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The Swing: A Revolutionary Kettlebell Program – A Review

Posted on 07. May, 2012 by .


I haven’t really personally known a person who has lost a lot of weight besides the transformations I see on The Biggest Loser T.V. show. So, when I was asked if I can review the book, “The Swing,” by Tracy Reifkind, I just had to see just how much of a physical transformation she has accomplished. Her last name may be familiar to you if you’ve read my post, “My RKC Experience.” Yes, she is definitely Mark Reifkind’s wife. I have met Tracy a few times in the past when I was training with Mark and also at one of the Russian Kettlebell Certification (RKC) events I attended. I’ve also heard about her losing weight through swings but I didn’t realize just how much weight she lost.

A Background on Tracy Reifkind and “The Swing”

If we just look at the title, “The Swing,” we may think that this book is all about how to perform the kettlebell swing along with some workout programs. The book is about that but much more. It is also a book about Tracy’s journey of losing 120 pounds using kettlebell swings and emerging as a completely new person, both inside and out, at age 41.

During the few times I met Tracy, I didn’t have a clue just how much weight she lost. I wouldn’t have thought that this woman in front of me used to weigh 250 lbs because she is one of the fittest person I’ve met at those kettlebell events. At her heaviest, Tracy talked about reaching a point where she totally disconnected from her body. Instead, she used the false and temporary pleasure of overeating to soothe her even though she felt guilt and shame whenever she overate. She didn’t own a full-length mirror so she could avoid looking at her body.

Tracy’s extra weight was affecting her life so much that there were also when she would avoid talking to people while she’s running errands just so they didn’t see how much weight she’s gained since the last time they saw her. At the same time, she took a lot of effort to avoid getting her pictures taken at all costs.Her transformation began after having been at 250 for nearly ten years and one day, she knew it’s only a matter of time before her body starts to give in and she won’t be able to dodge the bullet anymore. Her first jump start came when six of her co-workers decided to do a weight loss challenge where every person wagered $100 per person for a total of $700 and whoever lost the most weight percentage wins the pot. Three (3) months and 50 lbs later, Tracy won the $700!

The Things I Like the Most About the Book

I won’t go into too many details about everything Tracy went through. You’re better off reading it directly from the book than having me paraphrase everything in this post. However, I do like to tell you about the one thing that surprised me about this book – it was the the kettlebell swing training program Tracy used. Having been a part of the RKC community for quite sometime, I thought I have seen and done many of the kettlebell swing workout programs. Before seeing this workout plan, I thought, “how can a person only use 1 kettlebell exercise when there are several to choose from?” The answer came once I saw the workout plan.

Tracy starts with one of the most detailed how-to kettlebell swing instructions I’ve seen in a book. But, what drew me the most was the simple way she teaches you how to determine your fitness level so you can figure out the level to which you should start your training and customize it. She calls them the On the Minute Workouts. After you’ve determined the right level for you, you can then go into the training phase where all the fun begins. She has created multiple variations of the swing workouts that last anywhere from 20-30 minutes just by combining 2-hand swings with 1 hand-swings in ways that looks like so much fun, it gets me so excited to want to try them myself.

Then…there’s the 2-minute set. Once you’ve gone through the training phase, you can advance your training even more by doing these 2-minute sets. Mark Reifkind explained it as getting the best of both anaerobic and earobic systems where you get just enough intensity to really develop muscles and just enough time to really tap into fat stores as well.

Of course, a book on physical transformation will not be complete without talking about nutrition. Tracy talks about some of the nutrition strategies that helped her with her transformation. She talks about anywhere from simple calories, to food journaling, to learning knife skills, to meal timing, and so on. Looking back to my own personal transformation, it was those things, some of the most basic but essential skills, that really made the difference for me as far as getting results and Tracy talks about all the nutrition skills and strategies necessary so the reader can reach his/her goals faster and more efficiently.

Who is “The Swing” For?

After reading the book, I have become an even stronger believer that the kettlebell can transform our bodies, our workouts, and our lives in a simple yet very effective way when combined with the right nutrition strategies. This book has re-inspired me to start using kettlebell exercises, especially the swing, in my workout routines as more of a required staple instead of just doing whichever kettlebell execise I felt like doing without any kind of plan. This book is more than just a diet book. It is also about developing the right mindset especially when you’ve tried every “diet program” out there only to get temporary results. It is also about inspiring the reader about what is possible when we focus our intentions towards a very important goal, health or otherwise. It does not matter whether you have less than 10 or over 100 pounds to lose, this book will give you all the tools you need in order to break free of whatever weight loss plateau and/or negative self-image you’ve created in your mind. Tracy’s story will inspire you to take action and her strategies will bring you success. Once you’re done reading, “The Swing,” you can also join Tracy’s Facebook community by going here. You may also follow her blog here.

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Limitless Movie: Is this Mind Drug Possible?

Limitless Movie: Is this Mind Drug Possible?

Posted on 29. Mar, 2011 by .


After seeing the latest Bradley Cooper movie, Limitless, in theaters this weekend, I could not shake it off my mind. I keep thinking “what if this drug really existed? What will happen to our society as we know it today? Is it even possible to access all our brain’s capacity?”

If you have not heard or seen Limitless yet, let me give you a little background. You’ve probably heard that we only use 20% of our brain. In this movie, a company created an experimental drug, called NZT-48, which will let you access 100% of your mind 30 seconds after ingesting the pill.

It was amazing seeing the possibilities a person can do when they’re “under the influence” of this pill – you can access information on virtually anything you’ve ever been exposed to in your life and this includes books you’ve read, t.v. shows you’ve seen, tutorials you’ve learned, etc. In other words, you become really smart and you become untouchable because you can absolutely get your way out of anything! Not to mention, you become rich and popular as a side effect.

So, back to reality, what can really happen if you have something like this at your disposal? It just so happened that I was re-reading the book, “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill which I’ve written a series of blog posts and videos about in the past and you can watch the first one here: Video Series 1: Thoughts are Things.

I’ve been heavily influenced by the teachings in this book and I have seen the power of it in my own life so I decided to read it again to review the concepts. Maybe it happened by chance but after putting the movie and the book together, I decided we can definitely find a way to access more than 20% of our brain. Movies like, “The Secret,” have talked about this although they do not necessarily discuss just how we can DO it in real life.

The power lies behind the subconscious mind. We mostly use our conscious mind everyday which is the 20% capacity you’ve heard before. However, the subconscious mind resides within our entire body. As said by a good friend of mine, Joseph Giove, who is also a Clinical Hypnotist, “when you engage the mighty subconscious, which is at least ten million times more powerful than your conscious mind, you engage 99.9+ percent of your capacity.” The good news is, everyone can have access to this power but you have to fully believe that using your subconscious mind to achieve whatever you wish is possible first. Failure to do that will bring you no results at all.

When you compare this to an iceberg, the tip represents you conscious mind and the rest which is hidden under the sea is your subconscious mind.


Here is a great quote that I read from Think and Grow Rich which summarizes what I’m talking about here beautifully:

“Man may become the master of himself, and of his environment, because he has the POWER TO INFLUENCE HIS SUBCONSCIOUS MIND, and through it, gain the cooperation of Infinite Intelligence.”

At this moment, you may dismiss the power of this sentence because it sounds too “out there.” Believe me, I felt the same way until I practiced accessing my subconscious mind each day and actually seeing my visions coming true in real life. It was mind-blowing when I realized what was happening but now I am a lifetime believer. In fact, many successful people do this and that who I am learning all this material from. Don’t make the mistake of dismissing the concepts I discuss here – this stuff really works!

How to Access Your Subconscious like NZT-48 in Limitless

Here is one simple way I’ve found to be very effective yet very easy to do. Look at your schedule at look for a time on each day that you are available for at least 15 minutes. For me, this is every night before bed time which I dubbed as my “quiet time.” During those 15 minutes, visualize a situation that you want to happen in real life. This can be the moment you get your long-awaited and well-deserved promotion, or finally freeing yourself from sugar cravings, or selling more products or services (if you’re in sales), or finishing a marathon, or finally fitting comfortably into those skinny jeans, etc. Whatever it is, think as if you’ve already achieved it and be specific in how the situation actually happens.

You’re going to want to think of the little details like who was involved, where you are, what the weather is like, how you come upon the situation, what you were wearing, etc. Essentially, you want to make it as real in your head and attach how you feel to it so your subconscious can start “believing” it. Do this repeatedly and you will see this situation materialize in your life in no time.

Realize that I was convinced that I need to write a post about this because I have seen its workings in my life. My only regret is I didn’t start practicing my visualizations earlier. But, now I do not ever take it for granted. On some nights when I just feel too tired, I force myself to do it because it is that powerful.

Back to the movie, Limitless, Bradley Cooper’s character, Eddie Morra, was able to write a book in 4 days, literally rises in popularity (not to mention riches) in the financial world in 10 days, and ultimately becoming president of the United States (at least from what’s alluded in the movie). The drug eventually got people sick and they died but Eddie Morra was the only one who figured out how to not die from it and become the perfect version of himself.

Accessing your subconscious mind can help you get close to the perfect version of yourself just without the side effects. Any changes you make on a conscious level is temporary, any changes you make with your subconscious is lasting and effortless.

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The Top 3 Arm Toning Exercises for Sexy Arms

The Top 3 Arm Toning Exercises for Sexy Arms

Posted on 17. Oct, 2010 by .


Lately, I have been obsessed at doing arm toning exercises. Well, maybe obsessed is not the right word. But let’s just say I have been focusing on doing them more during the past few weeks because I have been neglecting them from my previous workouts. Whenever I switch my goals to fat loss and start doing multi-joint movements like squats, lunges, military presses, etc, my arms are usually the last thing I think about in terms of training. To fix this, I do some arm toning exercises after my multi-joint exercises whenever I have time.

Before I move on with the topic at hand, I want to make sure you do not get the idea that simply doing these exercises on their own will help you get rid of your arm fat. You know what I’m talking about: it’s the fat that “jiggles” whenever you wave bye bye. The only solution to losing this area of fat is to lose weight overall. The same goes for belly fat and fat in other stubborn areas of our body. However, these arm exercises will make your arm muscles more visible as you lose weight. The result is a “toned look” for your arms just like you see in celebrities like Jada Pinkett Smith (picture), Jessica Biel, Courteney Cox, and Jennifer Aniston, just to name a few.


The Top 3 Arm Toning Exercises for Sexy Arms

Bicep Curls

Bicep curls are probably the most common exercise for toning the arms being that they are most prominent (not biggest) muscle of the arms. These are the muscles on the upper, front part of your arm. To perform this exercise, hold a dumbbell or a barbell in both hands with your arms straight and palms facing away from you. Slowly curl your arms towards your chest and slowly lower to starting position. The most common mistake in performing bicep curls is not concentrating on the lowering or negative part of the exercise. To get the maximum benefit from this exercise, do them as I described in this post. If you do not have access to the gym, you may use resistance bands in replacement of dumbbells or barbells.

There are other variations to bicep curls such as hammer curls where your palms are facing each other during the lift. This helps you target a different area of your biceps. You may also squeeze your curl at the top to get more muscle contractions from this exercise.

Deltoid Raises or Lateral Raises

The deltoid muscles are the muscles on the side of your upper arms that are shaped like a triangle (fyi, deltoid is greek for triangle). These muscles are smaller compared to your other arm muscles so you would not need a lot of weight to perform deltoid raises. In addition, because you are lifting the weights away from your body, you are losing leverage which will require lighter weights. Most women can start with 5 lb weights in each hand or the lightest resistance band. Men can start with 10 lb weights or higher depending on strength.

To perform lateral raises, hold a dumbbell or resistance band handles in each hand. If you’re using resistance bands, you will step on the band with one foot to hold the band in place. Start with your arms resting on your sides with palms facing toward your thighs. Lift your arms slowly towards shoulder level or until they are parallel to the ground. Slowly lower down your arms to starting position and repeat. You may also position your palms facing forward during deltoid raises to target a different part of your deltoid.

Triceps Extensions

The triceps are the muscles on the back area of your upper arm behind the biceps. Triceps exercises can be called many different names but all of them require extending the triceps. So, for the purpose of this article, we will call them triceps extensions. The most common way to perform triceps extensions is overhead while standing up or lying down on your back. To start, hold light dumbbells and extend arms overhead with your palms facing each other while standing or lying down. Slowly lower the weights behind your head being careful not to hit your head with the weights. Slowly go back to starting position and repeat.

You can also perform triceps extensions with ropes, cables or bands. For instance, most resistance bands come with a door attachment which you can place close to the top of a door hinge to create some distance between your hands and the other end of the band. Face the door and hold the band handles with palms facing each other. Your arms should make a 90 degree angle at your elbows. Pull down on the bands and lock your elbows to contract your triceps and slowly go back to starting position. This is one repetition. The same action can be done with ropes and cables.

Craig Ballatyne, creator of the popular and effective fat loss workouts, Turbulence Training, actually created a 3-minute Arm workout just for biceps and triceps. Craig designed this to be a short-workout to be done after your regular training. Here is and example:

  • To be done with 4 sets of 6 repetitions
  • Choose a weight you can normally lift for 8 repetiitions but only perform 6 reps
  • Bicep Curls – 6 reps at 1-0-1 tempo (lower 1 second, no pause, return to starting position for 1 second)
  • Tricep Extenstion – 6 reps at 1-0-1 tempo
  • Craig didn’t include this but you can add Deltoid Raises for 6 reps also at 1-0-1 tempo
  • Do not rest in between each exercises. Rest 1 min after all 3 exercises and repeat 3 more times for a total of 4 sets.

The first time you do these arm toning exercises, you may feel a little sore the next day or so. To avoid being to sore to the point that you can’t straighten your arm, make sure you stretch or foam roll the muscles you just trained.

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A Simple Stress Fix that Flattens Abs Too

A Simple Stress Fix that Flattens Abs Too

Posted on 26. Sep, 2010 by .


Photo by Mike Hoff

I started lifting weights because I knew that it will help me get stronger bones. As a woman, Osteoporosis is a big concern for me. I started working out because I wanted to lose the belly bulge. But, recently, I found out that there are lasting benefits to keeping our bodies moving when it comes to reducing stress.

First, let’s define what stress is and what it does to our bodies. Stress is basically the response we get when faced with overwhelming situations like work deadlines, money problems, relationship issues, etc. When we get into these and similar situations, our bodies respond by increasing the production of the hormone, cortisol, as a part of our fight or flight response. Normally, when the stress causing situation goes away, our bodies return to normal. But, the kind of stress we experience these days are usuall ongoing which keeps our Cortisol levels up for days.

What Stress is and What Cortisol Does to Us

When we have elevated Cortisol, we tend to store more fat in our abdominal area. I believe there was a drug that was being advertised on T.V. that was supposed to control Cortisol. Anyway, apart from that side effect that none of us really want, stress also causes us to develop unhealthy eating habits. I definitely recognize the times when I reach for something sweet or when I feel like “indulging” myself when I encounter stressful situations. Additionally, stress is also associated with some of the most common chronic diseases known to man.

Looking at Some Facts and Figures

Note: I got these figures from an article in Fitness Magazine.

  • 75% of people in the United States feel stressed out
  • Almost half of us eat unhealthfully because of it
  • 47% of us can’t sleep because of stress. I am definitely one of those sometimes.
  • It makes 1 in 3 of us depressed and for 42% of us, it has gotten worse in the last year.

How to Manage Stress and Keep it That Way

Most of us know that taking a few deep breaths during stressful times will help manage stress. But, the hormonal response when we’re stressed can be powerful that we don’t even think about this trick. So far, the latest scientific research reveals that exercise is the best remedy to stress. One study at Princeton put animals on a six-week aerobic conditioning program, then compared their brains with a group that remained sedentary. The scientists found that the brains of the animals who were exercising transformed into a biochemically calm state over time that stayed steady even when they were under stress. On the other hand, the sedentary animals’ brains continued to react strongly to anxiety-inducing situations.


[Looking at this Photo by Poonomo might also help with stress reduction]

The better news for me and other women (sorry men) out there is we naturally and hormonally handle stress better compared to men. To even out the playing field, we can all incorporate regular exercise to our lifestyle which changes our brain, so it takes more stress to trigger the fight or flight response (John Ratey, M.D., Harvard Medical School).

Dr. Ratey at the Harvard Medical School says that cardiovascular activity (which I assume exercise in general as well) helps the heart pump more blood to the brain. More blood means more oxygen and more oxygen means better nourished brain cells. The brain cells become more active and boosts the production of a protein called brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF fortifys our brain cells which prevents them from breaking when exposed to stress. BDNF actually helps preserve the brain cells we already have and helps make new ones. This is a great benefit in my book. This may even help us prevent Alzheimer’s Disease down the road – just my guess.

All these benefits sound too good to be true so what’s the catch? If our bodies become sedentary again, the brain cells shrink. So, to maintain the effects, you have to keep working out 🙂 The stress fighting power of exercise just gives me more reasons to hit the gym or the road (with my running shoes of course) more often. Besides, exercise makes me feel good and gives me the power to change how I’m feeling if I’m having a not-so great day. I’ve found that finding reasons like these to keep exercising helps keep me on track and fuel me to get my workouts in even on days when I don’t feel like it.

So, the next time you’re debating going to the gym, tell yourself, “I want to increase my stress fighting power today.”

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Do Food Allergies Prevent Weight Loss?

Do Food Allergies Prevent Weight Loss?

Posted on 06. Sep, 2010 by .


I’ve written about food allergies and sensitivities before in my blog. In fact, I even wrote about my elimination diet experience in this article, “What I’m Going to Do in the Next 30 Days.” Since my first round of elimination diet in 2009, I have since learned a lot more about food sensitivities and have been really fascinated as to how they occur and what we can do to avoid them. Ultimately, I was interested in finding out which types of foods causes digestion problems, health problems, and the inability to lose weight.


I got even more curious after a client of mine, Mary (not her real name), who was diagnosed with Celiac disease had trouble losing weight even after reporting to be eating fairly healthy, low calorie meals and working out with me twice a week for almost 8 weeks. I was baffled. After some research, I found a few facts about Celiac Disease from Here they are:

Celiac Disease (CD) is a lifelong inherited autoimmune condition affecting children and adults. When people with CD eat foods that contain gluten, it creates an immune-mediated toxic reaction that causes damage to the small intestine and does not allow food to be properly absorbed. Even small amounts (1/8 of a teaspoon) of gluten in foods can affect those with CD and cause health problems. Damage can occur to the small bowel even when there are no symptoms present.

Gluten is the common name for the proteins in specific grains that are harmful to persons with celiac disease. These proteins are found in ALL forms of wheat (including durum, semolina, spelt, kamut, einkorn and faro) and related grains rye, barley and triticale and MUST be eliminated.

Here is a list of foods (other than Gluten) which may cause food allergies:

  • Soy and Soy Products
  • Peanuts
  • Wheat/Gluten and gluten containing products
  • Dairy
  • Eggs
  • Alcohol
  • Coffee
  • Ingredients in most processed foods like preservatives

So, to help Mary out, I had her write a full week’s worth of meals so I can review them for her and eliminate the usual “suspects” that cause food allergies or food that may contain gluten. I did this because when people say they are eating healthy, it really is relative when it comes to food allergies. For instance, I might think that whole wheat bread is healthy but if I’m sensitive to gluten then, I would still get sick.

In Mary’s case, I found that she had been drinking her protein drink each morning which is made out of soy ingredients. Soy is one of the usual suspects when it comes to food allergies and sensitivities. I had her stop drinking it and she came in one day with a 1 lb weight loss. That is just from taking out the soy “drink” but we still have lots of work to do. After looking into her food diary in more detail, I found that she is still eating regular bread which has gluten, dairy products, ranch dressing, ice cream, crackers, and all sorts of cheeses. While I’m not implying that she may be allergic to dairy, it could be one of the causes of her food allergies. We will never know until she fully takes them out of her diet. Even after her medical tests have shown she’s not allergic to gluten, having celiac disease means she can not tolerate this protein which means that tests can only tell us so much. The real experiment happens in the real world when you stop eating allergy causing foods and start feeling better.

In my case, my little experiments told me that I’m sensitive to dairy and peanuts for sure. I now have switched my Whey protein to a Vegan protein powder that I truly love. I used to think that I’m sensitive to wheat/gluten because I used to eat my breads with peanut butter. Now I know for sure that it was the peanuts that was making me sick and bloated. Whether I’m sensitive to wheat or not still remains to be seen but to err on the side of caution, I let myself have gluten free days.

While I was researching my content for this article, I came across a blog by Alison St. Sure who was also diagnosed with Celiac disease. At her Sure Foods Living Blog, she wrote an article about, “Why are food allergies on the rise?”. If you want to see the answer to this question, you should head over to her blog and find out. I totally agree with her reasons #3 and #4.

What Do Food Allergies Have to Do with Weight Loss?

When we are allergic to certain things, our bodies treat them as toxins which in turn prevents our digestive system from working to its full potential. We end up storing toxins in our fat cells to keep them away from our vital organs which results to water retention. In addition, our ability to absorb nutrients from the foods we eat is impaired which may cause problems in other systems in our body. But, be aware that even if you are eating non-allergenic foods and/or gluten free foods, you may still not lose weight if you’re eating more calories that you are supposed to eat.

To gain more understanding on how common and real food allergies and sensivities are, watch this short video:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Regarding the above video, I agree with her when she defines the word “diet” as a way of eating and not a specific weight loss program that you do for a short period of time. However, I disagree when she says that eating gluten free is simply a fad. It may be a fad for some celebrities but for real people who experience discomfort and disease, it will be a way of life.

For people who have been diagnosed with Celiac Disease, here is a great book from The View Cohost, Elisabeth Hasselbeck which you can buy from => The G Free Diet. You can also check out her web site at

The Benefits from Eating Allergen-free Foods

Personally, I have experienced many unexpected benefits from eating allergen-free foods. I say unexpected because I originally was just experimenting with taking these foods out of my diet and seeing if I will lose weight. To my surprise, I also experienced increased sex drive (too personal I know but it’s a very important breakthrough for me), less hunger, no more cravings, deeper and more relaxing sleep, less bloating and water retention, fitting into clothes better, a few pounds of weight lost, better smelling breath even with dry mouth, a real feeling of wellness, etc. I can go on and on about all the benefits I have experienced and this is also why I am writing about this topic. I want to share my experience with you hoping you will try it and experience the benefits yourself.

For more information on eating gluten free or living with celiac disease, you may visit the resources I’ve mentioned above which I also list here:

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More Ways to Perform Intermittent Fasting

More Ways to Perform Intermittent Fasting

Posted on 25. Jul, 2010 by .


Since I have read the e-book, Eat Stop Eat (ESE) by Brad Pilon, a couple of years ago, fasting has become a majorly accepted way to lose stubborn fat in the fitness industry. This can be due to the fact that a lot of people have seen how effective it is in terms of losing weight even though your diet is less than perfect. If you haven’t heard of Eat Stop Eat, here is a little background for you in this article: Fasting for Weight Loss: Unravelling the Controversy. The article talks about how I first came about fasting and my experience and results from applying it.


Since I wrote that article, fasting has become a way of life for me. It has given me freedom from obsessive-compulsive eating and counting each calorie that goes through my mouth. But, do not get me wrong. I still pay attention to what I eat and I eat fairly healthily but I find comfort in the fact that I can still occasionally enjoy not-so-healthy foods every now and then and not put my health and fitness progress to a screeching halt.

I originally started with two 24-hour fasts as outlined in Eat Stop Eat. But, I find that during the winter months, I get really cold and my body can not tolerate this long of a fast. The longer fasts works well for me during the summer as I stay nice and cool even though it’s 100 degrees outside. So, in my quest to keep up with my fasting during the winter months or have an alternative choice when I do not want to do 24-hour fasts, I searched other fitness blogs for an answer. I was fortunate to find two very well-researched and applied blogs that talk about different ways to perform intermittent fasting.


Other Fasting Protocols

The first one is the IF Life by Mike O’Donnell. Mike has been an experienced fitness blogger who has been advocating fasting for as long as Eat Stop Eat was released (just getting this from memory but he has been blogging for quite sometime and has quite a following). Just like Brad, Mike tells you about the benefits of fasting and outlines a few ways that you can do a fast. You can get his free-report here: IF Life Free Report and read it for more information. Mike is also known for calling this strategy intermittent feeding as fasting may turn off some people when they hear it for the first time.

The second one that I found was from fellow fitness blogger, Martin Berkhan, at I like Martin’s site because he specifically outlines the ways that you can fast based on what time of day you workout. For instance, I am currently following his early morning, fasted training protocol where I take Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) 3 times in the morning before a workout, several minutes post-workout, and 2 hours after that. I then eat my biggest meal at noon and eat during my 6-hour feeding window. Please note that Martin recommended an 8-hour feeding window but since I only eat about 1500 calories, I can eat during these 6 hours, feel satisfied, and have a longer fasting window. I also sleep fairly early so eating my last meal at 6 p.m. helps me sleep better at night without the disturbance of digestion during my sleep.

If you’re interested in other ways to fast besides the Eat Stop Eat way, you can read Martin’s post here: Lean Gains Guide. In this page, he talks about how you can include fasting if you workout in the morning, at noon, and in the afternoon. He also talks about how you should distribute your macronutrients between meals and during workout days.

I have been doing a 6-hour feeding window for 3 weeks now and I have to say that it has been working very well for me. I do not see a decrease in strength at the gym and the shorter fasting window is a bit more manageable especially with my busy schedule. My husband asked me the other day what I’ve been doing differently because he’s noticed the changes in my body already and I said – just the way I fast.

To me, if you can do something consistently over time with fewer rules, the more likely I’ll be able to stick to it for the long run. This is definitely the key to programs like Eat Stop Eat and other ways of fasting. They have helped me get the benefits of fasting such as increase insulin sensitivity (less prone to diabetes), increase fat burning in stubborn areas, increase in growth hormone (favors fat burning and preserves muscle mass) and much more. At the same time, I am able to stick to a long-term nutrition plan instead of a fad diet that is difficult to follow and not recommended to be used for long periods of time.

If you haven’t ventured into the intermittent fasting world, I suggest you start looking at it and find out how you can incorporate it into your lifestyle. But, be aware that this is not one of those “diets” that promise to help you lose weight fast (which is a too good to be true claim anyway). Intermittent fasting will give you a way to continually better your health and constantly reduce stubborn areas of fat when you follow it consistently.

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5 Running Alternatives for People with Knee Problems

5 Running Alternatives for People with Knee Problems

Posted on 11. Jul, 2010 by .


As a fitness trainer who trains people with different backgrounds and walks of life, I have to be able to modify exercises in varying situations. A common issue that I see in a lot of my current clients is having knee problems due to past injury, arthritis, and other causes. Due to these issues, they can not perform certain exercises like running or jumping because either it hurts their knees or it would just be a bad idea because doing those exercises can aggravate the issues they’re already having.

So, I’ve compiled 5 different options that you can do if you are one of those people who do not want to further worsen your knee problems. This article can also help those people who are looking for an alternative to running which we all should do to avoid overuse injuries.

Alternative #1: The Rowing Machine

The rowing machine is the first one on this list because it provides a great, total body cardiovascular exercise and helps burn a ton of calories without causing knee joint problems later on. Because you are using mostly your upper body in this exercise, it is considered a low impact exercise. Many women can also benefit to switching to rowing instead of running because it helps increase your upper body strength which many women fitness begginers seem to lack. Plus, it will help give you a nice, toned look to your back when you wear back baring tops during the summer.


The rowing machines are usually empty when I go to the gym which is another benefit to using them – easy access. If you would rather use it at home, there are many simple and cheap rowing machines available in the market.

Alternative #2: The Stairmaster

Depending on what your knee problems are, the stairmaster provides simiar cardiovascular benefits compared to the treadmill if not better. However, some people may have trouble using these machines because of the angle that it puts your knees in during the stair climb. Even if it is low impact, make sure that your knees will fair well when you step up to each stair step. When in doubt, avoid using it.

For those people who can use the stairmaster, you can do interval training on it by varying time and intensity which is far easier to manipulate compared to the treadmill.

Alternative #3: Kettlebell Swings

I would have put this on #1 if not for the proper skills you will need in learning this movement. Kettlebells swings may seem so easy to do but a lot of people tend to have a difficult time executing this exercise properly even with proper instructions. It takes a few sessions with a certified kettlebell instructor and enough practice on your own to get this movement right.

Once you know how to properly perform kettlebell swings, you can get an amazing cardiovascular workout with one kettlebell in as little as 20 minutes a day. In addition to strengthening your core and your back, swings can also give your butt a nice, toned, lifted look that a lot of us are after. This exercise puts little to no impact on your knees and almost anyone can perform this exercise.

Alternative #4: Stationary Bikes

There are a few types of bikes that can be found at your local gym. These can range from stationary, upright, or indoor cycling bikes. Which one you choose depends on the angle that your knees can take. One thing you also have to keep in mind is the position of your back when sitting on the bike. The indoor cycling bikes, the ones that are used for spinning classes, are probably the ones that best mimic biking outdoors because of the many settings you can use to change your intensity. The stationary bikes provides the most back support because you can sit on it as if you’re sitting on a regular chair.


[A typical indoor cycling bike. Photo by Global Fitness]

One thing to note is you can still perform high and low intensity intervals on whichever bike you choose. Again, these are great low impact alternatives compared to running which helps your joints last longer.

Alternative #5: Walking Uphill

If you do not care to buy fancy equipment and you can not run, walking uphill beats walking on level ground. By walking uphill, you can increase strength in your lower body as it provides some resistance as you walk while also giving your heart enough challenge to give you cardiovascular fitness. You can do interval style training by walking uphill for the high intensity part and then walking downhill for your recovery period part of the workout.

As you can see, there are many options available to you even if you have bad knees. It is just a matter of finding what works for your specific situation. In the future, I will discuss exercise modifications for people with knee issues.

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Do You Know or Care Where Your Food Comes From?

Do You Know or Care Where Your Food Comes From?

Posted on 04. Jul, 2010 by .


Last night, I saw a documentary called, “Food Inc.,” which investigates where our food comes from, how it’s treated, how the worker’s are treated, and who controls the majority of our food supply. The movie starts by mentioning that the average supermarket contains about 47,000 different food items and yet the food industry controls 80% of the market and is mainly composed of 4 key companies which are Cargill, Swift, Tyson, and National Beef. I was startled!


The film talks about how these big food companies treat their animals and workers inhumanely. The creator and author of the movie and the book, Nick Schlosser, also talk about how there are not many farms anymore. Instead our food comes from factories even if the labels say “farm” or has picture of a graising cow on it. These factories have become so efficient in producing cheap food that is produced in half the time it used to take to make it during the 1970s. As a result of this “efficiency,” the workers, animals, and the environment suffer the consequences. There is not enough room for the animals to grow and live comfortably. The workers are overworked, underpaid, and recruited from foreign countries to work in the U.S. illegally only to be sent back when the immigration department cracks down on them. Contaminated water from meat plants run off into farm land which in turn contaminates plant crops with the deadly E.coli bacteria strain O157:H7.

Here is trailer of the movie so you can have a better idea of what this movie is about:

The one thing that did stick with me was a story about a family who was left to buy cheap, fast food over healthier options because of poverty. In reality, pre-packaged foods are cheap because they are mass produced and the manufacturers have cut corners somewhere else. The father who suffers all sorts of illnesses due to eating unhealthily takes so many expensive medications that his family was even more forced to eat poorly. I thought to myself, “how ironic.” I realized that cheap, junk food is not really cheap when you take into account the environmental and health costs we incur in the long run. This is one reason I do not have a problem paying for healthy foods, I see it as an investment so that I do not have to pay for medical bills later on when I age.

There many other issues discussed in the movie which I would not talk about in this post. Instead, I want to focus on the actions you and I can take immediately. As I was watching the movie, I sort of felt hopeless at the beginning. I was asking myself, “what do I do now? Do I stop eating meat? Do I do this or do I do that?” But, the documentary had a clear message in the end. We as consumers have the power to demand good quality food from these big food companies with every purchase!

Here are more steps you can take to take this power back (taken from the end of Food Inc.):

  • Buy from companies that treat workers, animals, and the environment with respect.
  • When you go to the supermarket, choose foods that are in season. Buy foods that are organic. Know what’s in your food. Read labels.
  • Know what you buy. The average meal travels 1500 miles from the farm to the supermarket.
  • Buy foods that are grown locally.
  • Shop at farmer’s markets.
  • Plant a garden. (Even a small one)
  • Cook a meal with your family and eat together.
  • Everyone has a right to healthy food.
  • Make sure your farmer’s market accepts food stamps.
  • Ask your school board to provide healthy school lunches.
  • The FDA and the USDA are supposed to protect you and your family. Tell Congress to enforce food safety standards and re-introduce Kevin’s Law. For more information on Kevin’s law and to support the bill, click here:
  • If you say grace, ask for food that will keep us, and the planet healthy.

You can change the world with every bite.

For more steps to change how our food is prepared and delivered to our dinner tables, please visit You can also find the 10 steps you can take to help change our food system here:

You can help re-authorize the Child Nutrition act by signing the petition at

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Creating Workouts for Women

Creating Workouts for Women

Posted on 20. Jun, 2010 by .


As I read fitness advice on the internet and in magazines, I noticed that a lot of workouts for women are made by men. As we all know, women are physiologically and physically different from men not to mention mentally but that’s a totally different article…lol. So, I decided to write a post about how women should workout and how the workouts can be designed to benefit a woman’s physiology based on my experience on myself and training other women.


First, I’d like to address the fact that you can not target train a specific body part to make it smaller. I know that if you’re an avid reader of my blog, you would know this already but it’s a fact worth mentioning many times. A lot of the women I meet ask me what they can do to lose their belly fat. My answer is to lose weight throughout your whole body. Unfortunately, we can’t choose where the fat comes off. Where you lose weight first will depend on your genetics and body type. If you’re pear-shaped which means you carry your weight mostly on your hips, thighs, and buttocks these areas will be the last to go. The same thing goes for women with an apple-shaped body who carry their weight mostly on their upper body. In other words, your body type will dictate how you will end up looking. This is also the reason a lot of women have different problem areas. Luckily, you can train specific parts to be bigger so you get a more-proportioned, pleasing look.

Training to Get a More Proportioned Look

Instead of giving a workout prescription for each body type, I want to give you some ideas on how to get your body more proportioned so you can create your own workout. The key to getting the more proportioned look is to figure out where you carry your weight the most. For instance, when I was heavier, I carried my weight on my thighs, hips, and buttocks which makes me pear-shaped. When I gained even more weight, the next area it shows up is on my abdominal area. Once I lost the weight, my lower body still looked bigger than my upper body.

There’s a way to look more proportioned. In my case, I fixed my unproportioned look by lifting heavier weights for my upper body. I did chin ups, pull ups, chest presses, deltoid raises, back rows, etc. to gain a bit more mass in those areas. Most of my training for my legs nowadays will only be done with high intensity intervals training on the treadmill or the upright bike or kettlebell swings. Even though I used to lift heavier weights for squats and lunges, I try not to do them anymore as my hips and thighs already look naturally bigger than my upper body.

Women beginners who still have a good amount of weight to lose will do well on a workout program that involves basic, compound lifts like squats, lunges, deadlifts, pushups, planks, rows, military press, etc. The repetition range should be around 8-12 repetitions of 2-3 sets. These type of lifts and repetition scheme will give you a big boost in metabolism without spending too much time in the gym. In terms of cardio, 2-3 times of high intensity interval training a week would be enough. In a nutshell, women in this category should work on losing weight overall first by doing full body workouts.


[Photo by]

Women who have less than 15 pounds to lose can be a little bit more specific in their training. This is the point where you can now try to target specific body parts so you can make your “look” more proportioned. For example, an apple-shaped woman who carries her weight on her upper arms, chest, and shoulders, can lift more heavily when it comes to doing her lower body strength training exercises. The key to keep in mind is this: making other areas of your body bigger, will make the bigger areas look smaller. when it comes to cardio, 2-3 times a week of high intensity intervals combined with 30 minutes of very light activity such as walking twice a week will work well for this group.

When I say “bigger,” it means that you will see a bit more mass in those specific areas but it does not mean that you will gain muscle quickly. Gaining muscle is actually difficult for women and most of the time we need to eat a little bit more to gain muscle especially because our hormones do not favor muscle growth as much as men’s hormonal mix does. If you’re still afraid of gaining some sexy muscles, read this article that I wrote about Jessica Biel.

Lastly, while I encourage each and every woman to have a model to look up to for inspiration, I also encourage you to be realistic about your expectations. Because your body shape does dictate your end result, you can not end up looking like Kim Kardashian who most likely has an hour-glass shape if you are pear-shaped. But, you can get really close to a certain look, the closer you get to your ideal weight by applying these tips to get more proportioned.

If you have any questions or comments aboout this post, please feel free to leave them below.

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Measuring Progress During Weight Loss: Frequency and Accuracy

Measuring Progress During Weight Loss: Frequency and Accuracy

Posted on 14. Jun, 2010 by .


There has been a time when I have gotten used to the habit of weighing myself everyday. I thought that it helped me stay focused on my goals and stay on track. What I didn’t know was, it was actually doing the exact opposite. Weighing myself daily was a big mistake and one that I weaned myself from doing because weight just naturally fluctuates daily. As a result, my mood will be affected by the number on the weighing scale and it will set off a series of events that eventually lead to self-sabotage. So, I have come up with a system to keep track of my progress which helps me consistently and accurately track my progress without the consequence of self-sabotage later.

waist measurement

I have a set amount of time for each type of measurement. For instance, I weigh myself once a week and get my girth and body fat measurements taken every two weeks. If you like pictures, take them every four weeks. But, it does not stop there. I do a few things to keep my measurements consistent and accurate.

Tip #1 Keep Variables the Same

In terms of the weighing scale, I try to keep a lot of variables the same. This means that I weight myself on the same scale, on the same day of the week, and on the same time of the day under similar circumstances. For instance, I always use my bathroom scale and I weigh myself as soon as I wake up every Sunday morning before I eat breakfast. Because we are creatures of habit, we most likely do similar things on each day of the week in terms of what we eat, what we do, etc. So, keeping all 3 variables as consistent as possible will help us get a more accurate weight reading.

Tip #2 Reduce Operator and Tool Error

When getting your girth and body fat measurements, make sure that you are using the same tools that you used for your original measurements. If you used your yellow measuring tape and your white body fat caliper for your first measurement, use these same ones for your next set of measurements 2 weeks down the road. More importantly, the person who measures you matters a lot. Each person will use and handle measurement tools differently so to increase the accuracy of your measurements, make sure that you have the same person measure you all the time. I taught my husband how to measure my girth and body fat so that he’s my go to person when it comes to measurements. If you go to the gym, make sure you ask for the same personal trainer or customer service person each time you get your measurement.

One last thing to remember when it comes to girth and body fat measurements, make sure that you get measured at the same spots or close to them. For example, if you get 3 abdominal measurements, one above and one below your belly button, try to measure a specific spot such as 2 inches above and 2 inches below the belly button. Additionally, take the extra step to mark the exact spot before you measure.

Tip #3 Get the Big Picture

My best form of progress so far is taking before and after pictures. You can take this step further by taking progress pictures every four weeks. Photos give you the big picture of the things that you have not noticed or what measurements can not tell you. For instance, you can really see changes changes in the way your ab area looks and how your skin protrudes on the back from clothing impingements like bras or shorts when you take a picture. You can take this another step further by having jeans that are one to two sizes smaller than you currently are and trying them on every 2-4 weeks.

Some people might think that measuring progress is very tedious but it is a must thing to do especially if you’re serious about getting results. Measurements give us the feedback we need to tell us if the things we’ve been doing are working to move us toward our fitness goals or if they aren’t. Once you see the you are moving in the right direction, you can then keep doing the things you’ve been doing that got you there. But, if you haven’t changed or moved away from your goal then, it’s time to look for another workout program or alter your nutrition plan. Exercise and nutrition takes some trial and error. So, if you do not know what’s working or what’s not working, you wouldn’t know what to change. Like Alwyn Cosgrove once said, “If you’re not assessing, you’re just guessing.”

If you or the person measuring you needs to learn how to take body fat measurements, read this article on, “How to Measure Body Fat.” The article includes a document download with a step by step detail on the subject.

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