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New York Liberty Basketball Star Essence Carson Opens Up About Her Sport and Passion for Music

Written on May 29, 2013 at 1:38 pm , by

Carson dominates on the WNBA court. (Photo courtesy of Jason McDonald)

WNBA player Essence Carson knows what it’s like to put in hard work. The young basketball star has been playing since she was six, honing her skill until she was eventually drafted in 2008. But don’t think that’s the only thing the 26-year-old is great at: Carson also indulges her second passion by producing and performing music. After a tough day of training, we chatted with the multitalented athlete to find out what a day in the life is like when a new season is kicking into gear.

First, how did you get involved in basketball? What made you want to pursue a career in it?

It was just something a lot of the kids in the neighborhood played when I was younger. My dad was into basketball and it was just a common interest for all of us. And then my dad really loved basketball. I played in the neighborhood maybe when I was like 6 or 7. But I didn’t start playing organized until I was 11. I just had a love for the game and wanted to be the best at it. When I got drafted I was like, “Wow, this is really happening.”

You have a lot of accolades attached to your name. Any standout moments or favorite memories for you?

When I was in college, making it to the national championship game was a standout moment. Getting drafted was major for me, obviously, as well as making the all-star team in 2011.

I read that you also have a big passion for music. What are some songs we can find on your playlist?

You’ll find some Jay Z and Miguel. I love Miguel. You’ll find of my own music, too. I listen to a lot of different stuff.

If you weren’t a basketball player, would you be doing music?

Yes. I’ve been playing music since I was nine years old, and my first performance is something I’ll never forget. I play the piano, the sax, the electric bass and a little bit of drums here and there. Right now, I produce and perform when I’m not playing basketball, so I’ve gotten good at managing my time. But yeah, if I wasn’t a basketball player, I would pursue music full-time.

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Life in the Fast Lane with Racecar Driver Ashley Freiberg

Written on February 26, 2013 at 11:24 am , by

Freiberg has the need for speed. (Photo courtesy of Effort Racing)

Written by Carrie Stevens, editorial intern

How fast have you driven a car?  As a law-abiding citizen, we’re going to assume not too much higher than the speed limit. Racecar driver Ashley Freiberg, on the other hand, regularly clocks in over 100 miles per hour like it’s no sweat, and wins races pretty consistently in the male-dominated sport. Ever since she began racing as a teen, Freiberg has nabbed first place in 29 Skip Barber races (racing’s equivalent of being signed to the minor leagues), and in 2010, she captured two Skip Barber Series championships and became the first woman to win both a Skip Barber Racing Series overall title and Skip Barber National Series event.

Freiberg will be the first to tell you there’s more to the sport than driving with a lead foot, though. We sat down with the 21-year-old to talk racing, training and her favorite ways to break a sweat when she’s not behind the wheel. Ready, set, go!

You first learned about the racing industry when you nabbed a job as a timing official when you were 11 years old. What did you think about it back then?

Well, my brothers got into racing when I was about 10 years old and honestly, I didn’t even think women raced. I just thought it was mostly guys, so it never really crossed my mind that a girl could be out there.  But I loved watching it, that’s for sure.  That’s why I wanted to be in the timing and scoring tower because I could watch racing all day long.  Then as I started to get older, I saw more girls on the track racing go karts and I thought, ‘Hey, maybe this is something I could do.’

Was your family supportive when you decided to give it a try?

I’ve always been a tomboy.  I grew up with two brothers and no sisters, so I was always on a skateboard and playing basketball.  The only person who was against it was my mom.  She didn’t think I was aggressive enough, I guess.  I remember a friend of ours was like, ‘I think she’s got it in her,’ so he kind of convinced my mom to get me into it.

Speaking of basketball and skateboarding, do you think your athletic background helped make the transition from team sports to racing easier?

For sure! I’ve always been super competitive; I think growing up with two brothers is what helped grow that competitive spirit inside of me because we’d always be seeing who could be the best at this or beat each other in any kind of game. I definitely think that sports really helped develop all kind of skills that transitioned into racing, like determination, handling pressure and competitiveness.

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Tennis Star Sam Stosur’s Training Tips

Written on March 8, 2012 at 9:32 am , by

Tennis pro Samantha Stosur is hitting the courts for the BNP Paribas Open this week, but the busy 2011 U.S. Open champion still found time to fill us in about how she prepares for intense competitions. Did you know this 27-year-old has been playing tennis professionally since she was 13? Read on for her training and motivation tips.

Sam getting ready to serve. (Photo by Kelly Branan, USANA Health Sciences)

Right now you’re competing in the BNP Paribas Open. How do you prepare for a tournament like this?

I’m trying to spend as much time as possible on the courts practicing with my coach, so I know what to expect in a match. I spend about two hours a day practicing—any more than that would be too much. Some days I try to get a massage, too.

How do you get psyched up for a match?

I’m always ramped up to go on the court. I warm up by running around the court, doing short drills and going over the game plan with my coach. This helps me focus on what’s ahead so I know exactly what to do.

Describe your training in the months leading to a big event like this one.

I have tournaments scheduled pretty close together, so there aren’t long periods in between to just train. You learn what you need to do and how to get better after every practice or game. I’ve learned that just because you’re good on the court one day, doesn’t mean you’ll be better the next day. Your performance is an accumulation of your day-to-day routine.

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Fashion Diaries: Be a Super Bowl Stunner

Written on February 3, 2012 at 11:14 am , by

Whether you are a football fanatic or an “I watch it because my hubby hogs the TV on Sundays” kinda girl, there’s no doubt that we will all be tuning in on Sunday night to watch the Super Bowl; if not for the game, then at least for Madonna’s halftime show and the funny commercials!

If you are a die-hard Patriots or Giants fan though, you have to make sure you rep your team in style for the big game. Luckily for us girls, the NFL revamped their women’s collection this year, branching from the standard over-sized team jerseys and sweatshirts, to stylish boots, jewelry, handbags and super cute clothes all bearing our favorite team’s logos. The NFL has even teamed up with Victoria’s Secret PINK, TOUCH by Alyssa Milano, Junk Food Clothing and Cuce Shoes to tie in some of our favorite brands to their new collection. I wore these almost every Sunday during the season to root my team on—yes, I’m an Eagles fan and proud of it!

So before the game, make sure to grab your gear (check out our picks below), some healthy snacks (like this and this), and cozy up on the couch for a night full of football!

Victoria’s Secret PINK sweatpants, Littleearth earmuffs, TOUCH by Alyssa Milano necklace, KE Specialties nail polish, Victoria’s Secret PINK jersey, Reebok hat, Littleearth tote, Reebok set of 3 thongs, Cuce boots, Junk Food tee 

How TV Anchor Jenna Lee Stays Healthy and Happy With Her Hubby

Written on December 8, 2011 at 10:03 am , by

Jenna Lee and her Navy SEAL husband make for one fit pair! (Photo courtesy of FOX News Channel)

At 5 a.m., the alarm rings and starts an “intense morning” for Jenna Lee, a co-anchor of FOX News Channel’s Happening Now (which airs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET). She reads up on the news that happened overnight to prepare for the live broadcast and live interviews to come. Then after the show, Lee squeezes in a workout, answers emails and researches for the next day and future projects. News is 24/7!

So how does the youngest anchor in cable news, who’s also a newlywed, fit everything in with her busy schedule while staying healthy and happy? We discussed just that with Lee earlier this week.

Was fitness always a passion of yours?

My dad retired from the NFL in 1981, right after I was born. I was always on teams—including playing on my older brother’s baseball team—taking dance, acrobatics or swimming. It’s a habit I’ve kept up with.

What is your favorite way to stay in shape today?

I used to be a big runner, but a varied schedule and varied workouts go well together. I like to do something new and different every day, whether that means hitting the gym, taking a spin or yoga class or doing interval running on the treadmill. And I found I feel better when I add in strength training.

Do you have any specific classes that you love?

I really enjoy Spin classes with weights, like FlyBarre, because you can get a great workout in 45 minutes. Music Yoga Flow at Exhale is also great because it’s set to pop music and is light on chanting and heavy on the flow of poses.

For more from Lee about cooking and staying in shape with her significant other, click below.

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What’s It Like to Be the NBA’s Only Female Scout?

Written on October 4, 2011 at 1:45 pm , by

Laflin used her broadcast reporting skills last May at an event for Farm Sanctuary, one of her favorite charities. (Photo by Lesley Marino)

Looking at the crowd of scouts on the sidelines at the NBA pre-draft camp about five years ago, you might not have even realized that there was a woman in the mix. “I suited up in baggy sweats and put my hair up in a baseball cap,” says Bonnie-Jill Laflin, the first and only scout for the men’s basketball league. “I didn’t want to be judged by the way I looked or be treated any differently than the men. But I was inspired to be my true self when one of the men in the crowd came up and said, ‘As long as you know what you’re doing, who cares what you look like?’”

Today, the former Miss Dallas-Fort Worth is enjoying her career—without disguises—and is spreading the word about achieving her dreams and supporting causes close to her heart.

What was your career path like to become an NBA scout?

I actually started as a cheerleader, first for the Golden State Warriors in the NBA and later for the San Francisco 49ers NFL team, because I heard that was the easiest way to get into the industry. Then I went back to school at the University of Texas for my broadcast journalism degree to pursue sport broadcasting. I covered the Los Angeles Lakers, and the general manager and owner of the team asked if I was interested in becoming a scout for their organization. They knew I had knowledge of the game and what to look for in a player.

Click below to learn about breaking sports barriers and Laflin’s love of animals.

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What’s Your Summer Adventure?

Written on July 20, 2011 at 4:16 pm , by

Wait, what do I do?

Wait, what do I do?

In the current issue of FITNESS (July/August, with Jillian Michaels on the cover!), our Editor in Chief writes about the rewards of having an adventure and going out of your comfort zone. When she was writing her note, Betty asked some of the other staffers about their summer adventures. And at the time, I had no idea exactly how far out of my safe space I was going to go…

For me, the thought of learning to surf was on the same level as me becoming an astronaut. I just assumed it would never happen because I’m like a cat when it comes to water; I get very frazzled when submerged in the stuff. But as I was getting ready to go on vacation, I felt more and more inspired to try something totally new. The truth is that I had often fantasized about riding the waves and pretending to be a chilled-out beach babe, instead of a high-strung New Yorker. So I scheduled a lesson with Baja Outback in San Jose del Cabo, and before I knew it, I was wearing a rash guard and looking out at the ocean.

Paddle, paddle, paddle...

Paddle, paddle, paddle...

My instructors had taught me the basics (in the sand, of course!) and one pro, Jorge, was going to stick by my side the whole time. I told him I was nervous, but I left out just how nervous…and decided to go with the flow, literally. “You have to challenge yourself, see what you can do! It’s the only way to live,” one of the Baja Outback people had said. So that’s what I did.

And would you believe it? I actually managed to get up on my surf board!

Sure it took a little bit of courage, but it also helped that the folks at Baja Outback were so supportive and talented…oh, and that the water was nice and warm! If you’ve never been surfing before and are thinking about it, take it from me: You can totally do it! A few tips I learned:

1. If you think you’re bending your knees enough, go lower. As a beginner, you’re never as low as you think you are, and my (unpublished) pictures prove it!

2. Keep your cool. You’re going to fall and you might swallow a gallon of water in the process. It’s okay.

And I'm up! YEAH!

And I'm up! YEAH!

3. Don’t think twice about who’s watching you from the shore. “It’s not about your ego,” Instructor Denise had said. “It’s just about you doing your best.”

4. Consider wearing board shorts or boy-short bikini bottoms. You are not starring in “Blue Crush” and a string bikini will not hold up when you crash into the water.

5. Don’t try to stay on your board until you get to shore; that’s where there are usually the most rocks. Go ahead and fall off about 15-20 feet out!

Any other surfing tips out there? What’s your summer adventure?

More from FITNESS: The Best 2011 Surf Gear

Workout Buddies Start Young!

Written on April 12, 2011 at 1:40 pm , by

Nicole (on the left) going rollerblading with her best friend, at age 6.

Nicole (on the left) going rollerblading with her best friend, at age 6.

Written by Nicole Brennan, editorial intern

Childhood is all about trying new things. When I was a kid I tried it all! From ballet, gymnastics, rollerblading and Girl Scouts to soccer, basketball, volleyball, track, and lacrosse. Now don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all for me. I found out very quickly that I was more of a tomboy and preferred sports to dancing around in a pink tutu and ballet slippers. But looking back I’m glad I tried all of these things and I realize that I did it all because of my friends. So what if I only lasted a week trying to perfect a cartwheel in gymnastics? My best friend was the reason I signed up and tried it in the first place. She is also the reason I still play lacrosse to this day. A child’s best friend can be more influential on physical activity than you think…

As a youngster, best friends strongly impact how much you move, a study found. “Boys and girls who take part in physical activity with their best friend engage in higher levels of physical activity,” says one researcher involved in this study. The influence of friendship is demonstrated and reinforced by best friends modeling each other’s physical activity and spending time together being active. The frequency of this activity was also important, as it was linked to more minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day. And if you’re playing outdoors, then you’re not sitting on the couch on a nice sunny day!

We also know this concept is still true for adults. Having a gym buddy is one way to stay on track and push yourself to exercise harder than you could have on your own. Little did we know, we may have been partaking in this buddy system effect all of our lives.

If you have a friend that’s helped you stay in shape, tell us about her (or him!). What’s your favorite get-fit activity you do together?

Work Out Like a Lacrosse Player — Indoors!

Written on March 8, 2011 at 11:24 am , by

Written by Nicole Brennan, editorial intern

For most people, spring means sunshine, flowers, light jackets, pedicures and flip-flops. For me, a senior at Fordham University, spring means lacrosse!  Unfortunately, “spring” in our world starts in February — yikes!  With no gym space and our first game well behind us, we have been forced to bundle up, face the brutal winds and get in the best shape we can in these chilly conditions. To make matters even more interesting, we hold practice at 8 p.m. — when any hope of warmth from the sun has long faded.

Nicole (far left) & her co-captains after a rough game last Fall!

Like many of you, we have tried our best to fight off the cold and pretend that spring is in fact right around the corner. Who are we kidding? After the past few days, practicing in the cold has left our team with two girls with sprained ankles, one pulled hamstring and two severely cracked sticks. (Please, spring, hurry up! We cannot afford any more casualties or any new equipment!)

You may be wondering: why even bother? Well, to me, there is no better workout then an intense game of lacrosse—and it’s fun, too! Not a laxer, but want to get the benefits of having played this sport for years? Check out this lacrosse-inspired workout — it recreates post-game muscle fatigue and strength, and targets some of those hard-to-get muscles you don’t even realize you’re using during a game.

What you’ll need: A weighted body bar

1.)   Lower body: Lunge with an extended arm body bar (circle lineup)

2.)  Lower body: Sumo squats with body bar (defensive stance)

3.)   Abs: Standing oblique twist with body bar (sprint with cradle)

4.)   Lower back: Hip bend with bar  (ground ball)

5.)   Arms: Body Bar Curl (motion from ground ball into full cradle)

6.)   Cardio: Star jump with body bar (for those really high passes!)