ACL Surgery Recovery

It's been one month since I had ACL surgery, a surgical graft replacement of the anterior cruciate ligament. (If you’re new to my blog, read about how I tore my ACL here.) Although I have several months of hard work ahead, having the first month behind me is a huge relief. I was fortunate enough to have an extremely experienced surgeon and the procedure went very well. However, the first five days after surgery were far from pleasant. Nothing could have prepared me for the amount of pain and lack of sleep. The trauma from surgery left my whole leg swollen and bruised from thigh to heel. Despite the pain level and discomfort, I was instructed to walk with crutches (50% weight-bearing) and begin physical therapy the very next day. My doctor used a patellar tendon graft which made bending especially painful near the incision on the front of the knee. The first week required tons of rest, elevation, ice and positive thoughts. Not being able to do simple every day tasks like showering and cooking was difficult and really frustrating. I am so incredibly grateful for my mom for taking amazing care of me (even during grumpy moments). Changing my ice cooler, doing laundry and preparing my clean meals so I’d stay on track - she made everything possible.

PreOpACL
PostOpACL
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By weeks two and three I was able to see some light at the end of the tunnel. I was able to return to work, go out to dinner with friends and even drive (no more Uber!). Therapy sessions started to become less painful and more hopeful. Between the sessions at therapy and practicing exercises on my own, it’s clear that post operative rehabilitation is key. I’m focusing on full extension, flexion and gaining back my quadriceps after severe atrophy. Having to relearn how to properly move my leg has been mentally and physically challenging, but having patience is a must. I notice small amounts of progress with each day and should soon be able to ditch my crutches. Looking forward to being fully recovered and getting back to my normal workouts. Until then I’ll be working hard on my knee exercises, upper body workouts and keeping a clean diet.

"A minor setback paves the way for a major comeback."

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Follow my daily Instagram stories to see some of my rehab exercises. 

♡ Happy Friday!

Fab Abs

With summer around the corner lots of people are busy getting “bikini ready”. This includes firm legs, a bubble butt, chiseled arms and most importantly – a flat tummy. Although it takes dedication over time, showing off well earned abs of steel is a sweet feeling. Not to mention, your abdominal muscles are essential for overall well-being. Upper body support, better posture and less back pain are huge perks of having a strong core. But the truth is, there's no lazy way to a toned midriff. So whether you’re looking to get sexy defined abs or simply just trim down, there’s a few things you must keep in mind when it comes to your abs.

  1. Diet – Without a doubt, the most important part of your journey to a better midsection. The saying “abs are made in the kitchen” is absolutely true. You cannot expect to see results or abdominal definition if you are chowing down on breads, sugars or processed foods. You can lay on the floor and do a million crunches, but until you clean up your eating habits, your abs will never be able to truly shine. Kick the sugar, processed carbs and empty calories out of your diet and fill your plate with lean proteins, tons of vegetables and complex carbs. Using a tool such as myfitnesspal is a great way to help track your daily food intake and helps to avoid over-eating.
  2. Workouts – Anyone who’s ever trained with me knows how much I love giving core work. But the key to a great ab workout routine is variety. The core is a complex series of muscles that run in different directions. In order to really fire all of the muscles in your abdomen, you must be willing to switch up your exercises. Sure, good old crunches will give you an ab burn, but there are so many other ways to effectively hit all ab muscles. For example, there are so many great exercises that don’t even require you to lay down! Also, using unstable surfaces (like a ball or Bosu) while working out other body parts can trigger the core muscles at the same time.   
  3. Consistency – Being consistent is super important when it comes to abs. Just like many other body parts, it does NOT happen over night. Stay away from two-week or one-month crash diets and workout plans. Start looking at the big picture and make more realistic goals. My biggest tip for a lot of my clients is the weekday rule: stick to a clean routine during the week and save any cheat meals and cocktails for the weekend only. I also encourage my clients to take a few photos each month to track progress. With consistency over time, you’ll be going from flabs to FAB abs!

Try this workout:

Forearm Plank Hold – 60 seconds

Forearm Plank Alternating Knee Taps – 30 seconds

Reverse Crunch (legs in table top) – 15 reps

Flutter Kick – 30 seconds

Ball Pass Abs – 10 reps

Long Arm Plank w/ Twisted Knee Tuck - 10 sets

Knee Friendly Fitness

It’s been a little over five weeks since I tore my ACL and I can definitely say that it's been a humbling experience. My injury has not kept me from training clients and teaching my weekly barre classes. However, the real challenging part of this whole experience is having to drastically change my own workouts and knowing when to rest. Since running, barre workouts and group fitness classes are out of the question, I've had to find other ways to safely raise my heart rate. I’ve managed to work around my injury and still perform some killer upper body and core moves. Lately, I’ve been lifting heavier weights and using battle ropes for (seated) cardio. It’s so important to continue to move even when you’re faced with difficulties. Not only to stay healthy and in shape, but also for the mental health benefits of fitness! Each week I gain motivation and feel more prepared to tackle my surgery. Check out one of my workouts below.

Battle Ropes (3 sets total):

  • Alternating Waves – 45 seconds
  • Double Waves – 45 seconds
  • Russian Twist Slams – 45 seconds

Dumbbells (3 sets total):

  • Chest Press – 15
  • Seated Shoulder Press – 15
  • Overhead Triceps Extension – 15
  • Chest Fly (legs raised) – 15

Floor (3 sets total):

  • Triceps Dips - 15
  • Pushups - Close Triceps Position (pad for the knees) – 15
  • Weighted Sit-Ups - 15
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Follow my Instagram stories for daily clips of my diet, clients’ workouts and my pre-surgery workouts! 

When life gives you lemons...

This month I took an adult spring break and traveled to the mountains for a getaway. My friend/former client moved to beautiful Crested Butte last year so I was extremely excited to visit her, breathe the mountain air and throw on some ski gear! Things get a little hectic here in South Florida so I had really been anticipating this trip. Crested Butte is a charming town way up in the Rockies that’s filled with avid skiers, snowboarders and lots of active people. During my second day skiing on the mountain, I decided to try a run that was a little bit more challenging. The conditions were perfect and the vibes were just right, so I went for it. As I started picking up lots of speed I realized it was time to start turning my skis to slow down. I somehow made a wrong move and ended up taking an epic fall, keeping both poles in hand and both skis on. It was such a chaotic crash due to high speed that it took me a few moments to gather my thoughts. Immediately I knew that it was going to be bad. I was able to move my legs and arms, but very slowly. I had extreme pain in my left elbow and throbbing in my right knee. My adrenaline was pumping but all I could do was lay on the snow, look up at the blue sky and wonder how the F I was going to be able to shake this one off. Truth is, I’ve never had any real physical limitations. I’ve been athletic since I could walk and my entire life revolves around fitness and having to be on my A-game to help and inspire others. After returning home, the swelling was horrible but I managed to still train my clients and teach one barre class during my first week back. (This slow-paced life is for the birds!) When the MRI came back showing I had ruptured my ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament is one of the four main ligaments of the knee) in my right knee, I immediately got that sinking gut feeling and I knew things just got real. I’m not one to cry often, but I completely broke down. I felt terrible, totally hopeless and instantly began thinking all negative thoughts. What if I’m not able to regain the strength I had in my leg? What if this seriously impacts my business? What if the scar is big? Surely I can’t book any photoshoots with an ugly scar! That all went on for about twenty-four hours. (OK, maybe forty-eight.) But then I had a lightbulb moment. Yes, tearing my ACL is a setback and will take time, but things could be worse. So I had to give myself a pep talk, just like I would give to any one of my clients. I’m alive, strong, and with motivation and hard work, overcoming this obstacle is possible. With the expertise of a great surgeon and diligent rehabilitation, I’ll be on the road to recovery. In the meantime, I’m still able to work on my upper body and abs, and keeping a super clean diet will be key. I’m considering this to be a major learning experience and I’m not accepting failure. I will run, jump, squat and even ski again. Getting there may not be a walk in the park, but I’m capable of taking on the challenge.

Follow me on instagram for all things fitness, clean eating and updates on my recovery process! Catch me at the barre this week at Fitness Hub - Tuesday 5:30pm and Friday 10:30am.

Have a great week!

♥Liv

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Lately I've been feeling the fall vibes and have been really craving soup. Butternut squash soup, to be specific. I don't eat soup often but something about last weekends' "cold front" here in South Florida put me in a mood. After seeing so many recipes over the past few weeks while scrolling though my favorite food-inspired accounts, I had one saved that I was dying to try by Minimalist Baker. Not only was it butternut squash, it was coconut curry infused. Talk about soul-warming! Aside from the fact that it was everything my taste buds wanted, it's quick and easy to whip up. (I made it last night after getting home from a looooong day) I love so many of her recipes because they're simple yet wholesome with so many of my favorite ingredients. For this recipe, I used a Vitamix blender and I used honey instead of maple syrup.

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp (15 ml) coconut oil
  • 2 shallots, thinly diced (~40 g)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (1 Tbsp or 6 g)
  • 6 cups (840 g) butternut squash (~ 1 small butternut squash)
  • Pinch each sea salt + black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp (12 g) curry powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 14-ounce (414 ml) can light coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 cups (480 ml) vegetable broth
  • 1/2 Tbsp honey 

Instructions

  1. Heat a large pot over medium heat.
  2. Once hot, add oil, shallots, and garlic. Sauté for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
  3. Add butternut squash and season with a pinch each salt and pepper, curry powder, and ground cinnamon. Stir then cover and cook for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add coconut milk, vegetable broth and honey. 
  5. Bring to a low boil over medium heat and then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, or until butternut squash is fork tender.
  6. Using a blender purée on high until creamy and smooth. Return soup back to pot.
  7. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more curry powder as needed. Continue cooking for a few more minutes over low heat if needed.
  8. Serve as is. Can be stored in refrigerator but best when fresh! 

Remembering CAF

September is a time of the year that forces me to pause and reflect more than usual. Today would be my brothers' 29th birthday. The ninth birthday I’ve spent without him. Truth is, no matter how much time passes I still miss him today just as much as I did in 2007. He was kindhearted, bright, compassionate and absolutely gorgeous. To know him was to love him. He had this special way about him that would light up a room and had an energy that was simply contagious. He made a positive impact on anyone lucky enough to have known him. Although our time together was cut way too short, we shared a special bond and I miss it every single day. Losing a loved one at a young age is hard, but I believe it has truly molded me into the person I am today. It’s something that you never imagine could or would happen to you. It’s hard think that in an instant your life could change forever. But because I had to learn this earlier on in life, I just feel things differently. It’s easier for me to clearly see what’s truly important and I’ve learned to never take things, my health or people for granted. After the accident, I became much more passionate about certain things in my life that mattered most. I’ll never forget stepping back into the dance studio just a few days after he died and the amount of joy that movement brought me even after my life had just fallen apart. It’s the moments like that that keep me going. Life is simply too short to not do what you love. The way I love fitness and wellness is how he loved sports, music and surfing. The relationships I have built in my personal and professional life have all been influenced by him in some way, even years after his death. Improving myself physically and mentally, letting go of grudges, going back to finish my education and crushing other personal goals have all been decisions in my life that were inspired by him. I can still hear his words of encouragement and I keep all of our memories close to my heart. His amazing spirit will live on forever.  

 

In loving memory of my sweet brother, Cesar A. Figueroa. 

Dumbbells before wedding bells

With wedding season in full swing, it’s no surprise that there’s been lots of wedding buzz going on during my work days. Whether it’s your own wedding, walking in a bridal party or even just attending as a guest – weddings can be a big deal. It’s one of the biggest and most memorable days of a bride’s life and everyone wants to feel their absolute BEST on their big day. One of my best friends recently tied the knot in June and three of my current clients are preparing for their weddings in the fall. As I always tell my clients, being fit is a lifestyle that requires consistency over time. However, I’m all for setting goals and CRUSHING them so a wedding can be the perfect motivator!

On New Years Eve 2015, my client/friend Kathleen married the man of her dreams. Not only was I there to witness their union, I had the honor of walking as a bridesmaid. She came to me with a goal four months prior to her big day and was ready to rock. Coming from an athletic background, she had great strength and working out was something she enjoyed. But it was time to kick things into high gear – challenging workouts, meal preparation and tons of motivation. She trained with me five days per week in the gym and would sometimes throw in a barre class on the weekend. Aside from the physical benefits of training, working out helps to minimize any wedding planning jitters (it’s a real thing!). We also spent lots of time in the kitchen together cooking delicious and healthy meals to ensure consistent clean eating. With all the hard work and dedication, Kathleen’s results were showing…and fast. So fast, that with each visit to the dress designer the dress had to be taken in. (Although she was looking fab, I don’t think he was too happy with me.) Her wedding turned out to be beyond perfect. She was glowing, healthy and stronger than ever. Looking stunning in her wedding dress was also a plus!

As for my current brides-to-be, they are on the same path and I couldn’t be more proud of them. They’re staying focused with awesome workouts, daily motivation, lots of clean eating and having so much fun along the way. Truth is, even with a wedding planner the preparation seems endless. Not to mention juggling work schedules and other things that life throws at you. (Major props to Kandace for working crazy hours per week at the hospital but still managing to make time to stay wedding-ready!) Just remember that it’s all worth it and hard work always pays off.

Cheers to FIT brides!

Say YES to Weights

When most people hear the words “strength training” they immediately think of body building, power lifting or strenuous workouts. To the average person or someone newly into fitness, strength training and using weights can be intimidating. A lot of people think that strength training is only associated with athletes and experienced individuals. Although I believe any form of exercise or movement is beneficial, incorporating weight in some or all of workouts is crucial.

As we age, we face an inevitable decline in bone density and muscle strength. It has been scientifically proven that aerobic exercise alone is not enough to sustain bone health, muscle tone, posture and an all-around functional body. Stronger muscles lead to stronger bones which can prevent injuries and osteoporosis. Strength training can involve dumbbells, stationary machines, weighted bars, suspension training and resistance bands. The intensity of strength training routines can vary and can be suitable for any level of fitness. For individuals who are trying to lose weight, weight bearing exercise is needed for fat loss.

Being a female in the fitness industry, I am constantly being asked by other women about my views on lifting weights. Not only am I in the fitness industry as a personal trainer, but I also teach barre which is known for little to low weight and high repetition exercises. The idea that weight will make someone look “bulky” versus “long and lean” is a common misconception and could not be further from the truth. I have often heard well-known trainers discourage women from using challenging amounts of weight and I am constantly encouraging my female clients to eliminate this mentality. With proper form, a great workout routine and a balanced diet, weight training can take your body to the next level of awesome.

With clearance from a doctor and expert advice from a fitness professional, anyone can start a safe and effective workout program which incorporates strength training. If you are still not convinced, the fact that you don’t technically need a gym membership to maintain a routine should seal the deal. All you need is a set of dumbbells to get started in your home, garage or outdoors. Eventually, a beginner starting with minimal time and equipment can progress into more advanced movements and longer workouts. Aside from the physical benefits of strength training, it increases cognitive performance, mood and confidence for both men and women of all fitness levels.

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#MotivationMonday Count Down to Memorial Day Weekend

We've reached the middle of May and the count down to Memorial Day Weekend has officially begun. Personally, it's my favorite time of the year -  it's the unofficial start of summer and, more importantly, it's my birthday weekend! For many, this weekend is all about weekend getaways, board shorts and bikinis, cookouts, outdoor activities, and an all around good time. For me, I love to kick my workouts and clean eating in high gear...well, because, birthday cake and bubbly. It's a physically motivating time of the year - the weather is perfect for a bike ride, beach run, paddle boarding or rollerblading. Aside from my normal workout routine in the gym and studio, I take every chance I get to feel an extra burn. With so many outdoor fitness opportunities, I want you to know that summer bodies can also be built in the summer! I'll be posting some of my favorite exercises and meals on instagram for some added Memorial motivation. We've got two weeks until the long weekend, let's make every day count!

To prepare for the week ahead I hit the grocery store hard to make sure I was stocked up. Here's a list of what I took home:

  • Spinach
  • Bananas
  • Pineapple
  • Chicken Breasts
  • Almond Milk
  • Ground Beef
  • Spaghetti Squash
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Protein Bars
  • Oats
  • Quinoa
  • Romaine
  • Asparagus

Cheers to a healthy new week!

♡♡♡♡