All Hail the Kettlebell

Is it weird to love – like REALLY love – a piece of fitness equipment? Especially one that has caused you so much pain?

Probably, but I’m owning it. I love kettlebells. They’re an incredibly versatile tool, and they’re so darn effective. So when I had the opportunity to pitch the “Belly Shrink” section of Shape, I went straight to the bells. Yes, they’re known for revving your heart rate and strengthening your posterior chain, but they’re also great for the core.

And just when I think there’s no improving the good, old-fashioned kettlebell, they go ahead and make ’em gold and sparkly!

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To read the full article, check out the April 2017 issue of Shape!

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Home Workouts for When the Weather Sucks

I have regular access to three gyms, all of which are within a 15-minute walk. But sometimes – especially when the wind is whipping down the slushy streets of Brooklyn – I just don’t have it in me to layer up and leave the house. Luckily, as a personal trainer and fitness nerd, I’ve amassed a decent collection of multi-purpose exercise equipment:

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Ab Carver Pro, 15 lb slam ball, old ass dumbbell, and ALL the bands.

(Aside: I posted this same photo on Instagram the other night, and my friend Sara commented that it looked like I’d raided the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ supply closet.)

If I were a programming a workout for a client, I would sit down and spend some dedicated time considering their goals and interests so I could put together a workout that balanced cardio, resistance training and mobility. But, honestly, I was pressed for time and feeling spontaneous, so I just kinda winged it… And it turned out to be fun and challenging.

The lesson – planning exercise can help keep you on track with your goals, but sometimes overthinking workouts can get in the way of actually doing them.

If you’re curious, Here’s what I did:

2 sets of

Tabata: no push-up burpee (I have downstairs neighbors)

6-minute AMRAP of

3 sets of banded monster walks

  • forward, backward, left, right

Tabata: alternating banded pull-aparts and curtsy squats

5 Rounds:

3 Rounds with ab roller

  • 10 forward
  • 5 right
  • 5 left

Turkish Get-up practice with dumbbell – I struggle with form/sequencing on this, so I’ve been trying to fit in some practice time at the end of workouts.

I got it all done in under an hour, and I was super sweaty. Success!

If you’re interested in adding home workouts to your schedule but don’t have much in the way of equipment, here’s a little workout I put together for a recent Men’s Journal article. You only need a chair!

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Question: Do you work out at home? What are some of your tips and/or challenges?

My Day as a Devil

As discussed in my previous post, I spend most of my days working independently at home in my sweatpants with a cat in my lap and a mug of coffee within reach. But every once in a while my job gets me out of the house and transports me to exotic, faraway locations like…

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Image Source: The Prudential Center

Newark, New Jersey!

A couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit The Prudential Center for a tour and on-site workout with the strength and conditioning team for the New Jersey Devils. Everything I know about training for the ice comes from movies like The Mighty Ducks and The Cutting Edge (toe pick!), so I accepted the invite in the name of continuing education.

The circuit workout that head coach Joe Lorincz programmed  wasn’t all that different from a typical CrossFit EMOM, or an AMRAP I might put together for a client interested in slimming down and building muscle. We cycled through a short warm-up of power moves like box jumps and medball slams, and then moved into a lengthier circuit filled with strength training exercises like weighted carries, sled pushes, deadlifts, and ring rows. But there were a few hockey-specific tweaks, like a focus on balance. After the workout, I had the chance to chat with Coach Lorincz for this article for Men’s Journal.

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I’m not sure I’m ready to hit the ice (unless it’s with my ass – that’s a guarantee any time I put on skates). But I am thinking about how to better address posture and balance in my own workouts. Even if you’re not zipping around on razor blades, being able to stand on one foot is important in everyday life (we do it every time we run, climb stairs, step over puddles…), and balance becomes increasingly important as we age and become more susceptible to falls and resulting injury.

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Post workout with the Devils’ strength and conditioning coaches

Looking for one small way to address balance training into your workout? Try adding walking knee hugs to your warm-up.  You’ll stretch the hips, glutes, and hamstrings and challenge your ability to balance on one foot.

On Working “Alone”

I’ve been freelancing and working from home for just about two years now, and the number one thing that people ask me about is whether or not I miss the standard, daily dose of human interaction that comes with an office job and co-workers.

The truth is that I don’t.

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Yes, I’m an introvert. And I mostly write for a living, which is a solitary profession by nature. But, I also really do enjoy teamwork, collaboration and a lively exchange of ideas. It sounds funny and maybe unbelievable, but I actually feel like I connect with people on a more meaningful level now that I work for myself.

In the simplest of terms, it’s a quality vs. quantity issue. I’m not discounting the quality of all my professional interactions prior to going independent – I’ve learned tons from my past gigs, found mentors, and created life-long friendships. But for every truly memorable and important conversation I had working a 9-to-5, I probably had a hundred that were a complete waste of time. My days were stuffed with unnecessary check-ins, endless “due diligence” phone calls, and meetings that no one cared about. And don’t forget about the hours spent trying to just schedule all these pointless interactions.

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And worse was the way meetings and phone calls were often exploited in unhealthy, politically charged work environments. Ever been on a call and realize its true purpose is to antagonize, expose, or enact revenge on a colleague? Unfortunately, most of us have.

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No one wastes my time like this anymore. (I’m not saying I don’t waste time. I certainly do, but it’s always on my terms.) Maybe it’s because I’m on the periphery and not on the payroll, so clients are more mindful of my time. But I think it’s mostly because I’m doing something that I truly love, and I’m getting to seek out who I want to work with.

These days, I probably average one or two phone calls or meetings a week, and I’m (almost) always excited to have them. They (almost) all feel like opportunities. Opportunities to work on something new, make a current project better, or learn from an expert. A ringing phone used to fill me with a sense of dread, but I’ve grown to really enjoy interviewing people, especially people who are just as excited about what they’re doing as I am.

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This is where I find that sense of community and partnership. Sure, every once in a while it would be nice to spontaneously walk to Starbucks with a coworker or vent about my frustrations (still got those) with a colleague in the office next door. But I’ll forgo all these perks if I can keep the vast majority of my interactions positive and purposeful.

What’s your ideal work environment?

Personal Training with Jessica!

Sometimes weightlifting is a tough sell. It can be intimidating if you’re just learning, and there are tons of misconceptions out there about getting “bulky” and “too big.” (Note: Hypertrophy, or the increase of muscle size, requires specific training and, to a certain extent, the right genes. Getting big or bulky requires a LOT of work!)

But, in addition to increasing strength, lifting can help improve posture, correct muscle imbalances and make you feel like a badass! So, whenever a client tells me that they’re interested in weightlifting, I get REALLY excited.

Jessica’s been working out regularly the past couple months, mixing yoga with small group fitness classes. She’s been digging circuit training and wanted to learn more about lifting so she can train on her own with confidence and proper form.

We warmed up with a jump rope tabata (8 rounds of 20 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds of rest). You want to rev your engine? Grab an old-school jump rope. It’s cheap, portable and super-efficient.

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This is my new custom beauty from Rx Smart Gear, but Amazon and big box stores Target and Modells offer good ropes at lower prices. 

After warming up, Jessica and I moved on to the weight room for some squat/deadlift and benchpress/renegade row supersets. Jessica killed it. Once we locked down the form, I increased her weight multiple times. She’s strong, guys.

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Dumbbell squats and the obligatory selfie.

We finished up with an interval run and a core burner. These “little bit of everything” workouts are my favorite kind – they’re fun and effective, and the time flies!

Do you lift? If not, are you interested in learning how?