Categorized as: Sports & Fitness

#StrongWomenKickButt Part II

In my last post I talked about:

If your workout goals are health and aesthetics, and you are one of those women who spends all
your gym time on cardio machines but are still not happy with the way you look or feel (“But I
do 40 mins on the elliptical every day! Why can’t I get to that next dress size?)

Getting Started with Strength Coaching and Multi-Joint Movements

The first thing to do is to PLEASE — hook up with a reputable strength coach. This is important,
as you don’t want to embark on a new strength routine without appropriate supervision.
Injuries occur with the uneducated. But do it right and you’ll be thrilled with your results.

Lifting heavy weights – progressing gradually from learning correct movement patterns – with
proper multi-joint movements just two or three times a week will help you achieve tremendous
gains (and NOT in bulk!). Squats, lunges, dead-lifts and pull-ups are all powerful exercises that
work several muscle groups at once. I promise you’ll see results. And what’s great about these
movements is that, these workouts don’t have to be more than 30-40 minutes. It’s the perfect
solution for a busy day when your competing priorities prevent you from spending too much
time at the gym.

Woman Lift

Photo Credit:

Organizing Your Schedule

Don’t have time to add to your current routine? Reduce your cardio workouts, and spend the
leftover time lifting. Your body will appreciate it and your stress hormones, like cortisol, which
are probably high from all that cardio and under-eating you do, will normalize allowing your
body to burn more fat instead of storing it. Your cardio can only take you so far and adding more
can actually permanently lower your metabolic rate. I bet you never thought reducing cardio to
a couple of days a week of easy workout or walking 30-40 minutes a day would HELP you
achieve your goals.

Don’t believe me? Renowned strength coach Jim Laird has built a whole gym around strength
training and power lifting for women in Lexington, Kentucky. Jim says clients who train this way

  • Decreased body fat
  • Increased appearance of muscle tone
  • Increased athletic performance
  • Decreased aches and pains
  • Improved quality of sleep
  • Improved energy levels
  • Improved mood
  • Improved quality of movement
  • Reduction in medications needed for management of pain and/or diabetes, blood
    pressure, etc.

Sounds pretty good, right? You too can have these results. If you do it right, after just a few
weeks you will see a huge difference in the way you look and feel.

Don’t worry about what the scale says. It should never be your barometer for health. Pay
attention to what you see in the mirror, how your clothes fit differently, and how much energy
you have. And as a bonus, you’ll definitely get a kick out of seeing others in the gym (men
included) stare at you in amazement.

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#StrongWomenKickButt Part 1

Have you ever noticed a dichotomy between the sexes when it comes to activities in the gym?
It’s something I have noticed for years, but have never really understood. Go to any gym around
the world and you will notice the same split: women bouncing from treadmill to elliptical,
sometimes for up to an hour, and men congregating around the dumbbells. Yes, these are
stereotypes, but they are based on truth. And while I appreciate not having to wait in line since I
spend the majority of my gym time at the squat rack, I find the reality of what this split says
about women’s fitness to be quite troubling.

Nothing to Fear

Women clients tell me they fear lifting. “I don’t want to get big and bulky,” they say. “That’s not
attractive.” What they don’t realize is that lifting weights won’t turn them into gigantic
meatheads. NOT lifting weights is compromising the results they’re actually looking for. My
guess is that the idea of becoming bulky from weightlifting comes from the way weightlifters are
portrayed in the media.

Yes, you can certainly turn into one of those bulky, oily, competitive body builders if you train
with that goal in mind. But, if your goal is to get lean, look healthy, feel healthy and develop a
functional strength that creates benefits at all ages (not to mention that most would agree
strong is very sexy), then strength training is for you.

As a general rule, women won’t get bulky unless they take muscle-mass-building supplements.
Your strength-enhancing hormone levels, such as testosterone, are significantly lower than
those of men. And while lifting heavy weights for strength will help you maintain or raise your
testosterone levels, it will do so to normal levels which can help with energy, sex drive, and
building strength. Not so terrible, right?

Woman Lifting

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Also, the presence and baseline levels of a protein called myostatin in women (and men) make it
very hard to become what most would consider “bulky.” Myostatin at normal levels inhibits
muscle growth. Yes, as in everything in life, there are outliers – people who can easily build bulk.
But chances are you are not one of them. So fear not growing “Arnold” muscles and start to
build strength.

Have I convinced you now? In my next post I’ll talk about how you can get started. So stay

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Winter is a Season, not an Excuse

Earlier this month Punxatawney Phil told us there would be 6 more weeks of winter, and would-be future fitness buffs hit snooze on their plans to ‘get started working out’ with likely a mix of regret and relief. As the Northeast sits snow-covered, we’re comforted by our bulky sweaters and all the excuses bad weather brings. But now is the perfect time to take control of your health and make sure that by the time bathing suit season hits you’re already feeling great.

Here are 5 tips to make the most of this winter:

  1. Help reduce inflammation through diet.  Add spices like turmeric and foods like leafy greens are a great start.  Avoid Omega 6 polyunsaturated fats from vegetable oils (especially heated) when you cook. Olive, Avocado and coconut oils are great alternatives.
  2. Move more and sit less. EVERYONE can find more time to move throughout the day, even if you can’t set aside time for a proper Snow Abs | EmpowerPFworkout. Set a phone or Outlook alert to remind you to get up from your desk once every hour and do 10 squats right there in your office. Take the steps instead of the elevator when running between meetings. Close the office door during a long conference call and alternate between wall squats and lunges (just remember to mute when you start breathing heavy!)  No privacy at work? Commit to spending 30 minutes of your nightly TV routine in these positions (and have your spouse or roommate join you too).
  3. Stay hydrated. This is easier to remember in the summer when our bodies cue us that they’re thirsting for water. But hydration is important year-round, and this includes taking in enough electrolytes. But don’t waste time with high-sugar ‘sports drinks’. Simply adding natural pure sea salt to your diet and remembering to drink will do the trick.
  4. Manage your magnesium. Nowadays most people are magnesium deficient. Adding magnesium to your diet can be helpful for rest, relaxation and cell function. Magnesium supplements are available in several forms. Ask at your local health food store (and stay tuned for future a future post on the benefits of magnesium for, shall we say ‘regularity’)
  5. Register for a Competition. Warm weather brings races, and nowadays you can find a 5K almost every weekend all spring long. Setting an achievable goal, time-bound goal like this will help keep you motivated, and get you out of bed on even the coldest of mornings. A performance coach can help you build a training plan to get you the results you’re looking for. But even 2 miles of treadmill time/day will keep your heart rate up this winter and get you ready for the big race.   If running isn’t your thing, sign up for a weightlifting competition and work towards setting new personal bests in the big lifts.

Try one or all of these this winter and see how much better you feel. It will help you build a great foundation and gear up for a fitness-filled spring.

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Welcome to Empower Performance & Fitness Blog


Welcome to Empower Yourself: The Empower Performance & Fitness Blog

I’m excited to use this forum to bring you ongoing education, inspiration and easy to implement ideas to create a strong and healthy lifestyle. At Empower we are passionate about just that – empowering others to make small (and big) changes that make a difference, both now and for your future.

I often hear people say ‘I’m not the working out type’. But you never hear someone say ‘My health doesn’t matter to me.” And that is exactly the point. Health matters to everyone. In shape or out, running races or standing on the sidelines, in the health food aisle or the cookie aisle, everyone wants to be healthy. And I believe everyone can be.

I also believe in achieving health goals without damaging your health. Too often I see people at the gym moving improperly, people on ‘diets’ missing key nutrients, or people training right but not giving their bodies enough time to recover from hard work. I believe fitness is a lifestyle choice. It’s not a workout kick, or a diet, or training for a single event. It’s looking holistically at all you do to and for your body, and making intentional choices about all of it.

I also believe in setting realistic short and long term goals. Maybe you want to run a marathon or squat 250 lbs or go vegan. But you have to start somewhere. And setting too aggressive a goal is the single biggest driver of either giving up or getting hurt – each dangerous to a healthy lifestyle. Short term goals help you see results, so you are motivated by your own success. There’s nothing like catching a glimpse of your newly cut arms as you pass a mirror, or PRing in a race. But long term goals make sure you are keeping the future in mind – and that with your short-term achievements you’re not sacrificing your ability to move well or fight disease well into old age. And I believe in setting achievable goals. Run a 5K before training for a marathon. Lift light and get the movement right before stacking your bar. Don’t let your ego get the best of your approach. In our “everything at our fingertips” world, it is easy to forget that our quest for health is not something that shows results overnight.

I also believe in a balanced workout regimen. No matter what you’re trying to accomplish, it’s important to balance strength training with cardio work in order to maximize health and fitness.

So that’s me. With that philosophy as a foundation, I’m committing to bringing you actionable tips each week that can help you take control of your health. What are you committing to?

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Fitness for the Time-Starved

I get it. You work 50 hours/week. You’ve got kids. You volunteer in your community. There are errands to run, carpools to drive, and bills to pay. And every now and then you like to spend a few minutes of QT with your spouse, read, catch up on the DVR, or see friends. How are you supposed to find time for regular exercise?

People often ask me how many days a week they should work out. Personally, I work out 6 days/week. (And it’s intentionally 6, and not 7, because I truly believe the body needs a day of rest – but more on that in an upcoming blog post). But if you don’t have time to get out there often, working out efficiently is key to making the most of the limited time you do have to invest in yourself.

Two things to try:Fitness for the Time Starved | EmpowerPF

  1. Focus on compound movements where your whole body is involved in the exercise. And learn how to do them correctly. Squats, dead lifts and military press are among our favorites. It’s best to start these with a coach or trainer who can give you a few cues and immediate feedback on whether you are doing them right.  When done in succession enough of these will get your heart rate up too.
  1. Try High Intensity Interval Training. You’ve only got 30-45 minutes on that rower, bike, treadmill or elliptical machine. Please do NOT spend it at an easy pace. Yes – anything to get your heart rate up is good for you, but if you want the biggest bang for your buck work in some intervals. Here’s what that means:
  • Warmup up nice and easy for 10 minutes, then add in 6 bursts at 90-95% effort for 30 seconds with 1.5-2 minutes easy active recovery between each interval.  You’ll want to make sure you recover enough to make each interval as hard as the first.  As you get more fit and these get easier you can slowly add more intervals, more time, or both.


  • Really short on time?  You can do Tabata intervals.  Named after a Japanese scientist that discovered this workouts efficacy at building a person’s maximum Oxygen consumption, Tabata intervals totals 4 minutes of hard work. They can be done with almost any exercise. After a good warmup, you do 8 intervals of all out (and I mean ALL OUT) 20 second bursts of exercise followed by 10 seconds of passive rest.  After the extremely hard 4 minutes are complete, you should do a short cool down. You can be done with a great fitness building workout within 20 minutes.  This is tough though – so be sure to leave a couple of days between these hard workouts so your body can recover.

So next time you head over to the gym (even if it is between your commute and your food shopping), forget the 5lb dumbells or your steady elliptical workout, and make the most of your 45 minutes.

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