5 Game Changers

5 Game Changers    


Every year I attend two fitness conferences to stay updated on the latest fitness trends and research. At every conference there is a keynote speaker. This year I was intrigued when I saw that it was Kathy Smith. Some of you might remember her (and her leotards) from her 1980’s aerobic videos. Kathy really is a fitness legend! She has sold over 16 million workout videos, which equates to over 500 million dollars in sales. And, she is still very relevant in the fitness industry today with her own app and podcast.

I was so blown away when she opened up about how she started in fitness. Simply put, she lost her father at age 17 from a heart attack and within 2 years, lost her mother and step- father in a horrible helicopter crash. Needless to say, at the age of 19, she was very lost and depressed. She found solace through running. And the healing benefits she found through running and her drive to better herself grew from there.

In her address she highlighted 5 “Game Changers” that will help you be successful. I wanted to share those with you and provide my own insight.


Find something that excites you and feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you and motivates you. Search and really reflect on WHY that is your passion. Answering that WHY question with help move you to the next level.


Your mind is the key to success. Don’t let negative thoughts hold you back. We can be our own worst enemy when we pull ourselves down with a defeatist way of thinking. Find a way to clear those negative thoughts. The simple act of BREATHING is SO powerful to keep our focus and stay positive. Find a breathing technique (there are so many great apps that can guide you) that is right for you that will allow you to fill that head space with thoughts that lead you down the path of success.


This is my favorite. We are so afraid to fail, look stupid, not be the best, etc.  that we don’t try and ultimately don’t allow ourselves to grow. Do something everyday that scares you and don’t be afraid to fail! We can learn so much from failing. Michael Jordan did not make his high school basketball team! Guess what...the secret to victory is defeat! It drives us to work harder, learn, and develop calluses. And...maybe we need to develop multiple measurements for success! For instance, success is not just numbers going down on a scale. Success is building more lean muscle, building stamina, developing our athleticism, having the ability to move without pain etc. Lengthen that measuring stick for success!


You always have a choice! You can prepare or procrastinate. You can move or sit. I loved this slide she presented:

    Choices become actions.

    Actions become habits.

    Habits become character.

    Your character is your destiny….choose wisely!


Just be a kind, loving, generous person!


Opening up the hips

In my classes you often hear me talk about the hips and the importance of opening up the hip region to relieve tension. (You also often hear me mocking myself in some hip opener positions or referring to another “model” in the class to look at since my hips are tight.  But I’m working on it.)

I am going to address why our hips get so tight and why it is important to do exercises to open up the hip region.

When I talk about opening up the “hips” I am mostly addressing the hip flexor region. That is the front (anterior) part of the hip. The Iliacus and psoas major and minor form a muscle group called the iliopsoas or hip flexors. As stated, this muscle group makes up the front part of hip but also wraps around your lower lunbar spine. 

One reason the flexors are tight is because of the large amount of time that they are in flexion - sitting in the car, at a desk or watching TV.  Also, during that 7-8 hours of sleep, the hips are typically “closed”. Finally, when the adjoining muscle groups (Glutes or hamstrings) are tight, they can also cause the hip flexor region to be tight.

But, it is important to note hips can be strained also because of our emotional state. There are countless research studies that show a link between tension in the hips and emotions. When we feel sadness or stress this triggers a protective response in the hips. Typically we clench the jaw or fists in anger or fear.  There is the same response when we feel sadness, anxiety or stress. We tend to “curl up”, draw our knees in and come back to a fetal position. We are holding in those emotions in an effort to protect ourselves and yes - that tension stays in the hips!

It is so important to open up the hips to relieve the physical strain and not cause injuries (often times lower back pain and hamstring strains are caused by tightness in the hip region). It is also critical to relieve this tightness to relieve the stress or anxiety we fell. Again, there is such a mind - body connection with the hips!

Warm up the hip region before each workout. Examples are standing leg swings, deep lateral lunges, plank spiderman, fire hydrants and hip circles in the table-top position. This is just a small sample of exercises!

The following stretches are excellent hip openers. Add these stretches into your workout routine. If you are not familiar with the listed warm up exercises or following stretches or would like more examples talk with me or another trainer or group fitness instructor.

Hip Opener stretches

1. Child’s pose

2.Low runner’s lunge or crescent lunge

3. Pigeon pose

4. Happy Baby

5. Figure 4 stretch






Weight Plateau

So I opened up two different women’s health magazines last week and both had articles addressing “weight plateau”. Obviously this is a high concern among women and something I want to shed some light on. I will highlight some things I did not read in the articles and expand on some things that were addressed.


When you are first starting an exercise or diet program your body typically responds quickly and pounds come off quickly. With the exercise and limited caloric intake, your body is relying on energy from glycogen (sugar) stored in muscles and the liver.     “Glycogen is partly made up of water, so when glycogen is burned for energy, it releases water resulting in weight loss that is mostly water” *         

So...those initial 5 or 10 pounds of weight loss are glycogen and water. “For every gram of glycogen stored, you store anywhere from 3-4 grams of water with it”.*     That is the very quick, and not so scientific explanation of  “ you are just losing water weight”. So, your body is using the “sugars” first for energy and burning those off but....you have to get to the fat stores! Burning the fat takes more time and patience!

So let’s assume you have gotten over that initial “quick” weight loss period and have continued to exercise regularly and eat healthy BUT you have plateaued. You have not reached your ideal healthy weight and you are frustrated. Don’t give up! Just make some adjustments.

When you lose weight you lose muscle along with fat. Muscle helps sustain that high metabolism - so you burn calories more efficiently. So add more strength training to your program to increase muscle mass. Remember from one of my previous blogs - don’t be afraid of heavy weights! You will not get “huge”. You will build that muscle necessary to increase your metabolism and ultimately burn more calories throughout the day.

I have had people tell me they don’t understand why they can’t lose weight. They tell me they run 3 miles a day and eat healthy but are not shedding those unwanted pounds. Well, when you continue with the same exercise program day after day and don’t “trick” your body, your weight plateaus. When your workout routine plateaus - so do you. In addition to adding strength training, add HIIT (high intensity interval training) into your routine. Or simply add more miles or time onto that run! Do more! Challenge your body! Finally, just do more throughout the day. Move more - take the stairs, walk around while talking on the phone, get up from that chair and do squats. Moving burns calories!

Now, it is also important to address diet. I truly don’t like the simplicity of “calories in should not exceed calories burned” Yes, there is truth to that but you need to focus on what calories you are taking in. Yes, when trying to lose weight you should limit your calories but that doesn’t mean just one meal a day or no carbs or some crazy, unrealistic diet. It might be that you need to be more mindful of what and when you eat. Limit the mindless snacking (that is my biggest problem). Be present when you eat! Slow down and enjoy the meal. Add more protein into your diet. Add the good fats to your meal - such as avocado, nuts, seeds, good healthy oils. Make sure you are eating breakfast - such as a smoothie loaded with fruits and vegetables and a good protein powder. I know keeping a food journal is an excellent way of keeping track of your calories and again, being more mindful about how you fuel your body. Finally, drink more water! Often times we think we are hungry but our bodies are dehydrated.

If you feel you are following a good healthy diet and exercise routine and still not losing those necessary pounds, consult your doctor about a possible hormonal imbalance or thyroid problem.


Keep at it!



Halle McCormick



*Lyle McDonald

Foam Rolling

Foam Rolling: What? Why? When?


You now see foam rollers everywhere! In every gym, every sporting goods store, Target, etc. Well, I want to educate you on what the foam roller is, why you need to incorporate it into your workout routine and when is the best time to use it.


A foam roller is a long, cylinder like piece of foam. It is designed to provide self massage and work out knots or trigger points in the muscles also known as “myofascial adhesions”.  Foam rolling is “self myofascial release” (SMR). (Myo means muscle) So then, what is fascia?

Fascia is connective tissue that wraps around the muscle. It looks like a spider’s web or maybe yarn you would use to make a sweater. In a normal state, fascia is wavy and relaxed and can stretch without restriction - just visualize stretching out that ball of yarn or visualize that long, elaborate spider web. Fascia plays an important role in the support and function of our bodies since it surrounds and attaches to all our structures. But, with trauma, overuse and inflammation the fascia becomes less pliable. It tightens and constricts and becomes a source of tension (or pain) in the body - it causes those knots you feel in your muscles. If you were to tie an elastic band in a knot, you could stretch the band but the knot would still be there - and become tighter as you stretched the band. So you can continue to stretch the band but the knot still stays and gets tighter. That is what muscle is like when there are myofascial adhesions. You are still able to work part of the muscle but that knot is restricting the full lengthening of the muscle and causing you discomfort and sometimes pain.


You should foam roll to relax the fascia and release those knots ultimately reducing stress, pain and muscular imbalance. Rolling also heats the muscle allowing you to prepare the muscle for the work ahead and is key to injury prevention. Foam rolling also hydrates the muscle. Hydration happens when more blood and nutrients come to the muscle. Hydration is key for the muscle to work properly (and post workout for the muscle to recover). So drinking water is essential for hydration but so is foam rolling.

During foam rolling, you should be slightly uncomfortable but not wincing. You want to feel pressure but not pain. You want to relax the muscle but do not apply too much pressure. If you sit into a particularly tight area, hold for 20-30 seconds. It should feel like letting air out of a tire. Then move onto another spot or position and find that tight spot and again, sit into it allowing the muscle to release.



You should roll pre and post workout! It should be done pre-workout to hydrate the muscles and also heat the muscles to allow a better range of motion and prevent injuries. But, make sure you still complete a dynamic warm up as well before you begin your workout.

You should also do some rolling post workout to again hydrate the muscles, reduce soreness and relax the muscles.

I am sure you have seen different sizes, textures and shapes of foam rollers. It can be overwhelming! I hope to provide you with some information below to make it easier to purchase or begin using the roller that is right for you.

  1. If just starting to foam roll, look for the long, cylinder foam rollers. The white is usually the softest and that is what you should start with. As your technique improves and muscles adapt, go harder. The white is usually the softest, then blue/red and then black - being the hardest.

  2. If just starting out, choose the smooth foam roller.  This design provides even pressure across the muscle.

  3. You will see textured (or what look like grooves or bubbled) foam rollers. These can provide more targeted massage to work out the knots. But again, I would progress to that type of roller.

  4. There are all different lengths of rollers. The longest is best for your first roller and is the most stable for quads, hamstrings and back (essentially the large muscle groups). The shorter ones are best to target calves and arms.

  5. There are also “running sticks” which I use for calves and quads when I need to just sit and roll.

  6. Foam balls are great for precise targeting. They work well in curved, hard to reach areas like in between your scapula or any part of the upper back. Note a tennis ball works well too.

If you are in your gym, ask a trainer to show you some foam rolling techniques. Or look online for some instructional videos. You want to make sure you are doing it properly to get the most benefits.

Just make sure you are adding it into your routine.

Happy rolling!








Understanding Metabolism

As defined on the Mayo Clinic website, “Metabolism is the process by which your body converts what you eat and drink into energy. During this complex biochemical process, calories in food and beverages are combined with oxygen to release the energy your body needs to function.”

People that struggle with their weight often think it is because they have a slow metabolism.  “But contrary to common belief, a slow metabolism is rarely the cause of excess weight gain” (Mayo Clinic)

In fact, your metabolism is affected by so many things. I have listed some of the key factors that affect your metabolism and the changes you can make to help your body break down the food you eat into energy and not store it as fat.

1. Inconsistent Meal Times


I am such a snacker! Until I did more research I thought it was good to eat every couple hours and snack - as long as it was healthy.  But, regular meal times, preferably 3 meals a day, is best.  Your body uses up the calories at that meal time for fuel and burns more calories in between meals. When you eat at erratic times that are too spaced out, your body is not quite sure when your next meal is coming so it stores the food as fat. Often times when you snack in between meals you are taking in too many calories that won’t be burned off. So eat at regular times throughout the day and fill your plate with good Macro-nutrients (Carbs, Protein & Fat). Good healthy fat includes avocado, oils, nuts, or seeds.

2. Sleep

Sleep is the key to losing or maintaining weight. I know the day after I don’t get a good night sleep (at least 7 hours) I eat more! I am searching for energy through food - and usually not making good choices. With minimal sleep, your hormones that control hunger are out of control. Too much ghrelin (the hunger hormone that increases your appetite) gets produced and too little leptin (that decreases your appetite) gets produced - making you feel hungry. Also, more cortisol (often called the stress hormone) gets produced. Among the many jobs of Cortisol, it helps control blood sugar levels. With all these hormones out of whack, your cravings for sugar and fatty foods increases.


3. Not eating enough


Yes. You read that right! Cutting too many calories will put your body in “starvation” mode and again store food as fat instead of using it for fuel. Make sure you get enough calories based on your activity level and again, get a good balance of Macronutrients at regular meal times throughout the day.


4. Strength Train


As I wrote in my previous blog, strength training is key to building muscle mass and the more muscle mass, the higher your metabolic rate! Dumbbells, body weight, resistance bands - use them all to strength train and add variety to your workout.


5. Drink Water


This is a hard one for me! I do not drink enough water - most of us don’t. Drinking too little can lead to dehydration. You might not even know you are dehydrated! When you are dehydrated you burn up to 2% fewer calories. Drink little sips throughout the day. Don’t just drink when you are hot or when you are exercising!  


6. Move


Do not sit too much! . If you work at a desk all day - make sure you get up every 20 minutes to move. Listen to that FitBit!  Just stand and do squats by your chair or walk down the hall and back.  Throughout the day, use the stairs, walk to the train - just move!


Facts supported by ACE (American Council on Exercise)



Your First 5K

Couch to 5K



You have set your SMART goal. (Specific.Measureable.Adjustable.Realistic.Time-Frame)

You have signed up for a 5K.  

Now, here is how to get started so you can be successful.


  1. The good thing about running is you don’t need a lot of equipment but you DO need the right shoes. This is non-negotiable! Do not just walk into Target or Dicks Sporting Goods to get running shoes. Go to a running store - like Runner’s Soul in LaGrange and get fitted for the shoes that are right for your foot! Old shoes are the leading cause of injury to runners. Often times when clients tell me they have knee pain or shin splints I direct them to get new shoes and the pain typically goes away. Note - when you continue to run following your 5K (because you will fall in love with running) replace your shoes every 300 - 500 miles. Even if they don’t look worn down, replace them!


  1. Make a plan before your run. Make sure the timing is good allowing for a warm-up and cool down and/or a nice protein smoothie or hot shower after. Allowing the time before and after will make your run enjoyable and successful. Set a route if you are heading outside. There are great apps out there to help you plan, track and monitor your runs and progress. Try “runkeeper”, “imapmyrun” or “DailyBurn”. Decide which one is right for you. Finally, create a running playlist that motivates you and will keep you energized for your run.


  1. Your form will continue to improve as you run but it is important to keep form in mind, even when just starting out. Run tall - keep shoulders back and keep gaze ahead of you and avoid looking down. Keep your shoulder, arms and hands relaxed. Your elbows should be flexed at about 90 degrees and not cross your midline. Throughout your run, shake out your arms and hands to keep them relaxed.


  1. Be patient! If you are new to running it can be very challenging. Don’t get frustrated. Start with a walk/jog just 3-4xs per week and then increase your distance but continue with just the walk/run. Alternate your walk/run days with 30 minutes of cross training - such a strength training or other forms or cardio (maybe the elliptical or bike). Select a realistic distance to start such as 1.0 or 1.5 miles and then build from there.


  1. A typical 5k training program is 7-8 weeks. I like the programs Runner’s World puts together. Go to www.runnersworld.com and you can purchase a program for a low cost and it offers daily updates, motivational tips etc.


Good luck! You got this!!


It’s the time of year when we are frantically getting ready for Christmas and also when we begin thinking about the new year and our new year’s resolutions.  A lot of times, resolutions relate to health and wellness and particularly fitness.  A high percentage of  people set weight loss goals and/or set a goal in an effort to challenge themselves such as either a 5K, 10K or marathon. But, a lot of times people don’t achieve their goals. Why?

Because people are not setting S.M.A.R.T Goals.

I read a quote recently that stated “New Year’s resolutions are a bit like babies: fun to make but extremely difficult to maintain.”

When setting goals I want you to follow the S.M.A.R.T acronym.

Specific: Sometime goals can be too generic. Make your goal specific - such as - run a 5K on a THIS date, lose 5lbs (not just “lose weight”). A goal such as “I want to get in better shape” or “I want to go to the gym more” are too broad.

Measurable: If you set your specific goal of losing 5 lbs - this can be measured! If you set a goal of running a distance race, your training sessions (distance and time on the treadmill) can be measured. Also consider the importance and value of subjective measurements such as how you feel while running or exercising.

Adjustable: Your goals can not be inflexible!  For instance, if your goal is to get to the gym 4 days per week - don’t limit yourself to say just Monday - Friday.  Things come up. You need to be flexible and be open to life’s happenings. You can get to the gym on an alternate day. Or if you have a goal of exercising 30 minutes per day, you might need to modify your workout because of an unexpected meeting. Make room to finish the workout later in the day or add an additional day later in week. If your program is not adjustable, it will lead to guilt, self shaming and possibly throwing in the towel.

Realistic: This is the most important one in my mind! Goals should be attainable!! Your skills, work/life balance, fitness level, genetics, health status, injuries, age all need to factor into your goal. If these are not factored in, it can lead to frustration, self-loathing and set you back.

Time-Frame: Identify the timeframe needed to achieve your goal. Set a short term goal and then address your long term goal - with an understanding that it is adjustable and realistic.

New year’s resolutions are attainable!! Be S.M.A.R.T and you will succeed.





One way to survive Thanksgiving week

Thanksgiving week!

This often means positive eating habits go away and schedules change which decreases time in the gym.

Perfect time to provide you with more information about HIIT!

The “HIIT” workout has been the buzz in the fitness industry for a while now. HIIT stands for High-Intensity-Interval-Training. Essentially it is short bursts of high intensity exercise conducted for a short period of time following by a shorter rest period and then repeated again. A good example of a HIIT exercise is Tabata. Tabata is 20 seconds of high intensity exercise (think burpees, jumping jacks, squat jumps, scissor lunges, push ups) followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated 8 times for a total of 4 minutes. A typical tabata workout has 8 rounds of those 4 minute intervals but you don’t need to complete 8 rounds for a great workout. An example of a Tabata program is: 20 second of push ups - 10 second rest - 20 seconds of burpees - 10 second rest - 20 seconds of push ups - 10 seconds rest - 20 seconds of burpees, etc. Then the continuing intervals each have 2 different exercises that will alternate.

Why is HIIT so popular?

1. It Increases Your Metabolism! Combining high intensity with interval training results in EPOC. EPOC stands for Exercise Post Oxygen Consumption. When someone exercises at a high intensity they get out of breath and their muscles start to burn. Why? Upon exertion, muscles start to fill up with lactic acid (the chemical responsible for that burning feeling) and the body’s oxygen stores become depleted. These high-intensity training sessions force the body to work harder to build its oxygen stores back up. Harder than steady state exercising. This translates into a metabolism boost for up to 48 hours after a HIIT routine. Again, Your body continues to burn calories long after the workout to bring those oxygen levels back up!

2. It is quick and convenient! Most HIIT workouts are 30 minutes or less. Again, think plyo movements or challenging compound movements. Pinterest has good ideas that are easy and can be done anywhere!

3. No Equipment Necessary! Can’t get to the gym? No problem and not an excuse!!  HIIT workouts generally use only your body weight, since the focus is on getting your heart rate up and keeping it there. These workouts result in optimal caloric burn and fat loss.

Remember, if you choose a HIIT workout, work to the point of breathless during those high intensity periods. They are typically only 20-30 seconds long so you can do it! Finally, remember to rest for only a short period of time in between the bursts.

Go for it, feel the burn and get the results!

Happy Thanksgiving!




How to deal with the stress of election week

Election Day = stress

And stress typically leads to overeating or other negative actions that set you back.  

Here are ways that you can manage the stress that I am certain this week will bring. We need to remember to take care of ourselves this week and stay healthy!

  1.  Breathe! Deep breathing is one of the best ways to lower stress in the body. This is because when you breathe deeply, it sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax. Take at least 3 deep breaths. Breathe in through your nose, fill your belly and take a nice deep exhale.

  2. Meditate. I admit, I do not really know how to meditate but I want to learn. There is research that shows meditation is equally as effective at managing stress as exercise. Like me, if you are unfamiliar with how to meditate, just try to find time to quiet your mind. If you are familiar with meditation - go for it!

  3. Know when to walk away! If you feel your anxiety is building, walk away! Walk away from the TV, a conversation, social media, etc. It is hard but just remove yourself and then take those 3 deep breaths.

  4. Exercise! This is one of the best and most effective ways to relieve stress. You need to find time to exercise. If you exercise regularly then make sure you keep it up this week or maybe even do extra. Add in those extra push ups or burpies! Or, if you find you need to get away from the TV or social media, go for a walk! 


Trick or Treat?

Not a trick and definitely a treat!

Is breakfast truly the “most important meal of the day”? No, but this expression is not a trick! Breakfast is a very important meal and should not be skipped but, all the meals we eat are very important in their own way.

Studies show that 31 million Americans skip breakfast* This may be because you wake up from a large meal the night before and feel stuffed or think by skipping a meal you are eating less calories and are then more likely to lose weight. Wrong!

Often times the theory of skipping breakfast because we are still full from a large or late night dinner or simply because we want to consume less calories backfires. This is because people end up too hungry around lunchtime and overeat or make unhealthy choices. Your body needs fuel to start the day. Instead of skipping, grab a high fiber food (fruit) and combine it with protein (greek yogurt, egg). If you feel full from that large dinner, have a light breakfast but something to prevent you from being ravenous at lunchtime.

People often skip breakfast and just have coffee. People feel this often tricks the body into feeling full. But again, this typically backfires. You can only “trick” your body so long before It needs proper fuel. So in addition to your coffee, give your body energy through a healthy breakfast filled with good protein, carbohydrates and fiber such as a veggie omelet and a piece of whole wheat/whole grain toast, or a piece of that toast with almond butter and a cup of berries.

Sometimes people have breakfast but again still feel hungry around mid-morning. As I have been stating, make sure your breakfast has enough protein. Protein takes longer to digest and helps prevent you from feeling hungry too soon. Good choices are eggs, greek yogurt with chai, nuts and berries, steel cut oats with berries and nuts.

Breakfast is a treat!






*ACE (American Council on Exercise)


How to make your strength training more effective

Low weights, high rep MYTH BUSTER


I have been teaching strength training classes for 5 years. Throughout this time, it has been my experience that women have a fear of using heavy weights.

I want to end this fear.

  • The female body produces much less testosterone than men. We do produce testosterone which helps maintain muscle and bone mass but men produce roughly 6-8 mg per day compared to women who produce around .5 mg per day. Because of these low levels, we can not get “big”.

  • We see this image of female body-builders and are turned off by heavy weights. Please understand, it take years of training AND supplements to create that hypertrophy!

  • It is commonly thought that with low weights and high repetitions one will “tone up”. Now, light weight and high repetitions do build muscular endurance. There are benefits. But, without boring you with too many details, this type of training is not targeting the muscle fibers responsible for strengthening the muscle. You need to increase your weight to see results. If you have been “strength” training for years, coming to classes and just picking up the same 5lb weights and not seeing results - you need to increase the weight! Increase weight = increase strength & muscle mass. And, this increase in muscle mass….

  1. ...will increase your metabolic rate (your bodies ability to burn calories more efficiently). This means your body will burn more calories throughout the day. Muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue. As you increase your muscle, you increase your resting metabolic rate and again - burn more calories throughout the day

Grab the heavier weights

See Results

Feel and look great