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American Ninja Warrior Contestant Kacy Catanzaro Has Guts

Written on July 21, 2014 at 3:19 pm , by

Written by Anna Hecht, editorial intern

By now, it’s likely you’ve caught wind of 24-year-old Kacy Catanzaro, the first-ever female to qualify for the finals of NBC and Esquire Network’s sports competition show, American Ninja Warrior. After completing a nine-part obstacle course during the Dallas qualifying round (and making it look like a walk in the park), the former gymnast proves she packs a real punch as an athlete and competitor. And after speaking with her, we’re convinced that this girl really is a ninja—all 5 feet and 100 pounds of her.

Congrats on your awesome run for “ANW!” How did it feel?

It is definitely a lot of pressure stepping out there. There are a lot of lights, cameras, and you know the whole world is going to see it on TV eventually. Before I run, you can see that I’m kind of bouncing around and a little bit anxious. It’s funny: Once they count down and they say, “3,2,1, go,” it’s like a wave of relief washes over me. Then I just kind of take it one thing at a time. After I finish one obstacle, I just calmly take a few deep breaths and get ready to attack the next one.

How has your gymnastics career prepared you for ANW?

I started gymnastics when I was 5 years old and then I got a scholarship to a Division I school—Townsen University in Maryland—and I competed all four years there. So from the time I was 5 until the time I was 22, it was my whole life. Gymnastics really mentally prepared me for the course: being able to take that kind of pressure and not let it affect me in a bad way, but actually use it as fire to get excited and to get out there. And if things don’t go my way, it doesn’t mean it’s over. I just have to overcome them by making adjustments in order to make it happen.

How do you stay in such amazing shape?

I try and strength-train anywhere from four to six times a week, based on where life is taking me or what is coming up. Brent Steffensen—my boyfriend, coach and an ANW veteran—and I train together and do strength-training and bodyweight-circuit training on a regular basis. We do lots of bodyweight exercises in a row—pushups, pull-ups, lunges, squats, lots of abs—to really build strength and endurance. For the obstacle courses, we want to be as light and lean as possible, and doing exercises with your bodyweight is the most efficient way to get there.

What’s your diet like?

I just try to eat as clean as possible—greens, veggies, fruits, nuts and things like that. For my protein, I like fish a lot because it is lighter and cleaner. Definitely stay away from anything that is processed and avoid eating too much sugar. So if I can’t read an ingredient listed in an ingredient label, I try to stay away from it. It’s so important to be aware of what you are putting into your body and what good or harm it will do.

What motivates you to stay fit?

I’ve always had a competitive nature—I love getting out there and competing—but one thing people don’t realize about fitness is that people don’t just work out out to look good. Obviously it’s very nice to look good and to have that body you dream of, but the most important thing about fitness and living healthy is being able to get the maximum out of your life. If you are as fit as you can be, you can do more and you aren’t held back by your weight. I think that staying fit, not being held back and being able to go out and try to accomplish whatever it is that I want is the best part of it.

In case you missed it, check out Kacy’s crazy performance below, and be sure to watch the St. Louis finals tonight at 9 on NBC.

 

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Marathon Musings: 5 Mistakes First-Timers Make

Written on July 21, 2014 at 9:18 am , by

After three years of regularly running and 10 half-marathons under my belt (along with tons of fit-spo from the FITNESS staff), I’m going after the illustrious 26.2-mile race that every runner dreams about: the New York City Marathon. The best part, for me? Running for Team Stop the Clot, a charity running team branched off the National Blood Clot Alliance. With so many important charities to choose from, it’s hard to pick just one, but as someone who’s been personally affected by blood clots (along with nearly a quarter million other women), it was the best fit. Want to know more about my story? Check it out here.

Now that training has kicked off for me and many others lacing up for a fall race, I’ve teamed up with Clif Bar athlete and coach Stephanie Howe to take me through the ups and downs of doubling my usual distance. And before I get into what I can do right, it was very important to find out what I could do wrong—and make sure not to, ya know, do it. Take warning, friends, as these are the five mistakes tons of first-time marathoners make.

Not fueling while running. While you can get away with it on shorter runs, there’s no skimping when mileage increases. “Hitting the wall” only happens when energy stores start to run out. Your bod needs a quick hit of sugar when racing, so “take in fuel, in the forms of gels or blocks, on any run longer than 90 minutes,” recommends Howe. And be sure to try tons of different varieties to find your perfect fit, as what works for your running bestie may not for you. I love Clif Bar’s Black Cherry Shot Bloks, but avoid all gels like the plague. Everybody’s different.

Taking in fuel too late. Now that you know the 90-minute rule, you want to nail the timing. If 90 minutes pass before you dig in, you’re already too late and won’t avoid the zonk. Instead, eat one gel (about 100 calories) every 20-30 minutes. A quick trick Howe gave me, since I regularly zone out and forget about time? “Set your watch alarm to beep every 20-30 minutes, so you get that regular reminder without having to think about it.” Done and done.

Waiting to eat post-run. Are you sensing a theme here? Clearly, nutrition is a major key to success in marathon training. To nix that “oh-my-god I can’t move my legs” feeling the day after your run (or even the day after that, courtesy of delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS), make sure you eat within 30 minutes of wrapping up the pavement-pounding. “Any fuel consumed in that window will be used immediately to start the recovery process because it goes directly to your muscles, rather than the entire body,” says Howe. If you, like me, hate thinking about food immediately following a run, don’t fret: a buffet of food isn’t necessary. “A Clif or Luna bar, 8 ounces of a Clif Shot recovery drink or chocolate milk are all good options,” suggests Howe.

Running easy runs too fast. This one is key, and a mistake I’ve definitely committed more than once. ‘Cause when you’re feeling good and everything is clicking, it’s tempting to push at a slightly faster pace. Don’t do it, Howe warns. Think of it as a pacing spectrum, with “very slow” on one end, and “very fast” on the other. If you spend a ton of time in the middle, you’ll short-change your progress. “Spending time at each end will improve your fitness, teach you how to adjust to different levels of difficulty, and prevent overtraining,” explains Howe. So when coach says “easy,” she really means it.

Skimping on rest. No rest for the weary, right? Wrong, so wrong. “The goal of training is to place stress on the body that will improve your overall fitness,” explains Howe. “These adaptations happen when the body is resting, so if you skip it, you’re opening yourself up to overtraining, injury and illness.” Obviously I don’t want any of those, so coach has me resting at least one day per week. And when she says rest, that is not code for “go take a  yoga class or walk all over the city with friends.” Instead, it means binge-watch Orange is the New Black or go get a massage, which Howe also highly recommends (the massage, not necessarily OITNB). Girl, you don’t have to tell me twice.

Photo courtesy of Clif Bar 

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Fit Blogger We Love: Style of Sport

Written on July 16, 2014 at 12:42 pm , by

Written by Mary Christ Anderson, deputy editor

Being an editor at FITNESS, I’m always looking for scoop on what’s now and next for the sporty lifestyle. One blog I make a must is StyleofSport.com. I think I’ve settled on a cute beach tote when —poof—my new favorite pops up in the Style of Sport newsletter. SOS’s founder Claudia Lebenthal always nails the haute and cool mix of picks because she has an eye for design. “There’s a definite intersection of sport with fashion, art, news and culture and I see it everywhere: in magazines and movies, on ski slopes, at the gym or a photo gallery—you name it,” says Lebenthal. (She was a visuals director at both Women’s Sports & Fitness and Self—I know because we worked at both together!—before she set her sights on, well, sites.)

“At first, I wanted to have a store that sold the sporty chic clothes I loved and worked out in,” she says. “That sparked me to bring together my collection of what I was craving online instead.”

Much like planning the spreads in magazines, Lebenthal scouts the season out and plucks the best gets for SOS. And you can tell she’s the real deal from her exploits—paddle boarding, flyfishing, kite surfing, back country skiing—all of which she shares, along with other profiles and tidbits. (You’ve got to read the essay she penned for FITNESS to be inspired. Readers wrote to us that they had co-opted her you-can-do-this mantra in that essay: It’s your level now.

“My goal,” says Lebenthal, “is to appeal to both the athlete and fashionista. Performance is the bottom line but style is what makes it fun!”

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Fitbit and Tory Burch Launch a Fit Fashion Collection We Love

Written on July 15, 2014 at 11:52 am , by

I love my Fitbit Flex as much as the next girl, and I swear, it really does make me walk more throughout the day (I’m seriously addicted to getting those little lights to flash on my wrist). But let’s be honest: the bands leave a little to be desired in the looks department. Of course, there’s been improvement over the last few years, and my current pink band blends with most of my outfits, but there’s no way you’ll catch me wearing it to the fancier events on my schedule (hello, wedding season).

Fitbit heard my cries for a fashion upgrade and are answering with total chicness. Enter their new collaboration with Tory Burch, which just launched an accessories line designed exclusively for the Flex. Your options: one of two silicone bands, both of which have the iconic Tory Burch pattern and retail for $38 apiece, or a piece of jewelry—specifically, a gold-tone pendant or bangle. The latter options are a little pricier, checking out at $175 or $195, respectively.

While the costs might seem high upfront, think about how often you’ll wear the band (um, every day) and how quickly you’ll make your money’s worth. After all, Fitbit users take 43 percent more steps when wearing their trackers compared to those who don’t measure any movement. So not only will you have a new, Insta-worthy fashion accessory, but you’ll be bettering your health every time you see that flashy little reminder on your wrist to go grab an afternoon coffee.

Oh, and don’t worry if you have yet to jump on the activity tracker trend. Tory Burch is selling the actual Fitbit Flex as well, so you can pick one up along with your new band. Happy stepping!

Photo courtesy of Fitbit

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We Tried It: 305 Fitness

Written on July 10, 2014 at 1:05 pm , by

While running on treadmills and hitting the stair-climber will always be great ways to get in some sweaty cardio sessions, we have to admit that they can get boring (especially when you end up staring at that same spot on the wall during each gym visit). So when the girls of Lole and 305 Fitness invited me to a dance party overlooking the Hudson River, I practically ran there, excited to see what its founder, Sadie Kurzban, had in store.

Not only did she kick my butt, but she somehow simultaneously made me forget that I was strengthening my core, leaning out my legs, and cranking my cardio to the very max. It probably had something to do with her wild spunk and the DJ’s amazing tunes (yes, there was a live DJ there—expect that at every single class), but that’s the whole idea behind 305 Fitness. My planks were interweaved with sashays, and squats didn’t happen without a little shimmying in between. The classes are designed to get you so pumped about what you’re doing, you forget that the fun dance moves are actually contributing to your workout.

You’ll be winded by the end of it and will probably burn the next day (my calves: ow), but it makes that feeling of accomplishment so much sweeter. Add in the realization that you were just dancing for much of the class, and you’ll begin to understand (if you haven’t yet) what we FITNESS editors stress all the time: that working out can be fun.

If you’re in the New York or D.C. area, check out the schedule, sign up for one of the 55-minute classes, and get dancing.

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Music Monday: Flo Rida Can’t Sweat Without This Music

Written on June 30, 2014 at 4:20 pm , by

Written by Macklin Stern, editorial intern

Whenever I work out, I need to be listening to music—not want, but need. Whether it’s Katy Perry’s new hit or a classic from the King of Pop himself, there has to be an up-tempo, catchy sound reverberating in my ears. Studies even show that music can push us through that final mile, that extra set of squats.

So it’s no surprise then that rapper Flo Rida, a self-proclaimed fitness lover, is a man who lives and breathes that connection. A workout fiend since his football days in high school, the musician is constantly on the muscle-building grind both in the studio and on stage. In fact, he considers himself lucky that his profession allows—actually, kind of forces—him to incorporate music with exercise and vice versa. “You get a two-for-one with what I do.”

He’s not kidding: Flo constantly runs back and forth on stage, spewing out his lyrics at an incredibly fast rate. This not-much-time-for-breathing rapping style requires him to hit the pavement regularly. “I love doing a lot of cardio,” he says. “My records are up-tempo, so I have to make sure that I can go for over an hour.”

But just as any well-rounded fitness aficionado knows, cardio isn’t the end-all, be-all. The artist loves to regularly lift weights, and occasionally steps into the boxing ring for a few punches (and sips on Celsius when he needs a boost).  And despite a hectic schedule, Flo manages to get in two-a-day routines. Guess that explains why his shows are so fun to watch.

While I prefer to put in miles to tunes by the rapper (“Wild Ones” is a fave), we always wonder: do artists listen to their own tunes? We found out LL Cool J does now and then, and it turns out Flo is no different. Along with David Guetta and Pitbull, you’ll find his own tracks sprinkled through a playlist. “I love listening to my music because it definitely has all the attributes to enhance a great workout in the gym.”

So while we wait for his latest album, The Perfect 10, to drop later this year, we made sure to get Flo Rida’s current sweat-it-out playlist. Plug in, shape up, and try not to groove on that treadmill. On second thought, go ahead. We won’t tell.

Photo courtesy of Celsius

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Ride a Bike, Win a Bike: Pledge to Pedal with Element Hotels

Written on June 25, 2014 at 11:21 am , by

Living in NYC, it’s pretty safe to say that most people (at least the ones that work at FITNESS) would prefer to take a breezy bike ride to work any day over a crowded, sweaty subway commute. And because we know you love jumping at every opportunity to get your heart pumping and sweat glands going, we figured you’d get just as excited as we are about this cool program.

Element Hotels is launching its third annual Pledge to Pedal initiative, which encourages participants to ride his or her bike one day each week instead of driving a car. The bonus? Element will give away a custom-made Mott Street Cycles bicycle (hello, dream bike!) every week for 10 weeks. Yes, you read that right—a new bike will be given out EVERY WEEK.

How do you enter to win? Simply head to Element Hotels’ Facebook page, sign up on the “Pledge to Pedal” tab by August 27th, and get pedaling. That’s it!

What we love most about this initiative—you don’t have to be a guest at any Element Hotel, or live in a certain city, to join in. To us, that’s a rad testament to the company and their dedication to helping people stay healthy all summer. But if you do happen to be traveling—and stay at an Element Hotel—you’ll find an array of Mott Street bikes in the lobby ready for you to use. Fit vacations? We’re in.

Photo courtesy of Element Hotel 

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How to Fight Allergy Season and Still Sweat Outside

Written on June 24, 2014 at 2:35 pm , by

Getting outdoors for a workout is great, especially after the polar vortex we were all trapped in this winter. But when you’re an allergy sufferer, sweating amidst pollen is, well, less than ideal, and it can wreak havoc all over your immune system. So if you’re sniffling, sneezing and coughing your way through daily routines, heed this advice from our favorite weatherman, Sam Champion. Yep, turns out weather patterns play a major role in your workout schedule.

Find the right meds. As easy as it may be, grabbing meds from your allergy-suffering bestie isn’t the best road to travel. Their allergies may stem from a different type of pollen or have high counts in a different season, or they may experience more or less severe symptoms than you. Champion suggests touching base with your doc, and shop around before settling on a solution. Whether it’s over the counter or prescription, chances are you’ll find something that provides serious relief.

Protect your peepers. You already know inhaling pollen isn’t the best, but keeping your eyes clear is just as important. “Pollen can come through any mucus membrane that’s open, so you have to worry about not only breathing it in when you’re running, but not allowing it to be absorbed through your eyes,” says Champion. Invest in a solid pair of sunglasses to keep in the clear—we like Oakley’s Break Points.

You don’t need to be an early bird. “The old-fashioned wisdom was that you need to get out in the morning before pollen counts get too high,” says Champion. But if you’re heading into windy weather, it doesn’t matter much—”pollen is still active in the morning, and wind will kick that pollen up.” Check your local pollen count as soon as you wake up to determine when it’s going to be best to sweat.

Know your area. “Pollen is very, very local and though it can travel for 30 to 60 miles easy in the wind, you need to know what’s happening in your region,” advises Champion. The Weather Channel, where Champion now works, pulls up those numbers by zip code, making it an easy search. Unfortunately, there isn’t a general scale of what’s “too high,” Champion says, but paying attention to your symptoms is key. Which leads me to my next point…

Watch your symptoms. Notice tons of, er, snot build-up going on? It may be time to head indoors. If that’s coupled with swollen eyes, your body is trying to tell you to quit. “When your body is building mucus, it’s trying to fight the pollen,” explains Champion. “It’s trying to grab that pollen and get it out of your system because it’s an irritant.” If you still want to get your cardio on, try these no-boredom cardio routines.

Run in the rain. Besides the fact that it’s just plain fun (come on, you did it as a kid!), rain is an allergy-sufferer’s best friend. “Rain is like a giant filter,” says Champion. “If you put a water filter on your tap, you get clear water out and all the gunky stuff is separated. And that’s what rain does to air; rain cleans it. So right after the rain, no matter what the pollen count is, boom—get outside and do your run.”

Keep your home clean. We’re not saying you don’t, but are you keeping pollen out of the house? I, for one, have no idea if I am. Champion’s quick tip to find out: grab one of those cute throw pillows on your couch and give it a good slap. If dust or little particles pop up and appear (you can see them really well in sunlight), then pollen is in the home. Champion uses Febreze’s Fabric Refresher Allergen Reducer to take action when that happens. “After I spray the fabric surfaces, it forms a protective shield, almost like a net. If I hit the pillow again, nothing will show up.” Basically, that shield is locking the dust and pollen into the pillow until you get around to vacuuming it, which will remove about 95 percent of the nasty stuff. Phew.

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5 Seasonal Allergy Remedies

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Tara Stiles Wants To Bring Your Yoga Game to Bali

Written on June 23, 2014 at 10:44 am , by

I know it’s a busy day, but you’re already checking this out, so do me a favor: close your eyes.

Did you do it?

OK, do it again, but this time take a deep breath and imagine you’re standing on a quiet beach at sunrise, feeling the cool sand between your toes and hearing the gentle lapping of the waves nearby. You’re wearing the cutest workout gear (obviously) and ready to take your yoga practice to the next level. Oh, and here comes Tara Stiles, world-renowned yoga instructor (and super cute to boot), ready to help you conquer that one pose you’ve been struggling with all year.

Sounds pretty marvelous, right? Now, I’m not the type to give you all these good ideas without also providing a chance for you to make all of it a reality. Enter Stiles’ partnership with W Hotels, and their #PoseWhenever contest.

With little to no time to ourselves these days, it feels like a miracle if we squeeze in a workout at all, especially when traveling and feeling all sorts of jet-lagged—and “rebel” yogi Stiles gets that. She even has a pose for that, actually. So she teamed up with W Hotels—where she often stays when globe-trotting herself—to create FIT with Tara Stiles, an in-room program with a video and tip cards that you can practice whenever, wherever. And when I say wherever, I mean it—girl has ideas for getting bendy in the bathtub! Basically, making your health a priority, even if only for a few minutes, is easier than ever.

Now, back to this yoga on the beach scenario. You want in, don’t you? All you have to do is log onto Instagram and start showing off. Simply upload your best poses and use the #posewhenever hashtag and you’re automatically entered to win a trip for two to Bali, where you’ll stay at the W Retreat and Spa for 3 nights, and flow through a session with Stiles. But hurry, you only have until July 2nd to impress Stiles and those W Hotels judges. As a yogi-in-the-making, I’ll be checking out the hashtag for some serious fitspo, and I may even enter a few ‘grams myself.

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Fitness Trackers Unite! The New Fitt App Creates a Battle of the Bands

Written on June 20, 2014 at 12:38 pm , by

Written by Anna Hecht, editorial intern

“Oh this? It’s just this thing I wear that tracks my sleep … and my steps … and calories burned.” A furrowed brow, accompanied by a silent, slow nod is the usual reaction I’ve received, following my Fitbit Flex fitness tracker spiel. But, for the many fitness fanatics who’ve embraced the tracker world, they’ll be excited to know that Fitt has just launched a new app that will seriously challenge Jawbone UP, Moves and Fitbit lovers to hit new goals.

The app (available now in the iTunes app store!) creates a fitness community for tracker users to join in on group challenges and motivate each other. Even better, getting started couldn’t be easier. All users have to do is download the app and sync it to their fitness tracker app. Instantly, you’ll be connected with friends, no matter what kind of fitness tracker they are using.

After you’re synced up, go ahead and add friends, scope out user profiles and most importantly–join group challenges. The day I signed up, the app showed that there were two challenges in progress. The first was a Fitbit-Jawbone UP face-off, challenging each team to take the most average daily steps for a month. The second challenge is the “June 18K a Day” challenge where all participants aim to take 18,000 steps a day in June. Yes, you heard that right: 18K per day. Cardio anyone?

Naturally, I jumped on the bandwagon for both. (… Go Fitbit!)

With Fitt there is nothing to lose (except the occasional pound  or two). And let’s be honest, most of us could use an extra reminder to get active every now and again, right?

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