our body and health, I have a few key points to share.  Below you’ll find some possible side effects of prolonged sleep deprivation.

General Health possible side effects of Sleep Deprivation:

  • Diabetes
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Stroke
  • Anxiety & Depression
  • Heightened levels of Stress hormones
  • Weight gain

While overall health is obviously the goal, a lot of our readers are interested in reaching a higher level of performance and a lower body fat.  So, in order to make sure we don’t overload you with information, for this post we’ll zero in a little more on the last item and take a closer look at weight control & muscle growth. For more information on sleep and health concerns, check out the National Sleep Foundation.

Weight Control & Muscle Growth – Sleep deprivation can play a big part in weight control and muscle growth.  Lack of sleep can cause your metabolism to slow down and can limit muscle repair and growth.  Our bodies regulate hormones at night, especially those in charge of fat burning and appetite, particularly carb cravings!  When you don’t get enough deep sleep, your brain thinks that you have insufficient energy stores and then goes into a state of starvation, which ups your appetite.  In addition, Human Growth hormones, which stimulate the metabolism, are only produced in the hours of deep sleep.

So, How do you get more sleep?

Getting more sleep isn’t always just a product of just getting into bed a little earlier, (although that will probably help!)   So, what can you do if you are having problems falling or staying asleep?  Here are some tips:

  • Establish a routine  – Go to bed at the same time every night & get up at the same time every morning.
  • Don’t sleep more than your body needs – Oversleeping can cause you to be sluggish and may disturb your subsequent night sleep.
  • Exercise or move everyday, but NOT right before bed, your metabolism can take up to 6 hours to slow down after you exercise.
  • Make it dark, quiet & avoid electronics close to bed.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol later in the day.
  • Have a light snack before bed (See below for my favorite before bed snack!)
  • Find a relaxation technique before bed.  To quiet my mind, I read and my husband mediates every night!
  • Make sure you are getting the proper nutrients throughout the day to help you sleep at night!  Sleeping problems can be caused by deficiencies in the diet.  Check out some foods that might help you sleep better, like B6, Calcium & Magnesium!  We’ve included a recipe below that incorporates some of these foods into one great meal!

I know this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to sleep, but I hope this helped by giving an idea of  how important it is to get some shut eye!

Sweet dreams!

Bedtime snack

Cottage Cheese & Bananas

Cottage Cheese & Bananas

Cottage Cheese & Bananas  – ¼ – ½ cup cottage cheese and ½ banana.

We love this snack, not only because of the sleep enhancing nutrients (calcium & B6,) but the banana is a great way to replace the potassium lost during a hard workout and cottage cheese is slow digesting and gives our body what it needs during the night!

Salmon, Kale & Orange Salad

Salmon

Ingredients

  • 2-3 salmon filets
  • 8-10 Kale leaves, washed, stemmed and cut into thin strips
  • 1 can organic chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 2 oranges, squeezed (1/4 cup juice)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced olives
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ¾ teaspoon dried dill

Instructions

Add all ingredients (aside from the salmon) into a large bowl, stir and cover. Marinate in fridge for 1-24 hours (I’m impatient, so I only did 1 hour!)

Grill salmon and serve with clementine’s or mandarins oranges.

Additional Sources:

  1. “Fit & Well” by Thomas D. Fahey, Paul M. Insel & Walton T. Roth
  2. “The Eat Clean Diet” by Tosca Reno

Performance Training, Plyometrics & Pizza

I’ve mentioned before that I love plyometrics. (Plyometrics, “Jump Training” or “Plyos” are explosive exercises that exert max force in a very short amount of time. For more info, check out this page.) I also love any kind of training that really gets my heart rate up, gets me breathing heavy and leaves me feeling like I might fall over or pass out! I guess it reminds me of conditioning for sports and makes me feel athletic…or maybe I’m just an adrenaline junky! Either way, any HIIT, circuits, cross-fit, sprints etc makes me feel amazing and yields results!

Some of my favorite plyometrics!

Some of my favorite plyometrics!

I mentioned last week that I had, on occasion, received flack from other trainers about all of the high-intensity jumping and plyometric training that I previous had in my program.  While most of the jabs were well intentioned, after a while I started to question myself and began to shy away from jump-training. Instead of listening to my body and training in a way that worked best for me, I was altering my program to fit other people’s expectations.  My body wasn’t responding as well as it previously had and I wasn’t feeling as accomplished post-workout.

Last week, I came across an article in oxygen magazine about the benefits of plyometrics, that got my wheels spinning. Some of the key notes from the article were that plyos;

  1. Improve athletic performance
  2. Encourage muscle change and adaptation
  3. Increase metabolism and post-workout calorie burn

While these statements certainly support my love of plyos, it was this quote from strength and conditioning coach, Molly Galbraith, that really hit home and got me thinking:

“Plyometrics teach you how to produce force, absorb impact on landing and enhance body control, all of which contribute to stronger joints, a reduced risk of injury, and better skills when playing sports.”

This really opened my eyes and I began to notice a correlation between my training and recent injuries. Over the last 6 months I have incurred 2 injuries that have completely halted my training.  I currently have a pinched nerve (possibly a herniated disk) that started as a sore neck the day before I left to cheer for the NBA All Star Games in February and worsened during the week while we performed.  In addition to that injury, I sprained my ankle in October at practice the day before leaving for a 2 week NBA cheerleading trip around the world.

I Spy!  Can you spot the air cast in all of these pics?

I Spy! Can you spot the air cast in all of these pics?

Before these incidents, I had never really been one to have injuries.  Don’t get me wrong, I am definitely a little reckless and careless in a bull-in-a-china-shop kind of way, but I’m also very “durable” as my husband would put it.  I’ve spent a fair share of time in the ER for stitches, concussions and the occasional broken finger, but I’ve never really had an injury that kept me “on the bench” so to speak.  Since Both injuries happened while cheerleading, I initially came to the most logical conclusion, Cheerleading = Injury.  I thought, “Maybe this is a sign that it’s time to hang up my pom-poms, because lets face it, 29 is a little old to still be cheering!”  And while age may play a little part, I’m thinking there may be more to it.

After taking another look at my training and injuries with the article in mind, I started thinking that maybe the correlation wasn’t directly caused by cheerleading (or age,) but by the change in my program.  Since I began working out in a gym 11 years ago, I was training for my sport….Cheerleading. Everything I did in the gym was geared towards becoming a better athlete.  And while I have always kept a well rounded program, we (the cheerleaders) definitely had more plyometrics and jumping than say, a marathon runner would…and for good reason, you practice what you will perform.  Maybe these injuries had occurred because I was no longer as conditioned to perform cheerleading skills as I had been in the past.  You need to train for your sport.  If I am going to jump and flip, I should continue to train to be able to jump and flip.

Jump & Flip

Jump & Flip

Moral of the story, listen to your body. You are the one who is ultimately responsible for your health and the one who has to live with your decisions.  When it comes to training, there is so much information out there…so learn all you can, apply what think you need and make the decisions that are best for you!

listen-to-your-body

I am so looking forward to returning to my normal, balanced training program, complete with plyometrics!  If you are looking for some plyometric moves to add to your routine, check out some exercises on our YouTube channel. My friend, college roommate, and kick-ass group fitness instructor, Caitlin McGowan and I videoed some of our favorite moves after her class yesterday.

Check out our YouTube channel here!

After Caitlin's class

After Caitlin’s class

As a final note, while working through these injuries, it has been especially important to keep my diet extra clean! Check out this Egg White “Pizza” that I tried this week!

Egg White Pizza

Egg White Pizza

Egg White Pizza

1.) Spray frying pan with oil, then cook egg white mixture (below) into omelette “crust.” Flip when fully cooked

  • 5 egg whites (Add 1 Tbsp water and pepper to taste)

2.) Mix the following together and spread onto cooked eggs

  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano

3.) Add to following onto the tomato sauce until cheese melts

  • 1/4 cup ricotta cheese
  • sliced veggies (we chose mushrooms)
  • 1 tbsp Parmesan cheese

*Recipe adapted from “Clean Eating Quick & Easy Meals”

Enjoy!