Happy, Healthy, Harder to Kill

One of the things that is vital to us at Size Strong is that fitness should be something you deeply enjoy. While we will always be sharing things that we love to do and suggesting workouts to try, we do not believe that we know what’s best for you to do — because what’s best for you to do has to be something that you love (or at least really like) to do.

Obviously, I love yoga (and on some level I do believe that everyone should do yoga, because it’s sort of adaptable and malleable and about breathing and becoming more yourself — but more on that another day). The other thing that I love is Krav Maga.

For those who are not familiar with it, Krav Maga is a form of self-defense training developed by the Israeli military. It incorporates techniques from a variety of martial arts and focuses on real-life situations. Lina and I started going together in Chicago about a year and a half ago, and my first order of business upon moving to New York (before I even moved, actually) was to find a place to train. I took some time to think about what it really is that I love about Krav Maga, and I think these are things that you should get from whatever form of exercise it is that you choose to do.

It makes me feel capable.
There’s something special about a workout that teaches you functional skills. I’ve done other things where I leave sweaty, I leave happy, I leave more peaceful (and they’re all great!)… but what I love about Krav is that I leave feeling like I’ve learned to do something. That’s powerful stuff.

It pushes me.
Krav is the hardest workout I’ve ever done. Punching, kicking, and grappling are exhausting, and part of the point of training is to teach you to fight when you’re tired. After all, you aren’t going to get attacked on the street in the perfect workout outfit after a light warm-up — you need to learn reaction and perseverance in the least desirable of circumstances. In every class, there’s always a moment (or five) where I feel like I might keel over… and I love it.

It makes me more aware.
When it comes down to it, fitness is a part of life. It shouldn’t be something that is totally separate compartment — the best fitness informs who we are and how we exist in our lives. Since starting Krav, I’m a more aware person and a more careful person. I don’t walk around with my hands in my pockets. I pay attention to my surroundings. At night, I choose the train cars with the most people and walk the most well-lit streets with open shops. Where yoga has given me more awareness of body, Krav has given me more awareness of the world. Both make me a stronger, better me.

Here’s to being happy, healthy, and (slightly) harder to kill!

Today Matters Most

For many of those around me right now (including myself) stress is running the show. We are stressed, overwhelmed, frustrated, tired – and we’re definitely not getting enough sunshine and Vitamin D. Every time I get up in arms and start feeling like i’m treading water and behind on all my tasks and life goals I try to remind myself to take a deep breath and settle. When we start reminding ourselves that we are the ones in control of our happiness, we  can proactively work to shift our habitual moods and therefore get the most out of each and every day. If I acknowledge my stress, my whiny attitude, my personal cloud of doom I can CHOOSE to change my perspective in that moment and start again from a place of calm, strength, and happiness.

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I don’ t know about you, but the quote in the photo above really struck a chord with me today. It’s a reminder that each DAY is a new chance, we don’t have to wait until next week or next year, we can begin again right now! What we do in each an every present moment can be so powerful, important, and exciting!

So stop resolving to make changes starting next week or next month. Stop putting off your happiness until tomorrow. Find the joy in each new moment, find your strength in each new moment, find your POWER in each new moment. Now matters, you matter – so lets start making choices and decisions that matter NOW.

Finish out the rest of your week with positivity and strength!

Up & Down & Side to Side – A #SSSW

It’s Friday friends and we’ve got a Short, Sweet, & Sweaty Workout (SSSW) for you! I took some trainer friends of mine through this quick, efficient routine last Friday and boy, my hammies weren’t right for a few days. This workout incorporates strength training, plyometrics, and focuses on the hamstrings, glutes, quads, and core stability. If you’re doing it right you might also feel your lats the next day 😉

Up & Down & Side to Side – Part 1 of our Short, Sweet, & Sweaty Workout Series!

Repeat the Entire Series below 4 times through

Deadlift

10 Deadlifts at about 60% of your max

Focus on driving through the heels and standing the weight straight up without allowing any curves in the spine. Squeeze your glutes together at the top each time. Try to find a rhythm to work at without stop through the 10 reps

Slalom Jumps

20 Slalom Jumps over a hurdle

Each jump counts as 1. Jump side to side from to feet and land on two feet. Try to string these jumps together as quickly and explosively as you can! If you don’t have an actual hurdle, use a sweatshirt or an imaginary one – the point is lift your legs high enough and a hurdle is great reminder of that

Banded Good Mornings

20 Banded Good Mornings

Get a resistance band. bring it around your upper traps and either stand on the ends (if it’s a strap), or on the bottom (if it’s a loop). Unlock the knees and hinge forward at the waist bowing like a first grader in the Christmas Pageant. Drive through the heels and stand all the way up squeezing your glutes together at the top

Looking for a fun cash-out prize at the end of this workout? Perform a round of Tabata Russian Kettle Bell swings. Be sure to stop at shoulder height and keep the glutes and core tight at the top!

WORKOUT RECAP

4 Rounds

10 Deadlifts at 60% of Max

20 Slalom Jumps

20 Banded Good Mornings

Cash-Out – Tabata Kettle Bell swings

Enjoy the up and downs and side to sides this workout has to offer and tag us in your post if you try it out! Add #SSSW so we know you tried this Short, Sweet, & Sweaty Workout!

We Have a Dream

We have a dream.

That we will help women everywhere learn to be happy, secure, and comfortable in their own skin.
That our society will become one that rewards strength and accomplishment over physical attributes.
That girls will be raised to love real food and view it as nourishment and to love moving their bodies and view it as joy; rather than approaching food with guilt and exercise with obligation.
That we will never tie our self worth to a number on the scale or the size of a pair of jeans.
That we will stop comparing our bodies and our abilities to the other people’s totally different bodies and abilities.
That we will always offer support and encouragement, not judgment and scorn.
That we will cut ourselves some slack when we need it most.
That we will arm ourselves with knowledge and surround ourselves with inspiration.
That we will leave a legacy of acceptance.
Of happiness.
Of strength.

We have a dream.

Better Your Vinyasas

Going through yoga teacher training has done a lot more than improve my yoga skills (which are a never-ending work in progress). The greatest thing I’ve gained so far is a heightened awareness of my body and its proper and natural alignment — how it should feel, where I should be getting stronger, and very importantly, what I do incorrectly to compensate for a lack of strength. One of the main places where this was happening (like, all the time, because we do them all the time) is in my vinyasas.

The word “vinyasa” in Sanskrit actually just means “movement; placement of limbs”, but it has evolved to describe both a type of practice and a specific series of movements: high plank — chaturanga — upward facing dog — downward facing dog. It’s this last definition that I want to address today.

Look: vinyasas are hard. I remember when I went to my first yoga class several years ago, the idea of lowering down to chaturanga and pushing into up dog without putting my quads on the ground seemed just like an absurd thing to ask of a person. Also, it’s a tough thing when something hard is repeated often in a class and generally done quickly (relatively speaking, in yoga). On top of that, well done vinyasas are gorgeous, which makes us (or at least me) want to do them, even if it would be better for me to take modifications to work on my form. This is a problem I see a lot with people in classes, so I thought I would break down each move and help you get to your best vinyasa.

High Plank
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Start with a strong plank. Vinyasas are a full-body move, for sure, but it’s a ton of core and shoulders. Your wrists should be directly under your shoulders. Think about pressing each finger and each toe firmly into the ground. This is especially important for the fingers — also focus on putting pressure into that fleshy pad where your pointer finger meets your thumb. This will take pressure off your wrists, and you should think about it every time you’re in plank. It will make your chaturangas easier, and if you’re working toward handstands and forearm stands, that finger strength is vital. It’s almost like you’re gripping the floor, but keeping the palms on the ground. Keep your shoulders down away from your ears. Engage your core and pull your quads up off your knees.

Chaturanga
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In chaturanga, your goal is lower down to the point where your elbows are bent to 90 degrees and your wrists are right under your elbows. To get here from high plank, you need to rock forward slightly on your toes to achieve the right alignment. Chaturanga takes a lot of shoulder, arm, core, and specifically tricep strength, and it’s about lowering your body from high to low plank in one piece. In this move, it’s really easy to collapse because of lack of strength in the chest and arms. If it’s not for you right now, work toward it! Work on lowering all the way to the ground as slowly as you can while maintaining that long line in the body and not letting any part of your body hit the ground first. Or, lower your knees first and work on just the upper body (but still engage the core). Keep the elbows pointing back and skimming the side of the body.

Upward Facing Dog
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Moving from high plank to chaturanga to upward facing dog takes a lot of upper body strength. When it’s being done by beautiful Instagram-famous yogis, it looks graceful and fluid, which I think contributes to the rest of us doing it incorrectly. We want to recreate that fluidity and end up doing this weird inchworm thing, where the chest drops and the butt sticks up in the air, and then you push forward and through rather than up.

To transition from chaturanga to up dog, flip your feet so that the tops of your feet are on the ground, and then push through your hands (remember those finger pads that are gripping the floor? Use them here!) to come up — don’t come lower and then come up. There’s no need to throw your head back or arch back dramatically. The only things touching the ground are the tops of your feet and your hands. Keep the shoulders down and pull them together slightly. (My shoulders could definitely be farther back here — a struggle of mine.)Think about growing long through the crown of the head more than bending back.

If this is too much for you, for heaven’s sake, lower all the way to the ground instead of going into chaturanga, keep your hands by your ribs and elbows pointing straight back, and then lift up into cobra (quads remain on the ground) or a low cobra (only the chest lifts slightly — this builds awesome mid-back strength).

Downward Facing Dog
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The most important thing about getting into down dog is piking up your hips. Again, press hard into each finger pad and that space at the base of the pointer finger and thumb. Hollow your armpits and pull your shoulders down and back. Think about pressing your belly closer to your thighs, like you are an inverted V and your hips are the highest point in your body. If your hamstrings are tight, just bend your knees as much as you need and keep your hips high. Your hamstring flexibility will come with time, so don’t stress about your heels hitting the ground.

As always, do not forget to breathe. Inhale to plank, exhale to chaturanga. Inhale to upward facing dog, exhale to downward facing dog. Matching breath to movement and using breath to strengthen movement is sort of what yoga is all about. 🙂

I did the best I could with these photos, but they aren’t perfect — for one thing, the bench I was on wasn’t flat, and for another thing, I was cold! As always, the most important thing is to do what’s right for you. You don’t have to look beautiful doing vinyasas — get the form and alignment down and feel what’s right in your body. Build your strength, and the beauty will come. Namaste!

There is No Strength Without Struggle

Hey everyone! Today, I am going to talk to you about a phrase that, when I myself train, I like to keep running through my head, and, as an instructor, I like to keep running through the heads of my clients:

Without struggle, there is no strength. This phrase really resonates with me because it allows me to take what I feel during my workouts – struggle – and instead of allowing that struggle to have a negative effect on my efforts, I discovered that it can actually FUEL the fire. In our workouts, and in our lives, we encounter resistance. We encounter periods of difficulty and we are forced to struggle. By changing how we think about struggle, by embracing it, we can use it to our advantage to become better, stronger, and more resilient.

So how to we apply this phrase to our workouts?

When we begin to get tired, when our muscles begin to burn, when we begin to suck wind it’s easy to put on our victim hats: “Poor me,” “why is this so hard?” “Why am I so weak?” “I’ll never be able to finish.” With an attitude like that toward struggle, you are eliminating your confidence, draining your inner power, and working from a negative perspective. If you act like a victim or allow yourself to work from a place of negativity, struggle will make you weaker.  HOWEVER what if we thought about struggle differently? What if instead of becoming a victim because of the difficulty, we approached struggle from a positive point of view? Struggle has the ability to change us for the good! The repetitions in our workouts that are the toughest have the most effect on our bodies. When we begin to struggle, every single rep we do, every single second we stay in it is our opportunity to challenge ourselves further and gain more strength.

  • It’s not “poor me,” it’s “yay me! Look at how I am able to challenge myself.”
  • It isn’t “why is this so hard for me?” it’s “this exercise is so challenging and look how I am able to fight for it. I know that something this challenging can only make me stronger!”
  • It isn’t “I am so weak,” it’s “I am becoming so much stronger that I was before.”
  • It isn’t “I’ll never be able to finish,” it’s “I want to see how far I can really push myself today, and if I am able to finish – I will make it even more challenging the next time.”

So starting now, lets change our perspectives. Embrace the struggle, embrace the burn, embrace each challenge that life throws at you. Don’t let struggle beat you down, let it inspire you to hang on and fight harder. Allow struggle to strengthen you, not weaken you. The reps where there is struggle – that’s where your workout really begins and that is where you earn your strength both physically and mentally.

There truly are no gains in strength without  struggle.

A Stress-Buster Pose

Lina hit you all with a quick stress-buster workout earlier this week for these busy, freezing, post-holiday days. Today, I’m going to give you something to add to that — a pose that will counteract the ways that stress manifests in us, especially in the winter. You know what I’m talking about — walking the windy streets with hunched shoulders and bent heads to brace against the cold, huddling closer to the heating vents in chilly spaces, crouching over your laptop trying to simultaneously catch up and get ahead in the new year. While it feels natural to do these things, all the hunching and crouching and huddling puts an incredible amount of tension in the neck and shoulders, tightens up the chest muscles, and just is generally no good for your overall well-being. How do you start to undo all that damage? A little ustrasana, or camel pose.

Now, camel pose is a pretty intense backbend, so it’s important to warm up and move at a pace that’s comfortable for you. If you’ve been out in the cold all day or sitting at your desk all day, don’t just throw yourself into camel. Start standing on your knees with your knees about a fist-width apart. You have the option of tucking or untucking your toes — tucking them just brings your heels closer to you so that the backbend is slightly less deep. Place your hands on your lower back (fingers up or down, your preference. As you inhale, grow tall through the crown of your head, and as you exhale, start to extend back. Keep that up — slowly — growing through the crown of your head on each inhale and bending back more with each exhale. Picture your back arching over a barrel — you want to create space in the spine, rather than crunching back. If it’s available to you and feels okay, reach for your heels (not your calves, like I am erroneously doing in this photo). Pay attention to your shoulders — they should be pulled down away from your ears, and your shoulder blades should be squeezing together and pulling down. Broaden across the collarbone and open your heart.

If you don’t feel like getting into the full expression of this pose, you can take a backbend standing or even just sitting at your desk. It’s a perfect move to help balance out the way you hold your body all day long. Take a minute or two each hour and make it part of your routine. The most important thing is to create an awareness of how you use your body each day, as opposed to how its natural alignment is. Namaste!