Add Pull Exercises To Your Routine

Chances are, if you’re like me, you sit at a desk for the majority of your day. This can wreak havoc on your posture and muscles. I wrote once about posture tips in the office, but today I want to talk about what you can do at the gym to help your posture.

Something I learned when I first starting personal training in 2010 was in regards to exercises we do that can either help or end up making our posture worst. Pull exercises are the #1 that can help you maintain better posture (I feel like I already typed posture 10 times and I’m only 2 paragraphs in).

Add These Back Workouts To Your Routine

Most people do push exercises when they’re at the gym, or do a combo of push and pull exercises.

Push exercises include: push-ups, bench press/any type of press

Pull exercises include: pull-ups, rows, pull-downs

I know that banging out a few bench press reps makes you feel awesome and hardcore, but it may not be the best thing for your posture. When you sit at a desk all day, chances are you’re probably hunched over, at least a little bit. That means your shoulders are rounded forward, and as time goes on, they stay like that. Your pectoral muscles get tight, and doing more bench press reps just ends up making it worse…meaning then your shoulders are hunched over, and the vicious cycle continues.

That’s why I suggest doing more pull exercises than push exercises. I rarely even do push exercises to be honest. I’d rather work on my back anyway, which is one of your largest muscle groups. I also have horrible posture so I know going for a bench press PR won’t help me (though I did try this winter haha).

Doing anything that involves pulling will work your back muscles, which is good for a few reasons.

  1. Working a large muscle group like your back means you’re burning more calories, before and after the workout.
  2. Your back muscles are what keeps your posture up and also pulls your shoulders back. A strong back will help correct posture imbalances.

When you start doing more back workouts, just make sure you mix up horizontal pulls (seated row) and vertical pulls (lat pulldown).


Here are a few of my go-tos, and I wrote about more in a previous post as well:

Negative pull-ups

Can’t do a pull-up? No problem. Start with these. These are really tough but will make you stronger really quickly. This exercises focuses on your lats and biceps. Yeah you’re not actually PULLING yourself up but you’re working towards being able to do unassisted pull-ups (if that’s your goal)

Start with lowering in 5 seconds, and work your way up to 10 seconds (aka it takes you 10 seconds before your arms are straight again)

Seated row

I love seated row. It’s probably my favorite exercise and has really helped me build a stronger back. Make sure you sit with your chest up and shoulders back. Shoulders back always!! Pull in with force, then take 3 seconds to let the weight go again. Don’t rush through any of these exercises. Focus on squeezing your shoulder blades as you pull in.

Cable row (Runners, add this to your routine!)

I just started doing this as I’ve been half marathon training and I believe it has really helped me running. Go to a cable machine, pull the cable out a bit and stand in a split stance. Leg that goes back matches with the arm holding the cable. As always, chest up, shoulders back and when you pull make sure to maintain that posture and don’t let your body turn in any way. Your torso should stay facing forward. Pull in with force, then slowly let it out.

She’s not standing in a split stance but her form cues are exactly what you need to be doing.

Why is this great for runners? Because it’s working on your arm strength specific to running. When you need power, what do you do? You pump your arms. You need that arm force. This exercises goes through that exact movement pattern, and as you get stronger you’ll have more power when you need that finishing kick.

To make it more challenging and add in a leg workout too, you can grab the cable, do a reverse lunge, and as you come up do the cable row.

So my main tip? Stop doing as much pushing and start pulling!

Do you do chest AND back exercises or tend to focus more on one?

What’s your favorite pull exercise?


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Health & Fitness Links To Get You Through The Day

I’m off work today woohoo! Downside is I couldn’t find anyone else who is off or would like to play hooky to come to the beach with me ;)

As usual, here are some great posts I found this week!

Are you vigilant about wearing sunscreen?

Do you prefer swimming at the beach or lounging in the sand?


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What Workout Should I Try Next?

So on Monday I decided to try out a new workout: “Cardio Barre.” It was described as a mix between Barre and willPower & Grace. Hmmm…

A co-worker had suggested a while ago that I try willPower & Grace because she thought it’d help with my shin splint issues. It’s a barefoot class which focuses on balance and leg strengthening.

It was tough in a totally different way! A looottttt of squat variations, my legs were on fire. The hardest part for me was the balancing part. We did a lot of one-legged exercises and I felt like I was the only one falling all over the place. I’m way more wobbly on my left side, which may be part of the reason my left shin is always the one to give me more issues? 

During all those balancing exercises my ankles and calves were also burning. It was weird because the day after my shins felt sore? I obviously didn’t do anything with major impact to make them sore, so I’m thinking that working all those muscles in that area is what made my shins hurt a bit. I definitely want to do this class again to help with my balance which is obviously very important for runners.

Which leads me to my next point…I want to experiment with more classes and types of workouts! I’d like your suggestions as well, especially if you use classes or other workouts as cross training. Here’s what I’d like to try out, or do more of in, in the next few months:



What workouts do you want to try OR do more of? Leave a comment and let me know so I can add it to my list too!


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Health & Fitness Links To Get You Through The Day

So remember I talked about how Dan and I went to a wedding this weekend despite him being in pain from bruised ribs? Turns out he has a small fracture! No wonder he is in so much pain. Yikes. Has anyone fractured a rib or bone before? How long is the recovery? :(

Anyway…I found a lot of great info for you and have been finding a lot of new bloggers recently!

What’s your #1 excuse when you don’t want to workout or run? How do you get over it?


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Health & Fitness Links To Get You Through The Day

Another rainy day here in NJ. I was hoping to get outside for a hill workout today but looks like the treadmill will have to do. Do you still run outside even when it’s raining?

Anyway, here are this week’s links!

  • Crossfit Home Gym Essentials (Carrots N’ Cake) – I can’t wait until I have my own house so I can make a home gym. These definitely are essentials if you’re planning on making one.
  • One Meal, Three Ways (Long Drive Journey) – Never thought to put turkey on my sweet potato…that looks delicious!
  • 5 Reasons To Periodize Your Workouts (Fit Knit Chick) – I wrote yesterday about breaking through plateaus, and this is a great way to make sure you don’t hit a plateau.
  • The Weekend Lover’s Marathon Training Guide (According to Elle) – A training plan for those of you who like your long runs on the weekends. I personally like longer runs during the week (and a long run on the weekend), but different plans work for different people, so find one that works for you and your schedule.

Do any of you have a home gym? What are your must-haves?


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5 Ways To Bust Through A Plateau

Have you ever realized you’ve been just going through the motions with your workout? Or perhaps that you aren’t seeing results anymore? Part of it could be due to your exercise routine. You may be in a plateau. But it’s okay…I’m here to give you a few tips on how to get past it and get stronger and leaner!

Bust Through A Plateau

Change the amount of sets and reps you’re doing. If you’ve been doing 3 sets of 12 reps for a while, then your body is probably adapted to this stimulus. Try doing 3 sets of 8 reps instead, meaning you will choose a heavier weight. Or 4 sets of 12 reps. Either increase or decrease sets OR reps, but not both (i.e. – 5 sets of 20 reps).

Start doing 1.5 reps. Going with the above example, if you’re doing 3 sets of 12, try doing 1.5 reps. For example, in a dumbbell chest press, you would lower the weights down, press up only half way, lower then back down, then press up all the way. You will definitely feel the burn! This can be done for other exercises like squats, leg press, and more.

Switch up the exercises. I’ve seen people write about the SAME workouts they do day in and day out for months on end. Switch it up people! Do a certain workout routine with set exercises for 3-4 weeks, then change them up. It’s okay to keep 1-2 of the same, especially if their exercises you want to improve upon, but try to change up your routine every 3-4 weeks.

Add cardio accelerations in between sets. Try incorporating 30 seconds of a high intensity interval in between sets. You could do a set of squats, set of deadlifts, and then add in burpees for example. If you do this, don’t expect to lift as heavy as you usually do, since you will be more tired going into each lift. Track your progress by measuring yourself before starting to add in accelerations, that way you know if they are benefiting you.

Switch from body part training to full body training or vice versa. Pretty simple, just switch what you’re doing. Your body gets used to things pretty fast, so if you’ve been doing body part training, then switch to full body. Or if you do back and biceps, and chest and triceps…change that up too. Try chest and back, and legs and arms.

 Have you ever hit a plateau? What did you do to change things up?

Anything you’d add to this list?


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5 Things Your Personal Trainer Wants You To Know

How many of you have a personal trainer? I’m actually a NASM Certified Personal Trainer. I got certified in 2010 and re-certified last year with a focus on fitness assessment. Fitness and health are my passion, clearly…hence my blog!

I wanted to share with you all a few things we personal trainers want you to know when you’re in sessions with us. Some of them you may do already or know about already, and some you may not. I’m curious to hear what your thoughts are!

Things Your Personal Trainer Wants You To Know

We hate the word “tone.” “Toning up” doesn’t exist. What people mean when they say they want to be tone is that they want to lose body fat so you can see more muscle. Muscle tone actually refers to whether a muscle is at rest or contracted. From my experience, it seems women use this phrase more, and don’t want to refer to it as building muscle, but that’s what it is! Ladies, don’t be afraid of admitting you want to add muscle and get lean…nothing wrong with that! You won’t “look like a man” I promise.

You need to do the work outside of sessions with us. Just coming to 1 or 2 sessions per week with us won’t make much of a difference. You also need to be doing something those other 5-6 days a week. If you’re not sure how to plan a weekly workout schedule, just ask us! Which leads me to my next point…

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, we love answering them! If you’re not sure what a certain exercise is for or how it will benefit you, don’t be afraid to us. We love to answer questions and start talking about muscles and science-y stuff :-P If we don’t know the answer to a question, we also love doing the research. We are here to help and will gladly find out as much as we can for you.

If something hurts, even a tiny twinge, speak up. If you’re doing a bench press and your shoulder hurts a little, tell us! Don’t wait. We know modifications for every exercise and can modify things depending on what hurts or bothers you. Don’t feel annoying by asking us to do this.

Confidence is key. Be confident when you’re lifting! I can’t tell you how many times I give a client a weight and they say “I can’t do that!” and they end up going through 3 sets no problem. Be confident and you can do it. A lot of it is mental. Which is what we are here for as well, to give you coaching cues and make you confident as you’re lifting. So when you’re lifting alone, remember those cues. When I lift, mentally I am telling myself things like, “Drive it up!” “Chest up shoulders back” “Explode!” Try it – it really helps.

Do you have a personal trainer or work out alone? Do you use mental phrases to help you?

What’s one question you’d like to ask a personal trainer? (hint: might have a Twitter chat on this soon!)


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Should You Run Or Lift First?

I have a few random topics I will write about today…so bear with me :)

If you follow me on YouTube (and if you don’t, you should!), you may have seen my first Vlog I posted on Monday. I want to do short 1-2 minute vlogs, which will be different than my workout videos I upload. I’ll share about me and my running partners, and each video will end with a quick workout/running tip or fact.

Which is what the title of this blog refers to. On Monday, I went for a run with my brother before going to the gym to lift chest and back. Check out my video and see what my thoughts are on if you should run or lift first:

And in this one I talk about how to motivate yourself to run or workout when you really don’t want to!

Aannndddd last announcement…I’m going to be coaching Cross Country at the community college I work at! I am really excited. We had a meeting with prospective students yesterday and had a good turnout. We’ll see how it goes! I guess I need to start reading some coaching books huh? ;)

Any big news for you this week? What are you all working on?


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12 Running Mistakes & How To Avoid Them

So you’re a runner…or deciding to run? Great! Running is a great way to get in and stay in shape, relieve stress, and compete against yourself and no one else.

However, it’s important to avoid making certain mistakes that could leave you burned out, or worse, sidelined with an injury.

Here are 12 running mistakes runners need to watch out for. Some you may have already heard of (or perhaps all), but still good things to remember/work on!

running mistakes
1) Doing Too Much Too Soon: This has been said over and over again. Don’t run too much too soon. Follow the 10% rule which states that you should not increase your weekly mileage by more than 10%. This rule may not make sense with lower mileage (such as 10 miles per week), or work for everyone. Instead, start off by tracking minutes instead of miles. Start with a 20 minute run, then the following week move up to perhaps 25-30 minutes, and so on. If you feel any pain, then back off or stay at the current level you are at.

2) Not Running Enough: As opposed to doing too much too soon, sometimes it’s possible to not be running enough. I ran my first marathon in 2011, and completely bonked. Why? Because I didn’t run enough in training. I was scared of getting injured, but that caused me to not be fully prepared. I ran the same marathon in 2013, and doubled my monthly mileage averages in training. The result was a 33 minute personal best. Don’t be afraid to increase your mileage, as long as you have a good base.

3) Not Strength Training: As a personal trainer, I know the importance of strength training for runners. But, as a marathoner, I also know how hard it is to incorporate it into your already full schedule. During the off-season, increase your strength training and include full-body workouts. While training, at least make sure you’re doing body weight exercises, such as squats, lunges, push-ups, and hip raises, as well as core exercises.

4) Not Fueling Properly: It’s easy to fall into the mindset of, “I ran 10 miles today, I can eat whatever I want.” However, it is important to fuel your body for the demands of training, especially post-run. Make sure to have a good intake of healthy proteins, carbohydrates and fats. After a run, a protein shake, or chocolate milk makes for a great recovery meal. Also, make sure you are drinking enough water daily! Track how many ounces you drink via an app, or simply writing it down. I also wrote a post on muscle recovery.

5) Not Getting Enough Sleep: If you’re training for anything, whether it’s a 5K or a marathon, you will be pushing your body during hard workouts. You need to make sure you are giving it proper rest to recover. Do not skimp on sleep or your workouts will suffer.

6) Not Wearing The Right Shoes: Another tip that has been repeated many times before. Go to a specialty store and get fitted for the correct shoe. It took me a couple of tries until I found the right shoe. Experiment and don’t be afraid to try other brands. If you can, buy more than 1 shoe at once, so you can rotate them.

7) Not Wearing The Right Gear: Furthermore, wearing the right gear is so important. Sure, cotton shirts and shorts may cut it for shorter runs, but once you switch to dri-fit tops and wicking material, you’ll never go back. These materials are lighter, wick away sweat, and prevent chafing. Make sure to wash them correctly in order to make sure they last.

8) Running Too Fast Every Day: How do you get faster? NOT by running fast every day. There are times when running fast is necessary. You should have about two-three hard days per week, followed by easy recovery days. Those days should be run at a slower pace, giving your body a chance to truly recover. It might feel like a slog to you, but doing so will actually help you get faster. Running hard every day means your body never has a chance to truly recover.

9) Not Incorporating Speed & Tempo Workouts: Going along with the above point, in order to run faster, you need to incorporate speed and tempo workouts. These will really help you pick up the speed and improve your kick in races. A track workout could be something like 10×400 meters, while a tempo workout maintains a certain pace for an extended period of time (2-10 miles depending on what you’re training for).

10) For Marathoners-Not Practicing Fueling: If you’re going to run a half-marathon or a marathon, it is so important to practice fueling on your training runs. This might seem like a no-brainer, but you need to practice everything, down to how you will store your fuel. Will you take walking breaks to take a GU? Or run while eating/drinking? Will someone hand you fuel on the course? Or will you carry it all. What type of fuel will you take? Experiment and find what works best for you.

11) Not Warming Up or Cooling Down: If you only do one of these, at least make it the warm up. Dynamic warm ups help prime your body for the run or workout you’re about to do. You warm up your heart, muscles and joints. You can do dynamic moves such as skips and hops, or simply walk at a brisk pace for 5 minutes. Post-run, make sure you do stretches for your hamstrings, quads, and glutes. These can be dynamic as well, such as toy solider walks, or simply sitting on the floor and holding stretches for 20-30 seconds. Here are some dynamic warm-up exercises that I do.

12) Not Enjoying The Run: Last but not least, enjoy the run!!! Don’t let it become monotonous and a task that you HAVE to do every day. It should be something you look forward to. A challenge that awaits. If running becomes a chore, it may signal that it’s time for a break. After a long training period, whether it’s for a half marathon or a marathon, I always take a month off to relax. I may run if I feel like it, but it’s no longer scheduled. Sometimes that’s all you need to really jump back into training and remember why you started running in the first place.

What are some mistakes or tips you would add for beginner runners?

Have you ever made any of these mistakes?


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