Monday Challenge – Spice it Up

Monday Challenge – Spice it Up

Screen Shot 2016-06-13 at 12.36.41 PMSPICE IT UP!

During the Middle Ages, spices like pepper and nutmeg were so valuable that they were worth more than gold!

Even though their monetary value is a lot lower these days, they are still equally incredibly beneficial for our bodies and your waistline. Why? Because spices can enhance both the nutritional value and taste of healthy meals without having to add sugar, sodium or fat. This meals fewer calories per serving without sacrificing taste!

Just be careful to avoid spice mixes that contain the words “natural flavors.” (no one ever knows what that means- and it’s not well regulated.)

Your challenge this week is to add 3 extra spices into your food this week. Here are a few great options that are incredibly good for you:

  1. Turmeric is a yellow-orange colored spice commonly used in Indian dishes. Its active ingredient – Tumeric is known to reduce inflammation in the body, improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy in cancer patients, and is suggested as a treatment for patients with depressive disorders – it can boost production of feel-good hormones such as serotonin, which helps ease depression and stress.
  2. Cinnamon is a uniquely aromatic spice with a sweet, woody flavor. It’s rich with natural antioxidants such as polyphenols and can actually help lower blood sugar levels. Cinnamon even outranks some of “Superfoods” in antioxidant activity.
  3. Garlic is praised for its potent smell and strong flavor, and is amazing for more than just keeping the vampires away. Garlic has been used to fight cancer, infections, and even a common cold!

When used long-term, garlic has been shown to reduce total cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which helped many people who were at risk for cardiovascular illnesses.

Do you accept this SPICY challenge? If yes, confirm by telling us in the comments below!

Core Strength Training for Golfers

Core Strength Training for Golfers

If you’ve been following along with many of my posts, you have probably noticed that I have a specific way of teaching golf fitness (and regular fitness for that matter!).  I use what I call “the bullet point teaching method” to help people understand which areas they need to focus on and why.  Once I share the bullet point with you, I like to reinforce the lesson in many different ways so it sinks in.  In today’s post, our topic of focus is core strength for golfers.  We have already covered the importance and value of the core to the golf swing in the past, but today I thought I would add some reinforcing educational material for you…not to mention I thought you might enjoy some additional information on core strength.


Even though the terms “core” and “core strength training” are popular buzz words, the true definition of “core” remains somewhat ambiguous.  The term is used quite loosely in the fitness industry because the definition often varies based on the area of focus and background of the fitness professional or enthusiast you are talking with.  Athletes and coaches tend to look at core exercises as a method of improving athletic performance while general fitness enthusiasts often refer to it as the “mid-section” and body building oriented people tend to think of the core as a means to develop the look of six pack abs.

While these definitions are all somewhat correct, none of them is specific and the general nature of these overlapping definitions can cause confusion when it comes to choosing the right exercises to strengthen your core for golf.

To say the general fitness enthusiast is “wrong” isn’t totally accurate because the core is located in the “mid section” of the body; and for the bodybuilder…the core does include rectus abdominus (six pack ab area) so ‘working the abs’ is a part of core strength training.  As we dive further into what core strength training means to the athlete and for golfers, you will learn what it means to utilize the core during athletic movement and see these definitions from a different perspective.

Core Strength for the Golfer

When training your core for improved athletic performance in golf, your goal is to choose exercises that activate the core muscles similar to those used during the swing.  As we have learned in previous emails this includes muscles used to stabilize the spine, hips, and pelvis and those used to rotate the trunk.  Training your core to stabilize the spine and hold it in the neutral position during rotation is the crucial part for golfers.  Having this type core training and strength provides a strong link in the kinetic chain and allows the power created by moving the lower body to be transferred to the upper body.

Core Musculature

Abdominals: Rectus Abdominis, Transverse Abdominis, Internal and External Oblique’s
Spine: Erector Spinae, Quadratus Lumborum, Iliopsoas, Psoas Major, Trapezius

Similar to the various definitions of “the core”, if you have done any reading on the subject of core strength, you will likely find each author lists slightly different muscles as being important to the core.  The muscles I’ve listed above are not the “only” muscles referred to in core strength training but they are the main muscles that work together to stabilize the spine.  For those of you not so anatomically inclined, another even more general reference I’ve seen used is to consider the core: “anything below the ribs and above the hips”.

General Benefits of Core Strength Training

  • Effective transfer of power between the lower and upper body
  • Improved proprioception (body awareness)
  • Improved balance & stability
  • Increased total power output
  • Reduced risk of injury

Benefits of Core Strength for Golfers

During the golf swing, the whole body works as one unit to complete its intended task of contacting the ball with speed and power.  Golf specific core strength trains the muscles to hold their position and utilize the core to maintain a neutral spine during rotation.  A golf specific routine will differ from traditional weight training routines because it emphases functional, rotational and stability oriented movements that teach the lower back, abdominals, and spinal stabilizers to work in proper combination during strength movements of the upper and/or lower body instead of focusing on moving heavier and heavier weight.The benefits of a solid core strength program include:
  • Hold posture during the swing
  • Transfer power from the lower to upper body
  • Protect the lower back from injury
  • Increase rotational power

Core Strength Training Exercises for Golfers

40500_420767941555_1082896_nIf you would like to use core strength training to improve your performance for golf, I recommend the following:
  • Golf Requires:
    • Rotational power
    • Maintaining neutral spine
    • Transfer of power from lower to upper body
  • Exercises recommended:
    • Plank
    • Hip rotations
    • Side Plank
    • Cable wood chop
    • Push ups and squats on the BOSU ball (moderate difficulty)
    • Rotational med ball throw (advanced)

Productive core strength training begins by first teaching your nervous system to properly engage the muscles during movement.  Once the nervous system understands which muscles to activate to maintain position throughout the swing, you can focus on the progressive strengthening of these muscle groups through core focused exercises and coordinated movements.  By replicating rotational movements in the gym, the athlete trains his/her nervous system and musculature to fire the appropriate muscles in the appropriate sequence, with more strength and power than before.
To learn more about core strength training, stay in touch with me by becoming a Facebook fan.
If you would like to:
  • Create your own core strength training program
  • Sign up for a golf fitness class
  • Set up a TPI screen
Email me at to see if any of our times work with your schedule.
Not in the local Ann Arbor area?  Check out the Get Golf Fit Video Subscription and The Golf Fitness Fundamentals manual to get started working on your own!

Back & Core Strengthening Exercises

If you deal with chronic or acute back pain, it can be debilitating.  One minute you are in your normal fitness routine and the next minute you are hunched over or leaning to one side just so you can walk comfortably.  Back pain is very common and it can also be very severe.  Even minor “pulls”, “spasms” or “injuries” can be debilitating and when things are severe (like bulging and herniated disks, it’s even worse!)

Not only can the pain be difficult to manage, but it can also leave a person feeling confused as to what exercises they can do or fearful of doing any at all!  If you have regularly occurring  back pain, you should consult your physician or physical therapist about the nature of the injury before taking action.  They will probably give you some back strengthening exercises and stretching to prevent recurrence and improve overall core strength.  Regularly performing these exercises is an important practice for staying mobile, preventing injury and managing back pain.

Today I found a fantastic YouTube video that demonstrates some excellent back & core strengthening exercises, practicing some of these every day or even every other day will fit perfectly into any strength training workout.  The video is done by a personal trainer and offers a good explanation of about ten exercises. It’s about 8 minutes long and the exercises are demonstrated in quick succession. If you are serious about performing some of these exercises, you may want to take a quick set of notes or watch it a few times in a row.

Toward the end of the video, he demonstrates some exercises and suggests they should be excluded from your back routine for 4-6 weeks. I am not really sure of his reason for avoiding these exercises, but if you decide to follow his recommendations exactly, let me know about your results.

Including two or even three different exercises everyday or every other day along with two or three stretches is something I highly recommend, especially if you fall into one of the following categories:

  • You are over 21 years old.
  • You have had back pain at any time during your life.
  • You regularly participate in sports that require jumping, cutting, running, or sprinting.
  • You have a job that requires a lot of sitting.
  • You perform heavy lifting on a regular basis.

So that basically includes 95% of the people living in the United States! I’m serious, take notes on a few of these exercises and do them! You’ll thank me…If you already do your exercises and still have chronic back pain, you should definitely consult with a medical professional before doing any type of strenuous exercise.

I often work with clients who experience back pain.  I can say that it has really helped them to have the guidance and knowledge of a professional when performing exercises.  If you want to learn how to strengthen your core, manage chronic conditions, and prevent injuries contact me at and we can set up an appointment!

Core Strength Training for the Athlete

Core strength training is a popular term with a few very different definitions. Athletes and coaches tend to look at core exercises as a method of improving athletic performance, while general fitness enthusiasts and body building oriented people tend to use core strength training as a means to develop the look of six pack abs.

The two only overlap because the core does consist of the rectus abdominus (six pack ab area) so ‘working the abs’ is a part of core strength training. When training your core for athletic performance you train yourself to activate muscles used to stabilize the spine, hips, and pelvis while performing other tasks such as weight lifting or explosive movement.

Core Musculature

Abdominals: Rectus Abdominis, Transverse Abdominis, Internal and External Oblique’s
Spine: Erector Spinae, Quadratus Lumborum, Iliopsoas, Psoas Major, Trapezius

These are not the only muscles used in core strength training but they are the muscles that work together to stabilize the spine. The theory behind strengthening these muscle groups through both conditioning and weight training (core strength training) is to maximize upper to lower body (or lower to upper body) transfer of strength during many sporting activities.

Benefits of Core Strength Training

  • Improved proprioception (body awareness)
  • Improved balance & stability
  • Increased total power output
  • Reduced risk of injury

Benefits of core strength training to the athlete
Core strength training differs from many traditional weight training routines by working the lower back, abdominals, and spinal stabilizers in unison with strength movements of the upper and/or lower body.

During athletic movement the whole body works as one unit to complete its intended task, whether it be running, throwing, catching or shooting. Core strength training is a method for replicating the simultaneous muscular stimulation required to perform these tasks. By replicating these movements in the gym, the athlete trains his/her nervous system and musculature to fire the appropriate muscles in the appropriate sequence, with more strength and power than before.

Core Strength Training Steps for the Athlete
If you would like to use core strength training to improve your performance for a specific sport, I recommend the following:

  • Analyze your sport and see what different types of tasks are required.
  • Does your sport require speed, power, agility, vertical jump, etc.?
  • Once you break down the different skills required in your sport, begin to include them in your weight training and conditioning routine.  Additionally, be sure to include strength exercises that challenge the core while simultaneously isolating other muscle groups.

To learn more about core strength training, stay in touch with me by becoming a Facebook fan, I periodically post general health and fitness articles of interest as well as offering basic fitness tips for fans. If you would like to create your own core strength training program, send me an email at

Single Arm Shoulder Press on Stability Ball Demonstration

One of my favorite exercises to do is the single arm shoulder press using a stability ball.  It took me kind of a while to develop the core strength that would allow me to push the weight I wanted to push, but once I had the idea in my mind, and I had already completed the standard shoulder press while kneeling on the ball, I made this exercise a regular part of my workout routine.  In this post, I will explain how I go about doing this exercise and how I use it in my own fitness regimen to continually challenge myself, develop core strength, and have fun.

As you can see in this demonstration.  The exercise requires a number of different things.  First, you must have the ability to kneel and balance on the ball.  While it seems like this could be difficult to learn, it’s really not that hard.  Especially when you are using the stability ball at our gym since it’s almost deflated (haha!)  OK, all kidding aside, kneeling on the ball is pretty easy once you get the hang of it (but see my warning below about taking appropriate caution).  I think that, once you develop the requisite physical skills, mostly you just need to believe in yourself that you won’t fall and break your face, and that you can actually do it. It isn’t uncommon for people to overestimate their ability to do this stuff.  Please be extremely careful and try to do the things that are only within your ability, things you can believe you are able to do. Trying this is not worth breaking your face!

With that lead in, let me take a moment to inject a note of caution.  This exercise requires a significant amount of control that can take years to develop, particularly if you have not been training to a high level of fitness.  For this level of exercise, I recommend working with someone knowledgeable who can guide you and help you set sane limits within your abilities as you progress.  It’s not worth serious injury.

Once people are ready to attempt this exercise, there is a process for learning how to kneel on the ball and balance.  It’s similar to the processes I’ve described in other posts and it involves developing a certain level of core strength and the ability to balance as well.  Once you develop the ability to kneel on the ball, the next step is being able to lift your arms over your head without falling backwards (or falling at all, really).  

After you can lift your arms over your head, start with a weight that is lighter than one you would typically use for a shoulder press…or anything for that matter.  And then just see how it feels to hold the weight.  As you get stronger, things will progress from there and you should be able to perform the lift and integrate it into your workout routine.

I personally use this exercise as part of my regular regimen.  Either during a shoulder workout or during a total body workout.  I have a lot of fun combining it with other things as it increases the overall challenge dramatically.  If you are interested in developing the core strength and balance required to be able to perform this type of exercise correctly, I would be happy to train you. Please contact me at

I also offer monthly training calendars to help keep my clients on track toward their fitness goals. Even if you aren’t interested in extensive personal training, you should consider a monthly training calendar to help build your skills. The cost is the same as one personal training session, and you get a plan for the whole month.

Exercise Ball Basics

The versatility of an exercise/stability ball has caused it to become a popular tool in many peoples fitness routine. People at the gym, on TV, and in videos use the exercise ball in hopes of getting the benefits it seems to provide. But do any of us really know what how to use an exercise ball correctly? (hopefully I do) Being the dedicated trainer that I am (translation: bossiest woman ever), it’s difficult for me to watch this without somehow finding a way to tell everyone the basic tips they need to follow when incorporating an exercise ball into their fitness regimen.

First, Choose the Right Exercise Ball
The stability ball comes in various diameters, some brands have a rubber strip surrounding the outside of the ball others are covered with little rubber massaging bumps meant to grip your body as you use the ball (I think…I don’t quite get those actually).

Choosing the right exercise ball to use in your routine is pretty simple. There are normally 2-3 sizes to choose from: 55cm, 65cm, 75cm. I normally recommend that people under 5’5? use a 55cm ball, people between 5’5? and 6’2? use a 65 cm ball and people over 6’2? use a 75 cm ball. You can also choose based on your level of comfort when using each size. To get maximum benefit, choose a ball that is fully inflated, then just briefly look it over for potential weaknesses in the balls surface. Most exercise balls are designed to deflate by allowing the air to seep out slowly, instead of just popping like a balloon.

The Benefits of Using a Stability Ball
Most exercise ball exercises will stimulate core musculature and teach you to stabilize your spine. The uneven surface of the ball challenges the nervous system to activate core muscles in order to keep you balanced on the ball. By balancing and maintaining a neutral spine, you are training your postural muscles to maintain appropriate posture. Any additional load you place on the body while in this position, such as weights or movement, will be even more challenging than when performed on a stable surface. In addition to the muscular challenge, using a ball requires increased mental focus to ensure you maintain the appropriate form throughout the entire exercise.

Improved core strength, balance and stability, are the major benefits you’ll gain when performing movements with the exercise ball. These three benefits are a main component of ‘functional’ fitness training, the simulation of both athletic and real-world body movements in the gym. Picking up heavy objects or lifting something out of the trunk of your car are two examples.

In addition to functional benefits, incorporating exercise ball exercises into your routine has the potential of increasing overall lean body mass. Increased lean mass is directly related to an increased metabolic rate that will help you to burn dreaded fat. Losing weight or fat will be an added benefit of using the ball.

If you are interested in making your workouts more interesting and effective, I recommend using a stability ball to replace the standard workout bench or exercise mat. While using the ball, make sure you are near a mirror, where you can monitor your posture and ensure your back is straight and your abs are tight. Always strive for perfect posture when using the ball to perform any exercise.

When you begin to use the ball, you’ll most likely be very off balance and a little timid. As your nervous system adjusts, you’ll become more confident and have the ability to challenge yourself in new and different ways. You’ll soon find that exercise ball exercises are fun and hopefully you will enjoy them as much as I do.  I regularly teach how to use an exercise ball in my training sessions if you are interested in learning more, contact me at