Every child should have the opportunity to play a sport. Sports help us develop social skills, problem-solving, learning to work with others, and, most importantly, building athleticism and a healthy lifestyle. As an exercise professional, it is my job to assist athletes and parents in navigating the road to development.

Developing the Athlete Within for Long-term Success

Too often today, we see kids specializing in one sport leading to frequent or overuse injuries and burnout. My goal is to help them learn the skills and fundamentals of being an athlete, such as agility, balance, coordination, power, and endurance. These skills will set them up for long-term success.

The Advantages of Playing Multiple Sports

Today we see more specialization at younger ages. Kids are playing one sport on multiple teams for an entire year. Many leading fitness and medical associations recommend playing a specific sport for less than eight months out of the year, playing on one team at a time, and maintaining proper recovery time for the athlete’s bodies. Playing multiple sports will help develop physical advantages such as improved motor skills, strength, and aerobic fitness. This will also enhance socialization skills by meeting new kids and learning to cope with new personalities. My job is to help develop a performance program that is safe, scientific, and designed for the individual to ensure the best outcome and long-term success.

Maximizing Athletic Performance While Reducing Injury

Young athlete with jumping exercises in gymCertified Personal Trainers and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialists should develop a program that will maximize an athlete’s performance while reducing injury potential. These professionals will oversee the athlete’s progressions and ability to withstand the program and fitness regime’s demands. Using evidence-based training methods and current research, a performance coach will not only set their athlete up for long-term successes but lifelong healthy habits. Building a well-rounded athletic base will, in return, build long-term success for the athlete. Too often, success is measured in playing time and winning. I measure my successes in long-term changes in my athlete’s health and habits.

Train With a Purpose

Our youth should be active and participate in sports (multiple sports if they have the desire). I also feel they should run, jump, crawl and climb as much as possible. Building long-term success in our athletes by providing them with supervised, progressive training programs that are functional will build their athletic abilities and confidence and help decrease their chances of injury and offer long-term healthy lifestyles. As a parent, coach, performance professional, or athlete, I urge you to play, train with a purpose, and look for long-term success in life.

FAST Youth Summer Sports Performance Program

Olympic lifting weights on sledNo matter your child’s sport, summer is the perfect time to develop their skills and learn the fundamentals of being an athlete by improving strength, speed, agility, and power. Foothills Acceleration and SportsTraining  (FAST) offers a summer sports performance program for kids ages 8+, college, and professional levels. Our Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist incorporates a properly designed and supervised program to help young athletes improve performance, compete, and reduce injury. These skills will build confidence, help prevent injuries, and set them up for long-term success. For more information or to sign up, check out the program at https://fast-training.com/summer

Whether you are home, traveling, or anywhere in between, exercise should be incorporated into your daily schedule. Exercise allows us to physically exert, but on top of that also sharpens us mentally. It’s been shown to improve symptoms of anxiety while decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Exercise also is a way to build our immune system because it places physical stress on our bodies that we must adapt to over time. By exercising regularly, along with consuming nutritious foods, we can make sure that our daily performance is to the best of our ability. This can be done without ever leaving the comfort of your home.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, at home and away, is easier than you may think. By choosing to walk or ride a bike to locations nearby rather than driving your vehicle, you can burn extra calories and increase endurance. This is a great way to incorporate active recovery on top of regular exercise as well. Active recovery helps with muscle soreness and gives a way to exercise without overexerting and overusing muscles.

Below you’ll find a couple of different combinations of exercises you can do at home with supplies found in a typical household. Items such as a towel, milk or water jugs, chairs, and socks can be used to assist. Each workout is designed to work your full body, as well as work on flexibility and balance/coordination.

Workout 1:

Start with a 5-minute dynamic stretch:

  • Frankenstein’s 5/leg
    • Start standing with both feet together. Take a step and kick a straight leg up to tap toe with hand. Take a couple of reset steps. Repeat with the other leg.
  • Walking Lunges w/ twist 5/leg
    • Start with feet together. Take a long stride forward and bend your front knee, push hips forward to stretch hip flexor, twist trunk from side to side. Bring legs together and repeat on the other side
  • Inchworms 10
    • Start standing with feet together. Reach down and touch toes. Bend knees if needed to touch the ground, and walk hands forward until just in front of shoulders. Walk feet forward, keeping legs as straight as possible. Best done by flexing foot while bringing thigh to chest.
  • Pushup to Downdog 10
    • Begin in tall pushup position, with hands under shoulders. Perform a pushup, and once to the beginning position, push hips back and extend arms in line with the back. Try to place heels on the ground and push the head through the shoulders.

Exercises:

  • 2-leg Hamstring Curl (Eq Needed: Towel, Tile) 3×10
    • Start lying on your back on tile. Use a towel under your feet as a slider. If no tile is available, use a folder under your feet on the carpet. Push your hips off the ground with straight legs and pull your legs under your body.

  • Push up with Retraction of Scapula 3×10
    • Start in a tall plank position with your hands under your shoulders. Lower yourself until your elbows reach 90 degrees, then push yourself back up. Once in the tall plank position, allow your trunk to dip in while squeezing your shoulder blades together. Push back up to the tall pushup position and repeat.
  • 3 Point Milkjug Row 3×8/arm
    • Start With your feet about shoulder-width, place your hand on a chair. Pull the milk jug up through your elbow, making sure to squeeze your shoulder blade toward the center of your back.

  • Bearcrawl Isohold 3x:45
    • Start in a quadruped position, with shoulders stacked over hands and hips over knees. Lift knees off the ground 2-3 inches and hold. If you want a higher intensity, tap one knee to elbow, and repeat on the other side.

  • Downdog Pushups 3×10
    • Start in a tall plank position, and push hips back so that head is in line with arms. Bend the elbows and lower yourself as far as possible, then push back up.
  • Narrow Stance Squat to Wide Stance Squat with Pulse 3×12
    • Start with your feet just slightly less than shoulder-width apart. Squat down, then pulse 3 times before pushing back to the top. Take a step to the side that is slightly wider than shoulder-width and squat down, pulse three times and push back up. Repeat the narrow/wide stance.

Finish with 5 min cooldown:

  • Lower Trunk Rotations 10/side
    • Lay on your back with knees bend and together, arms out to the side, and palms up. Roll knees to right, while looking to the left, then rotate to the other side. Should feel stretch in the lower back.
  • Side-lying trunk rotation 10/side
    • Lay on your side with straight legs, with a pillow in front of you. Take the leg that is on top and bend it to a 90-degree angle, and place it on top of the pillow. Have your arms straight in front of you, and open one arm up, rotating around as far as you can without lifting the knee off the pillow. Repeat on the other side. Should feel stretch in middle to upper back
  • Hip Flexor Stretch 30/side
    • Kneel with one knee up and one knee down, and push hips forward while raising hands overhead. Should feel stretch in front of hip.
  • Kneeling Quad Stretch (couch stretch) 30/side
    • Kneel with one knee up and one knee down, resting the top of your back foot on your couch. Lower to the ground. Should feel a stretch in the quad

Workout 2:

Start with 5 min dynamic stretch:

  • Frankenstein’s 5/leg
    • Start standing with both feet together. Take a step and kick a straight leg up to tap toe with hand. Take a couple of reset steps. Repeat with the other leg.
  • Walking Lunges w/ twist 5/leg
    • Start with feet together. Take a long stride forward and bend your front knee, push hips forward to stretch hip flexor, twist trunk from side to side. Bring legs together and repeat on the other side
  • Inchworms 10
    • Start standing w feet together. Reach down and touch toes. Bend knees if needed to touch the ground, and walk hands forward until just in front of shoulders. Walk feet forward, keeping legs as straight as possible. Best done by flexing foot while bringing thigh to chest.
  • Pushup to Downdog 10
    • Begin in a tall pushup position, with hands under shoulders. Perform a pushup, and once to the beginning position, push hips back and extend arms in line with the back. Try to place heels on the ground and push the head through the shoulders.

Exercises:

  • Jump Squats 3×15
    • Start in a tall athletic stance, making sure feet are shoulder-width apart. Squat down, pushing hips back, and push up quickly into a jump. Land in the same position, and squat back down once feet touch the ground.
  • Crunchy Frogs 3×15
    • Start sitting on the floor, legs bent in front of you, and knees together. Rock back so that you’re balancing on your glutes, while straightening knees, and bring arms out to the sides of your body. Tuck knees in and bring arms around them, while still balancing. Release knees, and straighten back out. Repeat.
  • Tricep Dips on chair 3×10
    • Start with hands on the chair seat, and legs in front of you. The farther out your legs are, the hard this exercise will be. Lower yourself until your elbows reach a 90-degree bend and push back up.

  • Broomstick Row 3×15
    • Take two grocery bags and place a few cans of food in each, making sure they’re about the same size and weight. (duplicate cans work best). With a broom balanced on a chair, hang each bag on either side of the broom. Pick up the broom horizontally, hands about shoulder-width apart, and position yourself in an athletic stance, with a slight lean forward. Pulling through the elbows, and squeezing shoulder blades together, bring the broom up to the chest, slowly releasing it back to the bottom once you tap the chest.
  • Curtsy Lunges 3×10
    • Start in a tall athletic stance, cross left foot behind right and squat down as low as you can, push back up, and place foot back to shoulder width. Repeat with the other side.

  • Reverse Crunch 3×10
    • Laying on your back, position your head so that you can hold onto something heavy, either a couch leg or under a couch. Bend your knees, and lift them off the ground, and when ready, lift hips off the ground so that you are resting your body weight on your shoulders. Slowly lower your body down until your lower back touches the floor. Without dropping your feet to the ground, repeat.

Finish with 5 min cooldown:

  • Lower Trunk Rotations 10/side
    • Lay on your back with knees bend and together, arms out to the side, and palms up. Roll knees to right, while looking to the left, then rotate to the other side. Should feel stretch in the lower back.
  • Side-lying Trunk Rotation 10/side
    • Lay on your side with straight legs, with a pillow in front of you. Take the leg that is on top and bend it to a 90-degree angle, and place it on top of the pillow. Have your arms straight in front of you, and open one arm up, rotating around as far as you can without lifting the knee off the pillow. Repeat on the other side. Should feel stretch in middle to upper back
  • Hip Flexor Stretch 30/side
    • Kneel with one knee up and one knee down, and push hips forward while raising hands overhead. Should feel stretch in front of the hip
  • Kneeling Quad stretch (couch stretch) 30/side
    • Kneel with one knee up and one knee down, resting the top of your back foot on your couch. Lower to the ground. Should feel a stretch in the quad

Other Options

Lower body:

  • Bodyweight Squats (or with milk jug in goblet position)
  • Hamstring Curls on tile with towel/socks
  • Curtsy Lunges
  • Jump Squats
  • Jumping Lunges

Core:

  • Dead Bugs
  • Bear Crawl Iso Hold with Knee Tap
  • Birddog
  • Plank (or variations like a pledge, up & downs)
  • Crunchy frogs

Back and Chest:

  • Milk Jug Rows
  • Pushup (or variations like plyo, incline decline)

Arms:

  • Tricep Pushups
  • Milk Jug Curls
  • Tricep Dips on a chair
  • Broomstick Curls (or weighted backpack, grocery bag with even weight inside)
  • Pushup to Downdog

Maintaining overall fitness is a vital part of daily living, allowing us to perform and participate in all activities to the best of our ability. Utilizing active recovery, as well as these at-home exercise plans can help you get on the right track to achieving greatness. If you’re looking for more guidance in your workout routine, contact one of our FAST valley-wide locations today!

 

In honor of the Tokyo 2020 (2021) Olympics, this post is dedicated to a personal favorite of mine: the power clean. I get asked by many athletes, “how do I get stronger, faster, and more powerful?” First, we need to define “power.” Power is force over time. So, the more force produced in less time equates to more power. In the weight room, this can be achieved by developing type II fibers (fast-twitch) in the muscles. These fast-twitch fibers produce greater and quicker force.

What exercises help build type II fibers?

Compound exercises, such as squats, deadlifts, bench press, and split-squats are great places to start. However, there is one move above all else that will provide you with the most bang-for-your-buck when it comes to power development, the power clean.

 

What defines a power clean?

The power clean is the pinnacle movement for power production because it includes full-body and multi-joint movements. It’s a combination of a deadlift, high pull, shrug, and squat. That’s a lot of movement to cram in such a short amount of time (remember, less time & more force = more power). Because of the intricate nature of the power clean, it can take some practice to maintain proper form. This blog will provide a step-by-step guide to the movement and how to perfect it.

 

Step 1: pull

The first movement of the power clean is picking up the bar. This step will take place from the ground to the knees. Before you begin, keep your feet hip-width apart and have the bar directly over the base of your toes. Position your shoulders over the bar with your shoulder blades pulled back to help create tension through your back. As you pull, it is imperative that you have your hips and knees extend in one synchronous motion. This is where some athletes fault in their technique and can cause more problems later on in the move.

Man demonstrating power clean first pull

Step 2: pull again

This action will occur when the barbell passes the knees. The goal of the second pull is to get your hips to “drive” forward and help move the barbell in a straight vertical path. This is where you transition to the “triple extension” position through your ankles, knees, and hips. If one joint is not in an “extension” position, you are limiting your ability to produce power through the second pull. As you begin to maneuver yourself around the barbell to receive it in the “power position.” This is where athletes may fault while performing a power clean. Many try to move the bar around them when they should be moving their body around the bar.

power clean triple extension

 

Step 3: catch and receive

As the athlete performs the second pull, they will “feel” the weight of the bar traveling upward. This is a critical moment where the athlete will pull themselves under the bar to catch it in the “receiving” position. In many instances, coaches will tell their athletes to “jump” during the second pull to help achieve the “triple extension.” Coaching an athlete to “jump” during a power clean will often have the athlete spend more time in the air and limit their ability to pull themselves under the bar. I like to coach my athletes to “pull and drop” when receiving the bar. As the athlete drops to receive the bar, they will shoot their elbows forward, parallel to the ground, to catch the bar on the top of their shoulders in the quarter-squat position.

Man demonstrating power clean catch

The complexity of the power clean may seem intimidating, but when performed properly it can provide a training stimulus nearly unmatched by any other exercise. It’s one of the best training tools to teach athletes and everyday gymgoers to become more powerful. If you want to improve your performance, strength, and explosiveness, contact one of our FAST locations today!

The holidays are over and people have made their resolutions, many to get fit in the new year. The gym parking lots are packed and social media is exploding with before photos claiming this is the year! However, as the weeks (and months) pass the parking lots get quiet and the progress photos slow down. Whether you are brand new to fitness, trying to burn off all those holiday meals, or just trying to make a change in your lifestyle for the better, here are six simple tips to turn your new year’s resolution into results.

Tip #1: Set goals

We know that almost everybody is going to have the goal of weight loss, but challenge yourself to get specific. Break your goal down weekly or even daily. The goals don’t necessarily have to be about the actual amount of weight you’re planning to lose, but more on how you plan to reach your goal.

For example, set a goal of “make it to the gym 3 times this week” or “meal prep on Sunday for lunches throughout the week.” By creating simple, short-term goals, it’s easier to achieve and you’ll have more confidence in your fitness journey.

Tip #2: Write your goals down

Fitness goals written out on a piece of paper.

It is easy to ignore that little voice in your head that says “get to the gym.” We answer by saying “I can go later” or “I will do double the workout tomorrow.” Inevitably, something comes up and it just doesn’t get done.

Write your goals down and put a checkmark next to them when you accomplish them. One trick is to write them on your bathroom mirror with a dry erase marker. You are bound to look at them every morning and they are easily erased when completed. Or leave them up and see how much progress you have made, how many goals you have accomplished. The more often you see your goals, the more often you will think about them, and chances are, the more successful you will be.

Tip #3: Ask for advice

Seek out a fitness professional or a personal trainer to begin your journey. Most fitness experts got into the industry to help people, and many would be happy to give you advice. Collect their opinions on what they have seen work in other people. Although fitness professionals will usually be the most knowledgeable on nutrition, ask your friends what works for them. The more information you have, the more tools you will have to decide what direction you would like to go. And remember, don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Tip #4: Pick a plan and stick to it

Nutrition plans are not one size fits all. Some work better for certain people than others. Try to find one that works with your life and is achievable for you. If it is a plan that you will constantly break the rules on, or “cheat” on, it is not for you. There are hundreds of nutrition plans out there and the only way they work is if you stick to them. Remember, this is a lifestyle change and it must be sustainable for a long time. Nobody knows you better than you do so find one that fits in with your life.

Tip #5: Drink plenty of water

It is colder outside in the winter, and with that, the desire for water can diminish, but we require just as much water in the winter as we do in the summer. Staying hydrated is key to keeping your metabolism running top-notch. A general rule of thumb is to drink at least 50% of your body weight in ounces of water per day if not 100% of your body weight in ounces on days you work out. The two biggest deterrents to physical performance are dehydration and inadequate nutrition. If your body doesn’t have the fuel it needs, it will not perform at the appropriate levels for you to reach your goals. You wouldn’t put regular unleaded in a Ferrari, would you?

Tip #6: Respect the process

This is a marathon, not a sprint. Making a lifestyle change to be healthier is not an easy thing. It’s going to take hard work and time. Remember, your body didn’t get the way it did overnight, so it is going to take some time to change. It takes about 6 weeks of a training program for friends and family to start noticing a change and about 8 weeks for you to start to notice.

The difference does not always come from the scale either, maybe your clothes fit a little better, you have more energy or you are able to lift a little more than you used to. This all means your body is making significant changes to adapt to your new way of living. Don’t get discouraged when the progress slows down, the body gets used to things, which is a perfect time to switch it up. Add an extra day into your routine or add another physical activity like hiking or biking. Challenge yourself and you will be surprised with what you can accomplish.

Take these tips for what they are, “tips” and apply them to make a serious change this year. At FAST we strive to help people with their physical and lifelong goals. Whether it is a massive lifestyle change you want or you just want to move a little better and get more active. Come talk to one of our Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialists today to get jump-start your path to living healthier. Schedule a free fitness assessment.

We have been proud to serve our clients virtually over the last 6 weeks but are happy to announce that our FAST  clinics will fully re-open on Monday May 18th! The safety of our clients and staff are the highest priority, so you will notice some changes at your next visit.

In an effort to follow CDC and other health authority guidelines, we have implemented the following procedures:

One:

The client’s temperature will be taken before each workout session

Two:

All clients should use hand sanitizer before their workout session

Three:

All in-clinic sessions are by appointment only and are limited based on available space

Four:

A limited number of staff and clients will be allowed in the workout area at one time

Five:

We will provide contactless check-in for each client

Six:

Any equipment used will be sanitized before and after each workout session

As you know, we have always maintained a personal and small group training environment, and are accustomed to routinely cleaning the workout equipment. We feel this experience will create a safe and healthy environment and allow you to easily resume your in-person training with us.

We appreciate the opportunity to train with you and can’t wait to see you back in the clinic. Click here to request an appointment.

A new challenge in life can seem like a daunting task. While that feeling is definitely normal,, challenges should also be viewed as something to overcome and as a tool for growth. This blog is for any parent who is signing their child up for their first exposure to the weight room and for the athlete who is about to challenge themselves in order to get better at their respective sport. Although there will be many lessons learned along the way, these five tips will certainly help shape expectations and create positive long-term physical and mental changes.

1. Success Takes Time

You don’t become faster after a few weeks of training and you don’t gain ten pounds of muscle from a few weeks of training. Goals like this take a combination of two things; time and discipline. Any athlete must be prepared to put in consistent work and effort whenever they step into the weight room. It can be frustrating to not see immediate results, but it’s important to stay patient and trust the process. Along with being consistent with your training, it’s helpful to understand that most adaptations from training take time.

2. Be Okay with Making Mistakes

In the weight room, there are countless mistakes that happen during a one-hour workout session. It is important to realize that it is normal. Failing and mistakes, however, are two different terms. A mistake is an action that is misguided while failure is a lack of success. It is important as an athlete to understand the difference. Mistakes pave the way for learning. If every exercise was completed with flawless form, where would the learning come from? There must be feedback from your coaches and yourself. You must be made aware of the mistake for you to learn how to not make that mistake again. Rather than thinking of mistakes as something bad, approach it as an opportunity to learn and become a better athlete from it.

3. Consistency is Important to Learn Early

Consistency is the name of the game when it comes to the weight room. You could have the best coach in the world, and he/she could write the best program in the world, but the inability to follow the program makes that program useless. There’s a great chance you’re going to get better if you stick to that formula. Don’t learn this lesson after 1-2 years of on and off training. Have discipline early on and you will see the results in the future. Consistency doesn’t just mean showing up either. Consistency means showing up with purpose and intent. Try and learn something new from each session. Rather than showing up and going through the motions, show up with a desire of pushing yourself to get better.

4. Don’t be Afraid to Let Out Your Personality

Some characteristics that most strength and conditioning coaches see from young athletes are shyness and a fear of saying the wrong thing. We, as coaches, aspire to get to know you as much as we can so that you can feel comfortable in the weight room. As a young athlete, don’t feel like all the pressure is on you. Don’t be afraid to ask the coaches questions or get to know fellow athletes who are sharing the same space as you. We want you to enjoy your time with us and feel excited about coming back.

5. Leave the Ego Behind Before You Enter the Gym

Leave whatever notions or opinions you have about how good you are and just be prepared to work hard. Too often, athletes come in with over-inflated egos and are worried about being the smartest person in the gym or being the most athletic person in comparison to their peers. It doesn’t matter. The only thing that does matter is trying to accomplish your goals and trying to get better at your sport. Usually, the athletes who see the most results are those that consistently ask questions, work hard, and act as a novice. The athlete who thinks he or she knows it all is typically the one that stays around the same level they did once they started the training program. Have a different mentality once you step into the gym. A mentality that enforces growth and challenges your mind and body.

For more tips and tricks in-person visit your closest FAST location for a Free Fitness Assessment!

Meet Kayleigh, this month’s FAST trainer spotlight. We’re grateful for all the employees that make FAST what it is, and we can’t wait for you to learn more about Kayleigh. She has her B.S. from Northwestern Oklahoma State University and is also a Women’s Basketball Assistant Coach/ Strength Coach at Scottsdale Community College.

 

What inspired you to embark on the fitness journey with your career?

I grew up really active and very involved in sports. I love to workout and workout with others. I really enjoy helping others reach their goals or to just live a better life style through fitness. The best feeling is seeing someone putting the hard work in and seeing the out come.  As a college athlete I had to always exercise and stay active and I really enjoyed doing so. So I want to share my knowledge and experience to other athletes, so they can go on to the next level to play.

 

What’s one piece of advice you’d give anyone interested in becoming a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist?

You have to be motivating and also very energetic. Your energy rubs off on whom you’re working with.  Bring the fire and passion everyday, because you’re here to help and push others to meet their goals and also build trust. Also, being a great listener is very important.  The last advice is to also have an open mind and the “want” to keep learning.

 

What’s your favorite workout style?

I love to lift a hard full body workout.  I like to include Olympics lifts, and also interval training is a lot of fun.  But I think I could just do lower body every time, that’s my ultimate favorite.


What’s your favorite song to listen to when working out?

One of my favorite songs to workout to is Elevate by drake. I usually enjoy listening to Hip Hop when I work out. A few artists I enjoy listening to while working out is: Kendrick Lamer, future, Meek Mill and drake.

 

What’s your favorite thing to eat after a workout?

I would have to say Chipotle.  I usually put almost everything in the bowl especially Guacamole.

 

What’s one food that you can’t live without?

I definitely cant live without Pizza/ wings and hamburgers.

 

What’s the best advice you have ever received?

Not every thing in life is given, if you want something you will have to apply the work. Once when you received what you worked for enjoy it and cherish it.

 

What motivates you?

I have several things that motivate me. One of them is waking up every morning and being greater then I was the day before.  I want to contribute more and learn more everyday.  Also, being able to help others is one of my other motivations. Knowing I have the ability to help change someone life is what drives me everyday. Finally, I love to set goals and I love to feel accomplished. So being able to have the ability to work for something no matter how easy or hard is my ultimate motivation.

Interested in training with Kayleigh? Contact the FAST Old Town Scottsdale location today to set up a free assessment with her.

The Holidays are upon us! Halloween has come-and-gone and soon Thanksgiving will arrive with December’s many holidays to follow. As we are all well aware, the holidays not only bring lots of fun, laughter, and love, but also a tremendous amount of stress. Whether it’s cleaning the house, cooking meals, long-distance travel, or having to see that dreaded family member, there’s no denying the holidays are stressful!

Too often we focus on taking care of our bodies during this time of year knowing full well we will partake in a few too many vices (Halloween Candy, Thanksgiving pies, Christmas cookies), but we often overlook taking care of our mental state. Getting in extra bouts of exercise are important to fend off unwanted weight gain, but relieving stress can drastically improve your mood and chance for a relaxing holiday season.

If there is one thing you need take from this, it’s to be mindful. Mindful meditation is an easy technique which can be utilized to train the mind to relax. Research has found that those who practice meditation have health benefits including lower blood pressure/heart rate, less anxiety/stress, improved circulation, and more feelings of well-being. The intent behind mindful meditation is not to get involved with the thoughts you’re having or to judge those thoughts, but to simply be aware of each thought and the response each elicits. As you continue to practice this technique, you’ll begin to find patterns in how your thoughts and feelings flow. You may notice you judge certain experiences (sounds, tastes, touch, smells, etc.) and label them in a negative or positive manner. The goal is to be aware of these feelings and find inner-balance with them.

Most stressors in life, especially during the holidays, are those which are out of our control. In Buddhist philosophy, the ultimate benefit of meditation is liberation of the mind from attachment to what it cannot control. With practice, you may find the ability to detach from the desires and reactions to stimuli and instead stay relaxed, keeping a calm mind and balanced inner harmony.

If you’re reading this and starting to feel your stress levels rise because you don’t know how to meditate or where to begin, RELAX! Try these simple meditation techniques to reduce your stress levels this holiday season!

 

Simple Meditation for Beginners

  1. Sit upright or lie comfortably. If you choose to sit, do so with good, tall posture. Imagine you are something strong and unmoving, like a mountain. If you choose to lie down, do so in whatever manner is most comfortable to you.
  2. Close your eyes. If you have trouble keeping your eyes closed or are in a bright place, you may want to try using something over your eyes to create a relaxed, dark place.
  3. Make no effort to control your breathing. Simple breathe in and out, naturally and effortlessly.
  4. Focus your attention on your breath and how your body moves each time you inhale and exhale. Observe the muscles of your face, your chest, shoulders, and abdomen. Notice if there is tension or if things start to relax. Focus on your breath, but let it be effortless and natural, not manipulating the pace or intensity. If your mind wanders to a thought your attention is taken by stimulus (sound, taste, smell, etc.), return your focus to your breath.

 

Tips for Successful Meditation.

  • Start with short periods of time. For beginners, three minutes may be sufficient practice time. As you are able to stay relaxed and mindful for longer period, increase the duration you meditate.
  • Find a place you can consistently practice. It doesn’t matter where (indoors or outdoors, home or away), but make sure it’s a place you are comfortable and relaxed. If you can designate a place in your house and incorporate décor which puts you at ease, you may find it creates a more harmonious atmosphere.
  • Hold an object. If you have a small object you can hold in your hand while you meditate, this can be used at a time of stress to bring peace. Holding the object and using your senses to notice the textures, weight, etc. will be allow you to focus on these attributes to reduce stress amidst chaos.
  • Use music. If you use music, try to find some without words so your mind doesn’t wander to the lyrics. Instrumental chords can create a relaxed environment and hearing those same notes can bring peace when stress levels rise.

 

Mindful Eating

If you asked your friends and family to describe the holidays, you’d find many answers associated with food. We plan extravagant meals and take time to sit out to spend with our loved ones. Think about your usual eating session. If you’re like me, you go through it so quickly you’re surprised you even taste the food! Mindful eating meditation engages all of the senses to slow the process down and focus your attention on the food and away from outside stress. Try these steps next time you sit down to eat.

  1. Sit comfortably with the piece of food in your hand.
  2. Look at the piece of food. Notice its shape, color, smell, weight, etc.
  3. Move it around in your hand. Notice the sound it makes as it moves, the textures you feel.
  4. Close your eyes and smell the food. Breathe deep and take in the scent.
  5. Place the food on your tongue. Keep it on your tongue and close your mouth around it. Just hold it on your tongue and feel the textures.
  6. Push the food against the top of your mouth. Notice what happens when you do so. Does it stay in one piece, is it dissolving?
  7. Start to slowly chew and let is move around your mouth.
  8. Now swallow your bite.

 

Focus! Focus! Focus! – Concentration Meditation

Mindful meditation trains the body to focus on your breath and let all other stimuli diminish. Concentration meditation involves focusing on a single point. This could again be your breath, a simple word or phrase, a photo or object, sound or music, or counting. Choose a single point easily attained/remembered so that you can take it with you if needed.  Focus your attention on this single point and should your mind wander, let the thought go and refocus on the single point.

  1. Sit upright or lie comfortably. If you choose to sit, do so with good, tall posture. Imagine you are something strong and unmoving, like a mountain. If you choose to lie down, do so in whatever manner is most comfortable to you.
  2. Engage your eyes if you are focusing on an object or photo. Close your eyes if you are listening to music, repeating a phrase/word, or counting small object (beads of a necklace/mala/rosary/etc.). If you have trouble keeping your eyes closed or are in a bright place, you may want to try using something over your eyes to create a relaxed, dark place.
  3. Make no effort to control your breathing. Simple breathe in and out, naturally and effortlessly. If you are focusing on your breath, you may control the length and depth.
  4. Focus your attention on that single point. If it’s an object, notice its weight, textures, sounds, etc.. If it is music, notice the inflections in notes and the responses they elicit. Notice the cadence of the phrase/mantra you repeat and how it makes you feel.

We hope these mindful meditation tips can help you feel a little more at peace this holiday season. If you’re looking to add in a few extra workouts this season, contact your local FAST today. Wishing you and your family a healthy, happy and relaxed holiday season.

With fall weather just around the corner for Phoenix, many of us are excited to get back on the hiking trails, taking our pets for walks or simply, enjoying patio weather. But did you know that your friends can play a role in helping you reach your health goals? Read on to learn more, as we’re diving into this topic today—so don’t forget to forward this to your fitness bestie.

 

Your Friends Can Hold You Accountable

Let’s say your health goal this fall is to do a group fitness class 3x a week. Chances are, you’ll be way more likely to attend those classes if you have a friend (or two) joining you. Over time, you’ll be used to going to classes weekly—making it a habit that you’ll not want to miss.

 

Social Outings and Staying on Track

If your friends know about your health goals they’ll be there to cheer you on. So if you’re planning to do happy hour on Friday night, they can help you stick to a healthier cocktail or a low-calorie beer vs. derailing your hard work at the gym. And they’ll probably be willing to wake up on Saturday morning for a group hike at Camelback.

 

Your Friends Can Provide Support

It can be easy to share when your health goals are going good—but not as easy to share when you’re struggling. By talking with your friends about the ups and downs, they can help you stay motivated—even through the tough times.

 

Here at FAST, we offer semi-private personal training sessions that are perfect for those close-knit friends who want to motivate each other and work out together. Not to mention, it’s a less expensive option that one-on-one personal training. If you’re interested in learning more, we’d love to learn about your health goals. Schedule a FREE assessment today!

To maximize the benefits of gym time—it’s important to make sure that you’re doing exercises with proper form. More often than not, we see many exercises done incorrectly, but today we’re sharing how to fix that and do these exercises safely.

Barbell Deadlift

Top Exercises that People Use Poor Form

The exercise that we tend to see the worst form on is the barbell deadlift. It is one of the best exercises for you, but if done wrong can be one of the worst for you. We see rounded backs, arching necks and pulling arms that all tend to lead to major injuries. The best way to prevent injury on the deadlift is to maintain a flat back. To do so, you should be squeezing your shoulder blades together, pushing your hips behind you with soft knees, and strongly bracing your core. Imagine a stick from the base of your neck to your lower back, like the photo above shows.

-Greg Stein, FAST North Scottsdale

Push Ups

How to Properly do a Push Up - FAST Foothills Acceleration and Sports Training

The push up is one of the most incorrectly done exercise out there. To do it correctly, start on the ground with your hands slightly wider than your shoulders. Set your feet in a stance that is comfortable to you as well as allows you to be successful. Think of your body as a straight line (plank position) and clinch your butt and draw in your belly button. Proceed to push up and down keeping that straight line. A great que is knowing that a push-up is really just a moving plank.

-Kyle Decker, FAST Arrowhead

Hip Hinge

FAST Training - Don't Make these mistakes at the gym

The number one exercise I see people or athletes do incorrectly is the Hip Hinge or a Deadlift variation. Most people will initiate the movement by using their back rather than using their hips and hamstrings. Although the back is used during a Deadlift, it is important to initiate the movement from the hips by pushing your butt back while keeping your shoulders pulled back to ensure you don’t have any rounding in your back while you lift. This will keep your back safe but also put more emphasis on the glutes and hamstrings as the working muscle groups.

-Jeff Placencia, FAST South Gilbert

Deadlift (any variation)

FAST Training - How to Properly Perform Exercises

This exercise proves to be one of the most improperly performed exercises. Many exercisers tend to bend too much with their knees instead of hinging with their hips, stand improperly, or have difficulty keeping their back flat. The biggest risk of injury occurs when the exercisers loses trunk stability and allows their back to round.

To help correct this issue, be sure to engage/contact the muscles surrounding the trunk and bring yourself into a shoulders back, chest out, back flat position. Once the muscles are engaged to start the lift, the chances of keeping correct form throughout the lift increase.

-Kyle Schneider, FAST Ahwatukee

Squat

FAST Foothills Acceleration and Sports Performance Training

The exercise I see most frequently performed incorrectly, is the squat. One of the most common areas a squat is done incorrectly is the knees caving inward. Placing a band above the knees is a great way to work on this aspect of the squat. The band is trying to pull the knees inward, thus the individual has to actively engage their glutes in order to keep the knees in line with the toes. This is a great tool to use as a cue, as well as also strengthening the area that is weak (hips) to fix this problem.

-Brandon Wood, FAST Litchfield Park

Chin Up

How to Properly do a Chin Up

The chin up is one exercise I see performed poorly by many gym goers. During the chin up we tend to extend or arch are back when we really want to be doing the opposite by hollowing out our body. One cue I like to give our clients is to shape your body into the letter “C” before you start your pull towards the top of the chin up. This will engage your core fully and make the chin up that much more effect and beneficial.

-Wade Haras, FAST Old Town Scottsdale

There you have it—the top exercises that people are doing wrong and how to fix your form. If you’d like to work one-on-one with a FAST certified strength and conditioning specialist, visit our website to schedule a FREE fitness assessment. We work with weekend warriors, competitive athletes, and those who are wanting to build healthy habits.

Foothills Acceleration and Sports Training (FAST) is empowered by Foothills Therapy Partners (FTP).