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Ask a Fitness Expert: “What Exercises Have You Dropped & What Do You Do Instead?”

author : Lisa Meyer on Monday, October 20, 2014 | 11:38 AM

Monday, October 20, 2014

As a group fitness instructor and certified personal trainer I make it a point to be not only aware of the latest health & fitness news but also realize when something I am teaching to my students that is not a beneficial as I previously thought.

For example: I used to have my bootcampers perform “Bear Crawls” in one direction and then come back with a “crab walks” thinking both worked the core differently.

However, I eventually realized that for most folks the crab walk puts unnecessary strain on the wrists & shoulders and does not mimic any possible life event so I stopped using them entirely.

I asked a few top personal trainers and fitness experts if they have ever stopped using an exercise with students and what they replace them with instead.

(Keep in mind that all the respondents emphasized that just about any exercise is in fact good for you. However, whatever workout you choose to do–make sure that it is best for YOUR body.)

Elizabeth Pongo of Pongo Power in Brooklyn

“One exercise that I was once a big advocate for was the Sumo Squat.   But in reality many people have a natural duck walk, and their toes already turn out.  This can be a function of tight IT bands and TFL, which runs down your leg on the outside.  Tight IT bands lead to knee pain!

You’ll get more bang for your buck building up to doing a single leg squat, ultimately! The single leg squat is proven to recruit the most muscle fiber deep inside your booty.”

Kelly Lee, trainer for

“I found that the crunch was virtually useless when I compared the benefits (results in strength, toning, etc.) and the “costs.” Crunches take too much time, require too many reps and can put a lot of strain on the neck.

Instead I now replace them with the following sequence:

1. Planks with variations

2. Jack knives or concentrated bicycles

3. Pikes on gliders, stability ball or using TRX suspension bands

All of the above exercises engage more muscles and work the core in a more dynamic way.”

Julz Arney of Julz

“As I learn from the latest research I evolve the way I perform some of my favorite moves to make them more effective.

For example, when holding a plank, I think about gripping the floor with my hands like I am trying to open a jar that is stuck; this helps engage more muscles of the back.”

Jen Ator Fitness Director of Women’s Health magazine

“I know longer do “girly” pushups (aka, modified pushups with knees on the ground) – these type of pushups work the muscles in your arms and shoulders, but they cut out most of the core activation.

It’s one of the big reasons you may be able to bang out tons of reps of pushups on your knees, but then still struggle to do more than a few reps of a regular pushup.

When my form starts to falter on regular pushups, I switch to eccentric pushups rather than going to my knees: Start in the standard pushup position, then lower yourself as slowly as possible to the floor. This builds strength throughout the entire range of motion and keeps your core engaged.”

Kelli Segars of Fitness Blender

“An exercise I no longer do, or do very infrequently, is steady state cardio; cardio at a completely steady pace is one of the slowest ways to burn calories and bring about changes in the body.

Instead, I’ve replaced longer duration, steady paced cardio with HIIT (short intervals of very intense activity, followed by a quick rest, and repeat) or total body strength training, to build metabolism boosting lean muscle.”

Suzanne Digre of Workout Nirvana

“Personally, I no longer do chin ups with palms facing in, because they put stress on the shoulder and elbow joints. I replaced these with neutral-grip pull ups (palms facing each other).

If you don’t have a neutral-grip bar, use a mixed grip (one hand facing out, one hand facing in) or both hands facing out. Or even better, use rings!”

Tony Gentilecore, C.S.C.S.

“Specificity serves as the umbrella for EVERYTHING.  Take a softball player for example and the amount of joint distraction forces that are placed on both the shoulder and elbow—it’s quite a lot.

Taking care of the shoulder (and elbow) is important when designing strength & conditioning programs for baseball players.  To that end, I’d steer clear of exercises that are going to place undue stress on the joints:  such as upright rows, dips, barbell bench press, and the like.”

Are there any exercises or workouts you no longer perform? What did you replace them with?
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How to Get the Perfect Top Knot

When it comes to hair, we’re into quick styles that work well and look great in a variety of settings. Settings, like, say … everything from a night on the town to yoga class. And nothing does that better than a top knot. Nothing.

In order to achieve the perfect top knot (it’s easy but there is a technique to it!), we got with NYC Cutler and Redken Stylist Jenny Balding. Jenny shows us — in just six quick and easy steps — how to get the perfect top knot in minutes for Be-YOU-tiful Week!

How to Achieve the Perfect Top Knot

1. For best results, start with day two hair onwards as your hair will be easier to manage with an already “lived -in” texture. Mist hair with dry shampoo, focusing primarily on the roots — this will give your hair more texture, grip and volume.
2. Then mist a light hairspray throughout for some hold and grip.
3. Sweep your hair into high ponytail. Keep checking what it looks like from your profile so you position your ponytail on the most flattering point of your head for your face shape.
4. Take the ponytail and back-brush from the underneath lightly — this creates a slight disheveled texture.
5. Sweep around the base of the ponytail and pin using U-shaped hairpins. These really anchor the hair best, which means you will only need two or three to secure.
6. This creates a perfectly disheveled top knot that looks ultra stylish and works for any event.
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3 Fun Ways to Wear the Hottest Fit Fashion Trend

Fit Fashion Trend to Try: Prints!

1. PrismSport Daisy Capri ($82). Daisies are the friendliest flower aren’t they? (If you get this movie reference, we need to get together for a slumber party, stat.) And we think these are the friendliest capris out there! Bright, cheery and fun, they’re sure to perk up your workout no matter time of year it is. Slimming with a mid-calf length and a wide waistband that’s comfy and flattering, we dig the seamless front, flat-lock seams and pocket that’s built in to the waistband for a key or credit card.

2. adidas Ultimate Fit Pant Printed Tights ($60). It’s the wave of the future with these tights. The fun cosmic kaleidoscopic print isn’t exactly shy, but paired with a solid dark top, it’s the perfectly balanced fit fashion trend. Besides the wave-of-the-future look, we dig the super soft and stretch fabric that’s great at wicking sweat away. Rubbing and chafing is reduced with flat-seam construction, and the waistband is lined in power mesh so they stay put. To infinity and beyond!

3. Threads 4 Thought Half Lotus Crop ($52). Feeling a bit more tribal? Go for this more Aztec-inspired print that’s made with a recycled polyester and spandex blend that feels super duper soft while wearing. Fitted with plenty of stretch, these are some of the comfiest yoga capris we’ve worn!
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I Blame Myself for Getting Skin Cancer

Young woman Relaxing in a pool
I know, it’s a very bold statement to make — to blame myself for cancer. Let me explain …
I’ve been going to the dermatologist for yearly check ups since I was a teenager. I’ve had a few moles removed, but they were all benign. My mom had a history of basil cell carcinoma, which I was aware of — that being why I started going. I went for a regular check up in January of 2014 and everything looked okay. Months went by and I noticed this mole on my right, upper arm that just didn’t look right. It was only about the size of a pencil eraser, but it’s appearance just kept changing so quickly.
This is what Melanoma can look like. This is the mole that I thought looked suspicious.
I just had this gut feeling that something was wrong, so I made an appointment. I went in and my dermatologist said it did look a little funny, so she recommended testing it.
A week went by and I hadn’t heard anything — I was beginning to get anxious, as normally they call back within a couple days. One day, I got out of the shower and had a voicemail and missed call. The voicemail was my dermatologists telling me to give her a call back as soon as possible. My stomach dropped. I knew, without her having to tell me, that I had skin cancer. Sure enough, I called her back and she let’s me know that I had Melanoma — the deadliest form of skin cancer. I wanted to cry, but at the same time, I took a giant breath and figured it was just a tiny mole, 1 mm. It could have been a lot worse if I waited any longer.
I was told surgery would be necessary to fully remove it, so I scheduled an appointment for two weeks later — the soonest they could get me in. I went in, sat down with the doctor and asked a few questions. He mentioned that he doesn’t see too many people as young as me with Melanoma. He also was curious about the white spots around the cancer, which you can see in the image below. It apparently is just skin damage from all the sun exposure — another reason to wear sunscreen. He then began to draw on me where the incision would be placed.
Day of surgery : July 23, 2014.
I was shocked at how big the incision was. I was expecting like quarter size! I said, “Uhhh … why do you have to take out so much?” He explained to me that they mark about 1 cm outside the mole, then three times the size of that to be sure to remove all of the cancer. As well, they must make a long incision to avoid what they call, “dog ears” (where the ends pucker up). He then told me I’d have to be a couch potato for a few days, avoid lifting anything for a few weeks, and for sure avoid exercise for a suggested six weeks. This is when I realized that it was a tad bigger deal than I initially thought. I had a workout class the next morning at 8 a.m. I planned on going to! I mean, yeah, I knew I’d be having surgery, but I didn’t know it’d be like that. It was a tiny mole!
I went in for surgery. I was under local anesthetic and looked away the whole time (although I could feel the pulling and tugging towards the end when they were stitching me up). The surgery took about an hour and then I was free to go, leaving with instructions on how to care for my 40 stitches.
The day after surgery.
Again, after the surgery, I pretty much couldn’t do anything. I spent over a month having my boyfriend, friends, family and everyone else carry my things for me as to avoid the stitches pulling out. It was not fun. It was the dog days of summer (which is my favorite season), and I was stuck hiding from the sun and avoiding any and all sleeveless shirts (as not to gross anyone out — including myself).
One following surgery.
One week following surgery.
Almost 3 weeks after surgery.
Almost three weeks after surgery.
The stitches were removed several weeks later, and a follow-up visit three months later took place (where I actually ended up having a suspicious mole on my back removed, but it was benign. Thank God!).
Right after the stitches were removed.
Here is my scar over about a 2 month period.
Here is my scar over about a two-month period after the stitches were removed.
So, now I’ll explain to you why I blame myself. I watch the news, I watch Dr. Oz, The Doctors, documentaries, read articles — I knew about skin cancer and I knew how to prevent it. I chose not to. Since I was 15 years old, I tanned in tanning beds. In high school, I would sometimes go twice a day. I was addicted. Once I got out of high school, I went about once a week, not including the many days lying out in the sun in the summer without sunscreen. It was just a part of my life.
Some of you may judge what I’m about to say, but I felt that being tan overruled the possibility of skin cancer. I knew I might get skin cancer; it was probable, but it wasn’t going to stop me. This actually wasn’t one of those cliche moments where I thought it would never happen to me. I knew it would probably happen to me.
I am 23 years old and now a “cancer survivor” — a survivor of a cancer I could have avoided. I now have to go see the dermatologists every three months for the next three years, then every six months after that. This is not over. I will spend the rest of my life knowing that it can and will likely come back. Everyone’s heard horror stories of melanoma, but the fact is, it’s not going to stop people. It didn’t stop me and my story probably won’t even stop many who read this.
The truth is, your skin is beautiful as is. I had to learn that the hard way. Like we’ve been saying this whole week on blog, the most attractive thing about a woman is being confident in her own skin. This was the first summer in years where I didn’t lay out at the pool on a weekly basis and the first fall where I didn’t tan in a tanning bed to maintain that summer glow. And guess what? I love my actual skin color. I forgot what it even looked like!
I am now stuck with a giant scar on my right arm. On my wedding day, that scar will be there for everyone to see and I am the only one to blame. I will be constantly be thinking about it everytime I wear a sleeveless top or a cute strapless dress for a night out. I am not ashamed of my scar, but let’s be honest, it’s not the most attractive thing in the world. People stare at it and I can tell they want to ask what happened. And if they do, I will be more than happy to answer. It’s a story every one needs to hear.
Not all cancers are preventable, of course, but mine was. So, please go see your dermatologists, ladies and gentlemen! Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the world. We try and eat healthy, exercise, take care of our hair, eyes, ears, but yet many of us don’t care of our biggest organ of all — our skin!
This is what my scar looks like three months later.
I know my story won’t affect many, as I had heard many stories that didn’t change my mind, but I hope that many of you will think twice about what’s really important life. Be smart and learn from others mistakes, so you don’t end up making them yourself
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Fitness Doesn’t “Look” a Certain Way

Do you guys remember those Choose Your Own Adventure books? The ones where you got to, page by page, make decisions and watch as the book’s plot took you here there and everywhere based on what you wanted to do? There was no right or wrong way to go — rather just what you wanted to do.

Well, I kind of see fitness that way. Hang with me here for a sec …

So often — and especially nowadays —  there are some strong opinions on what the ideal woman should look like (from this ridiculousness to the single-minded emphasis on muscles alone). And you get these messages from the web, social media memes, articles, friends and just, like, everywhere it seems. And, you know, that conveniently fits into the one-size-fits-all approach/magic-bullet to weight-loss and health: do this and you shall reap the benefits of everyone liking you and finding you attractive!

But, guys, it doesn’t work. (Hence, our, ahem, product plug, ahem, Anti-Diet.) And, it’s super duper limited.

I like to think of fitness instead as a Choose Your Own Adventure book. Your goal is to be active and healthy. And on your journey, you get to pick all the workouts and healthy foods YOU want to along the way. Some will work out. Some will suck. Some will get you results you love. Some won’t. Some will just be really fun and tasty. There’s no right way; there’s no wrong way. It’s all a part of your adventure!

Take for example us … I tend to like the intense stuff but am far, far from the fittest at my gym. Erin squeezes in what she can, when she can (and is a mean Zumba-er), Tish rocks bootcamp like a champ, and Kristen considers a swim, bike and run to be a fun time.

Is any of us more fit than one another? Nope. We all have our strengths and weaknesses — but that’s not the point. What is the point is that each of us are regularly getting our fitness on in a way that works for us — and, most importantly, that we enjoy. There’s no “fit” ideal we’re trying to stack up against or look like. We’re just doing what we do. And loving it.

So the next time you’re wishing you looked like this or feeling like you’re not fit because you can’t do a pull-up or run a half marathon, remember that fit doesn’t “look” a certain way at all. Fitness is about being active, and finding the joy in moving your body. So pick the activities you love, do them often and celebrate what your body can do for you. It’s not about all of those fitness trends and what the rest of the fitness world is saying — it’s about YOU!

What fitness adventure do you chose and what does it do for you and your body?
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