Member Spotlight: Dana and Laura

September was the month of Rocksteady Fitness’ 4 x 4 Dare, a challenge to see if members could exercise with us for 4 days per week for all 4 weeks of the month.  It sounds easy enough, but by the end of the first week, there were only 5 people in the running out of all our Group X members.  At the end of the month only two people succeeded in conquering the challenge.  Those members are Dana and Laura, and they kicked butt!

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RockFit members Laura and Dana.

We interviewed both Dana and Laura to see how they felt about their triumph, and what the secret was to their success.

RockFit:  Congrats on your achievement!  A lot of members attempted the challenge, but it was much more difficult than it sounds.  Did you have a plan before you started?

Dana:  When I found out about the challenge I planned out which classes I was going to go to and signed up for them online.  I stuck to my plan all the way through.

Laura:  I didn’t even know about the challenge until I heard some of the ladies talking about it at the gym!  But my normal goal is to try to go to the gym four times a week, so I just had to really focus on doing that.



RF:  Was winning the Challenge difficult to accomplish for you?

Dana:  The hardest part was that I usually go to 4:30 PM classes, but since [instructor] Melissa was in Africa, those classes were cancelled for part of the month, so I had to adjust what I normally do.  I actually took some classes that I had never taken before, like Pilates.

Laura:  Yes!  by the third week it was tough because I had some family events come up, but I still made the time and made myself go to the gym.  I figured I had started this challenge and I wanted to finish.



RF:  What was your secret to staying consistent enough to win the challenge?

Dana:  I had a goal in mind and I kept myself motivated.  I had never been a member at a gym before I joined Rocksteady Fitness in June [2013] so I had never done a challenge like this.  I just took it a week at a time and as I went along I realized that I could do it.  Planning and signing up for classes ahead of time helped keep me committed.  And I actually put my workout schedule in my personal calendar so I wouldn’t forget.  If I just “went along” without planning as the contest was going it would have been harder.  

Laura:  It helped that the ladies at the gym were all trying to motivate each other to win, and we were always checking in with each other.  The women at Rocksteady are so fun!  The other thing that made a difference was planning.  I start every week by registering for classes online, and that makes me feel obligated to go.  Even though it’s easy to go back and cancel online, I feel guilty doing that once I already committed.

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RF:  Do you have a favorite Rocksteady Fitness class?

Dana:  I love Turbo Kick because it’s so high energy.

Laura:  Turbo Kick with Melissa!  Sometimes I sneak out of work early to make it to 4:30 Turbo Kick.  And even though it’s early on Saturday mornings at 7:30, I like it so I get up and go.



RF:  What’s the most challenging class you’ve taken at Rocksteady Fitness?

Dana:  Bosu Blast is the most difficult, but I always feel good afterward.  Sore, but good.

Laura:  Definitely Kettlebells.  I tried it once and I was so sore after!  That class is on another level.  Bosu Blast is also pretty challenging.



RF:  How have you like your membership at Rocksteady Fitness so far?

Dana:  I’ve really enjoyed it.  The members and instructors are really positive and nice.  It’s a really comfortable place and it doesn’t feel awkward to be there.  Before I joined, I hadn’t done anything physical since high school when I played softball eight years ago.  Since then I was never interested in exercise because it wasn’t fun, but classes [at Rocksteady Fitness] are fun and entertaining, so that makes it easier to go.

Laura:  I never really enjoyed exercising, but I really have enjoyed Rocksteady.  Before I joined I had never stuck to any kind of exercise.  I would go and buy a 1 year membership to a gym and stop going after a month because I didn’t have motivation to sit there and exercise by myself.  But at Rocksteady— once you’re there you can’t just sneak out of class!  My first few classes there were difficult, but they were also different and fun, so I kept at it and took it a week at a time.



RF:  Have you noticed any changes in your life since you joined Rocksteady Fitness?

Dana:  Before I joined I was mostly working and did nothing after work.  And I was always tired.  Now I have energy and I have something to look forward to.  I feel a part of something.  I’m loving it!

Laura:  When I first started I couldn’t even run a lap around the building without stopping!  But I feel stronger now, and I have more energy.  I noticed that I don’t get sick often like I used to.  And my lovehandles… they aren’t gone, but they’re not as big!



RF:  Do you have any advice for other members about consistency?

Dana:  Plan your exercise.  Set time aside in advance and put it in your calendar.  Don’t leave your decision up to that day and say “Should I go today?” because you’ll say “No”.  Sign up ahead of time because it commits you and helps to get you past second guessing.  You’ll always feel good once you get there.

Laura:  I’m always hesitant about things, and I don’t like to try new things.  I think everything is hard… so if I can stay consistent, anyone can!  Remember that the more you go, the better you feel, both physically and mentally.  It feels good to be consistent, and that makes it easier to go.  I didn’t understand that before.



Thank you to Dana and Laura for the interview, and great job!  For conquering the 4 x 4 Dare, you each win  a free DON’T STOP Rocksteady Fitness tank top!

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Don’t Stop Tanks will be on sale to everyone else later in October.

Understanding Metabolism

Part 3:  Best Way to Boost Metabolism

By Melissa Hernandez

In our last two blogs we discussed the science behind metabolism as we think it is essential knowledge for anyone working toward any kind of fitness goal.  Now that you have some background, we’d like to offer some advice to put the information into practice.  
 
While there are numerous articles on the internet with helpful tips on how to boost metabolism, some of the tips that these articles give will have little effect on the overall function of your metabolism and many of them will certainly not enhance it over the long term.  However, the one metabolism-boosting method that is a constant in all of these articles is one that we view as the most essential and important to maintaining a healthy metabolism:
 
Strength training.  This includes body weight exercises, but more importantly:  exercising with weights.  The heavier, the better.
 
 
When it comes to achieving weight loss through exercise, many people make the assumption that they only need cardiovascular exercise to get the job done.  As a result, they never lift a single weight in the course of their efforts.  This is a huge mistake.  While it is important to have a balance of cardiovascular exercise and strength training as part of your fitness regimen, cardio is not the aspect that will make the most significant change to your metabolism.  To improve the function of metabolism, strength training is key.
 
One of the major reasons that so many people lose and then regain weight (commonly referred to as the “weight loss roller coaster”) is because they neglect to consider the function of their metabolism.  A cardio-only approach to weight loss without any effort to improve metabolism is like bailing water out of a boat with an enormous hole in it.  You remember the old cartoons:  the very second the bailing stops, the boat just fills up again.  We view strength training as the key to fixing the hole in the boat.
 
The focus of strength training is to build muscle mass.  As we explained in our previous blog, Introducing: Your Metabolism, the more muscle mass a person has, the better their metabolism functions.  Remember, muscle requires more energy for the body to sustain; therefore, the more muscle you have, the better your metabolism with function.

So why is it that so many people ignore strength training?  Here are a few common reasons:

1.  Some people are intimidated by weights and weight machines because they don’t know how to use them and are too embarrassed to ask.  It’s time to get over the intimidation and embarrassment factors and ask someone that knows, whether it be a friend, a personal trainer, or fitness instructor.  You might even consult an established website with fitness videos.

2.  Many women steer clear of strength training equipment out of fear that if they so much as look at a weight, they will wake up the next morning and see a female body builder in the mirror.  Yes, that is an exaggeration.  But becoming “bulky” is a common fear of women.  Perhaps just as common are the rolling eyes of fitness trainers every time they hear a woman say they don’t want to “get huge”.  What most women don’t realize is that it is very difficult for women to build muscle the way that men do, and it certainly doesn’t happen overnight or on accident.  In fact, it would take a couple years of very dedicated training for an average woman to get the arms of a Jessica Biel or Cameroon Diaz, so if your fear is becoming the She Hulk, put your mind at ease because it’s not happening without steroids.  So why do these fears perpetuate?  Because publishers know they can sell magazines with headlines like, “How to Lift Weights Without Getting Bulky”— despite the fact that the articles inside are pretty much useless information.

3.  People don’t like to think any more than they need to, and using weights requires people to think about their exercise—  How much weight?  How many reps?  How may sets?  In what order should I do the exercises?,  etc.—  whereas cardio requires no thought:  get on, press go, and run (or petal, or climb).  But guess what?  When it comes to structuring a strength training program, there’s an app for that!  There are many websites, YouTube videos, books, and magazines that can help too.  And if you have the resources, there are personal trainers, boot camps, and group exercise classes that utilize weights.

Strength training is too valuable a tool to ignore as it is key to maintaining a healthy metabolism. So go out on a limb:  learn about it, practice it, and perfect your technique.  Make the extra effort and you will make strides in your quest to achieve your fitness goals.


Melissa is a NASM Certified Personal Trainer and the owner of Rocksteady Fitness in Oxnard, California.  For regular diet and fitness tips and articles, follow her on tumblr, and “Like” her page on Facebook:  Rocksteady Fitness.

Rocksteady Fitness owner, head trainer, and instructor, Melissa.

Rocksteady Fitness owner, head trainer, and instructor, Melissa.

Understanding Metabolism

Part 2:  Introducing, Your Metabolism
 

by Melissa Hernandez

Bear with us.  This is going to get technical.  But considering the fact that this is valuable information about the human body that is not commonly known; and considering the fact that you’re likely reading this blog as part of an effort to improve your health, this is the perfect time to learn about the way your metabolism works.
 
Whether, we are aware of it or not, the human body’s regular “behind the scenes” functions require it to burn calories— even when the body in question is doing nothing.  The rate at which our bodies burn calories while we are at rest is known as the Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR).  To illustrate this concept, pretend that you chose to stay in bed all day and didn’t move; you would still burn calories as your body performed its essential functions to sustain your life.  This is BMR.  
 
BMR can vary significantly among people based on four factors which are used to measure BMR:  height, weight, age, and gender.  Height and weight factor into BMR because people with more body mass require more of a metabolic effort to sustain their bodies, while the reverse is true of people with less body mass.  Age is a factor because, as we age, our bodies lose the capacity to burn the volume of calories they did at youth as cells become less productive.  Additionally, as we age we lose muscle mass, which also causes metabolism to decline.  Finally, gender affects BMR because men generally have more muscle mass than women, and muscle mass requires more energy for the body to sustain.  Many studies have concluded that each pound of muscle in the body burns a significantly higher number of calories per day than a pound of fat.  (One such study concluded that a pound of muscle can burn up to 35 calories in a day, while a pound of fat burns just two).  In theory, a young, tall, muscular man will have the most enviable metabolic rate because this body type requires the highest amount of energy to maintain.
 
BMR is an essential figure to know if you are attempting to reduce body fat.  It can help you structure your diet and exercise regimen using concrete numbers to ensure that you are on track to meeting your fitness goals.  The BMR figure is measured in units of calories, and measures the number of calories your body metabolizes in a single day.  So, for example, if your BMR is 1500 calories, this means that your body burns 1500 calories a day “behind the scenes” in order to function (which, of course, excludes calories burned through exercise and any other kind of incidental movement throughout the day).  
 
If you’ve ever asked yourself questions like, “How many calories should I eat in a day?” or “How many calories should I burn during my workouts?”, it is your BMR that is the starting point to find the answers.  Once you know your BMR, you’ll know how many calories you need to consume to “break even”, or sustain your body weight; you can calculate how many calories you may be over-eating; you’ll know how many calories you need to burn through exercise to arrive at a caloric deficit if your goal is to lose weight.  Although BMR is a helpful figure, it is important to note that it is an estimate; we cannot, with complete accuracy, know exactly what is going on inside our bodies.  With this in mind, we’d like to stress that you should not obsess (literally) about counting calories.  This knowledge is better thought of as a tool to aid you in your health and fitness efforts as opposed to being another scary number.

Even though BMR can account for a large portion of the calories you burn each day, your BMR is not a replacement for exercise, or an excuse to go on a 500-calorie-a-day diet (That’s a HUGE ‘NO’!).  It may seem a simple weight-loss solution to stay in bed all day, eat next to nothing, and let your body melt the fat away; however, it’s quick-fix, crash-diet thinking like this that leads to fat regain and loss of muscle mass.  The reality is that it’s not healthy to eat far below your BMR.  This is why we must also account for additional calories burned during the day through incidental movement (for example, taking out the trash, folding laundry) and, most of all, make an effort burn calories through exercise!

If you’d like to calculate your BMR, there are many websites that utilize the same standard formula to calculate the figure.  Here is a link to one of many that you may find useful:  http://www.bmi-calculator.net/bmr-calculator/

More tips on how to make your metabolism work for you in our next blog of this series!

Melissa is a NASM Certified Personal Trainer and the owner of Rocksteady Fitness in Oxnard, California.  For regular diet and fitness tips and articles, follow her on tumblr, and “Like” her page on Facebook:  Rocksteady Fitness.


A little disco to brighten your day.

"Wishmaker" by Bestrack

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How To Set Fitness Goals

How To Set Fitness Goals

by Melissa Hernandez

(originally posted January 8, 2011)

If you want to lose weight, get buff or simply be healthier, there are four things you must do to achieve victory:  set goals, eat better, exercise, and stay motivated.  There are many books and articles you can read that give you tips on what you should eat, how you should exercise, and how you can stay motivated to meet your goals.  However, there are few places to go that give advice on setting your fitness goals in the first pace.  This is a shame, really, considering that many people don’t know how to set a solid, achievable fitness goal.  When you also consider how many people fail to meet their fitness goals, it becomes clear that those same people were probably doomed to fail from the very beginning of their efforts.  As you begin (or continue) your journey toward a healthier life, consider this guide to help you achieve success.

1) Think of the end result

Would you like to be thinner?  Gain muscle?  Improve performance?  Or just be healthier overall?  It’s okay to have more than one end result in mind.

2) Quantify and specify your goal

Don’t just say “I want to lose weight this year”— make it a clear-cut goal.  For example:  “I want to lose 20 pounds this year” or  “I want to gain 5 pounds of muscle this year”.

In addition to quantifying a target weight, it is also important to quantify and specify your exercise schedule as part of your goal.  How many times a week will you exercise?  What days of the week will you exercise?  What time of day or within what window in your schedule will you exercise?  For what duration of time will you exercise each time?  What exercise(s) will you do?

3)  Set realistic goals

Many people set themselves up for failure by setting unrealistic goals and suffering through excessive workouts, often finding themselves burnt out after just a few weeks.  Sure, you could drop 30 pounds in a month by going to the gym 7 days a week and running on the treadmill for 90 minutes, but how long can you maintain that?  Once you burn out and stop exercising (which is what inevitably happens), the weight will come back and you will likely feel worse than you did in the first place before you started your extreme fitness regimen.  This is why it is important to set realistic goals that can be maintained for the rest of your life (See #5 below).  Rather than trying to lose weight quickly in a short span of time, strive to make exercise a regular part of your life.  This will allow you to reach your fitness goal at a healthy and moderate pace and will keep you healthy in the long run.

The truth is (and this won’t come as a surprise to many): it’s not easy to lose weight.  If you’re really dedicated, you could shoot for 2 pounds of lost weight per week— but most people don’t have the time or energy to push themselves that hard.  It may be easier to set a monthly goal, for example: 5 pounds a month— which theoretically means one could shoot for 60 pounds lost in a year.

On the flip side, although losing weight is hard, gaining muscle is harder.  It’s not common to gain more than 5 pounds of lean muscle per year.  (Although many misguided weight-lifting souls may claim they can gain 5 pounds of muscle in a day/week/month, they are most likely gaining fat through a similarly misguided diet).  While people with weight loss goals can sometimes have dramatic physical changes over the course of time, exercising for muscle gain requires more dedication, more time, and a little blind faith for results that are typically less dramatic over a comparable span of time.

4)  Manage your goal

During the course of working toward your goal, you may find that you need a little flexibility, which is okay.  Using markers, escalating goals, or adjusting your goals in the middle of your efforts, might aid you in achieving your fitness goals.

Markers, which may otherwise be thought of as “mini-goals”, help you to take things a step at a time without getting overwhelmed.  Set a few of these throughout the year to help yourself stay on track.  For example, if you want to lose 30 pounds this year, set a mid-year marker to lose 15 pounds.

Depending on your current level of fitness, it may be advantageous to have an escalating goal.  This means starting out easy and working your way up to an ideal. For example, this might entail walking for 10 minutes a day, 5 times a week to start, and working your way up to 20 minutes a day, five times a week after three months.  Another example could be jogging a mile at a slow pace, 3 days a week and working up to running a mile at a faster pace 5 days a week after 6 months.  Although I recommend 30 minutes of exercise at least 6 days a week, people who are starting out may need to work up to that— and that’s okay!

If you find that you’re getting burnt out by, or are not staying on track for meeting the goal that you’ve set for yourself, don’t be afraid to make adjustments.  Goal adjustments don’t make your attempts a failure; it’s better to step back, reassess and make changes than it is to keep going until you quit altogether.  Remember, the idea is to make it manageable so that you stick with it.  Conversely, if you find that you are progressing toward your goal quickly, you may need to reevaluate your goal and aim a bit higher.

5)  Make fitness a part of your lifestyle

If you’re serious about your fitness goals, you need to dedicate time and energy to meeting them.  It seems ridiculous to say so, but health is often times not a priority in peoples’ lives.  Shouldn’t it be?  As it’s commonly expressed:  what do you have if you don’t have your health?  

Once you set your goal, commit to sticking to it.  Your attitude should be, “Missing my exercise time is not an option.”  This means that you do not schedule anything else during that time.  Don’t stay up late then sleep in and miss your exercise time; don’t schedule a dinner during your exercise time.  Plan your morning or evening around it.  Commitment doesn’t mean “whenever it’s convenient”, it means EVERY DAY.  

Also, don’t let anyone make you feel bad about dedicating a part of your day to your health; you’re not a freak or fanatic for doing so.  You schedule times to eat every day, right?  And time to work, and time to sleep?  Fitness should be as important to everyone’s day as are those other things; anyone who says otherwise is either lacking or slacking.  People who think of fitness as something extra as opposed to something necessary are people who will fail to meet and maintain their fitness goals and will, consequently, remain unhealthy and likely unhappy.

6) Assess

Nothing will motivate you more than measuring your progress.  More importantly, if you never measure your progress, how will you know when you reach your goals?  As part of your fitness goal, commit to assessing your progress by weighing yourself at least once a week (though I recommend doing it daily) at the same time of day each time, and to measuring your body fat percent at least once a month.  (If you’re looking for an easy way to kill two birds with one stone, invest in a weight scale with a built-in body fat tester).  Most importantly, be sure to log each measurement every time you take it.  This is manageable if you have a smart phone (there’s an app for that!), but even if you don’t, it’s not difficult to keep a pad of paper and a pencil near your scale.  

7) Write it

To get you started, try fitting your fitness goal into this statement below.

“I want to lose/gain (number) pounds this year by (type/place of exercise) (number) times a week, (days of the week) at (time).”

For example:

“I want to lose 25 pounds this year by jogging around my neighborhood 5 times a week, Monday through Friday after work.”

Now memorize it and say it to yourself all day!  Print it and put in on your mirror, in your kitchen or by your TV remote.  Share your goal with others and hold yourself accountable.  Most of all, don’t dread the road to achieving it; enjoy the effort, the benefits and the great feeling you’ll get when you meet your target!

And remember, once you achieve your fitness goal, the journey doesn’t end there; this just means it’s time to set new goals!

Melissa is a NASM Certified Personal Trainer and the owner of Rocksteady Fitness in Oxnard, California.  For regular diet and fitness tips and articles, follow her on tumblr, and “Like” her page on Facebook:  Rocksteady Fitness.

Understanding Metabolism

 Part 1: Stop Blaming Your Metabolism 

by Melissa Hernandez

Most people don’t give the word metabolism any more attention beyond mentioning how slow theirs is, or how fast their skinny cousin Lisa’s is.  But is that all there is to it?  Is metabolism just an abstract concept of a body function that either works well enough to keep some people thin, or is dysfunctional enough that it keeps everyone else fat?  No!  In fact, if you plan to actually achieve your fitness goals, it’s about time you learn this essential knowledge. 

In order for you to understand how metabolism works, we should start with a definition:  Metabolism is a continuous process in our bodies that occurs as the food and drink that we consume is converted into energy.  When we take in food, it is broken into simpler forms and is either used for generation of new cells and tissue, storage for future use, or for immediate use for functions like breathing, blood circulation, heating the body, and powering the muscles to move.  Many of these functions occur “behind the scenes” throughout the day— even when we are at rest.

Although metabolic “speed” can vary from person to person, it isn’t accurate to say that one has gained weight or is overweight because they have a “slow metabolism”.  While metabolism plays a role in weight management, and while a well-functioning metabolism can be an asset to weight loss efforts, the primary reason that people gain weight is because they consume more calories than they burn— the result of their dietary and lifestyle choices.  Many people are aware of the calorie count in the foods they consume as it is an easy figure to find on food labels and, increasingly, on restaurant menus.  However, most people couldn’t actually define “calorie”, or explain how calorie consumption is related to their metabolism.  

Contrary to a viral tumblr.com post that defines calories as “tiny creatures that live in your closet and sew your clothes a little bit tighter every night”, a calorie is actually a unit that measures how much energy a piece of food provides to the body.  This is helpful because we can actually measure the amount of calories that we metabolize (or “burn”, in slang terms) throughout the day— our metabolic rate— and build a diet and exercise regimen that works by the numbers to guide us toward achieving our fitness goals.  

So how do you go about setting up such a diet and exercise regimen based on your metabolic rate?  And how do you finally get to the bottom of the fact that no matter what your cousin Lisa eats, she never gains a pound?  We’ll save the answers to those questions for the next blog.

Melissa is a NASM Certified Personal Trainer and the owner of Rocksteady Fitness in Oxnard, California.  For regular diet and fitness tips and articles, follow her on tumblr, and “Like” her page on Facebook:  Rocksteady Fitness.

Rocksteady Fitness owner, Certified Personal Trainer, and Zumba, Turbo Kick, & Yoga instructor Melissa.  Check out more photos from this series at http://www.facebook.com/rocksteadyfitness.  And while you’re there, “Like” the page for regular fitness and diet tips!

Rocksteady Fitness owner, Certified Personal Trainer, and Zumba, Turbo Kick, & Yoga instructor Melissa.  Check out more photos from this series at http://www.facebook.com/rocksteadyfitness.  And while you’re there, “Like” the page for regular fitness and diet tips!

Nightriders’ mid-tempo track This Love Is Real has the kind of driving bassline that will power you through those last few heavy weight reps.  The old school, disco feel of this song is perfect!

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