Chasing Rainbows

I haven’t blogged at all yet this year. In fact, I haven’t done much yet this year. Please don’t think that I am insinuating that I have been lazy or given up by any means. I simply have taken time to work on myself and reevaluate my dreams and goals in order to build a plan. Normal life (beyond work and the gym and raising children) took a backseat.

I took my nutrition and training back to the drawing board and overhauled everything. I’m keeping a close log of how every change affects my overall package. I have brought my posing back to basics in hopes of having a much better presentation when I finally do compete again. I have kept my focus on building muscle while keeping my body fat down. Now I am finally beginning to ‘cut’ and start to get into stage shape.

Meanwhile, I have also been working on designing a career path. I have spent ten years in my industry and gathered certifications and qualifications that should be worth quite a bit to the right employer. I have put a lot of thought into what the ‘right’ job would look like for me versus how I can be of the most value to an employer. I have made an effort to make my current position take the shape of my vision but have not been able to work with my current company to see it through. I’m in negotiations with another company and I hope that I’ll be able to make that announcement shortly. I pray it will be the last career change I have to make!

Lastly, I have been working on myself. I have been single for almost eight months now. That’s not exactly a long time but it has been enough to clearly see where I can make progress on a personal level. I’ve always treated happiness and success as destinations to be reached instead of transient events/feelings that occur in the moment. Instead of focusing on these things (which our society places so much value on), I have been working on building my values and morals. I’m not going to espouse that I’m some great theologian now but I’m doing some reading and lots of listening. I’ve visited churches and schools and talked to friends, family, and the ‘professionals’ about every topic I can think of. And, while this journey will never be complete, I’m happy to say that I think my current progress will lead to the ability to have a fundamentally happy life through living true to myself. And one day maybe I can share it with a partner that is taking the same journey of self-exploration and growth.

I have missed emptying the thoughts rattling around my head onto a blank screen. And I miss the feedback that my blog received. Most of all I long for the friendships it kindled with people who related to my ramblings. So I’m going to make an honest effort to begin blogging regularly again. I’m not exactly sure of how often or how much but I want to share my journey to the stage and beyond with everyone who encouraged me to take the first steps back in 2014. I wouldn’t have made it this far without you all.

Happy Leap Day friends! I’ll be back soon!

Calories In Vs. Calories Out? Not so fast!

December is here and, if you’re anything like me, you’ve been thinking (or trying to avoid it) about all the goals you didn’t meet and what you want to do better in the new year. I’ve talked about the problems with New Year’s resolutions before and I’ve made the same mistakes as everyone else. So for 2016 I have been doing my homework and making a plan.
What kind of plan? Well, I kind of want to compete again if the stars align. I wasn’t lean or built enough in May. My placings were disappointing and I felt overall miserable about the whole experience. Since then I have dropped the coaches I was working with and started putting in the time and effort to learn enough to be my own coach. Obviously, being a certified personal trainer, I can put together an exercise plan but I knew I had to go deeper. I need to understand how my diet, my lifting, my cardio, and even my sleep patterns affect everything down to a hormonal and cellular level.

I read every study I could get my hands on. I talked to competitors I admired and those that I didn’t want to emulate. I took their advice back to the books and tried to figure out the why behind how it worked (or didn’t). After learning so much (and still having so much more to go) I decided to share some of what I’ve found to help my fellow athletes and those who just want to look or feel better in the new year. If you’re ready to throw out everything you’ve ever believed about losing weight then keep reading.

Every diet (I hate that word) starts with counting calories. As long as you eat less than you burn you’ll lose weight, right? WRONG! Studies show that people who restrict their energy (calorie) intake long term will basically adjust to the new ‘normal’. Hormones like leptin, insulin, testosterone, and T3 (a thyroid hormone) will all decrease. The ‘bad’ hormones, ghrelin and cortisol, which encourage fat storage, will increase. Over time you have to eat less and less to continue losing weight until your body is in a chronic state of starvation and you can no longer maintain your ‘diet’. You will inevitably overeat at some point and gain weight quickly because your metabolism is in the toilet.

This is where calorie cycling and refeeding come into play. Periodic refeeding (having that cheat meal or dessert) can increase the hormones that encourage fat loss temporarily. Taking this a step further, refeeds should happen on a day that you lift weights. Why? Because then your body uses those extra calories to preserve muscle (or even build a little bit more) instead of storing them as fat. Keeping your caloric intake on rest days lower than on training days will further balance out the refeeds and keep fat loss steady.

This still doesn’t mean you can starve yourself the rest of the time. A weekly loss of no more than 0.7% of your weight is ideal. So, at 140 pounds, this would be 1 pound a week. As you get smaller, the amount you can safely lose without sacrificing lean mass (muscle) will also shrink. This is why a long, slow ‘cut’ is much better than a crash diet. I made this mistake (well, my coaches did) during my competition prep. I lost 12.5 pounds in 25 days going into my show and I was tired, weak, and mean. It took months for me to regain the strength I lost and find my motivation again. And I still didn’t look as good as the other girls on that stage. So, overall, I gained nothing from the deprivation and misery.

Any bodybuilder or powerlifter will tell you that decreasing your weight will also decrease your performance. One way to fight back against this is to consume most of your carbs each day around your workout. Carbohydrates are turned into glycogen and used for energy during exercise. When your carbs run out so does your motivation, strength, and performance. Make sure your body is supplied with enough energy to get through each workout and don’t do cardio before weights. Studies have shown that cardio, especially HIIT (high intensity interval training), will leave your muscles too fatigued for resistance training.

The summary of all of my research basically comes down to what you likely already knew. Losing fat is a long, slow process. Eat enough, but not too much, and exercise often. If you were looking for the shortcut to your dream body I’m sorry to tell you that there is no legal method that will get you there any faster than good old-fashioned hard work and commitment. So get to planning ahead for your 2016 goals and, by 2017, you’ll probably be shopping for a new wardrobe.

>> By the way, let’s check blog of my friend, a single mom. The blog has many reviews about baby car seat and jogging stroller for workout

Dating Problems Only Female Bodybuilders Understand

It’s finally your rest day. Not knowing what to do with your life you grudgingly agree to a night out with your girls. They feel you are lacking in something they refer to as a ‘social life’. “Doesn’t sarcastically smiling at the creeper in the mirror at the gym count as socializing?”, you wonder. But no one else agrees so you allow them to drag you to the hottest new club playing music that makes you wish for a shot of preworkout and a barbell.

Only halfway through your first vodka on the rocks (gotta watch those carbs!) you are wondering if makeup and heels were originally designed as torture devices. Next thing you know some DYEL is grinding on your booty and muttering something about ‘toned’ and ‘thick thighs’. You know you could hulk smash him but the next thing out of his mouth stops you mid-swing. “Can I buy you dinner?”, he yells over the music. Before you can even finish your enthusiastic nod, you find yourself out the door. Somehow you find yourself sitting on his couch with an empty takeout container in front of you and an overeager dadbod hipster drooling on your neck. Then the real struggle begins:

1) Because you wore a sports bra

He’s fumbling around looking for a clasp that doesn’t exist and you absently wonder if you should buy some ‘real’ lingerie. Quickly dismissing that thought, you take pity and pull your sports bra off yourself, wincing at the shoulder DOMS from yesterday’s workout. Your new meal ticket’s face falls as he realizes there isn’t actually any appreciable boobage hiding under your sweaty sportswear. But he quickly recovers and moves on to appreciating the bountiful squat booty instead.

2) Maybe you should have showered

Like most fit chicks, you’ve adopted the mantra that women don’t sweat, they sparkle. Unnecessary showers take valuable time away from things like lifting and eating. You try to remember the last time you washed your hair or shaved, and fail. Maybe he will be so in awe of your physique that he won’t notice you feel, and smell, like a gorilla. Quickly pushing him onto the bed you realize your mistake because

3) You’re stronger than he is

He screams in agony clutching his concave chest where you gently (or so you thought) pushed him. You vacillate between assisting him and disgust. Your mind can’t quite wrap around the realization that this skinny being has larger breasts than you. “Has this beta, PBR drinking, vegan cellar dweller ever picked up anything heavier than his Starbucks cup?”, you wonder as you grasp wildly for a way to save the evening, but

4) Your metabolism won’t wait for anyone

As you mumble a half-hearted apology your stomach lets out a roar like a chainsaw. A glance at the bedside clock reminds you that you’re late for meal 6. You contemplate cannibalism but throw that idea out the window. There’s no way this skinny fat missing link would fit your macros. Quickly fumbling for your clothes, you mutter an excuse about your grandmother’s cat and stumble to the door to call an Uber while visions of peanut butter dance through your mind.

5) Getting laid is no longer worth the hassle

Finally home, you throw your heels into the darkest depths of the closet and dive into the sweats you left on the floor hours earlier. As your tupperware of chicken and broccoli rotates more slowly than paint drying you notice the coupon code for that new line of sportswear on the fridge. Ordering some new gear is just what you need to forget tonight! Sinking into the couch with a shaker bottle and a Quest bar, you feel grateful that the gym will always love you, no matter how bad you smell or how many callouses you have.Cardio would only ruin your gains anyway.
*Disclaimer: This post was created as a counterpoint to’s satirical article on the male perspective. Have a sense of humor!


I have been on the fence deciding between returning to the gym or the roads. Marathon training through the winter sounded terrible, especially since I would have to run in the dark before or after work, as well as struggling to fit in long runs on weekends with the kids. I printed out a training schedule, ran the first two weeks, and then decided it wasn’t for me this season.

I started spending time with a fellow bodybuilder and began to miss lifting heavy (and having visible muscles). One week back in the gym and I’m reminded why training alone was so hard through my first prep. Just like the saying you are what you eat, you also are who you hang out with. Which brings me to the latest life lesson I must preach…

Bulking is evidence of trickle down economics. When one person bulks, everyone in their sphere of influence bulks. When you have dinner with a bodybuilder on a dirty bulk that dinner may consist of a pizza, two Primanti’s sandwiches, a giant frosted brownie, and a couple large beers. Everything they can’t have on a cut is on the menu and portion sizes are a laughable recommendation. Their food scale is getting less action than the average Comi-Con geek and their bathroom scales are hiding in terror. By the way, check best folding picnic table for outdoor dinner :p

This orgy of consumption slowly turns into them storing food in your fridge, insisting on making dinner (because chicken and broccoli again isn’t cutting it), and suggesting horrible dining options regularly. Next thing you know you’re eating right along with them. Then you’re shopping list starts to look like you’ve never heard of macros or IIFYM. And then you’re looking at the dog and thinking how he deserves some of these treats. He’s looking a little skinny. And maybe the fish too…

And inevitably, you wake up to the truth one day. You’re bulking by association. And it’s AWESOME!

NPC Mid-Atlantic Cup Championships Recap

I’ve been thinking about getting around to writing this since May. It’s been a crazy four months since my first NPC show and I should probably get this done before I start trying to get back to writing about running and my new passion, acro.

If you follow me on FaceBook then you know that I lost A LOT of weight going into the show. The last week I was eating only chicken, ground turkey, and asparagus for six meals a day. I was drinking 1-2 gallons of water per day while taking over-the-counter diuretics to pull the water from between my skin and muscle. I had to go for spray tanning three times leading into my debut and I still could have been darker. I booked my makeup artist and received my bikini. I already had my heels and jewelry and wig. I also had to get a mani/pedi. Needless to say I was running on empty and on the verge of losing it at any second the last few weeks.

The morning of the show I checked in and got my tan touched up. I had my makeup done and got changed into my bikini and heels. I would spend most of the day only covered by a short and very sheer robe. About an hour before my first class, the open division, went on all of us were shuffled into a tiny, hot changing room. We were all struggling to adjust straps and glue our suits in place (no one wants to see THAT wardrobe malfunction). There was last minute posing practices and pumping up. Girls were eating poptarts and mini candy bars to get a carb pump. And there was a team with the tanning company rubbing us all down with oil. I can only imagine that I should have been embarrassed or shy but I was too excited.

It was finally time to step on stage and I watched the first several girls walk out and pose. Finally my name was called and I thought for sure I would freak out. Thankfully all those months of practice took over and I posed perfectly with a huge grin on my face. I had a blast and felt like it was over in only seconds.

We were ushered back off the stage and back into the changing room and cycled back out for my second division (Novice). It went just as quickly and I was then facing hours of down time before finals that night. Based on my stage placement during the morning show I knew I probably hadn’t placed in my classes so I wasn’t too worried about getting touched up for finals.

My coach instructed me to go grab a burger and relax. I happily complied by devouring a burger and some sweet potato fries at Burgatory before heading back to the venue. I felt really out of place being ridiculously tan, too skinny, and made up like a hooker. Everyone was staring at me and all I could think about was trying not to drool on myself waiting for food.

The evening show was just as hectic and fast paced as the morning. Shuffle through the changing room twice, get glued into my suit, have my chest/stomach/butt oiled, then stand in line to be rushed across the stage. The only difference this time was awards were given before we were hustled back off. I placed 8th in the Open division. I couldn’t believe it and I was really sad but I still had another class to go so I returned to the line and went through it all again.

I placed third in the novice class. Of course, I still can’t be satisfied with anything so, as soon as I was off the stage, I went to the bathroom and cried as I changed into my celebration dress. After a few minutes I pulled myself together and returned to Sean and my family outside. We snapped a few pics of me with my short sword and then it was off to Fuel & Fuddle for dinner with no restraints! That was by far my favorite part of the whole experience!

After the show, I found that there was so much pressure to return to ‘normal’ eating. Sean was tired of me meal prepping and saying no to beers or dessert every day. My friends and family wanted to go out since I had been reclusive for so long. Before I knew it I was bloated and chubby. I put on about 15-20 pounds in a matter of a week or two. It took me another week or two to reel myself in but then I got back on track.
My breakup a couple months later left me reeling again. But once I recovered I found that my passion for eating clean was renewed. I have now dropped back down to near my stage weight (about 123-125 pounds). I honestly would consider competing again now except for a few things. First, it is expensive. I easily spent a few thousand dollars throughout prep and the competition. Second, I can’t have a social life while training that intensely and I have come to value my close friendships too much to sacrifice them again. And lastly, I have fallen in love with acro (and started running again). I can do acro for 5-6 hours a day on the weekend, come home covered in bruises, and still want to do it again the next day.
So instead of doing what I’m ‘good’ at I have chosen what makes me happy. I do acro with my friends 2-3 days each week, run 5-6 days, and try to get out for a cheat meal, beer, and some conversation at least once a week. I may never have a perfect six pack ever again but I do have all of the best intangible things life has to offer now.

Honey, We’re Home!

Sean and I officially live in the same state now! We picked up a U-haul on Wednesday morning and were on the road by 2PM. Unfortunately, we hit a snowstorm in West Virginia that lasted until we reached Pennsylvania around 3AM Thursday morning. We slept on a small and cheap bunk beds for kids for a few hours and then unpacked the U-haul before heading downtown for my mother’s birthday celebration.

Needless to say, it was a long day and we were both exhausted. We made some poor food choices and I definitely did not drink enough water. I didn’t miss any workouts though! My coaches are surely disappointed but they gave me my plan for next week and I’m back on point. I also chose my show date: May 16 for the NPC Mid-Atlantic Cup Championships. If you’re interested in attending the information is here.

Loaded and ready to roll
The rest of the update is in my latest vlog so check it out!

Forging The Future

Life is kind of like metal. Sometimes it’s fluid and moving along. And sometimes it gets hard and it feels like you’re stuck. Either way it’s beautiful and tough. And it makes an amazing circle that can bond two people forever.

Sean’s ring

Sean asked his friend to make the ring he will wear, conceivably for the rest of our lives. It arrived today and it’s gorgeous! I can’t thank Barefoot Forge enough for creating this work of art. You can also find them on Facebook here. Please give them a like and follow if amazing, handcrafted jewelry is of interest to you.

Handcrafted Damascus Steel Rings from Barefoot Forge
In other big news, I finally have a show date. I chose the NPC Mid-Atlantic Cup Championships on May 16. That puts me at roughly 11 weeks out right now! I’m really happy with my gains so far but I’m worried about leaning out. I’m trusting my coaches to guide me through all of this and I know everything will be just perfect if I stick to their plan!
Me – December 1, 2014


Me – Today
I’ve ordered my bikini and competition jewelry. I have my heels. It’s all so real now. But first, I’m off to South Carolina to move my future husband back to PA! So, if I happen to be MIA this week, please forgive me. WE will be home next weekend!
Have a wonderful week fit fam!

You Can’t Match My Hustle

I’m not one to let the opinions of others change me. If I was I probably wouldn’t be rocking a hairstyle that’s been compared to the Misfits or have six tattoos. I wouldn’t have kept my pregnancy and baby at 19 and begun working in the ‘man’s field’ of industrial radiography at 21. I wouldn’t have bought my first home that same year or graduated college while working 80 hours per week on a power plant outage. I’ve never had things ‘easy’ and I never expected anything to be handed to me. I work for what I have and I work even harder for what I want to have in the future.

Tell me again how much you hate your job
As of writing this, I took control of my life 104 days ago. I walked into Anytime Fitness on November 10, 2014 and signed a contract that changed EVERYTHING. Over the last 15 weeks I have quit smoking and stopped drinking. That’s right… completely dropped those bad habits. I overhauled my nutrition and turned my lifestyle on its head. I’m too busy keeping track of how many ounces of water I’ve consumed to worry about petty things and I’m not just content with my life anymore. I’m on the verge of joy at almost any moment.
I am looking forward to goofing off with this man for the rest of my life
Of course, my happiness, lifestyle changes, and accomplishments have brought out the haters faster than a tween chasing Bieber. At first I was kind of hurt and figured there was a misunderstanding of what I was trying to accomplish. Hence my first vlog on why I chose bikini and how I wasn’t killing myself. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the people tearing me down aren’t just confused or worried about me. (If you’re not a fan of vulgarity, stop reading now.)
NOPE. They’re assholes. I’m succeeding in ways they’ve never believed possible. I’m taking what was once only dreams and turning them into reality. I’m chasing my future like a cheetah hunts down a gazelle. I’m hungry. I’m driven. I’m hustling. The haters can only project their failures onto me because they fear change. To change the course of their lives requires taking a risk. They are afraid of taking that first step. They fear failure, rejection, and the unknown. They fear ME.
In 104 days I have accomplished more than most people put on their New Year’s resolution list. I have:
1) Quit smoking
2) Quit drinking
3) PR’d my 5k
4) I am up 4 pounds from my marathon weight and it’s all muscle (proof here)
5) I changed careers. I lost my job December 23. I started as a Brand Specialist for DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon January 3. I passed my ACSM personal training exam January 29 and I start my job at Anytime Fitness this coming Monday.
6) I joined the Flawless Physique Competition Team. Yes, I will step on stage in a bikini and enjoy every minute of it.
7) I got engaged!
8) I reached my goal of being able to do a strict pull-up. I can do ONE, just one, but I can do it.
9) I can deadlift my previous 1 rep max for sets of 8 now
10) I can squat more than my own weight
How you actually support a woman
And the best part of all, no one can take these things away from me. The hatred, the comments, the jabs disguised as a joke…. none of them diminish what I’ve done. I’m still going to marry the kindest and strongest and funniest man I’ve ever known. I’m still going to have two beautiful daughters. My life is still going to be full of promise. And I’m still going to reach my dreams. The only thing that changes is that now I know who deserves to be a part of it.
So, my dear haters, this is the end of the time I have designated for you. This is the last of my energy that you will drain. From now on your comments will be deleted and you will be blocked. I have goals to reach and dreams to chase. I don’t have the time for your negativity and I won’t apologize for cutting you out of my life. If you can’t match my hustle then you’ll just have to sit your ass down.

A Week of WIN

My life is beyond crazy right now and, for the first time in a LONG time, it’s ALL good! My last post was only a week ago and already things are changing.

The biggest change is the news that Sean got a job here in PA! I will be travelling to SC the first week of March (for the last time!) and then we will be moving him here! I am so unbelievably excited to have my partner in crime in the same state. We have been through so much and survived seven months of being 600 miles apart. Hopefully I will never again go weeks (or even days) without seeing his face! And once he is here the fun of apartment/house hunting begins! Oh boy!

This picture says a lot about why I am head over heels for this beast!
On top of Sean’s new job, I also have one! Starting this coming Monday I am the newest personal trainer at Anytime Fitness Leechburg. I can’t help but feel like this was all somehow meant to be. Sean and I had our interviews the same day. He got the job he felt was the best fit for him and I got the one I have dreamed of since I joined Anytime. They are going to allow me to take a week away right when I’m just starting to get Sean moved and the timeline for my training period coincides perfectly with the end of my DICK’S Pittsburgh Marathon job for the year. The schedules work together perfectly! I just couldn’t imagine things being any better right now!
My training is still going strong. Thanks to Casey and Steve at Flawless Physique, I am stronger than ever and starting to feel ready to step on stage. I was looking at the South Carolina Bodybuilding Championships for my debut but I have no reason to travel to SC anymore! So now I am hoping to do a May show in Pittsburgh to coincide with the end of my marathon work and the beginning of taking on full time personal training.
I have made a lot of friends at my gym already. And they push me every day! Today, two state troopers took time out of their own workouts to help me get my first pull-ups. I started with two chin-ups (in the video) and then was able to get a single pull-up as well! I feel like I could take on the world! Next goal is to lose the kick and be able to perform them strict!
I don’t really have a conclusion for this blog. I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who has supported me or cheered me on when things were falling about. I am not always an easy person to deal with. I’m not an optimist and I often let my hustle get in the way of my personal relationships. But a handful of real life friends and a bushel of my social media peeps have always had my back. I can’t wait to pay it forward as I move into this next stage of my life!

My big news and small updates

I’m pretty sure EVERYONE knows by now but I wanted to share it here as well. After I took (and passed!) my personal training certification I made the drive to South Carolina to spend some time with Sean. It was our pretty typical week together. I played with the dogs and cleaned around the house while he was at work. And in the evenings we meal prepped and hit the gym together. Then, on Sunday, he changed everything.

Sean woke me up around 4am Sunday morning and hustled me into the car. He handed me his hoodie and told me to use the hood as a blindfold any time he asked. I was too groggy to argue and over the next two hours we chatted and laughed all while I kept getting a hood thrown over my eyes every time a road sign approached. The highlight of the trip may have been when we got pulled over! The cop asked Sean where we were headed and Sean just froze for a minute. Then he asked, “Can I write it down because I’m trying to surprise her?” The cop apparently figured out what was up and let us go on our way!

Blue lights!
We arrived in Myrtle Beach just as the sky was beginning to lighten. Sean directed me out to the pier and we watched the sun rise over the choppy waves. It was breezy out over the water so I was clinging pretty tightly when Sean pushed me back a little. He looked at me for a second and then said something along the lines of:
“Sara Altair, I want to ask you here beneath the sun and the moon (both were out) if you’ll marry me and share all the miles we have to go before we sleep.”
The pier where Sean proposed
Sean took this picture right after I said yes
I, of course, started to cry and said yes. We spent a little more time on the pier before we went back to the car to retrieve another coat for me. We decided to walk the beach looking for shells and just enjoying our moment before we returned to our usual, crazy lives.
 Sean on the beach
So many shells


Sean found me this perfect shell
 The ring


Sean also got me a QALO ring so I can work out with it!
Our challenge now is to get him back to Pittsburgh. Everyone keeps asking if we’ve set a date but we need to live in the same state first!
Lastly, I created another vlog. Just a rehashing of the engagement and some small updates on my competition training. Enjoy!

Let’s Do Work!

I passed! I passed! I’m an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer!
So who’s ready to get fitter, faster, and/or stronger?! I’ll be picking up a limited number of online training clients starting in February. I will also be making myself available for one on one consults and workouts at your gym (if you can bring a guest) as my schedule allows. Hopefully soon I will have a ‘home’ gym for the locals to come train with me too! If you are interested then email me at and let’s get started!

Controversy in a Bikini

I’ve gotten some pretty hateful comments and some very wrong assumptions about what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. So I thought I’d try a vlog and put some truth out there! I hope you enjoy. Please like and subscribe to my YouTube channel, Brazen Training, if you like this.

Nutrition for Athletes

Yesterday I had an amazing opportunity! I got to speak at a UPMC Sports Medicine Marathon seminar for the DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon. The other presenters included Leslie Bonci and Dave Spell. Leslie is the director of Sports Nutrition at the UPMC Center for Sports Medicine and she also consults with Steelers, Penguins, Pirates, and the Pittsburgh Ballet. Given her amazing credentials and fun personality I paid strict attention to her presentation so I could share the wealth with all of you!

Leslie brought lots of foods for everyone to see
Of course, the first thing every marathon runner or endurance athlete is concerned with is hydration! Leslie explained that the newest research shows 70 ounces of water per day is the baseline for women. Men need 90 ounces minimum. What I found most interesting is that everything you drink (that isn’t alcohol) counts towards your baseline! That doesn’t mean you can just drink Pepsi or apple juice all day and be okay but even soups and foods high in water content can count towards that minimum intake. Just be sure you add enough water or sports drink to make up for your exercise habits too!
And what about that morning coffee? Or your afternoon energy drink? Maybe you take caffeinated gels prior to or during a run. The maximum amount of caffeine you should ingest per day is only 400mg! Leslie showed us a couple popular products, like Red Bull and 5 Hour Energy shots, and demonstrated just how quickly caffeine adds up. So be sure you’re not hurting your body or performance by overdosing on caffeine every day!
Athletes also tend to be concerned about macro nutrients and how to balance their protein, carbohydrate, and fat intake for optimal performance. I learned that it’s very personal and usually requires a consult to figure out percentages but there are guidelines that can help. Protein should consist of 0.5-0.8 grams per pound of body weight and be spread evenly throughout the day. Eating an eight egg omelet in the morning and little protein after is not optimal and will lead to muscle loss. So spread it out in little bits through each meal! Carbohydrate intake needs are around 3g per pound of body weight. Leslie also mentioned that fat intake should never be less than 20% of your diet. So no more counting every little bit as long as you hit your minimums!
Leslie also talked a little bit about the hottest trends in the diet industry lately. Gluten free anyone? You will have lower amounts of prebiotics in your digestive tract and it will be hard to hit your fiber intake minimums. Considering 70% of your immune system lives in your digestive tract this is a BIG deal. Try adding Chia seeds for fiber and Omega 3 fatty acids (keep them in the freezer to keep them from spoiling). Eating yogurt with live active cultures or kefir can help too. If you don’t want to eat dairy then try taking a daily supplement.
How about coconut oil? Well it’s primarily a saturated fat (read, not so great) and it does NOT help you shed body fat or lower your risk of disease. Instead use olive oil and save the coconut for your skin and hair care! Walnuts will replace that unhealthy fat too. A golf ball size serving is the way to go.
Running and other sports result in lots of aches, pains, and inflammation. Instead of popping an NSAID or pain killer you can try tart cherry juice for a natural anti-inflammatory. Drink 8 ounces of juice or a serving of the concentrate after your next run. Ginger can minimize delayed onset muscle soreness (500mg is about right). Turmeric is a tasty spice that also works as an anti-inflammatory and may help prevent Alzheimer’s. Try putting 2/5 of a teaspoon in your next dish. Dried plums contain Boron which is necessary for bone health. Eating just 3-4 per day will keep you topped off and also contains those helpful prebiotics!
Finally, who doesn’t want to improve their performance? Dietary nitrates can decrease the oxygen expense of an activity. This means you use less oxygen to create the energy to power your workout and tire less quickly. Bodybuilders use supplements like NOXplode but dietary nitrates can be found in some common foods. A spinach and/or arugula salad, for example. Other choices include celery (about two stalks) and beets. And lastly, replace the iron lost with every foot strike using black strap molasses. Just adding a TBSP to your oatmeal or in place of honey in homemade energy bars will do the trick.
So I hope that helps with your nutrition questions! Please feel free to click the link to contact Leslie or follow her on Twitter @LeslieBonci. And look for the next UPMC Sports Medicine seminar coming soon!

Lifting – The Basics

I’m almost 10 weeks into my first cycle of lifting. It’s not easy and, as I begin leaning out, I am sore, tired, and hungry every day. I’m also two weeks away from taking my ACSM Certified Personal Training exam. My days are consumed with the gym, meal planning/prepping, and studying. This is not the life I plan to lead forever but I’m very happy I gave myself 3 months to give it my all. The changes (mental, physical, and emotional) have been more than I ever dreamed. And I’m going to take my new knowledge and strength into my next cycle with the aim to be more balanced so I can still have meals out, sweet treats, and look amazing.

Photo Credit: Tumblr
So that leads me to how I plan to design a lifting program. Is it the only way? No. Is it the best way for everyone? No. But it’s a great place to start and learn what works for you so you can build your own programs that maximize your results.
Phase 1: Endurance/Strength
Everyone wants to jump right into lifting hard and heavy. But that’s when you end up so sore you can’t walk or, even worse, injured. Next thing you know you’re skipping the next workout or two to recover and all your hard work is slipping away.
The only way to avoid this pitfall is to start slowly (note: I didn’t say EASY). Building endurance starts with higher reps. I like to use 3 sets of 12 repetitions for each exercise for the first 2 weeks. It’s right on the line between pure endurance lifting and strength building so it sets you up for maximum growth in the next portion. I also like to start with only 4 days of lifting so my body has plenty of time to recover between workouts.
There are several general ‘target areas’ that need to be strengthened each week. These are your chest, back legs, shoulders, arms, and abs. Obviously, you can’t dedicate a day to each group or you won’t hit them all in a four day split. A common split, sometimes referred to as the ‘Brogram’, is chest/triceps, back/biceps, legs, and shoulders/abs. This gives you four workouts per week and makes sure you get all of your muscles ready for growth.
After two weeks of lifting like this, I move onto a five day split. The fifth day is simply a second day of working out my weakest body part. For this first cycle that meant legs for me. I chose them because I love to run but I also want a butt and strong legs. Next cycle I think this will be my back as it is definitely my weakest link and prevents me from squatting as heavy as I’d like and I still can’t do a pull-up. You have to decide what your weakness is and hit it the hardest so that it becomes your strength!
August 31, 2014 to January 13, 2015
Grow booty, grow!
Phase 2: Muscle Growth (Hypertrophy)
As an adult you can’t actually add muscle. You have all the muscle fibers you ever will. But you can make them BIGGER. This is known as hypertrophy. So how do you do this? The answer is to get a little heavier in the weights, add a few more sets, and keep your reps in the 8-12 range (I prefer 8-10). I also add supersets (grouping two lifts together before resting). Lastly, I added a 6th day of lifting. In this phase, my program consisted of the following days: back, chest/abs, legs, arms/abs, shoulders, legs. I also added more cardio to increase my calorie burn and keep my in running shape. I usually aimed for 30-40 minutes with a day or two of 60+ minutes. The longer cardio days were simply to keep my running up and not related to my lifting goals.
I love my arms and shoulders now!
Phase 3: Leaning Out/Fat Loss
Once you’ve gained the muscle you have to shed fat so you can show it off! The last portion of a lifting cycle will be losing some of the fluff. This really focuses on diet (which I will talk about in another post) but I also tweaked my workouts.
I kept a 6 day lifting split (5 days with cardio) and added higher volume lifting. This means more sets (usually 4) with higher reps (usually 15-20). I obviously am lifting lighter weights to be able to nearly double the reps I do of each exercise but the ‘burn’ is killer. I have kept supersets as a big part of my programming and added active rest as well. I usually rested 60-90 seconds between sets in the first two phases. This phase the rest periods are filled with jump rope, mountain climbers, burpees, and tuck jumps. Keeping my heart rate up keeps my calorie burn high.
After I finish my lifting workout I do 30-40 minutes of HIIT (high intensity interval training) cardio. This can be intervals/speed work on the treadmill, a spin workout, plyometrics, or even rowing. I just try to keep my heart rate up and burn as many calories as I can.
For the final two weeks my lifting will be done in circuits. I will work through one set of every exercise before I rest for 3-5 minutes and then repeat the series 3-4 times total. After that I will once again perform 30-40 minutes of cardio.
Working out with Shaun T and Beachbody’s T25!
I can attest first hand to the first two phases doing exactly what I’d hoped. I’m still working on my lean out and I have 17 more days before it’s over. I hope I will love those results just as much as I loved the muscle building. After hitting a highest weight of 139.5 pounds over the holidays, I am currently sitting at 131 pounds. That is not my ‘goal’ weight but I’m more worried about not losing my hard-earned muscle than hitting an arbitrary number.
So I hope this basic overview of the last 10 weeks of my life has helped you get ready to begin or build your lifting program. If you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment or find me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. I’ll cover my nutrition in the next few days.
Also, please remember that I am not a certified trainer (yet). So, as always, consult your physician and listen to your body!

An Invitation For You!

I hope the new year has been kind to you so far. I am very excited to be able to share with you an opportunity to start off your DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon training in style!

Each night this week, Monday – Thursday from 6-8PM, we will be hosting VIP Parties at four different DSG locations around Pittsburgh. These nights will include a coupon for 20% off your entire purchase, an opportunity to meet me (and my Brand Specialist partner, Shaun), food and beverages, and an opportunity to win a grand prize “Pittsburgh Staycation”. The grand prize includes hotel, parking, and meals for you and your family the night before the marathon so you can skip the traffic and get a good night’s rest before the big day!
If you would like to attend please comment on this post with your preferred date and location and I will add you to the VIP list. Spaces are limited and filled on a first come, first serve basis so make sure and claim yours today!
DICK’S Sporting Goods Monroeville – January 5th
DICK’S Sporting Goods Robinson – January 6th
DICK’S Sporting Goods Cranberry – January 7th
DICK’S Sporting Goods South Hills – January 8th

Here’s To 2015!

Happy New Year! It’s hard to believe 2014 is over already. So many experiences, both good and bad, were over in the blink of an eye. I’m ready for a new start and lots of opportunities!

The big project I mentioned is finally kicking off! So here’s my first announcement for the year. I am now a Brand Specialist for the DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon! I will be here from now until race day to help you prepare, train, and conquer. You’ll be able to run with me beginning with the kickoff run on January 3 and find me at different DICK’S stores throughout the training season to help you with questions, gear selection, and motivation. I am very, VERY excited to be working with all of the amazing staff and runners who make my hometown marathon possible!

I hope you all had a great holiday and feel ready to take on your first, fastest, or funnest (I know it’s not a word!) marathon with me in 2015!

The Age Game

Another year has gone by and I am another year older. I celebrated my 29th birthday shortly after Christmas. Along with the holidays and another notch in my belt came the typical indulgences. Food, desserts, alcohol, and a lack of time for the gym.

Ugly sweaters and alcohol

This year I chose to stop kicking myself for every excess and lazy day. Instead I focused on enjoying my time with family and friends. There were dinners and parties and baking marathons. I spent days driving from one home to another for feast after buffet after brunch/lunch/dinner. And I took part in every last one of them.

These moments are worth so much!
Now the holidays are winding down and I’m less than a year from the big 3-0. I’m also almost 10 pounds heavier. And I don’t care one bit. Everything in moderation, including moderation.
I have a plan and I have my support team. Paul and I have agreed to be ‘those people’, aka resolutioners. On January 1st we start fresh. We won’t beat ourselves up over the seconds and thirds or desserts we enjoyed so thoroughly. We’ll do the work and make the right choices and soon enough we’ll see the results.
So I’ll see you (and your hangover) in the gym on Wednesday! Oh by the way, let’s visit my friend’s blog, who I just met in the gym, she’s mom of 3 cute kids, 1 cat and  2 bunnies ^^. Let’s check her outdoor cat house & indoor rabbit house reviews on her blog!
Did you overindulge this holiday season? Do you have a plan in place to get back on track? 

Happy Holidays!

I hope everyone had a merry Christmas or whatever holiday you celebrate!

I took some time out to enjoy the holidays with my family and with Sean. I also had the distinct pleasure of losing my job on December 23 (sense the sarcasm?). My former employer certainly had a sense of humor when it came to handing out pink slips.

But the good news is that I always come up swinging. I have been working on a huge project and it’s finally a done deal! I am going to be working with a big name company, their marketing reps, and a big city marathon. As soon as I have permission to share all the details I promise I will!

I also scheduled my ACSM Certified Personal Training exam for the end of January. Thanks to this I may have a job at my gym. They hope to be hiring a new trainer in February so the timing may just work out perfectly!

Last but not least, I have applied to be an adjunct instructor at a career school. I’m awaiting a review of my qualifications and transcripts but hopefully I will also be teaching classes such as Kinesiology and Anatomy & Physiology in February!

Post-Christmas lunch cuddles on our cheap accent chairs (under $100) we just purchased for the holiday.
I’ve still stuck to my plan through all of this. I started week 8 today and Sean has been going with me every day for the most part. It’s been hard being surrounded by treats and junk food. I can’t say I haven’t fallen off the nutrition wagon a few times but I’m still doing the best I can. I have 4 weeks to make the best of my lean out phase after this week and I intend to kill it.
Christmas Selfies at the gym
On a final, and much funnier, note I saw the weirdest and coolest thing ever while at the gym yesterday. I was on the treadmill doing my long run and I glanced up out the window to see a man with a leash in his hand. Attached to the other end was a large, brown animal. I assumed it was a dog at first but then I realized it definitely wasn’t!
I thought maybe my pre-workout was the problem or maybe I was hallucinating. And then the man on the elliptical behind me exclaimed, “That man is walking a deer!” I let out a sigh of relief and then tried to get Sean’s attention so he could come see. I didn’t succeed so I did the next best thing and grabbed my phone!
Merry Christmas! Here is a pic of a man walking a deer!

Being the Odd (Wo)Man Out

I had a not-so-fun medical experience today. After the last one, I really wasn’t thrilled to be headed into a hospital again. This time it was for a biopsy and everyone reassured me that it would be quick and easy. I’m pretty sure that’s what I was told in October too!

But what really got to me is that the radiology tech, the nurse, and the doctor who were doing my procedure were all blown away by me. Well, not me per se but my physiology. I’m not overweight, my heart rate, blood pressure, and O2 saturation were all better than good. As I laid on the table and listened to them I realized that medical professionals NEVER see healthy, fit people. It’s a rarity, a special treat. And they don’t know how to handle it.

The nurse had to turn the alarms off on my monitor because my heart rate of 48 beats per minute was setting them off. My blood pressure of 96/68 was giving some periodic beeps as well. When the doctor pulled out a 5″ needle my heart rate shot up… all the way to 60. The doctor double checked with the ultrasound tech that she was well away from my ribs because “she’s so thin”. The doctor didn’t know how to approach a patient without inches and inches of extra padding!

I learned that the county where I had my procedure is one of the top ones in Pennsylvania for obesity. Over 50% of the population is obese, not just overweight, according to the hospital staff. I was told horror stories of patients who couldn’t fit on regular beds, the needle wasn’t long enough, or had bleeding issues because of all the medications they have to take on a daily basis for all their obesity-related illnesses.

Is this really the world we want to live in? To leave to our children? When will we put down the video games and pizzas and look outside our own front doors? I left the hospital feeling saddened. Not for myself but for all the people who don’t know the joy of sprinting up a flight of stairs without getting winded. They don’t know what it’s like to ride a bike around a lake or hike through the woods. They can’t go out dancing or even walk through a museum without having to sit down.

I want to help everyone even though I know I can’t save them all. Today’s experience just helped me recommit to the WHY behind why I am taking my personal training exam and becoming a coach. I’m going to let the tender spot just under my ribs be a reminder on why I need to study hard over the next few weeks. I’ve got lives to change and kids to save and souls to nurture. And I can’t wait to get started!

The Anti-Gift List

As a blogger, a mother, a girlfriend, and member of the good old USA I tend to get smothered with (and sucked into) gift buying just like everyone else. I look at a pile of presents and wonder if it’s ‘enough’. I take on even more overtime to buy ‘stuff’ for the people I love. And then the holidays come and go and all that’s left is a pile of wrapping paper. So instead of writing another ‘what to buy the (runner, man, child) in your life’ post I am writing the antithesis!

1.) Decorate your home/tree/yard together!

Go as big or little as you want. Put up inflatable Santas or wire and light reindeer. Make your own Charlie Brown tree. Bake salt dough ornaments. Or go all out Clark Griswold style!

2. Bake something!
You can make cookies or a cake. Make it as healthy (or not!) as you want. Get flour all over, feed eachother cookie dough, and laugh at the ridiculous cookie cutters Great Aunt Nancy gave you.
(Photo Credit: Tumblr)
3.) Get outside or workout
Throw snowballs, build a snowman, take a walk, head to the gym, or even shovel some white stuff together!
(Photo Credit: PopSugar)
4.) Break out the home movies!
What else makes you feel closer to your loved ones than laughing at their bad perm or braces?
(Photo Credit: The Ellen Show)
5.) Make breakfast in bed
Because why not?!
(This is actually a tee shirt!)
6.) Write a letter
Yes, with a pen and a piece of paper. Grab and envelope and a stamp and send someone far away (or near!) an old fashioned note.
7.) Build a blanket and pillow fort
Because you can!
That’s it! Get on with it! Go make some memories and save yourself the headaches of fighting crowds, tracking shipments, and losing the scissors or the tape while wrapping!