Functional Training: Truly functional or just a trend?

Every year new fitness trends arrive such as Plyo, Zumba, High Intensity Interval Training (i.e. P90x or Insanity), but functional training isn’t only trendy. When you look up functional training it is typically defined as an exercise program that promotes improvements in activities of daily living. These activities including moving from sitting to standing, climbing stairs, opening the refrigerator, walking, reaching over head, and the list goes on and on. Makes sense right? But! You know what is trendy? Using various pieces of equipment to make up hard yet useless exercises (i.e. balancing on one leg on a Bosu ball while flinging around a resistance band). These exercises will not increase your strength, balance, or improve normal function if you can not perform the main movement patterns of everyday life efficiently and without injury/pain. There are 6 movement patterns that should be covered in everyone’s workout program:

  • Push: push ups (wall, railing/bar, bench, floor), chest press
  • Pull: pull ups (TRX suspended row), DB/KB/Cable row variation
  • Squat: box/chair squat, goblet squat, safety bar, barbell
  • Hinge: DB/KB from a box, conventional/sumo dead lift, good morning
  • Lunge: split squat, walking lunges
  • Carry: farmers walk, suitcase carry, waiters carry

Functional training is very important and should be the basis for most training programs. The foundation of an exercise program, especially for those that are just starting out, should incorporate exercises that support each of these movements. I recommend incorporating a variation of each of the above mentioned exercises to help with tasks of every day life. You can start with the assisted variations and progress to the full body movements and heavy loads. Try to stay away from machines, unless your are using them to support your main movements (i.e. hamstring curls to improve stability as you squat). While you can increase your strength using machines, they may not translate to improvements in every day activities. So do not depend on the leg press machine to increase lower body strength. Using body weight, dumbbells/barbells/kettle bells, TRX, or any other free standing movement will be best. Below is an example total body workout that incorporates all 6 movements:

  1. Farmers Carry – 3×20 steps
  2. Incline or Smith Machine Push Ups – 4×12
  3. Goblet Box/Bench Squat – 4×10
  4. TRX Suspended Row – 3×15
  5. Medicine Ball Good morning – 3×12
  6. Split Squat – 3×8 each side

Create your own workouts with variations of each of these exercises. Perform exercises as super sets, in a circuit, or each on its own. To improve each of these movements you will need supplemental exercises that focus on your individual “weak” spots. Turn to your local experienced and educated trainer for a fitness evaluations, movements screen, and exercise program.


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Fish Tacos with Cabbage-Carrot Slaw and Spicy Crema

Lighten up Taco Tuesdays with this low-fat, protein-packed fish taco recipe.


  • 1/2 cup light sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon adobo sauce from canned chipotle chiles
  • 1 cup peeled, coarsely shredded jicama (3 ounces)
  • 1 cup shredded red cabbage (2 ounces)
  • 1 cup shredded carrots (about 2 medium carrots)
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves
  • Juice and zest of 1 lime
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon pepper, divided
  • 1 1/4 pounds tilapia fillets
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder

    How to Make It

    Step 1

    Preheat broiler with rack 3 inches from heat. To make crema: Combine the sour cream and adobo sauce in a small bowl, whisking well; set aside and allow flavors to meld. Meanwhile, combine jicama, cabbage, carrots, cilantro leaves, lime juice and zest, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a medium bowl; toss well. Chill until ready to use.

    Step 2

    Place the fish in a broiler pan; brush with remaining teaspoon olive oil. Sprinkle with the chili powder, paprika, cumin, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Broil until the fish is cooked through and slightly charred around edges (6-8 minutes). Remove fish from oven; flake with a fork.

    Step 3

    Place about 1/4 cup slaw on each tortilla; top with 1/4 cup cooked fish. Top each taco with about 1 tablespoon crema; serve with lime wedges.

    Nutritional Information

    • Calories per serving 357
    • Fat per serving 13g
    • Saturated fat per serving 4g
    • Monounsaturated fat per serving 6g
    • Polyunsaturated fat per serving 2g
    • Protein per serving 34g
    • Carbohydrate per serving 29g
    • Fiber per serving 5g
    • Cholesterol per serving 76mg
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Portion Control Tips for Dining Out

Dining out often poses a challenge for people struggling to lose and/or maintain a healthy weight. It’s no surprise that restaurants make it easy to unintentionally consume excess calories when faced with larger portion sizes and hidden calories (oils, butter, sauces, etc.). The good news is that you can still enjoy dining out without derailing your weight loss efforts by following a few simple strategies. Here are 5 portion control practices to help you enjoy your next dining experience without falling into your usual portion control pitfalls.

  1. Wear Form Fitting Clothes: Wearing a belt or an outfit with a waistband may help you to slow down while eating and recognize how you’re feeling during your meal. We’re not suggesting you squeeze into too tightly fitting pants, but consider a pair of jeans that you know will feel more snug as you become full, and see if this helps curb your intake next time you dine out.
  2. Make 1/2 Your Meal Vegetables: Vegetables are a great way to fill up on fiber, vitamins & minerals while keeping calories, sodium & saturated fat intake to a minimum. Request that restaurants prepare steamed vegetables with minimal sauces, oils & butter and consume in place of fries, creamed vegetables, dinner rolls, etc. Side salads with oil & vinegar and minimal non-vegetable toppings (ex: cheese, bacon bits, croutons, etc.) are also a good option.
  3. Drink Up: Water, that is. At least 16 ounces before your meal is recommended to help fill your belly, making you less likely to overeat. Additionally, because some symptoms of dehydration are also masked as hunger, improving your hydration status before you eat may actually help reduce misrepresented feelings of “hunger.”
  4. Split Your Meal with a Friend or Request a Lunch Portion: You’ll not only cut calories in half, but research suggests that you’re still likely to feel satisfied due to the smaller serving platter. Another option is to ask for half of your meal to be boxed up in advance if you are dining solo or there are no lunch portions available.
  5. Think Ahead: If you know ahead of time that you’re going to be dining out, plan to eat lighter at other meals during the day. Also, try and include some form of physical activity to offset hidden calories in restaurant dishes. Knowing nutrition information in advance can also make deciding on a healthier option less difficult, so check online menus for nutrition info ahead of time whenever able.




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Do You Have Unexplained Knee Pain? Maybe You Have ITBS!


Many runners think they have a knee injury when they start noticing swelling and pain on the outside of their knee. Recently I had a consult with a man who had knee pain “out of the blue.” He wasn’t given any answers from a doctor or an MRI regarding the cause of the pain. Once he realized how tight his IT-band was, he started treating it and found that his knee pain started to subside.

What is an IT-band?

IT-band is short for Iliotibial Band, a ligament that runs down the outside of the leg from the hip down to the shin. Its job is to stabilize and move the knee. If your IT band is tight or inflamed you may have Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS). This is one of the most common overuse injuries among runners that can occur when there is continual rubbing of the IT-band over the lateral femoral epicondyle, which leads to the area becoming inflamed.  Also, the TFL (Tensor Fascia Latae) attaches to the IT-band and if it’s overactive it can cause tension throughout the IT-band and lateral knee.

What are the common causes for ITBS?

  • Wearing worn-out/unsupportive shoes
  • Running downhill
  • Overuse/running too many miles per week
  • Your gait pattern/form while running

How can you prevent ITBS?

  • Warm-up! Before you go for a long run, walk at a brisk pace for at least 3-5 minutes.
  • Check your shoes. If you see they’re worn down along the outside of the sole, it may be time to replace them.
  • Try to avoid running on uneven surfaces.
  • Decrease your mileage if you notice any pain along the outside of your knee.
  • Foam roll! Maintenance is key for injury prevention! Do a few dynamic stretches and foam roll prior to a long run.

How do you treat ITBS?

If you start to notice signs of ITBS, rest or decrease the mileage depending on the severity of the pain. If you don’t act quickly with treatment, it can become a chronic problem. Have it checked by a health professional that can assess the area with a manual muscle testing. Does this mean you have to stop exercising? No! Just switch it up. Try biking, rowing or swimming for less impact while that area heals. Also, foam rolling will be extremely helpful in addition to stretching, icing, heating and using a topical ointment like Biofreeze.


Image above from NASM Essentials of Corrective Exercise Training

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Sick of Being in the Gym? Take a Hike!

With fall quickly approaching it’ll be a great time to pack up and enjoy this beautiful time of year.

My brother and I hiked Mount Lafayette in New Hampshire last week. If you are ever in that area I highly recommend giving it a shot! The entire trip was 11.6 miles and over 5,000 feet, which we completed in 6 hours. For someone who is a regular exerciser, I was very surprised to see how sore I was for a few days after this hike. I started thinking…why don’t I hike more often? Not only is it a great workout, but the scenery makes it much more enjoyable compared to being indoors at a gym.

Hiking is such an enjoyable activity for people who prefer exercising outdoors. When you’re hiking you can burn a ton of calories without being in a gym. It’s a great way to increase your heart rate and get your muscles moving.  Other benefits include improved cardio-respiratory fitness, improved muscular fitness, lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke, lower risk of high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, weight loss, slower loss of bone density, reduced depression and better quality sleep.

Before you head out for a long hike remember a few tips…

  1. Start small if you’re not a regular hiker, try the shorter trails first and work your way up to those longer trails.
  2. Pack the essential equipment. Water (Camelbak Backpacks work extremely well), supportive footwear (ankle support is highly recommended for those uneven surfaces), healthy snacks, proper clothing (be sure to check the weather ahead of time), ski poles (if necessary depending on the altitude of the height), first aid kit, etc.
  3. Be safe! Don’t get too close to the edges/cliffs. Take breaks as needed to catch your breath.
  4. Pace yourself. Give yourself plenty of time so you don’t have to rush, you definitely don’t want to get injured up there.
  5. Try some dynamic stretches prior to the hike (walking lunges with a torso twist, quad walks, knee hugs, arm circles, etc.) Get those muscles moving before you head out to avoid injury.
  6. Hydrate the day before and during the hike!
  7. Research the trail you choose. Read reviews of other hikers to see which way you should go. We found that extremely helpful.

There are many hilly or mountainous locations throughout the country, try mixing it up and trying a new trail each time for a new surrounding. This will keep your workouts fresh and exciting!

Check out the links below for some great hiking trails across the U.S.!

New England Hiking Trails

Midwest Hiking Trails

West Coast Hiking Trails

11 Hikes You Shouldn’t Miss Across the U.S.

Image- Mount Lafayette, New Hampshire20170822_103344

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Recipe: Brownies with a Twist

Everyone has a can of black beans hidden in their pantry.  Most likely it’s hidden behind the can of pineapple and next to the cranberry sauce.

Black beans offer a wide range of health benefits as well as great nutrition.

Potential health benefits include: maintaining bone health, lowering blood pressure, managing diabetes, warding off heart disease, preventing cancer, aiding in digestion and weight loss.

So, add some black beans to your diet! With a little creativity, you can transform a can of black beans into a delicious dish or dessert!

Check out the link 12 Things To Do With A Can of Black Beans  for more ideas and the Black Bean Brownies recipe below.

Black Bean Brownies

Decadent fudge-y brownies can also be fiber and protein-rich. Have your guests guess the two surprising ingredients—black beans and zucchini.


  • 2½ Tbsp of ground chia
  • 6 Tbsp water
  • 1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed
  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil
  • ½ cup gluten-free flour
  • ¾ cup cocoa powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup zucchini, shredded
  • Topping Options: Pistachios, walnuts, pecans, Vega Maca Chocolate Bar (chopped)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 F and spray a muffin tin or square baking dish with coconut oil.
  2. Combine chia and water in a bowl. Let gel for at least 3 minutes.
  3. In a food processor, combine all ingredients except zucchini and optional toppings. Purée about three minutes or until smooth. Add in flour and process until just combined. Fold zucchini into batter.
  4. Distribute batter evenly into muffin tins or square baking dish. Add toppings if desired.
  5. Bake 25-35 minutes in muffin tins or 45-60 minutes for square baking dish or until top is firm and sides are starting to pull away from the sides.
  6. Set aside. Cut into squares once cooled.


Resources: Medical News Today

Recipe link: Vega 

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Can Processed Foods Be Healthy?


Most people associate the term processed foods with foods high in calories, salt, saturated and trans fats, sugar, refined carbohydrates, additives, and preservatives. Although this can be true, with a little detective work you can easily incorporate some processed foods into a healthy diet.  Here’s how:

  1. Pay attention to the degree the food has been processed. The processing degree can range from minimally processed to highly processed.
  • Minimally processed foods — such as bagged spinach, cut vegetables and roasted nuts — often are simply pre-prepped for convenience.
  • Foods processed at their peak to lock in nutritional quality and freshness include canned tomatoes, frozen fruit and vegetables, and canned tuna.
  • Foods with ingredients added for flavor and texture (sweeteners, spices, oils, colors and preservatives) include jarred pasta sauce, salad dressing, yogurt and cake mixes.
  • Ready-to-eat foods — such as crackers, granola and deli meat — are more heavily processed.
  • The most heavily processed foods often are pre-made meals including frozen pizza and microwaveable dinners
  1. Read Food Labels-Use the following chart as a guide to help identify the healthier options.
When it says… Look for…
Calories 600 or less
Fiber 5 grams or more
Sodium 500 milligrams or less
Trans fat 0 grams
Saturated fat 5 grams or less
Sugar 0 grams
  1. Purchase foods that will cut down on meal prep.  Foods such as frozen berries for thick smoothies, shredded carrots in salads, jarred pesto on grilled veggies or whole grain pasta, frozen spinach for soups and packaged tuna for quick protein sandwich will make meal prep faster and easier.
  2.  Make a list of  grab-and-go foods to keep stocked in the refrigerator or freezer for emergencies.



Can-processed-foods-be-healthy-infographic by AHA

10-healthy-convenience-foods by Moms Kitchen Handbook

healthy-convenient-meals-on-the-go by Harvard Health

Photo credit

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