injury tips

4 Tips to Stop Hurting Yourself

Many people will experience some sort of an injury from exercise, and a lot of the common injuries that come up during our consultations can be avoided by taking a few simple precautions.

#1 – Stretch & Foam Roll (With Purpose) Before Training

I used to be the queen of not stretching before training.  I would walk into the gym and hit the weights.  Well, I don’t know if I can blame it on getting older, or just taking my training more seriously, but those aches and pains that shouldn’t be there started following me around day in and day out.  I finally made a change and now spend 15-20 minutes before each training session just rolling and stretching.  When I have legs, I am loving on that foam roller like you wouldn’t believe, practically crying from how tight my legs have become just since the day prior.  I pull out my lacrosse ball from some extra glute work when needed, and then always do about 5 minutes of various hip stretches.  When I walk towards the weights, I am feeling good and able to get more depth with my squats and deadlifts, push a little heavier, and always end up with a much better workout, and most importantly, a pain free workout.

Takeaway: Budget 15-20 minutes to prepare for your lifting session

#2 – Know the Difference Between Good Pain & Bad Pain

When you go to the doctor and try to explain a stomach ache, they always ask if the pain is dull, achy, stabbing, etc.  Thinking about these things during training is also valuable.  If the pain is burning (think about your quads during Bulgarian split squats), then that is good pain.  Feeling sharpness in your knee during Bulgarian splits squats, however, is bad pain.

Here are some keys to know whether the pain is good or bad.  Are you feeling a burning pain in the muscle you are trying to work?  This is good and likely from lactic acid buildup.  How about sharp pain – sharp pain anywhere is not a good thing.  For me, I run across this when doing particular shoulder movements (I have some long-lasting issues from playing water polo in high school and college).  So, I don’t fret, I just make a change – I could change the weight, change the movement, change the hand position – there are multiple things I can do to alter the movement and still get a great workout that’s free from the wrong kind of pain.

Takeaway:  Listen to your body and be adaptable.

#3 – Don’t Try to Compete in the Weight Room

Is the person next to you deadlifting 50lbs more than you?  Well, good for them, but don’t try to copy them.  I had this conversation with a friend of mine the other day and they told me how much the squat.  It was a lot more than me, and I told them no way, no how could I squat that much and I wasn’t about to try.  Why?  Because I know my body and its limitations.  I also know that this friend weighs more than me which usually means that they have the capacity to lift more than me.

Worry about you, not someone else.  Lift what you can lift and always work towards your own personal PR’s – forget about the person next to you and their PR.

Takeaway: The only person you should be trying to out lift is yourself.

#4 – Move More on a Daily Basis

This one seems so simple, yet is so often neglected.  There is a reason that the term “Desk Jockey Syndrome” has become so popular.  We, as a population, sit  . . . a lot.  Some of this is because of our work, and some is because of habit (where’s the remote?).  Regardless, this hunched over, unsupported lower back, sitting on our ass all day phenomenon has created poor postures, weak glutes, weak core, rounded shoulders, and aches and pains where there shouldn’t be.  We are seeing it more and more with standing desk stations now, or the fitbit that tells you to take a quick lap around the office.  The theme is the same  – stand up, walk some, move your muscles so they don’t get so tight and stiff.  If you don’t have the option to use a standing desk (say you are a driver for a living), then take the opportunities you do have to move.  Park farther away at the grocery store and walk, use the stairs instead of the elevator, be active while you are watching your favorite night-time show, whatever.

Takeaway:  This one is simple, MOVE.

NEAT challenge

March Challenge: The NEAT Challenge

Tomorrow we will be starting a new challenge for the month of March – our NEAT Challenge! It’s free, it’s simple, and it’s open to everybody.

For this month’s challenge, we wanted to take a step back from a focus on our training.

It’s extremely easy to get wrapped up in how much we train – how often we lift weights, how often we do cardio, how much ab work we do – IT’S IN OUR NAME, for Pete’s sake.

But, particularly in the winter months, we can get so wrapped up in our training and exercise that we forget about our activity levels. It’s cold out, so you stop biking or walking to work and start taking the train, you walk your dog a little less, you don’t go to the park or get involved with a weekend rec league; instead, you replace those things with an extra half an hour on a warm couch, in front of a fireplace… why it’s not called “Netflix and warm” I will never understand.

Yet when our activity levels dip down like that, it can require other changes to offset it – maybe a little less food, or another workout each week. And with those reduced calories or increased training stress comes a reduction in your ability to recover. You ache a bit more, you get hungrier more quickly, you feel a bit more sluggish in the middle of the afternoon.

What we want to do is increase something called NEAT – short for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. What does that mean? It means, the calories we burn just by doing things that don’t require any recovery – it’s not exercise or training, it’s just activity. Neat, huh? (I AM THE BEST AT PUNS)

In fact, it’s been shown that increasing your NEAT will actually help you recover more from your training and allows you to keep your food intake higher with no loss of progress. It’s not stressful on your body, it’s just… moving.

Here is the plan:

Week 1: Using a pedometer (you can buy one to keep on your hip, or you can use one on your phone – provided your phone is always on you, which may not be the case), you’ll track the number of steps you take each day. After 7 days, you’ll find the average number of steps you take in a given day.

Each week, your goal will be to increase the number of steps you take each day by 1,000. If your average was 2,000 in Week 1, your goal is 3,000. Pretty simple step. (HA!)

By the end of the month, that should put your daily average a full 3,000 steps (or more) higher than where you started.

Note: I personally would suggest not keeping your pedometer on you when doing any of your training or existing exercise – lifting, running, cycling, etc – the things you’re already doing. We’re not trying to cram in more workouts; remember, it’s Non-Exercise Activity we’re monitoring here, and I don’t want to stack more and more onto your recovery ability.

Are you in?

excessive training

Trainers: Stop Killing Your Client

There is a trend in the personal training industry right now where workouts are simply competitions to see who can tolerate the most punishment, whether it serves a purpose or not (other than bragging rights).

I was recently at a commercial gym with a friend and we decided to take a heated yoga class with incorporated cardio – we were intrigued and both have a good fitness capacity, so we figured “Why not?” About halfway into the class, the instructor had us doing some crazy plyometric something or other for 48 rounds . . . yes, 48. Even the instructor couldn’t do all of the rounds. When did it become normal, or okay, to create a workout so challenging that no one could complete it (okay, maybe not no one – I am sure there are those anomalies). It got me thinking, what does this actually accomplish? I get it though. If you cannot complete the workout as prescribed, then you must suck and therefore come back next week and the next week until you get it – makes sense considering they are trying to make money off of your misfortune.

There is yet another problem with running clients into the ground. Let’s use the example of this class again. We were doing plyometric cycling split squats (don’t bother searching YouTube for it… I’m pretty sure it was named by drawing a series of adjectives out of a hat) combined with jump squats. If I, someone who is athletic, had trouble completing these, how about someone who is overweight and still building up their fitness level? Now, we have not only the feeling of failure, but also the likelihood that they will hurt themselves by performing movements that their joints are not (and do not need to be) accustomed to. Where is the regression? Where is creating an environment that utilizes effective movements while preventing injury? Trust me – that room was heated to 95 degrees – we didn’t need to do all of the crazy stuff to break a sweat.

People are brainwashed to think “No pain, no gain” and that you have to be literally on the verge of death in order to have a “good workout”. These philosophies couldn’t be further from the truth. You CAN have an effective workout and live to tell about it. You CAN walk out of the gym and feel good about what you accomplished, and you CAN continue to progress towards realistic goals. The thing of it is . . . you CAN. Stop subjecting yourself to workouts that the instructor cannot even complete, set yourself up for success.

At All Strength Training, we design workouts to be efficient and effective. Key word – Effective: successful in producing a desired or intended result. If your intended results was to fall on your face and feel like a failure – congratulations, you did it! If your desired result is to make progress with your physique, get stronger for the gym and life, and feel awesome about training session, then your approach should be different.

Train smart. Don’t underestimate recovery. Fuel your body. Relish in your Results.

Morgan's 10 diet tips

10 Tips for When You Start a Diet

Making a big diet change comes with its challenges. Every year, I participate in AST’s Ultimate Challenge fat loss competition as a way to re-focus after the holiday season. Here are some of the things you want to be ready for.

  1.  Prepare your food: This one is pretty obvious—make sure you always have goal-friendly foods that you know the macros for in your fridge. Plan at least a couple of your next-day meals the night before and log the macros that evening so you can grab them and go in the morning. Always have veggies chopped up or on hand for when you are hungry but can’t eat anything else.
  1. Plan for “Emergencies”: Not real emergencies like your arm falling off, I’m talking about food emergencies, like when you’re caught working late or out running errands that are taking longer than expected (or, when you think you should eat that arm). In a bind, you should always know what your nearest convenient snack options are. My faves include a prosciutto-wrapped cheese stick from 7-Eleven, a bag of raw nuts from a gas station/convenience store, and a piece of fruit from the grocery store.
  1. Eating out: This is an inevitable reality for most of us. Knowing where you can go and where you can’t is important. Yes, it’s easy to order a chicken breast, piece of fish or steak with a side of veggies or a salad anywhere, but will you?  Be honest with yourself, because it can be hard to say no to “cheats” at your usual haunts. If it’s not the Whole Foods salad bar (and yes, I’m only talking about the part with leafy greens), Chipotle, or a steak house, you will not find me there during periods of more aggressive fat loss.
  1. The numbers don’t lie . . . except when they do: You are going to have to get used to this idea: your weight and body fat measurements will not always be in direct correlation with how closely you’ve stuck to the plan. I’ve been weighing myself at the same time every day on the challenge. Here are my results:

weight fluctuation

  1. Your mental capacity might suffer: What was I doing? What did you say? Did you see that? You are not losing it. These are all questions I’ve asked myself during the first week of my diet. Often referred to as “brain fog,” it’s just your brain adjusting to running on fat, rather than carbs (its preferred energy source).  It doesn’t last forever.
  1. Your workouts might suffer . . . temporarily: Mine usually do.

workout log

Chalk it up to having less energy. For most of us, we are consuming less energy, a.k.a. less food. This will be temporary.

  1. Plan your social life around activities, not food and drink: By now my friends and family know that I do this every year. I am not willing to go through a social dry spell for two months, so I see them for goal-friendly activities like having coffee, taking a yoga class, or visiting the spa. I usually go on at least one vacation during my diet and, yes, it’s possible. It just requires a little more research than the average trip.
  1. Catch up on your to-do list: In some ways I look forward to doing this every year because it gives me time to complete outstanding projects. It gives me a chance to binge-watch a show, complete a craft, or learn something new on YouTube. One year I made a rug, this year I’m working on learning a new language.
  1. When all else fails, trick yourself: Although my diet-breaking cravings vary from year to year, nothing beats desserts. I’ve learned to trick myself into enjoying the following in place of desserts:

Protein Pudding: Mix 1 cup of 2 percent Greek yogurt with 1 scoop of protein powder. Optional: 1 tbsp PB2, unsweetened cocoa powder or 1 scoop chocolate/espresso Wellness Greens.

Coconut Latte: Combine 2 shots of espresso with 2 tbsp – ¼ c coconut milk, stir in 1 packet stevia and top off with a dash of cinnamon.

I also make sure to end every night with a dessert-flavored tea. Argo Tea and Republic of Tea have some great dessert options.

  1. Forgive yourself: I’ve never had a perfect diet, but I’ve always looked better at the end than in the beginning. If you slip up, just reset the next day and start over. Don’t sweat it. It’s all about making lifestyle changes that make you look and feel better permanently.


The 4 Week Pullup Challenge Workout

When it comes to fitness “bucket list” goals, for many people it’s as simple as “I want to be able to do one pullup again. Just one!” So we’ve made February officially Pullup Improvement Month here at AST.

Important note: this is the technique that you SHOULD be using when you do a pullup.

So flailing, flopping, bouncing, and generally attempting to imitate a drunk seal jumping through a flaming hoop while surrounded by penguins throwing lawn darts… won’t count.

You’ll start by finding out how much weight you can lift for 1-2 strict, clean reps.  If you can’t lift your entire bodyweight for one rep, you can either use an assisted pullup machine (available at most commercial gyms), or use thick resistance bands attached to the rack or the pullup bar itself (we use resistance bands from EliteFTS here at AST).  By stepping inside the bands it creates assistance, not resistance, allowing you to reduce the size of the bands over time as you get stronger.

Your goal over the course of four weeks is to increase the number of reps you can do with that initial resistance/assistance level, and then re-test your 1-2 rep strength at the completion of the program.

You’ll be performing this workout 2-3 times per week, and it can be done either at the beginning of your workout, at the end, or as a stand-alone on days you normally wouldn’t train.  We’re using it after training sessions with our clients and we’ve removed any pullup variations from our regular programming over the course of the Pullup Challenge to avoid any overuse and fatigue issues that would hinder progress.

Download the 4 Week Pullup Challenge, and leave a comment to let us know how you did!

chicago guide to grocery shopping

A Chicagoan’s Guide to Clean Grocery Shopping

When it comes to buying groceries, most of us are stuck in the same old routine. Out of convenience we pop in to whatever chain store is closest. We forget that Chicago is in the Midwest, the heartland, farm capital of the US, and we forget that there are so many great options for getting quality fresh food. I’ve compiled a list of specialty stores in the Chicagoland area that are worth the extra trip. Some locations even offered special coupon codes and discounts.


Green City Farmer’s Market
Peggy Notebaert Museum (Indoors – November through April)
2430 N. Cannon Dr.
Saturdays: 8 am–1 pm

Lincoln Park (Outdoors – May through October)
N. Clark St & N. Lincoln Ave
Wednesdays and Saturdays: 7 am–1 pm

Finn’s Ranch – Green City Farmer’s Market
Specialty: Naturally fed beef, pork, poultry, and eggs

Jake’s Country Meats – Green City Farmer’s Market
Specialty: Sustainably raised pork, chicken, beef, and fish

Mint Creek Farm – Green City Farmer’s Market
Specialty: Grass-fed meats raised on certified organic prairie pastures including lamb, beef, pork, and goat
PROMO: organic-grassed meat CSA shares $50-100 off with annual membership

Publican Quality Meats
825 W. Fulton Market Street
Specialty: Whole animal butcher shop with an emphasis on quality, sourcing from local/organic farms and credited suppliers

Green Grocer
1402 W. Grand
Specialty: Organically grown and locally sourced foods. Offers a bi-weekly bulk meat purchasing program featuring sustainably/pasture raised, hormone and antibiotic-free meats

Weekly Specials:
Mon: 25% off all produce
Tues: Free $10 gift card when you spend $50
Wed: 25% off frozen meat
Thurs: 50% off a second bottle of wine
Fri: 25% off all prepared foods

Local Foods
1427 W Willow St #1
Specialty: All cuts of meat, locally sourced, locally processed or sustainably produced

Every Tuesday if you spend $100 you can get a $25 gift card to use next time
Every Wednesday we have Wine Wednesday that is 25% off all wines and $5 glasses at the cafe
Every 2nd Wednesday  of the month we have Vegetable Vednesday that is 30% off all our produce
Every 3rd Tuesday of the month we have Tomato Tuesday featuring our MightyVine tomatoes throughout the store. We have discounts on all tomatoes sold in store. $1 off tomato soup at the cafe and grab and go, and $1 off butcher made bolognese and chili
This month (and usually every month) on the last Tuesday of the month we have $5 pork chop day from the butcher shop

BlackWing Organic Meats
Specialty: Complete line of organic proteins including beef, chicken, ostrich, pork, turkey and buffalo

All Grass Farms
18N681 IL Route 31
Dundee, IL  60118
Specialty: 100 percent grass-fed beef, raw Guernsey milk, free-range broiler chickens and eggs, turkeys, and pasture-raised pork available in bulk quantities

Fahlstrom’s Fresh Fish
2070 N. Clybourn
Specialty: 16–18 types of fresh fish daily

Dirk’s Fish
2070 N. Clybourn
Specialty: Fresh fish and sustainable seafood

Wixter Market
2110 W. Division St
Specialty: Large variety of fresh and tinned seafood
PROMO: 20% off of first-time salmon purchase – mention this post for discount

Sitka Salmon Shares
109 South Cherry St
Galesburg, IL 61401
Specialty: A variety of fish “shares” comprised of wild Alaskan fish delivered monthly to your door during the season. They also sell fresh, seasonal fish by the pound at the Logan Square Indoor and Outdoor farmer’s markets
COUPON: Use discount code CSF17 and for $25 off a share

Local Farmer’s Markets – Year Round

Green City Market – Lincoln Park
*see above for locations/hours*

Logan Square
(Indoors – November through March)
2755 North Milwaukee Avenue
Sundays:  10 am–3 pm

(Outdoors – April through October)
along Logan Blvd. between Milwaukee and Whipple
Sundays: 10 am–3 pm

Local Farmer’s Markets – Seasonal

(May – October)
1500 Berwyn Ave
Wednesdays: 3 pm–8 pm

Lincoln Square
(June – October)
Lincoln & Leland Avenues
Thursdays: 4 pm–8 pm

(Second Weekend in June – Mid October)
Broadway Armory Parking Lot
Saturdays: 8 am–1 pm

Stanley’s Fresh Fruits & Vegetables
1558 N. Elston Ave
Specialty: Seasonal fruits and vegetables (organic options) at some of the lowest prices in the city

Harvestime Foods (Edgewater Produce is their other, smaller store)
2632 W. Lawrence
Specialty: Large variety of fruits and vegetables (organic options) and other organic products at affordable prices

Irv & Shelly’s Fresh Picks
5625 Howard St
Specialty: Home delivery of local and organic produce, meats, dairy, eggs and more. Dedicated to green sustainable agriculture and farms
COUPON: Enjoy $10 off your first order by entering the code “FARMTODOOR” in the exclusions box of the Account Dashboard page

If you don’t have time to visit your local farmer’s market, another time-saving option is to buy a seasonal CSA (community supported agriculture) share. Here is a good article that features five local CSAs:

River Valley Farmer’s Table
1820 W. Wilson Ave
Specialty: Fresh Mushrooms grown with organic practices, clean hot sauces, salsas and pasta sauces
(Full Disclosure: I work for River Valley Ranch. Even though I am clearly biased, I eat jars of this stuff every week.)

Dill Pickle Coop
3039 W. Fullerton
Specialty: Local and healthy products including meat, produce, and sauces

Amish Healthy Foods
1025 N. Western Ave
Specialty: Non-GMO and organic products, produced with traditional technology

meal prep

What Kind of Meal Prepper Are You?

We all know that food prep is essential to keeping nutrition in check, but there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. You have to be willing to experiment and try new things before you find a plan that’s right for you. Here are a few different styles of prepping to help reach and keep your goals.

Traditionalist: Good for people with a fairly open schedule

The traditionalist plans their menu for a couple of days at a time.  They shop once weekly or, at most, or make a couple of trips every few days. They cook each meal before eating, and save time by prewashing/chopping veggies and pre-seasoning proteins. Frozen steamer veggies and precooked proteins are efficient options for this type of prepping.

Double Duty: Good for people with extra time in the morning

This style of prepping is all about planning a menu for the week and making a single shopping trip. This prepper is a master multitasker who cooks many dishes at once, while preparing their breakfast. This is a great way to save time by prepping a couple items each day, which can then be mixed and matched throughout the week.

Weekend Warrior: Good for people who don’t have a lot of free time during the week

The weekend warrior plans their menu for the week and makes one weekly shopping trip. They are able to set aside two to three hours each weekend dedicated to prepping and cooking all food for the entire week, cooking multiple items at the same time using an oven, grill, rice cooker, etc.

The Long Game: Good for people with really busy schedules and just have a couple free days a month

World-class organization skills are required to play the long game. This brave soul plans their meals for up to a month at a time and shops accordingly. They spend a couple of days preparing large batches of meals that are then portioned our and individually frozen. Caveat: It can be difficult to freeze and reheat veggies, so try blanching before freezing.

Non-Prepper: Good for people who are EXTREMELY busy, don’t like cooking or won’t cook.

This one should appeal to the convenience seeker. The non-prepper outsources most meal prep to an individual or service. They try out services to see which best matches their tastes and nutritional needs. Saves time by leaving it up to the pros and letting someone else do the work.

How Do AST Coaches Prep?

Staff Member: Zach

What is Your Prepping Type? Weekend Warrior

What are 15 items are on your grocery list every week? eggs, egg whites, grass-fed beef, chicken breast, cod, basmati rice, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, pineapple, strawberries, natural peanut or almond butter, coconut oil, spinach, saurkraut, Best Bar Ever

Current Prepping Obsession: a Chipotle-inspired cilantro-lime white basmati rice that I pieced together – 3 cups of rice combined with 1/2 cup chopped cilantro, the juice from half of a lime, 1tsp garlic powder, 1tsp Celtic sea salt, and 1tsp coconut oil and steamed. I eat a ridiculous amount of rice for my carbs so it can get boring quickly

Staff Member: Christine

What is Your Prepping Type? Traditionalist/Double Duty

What are 15 items are on your grocery list every week? wild salmon, cod, eggs, Canadian bacon, avocado, almond butter, sweet potatoes, blueberries, strawberries, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, celery, mushrooms, rice cakes, dark chocolate 

Current Prepping Obsession: crockpot chicken and bacon (recipe from Paleo Magazine)

Staff Member: Morgan

What is Your Prepping Type? Double Duty/Weekend Warrior

What are 15 items are on your grocery list every week? whole chicken, chicken breast, ground venison, eggs, cucumbers, red peppers, celery, carrot, mushrooms, whole fat plain Greek yogurt, Asiago cheese, almond butter, avocados, acorn squash and rice.

Current Prepping Obsession? Chicken or Turkey Bone Broth Soup (recipe from Wellness Mama)

Staff Member: Jackie

What is Your Prepping Type? Traditionalist

What are 15 items are on your grocery list every week? eggs, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, arugula, split chicken breast, grass fed beef, salmon, heavy whipping cream, red pepps, apples (or some other type of fruit), peanut butter, pecans, full fat yogurt, some type of grain (long grain rice, oats, quinoa, etc…)

Current Prepping Obsession?

Smashed cauliflower (…steam it…then smash or process it…add delicious things like olive oil or grass fed butter, rosemary, and roasted garlic)

Curry roasted cauliflower with pistachios (more cauliflower for you…because let’s be real…cauliflower is magic…

Butternut squash (or sweet potato) hash (cube it…roast it in coconut oil…season it any way you want…add crumbled turkey bacon ((or pork bacon for you paleo peeps)), wilted greens…top with a fried egg, green onions, and a little sriracha)

Staff Member: Scott

What is Your Prepping Type? Weekend Warrior

What are 15 items are on your grocery list every week?
Chicken thigh, ground beef, chicken breast, frozen vegetables, frozen strawberries and blueberries, eggs, egg white cartons, spinach , Brussels sprouts , salad kits (Costco), sweet potatoes, soups. I do all my shopping at Costco.

Current Prepping Obsession? Marinating chicken thighs in chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. (recipe from TJ Davidson)


Healthy living traveling

Travel Woes No More

As some of you know, a couple weeks back I took a weekend trip to L.A. Like anyone traveling (especially around the holidays!) I experienced the usual concerns about being away from my routine, the possibility of falling off the wagon, and gaining unwanted body fat. However, after taking quite a few of these trips, I’ve learned that with a little bit of planning, you can stay on track almost anywhere you go.
Water Bottle: Don’t let yourself become dehydrated because airport water costs $6. Keep your bottle filled and bring it, wherever you go. For a best bet, bring one with a built in filter so you can refill anywhere. Check out this Brita Bottle.
Snacks: You never know when you might be delayed. Don’t find yourself at the mercy of the Hudson News snack wall. My favorites are raw nuts, fresh fruit or Ostrim sticks/jerky. Beyond the airport, they are easy to toss in your bag for daily excursions.

Fresh Fruit
Supplements: Bring them and take them. Separate pills and powders into single servings using Ziplocs, Tupperware or a GoStak. If you know you won’t have access to fresh fruits and veggies, bring a greens powder and multivitamin to supplement your daily intake. These were a lifesaver for me while biking RAGBRAI this Summer, where the best salad in town could be found at Subway.

What to Wear

-Always pack workout clothes, shoes and a swimsuit, no matter where you are going. If you don’t have them, you won’t workout. Even if you don’t make it to an actual gym, you may still wear them for other activities. Also, Athleisure is a trend because Vogue says so.

Nice Butt PopPhysique

Getting “Unplanned Exercise”
-Walk whenever possible. Bookmark spots you want to hit in advance so that you can easily see where you’d like to go and if walking is possible. I like to spend a little time on Yelp before I go anywhere. Mapping my “must see” spots ensures that I can hit more spots by walking between places that are relatively close. Sorry, Uber! Track your steps. If you don’t have a fitness tracker, use an app. My favorite for walking, running and biking is Charity Miles, which donates 25 cents to a charity of your choice for every mile you log.

-If traveling to a city research bike-sharing options. This can be a great way to get around and see things up close. Book an Airbnb that lists bike use or check the amenities of your hotel. I learned this tip while visiting the Hotel Monaco in Philly, which included “loaner bikes” under their amenities.

-Incorporate outdoor activities into your planning. Your body and wallet will thank you. See the photo of me and my friend atop the Hollywood Sign Hike.

Morgan LA view

Getting “Planned Exercise”
-Check out local studios for drop-in rates or join your family and friends at their favorite facility. This past year I lifted along side a friend at Industrial Strength in Portland and got my flow on at Yess Yoga in Minneapolis.

Venice Barbell

Eating Hacks
-Visit the local grocery store, co-ops or farmers markets for at least one or two meals a day. Erewhon in L.A. had a variety of clean prepared food options, as did The Wedge in Minneapolis.

Main Street Farmers Market

-Plan your cheats and stick to that schedule. Being away from home doesn’t give you license to eat anything you want. Even if you aren’t tracking, get in your protein and veggies at every meal and try to eat your cheats during your meals nearest to activities.  I suggest using Precision Nutrition’s Portion Control Guide because it requires nothing more than using your hand.


-Make sure you plan for at least one R&R activity, wherever you go. My faves include yoga/meditation, spa visits, beach/pool days or even an unplanned mid-day nap. This is important for your mood, health and quality of life.


When the Body Takes Over

Underneath the Surface: Life with GI Problems

I have been wanting to write about this for quite some time, but have always came up with excuses to hold off – I am a horrible writer, I ramble, I can’t tell the difference between 1st person and 3rd person – you get the idea.

I have always prided myself on being an open book about pretty much everything, and this particular part of my life has been all-consuming for the past 2 decades.  I have had gut issues that cause me severe pain since I was 14 years old.  I remember frequently laying on our brown corduroy couch where I would push from my ribcage down to my pelvic bone and you could hear “bubbles” popping, moving.  It was the weirdest sensation (and one that I still encounter).  I didn’t know what those “bubbles” were, but I knew that they hurt and that if I could move them around with the pressure of my hands, I would get a smidge of relief.

When I was 21 years old, I ended up in the Emergency room, still without answers as to why the pain would sometimes bring me to my knees.  On that particular incident, I was folded over unable to stand up straight with such sharp pains that it was near impossible to get a deep breath.  Doctors gave me fluids and sent me on my way.

As I got older and finished my degree in Exercise Science, I wanted to learn more and more about the body, nutrition, and what ailment I could be dealing with.  In 2011, I chose to try eating gluten and dairy free, which helped, but didn’t completely alleviate, my symptoms.  In 2013, someone in my life was diagnosed with Chron’s disease and I decided that I was on a mission to finally figure out what on earth is wrong with me.  Why can I feel ok one minute and be bloated to looking 5 months pregnant the next?  Why would I have constipation that lasted days on end even though I ate clean, kept fiber where it should be, and stayed hydrated?  Why do I have chronic inflammation and subcutaneous water retention that comes and goes as it pleases?  Just . . . why?

So, in March 2014 I had a colonoscopy and endoscopy and was diagnosed with Celiac disease.  This was a very odd diagnosis considering I had been 100% gluten free for years – even the doctor was baffled that I had obvious remnants in my system.  Since gluten had already been removed, I asked the doctor what else could be causing me so much pain.  I received the notorious answer . . . “IBS, here is a prescription for your constipation”.  In my world, I call IBS “I Bull Shit”.  I believe that there is always some underlying issue or stress or something that causes the symptoms and that no one should just roll over and accept them as normal.

In the summer of 2014, I began to work with a Functional Medicine Practitioner from the United Kingdom.  We ran a stool test and found that I had SIBO (small intestinal bacteria overgrowth) which we eradicated with natural remedies.  I also followed with an elimination diet where I ate a total of 10 different foods for 30 days.  The first 2 weeks I felt amazing!  And the second 2 weeks I was in pure agony, curled over in pain for most of it.  It made no sense – how could I feel so great and then feel so awful without changing a single thing.

If you’re not sure how dramatic the changes can be, here you go.

Gut Before & After

The picture on the left is a bad day, the picture on the right is a good day.  Could be hours apart, maybe a day or two.

In January 2015, my inflammation and weight gain went a bit haywire regardless of no change in my training or diet.  So, in May 2015, I began working with an acupuncturist who decreased my training volume drastically, took out all vegetables, and had me eating over 70% of my diet as starchy carbs.  Sure enough, I dropped the weight and started to feel a little better.  This lasted for a few months until my gut started to hurt again and I stopped responding to the acupuncture and herbs.  So, I began working with yet another doctor in December 2015.

Currently, I am working with both a local doctor and the one in the United Kingdom still searching for answers.  It was recently confirmed that I have a large intestinal bacterial infection as well as a small intestine infection and was put on a 2 week course of antibiotics.  Needless to say, I don’t feel any better and the doctor’s suspect that I did not eradicate the infections . . . and that is where I am today.

Why was this so important for me to share?  I want my clients, my friends, my family, to know that I get it.  I get what it feels like to fight what feels like a losing battle.  I understand how hard it is to keep trying to find answers when all you want to do is give up.  I know what 1 step forward, 2 steps back feels like.  I wanted to tell me story so that others might have some hope to get up and keep fighting, keep looking for answers.  I have to believe that there is healing and that this is not my destiny, and I hope that if you are dealing with your own struggles that you keep fighting too.

Eat Better Feel Better

How to Eat Out, Eat Healthy, and Eat Well

Eat Better Feel Better

It’s easily one of the biggest battles you’ll face in your efforts to change the way you eat.

“How am I supposed to eat like this when I go out?  I don’t want to just eat plain chicken at a restaurant.  Should I just not go?”

Fortunately, it is absolutely possible to be social and still hold to your goals.  Sure, you can’t throw yourself headlong into a basket of nachos every time you get an invitation to meet somebody for dinner, but you also don’t have to order “plain grilled chicken… no oil, no seasoning, no sauce, no fries, please strip away LITERALLY anything that will bring me pleasure and give me whatever is left.  And an ice water.  Hold the lemon.  I’m on a diet.”

One easy thing to do before you go would be to check out the Healthy Dining Finder online to see if the restaurant you’re visiting has their information available.  Since only larger restaurants are likely to have their nutrition information readily available, you won’t necessarily find every place you’d like to go, but it’s a good first start.

In addition, we recommend that you check out the PN Restaurant Eating Guide from our friends at Precision Nutrition.  Even when you’re not able to be perfect, every restaurant is going to have food on its menu that runs along the spectrum from Worst to Best, and you just want to find things that sit as close to the Best end of the spectrum as you can.  Bad is better than Worst, Better is better than Good… you get the idea.

And remember – even if you can’t find something on the menu that’s prepared specifically the way you’d like, 99 times out of 100, all you have to do is ask.  After all, if they have the food in house, there’s very seldom any reason that they can’t make a special combination just for you.  Just remember to be polite about it… eating well doesn’t require a dramatic performance when it’s time to give your order.