Too Busy for Busy Babe Sugar Cleanse?

I’ve bowed out. Last night was the last meal on the Busy Babe Sugar Cleanse for me. Those who know me well know I am not a quitter. I’m the opposite of a quitter and usually am dedicated and loyal until the bitter end. This time, though, I had to listen to my body and know when to quit. My hesitation with a sugar cleanse was always the low carb nature of the plan. I knew I needed healthy carbs for energy and I worried about how the lack of carbs would affect me.

I am up at 4:44 a.m. every morning (Syracuse University reference all the way with that specific time!). I go go go all day long, from the gym where I strength train pretty hard, home to make sure everyone is ready to start their day (I have three kids) to work at Syracuse University, where I put in a 9 1/2 hour day on average with a very short to nonexistent lunch break (I eat but not always away from my desk.). It doesn’t stop there. I head home by 5:20 p.m., get dinner on the table, clean up, make school lunches and help drive the kids to practice or lessons. I set up for the next day and by the time I’ve put my youngest to bed, it’s 8 p.m. I attempt to have at least a half hour to myself to read or cross stitch or play on my phone and just be. I’m in bed by 10 p.m. at the latest. I share all this because it’s relevant to the reason I couldn’t hang with the sugar cleanse. I believe I may be too busy!

This cleanse has you prepping every two days. After seeing what my day is like you might wonder how I had time to prep!? Well, it was rough. I often didn’t get things wrapped up until after 8 p.m. on prep nights and my husband helped clean and drive the kids around. It was exhausting to be honest! I didn’t have any time to spend with the kids the way I usually do in the evenings and that made me sad. I knew it was only for four weeks though so I pressed on. But, one thing that was nagging me the entire time on the cleanse was the complete and total lack of energy. The exhaustion was real. I was having trouble concentrating at work and every five days or so I had a massive headache the entire day. My workouts were poor and I was winded more than usual. I could barely get through some of my lifts. Finally, at the risk of oversharing, despite my increase in magnesium intake and taking everything as prescribed in the cleanse, my constipation was rough and uncomfortable and I just plain hated it!

After much debate with myself on whether to adjust the cleanse to add carbs to the meals or transition out or just stop, I decided to transition out. I prepped the week 3, days 3/4 for my husband last night, making sure I added a carb source to my own lunch, and moved on. He will prep his own for the remaining week and a half on the cleanse. It was my daughter’s birthday last evening and she turned 10. I had a cupcake with her to celebrate; life is good again.

Do I think it was a mistake to try the sugar cleanse? No, not at all. But, it validated something for me that I knew all along – I need healthy carbs to complete my diet. Too much protein and some fat is not going to fuel my busy life and metabolism. I have so much muscle on my tiny frame and it needs carbs along with the fats to synthesize the protein and help me maintain and grow that muscle. I’m in my mid-40s and it’s super hard to keep mass on my frame now more than ever. But, carbs are an essential part of the formula.

Going forward, I will keep the shakes and breakfasts that the cleanse included. They are healthy and excellent ways to start my day. I may also use some of the snack ideas for my mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks at work (the cleanse only had a mid-afternoon which also was a bit of an issue for me – I need to eat every few hours, smaller meals). We also decided that meal prepping could be useful for us on nights when the kids are all over the place. But, I don’t think I can sustain meal prepping every two days. It took way longer than a half hour to prep and usually took 90 minutes. That was tough to fit in to an already packed schedule.

I think the cleanse is terrific for those with the time to do it and the weight to be lost. My husband has lost 16 pounds and counting! For some, I think it’s super valuable. But, for me, who already only took in around 40g of sugar a day anyway, and didn’t have any weight to lose, it was more an exercise in sacrifice, organization and willpower! I’m glad I got through two weeks and feel that is better than not trying at all. And although it hurts me to quit anything, I’m slowly feeling good about stopping. I know I listened to my own body and did what was right for me. If you try the cleanse, I’m curious to know how it went for you! Or, if you’re on one now, I’m happy to answer any questions. Drop me a note in the comments! And, remember, always listen to your body. It’s OK to quit, if you need to. No shame! Stay healthy!

First No Sugar Weekend

I made it. The first weekend on the Busy Babe Sugar Cleanse went pretty well! It was a bit harder to stick to my meal timing with a flexible schedule on the weekend but I fit it all in. The best part was Sunday dinner, the kids ate turkey burgers while we ate them just as patties. They also could share the sweet potato fries and salad! So, one dinner instead of two – bonus! Still, I’m having a nagging feeling that I might not be able to sustain this cleanse through the final days.

I am used to way more carbs. Now, I don’t always choose the right carbs (that’s why I’m doing this cleanse) but I did well about 65 percent of the time, I’d say. And, now I am not eating nearly enough to fuel my busy lifestyle, training and to keep up with my fast metabolism. I am a bit worried about losing gains and/or compromising my goal of gaining muscle mass and staying around 100 pounds.

I am doing a bit more research to see what might work best. I have a few options at this point:

  1. Keep going with the cleanse and add more servings to up the calories even more.
  2. Keep going with the cleanse and do a full serving of Serious Mass in the evening (instead of the half serving I’ve been supplementing with).
  3. Add a healthy carb as a pre-workout snack to get through my training better.
  4. Add a healthy carb to each meal in the cleanse, avoiding grains until week 4.

I’m going to weigh myself on Saturday and see how I’m doing with muscle to fat and go from there. Sunday is a refeed day so I know I’ll get the carbs that day! Still, today is sluggish and I slept from 8:30 p.m. until my alarm went off this morning, which is unusual for me. Plus, I’ve been cranky. This cleanse is having the desired effect!

The most important thing anyone can do when trying new things with training and nutrition is to listen to your body. You know you best. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t right. But, give it a fighting chance and make sure you fully understand what’s what before deciding to abandon whatever track you’re on.

Meantime, I will say this. Regardless of whether I stick it out until the end or not, I will definitely be keeping a few habits – morning smoothies are the highlight of my day now! I’ll keep you posted!

Sugar Cleanse – Week 1

As week one draws to a close – or the weekday part of it anyway – I thought I’d share some initial observations about how this “Busy Babe Sugar Cleanse” is going.

Meal prepping is hard! I have often thought of myself as an excellent time manager, multitasker, organizer but this is on a whole new level for me. Between prepping for our cleanse meals, preparing dinner for the kids, packing for our work day and making school lunches, my evenings are packed! Thankfully, my husband is doing his part and taxi-ing the kids to all their activities while I stay home and do all this. He is also the dishwasher (thank you, honey!). Still, I haven’t had much down time after work at all this week. By the time I get all that squared away, it’s shower time for my youngest, followed by bed, and then my middle child and I do our 20 minutes of reading homework. I’m lucky if I’m on the couch relaxing by 8:45! Some things I have learned that should help me in the subsequent weeks:

    • If steamed veggies are on the sugar cleanse dinner menu, make extra so it can be part of the kids’ dinner, too.
    • Try to do double duty – put everything in the oven together, if you can; cut veggies up all at once for the various meals and let the Instant Pot handle the eggs and veggie steaming (we have 2, thank goodness).
    • Put all the food in the fridge together so it’s easy for my husband and I to grab and go the next morning. I also prepackage the shake ingredients in snack sized bags to save time. I bring mine to work but it’s a time saver for my husband to just dump and blend.
    • Look ahead in the meal plan. I didn’t really so I am not sure I made enough meat sauce for us to have it Saturday and will probably need to supplement.
    • When logging your meals, take the easy route and copy from day to day. That saves a ton of time since there are a lot of ingredients to log.
    • Consider adding a mid-week grocery trip to keep ingredients fresh and save room in your fridge.
    • I made my own soup to add to the Lazy Bone Broth soup recipe but we got sick of it as the week went on. I ended up giving in and buying cartons of soup for next week.
    • If you make your own bone broth on the weekend when you have time, it will last all week and it’s cheaper than buying jars of it at the store.
    • Try to buy pre-cut vegetables, pre-made patties and whatever else you can buy that saves you time. It really does make a difference.

I’ve made my grocery list for next week already and I can see that it will not be as pricey as the first week. Some of our pantry items are still available, for one thing, which is a huge relief.

So, How Does the Food Taste?

Most of the recipes are terrific. The shakes are the bomb and my husband and I think we’ll continue to incorporate those long after the cleanse is over. We discovered, or I did anyway, that ground turkey is better than ground chicken in terms of taste. I hate sauerkraut and am afraid to try kimchi due to the heat. So, that is hard for me to stomach. Ditto on the greens shot. The greens powder that came recommended as best tasting has an Ok taste but leaves a smell in my nose that reminds me of vomit. There, I said it. It’s a rough introduction to my daily routine each day. I am not doing the ACV and water but my husband is. I haven’t done the fire shot either. I have a history of reflux and would just prefer to leave well enough alone.

What About the Cravings?

The first day I was pretty tired and headachy all day. The next day was MUCH better and days 3 and 4 have caffeine in Meal #1 shake which is a huge help. I’m feeling good and have wanted something sweet in the afternoon but I think it’s more due to habit than actually feeling like I NEED it. I nearly grabbed a piece of candy from the dish on the way out of a meeting the other day. Automatic! Thankfully, I stopped myself just in time. And this morning there was my favorite breakfast pizza in the office but I declined and was actually not that sad about it.

Weigh-In

I forgot to weigh myself and check my body composition at the beginning of the cleanse but the last weigh-in I did was 12/28/19 so close enough. I use the Renpho home scale and I have no idea how accurate it is but the trends are more what I pay attention to. You can see below what my current stats are (yes, I’m tiny!). My goal is to gain but I’m not actively bulking right now since I’m doing this cleanse. When the cleanse is completed, I’ll update you on what my next plans are.

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If you look at the trend over time, I have hit a plateau when it comes to muscle gain but I didn’t lose any muscle, which is great considering I’m eating differently on this cleanse and back into Train with Lyzabeth, which is different than the bodybuilding I was doing at the end of last year.
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Body fat is down .1%. I’m in the range for an athlete. I don’t want to go below 13% since women need at least that much essential fat.

I’ll keep monitoring and see how things progress. I don’t want to lose my gains. I predict a bit higher muscle mass at the end of week 2 (I hope!). Going into my first weekend on the cleanse. I’ll give a report Monday morning!

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail

The Busy Babe Sugar Cleanse commences today, Jan. 6, for my husband and me. As such, we spent much of last week and weekend preparing. We probably overthink it too much on the whole however preparing for something like this is essential to success. You must review the entire plan, take it to heart and ask any questions you may have before you begin.

For example, my husband wondered about men and whether the “busy babe” cleanse truly would be Ok for males. After asking in a private group Lyzabeth Lopez has for those who have purchase her lifetime Train with Lyzabeth program, I learned quite a few husbands had not only done the sugar cleanse with their wives, but had great success! Another question we had was about soup. One of the staples of this 30-day cleanse is a recipe for “Lazy Bone Broth Soup,” which involves mixing bone broth with another kind of soup that must be low carb, low sodium. Well, I was having a tough time finding a soup that qualified! After posting in the group, I received a few ideas!

Grocery Shopping

This plan includes a full grocery list for each week, thank goodness! So, I split my shopping into two trips to save time, purchasing the pantry ingredients first, followed by the fresh ones. One thing I immediately learned is that we just don’t have the refrigerator space for all this food! My husband and I are both doing the 2,000 calorie plan so it’s a lot! We are using our regular refrigerator, as well as the smaller one he has in his office and we’re maxed out! I would think that for ladies who are doing this on their own and/or at a lower calorie level, this would not be a concern but we’re thinking of doing two shopping trips during week two, depending on what’s needed. Plus, I brought two days worth of food to work this morning since I have a refrigerator in my own office and can easily do that.

As for the shopping, it was painless however I did have a bit of sticker shock! I spent $475 for week one! About $75 was the regular stuff I always buy for the kids’ lunches and things, another $200 were items that hopefully will last longer than one week and the rest of it was the meat and produce. This is a consideration for anyone thinking about doing this. Again, there are two of us cleansing, so the cost would likely be less for one person or for lower calories.

Meal Prep

The plan indicates it will take 30 minutes to prep for each two-day meal menu. It took a lot longer for me. Now, I was multitasking a little bit getting the kids’ lunches made, plus I ended up making my own chicken patties (couldn’t find pre-made), as well as my own soup to go in the “Lazy Bone Broth” but even if I didn’t do those two things, I still think prep is more like 45 minutes to an hour. I haven’t meal prepped before but I see on social media that folks who do spend an entire Sunday afternoon so an hour or so is a lot less than that! And perhaps I will get better at it.

I used my Instant Pot for the soup, which sped that up a great deal, and my husband helped with various things to help keep things moving. We decided perhaps we’d alternate who is in charge of prep week to week since it is a bit of a job!

The other part of our prep involves making sure we have everything we need for work the next day. For example, I’m making my shakes at work in my office NutriBullet so I had to measure out all the powders and ingredients to take with me. Some folks may just do this all at home. Plus, i planned out my husband’s day since he’s new at intermittent fasting, which is a component of this cleanse. So, I mapped out when he should eat what and got him squared away, as well. Again, fail to prep, prepare to fail! You absolutely have to be ready to go to be successful.

Day 1

It’s the morning of day 1. I started with a greens shot, followed by BCAAs during my workout (Day 1 of the Train with Lyzabeth program). I drank my usual protein, creatine, glutamine, collagen peptide cocktail on the way home from the gym. Now, I’m at work, with a full water jug (I’m aiming for 64 ounces today) and have stocked the fridge for the day. I’ll have my shake at 10, followed by meal 2 at 12:30, meal 3 at 3 and meal 4 at 5:30. I may have some herbal tea before bed.

This is my plan for now and if I find that workouts are too hard without the carbs for energy, I may add a Serious Mass shake at the end of my day before bed to help with that issue. But, I will see how everything goes.

So, there you have it! The Busy Babe Sugar Cleanse is on!

 

Sugar Cleansing for a Healthier You

Happy new year! As with most January blog posts, I typically share my New Year’s Resolutions with readers to help hold me accountable and perhaps inspire and motivate others to do the same. This year, I’m planning to eat healthier by hitting my macros more often, eating healthier foods. To start that process along, I thought I’d try a sugar cleanse to wean my body from craving the not so good foods to begin with! I figured it would be a nice way to reset and engage with a new, healthy way of eating.

The cleanse I chose is by Lyzabeth Lopez. She named it the “Busy Babe Sugar Cleanse” and created a step-by-step tutorial that is super easy and less time consuming than other cleanses I have seen. For many who tried it during a pilot she ran over the summer, they experienced clearer skin, fewer cravings, increased energy and fat loss! For me, I’m not looking to lose weight, but being a lean, mean metabolizing machine is not a bad thing! Plus, I’m looking forward to the reduction in sugar cravings. This plan is also lactose and gluten free so it eliminates many of the triggers that cause me to feel lethargic, gassy, bloated, etc.

Lopez recommends a parasite killer supplement or kit, as well. We all have parasites in our bodies whether we want to think about it or not, especially if you drink tap water, eat sushi, have pets or travel. It’s best to do a cleanse at the same time as eating a low sugar diet since parasites feed on sugar in our bodies. If we’re already starving them, it’s easier to remove them completely. I’m not planning to do this since it’s already going to be quite a shock to my system to be this restricted! But, just know that is a thing and an option while doing a sugar cleanse.

The other characteristic of this particular cleanse is intermittent fasting, where food is consumed within an 8-hour window. I’m not planning to do this either since I really need to energy for my workouts and overall lifestyle. I do better eating small meals throughout the day, spaced out. Finally, some may opt for an enema or colonics to help move things through the system. Sometimes a cleanse can back things up a bit. Again, I’m not planning to do this, but I will be sure to take probiotics and digestive enzymes as needed.

The cleanse is 30 days or four weeks long. Each week is carefully laid out with a grocery list, recipes and instructions on when to prep what. I love that the weekdays have smoothies for breakfast, making it easy for me to make at work with my NutriBullet. It’s also nice that you prep for two days, eating the same meals two days in a row, but then the next two days are something different. This eliminates the need to prep for hours on Sunday and then the headache of finding space to store the food and hoping it stays fresh the whole week. Some items are prep the day of but they are literally minutes of prep not hours.

Pre-Sugar Cleanse Prep

In the next few days, I am going to be preparing us for the prep. I’ve already purchased more meal prep containers and printed out the plan, placing it in a three-ring binder for easy access. Next, I’ll be creating our grocery list and Saturday is shopping day! We’ll be prepping Day 1 and 2 on Sunday evening and will be off on our way!

My husband is also planning to do this cleanse with me. It’s great for families, as well, judging from the recipes I reviewed. I think kids would totally eat this food. But, our kids won’t be joining us on this journey this time around! We are starting Jan. 6 and wrapping up Feb. 2, which happens to be our seventh wedding anniversary. I think it’s meant to be that it worked out this way because we can go out to dinner and celebrate our successful cleanse. It gives us something to look forward to! Plus, there isn’t a lot going on in January that could derail us. I’m also looking forward to having the meal prep assistance from him, which should make it easier for both of us to stay on task!

In the days to come, I’ll be blogging often about my experience and you can follow me on Instagram, as well @fitprmomlife where I’ll be posting to stories frequently. If you decide to purchase the Busy Babe Sugar Cleanse yourself, comment below! Let’s help keep ourselves accountable and motivated together! Here’s to a healthier you in 2020!

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail

Sugar Cleanse – Week 1

First No Sugar Weekend

Too Busy for Busy Babe Sugar Cleanse?

 

 

5 Ways to Know You Need a Rest Day

It happens to the best of us. You’re going along fine, making it to your regular workout, eating pretty well and sleeping. Then suddenly you have an off day. Maybe you don’t drink or eat enough or something keeps you up all night. You might wonder if it’s worth trying to work out when you know you’re not 100%. Below are 5 ways to know you need a rest day.

You slept very little last night. Sleep is super important, especially if you are lifting heavy, going hard at the gym. Your muscles need time to recuperate and your body needs the rest to repair itself and grow stronger. If I sleep five hours or less, I don’t even try to work out. My body won’t have the energy it needs and I’m only going to stress it more by piling on new work that you will need to recover from. Sleep in and maybe try to go later in the day. If you can’t sleep in, just rest and get back on it the next day, making sure you get the sleep you need!

You haven’t been eating or drinking enough. Our bodies need fuel not only for daily function but especially for workouts. If you find that you are not eating enough calories or hydrating appropriately for a few days, it’s best to reset, rest and get back on your nutrition game. In the worst case scenario, you could faint while working out! But, at best you will have a meh workout without the proper energy needed for your body to push itself enough to grow. Men need at least 3 liters of water a day while women need 2. As for calories, make sure you are eating at maintenance and if you’re a heavy lifter or going harder than most at the gym, eat 300 to 500 calories above maintenance to fuel that activity and keep your energy going. Your body needs the nutrients!

You’re stressed to the max. Sometimes you’re so stressed that going to the gym might put you over the edge. If you have that much to do, sometimes it’s best to take a day to catch up, reset and ground yourself. I wouldn’t do this too often because it’s easy to fall out of the gym habit when you’re busy, especially during the holidays or other stressful times of the year, such as college finals for students. Maybe you just do a little light cardio or take a walk instead of going all in for your normal lift.

You’re just not feeling it. Sometimes we just don’t have the energy to get ourselves there and if that’s happening to you, it’s OK to take a break. Pause and think about the reasons why you aren’t feeling it. Do you need a new routine? Do you need to try going at a  different time? Are you feeling too much pain? Are you just too tired? Depending on your answers to these questions, you might just need a change in direction or strategy to get back into your regular routine. It’s best to stick with a routine or program for at least 8 and as many as 12 weeks before moving to something different. It takes about that long to see results. But, if you’re doing something that’s just not a good fit for you, make the change earlier and get into a routine that makes sense that you love to do. You’ll feel better and have more success, too.

You drank too much last night. It happens. You go to a party and drink more than you planned and next thing you know, you’re up all night and/or waking up hungover. It’s best not to try to exercise in that state! Hydrate, eat as well as you can and rest until you completely recover. Of course, alcohol isn’t the greatest for our bodies anyway, but at times it’s OK to indulge. Just don’t overdo it by trying to workout the next day!

What qualifies as a rest day?

Rest days are days that you take a break from your normal gym routine. That break might be complete and total rest from any activity or you might do light activity. For example, if you normally are a power lifter, your rest day might include yoga for recovery and increased flexibility. If you normally do CrossFit, you might do an outside hike. Anything that is lighter than your normal routine, allowing your body to rest from its usual stressors is a rest day.

While rest days are super important in any program, sometimes you need an extra one. If you find yourself needing them more often than normal, you might need to reevaluate what’s going on. You might need a longer break or maybe just a reset. The new year and a new decade is coming. It’s a perfect time to think about what you need next to optimize your workouts and your health!

4 Glute Exercises to Target that Booty

My workout routine always contains a focus on my gluteal muscles. As a hard gainer my whole life, I never had much of a booty but let me tell you, it makes all the difference in the world. And it’s not just how you fill out your jeans, strong glute muscles help you live a healthier, stronger life. Most people have heard that you lift with your legs not your back. Well, take it one step further. You actually lift with your glutes. They are the largest muscles in our body and the ones we need to keep the strongest. 

Bret Contreras, known as the “glute guy,” has written an entire book about the glutes. A tome of more than 600 pages, it’s loaded with advice, science and explanations about how and why we all need to focus on these muscles. I read it cover to cover! What’s more, I got my start truly lifting in earnest with Lyzabeth Lopez, known as the “booty builder.” Needless to say, I’ve come to appreciate a good butt workout!

This morning was a lower body day for me and usually one of my two lower body days each week has a glute focus. Below are four exercises from my routine:

Sumo Deadlifts: This is a hard exercise to learn in terms of form. You have to be careful to keep your back straight and hinge properly throughout the movement. In fact, I still could do better in terms of my neck and shoulders. I do these every single week, making slow progress in terms of weight. I started with the bar at 45 pounds and now am up to 105 pounds for 8 to 10 reps. These are excellent for overall lower body and glute strength. 

Banded Romanian Deadlifts: Romanian deadlifts are done with a hinge at the hip and not bending the legs as much. I keep a slight knee bend due to my lack of flexibility but this exercise focuses on your hamstrings and the glute/ham connection, as well as the glutes. For this variation, I’m using a red band attached to the Smith machine to help me hinge properly and give a boost to the glute muscles at the end. (Thank you, Shawna Moran, for the idea!) Be sure to squeeze your glutes at the top of this contraction!

Cable Side Leg Lifts and Kickbacks: You need ankle straps for this exercise. I actually have my own because I find the ones at gyms to be too large for me. Find the cable machine and lower the setting to the lowest point. Attach your ankle strap and slightly bend your knees. I focus on the whole movement and time under tension, holding slightly at the top on those kickbacks. These are great for isolating the side and upper portions of the gluteal muscles!

Abductor Machine: The abductor machine is a staple at most gyms. My gym has a unique machine that allows you to recline all the way back hitting parts of the glutes you don’t normally target. Love! Go slowly and try to hold at the top of the contraction, if you can!

I would start with three sets of 10 to 12 with all of these exercises, building to 6 to 8 reps as you add weight. You can also add a set instead of lowering the reps to progressively overload your muscles and grow in strength. Try some of these in your next leg day workout!

 

A Strong Core is the Foundation for a Strong Body

Everyone wants rock hard abs and flat bellies just like the models and fitness influencers we follow. Of course we want to look that good but there is a much more important reason why great abs should be a goal for everyone – a strong core leads to a strong body.

Our core is vitally important to our everyday movement even if you don’t think about it all the time. Women who have given birth via Caesarian section know that life is a bit more challenging in the days and weeks following the procedure simply because you can’t use those core muscles the way you always did. You can’t even drive a vehicle for a few weeks! Now, how many people have ever stopped to think about the fact that you use your core to drive? Men who have had surgery to repair a hernia also can relate to the drawbacks of not being able to use your core muscles. It becomes hard to move, hard to sit and hard to get up! You end up overcompensating with muscles you hardly use and you quickly realize that those ab muscles are pretty crucial to everyday life!

Core muscles are essential for stability and balance, according to the Mayo Clinic. In fact, if those muscles are weak, you can experience injuries and low back pain. And while everyday activities are impacted when your core is weak, your workouts also suffer. Resistance training requires you to have a stable core. You can’t squat without bracing yourself, pulling those abs in to your spine and holding yourself in a neutral posture.

Cheerleaders know the importance of properly trained core muscles. They are essential for the lifts the bases perform, as well as the tricks those flyers do in the air. Tumbling wouldn’t be possible without a strong core and back handsprings would be all but impossible. My daughter cheers for Core Athletix and pun-loving me just loves the name of the gym. It represents so much more than the rocks the teams are named after, such as Ammolite and Black Diamond. To me, it’s a reminder of how important the core is to the sport of cheer. In fact, all practices and classes include some kind of core strengthening and conditioning exercises.

If you are not incorporating core conditioning into your regular training program, you need to start. At least three times a week, you should be working your abs, obliques and lower back muscles to strengthen them. Not only will your overall fitness improve but you also will start to see that washboard peek out, particularly if you are eating healthy, as well. Here are a few of my favorite core exercises that you can add to your next workout:

Plank

The prone iso abs exercise, more commonly known as a plank, is great because you can do it anywhere. No equipment is needed. Plus, you can regress or progress the exercise as you get stronger. Beginners can do it leaning on a bench or from their knees instead of their toes. Those with high blood pressure need not refrain from this one either since they don’t have to lie on their back. It’s an equal opportunity core training exercise. I typically perform planks at the end of my workout and I hold for 45 seconds to a minute at a time for four cycles. Beginners will want to start at a 30 second hold.

Stability Ball Crunches

For the front of your abs close to your rib cage, I recommend stability ball crunches. You lay on the ball, keeping the mid part of your back on the ball at all times, curling up into a C. Hold at the top for at least two seconds and return to the starting position. You can progress this one by adding weight above your head but beginners can clasp their hands behind their heads or cross their arms over their chest. Be sure to keep your neck and shoulders as relaxed as possible; too much tension can cause neck pain. Focus your contraction on your ab muscles and don’t try to pull on your head to complete the motion.

Decline Leg Lift

This one works the lower part of your abs. Use a decline bench and lay on your back with your head at the higher point on the bench. Hold onto the bench and bring your legs up, letting them go slowly back to the bottom of the bench. You can keep your legs straight or bend at the knee, if that’s too hard on your back. The key here is to have a slow, controlled movement. You will definitely feel this in your lower abs!

Decline Ab Twist

This one also uses the decline bench. This time your head goes at the lower end of the bench and you hook your feet to the top. Holding a weight, do a sit up to the top of the bench and then twist from side to side, returning back down slowly. A couple of tips for this one? When you return to the bottom, go slowly, allowing each vertebrae to flatten against the bench one by one. At the top keep your posture straight as you twist using your oblique muscles.

Ab Crunch or Oblique Machines

If you are working out at a gym and have access to an ab crunch or oblique machine, use them! They are made specifically for this purpose and do the job quite nicely!

Superman

For your lower back and core, try supermans (or woman!). Lay on your stomach and keeping your arms and legs straight, lift them off the ground as high as you can. It might be difficult at first but as you gain strength you will be able to lift higher and higher. Use your glutes as you lift the legs and try to concentrate the contraction in your core overall.

There are many more core exercises you can try, literally hundreds, actually! But these are a good start. If you are really interested in strengthening your core, try a Pilates class, which has a core focus. You can also find lots of great moves on Instagram; my favorites are @trainforlife_fitness and @cindyyufitness. They both post core exercises that are great for all levels! Happy training!

 

7 Ways to Warm Up Your Glutes

They are the largest muscles in our bodies — the glutes do so much for us, whether we realize it or not. Yet, due to our increasingly sedentary lifestyles and other aging-related degeneration that takes place in our bodies, we tend not to use our glutes as much as we should. Sitting all day at a computer, for example, can diminish our ability to activate the glutes when needed. And, all the squats and deadlifts in the world won’t be effective for building the booty, if we are not activating our glute muscles. Below are 7 warm-ups to help you ensure you are working those glute muscles to the max during your next leg day.

  1. Foam roll your hip flexors. The front of your hips around the area where they hinge can get really stiff from sitting all day. If you work at a desk job, you are more prone to the shortening of this muscle group. To help combat that, foam roll them for at least one minute per side before performing any leg exercises where you want to achieve glute activation.
  2. Leg swings. Swing your legs front to back and side to side. Do at least 10 swings per side and start with a shorter range of motion working your way up gently.
  3. Donkey kicks. Get on all fours and kick your leg back and up. Keep your back/spine in neutral and feel it in your glutes. You can add a booty band or ankle weights to increase the resistance.
  4. Booty band clam shells. Lay on your side and put the band around your legs just above the knees. Keeping your ankles together, separate your knees from one another. Do 20 reps per side for two sets.
  5. Booty band side step. Place the band around your legs just above your knees and lunge into an almost seated position, keeping your head up, spine/back in neutral. Walk from side to side, feeling the side of your glutes. Do 20 steps per side.
  6. Bird dog. Get down on all fours and lift your arm and opposite leg, keeping both straight. This works your glutes but also helps you work on bracing your core, which is critical for leg exercises, such as squats and deadlifts.
  7. Facing the wall squats. This helps perfect your squat form but also loosens the hip flexors and gets you ready to squat lower than parallel, which is what you ideally want when working the glutes. Face the wall, close enough that your knees brush the wall when you squat. Do 2 to 3 sets of 10, trying to lower your backside as close the ground as possible.

All of these warmups will help you prepare for the best booty building session. You don’t need to do them all. I typically foam roll and then choose two other warm-ups, depending on what I feel needs some activation. Then, during the workout, think about your glute muscles activating and imagine they are doing all the work. This helps focus your effort appropriately to prevent other muscle groups from taking over. The minute you feel like other muscles are working harder than your glutes, lower the weight and use your mind/muscle connection to reset, using your glute muscles to move the weights.

After your workout, remember to stretch/cool down. You don’t need a ton, but a little stretching or foam rolling will help calm the muscles and prevent stiffness and injury later.

Free! Five-Day Upper/Lower Split Workout

This week I finished the 24-week BUILD program with Stephanie Sanzo on the SWEAT app. For the past few years, I’ve relied on workout apps mostly because I didn’t have the time or the expertise to create my own programs. Apps can be a great way to get into a workout routine and learn how to build muscle. For me, they were very useful in terms of making gains. I started with the online Train with Lyzabeth program, followed by her TWL app. I also have used the POWER and BUILD programs on the SWEAT app, which has other programs, as well, depending on your goals.

One thing to note is that workout apps have programs that are general for most people; they are not custom workouts. If you truly want to make gains and improve your own strength, it’s best to work with a personal trainer who can assess your particular weaknesses and work with you to find appropriate exercises for you personally. I worked with Shawna Moran at Athletic Apex for a few weeks who wrote me a program to meet my personal goals, while strengthening weak muscles.

Fast forward to now and I’m a certified personal trainer and nutrition coach creating my own programs! As I build my client base, I’m also adding to my index of workout programs. Starting next week, I’m transitioning from the SWEAT app to a program I created for myself. It’s a five-day upper/lower body split. Feel free to save it and try it for yourself!

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You’ll note that I don’t have much cardio at all. This is because I’m a hard gainer trying to maximize my gains. If you want to add in more cardio, you can. I recommend HIIT workouts as opposed to steady state to maximize calorie burn. And, if you are trying to build your glutes, try the stair climber or bicycle.

I plan to workout Monday through Friday and also plan to add yoga or a class on the weekends sometimes. This program is meant to be done for 12 weeks. For the first four weeks, follow the reps as programmed but as you progress, try to lift heavier and if you have to, lower your reps until you can lift that new weight for the same number of original reps. This is called progressive overload and it’s the only way to truly make gains over time. If you try this program, please let me know what you think!