Thursday, June 2, 2016

Getting Off on the Right Foot: How to Burst Off the Line

I've moved around to a few different states over the last few years, and one of the things that I always missed the most about Utah was a grassy hill at a park over by my dad's house. That is where I've been running my sprints for years, and it's been awesome to see the benefits of incorporating those into my training routine. 

Not only does sprinting provide a wildly empowering feeling, but it also has other benefits like improving your conditioning, working your core (HELLO, ABS), and burning body fat. 

One really fun component that is often overlooked in most people's training programs is the inclusion of SAQ - speed, agility, and quickness. 

If you're looking for a way to both use and enhance your strength, and better develop yourself as a well-rounded athlete, check out this guest post from my friend Jen Sinkler. She is showing you a simple drill that can make you explosive off the line. 

Getting Off on the Right Foot: How to Burst Off the Line

By Jen Sinkler

How you start your day matters. Maybe that’s obvious, but many of us move through the process on autopilot — at least until something happens that shakes up your routine. For me, lately, that’s been a lot of travel, plus an impending cross-country move. These events give you the opportunity to truly examine what works and what doesn’t.

So it is with fitness habits, too. You probably set up to deadlift exactly the same way every time you approach the bar. For many movements it’s fine — preferable even — that we do them the same way day after day. After all, that’s what works for you…until it doesn’t anymore.

Before I began a new program written by division-I collegiate strength and conditioning coach Angie Brambley-Moyer and her husband, Tim Moyer — also a collegiate strength and sport coach — this past winter, I thought my sprinting technique was reasonably dialed in. I’d played international-level rugby for 10 years, after all. I loved sprinting. I was good at it…wasn’t I?

Yeah, not so much. I was dismayed by how sluggish and inefficient I’d become after seven full years of not playing rugby anymore. I knew I needed to take the time to relearn my speed.

It’s a worthwhile pursuit, not just one for bragging rights. Sprinting is great for firing up more muscle fibers, becoming more powerful being, burning body fat, and developing better coordination. Those are the simple facts, but there’s also a more romantic side to train to be fast: It’s an unrivaled feeling of completely taking up residence in your body, using all of its abilities, of truly reaching your physical potential. It’s a feeling of fully embodied freedom.

Getting after it hot off the line is what can make or break your ability to beat a defender or win a race, and there’s plenty of technique involved. If you’re out of practice, it’s important to start slowly and gradually, simply drilling form. Also consider running up an incline (specifically, a hill with a 5- to 15-degree incline) to lesson the impact on your joints. (Essentially, hill sprints mean you don’t have as far to fall to the earth with each step.)

“Starting ability is very dependent on strength because the body has to overcome inertia and friction forces in the opening strides,” say Moyer. If you’ve ever pushed a weighted sled, you know how difficult it is to just get it going. In addition to strength, excellent technique makes all the difference for a powerful start. This easy drill will improve your starting skills and turn you into the speed demon you want to be.

Start at the very beginning, and you won’t have long to wait before you race off the line.

Forward Start Instructions: 

The Forward Start is all about focusing on starting sprint mechanics. From your “set position” you will only sprint two to three steps (about 5 yards) with each leg and then coast to a stop to complete a rep. Use one cone as the starting line and another cone 5 yards away. Walk back after each rep and recover completely between reps. Do 5 reps on each leg (dictated by your lead foot), then rest before repeating another set, if specified. 

Coaching Points: 
For the Forward Start “set position,” use a staggered stance (one foot slightly in front of the other) as your starting position for the drill. This will teach you how to feel the push-off from the front foot, which is important every time you start moving from a dead stop. Make sure your base of support (AKA foot position) is no wider than when you stand. 

To establish your best starting stance, pivot sideways from the starting line and take one step forward with each foot; then, take one step backward with each foot, and then — keeping your feet paced out the way they were on your final step — pivot sideways again, back toward the starting line. If your left foot is forward, your left hand will be even with your back same-side pocket, and your right hand near your right ear. If your right foot is forward, the opposite is true.

The “Go”: To prepare to take off, shift your center of gravity (i.e., your hips and trunk) closer to your base of support (again, the feet). In other words, lower your hips toward your feet a few inches. Once you start loading your hips that way, your body weight will naturally shift into your front leg and foot. 

Next, direct your head and shoulders toward your target by leaning forward. Finally, aggressively drive the arm that was poised at your back pocket forward toward your ear while you simultaneously drive the hand that was at your ear backward (to get a visual, think about elbowing someone behind you). Continue this arm drive through the remaining 2 to 3 steps. 

Drive forcefully off the front foot to ensure an efficient and effective first step; pushing off the back foot would make your first step shorter, which would cost you time.

Lightning & Thunder will help you become a force of nature.

Lightning & Thunder is a brand-new strength, speed, and agility program written by Tim Moyer, MS, CPT, and Angie Brambley-Moyer, MS, MSCC, with Jen Sinkler, personal trainer, fitness writer, and former U.S. national team rugby player. 

Moyer, Brambley-Moyer, and Sinkler have teamed up to get you stronger, faster, and more agile. You don't have to have any experience playing sports, and you don't have to play any in the future, either, if you don't have the inclination. You only need to be interested in training like an athlete, in moving like one and looking like one. 

Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or you’ve never played a sport, the program gives you everything you need to hit the ground running (pun intended, of course) and will include:

  • A comprehensive training manual that lays the groundwork for this philosophy of training for both the strength and the speed and agility (SAQ) programs.
  • Both beginner and intermediate 12-week SAQ programs.
  • Both beginner and intermediate 12-week strength programs, with an explanation and calendar on how to combine the strength work with the speed work.
  • A complete exercise glossary with written coaching cues and images for every single strength and SAQ movement. This detailed description of 180 moves is a resource in and of itself!
  • A streamable video library of more than 25 speed and agility demonstration videos. In the videos, Tim and Angie coach the athlete through the fundamentals of their SAQ patterns and drills, allowing them to know what they need work on whether they are watching from home or watching it as they hit the gym

Here’s the best part. To celebrate its release, Lightning & Thunder is on sale for HALF OFF now through midnight Friday, June 3rd. For more information click here. 

About Jen Sinkler: 

Jen Sinkler is a longtime fitness writer and personal trainer who talks about all things strength related at her website, The former editorial director of fitness for Experience Life magazine, she writes regularly for a variety of national health magazines. She's a certified RKC 2 kettlebell instructor, and a powerlifting coach through USA Powerlifting. She also holds coaching certs through Ground Force Method, Progressive Calisthenics, Onnit Academy, and DVRT (Ultimate Sandbag).

A lifelong competitive athlete, Jen played rugby for 13 years, many of those on the U.S. women’s national 7s and 15s teams. She co-owns The Movement Minneapolis with her husband, David Dellanave.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A Case for Strength: It's About So Much More Than the Gym

A Case for Strength: It's About So Much More Than the Gym

I yelled in frustration from the confines of my full-face helmet. 

It was March, and my second time ever riding the sand dunes on my dirt bike. To say I was frustrated would be putting it mildly.

Riding on super soft sand is no joke, and the only way to prevent things from getting weird is to keep it pinned, so that you're kind of skimming along the top.

I had made the rookie mistake of being in too high of a gear as I attempted to plow my way up the face of a dune. This resulted in my bike bogging down, my front end getting squirrelly, and me dumping my bike for what seemed like the bazillionth time. 


Somehow, some way, my bike was laying on it's side, with the front wheel pointing down the steep dune. If you know anything about dirt bikes and sand dunes, you know that this is a less-than-fun predicament to be in.

The sun was blazing that day, which made the sand the consistency of baby powder. As I walked to the side of my bike, preparing to upright it, my boots sank several inches with every step, as if I were in quick sand.

The dunes can be a scary place, because there are a lot of blind spots. When your bike goes down, you need to pick it up and get back on that hog quickly. 

The average dirt bike weighs around 230 pounds, therefore, there is an art to picking up a downed bike. Bend your knees, brace your core, pack your shoulders, tighten your lats, grip a handle and the side of the bike hard, and stand up with it.
Just like a deadlift. 

"But, what's the point in lifting heavy? I don't ever want to compete, or anything..." 

It's because lifting heavy carries over into Real Life situations, and fact of the matter is 

Life is easier when you're strong.

Carrying your groceries in with ease. Hiking in to your favorite spot with a huge pack to camp for the weekend. Picking up your kids or dog. Moving your furniture. Hauling your snowboard and gear around the mountain. The list goes on! 

All of these things are simplified when you have some physical strength in your corner. 

It's about so much more than just being good at the gym. 

If you and I are friends on Facebook or Insta, the constant barrage of pictures and videos have probably shown you that my favorite lift is the deadlift. I've always been a strong puller, but I've really been hammering it lately with the guidance of my girlcrush, JVB, and my numbers are skyrocketing.

You see, she and I both agree that the deadlift is a hugely empowering movement, both mentally and physically. It develops fantastic overall strength that carries over beautifully into Real Life. After all, we all pick things up and set them down countless times per day!

JVB and Jen Sinkler have helped my deadlift a ton, so when JVB offered to share her top three tips with you on how to harness your strength, and maximize your deadlift, I wasn't about to say no! 

Take it away, JVB! 


Harness Your Strength: 3 Simple Tips to Maximize Your Deadlift

Way back when I was first bitten by the barbell bug, of all of the big lifts that lay before me, it was the deadlift I wanted to tackle first. 

I was a personal trainer, and I’d already spent a few years working on my fitness, first by residing among the cardio machines and from there, I ventured into the weight room. At first, I felt most at ease working with dumbbells or on weight machines, plus doing bodyweight exercises (so many crunches!) on the stretching mats in the corner. 

From where I was standing, I could see the other side of the room where the barbells and plates were located. This was in 2010, when the tide was really beginning to shift for women and strength training. I discovered Girls Gone Strong (cute trucker-hat tip to Jen Comas, one of its founding members) and through their influence realized that there was no reason why I couldn’t broach the other side of the weight room myself. 

At first, I wanted to get really, really good at the barbell deadlift simply because it was the one exercise where I saw people lift the most plates. My mindset had begun to shift from general fitness to strength, and I decided that the deadlift was where I was going to manifest that mindset shift into existence. It was a “challenge accepted” moment that I set out to own. 

I’ve long since learned exactly why the barbell deadlift, for many, is the lift where the most plates are lifted. It’s a total-body movement that places particular emphasis on your posterior chain: your hamstrings, glutes, spinal erectors, upper back, and even calves. It also places high demand on your core and, not surprisingly, your grip. 

Years later and I’m now a competitive powerlifter. (What can I say, the barbell bug bit me hard!) The deadlift is tested in competition, which means the deadlift still plays a regular role in my training, and I’ve learned some very helpful cues to streamline my training, making for confident meet attempts with bars loaded down with all manner of plates. But, it wasn’t always that way. 

Now, with my clients, I’m often teaching these simple tricks I’ve learned that I wish I would have known when I first began deadlifting. These are small tweaks you can make to your deadlift to ensure that you’re completely ready to go every time you, too, say “challenge accepted.”

1. Let It Roll (Into You)

This first tip seems fairly obvious now, but it wasn’t to me when I first began deadlifting. Now I have world-record setting powerlifter Jordan Syatt to thank for bringing it to my attention.

Our gym, The Movement Minneapolis. is housed in an older building with brick walls, a skylight, and black mats that cover the floor. And, likely due to the building’s age, the floor is a bit uneven. There are slight dips in the floor in certain spot that make tiny ramps for barbells with round plates to roll down.

The first gym I began deadlifting in was the same way, and you can guess what happened: Every time I stepped up to it I would have to chase it a little bit, and roll it in towards my shins before I could start the lift. If I had to readjust my grip at all before the pull, the bar would end up rolling away again.

This highly annoying problem that has a very easy solution:

Instead of chasing the bar and pulling it towards you, simply step over the bar and let the bar come to you. 

This is an easy change but it has more impact than you might think. Imagine tucking your shoulder blades into your back pockets, making sure your hips lower than your shoulders, and bracing your abs are important components that need to happen before the bar even leaves the floor.

A tight set-up matters. Don’t make chasing the barbell a part of it.

2. Get Braced For It

Lifting is exciting, and not just because of the muscles you make. There is also some pretty rad gear that can come with it, and a question I often get regarding the deadlift is: should I start wear a lifting belt?

If you are a beginner lifter, the short answer is not anytime soon. The deadlift is excellent for training your core because you need to brace your abs hard to protect your spine from rounding. Your deadlift and your whole body will be much better served by spending the majority of your time perfecting your lifting technique sans belt. 

Weight belts gives that bracing an extra boost by giving your core muscles something to push against during a very heavy deadlift. (Squats, too.) Note the word heavy—you’re likely not lifting heavy on every single set.  As you get stronger with the lift and you feel super-square with your form, good rule of thumb is to throw your belt on when you’ve worked up to a weight above 80 to 90 percent of your max. 

Mix It Up

Performing deadlifts for reps can be murder on your grip and your hands have the potential to fatigue before your legs do. A situation I often see with deadlifters is always lifting double overhand (where both palms are facing you) and ending a set before your legs are taxed, or not alternating your mixed grip (where one palm faces you and one palm faces out) on every set. Switch every set so you don’t develop muscle imbalances that could develop from always defaulting to the same over-under grip formation. Plus, think of it as becoming ambidextrous! 

I don’t want to cheat your grip out of the chance of getting stronger though, so here’s the progression:

Double Overhand Grip: Start here on your first set, when you’re fresh and the weight is easier to handle. As you progress through your sets and reps, your grip may begin to fatigue. If that happens, switch to mixed grip.

Mixed Grip: When you switch to mixed grip, you will have one palm wrapped over the top of the bar and one palm wrapped underneath the bar. And don’t forget! Alternate your grip on each set. 

The barbell deadlift can change the game for you, like it did for me. Now step up, get braced, and get ready to grip and rip.

About JVB
Jennifer Vogelgesang Blake’s leggings might be pink but her weights aren’t. A personal trainer at The Movement Minneapolis she is a powerlifting coach and competitor with a passion for helping her clients discover and grow their strength, inside and out. She’s here to spread the good word that strong is empowering and because of that, really, really fun.

Unapologetically Powerful is finally HERE! 

Are you ready to become Unapologetically Powerful? If you’re even just a little bit interested in improving your back squat, bench press, and deadlift, and building lean, beautiful muscle, you’re going to love digging into this program.  

Unapologetically Powerful is your go-to resource to learning all about the “big three” lifts, and removes any intimidation from training for and competing, should you decide to, in the sport of powerlifting. 

Trainers Jen Sinkler and JVB have teamed up to provide you the answers to all of your powerlifting questions—and get you radically and unapologetically strong. Here’s what’s in the program:

  • A comprehensive training manual that includes Beginner and Early Intermediate 12-week powerlifting programs with a detailed introduction to biofeedback training. 
  • An extensive guide on how to compete for first-time powerlifters who want to step onto the platform. 
  • A complete exercise glossary with clear-cut written coaching cues and images. 
  • A MASSIVE video library of more than 140 exercise demonstration videos. Every movement in the program is in the video library, with detailed coaching cues to walk you through each exercise step by step. 
  • A revamped version of Lift Weights Faster geared specifically toward powerlifters!

Unapologetically Powerful is on sale for HALF OFF now through midnight Friday, December 11.  

For more info, click HERE

Monday, June 8, 2015

It's Not All Burgers and Cupcakes

It's Not All Burgers and Cupcakes 

Two weekends ago, we went tent camping for a three day dirt-biking adventure down at White Wash in Green River, Utah. Our campsite was 27 miles in off of the highway, and even back in town (I use that term very loosely) there wasn’t much more than an old gas station. 

White Wash, Green River, Utah, aka, Dirt Biking Heaven

I spent the day before we left doing something that I don’t usually do when I travel these days: 

I prepped food. 

I baked salmon and sweet potatoes, grilled up chicken and asparagus, and prepared spiraled zucchini with Tessa Mae's ranch sauce, and neatly packaged it all into tupperwares and ziploc baggies. (You're not living until you eat cold salmon out of a Ziploc bag at 7am) 

Hold up, Jen. 
Didn't you just tell us in this recent post on Girls Gone Strong that you ditched your tupperware?

Here’s the thing: context matters, with everything, always. 

While I no longer obsess about packing my food everywhere I go, I do understand that eating in a manner that supports a physique I love, as well as allowing me to perform my best, requires - just like with any good relationship - compromise

I travel frequently, and over the years I’ve figured out how to do so while navigating tricky eating situations so that it doesn’t derail me much. I have staple items that I always pack to fill in any gaps, and outside of those things I can always make do at restaurants. It may not be ideal, but traveling rarely is, and that’s okay; we simply do our best with what we have available, and then move on.

Riding a dirt bike - especially in the heat - is physically demanding. Plenty of endurance and energy are crucial for hours of riding, not to mention that it makes for a significantly more enjoyable experience. If I bog myself down with a bunch of junk food, I will inevitably feel horrible, and feeling sluggish and crappy brought on by poor food choices is never a good time. 

With all of that being said, you probably know from my social media that I don’t make any effort to hide the fact that I indulge as long as it’s…. 

Completely, Totally, Inarguably Worth It

I don’t just mean, “Oh, yeah, I guess that’s pretty good.” No, no. I mean that it has to blow my mind. 

It must be a holy-hell-this-is-Christmas-morning-for-my-taste-buds type of situation. 

Typical camping food doesn’t even come close to making my mouth dance with joy. Hot dogs, beer, potato chips - not even s’mores - are worth it for me. They are all so-so at best, and I will eagerly choose delicious grilled meats and veggies, and fresh fruit, over sub-par food any day of the week. 

Pro tip: if you take a bite and you aren’t sure it’s worth it, it’s not. Anything that isn’t a resounding yes, is a definite no. 

Give and Take

Another reason for my food packing extravaganza was that I knew I was coming to Vegas in 10 days, and Vegas has foods that rock my world. The filet at Botero at The Encore, the desserts at Bouchon in the Venetian and Palazzo, and the mojitos at Firefly - all shared with somebody that I care about, creating moments - now that is worth it. 

If you follow my work, you know that I can’t stand strict diets that tell people that they have to eat chicken and broccoli, or tilapia and asparagus. That isn’t necessary for outstanding results, and it’s making things much harder than they should be. 

But it can’t all be burgers and cupcakes, my friends. 

Sweet potato in one hand, chicken breast in the other. 

Is prepping food a pain? Yeah, kinda. I was pretty rushed the day before we left, and had a ton of things to do, but the 90 minutes that it took me to prepare everything was more than worth it. 

Knowing that I had plenty of delicious sustenance to power me through a rigorous weekend that nourished my body alleviated so much of the anxiety I would have had if I’d have gone unprepared and suffered the wrath (both physically and mentally) of eating garbage that doesn’t allow me to feel or look my very best. 

Sleep and Food Choices

I never sleep well when I camp. As a matter of fact, I sort of despise camping solely for this reason. Lack of sleep directly effects ghrelin and leptin (hunger hormones), and I know from experience that poor sleep is my nutrition kryptonite, always, every time, no contest. 

Jen + sleep deficit = poor food choices. 

Knowing that my sleep wouldn’t be optimal, and that I would be even more likely to dive into so-so junk foods, made an ever stronger case for me to make sure I brought plenty of foods I loved, but that were also in line with my goals.

Real Life Happens

I can not, and will not, spend all of my free time in the gym and eat out of tupperware for every meal. This is real life, and for me, that means that means embracing yes at every possible opportunity. I pack my life full of events, travel, adventure, and festivities, and this can make sound nutrition tricky, so sometimes we have to do a little planning. 

Constantly winging it, and hoping for the best, isn't an effective strategy. 

Even if you’re not currently seeking fat loss (and I’m not), it’s easy to get so wrapped up in the fun that even maintaining our current body composition can start to slip. 

We have to pick and choose our battles. If the food isn’t ridiculously delicious, I will pass every time, and if I know something is coming up (a trip to Vegas, a dinner at my favorite restaurant, etc etc) then I will stick to my guns a little more closely leading up to the event. 

Indulge sometimes but not all of the times, and be sure it’s worth it. If you're trying to maintain your current physique - and especially if you're trying to lose fat - you need to plan ahead. 

Besides, a little cooler full of tupperware here and there never hurt nobody. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Three Bears of Fitness: Getting It Juuuuuust Right

“The Three Bears” of Fitness

6am: teach Spin class
7am: teach yoga
Lunch break: 45 minute run
5pm: 60 minutes of weight lifting
6:30pm: 90 minute kickboxing class

Rinse, and repeat. 

This was my schedule, day in and day out when I was living in bright-lights, big-city Las Vegas. For years and years, I was grinding away, teaching up to 13 (!!!) group fitness classes a week, running on my lunch break, hitting the weights after work, and then icing all of that crazy off with a 90 minute, high-intensity kickboxing class with my girlfriends. 

I was tired. I was so effing tired all of the time. And the real kick in the pants? 

My body wasn't changing for the better. Quite the opposite, in fact. 

When my dear friend and on-staff Exercise Physiologist took my body fat, it had increased. Yep. Gone up. 

Amidst my workout madness, I was blasting away precious muscle mass, and still gaining fat, even though I was driving myself into the ground with exercise. 

Something had to change, and it finally did. 

If you follow my writing, you know that those days of working harder have long been replaced with days of working smarter

I am a huge advocate of the Minimum Effective Dose. If you aren't familiar with the theory, it basically says that we want to do the least possible in order to get the desired results. 

My good friend Jen Sinkler is totally on board with this theory as well, which is precisely what has helped her become one of the most well-rounded fit chicks in the biz. 

Jen is insanely strong (she boasts an incredible 320 lb squat, and 369 lb deadlift. Yowza!), however, unlike many that are viciously strong with the barbell, Jen's conditioning game is on point, which puts her at a serious advantage. 
It's one thing to be able to lift a barbell once or twice; it's another entirely to have the aerobic capacity to train with the amount of volume necessary to become even #strongrrrr. 

How, exactly, did Jen become so strong and so well conditioned? She is going to tell us all about it below, with an ode to a favorite childhood tale: The Three Bears

Take it away, Jen! 


Not too much. Not too little. Juuust right.

No, I’m not talking about porridge, even though the story of Goldilocks and three bears perfectly illustrates the idea that too much or too little of a good thing isn’t quite right. I’m talking about something far better than porridge: your fitness routine, and making sure you’re doing just the right amount of work required to get the results you’re looking for.

The rules, if you can call them that, are pretty simple: 
  1. Get enough sleep to feel rested and alert.
  2. Eat enough food to easily sustain the demands of your day.
  3. Move your body in a way that feels good to you and helps you achieve your performance and physique goals, should you have any. 

But, that’s not quite the end of the story.

Because the question is two-fold: First, what type of exercise is going to give you the most bang for your buck for the goals you desire in the time that you have? And secondly, how much of that exercise is enough, and won’t tip the scales into “too much” territory?

Not A Fairy Tale

Most of us, when we think of getting fitter, we want to achieve or maintain a healthy body composition, we want not to get winded chasing our kids or pets around the backyard, and we want to feel good. 

How to get there? Here’s what the research is telling us: High-intensity circuit training, performed at various levels of intensity consistently over a period of time, is superior to steady-state cardio when it comes to shedding fat, strengthening muscle, and improving our capacity to do work.

And it’s a fun way to train, in a twisted sort of way: You get to incorporate a wide variety of movements and equipment that challenge your body in every plane of movement for a duration lasting anywhere between 10 to 30 minutes. It’s fun and fast enough for those of us with limited time to spend in the gym. Here’s how to make it work for you.

The Biggest Bear 

I’m going to skip ahead and give you the moral of the story: Too much of a good thing is still too much. If you are constantly challenging your body to its very limits, you are setting yourself up for injury. You will also fail to recover between bouts of exercise. Your muscles won’t have time to repair themselves and emerge stronger than they were before. And if that doesn’t happen, the suck factor of your workouts is gonna be high. But how, exactly, do you know if you’ve gone too far? 

Turn your eye inward and take a closer look. Symptoms that can indicate overtraining include an elevated resting heart rate, difficulties sleeping, and an inability to focus on everyday tasks. Nagging aches and pains stemming from incomplete recovery, a hypervigilant focus on maintaining your exercise routine (whereby your self-worth is wrapped up in whether or not you trained), or a feeling of dread about your training sessions may also occur are signs to look out for, as well.  

If any of these symptoms sound familiar, it’s time to start making your exercise program work for you, not the other way around. Exercise can and should be fun! When you take a little time to experiment with what works best for your body and your schedule, it can feel almost like a fairy tale.

An Exercise Routine That’s Just Right — For You

Just like the bedtime story, it could take some trial and error to find the exercise routine that works best for you. You can work short, high-intensity circuit training into your schedule as few as two and as many as five sessions per week, depending how your body reacts, so it’s important to honestly assess yourself to figure out where you might fall on the spectrum.

If your nutrition is on point enough — meaning that whatever your diet looks like, it’s providing you with the fuel you need to get you through your day — you’re regularly getting quality sleep, your joints feel good, and your schedule allows your body adequate recovery time between exercise bouts, you may thrive on the higher end of the spectrum, providing you mix up the length and intensity of your sessions. If, however, you’re struggling with one of these key factors, give yourself permission to scale back a bit. Rest and recovery is not only good, it’s great! Most likely, workouts aren’t paying your bills, so there is no workout on the planet worth you running the risk of overtraining or getting injured. 

Remember, when life stress is high, your workouts need to be chill. Fewer, shorter, and less intense conditioning sessions paired with long walks, gentle yoga, and meditation are an excellent recipe for maintaining your fitness level while keeping your body, and your mind, in a positive, healthy balance. 

To reap the benefits that high-intensity circuit training has to offer, it’s important to recognize where your mind and body are at right now and adjust your workout schedule accordingly. Now doesn’t that sound like happily ever after? 

Happy Endings

If you’re looking for a program that’s just right for you, I’ve put together a mammoth 181-workout pick-and-choose library with plenty of options for pace and intensity called Lift Weights Faster 2. Complete with a full exercise glossary that includes written descriptions and photographic demonstrations of nearly 270 exercises (from classic moves to more unusual ones — the Jefferson deadlift, anyone?), a video library that includes coaching on 30 of the more technical lifts, 10 challenge-workout videos, plus a dynamic warm-up routine, I’ve combined my training and athletic experience with my long background in magazine publishing to create a clear-cut, easy-to-use resource that you’ll want to turn to all the time.  

Every workout is organized by the equipment you have available, how experienced you are as a lifter, and how much time you’ve got, with options that last anywhere from five up to 30 minutes. 

Lastly, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that I teamed up with my husband, David Dellanave, to create a strength program companion resource called Get Stronger Faster 2 to help you take your strength to the next level. This completes the total workout package and helps you get results, faster.

For more info, click HERE.   

You can Lift Weights Faster, too, by clicking HERE

Hurry, hurry, hurry! Today is the LAST DAY to get LWF2 for the discounted price! 
The price goes up TOMORROW! Don't wait! 

Click HERE to start lifting weights faster, today! 

Jen Sinkler is a longtime fitness writer for national magazines such as Women’s Health and Men’s Health. A former member of the U.S. national women’s rugby team, she currently trains clients at The Movement Minneapolis. Jen talks fitness, food, happy life and general health topics at her website,

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

I’m a Nutrition Coach, but I Refuse to Tell You (Exactly) What to Eat

12 Week Meal Plan 

Meal 1
5 egg whites
1/2 cup oats

Meal 2
4oz chicken
1/2 cup brown rice

Meal 3
4oz chicken 
4oz sweet potato

Meal 4
4oz tilapia

Meal 5
4oz cod

When you read the above, what is the first thing that comes to mind? 

I mean, aside from this:  

"Five spears of asparagus, how many times a day??"

The meal plan listed above is what many people envision when they think of a diet plan. Somehow, certain foods have become known by many as having magical fat-melting properties. Egg whites, protein powder, chicken, oats, sweet potato, brown rice, tilapia, cod, broccoli, and asparagus have developed a reputation as the only foods that will land you in Shredsville.

Spoiler: that is false. 

Yes, those foods will work in the right quantities, but it's not the only way, and it's certainly not an enjoyable or sustainable way for a long - or, really, any - period of time. 

Brace yourselves, my friends. I am about to lay down a cold, hard fact that will rattle the dieting world right down to it’s protein-powder-filled core:

There are no magical fat-loss properties in any single food item that some coaches are forcing down their clients’ throats.

Bodybuilding Folklore 
Years ago, I thought the above diet was The Only Way, too. As a matter of fact, the menu listed above looks nearly identical to the diet I followed for 18 weeks (!!!) for my first Figure show, and it’s extremely likely that most physique competitors have followed something incredibly similar. 

There is nothing inherently wrong with the foods listed above if you tolerate them well, and enjoy eating them - most of them are great, and nutritious! I’m also not arguing that eating those foods in the correct quantities for your body will get you leaner - they will. 

However, you don’t have to eat those foods in order to lose fat. It’s not the only way, and, I'll happily argue that there is a better way if you don't genuinely enjoy those items. 

You want to lose fat, but you hate cod and broccoli with a vengeance? No biggie. Eat something else. 
Eggs make you gag? No problem-o. Eat something else. 

I’ve had clients tell me that their past nutrition coaches have told them that there aren't substitutions for chicken. Chicken. Or oatmeal. OATMEAL

Riddle me this: What if you don’t have access to chicken or oatmeal? More importantly, what if you vehemently despise chicken or oatmeal? Or what if, like many people, oatmeal doesn’t digest well for you, making it miserable to eat? 

You’re supposed to - what - eat it anyways? 

No, no, no. 

“But, Jen, I thought I had to have protein powder post-workout because of it’s bioavailability?” 

If you like protein powder post-workout, then have it. However, if you don’t like it, or it upsets your stomach, or it doesn't satisfy you, or for whatever other reason it doesn’t totally float your boat, then eat real food that contains protein post-workout. Problem solved. 

I now interrupt this blog post with a short story:

A couple of years ago, I overheard a conversation between a trainer and his client at the gym, and the client was telling him that she hated protein shakes. She told him that the taste grossed her out, and she never found one that she liked. 
His response: "Well, you're just going to have to deal with it."


If you hate protein shakes, you don't drink them. For anybody. Ever. Also, fire that trainer immediately. 

“But, asparagus is a natural diuretic.” 

Groovy. You don't need a natural diuretic at several meals each and every single day, for 18 weeks straight. 
Or, at least, you shouldn’t

I understand that some coaches still do water manipulations with their physique clients during the final week of dieting leading up to a show. This is a topic that is worthy of a post all on it’s own, but even if you choose to take diuretics and eliminate some extra water for a show, you sure as hell do not need to start at 18 weeks out by scarfing down asparagus by the truckload. 
Some coaches are saying that it can not be kale, brussel sprouts, swiss chard, or any of the other beautiful, nutritious green vegetables that are available; it has to be asparagus.

Say what? 

I love asparagus, but if you force me to eat it several times per day for weeks on end, I will likely end up hating it, for eternity. I refuse to do that to myself, or any of my clients. 

I Won’t Tell You Exactly What to Eat

For years now, I have been running a very successful nutrition coaching company, and I’m going to unapologetically toot my own horn: I am really, really good at what I do. 

I am positively elated to have the opportunity to guide, coach, encourage, and cheer people to success in order for them to become healthier, happier, compete (powerlifting, weightlifting, physique competitions, and other sports), or change their body composition to boost their confidence. 

There is just one stipulation when it comes to my services: 

I don’t - and won’t - tell my clients exactly what to eat. 

I do not give food plans laid out like the one at the beginning of this article, telling them precisely which food to eat, and when. As a matter of fact, I’ll go so far as to say that I despise those types of plans, because they are removing, and therefore disabling, the client from the decision making process, which is crucial for their long-term success. 

Let me repeat that: specific diet plans that lay out exactly which foods a person needs to be eating, and when, is taking all of the power away from the client, leaving them totally dependent on the coach. 

The entire purpose of coaching is to guide and teach. A good coach gives the client the tools to succeed, guides them to make the decisions that will set them up for sustainable success, and then sets them free. 

Go Fish

It’s like that old saying, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” 

I’m all about teaching people how to fish. I help them figure out what works best for them, get them more in tune with how their body is reacting to certain things, we make the necessary changes, and it's magical. There is no requirement to scarf down 17 pounds of chicken per week, or a pallet of broccoli, nor cartons of egg whites. Everybody is happy. 

As much as I truly cherish every opportunity to work with each individual, I do not want my clients to need me forever. My goal is to set them up to thrive on their own. 

“Can’t You Just Tell Me What to Eat?”

Nope, and lemme tell you all of the reasons why not. 

First off, you are an adult, which means you should have an active role in the decision making process regarding which foods you put into your body. 

When I was younger, I remember sitting at the dinner table for hours while I stared at those cold, soggy little brussel sprouts, unexcused to leave the table until I finished them. I vowed that when I was an adult, I’d never eat those miserable mini-cabbages again! (Untrue. I love them now.) 

You endured many adolescent years being forced to eat whatever was prepared for you, now you get to call the shots. 

Good Food, Bad Food 
When we follow a strict and narrow list of specific food items, we start to develop unhealthy thought patterns in regards to those foods, even if it’s subconsciously. The foods that are allowed become the “good” or “clean” foods, and the foods that aren’t on the list are considered “bad” foods, which leads to unexplainable and irrational food phobias, like a fear of fruits, or white potatoes - both of which can have their place in a nutrition plan for fat loss. 

I could rattle off an insane number of foods that are both healthy, and conducive with fat loss. You are not relegated to a list of ten foods in order to get to your goals! 

When you are told what you have to eat, the first week will be fine. The second week will be tolerable. After that, however, it can start to seem like punishment. 

It’s almost lunchtime and you are hungry… until you realize that it’s the same old tilapia and broccoli again, which is the same thing that you have eaten the last 14 days in a row for lunch. Wah-waaaaah. 

You start to think mean thoughts about tilapia and broccoli. You realize that you may actually now hate tilapia and broccoli, which is a shame, because guess what’s for dinner?? 

Day in, and day out, for weeks a time.

Food sensitivities
Some people can develop food sensitivities if the same food is eaten over and over and over again. I developed food sensitivities to eggs, chicken, and almonds due to over-exposure because I ate an obscene amount of them over a couple of years. Variety is important. We need nutrients from a wide variety of sources. 

Of course, we all have our go-to meals and foods - I certainly do - but it’s one thing to eat them because we enjoy them. It’s another entirely to eat the same ten foods over and over again because somebody is forcing you to. 

Not only is food variety important for optimal health, but it helps ward off food boredom. Nothing will kill your ability to be consistent with a nutrition plan quite like being bored to death with the food that you are being forced to eat. 

Food Rules for a Nutrition Plan 

I hesitate to use the word ‘rules’, because I’ll be honest - I’m not usually a fan, but in this case, it’s justified. 

Availability, and Substitutions  
This is pretty self-explanatory. What you are going to eat needs to be available. If your plan says you must have chicken, and you don’t have any chicken available, that is going to be a problem. Your plan should have plenty of substitutions, so that you don’t find yourself stuck at a seafood restaurant, in a panic because they don’t have chicken breast, and that is the only thing your coach said will work. (Which again, is completely false and totally ridiculous, but I think I've made that clear by now) 

It Needs to Sound Good! 
We don’t always get to eat exactly what we want. If we did, I’d subsist off of filet, carrot cake, and whisky, but we all know that won’t cut it. However, whatever you are eating still needs to sound pretty dang appealing. 

It Needs to Taste Good! 
No doubt that you’ve seen somebody that is dieting sit down to a dry piece of meat that vaguely resembles chicken, and a big soggy pile of some unidentifiable green vegetable, and the look on their face screams killmenow

If I had to narrow it down to the one spot where people get tripped up the most when it comes to trying to make healthier food choices, it would be that their food doesn’t taste good. Eating the same crappy, boring, bland, unappealing food is setting you up for disaster. You’ll end up eating the food that you didn’t want to eat in the first place, and then you’re left unsatisifed. This, in turn, leaves you ravaging the cupboards for something that does sound good, or, you’re just pissed off. Neither situation is desirable. 

Choose Your Own Food

Food is not merely sustenance, and anybody that tells you that it is is either lying, or an automaton, and either way, be leery. 
Food is glorious! It’s fuel, but it’s also social. There is nothing to be ashamed about when it comes to truly enjoying it. 

If you are able to choose your own foods based on what you have available, and what sounds good, the chances of you staying on track are infinitely higher than having somebody dictate to you exactly what to eat. Additionally, this gives them all of the control, and that's not fair. It's your body, which means you make the choices of what you eat. 

Fat loss does not only come from chicken and broccoli, or cod and asparagus. There is a wide variety of beautiful, tasty, nutritious foods out there that are fantastic for health, performance, and fat loss. 

Learning to make solid choices on your own, and tuning in to how they make your body feel, the better your chances are for long-term success! 

If you are interested in my nutrition coaching services, you can contact me at