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

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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Transformation Tuesday - Cathy

Out of all the benefits of my position, I’d say the number one perk is getting to meet some incredible people. Not only meet them, but truly get to know them, help them, and gain their trust. For me, training is so much more than giving someone a series of exercises because they want to look good on their vacation in two weeks. While looking good is a big part of it, it’s more of a mind-body connection. My goal is to help people get to know and love their own bodies long-term by way of movement and exercise. 

A perfect example of this would be the story of my client Cathy. She has been working out with me for over two years. Previously, she walked a couple times per week and occasionally threw on a workout video at home. Rarely breaking a sweat and hardly any cardio or weights. She was not eating a balanced diet and had no real routine. After a year and a half of minimal exercise, she agreed to accompany a friend and try a few classes. While the workouts seemed much different than what she did years ago with her personal trainers, she was willing to give it a shot. One class turned into taking my barre class three times per week and later incorporating one-on-one training (gym and in-home). Not long after reaching a consistent point in her workout routine, she started to feel better from the inside out. Increased energy levels, strength, stamina, confidence and overall happiness; naturally she became more committed to herself and making this huge lifestyle change. It was like a domino effect. Her mentality shifted, and working out was no longer a burden, instead the most essential appointment of the day. Cooking at home became normal and clean eating became enjoyable. Coworkers, friends and family were noticing the physical changes, and boy, was that exciting! Weight training resulted in arm and leg definition, fat loss, weight loss, and overall firmness. Suspension training, functional training and barre work helped to tone, improve balance, core strength, body alignment and posture. Her pant size went from a ten to a six, making her no stranger to the seamstress. Consistency in her diet and exercise routine over a two year period lead to serious results.

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The biggest gain? (Pun intended!) Cathy does it for no one other than herself, and that makes me the proudest. She shows up ready to work and constantly maintains a positive attitude, and watching her bloom and transform the past two years is what makes my role so amazing. Grateful that I’ve earned the trust to push her to her limits (despite my tough love and our seated-rest rule) and guide her through her journey to wellness. 

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My aim is to help people be the best possible version of themselves. After all, the best investment you’ll ever make is in you.

Follow me on Instagram for more fitspiration @livfigueroa

Make it a great week!

Liv