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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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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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FitFIT Makes Workout Classes More Accessible Than Ever

Written on August 12, 2014 at 2:34 pm , by

Calling all workaholics, mothers with screaming babies, insomniacs and general money savers: your excuses for slacking in the fitness department are officially inexcusable. (See: “I don’t have time” (yes you do), “I’m too tired” (eat cleaner), or “The gym is too far” (you don’t need one).) We get it. By the time you get home from a long day of work and meetings and spilled coffee fiascos and computer crashes and happy hours and crazy commutes, your pillow practically begs you to face-plant.

But that’s why you’ll need to check out FitFIT, a cloud-based service that will provide live-streaming access to gym classes across the country. The service is currently in four different California gyms, but CEO Michael Blake says they hope to expand to 10 to 12 other big-city gyms within the next year, like New York City and Miami. So if there’s a Yogalates class you’ve been dying to try but you can’t find a sitter (or you can’t find a studio that offers it), unroll your yoga mat and “om” at home using your iPad. If your friends are over and you feel like going to that cardio class like you feel like getting an unneeded surgery, whip out your smartphone and do a fun dance class together.

The classes never repeat, so you won’t get bored, and if you aren’t anywhere with Internet access to stream a class, you can watch it later on demand. Oh, and it’s only $10 a month. Pretty. Much. Genius.

While the FitFIT team is currently in the beta phase (they’re raising money through a Kickstarter), they hope to officially launch it this December (perfect timing for those cold gym commutes we love to hate). They’re aiming to offer access to more than 20 different gym classes (from TRX to barre to body-sculpting), and plan to release an iOS and Android app a few months after launch.

Stay up to date on the team’s progress by visiting the Kickstarter and following them on Twitter, but don’t wait to end the failed-exercise excuses. You’re overdue to toss those by the wayside.

Images courtesy of FitFIT

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New Workout Song Alert! We’re Dying Over This New Female Collaboration

Written on July 29, 2014 at 3:33 pm , by

Your new workout song just dropped today, and it’s sung by basically the best power trio ever: Jessie J, Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj. The strong vocals are through-the-roof good (think modern “Lady Marmalade”), and the beat is the perfect pace: steady enough to take you through a 10k on repeat, yet fast enough to pump you up for a killer kickboxing session.

Give it a listen and go sweat.

 

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The Hybrid Workout We Can’t Stop Talking About: Snowga

Written on January 23, 2014 at 1:19 pm , by

Photo courtesy of Anne Anderson.

Written by Alena Hall, editorial intern

Growing up in the south, I can safely say that I’ve hopped onto a pair of skis a mere three times in my life. I can also say that those three times started with a fair amount of trembling, anxiety and general fear that I would lose control and go flying off the mountainside. But if I had met Anne Anderson back then, I’m sure my skiing experiences would have turned out a little differently.

A yoga and snow sports enthusiast, Anderson began teaching yoga classes and ski lessons in 2000, and by 2008, she discovered the organic connection between the two practices. “It was magical; it worked beautifully,” she says. “The breath is the greatest tool we have to calm the mind and body.” Since coining the term “snowga” and successfully launching the hybrid class at Connecticut’s Mohawk Mountain in 2012, Anderson has watched the mindful practice help transform the way newcomers and veterans alike experience snow sports.

Each class is structured similarly to Kripalu yoga. “The mountain becomes the yoga studio; the slope becomes the yoga mat,” says Anderson. Beginning in a circle at the base of the mountain (no skis strapped on at this point), she begins class with a relaxation breath and centering mediation lesson to calm the minds of her students. After setting a positive intention for the day, the group warms up and moves through asanas to relieve tension and stretch the body (in other words, make sure you bring gloves). The actual ski lesson follows, incorporating a few yoga postures while clipped in, like Mountain, Eagle and Chair pose, which creates an experience similar to Vinyasa flow. “Everyone loves to ski with this natural rhythm,” says Anderson. “It’s like dancing on the snow and lots of fun!” The class ends off the skis with her teaching the importance of deep-relaxation pose Savasana, or the always-popular corpse pose. It may not be conventional, but we wouldn’t be opposed to tossing in a few snow angels at the end. After all, you are already in position.

The one question on our minds: why hasn’t someone thought of this before? “Students told me that practicing snowga helped them break through to a new level of skiing, and they experienced a new sense of serenity and connection… they could relax and enjoy skiing,” she says. So basically, we’re sold.

Although classes aren’t offered across the nation yet, there’s no reason you can’t give it a go on your own. “Take time to warm-up and get centered before heading off to the chair lift. Notice the surroundings; get in touch with your breath, your body and all of the senses,” she says. “While on the mountain, think flow instead of force. Keep calm through conscious breathing,” and if you need to take a few minutes for yourself, go for it.

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Inspirational or Insulting? Fit Mom Maria Kang’s Controversial Facebook Photo

Written on October 22, 2013 at 11:46 am , by

Not going to lie, we’re pretty envious of those abs! Photo Credit: Facebook/Maria Kang

Written by Alena Hall, editorial intern

It’s not what you say, but how you say it. Maria Kang, a California fitness enthusiast and mother of three little boys, learned this lesson the hard way with the social mediascape’s recent outpour of commentary revolving around her Facebook profile picture.

The former pageant queen and fitness model originally posted the photo last year but decided to reintroduce it as her profile picture once she realized it was receiving so much attention. The photo was taken a mere eight months after her third son was born, and we have to admit—she looks pretty phenomenal. The image itself is pretty harmless, depicting Kang and her sculpted abs alongside her three children. However, the words plastered across the top of it, “What’s your excuse?” did not sit well with a quite a few viewers.

While some liked it and felt motivated to stick to their fitness goals, others felt outraged and accused Kang of bullying, fat-shaming women and choosing to focus more on herself than her three children. On September 25, she posted a non-apology for people who interpreted the image in a negative way and explained how blaming her for others’ perceptions does not accomplish anything.

While Kang tried to call on ladies everywhere to make fitness a priority in their lives, her phrasing and photo choice created two polarized reactions—inspired or offended—rather than uniting women with the important message. She considered herself an average woman, but the problem is that she is far from average as she comes from such a competitive fitness background. She tried to provide a relatable image to inspire women, but she opted for a professionally shot photograph of her posed in skimpy workout apparel rather than a real-life, fit candid like this. She chose to ask a provoking question, “What’s your excuse?” rather than share a motivational mantra like, “You can do it, too.” With a different turn of phrase and more realistic image, Kang could have come across far more real, genuine and positive. What do you think?

Now you tell us: Do you find the image more motivating or offensive?

Get Tailgate Ready with Celeb Trainer Mike Ryan

Written on September 13, 2013 at 10:15 am , by

Don’t be sidelined with tailgate aches and pains. Mike Ryan’s four strengtheners will have you cheering like a healthy champ. (Photo courtesy of Karen Pearson)

Written by Gabriella Rello, editorial intern

With football season finally here, we can’t help but be pumped for tailgates. Can you blame us? Although we love to cheer on cute guys in tight pants, pre-game fun with our pals is what makes football season worth waiting for. Throw in some good food and drinks and we’re counting down the days until the next kickoff! As we gear up for fan festivities, it’s clear game day prep isn’t just for our favorite teams. While the stands aren’t quite as dangerous as the field, common activities like loading up coolers and sprinting to seats leave fans with fears of being sidelined. Gold’s Gym and celebrity trainer Mike Ryan teamed up, giving us four moves to tackle pre-game injuries.

Prevent Pre-Game Back Strain: Standing Arm and Preacher Curls

Cooler-carrying duties can take a toll on your back, so pump up your arm routine to relieve some of that pressure. Add three sets of seated dumbbell tricep extensions, suggests Ryan, for 12 reps. After each set, jump into a superset of 15-18 reps or seated dumbbell curls, using a weight that’s lighter than your extensions, but still challenging.

Tackle Forearm Flipping Fatigue: Dumbbell Reverse Wrist Curls

Grilling seems like an easy tailgate task until the forearm ache sets in. Prep your wrists for endless burger and hot dog flipping with dumbbell reverse wrist curls. With an overhand grip on the dumbbell, lean forward resting your forearm at a 90-degree angle on a bench. Then lower the weight down and bring it back up, flexing your wrist throughout the process. At least three sets of 12-15 reps on each side will keep you in chef shape, says Ryan.

Avoid Second Hamstring Pulls: Lying Leg Curls

Top-notch football tickets are hard to come by. Do your wallet and legs a favor by opting for the nosebleed section. While climbing endless stairs may leave your muscles in need of a “Hail Mary,” pre-game hammy strengtheners like lying leg curls will make it a possible feat. Adding four sets of 12 reps will build muscles ready to scale the stadium.

Skip Stadium Sprint Splints: Straight Knee Calf Wall Stretch

Whether you’re late for kick-off or trying to beat the post-game parking lot rush, running at full speed can lead to painful shin splints. To avoid an embarrassing injury, Ryan suggests setting aside 5-10 minutes a few times a week to stretch out your calves with straight knee calf wall stretch. Aim for three or four sets, holding for 15-30 seconds per side.

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How to Pick the Perfect Personal Trainer

Written on September 10, 2013 at 10:12 am , by

Maybe it’s the slew of emails and pitches editors get a day, but lately it seems like everyone is an expert at something. That’s far from the case, says Paul Juris, ED. D., executive director of the Cybex Research Institute. Even if the person is certified, there are some critical checkpoints you should look out for when choosing a trainer for your own fitness goals. See what he has to say below.

Oh, and did we mention that Juris used to be the strength coach for the Dallas Mavericks? If there is anyone who knows a thing or two about using personal training to reach your goals, it’s him!

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Flowchart: Should You Work Out Today?

Written on August 23, 2013 at 12:36 pm , by

Should You Work Out Today Flowchart

Sit and Sweat: TechnoGym’s New Wellness Ball

Written on June 24, 2013 at 12:52 pm , by

Editors planking on the Wellness Ball. Hello, sore abs!

One of the many perks of working here at FITNESS is the ability to test out new workouts and routines often. And while as a staff we work up a sweat quite a bit, we have our fair share of standard 9-to-5 days too, which of course means sitting all day long. But now thanks to the new TechnoGym Wellness Ball, anyone can get a workout at their desk by using it for what trainer Josh Holland calls, “active sitting.” The ball is composed of two different densities, so that bottom half is heavier than the top half (so no rogue ball rolling down the hall!). It also comes with a QR code on the handle, which gives you the ability to scan with your smartphone to grab additional exercises.

To correct your posture, strengthen your core and improve your flexibility on those days when you can’t make it to yoga or even a quick lunchtime walk, sneak into a conference room and try a few of these moves below using the Wellness Ball.

First, start with a stretch. Wrap your arms as far around the ball as you can then do the inverse, lie with your back on the ball and roll it slightly to elongate your back and open up your chest and shoulders.

Plank and Pike (Core): Start with a plank, forearms on the ball and feet on the floor (for additional support put the ball against a wall). Hold for 10 seconds and go into a Pike and Level–from plank position pop your butt into the air, then back down to level for 10 reps.

Chair and Squats (Legs): Place the ball between you and a wall at waist height with your back to the ball. Squat into a seated position for 10 seconds and hold. Next, squat up and down, rolling the ball against the wall with your back from the seated position for 10 reps. End back in Chair position and lift one knee at a time for 10 reps.

Even if you can’t bust out a squat in the middle of your busy day, just sitting on the ball gives you a slow and steady burn if sitting correctly. Holland says to make sure you are always engaging your core. To give yourself a quick self-check, place your hands behind your back and lengthen the chest to straighten out your posture.

For more information on the TechnoGym Wellness Ball, visit technogym.com.