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We Tried It: What It Takes to Be A U.S. Open Ball Person

Written on August 25, 2014 at 1:32 pm , by

Written by Anna Hecht, editorial intern

Tennis is an incredible sport, and the athletes are OMG-powerful, but there are some people involved in tournaments—specifically the U.S. Open—who don’t get a big spotlight on their athleticism. But man, they should. I had no idea what I was agreeing to when I accepted an invitation to participate in the U.S. Open ball boy—er, ball girl—tryouts, but I figured I could hack it. Spoiler alert: I can’t.

“How difficult can it be to run over and pick up a tennis ball?” I wondered. Too bad I didn’t think about the fact that a ball person is expected to do his or her job perfectly, while going unnoticed, during intense televised matches that are played by the best players in the world. Oh, right.

My first task during tryouts:  throw the ball across the court to a receiving ball person, without it landing inside the playing court boundaries. Just to clarify, it’s pretty freakin’ far. Like, 128-feet long. While I have decently accurate aim, my upper-body strength just wasn’t cutting it (and I have been working on my push-ups ever since). If by some freak accident I would have been chosen, my ball would have ended up hitting Serena Williams. As a former FITNESS cover girl, I’ve seen how tough she is. So obviously that would not be okay.

Next challenge: testing agility and speed, and doing it without causing a distraction.

At this, I was pretty good. But, knowing that there were about 400 ball-person hopefuls auditioning for just four coveted spots, I was pretty certain that at least half of them would be better at running cross-court to retrieve the balls “with two hands,” following an ended play or missed serve. Either way, the directions for getting the job done were simple: Stand with your hands behind your back, and when the ball hits the net, run, retrieve the ball and sprint to the sidelines. On it.

The tryouts lasted about 15 minutes, and I definitely had a ball (sorry, couldn’t help it). Down to the last second, I had a smile on my face as I worked up a sweat, and enjoyed an experience that I had never before considered. Granted, I didn’t get a callback for round two of tryouts, but as I watch the 2014 U.S. Open from home, which takes place through September 8th, there’s no doubt that I’ll be giving those ball boys and girls a second look to see who’s got the athleticism I’m after.

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Little and Mighty: Lauren Davis Heads to U.S. Open

Written on August 25, 2014 at 9:38 am , by

When pro tennis player Lauren Davis is in the middle of a losing match, she takes one deep breath to get her head back in the game.

It’s clearly working, because the 20-year-old, 5’2″ Ohio-native is currently ranked among the top 50 players in the world and is competing in the US Open for the third time this week.

“I know a lot of people would die to be where I am, so I try to make the most of it and enjoy it,” she says. “It’s really just a great experience—traveling the world and meeting new people and seeing all of these different places and cultures and doing what I love every single day—it’s pretty incredible.”

During training, Davis runs twice a week and lifts weights three days a week. “I’m smaller than a lot of the other girls so I have to be in really great shape,” she says. She stays away from gluten (her father is a cardiologist and believes wheat contributes to numerous health issues), packs in protein (fish, steak and chicken), and when she’s not feeding her Chipotle obsession, eats lots of small meals throughout the day (usually fruit, yogurt, veggies and Kind bars).

Even though you won’t find many tennis stars as young as Davis snagging a spot on the big court, she still appreciates her normal-girl downtime, typically  filled with reading, journaling and spending time with her friends and her grandfather—the guy she looks up to most.

“He’s had a tough life and yet he remains so optimistic,” she explains. “He always puts things in perspective. One time I lost and he texted me right after and he goes, ‘Let’s just go play golf.’ That’s just something I’ve always remembered. He’s one of my favorite people.”

Be sure to watch Davis on the court—and her grandfather on the sidelines—tonight at 1 p.m. on ESPN. And if you’re feeling as inspired as we are, check out Lacoste’s new free app for New Yorkers, Lacoste City Tennis, which tells you the best places to try your hand at the game and potential players around you to practice with.

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Jillian Michaels Dishes on Her New IMPACT Clothing Line, How to Stay Motivated and What’s on Her Playlist

Written on August 22, 2014 at 4:52 pm , by

Jillian Michaels is officially our idol. She won us over when we first met her as the tough-but-lovable trainer way back when on The Biggest Loser, continued to impress us with her ever-growing health and fitness empire, and now she’s completely blowing us away with her latest endeavor: a new activewear line IMPACT, available at Kmart. Not only is it cute and practical, but it’s completely affordable—the highest price comes in at $37 for a yoga tote! If these clothes help us work out even half as much as Jillian does (seriously, do you see those arms?), sign us up!

Why don’t you tell us about your line and why you decided to work specifically with Kmart?

Honestly, a cool, athletic apparel line is something that we’ve been trying to do at my company for about 8 years now. It’s been so hard to find a partner that is going to give my customer accessibility and affordability, and also really care about more than just a profit. I wanted a partner to care about whether these clothes are really performing, are they cool-looking, do they make the customer feel confident and empowered?  The Kmart people were like, “We really want you to do your thing and get involved.” So it’s a really good home for my brand.

What were the most important aspects to you when developing the apparel itself?

It really did have to have these three things equally: it needed to perform, it needed to look cute and it needed to be affordable. I’ve just grown very sensitive to the reality of women in poverty and there are so many women who are honestly one paycheck away from bankruptcy. So, I mean, to turn around and ask people to spend $100 on a pair of capris that you know is costing that retailer $5 to make, is disgusting. These women need to be healthy too, and they might only be able to afford one or two things so I need those things to last. They can’t wear those capris like twice and then wash them and then they’re see-through, they’re falling apart, they’ve lost their elasticity. So, I just really need my customer to be able to afford at least one or two pieces that will last. I’m just super sensitive to that right now.

What is your typical workout routine right now?

Personally, I like to mix it up. So we created a program called Body Shred, which is quite honestly my best offering. It’s a holistic workout because it hits every muscle in the body and it changes consistently. There are over 300 different exercises in the program’s repertoire so the trainer has the ability to create the program, so it has a format and a science and therefore the customer never adapts and plateaus. It hits on every fitness modality and, to me, that’s really important. So I train very much in that way. You know, I don’t just do yoga, I don’t just do endurance training or I won’t just do boot camp. I train with every modality; I hit my muscles at as many angles of push and pull as possible. I change my workout constantly because I think that’s best way to get in shape and the most functional in your life to prevent injury and to stay healthy. It’s critical that you constantly shift things. So if you are a person who loves yoga, try a CrossFit class. If you are a CrossFitter, I think you need to get out and do a yoga class. Just be sure to mix it up.

How do you motivate yourself on those days when you’re just not feeling like working out?

I really tell people that they need to establish a why in life. So for example ‘I want to be healthy…’ What does that mean to you? What does it look like in your life? You know, does it mean you’re running triathlons to bond with your 20-year-old son when you’re 50? Or does it mean that you’re 20 years old and you want to wear a two-piece instead of a one-piece at Spring Break? What does it mean to you? So you have to really establish and identify what health looks like as it manifests in your life and when you have that why to live for, it makes the how way more tolerable. You know, I don’t love chicken and broccoli, I don’t love working out at the gym – I really don’t love it – but then I think about when I am able to pick up my son and spin him around, or wear my skinny jeans, or wear that two-piece instead of that one-piece, all those things do matter to me and it pushes me. You know, in life, work with purpose is passion; work without purpose is punishment. So really establish a detailed and defined why and that’s going to be your lasting source of motivation to tolerate those things that quite honestly aren’t always pleasurable in the moment.

Current favorite workout song or playlist?

When it comes to music for working out, I like to listen to a lot of EDM, so Alesso, Avicii, Tiesto – they’re my favorite for pumping up and pushing myself. But, at the moment, just in general, I love Sia’s new album. I’m obsessed with her song ‘Fire Meet Gasoline,’ it’s like on repeat. She has a killer new album.

If you could give one piece of health/fitness advice to our readers a whole what would it be?

Live the life you want, not the life you think you should. I think when you follow that advice it all works out. It won’t be easy, but it’ll be worth it.

Check out Jillian’s full line at Kmart.com and if you need a crank in your calorie burn, get ready to sweat with Jillian. FITNESS readers can access week 1 and 2 of her Shred program for FREE, courtesy of FitFusion. But no procrastinating—you’ve only got two weeks!

Week One:

Week Two:

Photo courtesy of Sara Jaye Weiss

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Wish You Could Go Back to Summer Camp? Now’s Your Chance!

Written on August 21, 2014 at 3:33 pm , by

Oh, summer camp. The words alone instantly bring to mind nostalgic memories of swimming in lakes, late-night campfires filled with s’mores and wonderful friendships that last a lifetime. In a world that constantly has us glued to our devices and planning every second of our time, wouldn’t it be nice to retreat to the simple days of camp? Just unplug and relax for a weekend free of technology, responsibilities and the nonstop bustling of life? Soul Camp is the answer we’ve been looking for!

Taking place from September 4-7th, Soul Camp is a 3-night adult sleepaway camp that allows you to hit your reset button and reconnect with nature. The team behind the camp promises that you’ll leave feeling rejuvenated, renewed and inspired to make your everyday life the one you’ve always dreamed of.

Each ticket includes 3 meals per day from an organic menu (with vegan and gluten-free options), as well as all daily activities with approximately 300 other campers, like yoga, boating, nature walks, aerobic classes, organic farming, arts & crafts and more.


Plus, as a special treat, the women behind the weekend are offering all Fitness readers $100 dollars off ticket price if you enter the code SOULFULSUMMER at checkout! Go to www.soulcamp2014.com for more info and to reserve your spot. Ticket sales end on August 25th, so get them quick! But really, what are you waiting for?

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Triathlon Training: 4 Tips for Transitioning into the Sport

Written on August 21, 2014 at 9:00 am , by

Maybe you swam on your college swim team, you’re a runner looking for a bigger challenge or you’re addicted to spin class and want to take your cycling skills to the next level. Whatever your reason for being interested in triathlon, getting into the sport can be a little tricky and sometimes intimidating. Zoot-sponsored athlete Jennifer Vogel and I put our heads together to come up with the best advice for breaking into the sport.

Study up and train hard. 
One of the most valuable things I did before my first triathlon was research the sport like crazy. I wanted to know everything I could to be as prepared as possible. Once you’re armed with some basic information, like a starter training plan and transitioning tips, you can use your workouts and experience to figure out the rest. There’s a lot of info out there, so take advantage of reputable sources and then put what you know into action during your workouts.

Don’t overestimate yourself in one sport. 
Vogel points out that many tri-newbies are runners first. But just because you can run a sub-2:00 half-marathon doesn’t mean you should skimp on training for those final miles. The same goes for naturally gifted swimmers and bikers. Everyone has their favorite and strongest leg, but you still need to practice pacing yourself through three different sports and mastering the bricks (transitioning from one sport to the next).

Ease into the equipment.
Triathlon is a sport that requires a lot of gear. Gear costs money. But don’t let the initial investment scare you away; instead, start small. Vogel suggests easing in with short sprint races that you can do without expensive items like a wet suit or tri-specific bike. True story: I did my first tri in a sport bikini and borrowed my brother’s old bike! Once you get a better idea of how serious you’ll become and what kind of goals you have, you can invest in better equipment little by little along the way. Not sure of the essentials? Check out our go-to list here.

Join a tri group. 
It’s the easiest way to make new friends with a common interest and you’ll have an instant network of triathletes to train with and ask questions. Vogel notes that a group helps keep you accountable and makes it fun, too. I’ve done all my training and races solo and quite honestly, I wish I joined a group early on. Trust me, during those long training days, you’ll be happy to have the company and fellow finishers give you more reasons to celebrate during your post-race party.

Photo by Kevin Steele

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The Prancercise Lady is Back!

Written on August 18, 2014 at 12:53 pm , by

Prancercise creator Joanna Rohrback just added some major accessories to her fitness wardrobe: horses. They’re completely fitting, given the creatures are what inspired her to invent the ”springy, rhythmic way of moving forward, similar to a horse’s gait and is ideally induced by elation,” which she demonstrates (flawlessly, of course) in her new video.

We listed Prancercise as one of the biggest fitness moments nearly a year ago (the original video—uploaded in December 2012—has over 10 million views). Naturally, this is a much-needed entertainment break for a Monday, even though the horses look miserable (scared?) the entire four minutes and 30 seconds of the video.

But at 62, Rohrback looks pretty amazing, so the galloping, skipping and frolicking through fields must be working for her. That said, we don’t necessarily encourage canceling your gym membership or calling your morning runs quits anytime soon. But when you want to let it all out, find a park and prance, girl. You won’t find any judgment here.

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We Tried It: Swerve Fitness

Written on August 15, 2014 at 10:10 am , by

What it is: The latest boutique studio to make its mark on indoor cycling, Swerve Fitness caters to those who want a blend of popular studios like SoulCycle and Flywheel Sports, or anyone who grew up participating in team sports.

Good for: Anyone who loves to get their heart rate up, work as a team and sweat—a lot. This workout is perfect cross-training for runners in the midst of training for a race (marathon season baby!) since it provides the analytics you crave after each workout. There’s also a healthy portion of upper body work incorporated into the class, so your arms get a hit of firm-and-burn power.

Where you go: The Flatiron District in New York City, specifically 30 W 18th Street, with plans to expand throughout the city.

How it works: Riders are divided into three team colors—red, blue and green—that compete against each other during class. Your bike is hooked up to a monitor to track personal metrics (think energy output, miles biked, calories burned, RPM), and the team’s average scores are displayed on boards at the front of the class. Riding on the beat is heavily emphasized, and you’ll encounter a 3- to 5-minute arm workout about halfway through class. Otherwise, there’s a ton of interval training throughout, alternating speeds and positions in and out of the saddle.

What you need: Comfortable, form-fitting clothing. Since you’re inside, we usually opt for capri leggings and a tank top (it can get hot in there!). Remember to bring a water bottle if you don’t want to pay for one, but good news: clip-in shoes are included in your class purchase.

Bonus feature: A smoothie bar is within the studio and you can either place your order pre-ride or right after. That way your refueling drink is ready as soon as you’re ready to go, or it’s prepared while you shower.

What it costs: $30 per class, but first-timers score 2 classes for the same price. Keep an eye out for their special deals online too, like their wedding package you can purchase with your sweetie or the refer-a-friend program. Don’t forget to share your #swervescore on social media too. Every time you do, you’re entered to win prizes like a free drink from the smoothie bar or a free class.

What we think: Love it! Whether you’re competitive with yourself or others, this class taps into that inner drive. If you’re more of a team spirit, seeing your color’s average swerve score will drive you to keep up the pace so you’re not letting the other riders down—and seeing someone else in your pack take the leader spot is enough motivation to pedal harder. More the win-it-all type? Every sprint race will kick you into high-gear, as the screens in the front of the class update which team is in the lead (thus winning more points). And if you just like to improve on your own terms, we recommend saving your Swerve Scores, which are emailed immediately after class. Can you go further in 45 minutes than last time?

Photos courtesy of Swerve Fitness

Want us to test another workout? Post a comment to let us know and you may see it in a future We Tried It! 

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Triathlon Training: Meet Zoot Sports Athlete Jennifer Vogel

Written on August 14, 2014 at 10:36 am , by

After hitting a brick wall of boredom with my fitness routine a while back, I decided to dive head first into the world of triathlon. Two years and four races later, I’m still a tri-newbie, but I’m learning more with each finish line I cross and gaining ground on becoming a triple-threat athlete. I’ve spent countless hours swimming, biking and running, but even more time surfing the web for expert insight, tips and advice on acing every race. Luckily for me (and all triathletes-in-training), we’ve teamed up with Zoot Sports to tap their sponsored athlete, Jennifer Vogel, an Ironman World Championship qualifier, for straight-from-the-source info on triathlon training.

Vogel is not your typical Ironwoman. She didn’t do sports growing up; she didn’t even start running until she was 21. The self-described “procrastinator” signed up for her first marathon in an attempt to “pull her shit together.” A few years later when her husband decided to do a triathlon with a friend, she didn’t want to be left out. So she signed up, too. “I pretty much knew right away I wanted to do an Ironman,” she says. About a year later, she did just that. Now at 33, Vogel has over 12 years of experience in endurance sports and personal training. Thanks to her first sub-10 hour finish at Ironman Florida, she is headed straight to the IWC for the second time.

For the next ten weeks, as we countdown the days to Kona, this blog series will be your one-stop-shop for everything triathlon-related. So whether you’ve just signed up for your first sprint or you’re as experienced as Vogel, there’s something in it for everyone—from the physical aspects to the mental challenges. Because it’s not really about a medal, your time or even a PR, it’s about who you become while training across three different disciplines. As Jenn says, “The subtle changes that occur from the day in and day out relentless pursuit of a goal that nobody understands but you. That is where the magic lies”—if you dare to tri.

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Mo’Ne Davis: Making Home Runs for Girl Power in Little League

Written on August 13, 2014 at 2:35 pm , by

Mo’Ne Davis can throw a baseball 70 miles per hour. Davis is also a 13-year-old female Little Leaguer.

During a game against Newark National Little League on Sunday, Davis struck out six and allowed just three hits during a shutout, earning the Taney Dragons of Pennsylvania the Mid-Atlantic Region Championship title after an 8-0 win. The team will play in the Little League World Series that begins tomorrow (they’ll play Friday against South Nashville, 3 p.m. EST on ESPN), making them the first Philadelphia team to do so, and making Davis the first American girl to play in the tournament since 2004.

“More girls should join boys’ teams so it could be a tradition and it wouldn’t be so special,” she told The Philadelphia Inquirer. Well said, girlfriend. Davis is the only girl on her team, and she’s certainly setting the bar high for other females who aspire to play sports typically dominated by men. (Anyone else feeling some major Becky Hammon deja vu here? Maybe they should get together with the Harlem Globetrotters ladies and all pow-wow about how much they rock…)

Watch Davis strike out the guys below, and make sure to catch her during the tournament on ESPN.

Images and video courtesy of ESPN

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Meet the (Very Few) Ladies of the Harlem Globetrotters

Written on August 13, 2014 at 10:24 am , by

Written by Mary Kate Schulte, editorial intern

We can’t help but swoon over any female athlete who fearlessly plays tough with the guys—and actually keeps up with them. So when we heard that three women—Joyce “Sweet J” Ekworomadu, Tammy “T-Time” Brawner and Fatima “TNT” Maddox—dribble, drive and shoot with an otherwise all-male basketball team, we couldn’t wait to get their stay-fit tips.

Members of the Harlem Globetrotters, a basketball team that travels across the globe mixing the game with a little comedy (audience chats, jokes, crazy moves, etc.), these ladies are three of just 12 women to EVER play on the team, and it’s been around since 1927. While we’re more than ready to see that number grow, we gotta admit: what they’re doing is pretty baller.

What are some of your favorite workouts? 

Joyce: When I played for the Nigerian national team, we practiced in a really hot gym—it was like playing in a sauna. It was awful while I was doing it, but I was in the best shape of my life. Now I’ll try to go to a hot room to do an ab workout, or I’ll do cardio outside, because it’s a more challenging atmosphere. That way, playing on the air-conditioned court isn’t as rigorous as the way I trained.  I always tell people to train harder than what your actual game-day situation would be.

Tammy: I like to stay away from weight machines. I really like natural exercises using your body weight or free weights. Every year I switch up my workout method. Last year I tried CrossFit, and it was one of the most insane workouts ever! Technically you’re not supposed to stop between each exercise and I was like, “Where’s my break?” No breaks!  But I saw results almost immediately. This year, I’m boxing to work on my reaction time. I love it. It’s a full-body workout.

Fatima: I’ve always been big on core strength, but being on the road so much is hard. I’ve begun doing exercises I can do in a hotel room.  I really like planks and side planks. I find them effective and easy to do while on the road.

What kind of diet do you follow to keep up with the cals you’re burning?

Joyce: In college, we worked out so much that I didn’t need to watch what I ate. But I noticed my body was not as lean as I wanted it to be—I was gaining bad weight. When I turned to professional basketball, I definitely started watching my diet. Now I’ll start breakfast with oatmeal and wheat toast, lunch is usually a salad or a tuna sandwich, and for dinner I have fish. I really like tilapia and salmon. I also started eating smaller portions, and because I eat every few hours, my metabolism sped up. I try to make good choices.

Tammy: I try my hardest to follow a healthy diet, but I’m also a junk-food junkie! We often get out of games late at night and our food options are limited. If we have to go to a burger place, I’ll get a turkey burger instead of red meat. I also eat a lot of seafood, and I love pasta for some energy when I’m working out twice a day.

Fatima: I try and eat as many fruits as I can. It gives me natural energy. It’s tough to have a daily regimen because we move to a different city every day. Often we get out of games late and you have to work with what’s available.

What keeps you motivated?

Joyce: Being passionate about what I do. Sometimes you don’t feel well or you’re having a bad day, but when you walk out on the court and see the kids start smiling and cheering, you get this energy out of nowhere. We get to have fun out there and crack jokes while playing basketball.  Those are two of my biggest traits: basketball and fun. It’s me.

Tammy: For me, basketball has always been an outlet and an escape. It’s peace of mind. I grew up around a lot of negativity, but when I played basketball it was like I was in a different world. Nothing and no one else mattered except for the basketball and the defender in front of me.

Fatima: I’ve been in sports for so long it’s become a lifestyle for me. I don’t have to drag myself to workouts because it’s embedded in me. I have a certain standard of how I want to feel on the court. I don’t want to feel overly sore or like I’m dragging. So I try to keep at it.

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