Nine Exercises that Strengthen the Back


Hi Fusers,

As you all know, September was back month. We focused on strengthening, mobilizing and stretching the back muscles. Hopefully coming into October your back is feeling strong and pain-free from all the back mobility work we’ve done.

A strong back is the foundation of any balanced fitness regimen. Along with adding strength and power to your workouts, a strong back helps you bear day-to-day activities such as standing, sitting, and bending down a bit easier. The following stretches and exercises are designed to improve the strength, mobility, and flexibility of these important muscles.

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  • Hamstring/Lower Back Stretch

Sit down with your legs straight in front of you, leaning forward with your arms straight out towards your toes. This stretches your lower back, hamstrings and legs.

  • Yoga Cat/Cow Stretch

Kneel on all fours with hands beneath shoulders and knees directly below hips. Gently arch your spine upwards and then downwards, like a cat.

  • Cobra Stretch

Lie facedown on the floor with feet together and palms underneath your shoulders. Slowly raise your chest up off the floor – holding the pose for at least 30 seconds or longer.

  • Bent-Over Dumbbell Rows using a bench

Place the right knee on top of the end of a bench, bend your torso forward from the waist until your upper body is parallel to the floor, and place your right hand on the other end of the bench. Hold dumbbell in left hand, pull using your rhomboid muscles, bringing your elbow back and towards the spine, squeezing your shoulder blades; lower slowly with control.

  • Child’s Pose

Kneel and sit your hips back toward your heels, forehead to the floor, with arms stretched overhead.  

  • Pull-Ups

Begin in a dead hang from a bar, with your core centered and back straight. Pull yourself up using your lats and core muscles, squeezing your shoulder blades at the top of the movement. Keep your neck straight and guide your chin steadily above the bar.

  • Scapular Push ups

Start out in plank position with your arms shoulder width apart. Keep your arms locked outward, drop your chest slightly and squeeze your shoulder blades together, isolating your scapula. Make sure to keep lower back neutral and avoid bending the elbows.

 

  • Lower Back Extensions

Lie facedown on the floor with your body fully extended, arms above your head and legs together. Lift your arms and legs up off the floor, using your lower back and glute muscles, making sure not to bend the knees or elbows.

  • IMG_0638Spinal Twist

Begin in seated staff pose. Bend your right knee over your left leg, placing your foot on the ground next to your left thigh. Your leg can be kept straight ahead or bent. Turn your torso towards the left.

Try these exercises out and let us know you feel. Looking forward to next month–get ready for the 10,000 rep challenge!! As always, if you’d like to set up a free consult with us, please fill out the contact form below.

Yours in health,

Fuse Fitness Team

 

 

Evan McWilliams’ Fuse Fitness Success Story!


Hi Fusers!

This month we are giving a big shout out to one of our longest members, Evan McWilliams, who has been working out at Fuse Fitness since 2011. He started out with personal training and now is one of our most regular class attendees. Since his first class in 2012, he has logged in 425 hours of workouts (not including personal training sessions). WOW!! And that doesn’t even touch on the many hours/miles of hiking/running he has logged outside the gym.

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As most of you know, Evan always walks in barefoot (even in the winter when it’s RAINING!!!), shoes in hand, baseball cap on, and pretends to be the grumpiest person you’ve ever met. While he does a very good job of being grumpy, he really is one of the nicest and funniest people at the gym.

 

We first met Evan in 2011, and had the pleasure of training him one-on-one. He was gifted some training sessions from a friend of his who had done work for Pascha and me when we opened Fuse. Evan’s friend kindly allowed Pascha and me to do a trade with him, as he knew we were a brand new business working hard to get on our feet. As the story goes, Evan had helped out his friend by taking care of his children while his wife was battling and beating cancer. In return for Evan’s generosity and friendship during this time, he was gifted the training sessions.

Pascha and I both trained Evan in the beginning for the traded sessions. At first, I’m not sure he was entirely enthused or excited to have been gifted the training sessions, however he had to use them. I wasn’t sure whether he would continue after those sessions were done, but he did, and as time moved forward, a new Evan emerged. During this time, I got to know him quite well, and learned quickly how dry and sarcastic his sense of humor is, which I find to be hilarious. It was clear that getting over that initial hump of starting a new, intense fitness program was challenging, however his consistency and hard work paid off. I really began to see big changes in Evan….he became really motivated and confident, and awesomely stayed grumpy. However, I quickly came to see that while perhaps the initial grumpiness when he first started training was real, the new grumpiness wasn’t quite true. But he does do one hell of a job pulling it off 😉

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Here are a few words from Evan himself:

I developed epilepsy in my late twenties and had a doctor tell me all the things that I should not do. I took what he said to heart and basically became sedentary. I had been in law enforcement so had been in okay shape, but spent the next couple of years feeling sorry for myself and gained a ton of weight. When I left police work I started working for an outdoor apparel company that placed a huge emphasis on being active. I did not want to stand out as “that guy” so started to run on my own. No training, no coaching, just running, because I was too self-conscious to workout with other people.

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I lost some weight and ran three marathons in one year (despite my doctor’s warning) and realized that I was physically one-dimensional. I could run forever, but I was doing nothing but aerobic exercise. I wanted to see if my times improved as my fitness level became more well-rounded. A friend of mine did some work for Pascha and Kristin when they opened Fuse. He worked out a barter with them for personal training. He gave those training sessions to me. My first session was with Pascha. All I remember was feeling completely out of shape, and her saying, “Oh, Evan” as I struggled during the workout.  All I wanted to do was get into decent shape and be done. I figured I would work out for a few months and then continue working out on my own. I had no interest in the classes, but would watch them as I worked out with Kristin, and they looked really fun.  I eased into one class a week taught by Kristin, but it took another year or two for me to work out with a different trainer because I don’t like change.  Now, I try to be in class 5-6 days a week.

All of my fitness challenges have been self-inflicted. I have developed a knack for hurting myself. I have blown out my back, broken my foot, developed tendonitis in both elbows and just last month I had a bunch of stitches put into my knee. In the past I would have felt sorry for myself and probably quit. Now, I see these challenges as a way to figure out how to work through the injury. I was working out with Kristin while in my cast. I was back working out the day my stitches came out. And recently I have started to do 20+ mile walk/hike/runs to compensate for my elbow issues.  I still struggle with being 50 and not being able to do everything that I used to do. Everyone at Fuse is here for their own reasons. There is such a supportive feel here. It doesn’t matter if you are the fastest, slowest or strongest…it matters that you are here doing what you need to do for yourself! I have NEVER had that feeling working out in any other environment.

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My biggest [fitness] success was finishing the Spring Cleaning Challenge (clean-eating, fat loss challenge) last year. It came at the right time, as I was training to climb Mt. Rainier. It showed me that I could successfully complete something (while hurt) and finish what I had started in a strong manner. I ended up losing 35lbs which was a huge benefit for the climb. After climbing Rainier, I started to look at things differently, and now I try to find things that a couple of years ago I would not have even tried. Right now, I want to do an unassisted hand-stand. For no other reason than 50-year-old men are not generally known for their handstands!  I also want to be able to keep up with my family. Both my wife and son are major outdoors people. We spend an awful lot of time hiking and mountaineering. I want to be able to keep doing that for my entire life.

I LOVE the atmosphere at Fuse. There is such a nice support network here. People check on you if you have missed class. They welcome my son whenever he shows up. AND they hold you accountable in the best possible way. I know when I am slacking, and I love being called out on it because it shows me they want me to do the best that I can!

Evan, while this tells the story of how your fitness journey at Fuse began because of a gift from a grateful friend, the way I look at it, the gift was really to us. You have become one of our most loved and appreciated members at Fuse! We are very proud of how far you’ve come and all the awesome, positive changes you have made. Thank you for your support. AND STAY GRUMPY!!!!

If you’re interested in joining Fuse Fitness and becoming one of our next success stories, please fill out the form below to sign-up for a free fitness consult.

Marni Gonzalez’s Fuse Fitness Success Story!

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Hi Fusers!

This month we’re celebrating one of our amazing members, Marni Gonzalez. If I could describe her in one word, in relation to how she is in the gym, I’d say tough. By definition, I mean that she “demonstrates a strict and uncompromising attitude or approach.”  When presented with any challenge in class, she always creates a strategy, implements that strategy and then very successfully completes the challenge. Just. Like. That. If you’ve taken class with Marni, you know that she maintains her strong pace evenly, keeping her focus on the goal. It’s quite impressive.

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9:06 am sunrise in Iceland

Having been a member at Fuse since March 2015, Marni has without fail, (unless she is traveling, which is one of her passions) showed up and stuck to her very consistent schedule, for a total of 345 times, logging in just over 300 hours of working out. Consistency and keeping a schedule for working out is what gets results, and Marni has that figured out.

That’s just a glimpse into Marni’s gym life–as you can see, she is hard-working, disciplined and goal oriented. I’d wager to say that her tenacity probably has something to do with how she became a neurologist. Just a guess on my part 🙂 She has been a practicing neurologist since 2006 and is a senior physician at Kaiser Permanente Medical Group. She also led the creation and implementation of The Memory Center, where she and other team members provide medical and social support for patients with dementia.

So yeah, in one word I’d say this woman is tough. But since I don’t have to only describe her in one word, I’d also like to say that she is incredibly sweet, supportive and I love having her in class. Marni has made a serious commitment to her health since joining, both with her workouts and her diet, and she has really transformed her body. She’s super strong, works really hard, motivates everyone and inspires us all. And I love how devoted she is to her family and her faith.

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Murren, Switzerland with my cousin

Here are a few words from Marni about her fitness journey:

“Approaching middle age prompted me to contemplate my future self.  Do I want to be a “healthy” and “active” 65-year-old, enjoying retirement?  Or, do I accept the alternative?  At this crossroad in my life, I made a commitment to get healthier, physically.  I joined Woohoo Fit in June 2012, two months after my 39th birthday and have been working out consistently ever since.  When Woohoo Fit closed in the Spring 2015, some of us former “Woohoo-ers” transferred to Fuse Fitness.  I am so thankful that I decided to do so!  It was a pretty seamless transition for me.  The challenging classes, wonderful trainers, and community of fellow “Fusers” make this place very special. I felt welcomed from the beginning.

“I realized that exercising regularly does not necessarily result in weight loss.  Don’t misunderstand me – I know that it is essential for cardiovascular health.  However, working out three times a week while I continued my undisciplined food habits gradually but surely resulted in a size increase in my clothes!  I also felt I reached a plateau in my fitness level.

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Hiking atop an Icelandic glacier

“Fortunately, last February 2016, I committed to a change in my approach to food.  I also increased the frequency of my work outs (from three to four times a week), threw in Monday night yoga sessions with Kelly, and exercised even while on vacation (which I never used to do).  Now, also thirty pounds lighter, I don’t think I have been stronger and more physically fit in my life.

“I am very grateful for the phenomenal trainers who so patiently worked with me over the years at Woohoo Fit and Fuse Fitness – Eva, Kelly, Amy B., Kristen, Pasha, Gail, Beverly, and now Michelle.  My life has forever changed!”

Marni, we are grateful for you and the example you set. Thank you for being such a wonderful and integral part of the Fuse community!

Yours in health,

Kristin at Fuse Fitness

P.S. As always, if you’re reading this and interested in finding your own path to success with your health and fitness, fill out the contact form below to sign up for a free fitness consult today!

Caroline McCall’s Fuse Fitness Success Story!


Hi Fusers!

This week we’re shining light and appreciation on another one of our awesome members! Caroline McCall has been working out at Fuse Fitness since June 2014 and has logged in 181 visits during that time. That may seem impressive, which it is, however she’s also logged in hundreds of miles of running during that same time—so awesome!! 🙂

Caroline is an avid distance runner and has been since around the age of 13 years old.  She’s also a hard-core 6am Monkey Ninja Bootcamp regular who often goes for a run before class even starts. A natural morning person, Caroline is out before the sun comes up, either coming to class or going for a longer run. While many clients moan and groan about having to do the “longer run around the block,” Caroline just laughs—around the block is nothing.

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Professionally, Caroline is the sole proprietor and director of Center for Church Vitality, through which she provides leadership and organizational development consulting in the Episcopal Church. She is also the Director of Field Education and Lecturer in Congregational Studies at Church Divinity School of the Pacific (the Episcopal Seminary in Berkeley).

Recently, I had the opportunity to do some personal training with Caroline—suffering from a torn Achilles tendon, she had to put a halt to both running and Monkey Ninja Bootcamp in order to heal. While this would typically derail most people, Caroline was not interested in this route. In conjunction with doing physical therapy, she trained privately 3 mornings a week, split between Pascha, Fana and myself. As any athlete knows, your sport is often your therapy/mediation—so when taken away it can be extremely challenging. Pure grit and tenacity kept Caroline going, not allowing her injury to inhibit her ability to train—this is one of the reasons she’s such an inspiration and an all around awesome client to have!

I’m going to reflect on a fun story Caroline told me during one of her training sessions with me. When her now teenage children were littler kids, and their energy would amp up inside the house as kids’ energy often does, she and her husband would send them outside to run the perimeter of the house. They had created an obstacle course of sorts that the kids would run through multiple times. I just love this story and think it’s such a great idea. More importantly, what an incredible gift—to encourage and teach children at a young age the importance of exercising their bodies to release energy, stress and feel calm.

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Caroline and her family last summer visiting the Grand Canyon

And now, a few words from Caroline….

“I joined Fuse because I knew I needed to compliment my running with strengthening my core. I have been a distance runner for 38 years, so I was in good shape – at least for endurance running. Unfortunately, I was also beginning to suffer from more frequent injuries.

“In 2014 I decided to look for a gym where I could go in the early morning, was close to my home, and would be fun. (Every time I joined a gym and took classes in the past, I found it incredibly boring). I found Fuse in June 2014, and although 6:00 AM was later than I wanted (really!) I decided to try a Monkey Ninja Bootcamp class. After my one free trial class, I was hooked. My goal was to go to class two times a week while continuing with my running…ultimately to be able to run more distance races (half-marathons and marathons) injury-free.

“The biggest challenge for me is exactly what I knew I needed to work on—my core. Somehow 38 years of running had not done much to strengthen it and 14 years of motherhood was not helping either. Although I am certainly much stronger than I was when I started, I get pretty discouraged about my (lack of) core strength even after almost three years of classes at Fuse.

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“In addition, despite me hoping that taking classes would magically make me injury free, I have still had to deal with injuries and other physical set-backs. Coming back after needing to take one or more weeks off from class is always daunting. I miss the coaches and the regulars in my class when I cannot be part of it, so I get back in there as soon as I can.”

“Most recently, I tore my Achilles tendon and have had to take over 2 months off from classes. BUT I have done as much as I can by working with Kristin, Pascha, and Fana in private training sessions, and now I am healed well enough to go back to classes again!”

“My biggest success has been finishing 15 half-marathons and 3 marathons since I started at Fuse. I am a stronger and better runner because of Monkey Ninja Bootcamp! I was able to qualify for the Boston Marathon at age 50, by several minutes, and felt great doing it. What I am most proud of is that I continue to run and continue to work on my overall strength despite the inevitable injuries and aging.”

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“One thing I really love at Fuse Fitness is the people! The instructors, the other people in my classes, the whole community. It is supportive and fun while also challenging me to push myself further.”

Caroline, you inspire us and we appreciate your hard work and determination! Thank you for being an awesome part of our fitness community 🙂

Yours in health,

Kristin at Fuse Fitness

p.s. If you’d like to sign up for a free fitness consult or find out more information, please fill out the contact form below!

 

Burpee-the most badass exercise on the market (did I sell you?)


Hi Fusers!

It’s March!! Woohoo, spring is just around the corner, and I’m pretty sure we’re all sick of the rain. So here’s to sunny, drier days ahead! And burpees.

That’s right, although that looks like a misplaced word in the paragraph above, I want to assure you that you read correctly. This month we will be focusing on burpees. I know, I know….here’s what you’re all thinking….

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The poor burpee. Seriously, for an exercise that is so incredibly effective and efficient, why can’t there be more love for it?! Did you ever think about that? Well guess what??

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I get it. Burpees are hard AF. However, they get results, and that’s what we’re after, right?Burpees are a full body exercise that work pretty much every muscle in the body, meaning that you can burn more calories in a lot less time. They help you develop strength, explosive power and anaerobic endurance. And conveniently, they can be done anywhere with no equipment necessary. That’s right, ANYWHERE. So next time you’re at Whole Foods….just saying 🙂

According to Wikipedia, the burpee was named in the 1930s for American physiologist Royal H. Burpee who developed the burpee test. As part of his PhD thesis, he created the burpee as a simple way to assess fitness. The exercise became popular during WWII, when it was adopted by the US Army to assess the fitness level of recruits. Originally, the burpee consisted of four steps:

  1. Squat down and place both hands on the floor in front of you.
  2. Jump feet back into plank position
  3. Jump feet forward.
  4. Return to standing.

Today, it is commonly done as a 6 step exercise:

  1. Bend over or squat down and place both hands on the floor in front of you, just outside of your feet.
  2. Jump both feet back into plank position.
  3. Drop to a push-up—your chest should touch the floor.
  4. Push or snake up to return to plank position.
  5. Jump feet back in toward hands.
  6. Explosively jump up into the air, reaching arms straight overhead.

Here at Fuse, we generally do the 6 step variation, and prefer this definition:

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Commonly done among inmates….so this month, you guys will be our inmates, and we will be working on the most badass exercise around.

The challenge for the month will be to increase your burpee stamina and will be tested as such: 5 rounds of 60 seconds of burpees followed by 60 seconds of rest in between rounds. You will tally the total amount of burpees you do in all 5 rounds, and that will be your score. Each week, you will perform this challenge (you only need to do once a week, you will have something else to do during this time if you have already completed yours for the week) and the goal is to improve your score each week. We will be giving out prizes to the awesome coffee cart at Flowerland on Solano Avenue for best improvements. However, the strategy is not to go super slow the first week on purpose just to win. While we will be awarding the biggest improvements, we will also be taking into consideration the best efforts all the way through the challenge.

Alright, let’s do this! And maybe, just maybe, we can get just a few likes for the dreaded burpee by the end of March.

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At the very least, Pascha and I will increase that number to 2 people 🙂

Yours in health,

Kristin at Fuse Fitness

Lisa Miller’s Fuse Fitness Success Story!


Hi Fusers!

This week we’d like to shine light on Lisa Miller, a member at Fuse Fitness since January 2013–4 years now! She is the Director at Classroom Matters in Berkeley, a personalized, tutoring business for students in 6th-12th grade. I have had many clients over the years talk about sending their children there and loving the results and support their children get!

As of this morning, Lisa has been to Fuse 401 times. I can still remember her first visit on Jan. 5, 2013, it was to my Saturday morning Monkey Ninja Bootcamp class with her friend Tatiana, who was a member at Fuse for a couple of years as well. I remember this class because the two of them together had such an infectious energy, it made class so much fun!

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Over the years, Lisa has tried out all of our classes, but knowing her well and looking over all of her visits, she truly had a love for Michael’s Strength and Mobility class. Unfortunately, we no longer have this class, as Michael no longer coaches at Fuse. Since Michael has departed, Lisa has fallen into a new routine, mostly taking Gail’s class on Monday mornings and hitting up my class(es) on Wednesday and/or Friday mornings. Selfishly, I’m happy for her new routine because I love having her in my classes!

What we love about Lisa is that you can count on her to always bring a fresh dose of reality and keep it real–she doesn’t hesitate to express when she doesn’t like something or it doesn’t work for her, and alternately is always grateful and appreciate, never leaving the studio without saying thank you. She is funny and definitely adds a great personality to class. She always stays true to her own needs and stays within her limits, however always pushes herself and works really hard. She is someone who keeps a steady, even pace and gets her workout done, showing the endurance athlete within. Prior to working out at Fuse, Lisa was a distance runner, which I appreciate, as she is always able to pace herself, allowing her to finish the workout without fatiguing too early and petering out.

Another attribute I value in Lisa is her sensitivity and empathy. On a few different occasions over the years, I have found myself so appreciative of a genuine, loving hug from her just when I need it most. She has an innate ability to read emotions, even when you think you’re doing a good job masking them. It is a gift, and I have been the lucky recipient of it a few times. Lisa truly cares about us and our business, and we have always felt very honored to have her love and support.

img_3311Now, a few words from Lisa about what brought her to Fuse and her experience working out with us  🙂

“I joined The Fuse to maintain my fitness level after “retiring” from triathlons. Due to chronic plantar fasciitis, I had to give up long-distance running. My goal was to stay fit and build muscle.

Boot camp is very different from my former swim-bike-run routine, so learning some of the movements were challenging at times. I still can’t do the diving pushups!

I have mastered most of the exercises and have built up my upper body strength. My core is also much stronger. Thanks to all of the strength training, I am back to running short distances.

I enjoy the classes and the community at Fuse. I really appreciate all that you do to make it fun and engaging!”

Lisa, you’ve been with us a long time and we love having you in class! Your support for us and our business has not gone unappreciated, and we value your opinions and advice. Thank you so much, we love you!

If you’d like to get results and join our awesome fitness community, please fill out the contact from below to sign-up for a free consult today!

 

 

 

Time to get Running!


Hi Fusers!

January is quickly coming to an end, and we’ve had a great month focusing on interval training….all day, every damn day. Whew. It’s been tough, but awesome! Those first days of the month were rough for many of us, coming off of the holidays and trying to get back into a routine. There is just no better way to break up a rut than to go all out with intervals—not necessarily fun, definitely not easy, but certainly effective.

So now we should be back on track, kicking ass again, and feeling back to normal. Thanks interval training 😉

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February is heart health month, so naturally we’re going to focus on cardiovascular health. Since we just spent all of January doing high-intensity, shorter intervals (which is definitely cardio), we are going to shift our focus to longer periods of work/endurance training. Aerobic endurance is the ability to work for longer periods of time without tiring (mayoclinic.com). Which brings me to our challenge of the month—the 1 mile run. Gasp. 

Don’t think for a minute that I didn’t hear the collective gasps that just happened reading that sentence. I hear all the time how much everyone hates running. Why is that? Because it’s hard. You’re right, it is hard. However it is good cardio training. While certainly not the only way to improve cardiovascular health, it is one way, and it is the way we have chosen for this month’s challenge.

We will be having two outdoor bootcamps coming up to run the mile for time. For those who truly can’t run, definitely still come to the bootcamp, we will have something else for you to do to work on your cardio. Here are the dates:

  • Sat. Jan. 28th at 10am—Albany Middle School track
  • Sat. Feb. 25th at 10am—Albany Middle School track

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Be ready for more running, rowing and longer interval training workouts during February to prepare you to better your mile run time, but more importantly, improve your cardiovascular health.

Without further adieu, I’m going to leave you with some facts about heart health/heart disease. In case you need further convincing why you will come to the bootcamps and run. Without complaining. Preferably with a smile on your face. Ok, that may be pushing it 😉

One in four deaths in the United States is caused be heart/cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of death for both men and women (theheartfoundation.org). Despite those grim statistics, one’s risk of having heart disease can be significantly reduced by making healthy choices. We truly have so much power over this disease.

Some of the ways in which you can reduce your risk of heart disease are (theheartfoundation.org):

  • Keep a healthy weight; more importantly, keep a healthy level of body fat. It is entirely possibly to be a “healthy” weight but have too high a level of body fat. Conversely, it is also completely possible to have a higher weight with a low/healthy level of body fat. Muscle weights more than fat.
  • Quit smoking. It is the singular most important thing you can do to prevent so many health problems.
  • Follow a healthy diet. Cut out processed food. Drastically reduce sugar intake. Consume a lot more vegetables. Cook at home. Eat clean.
  • Manage anger and stress. Meditate, listen to music, play an instrument, make time for yourself. Breathe. Life is stressful and challenging, find ways to help not take it so seriously.
  • Exercise. If you’re a client at Fuse, you’re definitely on the right path with this. Are you consistent? Could you add another day? Could you work a little harder? Ask yourself these questions. You may be right on track or you may need a push. Figure that out and decide the best path to making yourself healthier.

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So, we’re planning on seeing you all this Saturday at 10am. Dust off those running shoes. Head to the track. Be ready to go. And smile.

Yours in health,

Kristin at Fuse Fitness

P.S. If you’re looking to start up a fitness program, you’ve come to the right place. Please fill out this contact form to get started with a free consultation.