2013 Fitness Enthusiast Gift Guide



Are you wondering what to get your favorite fitness enthusiast this holiday season? Well, here are a few of my favorite things!

1. Personal Training – Chances are you and your loved one have set weight loss goals for 2014. Sure, a gym membership is a great gift, but did you know that gym business models set you up to fail? Studies have shown that people who work with personal trainers lose more weight more effectively and healthier than those who try to do it themselves. Most people who walk into a gym have no clue what to do in a gym (and most think they know). I have seen it firsthand when I worked in a gym. A person walks in, looks around with doe eyes, walks tentatively over to a treadmill, runs on it for 20 minutes, heads over to the weight section, pumps out some biomechanically incorrect biceps curls, and then heads over to the stretching area to give themself whiplash while attempting to do “proper” crunches. A large majority of people have no clue what to do in a gym to “get the biggest bang for their buck.” Why not buy them some sessions with a personal trainer, so your loved one can start 2014 on the right foot (with proper form!).

2. Valslides – These little sliders are the perfect stocking stuffers for any fitness enthusiast! Valislides are a great way to add challenge to any workout routine. You can use these in pushups, lunges, squats, etc. to add an element of imbalance to increase core muscle recruitment! Plus, you can tuck them into your gym bag without taking up a ton of space. You can purchase valslides through PerformBetter. Right now they are on sale for $24.00!

3. Jump Rope – Can’t afford a treadmill or elliptical machine for your home? Have no fear! For about $10 you can get the perfect cardio machine for your home. Not only is jump roping fun and a killer cardio workout, but it will increase your coordination, agility, quickness, footwork, and endurance. Can your treadmill do that? You can buy a jump rope pretty cheap at most department stores or you can purchase a higher quality one through any sporting store or PerformBetter.

4. Mini-bands – Ask any of my clients and they will tell you they have a love/hate relationship with me and my bands! I use mini-bands as a way to activate the gluteus muscles that are often very weak in the general population and athletes. Try 10 lateral steps with a mini-band around your ankles in each direction and you’ll be sure to feel your gluteus medius the next day! I use these as a pre-hab tool for all my athletes. You can buy them at Target or Dicks, but I find the PerformBetter mini-bands are a much better quality and last longer. They are the ultimate stocking stuffer at under $5.00 a piece!

5. Yoga Class Pass – Regular yoga practice is great for mind, body, and soul! I have really fallen in love with yoga this fall and it has helped with my hip issues. Plus, I love unwinding after a tough day at the office! I’m sure your fitness enthusiast would love a class pass to your local yoga studio! If you’re from the Greater Portland (Maine) area, then I highly recommend Greener Postures, Lila East End Yoga, and Portland Power Yoga.

6. Vitamix (or any quality blender) – Smoothies are a nutritious and quick way to get it one’s vegetables and fruits for the day! The Vitamix is the gold standard for a blender, but it is a costly investment. I personally have a Vitamix on my Santa Wish List this year! I’ve been using a Nutribullet for a few months and it works very well; however, it doesn’t quite get that perfect consistency I’m looking for in my smoothies. A Vitamix can also make almond butter and soup among other great recipes! It’s an investment worth a lifetime! Go to Vinnie Tortorich’s webpage to click-through his banner to get free shipping! Trust me, these things are heavier than a small pony!

7. Gift Cards – Gift cards are a great alternative, especially for clothing places. Just make sure you get a gift card to a place your loved one will use it! If all else fails, Amazon has just about anything you can buy! Except, for that magic weight loss pill you have been waiting for. Speaking on an Amazon gift card… your loved one can use it to buy the next item!

8. Fitness Confidential – I read a lot of health and fitness books each year and this one is by far one of my favorites. Vinnie Tortorich is the “Hollywood go to guy in fitness.” He works with all the big names, but you don’t know his name because he doesn’t sell his soul to the devil like Jillian Michaels and Bob Harper! Not only does Vinnie tell you like it is in his no bullshit attitude, he gives you some commonsense, easy-to-follow fitness and weight-loss advice. He also tells you a bit about his personal life and he is a remarkable guy. The book comes on multiple platforms… paperback, Kindle, or audiobook! I’ve read the Kindle version and I just started the audio version. You can buy the book at Amazon through THIS link.

9. TRX – Hands down, the TRX is my Favorite tool! My fitness philosophy very much falls in the functional training category and I utilize the TRX, kettlebells, bands, and medicine balls for all my personal and most of my clients workouts. The TRX can be used just about anywhere (the perfect gift for your traveling fitness enthusiast!) and provides the tools to do 100s of different bodyweight exercises to give your entire body a killer workout! The TRX is perfect for the beginner to the most advanced fitness enthusiasts! You can purchase the TRX through the TRX website or through PerformBetter.

10. Foam Rollers – Foam rolling is something that every fitness enthusiast and athlete dreads. Foam rolling is a form of self-myofascial release that works to inhibit overactive muscles. Foam rolling can be painful when you first begin, but overtime it does get better (I swear!). A foam roller is a great tool to help relieve tension and pain in certain body parts (however, you should always see a sports medicine doctor if you are having persistent pain!) and there are other tools you can use, such as “The Stick” and lacrosse balls. I highly recommend everyone have a foam roller at home. You can easily use it while watching tv! You can purchase one at any sporting store location, but I find that PerformBetter has better quality ones and they are generally cheaper than the ones at Dicks.

So here are my top 10 fitness gifts for 2013. What are you getting your favorite fitness enthusiast this year?

~ Happy Training!

Disclaimer: The above list contains items that I personally love and use. No one paid me to say the above comments and/or put an item on the list. The PerformBetter link is an affiliate link so if you would like to help me buy my poor dog a new bone for Christmas than please click through that link and go on a shopping spree! 🙂 

Book Review: Fat Chance

Looking for a good book? This is one MUST READ book! I enjoy listening to podcasts while working sometimes. My favorite podcast is Vinnie Tortorich, America’s Angriest Trainer. I HIGHLY recommend you listen to his podcast and then go out and buy his bestselling book, Fitness Confidential. I will be doing a book review of that very shortly. Vinnie has always recommended Dr. Robert Lustig’s Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease on his podcast and after IMLP I finally had some free time to pick it up and finish it.

Source: Amazon

Source: Amazon

I’ve read a lot of books within the past month and Lustig’s is by far the best one to read. I think this book should even be a required reading book in high schools and college. That’s how much I think everyone needs to read this book. Go buy it. Now!

Who is Dr. Lustig? Well, he is an internationally renowned pediatric endocrinologist who has spent the past 16 years treating childhood obesity at some of the top hospitals in the world, such as St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital. Sooo… I would say that he knows his shit better than those Jillian Michaels and Dr. Oz characters.

Dr. Lustig became famous for his at-the-time, very controversial you-tube video called “Sugar: The Bitter Truth.” And, yes, I think you should watch that too. Fat Chance documents the science and politics that have led to the current obesity pandemic that no longer just affects the United States, but the entire world. I went on a medial mission to Costa Rica and Nicaragua in 2011 and I was surprised beyond belief the number of overweight and obese people and the number of fast-food joints in those countries. Hell, Costa Rica has a Denny’s!

Lustig reveals and outlines all the bad research that has been conducted over the years by the government and big food. Personally, I think a lot of those scientists who were involved in many of those studies should have their PhD’s removed. It’s rather disgusting how many people will sell-out to the food industry and politicians. Ok, end rant.

The book begins by setting up a valid argument why the government’s view of “calorie in, calorie out” is bullshit. I hate that term. When discussing food with my clients I always ask them “what is a calorie?” No one has yet to answer correctly. It’s because we have been brainwashed over the years to think of food as calorie in, calorie out. That’s how you’re suppose to lose weight, right? Wrong! Believe me, I was one of those people for a long time too, but the more I read (from reputable and educated sources!!) the more I learn that I have been completely duped all my life. Lustig is an endocrinologist meaning that he is a specialist in hormones and the biochemistry of the human body.

Lustig talks a lot about hormones, ya know, since he gets hormones. Hormones have a profound effect on our metabolism and how we view food. Fat Chance outlines ways to readjust our key hormones that regulate hunger, reward, and stress. That is done mainly by eliminating sugar. Sugar is an addictive toxin to our bodies. We live in a society today that thinks dietary fat is bad. Low-fat this and low-fat that. Well, guess what happens when you remove fat from food products? The food tastes like crap and the manufactures pump it full on sugar. Read the book and find out why sugar is bad for you. I’m serious, do it.

The evolution of nutritional science is what really fascinates me. Back in the early to mid-1900’s we got the science right. And then big food and some idiots got involved. The leading cause of death today in the United States is heart disease, but in the next decade or so we will see that shift to diabetes and other metabolic-related diseases, which heart disease can be considered one. In 1957 John Yudkin, a British physiologist and nutritionist, postulated that a dietary component caused heart attacks. By 1964, through natural observation studies he theorized that the consumption of sucrose was associated with heart disease. Yudkins published numerous papers on the biochemistry of sucrose and was the first person to warn us that excessive consumption could lead to heart disease, diabetes, GI diseases among other diseases.

Now, back in the United States we have Ancel Keys, a Minnesota epidemiologist. In the early 1950s Keys spend some time in England where we witnessed a large rise in heart disease. The typical English diet consisted of high fat and high cholesterol items, such as fish and chips. He noticed that those who are well fed in both the US and UK were those who could afford meat, but also seemed to suffer the most from heart disease. In the 1960s and 1970s Keys published numerous studies indicating that heart disease patients had higher cholesterol levels than non-heart disease patients. In 1980 Keys published his “Seven Countries” study, a 500-page paper that concluded that dietary fat was the single cause of heart disease. Which, the United States government and medical community has since run with. However, there are four major problems with his thesis.

The first being that his Seven Countries study started out as a Twenty-two Countries study. The seven countries he used in his study were: Japan, Italy, England, Wales, Australia, Canada, and the US. The relationship between dietary fat and heart disease looked quite convincing when the data was plotted. However, when he plotted the other countries (Austria, Ceylon, Chile, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, and Switzerland), the correlation was almost non-existent. He also actively chose not to include indigenous tribes, such as the Inuit, Tokelau, and Maasai and Rendille, who eat only animal fat and have the lowest prevalence of heart disease on the planet. How’s that for science? Second, the role of dietary fat in heart disease is complicated by trans fat, which has signficant scientific studies to link it to metabolic syndrome. The use of trans-fats peaked during the 1960s and most likely were not considered a variable by Keys.

Third, if you look at the correlation itself, it is a problem. Japan and Italy eat the least amount of saturated fat and have the least amount of heart disease. But, they also eat the least amount of dietary sugar out of all the countries included. How do you know if it’s the sugar or the fat causing heart disease? Fourth, Keys admits that he correlated sucrose with saturated fat, but it was not important enough to him to remove sucrose from the equation. When one completes a multivariate correlation analysis, a common statistical tool that determines whether A causes B regardless of the impact of C, D, and E, one has to do the calculation both ways. In other words, Keys would have had to hold sucrose constant and show that dietary fat still correlates with heart disease. Basically, Keys used bad science. And then the government took it and ran with the idea.

This is just one of the studies Lustig discusses in his book. He discusses many more that are just as interesting. The end of the book concludes with two sections. One is on the personal solution and the other is on the public health solution. I absolutely loved the public health section because I am a public health professional. In society today we have this notion that obesity is an individual problem. That person eats too much, doesn’t exercise and it’s their fault they are fat. Lustig will tell you that’s rarely the problem. The public health section discusses ways as a society that we can conquer the impending obesity pandemic.

Overall, you will be crazy not to read this book. Out of all the books I have read this year, this is by far one of the best ones out there. It will change your view of nutrition and the obesity epidemic. Lustig gives you the science that backs up his claims. This isn’t a diet book written by some bimbo Hollywood trainer on how to lose 10-lbs in 10 days. It’s a real book based on real science that will open your eyes and mind to the current nutritional crisis in the United States.

What are you waiting for? GO BUY THE BOOK! 🙂

~ Happy Training!

Summer Reading



The Tower of Books

There’s no denying it, but I LOVE to read. My bookshelf is over flowing with books. Most I’ve read, but some I have not (yet). I have a bad habit of starting a book, but when a new, more interesting book is released then I jump ship and begin the new one. So I have a huge stack of half-read books sitting on my table next to my bed just begging me to finish their half-read stories.

I’ve decided I’m growing to tackle that ever-growing book stack, mostly because I’m afraid it may tumble over on me while I’m sleeping. Somehow death by book does not sounds like a fun way to go. So without further ado here is my summer reading list…

Summer 2013 Reading List

1. The Time Between by Karen White – I actually finished this book late last night. I read the entire book within 24 hours and it was just released this past week. I discovered Karen White a couple of years ago randomly at Borders. Her book The Lost Hours caught my attention because it was about horses. Anything about horses tends to get my attention. I purchased it, read it, and fell in love with her writing style. She is a Southern writer and writes about the South. I’ll be honest, I’ve always thought that I should have been a Southern girl. There is something about Charleston, South Carolina that just appeals to me. I’ve ever been there, but hopefully I’ll make the trip there soon. White’s stories are easy to read and fun. A perfect beach read in my opinion.

2. The Color of Light by Karen White – I just picked this up this week too because I haven’t read this one by White yet. By time this blog post posts on Monday I will probably have finished this book too. Love her writing!

3. The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing by Dr. Philip Maffetone – I started this book this past week but got interrupted by Karen White’s new book and thus put this book on hiatus momentarily. Maffetone is an internationally recognized researcher, clinician, coach, and author in the fields of endurance training, nutrition, and biofeedback. He was six-time Ironman winner Mark Allen’s coach for a long time. I’m interested in his philosophy of training and I plan on implementing some of his theories in my own training this coming Fall.

4. The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance by Jeff Volek and Stephen Phinney – I’m a huge fan of podcasts, especially Vinnie Tortorich and The Fit, Fat, Fast Podcast. Both podcasts discuss living no sugar no grains (NSNG) lifestyles. The lifestyle intrigues me and I’ve been spending a lot of time recently researching the topic and will most likely making the change to my diet after Ironman Lake Placid. The Fit, Fat, Fast Podcast highly suggested this book and I look forward to diving into the research behind low-carbohydrate diets this summer.

5. Why We Get Fat and What To Do About It by Gary Taubes – This book came highly suggested by Vinnie Tortorich on his podcast. I started reading it and then got distracted by a couple of the above books. So far I have loved this book! It is easy to read, but yet contains a ton of scientific research. I’ve been suggesting this book to a couple of my clients because it is an eye-opener book.

6. Fit Soul, Fit Body by Mark Allen and Brant Secunda – I picked my signed copy of the book last year at the New England Triathlon Expo in Boston. Allen was the guest speaker. I read the first chapter and then put the book down for a while. I look forward to picking it up again this summer.

7. The Healing of America by T.R. Reid – This was actually a book that I read excerpts from for one of my public health classes. The book discussed various health care systems worldwide and what we can do here in America to make health care more affordable and better. I look forward to reading the book from cover to cover instead of specific chapters.

8. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot – As a science geek you’re surprised I haven’t read this yet. It’s been on my list to read for a while now. I just haven’t gotten around to it yet. Henrietta Lacks is the source of the laboratory cell line used in hundreds of laboratories across the global for years called HeLa cells. They are actually considered a “lab weed” now because they often contaminate other cell lines. I’ve worked with cancer cell lines before and cell culture is an amazing tool used in research today and we can thank Henrietta Lacks for it. However, she and Henrietta’s family knew nothing about her “immorality” until 20 years after her death.

9. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte – I’m a huge fan of the classics and have been making an effort over the years to read a majority of the most popular ones. This one I picked up when I was in Montana in 2011 and just haven’t gotten around to it yet.

10. 1984 by George Orwell – Another classic. I started the book a couple of years ago and I guess got distracted again. I loved Animal Farm so I’ve decided that I need to read his other most known work.

11. Lance by John Wilcockson – I started reading this over a year ago. Got half way through it and just stopped. I’m not much of a Lance fan anymore. I wonder why? However, I still would like to finish reading the book. He definitely lived an interesting life; however, now I know how things end. Thanks Lance for giving away the ending.

12. How to Master the Art of Selling by Tom Hopkins – Part of being a personal trainer and coach is knowing how to sell yourself. Some people view people who sell themselves as not being humble. Well, if you want to make a living in this industry you have to be able to market yourself and tell people how much of a badass you are. I don’t have any sales background and it doesn’t come easy to me. My boss at the gym suggested I pick up this book and read it. I probably should have read it back in January, but this summer sounds like a good time too…

13. The Fate of Africa by Martin Meredith – I picked this book up during Border’s going out of business sale. I had the intentions of doing my internship for my masters in Africa, but unfortunately I couldn’t make that a reality. However, I am completely fascinated with Africa and hope to travel there soon. One of my main interests in public health is HIV/AIDS and global health. I have read about a quarter of the book, but it’s well over 700 pages long. Lots of history! It’s kind of a dry read, which is why I took a break from it. But I do love history. Hopefully, I’ll make progress in the book this summer.

14. GRE and Word Smart GRE – Yup, I’m studying to take the GREs again. I’m not 100% sure what my future plan entails. I just had an interview for a public health position that I would absolutely love and I’m crossing my fingers that I get the position! However, I am considering the option of going back to school if I can’t find a public health job soon. I took the GREs 5 years ago and now my scores are too old and thus have to re-take them. Yuck!

I have a feeling that I will probably find some other books to read in there somewhere (like Vinnie Tortorich’s book when that comes out!) and will probably not get to some of the above books. However, I really need to get through that stack before it becomes the leaning tower of books! Yikes!

What are you reading? Any good recommendations for summer reading?

~ Happy Training!

Podcasts and Anxiety Attacks

Last Thursday was March 28th. Meaning that in exactly 4 months I will be doing Ironman Lake Placid! Yikes!

We are currently building a huge order for one of our contract companies at the moment, which means that I have been labelling thousands of little bottles. The job is rather mindless and can get boring real quick. One of the ways that I make it pass faster is by listening to podcasts. Through reading Caratunk Girl’s blog I found some new favorite podcasts. Vinnie Tortorich, or the Angriest Trainer, is the bomb! Seriously, the guy is hysterical and I love every single thing he says. I plan to write another post about this at another time, but seriously, go listen to him! Although, he does like to drop the F-bomb a lot so if you can’t handle his explicit awesomeness then you might not want to listen.

Another podcast that I got recently turned onto is Garden Variety Tri. The podcast is done by Jon from New Orleans who is an Ironman plant-based triathlete. He talks about a lot of great topics that are extremely relevant to triathletes. This past Thursday I was sitting at my workstation labelling my 4,001st bottle (actually I don’t know what number I’m on, but it was a lot!) listening to Jon’s podcast on his race report of Ironman Louisville entitled “Honesty and Ironman.” I figured it would be a good one to listen to since I’m training for an Ironman. Basically Jon said that you have to respect Ironman. If you don’t then it can chew you up and spit you out. While listening to his podcast it hit me like a ton of bricks. Today was March 28th. It was exactly 4 months from the day that I would be swimming, biking, and running 140.6 miles in under 17 hours! HOLY SHIT! It sent me into a minor anxiety attack. Luckily I didn’t start hyperventilating, but I did start to rock back-and-forth in my chair. When I have minor anxiety attacks I tend to either rock back-and-forth or pace. I’m weird, I know.


I’ve been a bit on edge with my training lately. I had a good week last week, but I’m getting really nervous about Ironman. I’m beginning to doubt myself and I know that the thought of not finishing an Ironman is really getting to me. I got 4 months to get my shit together!

~ Happy Training!