Written on November 25, 2013 at 10:19 am , by Lauren Cardarelli
Freefalling from 18,000 feet above the Earth isn’t for everyone, especially those afraid of heights—or flying for that matter. But for Amy Chmelecki, the 170 mph ride is just a day on the adrenaline-pumping job; a passion turned dream-come-true.
As the only female member of the Red Bull Air Force, an exclusive 13-person team of the world’s most elite professional human flyers, Amy specializes in wind tunnels, skydiving and wing suit flying. This upcoming Thanksgiving weekend, Amy will be teaming up with 79 women in attempt to break the Women’s Vertical World Record in Eloy, Arizona of 41. Talk about girl power!
So what does this undertaking entail exactly? “The challenge is getting all the flyers to the ‘base’ [formation] in an orderly manner,” she explains. “The organizing team has to carefully plan when people exit the aircraft. If the exit order is planned correctly, flyers can approach it traffic free.” Once each flyer gets into their assigned slot and makes the connection to the base, the team has to continue to fly strong, staying engaged in the mission. “We are all counting on each other, with our lives, to do our jobs and do them well.”
At an altitude of 7,000 feet, the group ‘breaks off’ and flies to an open area to safely open their parachutes. Talk about a precise process! “Things can get dangerous quick,” Amy admits, adding that this is especially hard in larger formations.
The final challenge: landing. “Modern parachutes are very easy to steer,” says Amy. “A good pilot can land their wing where they want. The girls involved in this event will be very experienced. Nonetheless, it is a lot of people in the air at one time.”
So how exactly does one train for a jump of this magnitude? “My exercise routine involves an even split between cardio, weight training and yoga,” Amy says. “It’s more physical than people think. We pull on each other, fly very fast in a very close space, jump all day even when it’s freezing out (gear weighs about 30 pounds) and sometimes our parachutes open hard in a way that creates a whip lash effect.” Plus, since thinner individuals fall slower, keeping a healthy weight is key for this Bikram-loving Superwoman’s success, so both a well-rounded diet and workout regimen are a must.
As daring as it all sounds, like anything else, practice makes perfect when it comes to skydiving. “The most important part of my training is practicing the sport over and over again,” Amy explains. “Sometimes I practice a move for days before I nail it.” Oh, and never get too comfortable. You are falling from an airplane after all.
Now tell us: Do you have the guts to go skydiving?
Written on November 22, 2013 at 10:26 am , by Lauren Cardarelli
Kristin Cavallari has a lot to be thankful for this year—a talented hubby (Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler), 15-month-old Camden, thriving jewelry and shoe lines and now another baby on the way! So what does the former reality TV star have up her sleeve for the holidays? Like most of us, a whole lot of turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing…her faves.
“We’re very traditional,” she told us a few days ago, shortly after putting her order in for an organic bird from Whole Foods. “This year, I’m actually hosting the meal at my house. It’s my first year making anything for a large group so I’m a little nervous!”
The fit mommy, who admits to giving into a few cravings lately (sweets and carbs!), won’t be digging into preservative-laden treats anytime soon, though. “With both of my pregnancies, the first trimester I’ve been really tired and I kind of eat like crap,” she confesses. “Once I get some energy back, I kick it into health mode.” One thing you’ll never see Kristin doing is counting calories. “I only read what’s in it and if there are chemicals and a bunch of crap in it, then I’m probably not going to be putting it in my mouth.” She and her growing family try to eat as organic as possible with lots of fish, veggies, fruit and whole grains, including Ezekiel Sprouted Bread, brown rice or quinoa pastas.
Kristin’s strict exercise regimen has also been dialed back a bit with baby on board. “I’m not as hard on myself about going four to five times a week and when I do workout, I don’t work out as hard as I typically do,” she says. Lately she’s been taking Pilates twice a week, followed by 15 minutes on the Stairmaster and a half-hour of light weight training. “The bigger I get, I’ll probably start yoga again,” Kristin says, adding that she enjoyed hitting the mat when she was pregnant with Camden. Another fun way she gets the family moving: Ubisoft’s hit video game Just Dance 2014. “It’s such a fun, silly way to fit in exercise,” she exclaims. “We’re big fans of ‘Get Lucky’ by Daft Punk.” Talk about a fun way to burn off that slice of apple crisp!
Cutting down on gym time has surely freed up some time for her other passions. For one, she’s been having fun cheering on the Bears—even though a few years back she wasn’t much of a football fan at all. “I didn’t even know who Jay was when I met him!” she told us. “I’ve learned a lot in the last few years.” (And on that note, we’re sending speedy recovery vibes Jay’s way, who’s been sidelined battling an ankle injury.)
She’s also been killing it in the fashion industry with her own jewelry collection and Chinese Laundry shoe line. “Shoes for me were always my obsession, so to have my own line was really a dream come true,” explains Cavallari. “The jewelry came next—accessories are just so fun and there’s a ton you can do.” Her one piece of advice for those interested in becoming your own boss? “You’re going to get a lot of ‘no’s’ but you can’t let that discourage you. You have to keep going and if you really believe in something and love it, then stick with it.” We couldn’t agree more.
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Written on November 21, 2013 at 11:44 am , by Lauren Cardarelli
Hot dogs, nachos and burgers are tailgate staples but can lead to healthy practice turnovers. Topping them off with calorie-dense condiments and cocktails? Game over. Cheer on your favorite team (and your own self-control) with these three guilt-free swaps from Top Chef contestant and Stefan’s at L.A. Farm Chef/owner Stefan Richter. Winning never tasted so good.
Add Flavor, Not Fat. “Everyone loves Sloppy Joes!” Richter says. Use lean ground turkey meat instead of beef and add in your favorite veggies like onion, green pepper and metabolism-boosting habanero. “The spicier, the better.” Spoon onto a toasted whole-grain bun from your local bakery and you’re ready for kickoff!
Re-Think Your Drink. What kind of six-pack do you really want? Forget the heavy brews and try Richter’s crowd pleaser: Mulled Cider. “Mix together two quarts apple cider, two allspice berries, a tablespoon of brown sugar and a sliced apple and orange,” he suggests. Lightly simmer on the grill then serve, spiking with a rum or bourbon of your choice for a hot toddy.
On the Light Side. German coleslaw is a must for this Finland native who spent the majority of his childhood in Germany. “We don’t use a mayonnaise base,” he explains. Start by combining a bag of shredded cabbage with chopped onion and green pepper. “For the sauce, boil a cup of brown sugar, a cup of white vinegar, a sprinkle of celery seeds and a half a cup of oil.” Pour over the veggie mix and chill for a refreshing, better version of the unhealthy stuff.
Want to add a festive flair to your football foods? ‘Tis the season to sport your spirit by serving and eating from plates of your team’s colors and logo. “Tailgating is paper plates and Solo cups,” the chef explains. “Why make a mess out of something that’s quick, fun and easy?” Now that deserves a touchdown dance. Hut, hut, hike!
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Written on November 14, 2013 at 11:42 am , by Lauren Cardarelli
While many of my peers growing up were glued to Power Rangers and Nickelodeon Guts, I was completely and utterly consumed with the Disney classics. I strived for Ariel’s sense of adventure, Mulan’s fearlessness and desperately wanted to be Jasmine because, come on, her outfit rocks and she has a pet tiger.
So when I was invited to join Team New Balance—the official shoe of runDisney and Disney Resorts—for last weekend’s Wine & Dine Half Marathon, naturally my inner-kiddo was jumping for joy. Three spectacle-filled parks with a nightcap waiting at the finish line? Count me in. My princess idols would totally approve.
But like any other race, I had a few reservations, mainly concerning timing. Despite being a night race veteran, this go-round was especially late for an early bird workout gal like myself: 10:00 p.m. (past my bedtime) with a two-minute wave start. Gulp! What do I do all day to prep? Heck, what do I eat?
Like Ben Greenfield recently told us, I stuck with what works when it came to fueling. (Lots of fresh Florida oranges and Larabars!) And as far as being tired, the positive energy coming from more than 12,100 runners is contagious and kicks the sleepies to the curb. The fireworks that erupt for each corral certainly fire you up with a bang, too. Would you expect anything less from “The Happiest Place On Earth?”
All in all, this was the most fun fit venture I have done. Ever. From jogging Minnies (timeless!) and fairies to Cruella de Vils—a few of her dalmatians included—innovative ensembles are a must and add to the fun in true Disney fashion (special thanks to Sparkle Athletic for my polka dot threads!). All the more magical: the character photo opps along the course. Guessing who will pop up next is a mind wandering game that helps the miles fly by. My personal fave was running into Rafiki during our Animal Kingdom loop.Want to get your selfies on? Be sure to sign up (and train for) a speedy corral so you can beat the long lines. Our group averaged 8:30-minute miles and never had more than two people waiting in front of us. Talk about pace-pushing inspiration.
To get the 13.1 distance in, there are a few boring stretches between all the pomp and circumstance, but nothing friendly runners can’t get you through. I actually loved seeing the behind-the-scenes hubbub, like a disco-themed costume warehouse in Hollywood Studios. It really made you appreciate how the magic is made day in and day out! Oh, and the cast members (Disney employees) along the route that worked after hours to cheer us all on? The best.
Written on November 1, 2013 at 1:56 pm , by Lauren Cardarelli
Granola-topped yogurt or smoothie? Power bar or peanut butter on toast? Coffee or juice? Why is it that, come race day, we always question fueling? Lucky for those running in this weekend’s New York City Marathon (and anyone else looking to tackle a big race anytime soon), we got the 26.2 diet dirt from sports nutrition expert Ben Greenfield. The coach, ex-bodybuilder and Ironman triathlete is the go-to pro on prepping for peak performance. Here are Ben’s top five tips on eating for the run and recovery. Hint: Carb-loading isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.
Stick to what you know. OK, you’ve heard this before, but according to Ben, many athletes still break down mentally and try something out of the ordinary the week—or even day—of the race. Not a good idea. “Do exactly in the race as you have practiced in training,” he says. “Remember to train with what you’re going to use in the race about four to six times before the race. That’s what it’s going to take to train your gut to get used to the fuels you plan on using.”
Carbs: A yes…sort of. “If athletes limit carbohydrates, then taking in extra during race week become far less important,” says Greenfield. Should you decide to nosh on a bagel or big bowl of pasta, two to three days prior to the race will do the trick. Ben’s easy-to-digest suggestions: sweet potatoes, taro and white rice. (Phew, I guess we can still use the excuse that we’re carb-loading…)
Rule of yum. When it comes to pre-run drinks, err on the side of caution. “Juice is simply empty calories that actually has potential to cause blood sugar spikes,” explains Greenfield. But what about java? Stick to just one cup, so long as you have sipped on it prior to a long run in the past. No one wants an unplanned porta potty pit stop.
To GU or not to GU? That is always the halfway point question, and according to Greenfield, energy chews/replenishers may not be as necessary as you think. “The more sodium you take in, the more your kidneys are going to push out,” he says. Opt for electrolyte capsules such as Athlytes, Endurolytes or Salt Stick instead of the sugar-laden stuff. Effervescent tablets like Nuun or GU Brew are also good options.
Recover like a champ. The old school ways of thinking—foam rolling, ice bath, massage, post-workout shakes—are instilled in our brain for a reason. They work! In addition, Greenfield suggests a few options that may not have crossed your mind. “I’ve found the occasional acupuncture session to be an incredibly useful method for everything from nagging aches and paints to full-blown adrenal fatigue,” he admits. Another tactic to consider? Deload (also known as an easy “recovery week”) every four to eight weeks, according to Greenfield. Hey, it can actually improve your fitness levels, especially since it takes a minimum of 72 hours to recover from a tough run.
Still concerned about what to eat the morning of your race? Greenfield suggests blending (it’s easier on your digestive system!) an energizing kale smoothie with coconut water or coconut milk. “Blending or juicing helps to pre-digest the food so your body doesn’t have to work as hard during digestion,” he says. This frees up precious energy for you to devote to your stride! For efforts greater than three hours in duration, add 20-30 grams of protein powder to the mix (Ben’s fave is Mt. Capra’s DEEP 30 protein). Ben also swears by ATP energy sources like X2Performance to naturally increase energy, enhance endurance and improve recovery. Best of luck this weekend, runners! You’re going to kick major asphalt.
Now tell us: How do you fuel up for a big race?
Written on October 31, 2013 at 12:06 pm , by Lauren Cardarelli
Dedication. That’s the name of the game for Grammy-winning rapper, entrepreneur and actor L.L. Cool J. Whether he’s memorizing lines for his Navy SEAL turned NCIS operative character (Sam Hanna) on NCIS: Los Angeles or hitting the gym, L.L. is committed to giving it his all—and then some.
Finding the time for a healthy balance is his secret. “You just have to be willing to get [to the gym] when you can fit it,” says Cool J. With long-time trainer Dave “Scooter” Honig, one of Hollywood’s fittest musician sticks to a rigorous routine bursting with burpees, sprints, pushups, hanging abs, running mans and more. Hello, tank top-ready guns! And according to the multi-talented artist, there’s no excuse for skipping a sweat sesh. “It could be late at night when I get home around midnight, or early in the morning, like 3 or 4 a.m. I just try to figure it out,” he explains, adding that he couldn’t live without protein shakes, oatmeal, tuna and chicken breasts when it comes to refueling.
It certainly helps that fitness is a family affair. “Everyone loves getting to the gym and understands the importance of it, without a doubt,” the father of four shares. “[My kids] grew up seeing me work out like a maniac!” But many children aren’t nearly as lucky to have such a fit and fabulous role model, which is why Cool J teamed up with After-School All-Stars (ASAS).
The organization, which provides youth the tools they need for success through skill development programs coupled with athletic and academic competitions, struck a chord. “It’s great because when I think about how I grew up and where I come from, you know, after-school programs are super duper important,” he explains, hinting at his personal childhood struggles. “ACE Brand Sports Medicine Products just launched the ‘A’ Game Challenge. They’re paying it forward.”
In celebration of youth athletics, the trio created this video entry contest to inspire youngsters to showcase their outstanding athletic skills for a $10,000 scholarship. Learn more about the initiative with ASAS here and if you know any interested participants, be sure to submit their all-star moment by November 15.
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Written on October 29, 2013 at 5:22 pm , by Lauren Cardarelli
True Life: I’m addicted to Pinterest. I mean, what’s not to love? From pinning my fave workouts and recipes (courtesy of FITNESS, duh!) to saving photos on how to spin summer dresses into fall-friendly ensembles, the site has the answer to anything and everything you need to know about.
So when I heard about registered dietician Mitzi Dulan’s new book The Pinterest Diet: How To Pin Your Way Thin, I couldn’t wait to gain her insight on how to pin it to win it, wellness-wise. Known as America’s Nutrition, Mitzi has 3.5-million followers, and after trying her Skinny One Pot Chicken Caprese Pasta (a recipe she created from Pinspiration, see below) I understand why. So tasty!
So how can you use the social media platform to improve your diet? Here are Mitzi’s top three tips:
Banish Boredom. Sick of that same old salad? Time to mix things up. “One of my Pinterest Diet rules is to make at least two new recipes a week,” Mitzi explains. Use the site to keep things fresh in the kitchen and at the gym.
Motivated to Move. Create a photo and quote-filled “Daily Inspiration Board” for a friendly eye-on-the-prize reminder. Toned tri’s, here you come!
Pin 10. Swap Facebook scrolling for Pinterest during downtime. “Blocking off 10 minutes helps inspire you to live healthy, eat better and exercise,” she says.
Skinny One Pot Chicken Caprese Pasta(Makes 8 servings)
- 1 1/2 pounds skinless chicken breast, cooked and torn apart
- 13 oz whole wheat linguini
- 2 cans (14.5 oz) no salt diced tomatoes with liquid
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons garlic, minced
- 3 large sprigs of basil, torn up
- 3 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 8 oz fresh mozzarella, cubed
Add pasta, tomatoes, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, basil and cooked chicken to a large stock pot. Pour chicken broth over the top. Cover the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer on low for about 8-12 minutes, stirring often. Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated or as desired. Top with fresh mozzarella and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese, if desired.
Now you tell us: How do you use Pinterest for fitspiration?
Written on October 28, 2013 at 10:59 am , by Lauren Cardarelli
Nelly was one of the first rappers I listened to. Although I consider myself more of a country girl (um, his collab with Florida Georgia Line in this summer’s smash hit “Cruise (Remix)” was the soundtrack to my windows-down car rides…), back in my early teens my friends and I would “Ride Wit” him en route to field hockey games, sporting Band-Aids on our cheeks and all—just like he did. Yes, it was a trend that lasted a few weeks in my preppy shoreline town. Don’t ask.
I’ve followed Nelly’s career ever since, and when his seventh album, M.O., was released last month, I couldn’t pop it into my running playlist fast enough. “There’s a bunch of good workout songs on it,” Nelly told me when we recently chatted. “From top to bottom, I think you’ll find there’s a lot of great music on there to do your thing.” He called me “sweetheart” at the end of our conversation, I might add, but I digress.
Featuring Nicki Minaj, Pharrell, Nelly Fertado, T.I. and others, Nelly’s newest pace-pushing beats are sure to get your rear in gear as you take your runs indoors. And if you’re anything like Nelly, maybe that athlete mentality will translate into your career. “The competitiveness, the will not to quit and basically being in attack mode definitely helped me,” he says, explaining that the new album’s title not only stands for his home state of Missouri, but also “Method of Operation.”
So what is the workaholic’s method of staying in shape? I mean, don’t mess with those biceps! “The majority of the men in my family are super duper skinny, so the hardest part is putting the weight on,” he admits. “If I’m working, I probably get to the gym three times a week. I’m not going as heavy, just trying to maintain.” And when it comes to cardio, you won’t find the singer on the treadmill, but on the court. “I think basketball is the best cardio in the world, especially with all of the movements—the stops, jumps, the agility part of it and just the constant running.”
When I asked the former vegetarian about his diet, Nelly couldn’t emphasize enough the importance of watching what you eat. To keep his pumped-up physique, the artist tries to take in a lot of protein and loves turkey burgers. “When I started filming The Longest Yard—they wanted me to play a running back—I started eating chicken and turkey again because I only had two months to get as big as possible.” Another staple in Nelly’s daily eats? Oatmeal. “I eat a whole lot of oatmeal with cinnamon. I’ll chop up some bananas and put some raisins in it.” Whoa, Nelly! We’re impressed!
In honor of his new album, here’s a Nelly-fied playlist (a nice mix of old and new) to “Shake Ya Tailfeather” to. Sporting a Band-Aid? Optional, but strongly encouraged.
Written on October 21, 2013 at 1:59 pm , by Lauren Cardarelli
So you still haven’t tried SoulCycle. We get it—the heart-pumping, fat-blasting cardio sesh can be intimidating (like, what the heck does “Tap it back” mean?) but trust us, once you clip into those pedals you’ll be hooked. I mean, we sure are alongside celeb die-hards like Lady Gaga, Lena Dunham, Kelly Ripa and Bradley Cooper (drool).
That’s why the studio introduced the new program SoulCycle 101. The three 60-minute class package gives newbies the scoop on bike setup, form, lingo and more so you’re not the mortified rider who needs help lowering their seat or catching the beat to a Katy Perry remix. (Ok, even some of us regulars still require a little assistance on both of those…) The best part? With two or three instructors in each tutorial/workout, students get the extra attention they need to unleash their inner-rockstar.
The first series launches November 9 at the East 83rd Street and Soho studios for just $85. Sign up by sending an email to email@example.com. Stop resisting! There’s no longer an excuse.
Written on October 18, 2013 at 11:26 am , by Lauren Cardarelli
I have always considered myself a “light sleeper.” The tiniest noise or change in room temperature has the ability to mess with my REM cycle, throwing me completely off course for days. Turns out I’m not alone, either. Forty-seven million adults in the United States alone suffer from sleep deprivation, so clearly we can all benefit from a few extra zzz’s, especially us athletes. We need it. That’s why when I met with the co-CEO of SHEEX, Michelle Marciniak, I was intrigued with the company’s devotion to improving sleep performance. From bedding like pillows, mattress toppers, comforters and duvet covers to now first-of-its-kind sleepwear (I’m obsessed with their nightie!), SHEEX brings the benefits of performance technology 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. for enhanced comfort and an overall better shut-eye experience. I mean, their motto is “Sleep Better. Play Better.” That’s something we can get behind.
As I’m sure many of you know from experience, traditional cotton sheets and sleepwear trap heat. I mean, hello tossing and turning! “SHEEX changes this by allowing the right amount of body heat to easily and effectively radiate away from the body, while also wicking moisture to provide additional comfort and evaporative cooling effect,” Michelle explained. Translation? Silky-smooth body enveloping that transfers body heat two times more effectively than cotton, which allows the body to cool itself for faster, deeper sleep onset. Oh, and 50 percent better temperature fluctuation reduction. That’s why so many professional and amateur athletes (as well as The National Sleep Foundation) endorse SHEEX!
As a former University of Tennessee All-American collegiate (ahem, my UConn Huskies big rival), professional basketball player and former University of South Carolina coach, Michelle knows about fitness and moreover how quality sleep translates to giving it your all on the court. In 2007, she and Susan Walvius were coaching together and after a long day of teaching camp, were sitting in the gym, exhausted. “Being a former elite level athlete and fitness fanatic, I was wearing my favorite performance fabric athletic gear, which I frequently trained in for triathlons,” Michelle told us. “Susan was also wearing the same gear but made a different connection on that summer day.” While Michelle loved the fabric for its quick-dry, moisture-wicking features, Susan loved “the drape and feel of the fabric against her skin.” That’s when Susan said, “I would love to have bed sheets made out of this stuff.” Without blinking an eye, Michelle was in and SHEEX was born.
So how did the dynamic duo use their basketball knowledge in their entrepreneurial venture? “The key to being a successful entrepreneur is surrounding yourself with people who have the experience and expertise from the industry you are entering,” Michelle explained. Although they had witnessed firsthand the evolution of athletic wear fabric throughout their careers, they were not very familiar with the textile industry. “What Susan and I knew is to wake up every day and get better. You are never satisfied with your performance as an athlete or coach. The day you become satisfied is the day that you will get crushed by your competition,” she said.
There are characteristics that athletes have innately, according to Michelle. “Commitment to excellence and passion that you tend to tap into naturally when dealing with a life after your athletic career,” she said. “You learn to use your sports culture to pivot into a career outside of your comfort zone just by tapping into what you have already known your whole life: Accomplishing goals through a tenacious work ethic and drive.” Life as an entrepreneur is no different. Every day, they set out to be better – setting risks and committing themselves wholeheartedly no matter what challenge arises. “The days rise and fall on your shoulders. If you are not out selling your vision, no one else is.” Whoa, talk about tenacity…discipline…and sacrifice.
So what’s the most important thing you need to make it when starting your own company in this dog-eat-dog world? Guts. “Thick skin, as we said in our athletic worlds,” she confessed. “You have to be willing to listen and learn, yet have the uncanny ability to adjust on the fly, making critical, strategic decisions with the utmost confidence and humility.”