Workin’ in a Winter Wonderland

Ok guys, it’s crunch time.  Christmas is next week.  The holidays are here.  And I know everyone is pressed for time, energy, and sanity.

That’s why I’m popping in with a quickie post – to share a quickie workout! – that you can do anywhere you are, without equipment, in just 20 minutes.


Don’t say I never gave you nothin’, readers.  Here’s to a happy and healthy holiday season with friends and family!

What are your favorite indoor exercises?  How do you stay healthy during the festive season?

The Idiot-Proof Functional Fitness Workout

I was looking up some different workout ideas today and all of a sudden I stumbled upon what I believe to be one of the most awesome summaries of all things exercise that I have ever seen (and paraphrased):

When in doubt, squat, hinge, press, pull, do something for your core and/or carry something heavy.

This is such a useful answer to the question I get so often as a trainer:

What should I do in the gym?

Functional fitness for 100, Alex.  Planning your workout isn’t brain surgery; it’s simply putting together the most effective summary of parts so that you aren’t (a) wasting time or (b) about to injure yourself.

Case in point: I, like many women, used to spend time on “little muscles” – think triceps kickbacks, biceps curls, or thigh abductions.

go hard

You can go hard, or you can go home.

Sure, muscles are muscles and they all need work to function optimally.   But consider a complex movement like the deadlift-row – where the body must hinge, pull, engage the core, and lift something heavy – and you see why 10 reps of dead-rows versus 10 reps of arm-kicking makes a lot more sense.

dead row

The deadlift row. Please use larger weights, ladies and gents.

So what does a squatting, hinging, pushing, pulling, core stuff and carrying things type of workout actually look like?

I know, it sounds like some sort of complicated version of Mouse Trap, but honestly, these fundamental movements are some of the easiest to put together on your own when faced with a gym and a half hour(ish) to work out in it.  Here’s one example:

SQUAT – why not just um, squat?  Or add weights?  Or jump?


Drop it like a squat

HINGE – you know I love a deadlift.  Or heck, a kettlebell swing.

kb hip

NOT a squat. #hiphinge

PUSH – don’t discount the humble push-upPush-press?  Chest fly too.

push press

My fave Crossfit move.

PULLpull-ups are hard.  Seated rows aren’t.  Or how about cables?


Ripped dudes make it look easy.

CORE – so many planks.  Crunches.  Lower back work.  Twists.


CARRY – pick up a sandbag.  Drag something behind you.  Farmers walk.


This workout is a drag, man.

As with most things in life, the best answer is often the simplest one.

What do your functional workouts look like?  What are your fave moves?

MY Workouts Versus YOUR Workouts

I was recently telling a friend about my work/workout (since they seem like they’re one in the same, most of the time) schedule, and it went something like this:

“I try to Crossfit twice a week, run 1-2 times, and yoga 1-2 times.  Oh, and I teach 8 Spin classes and a boot camp.”

That last part always gets people.

My swolemate kangaroo "gets" me

My swolemate kangaroo “gets” me

In any fitness professional’s life, there is a distinct and tangible difference between the workouts you do “for yourself” and the workouts you do while teaching group exercise – as in, “for others.”

Working out for Under Armour at an awesome sponsored event!

Working out for Under Armour at an awesome sponsored event!

When I am working out for others, I am completely engaged in their experience.  I am constantly checking on their form, wondering how they’re feeling, focusing on the details (music, lighting, timing) that make their workouts feel special, motivating, and effective. When I work out for others, I am often sweat-drenched and usually exhausted afterward, because putting your mental and physical all into something is a truly challenging pursuit.

That said, it’s a whole different ball game when I’m working out for myself.

When I work out for myself, I am free.  I turn my music up and my distractions down, and for a blessed hour(ish), I am silent.  Voiceless.  Focused.  I can enjoy the way my muscles burn, the cadence of my own breath, the familiar comfort of my own strength.  Instead of concentrating on details, I let my world get fuzzy, blurred, relaxed into an abstract “zone” where I am at once fully myself.

I recognize my authentic self when I am working out this way; I lose track of time and feel connected to who I am deep down inside – not a shell personality screaming from a Spin bike, not a military-style force lording over the trembling bootcamp masses, but an authentic human presence working and loving and pushing myself without judgment or pressure.  It is indeed my “happy hour,” my favorite place, the few moments of respite I seek from each day’s routine.

They say that part of finding happiness is losing yourself in what you truly love to do; finding “flow” to the point where you are barely even aware of what you are doing except for the way it makes you feel – blissful, productive, accomplished, fulfilled.  That is what my workouts do for me.  I love teaching for others and will always need that purpose in my fitness life; however, I need to remember that part of my balance as a fitness pro is making time to give myself the pleasure of working out for ME.

Rave run at Macritchie Reservoir

Rave run at Macritchie Reservoir

What makes you feel like you’re “flowing”?  Where do you find bliss each day?

Small Space Circuits: The Vacation Workout

As a trainer, I am constantly combating excuses about why a client “can’t” work out.  I don’t have time, they say; I’m not a member of a gym, they wail; I never know what to do on my own, they claim.

What if I could solve all of those issues with just one simple (but tough!) workout?

I recently had the opportunity to go on a river cruise down the Mekong from Cambodia to Vietnam with AmaWaterways.  The cruise itself was amazing (and highly recommended), but being a river vessel, the gym space was limited – as was my time, since part of the reason one goes on vacation is to experience another culture, not to spend hours working out.


The beautiful cruise ship AmaDara

Because I had the benefit of traveling with a fitness-minded friend, I recruited her to partner up with me and we committed to 20 minutes of exercise on “most” days.  I designed a short, high-intensity workout to keep both of us active and strong without wasting our precious cruising hours.


Ready to work out!

Get ready – this one’s a toughie, as there’s not much rest and there is much running/cardio.  Feel free to modify the workout if you have access to equipment (i.e., run on at treadmill if you have one, jump rope if you brought one, add weights to your squats if you have some) – but know that you don’t need a speck of stuff to get your sweat on with this routine.  Let’s go!


Fitness room onboard the cruise ship AmaDara


Warm up with 1-2 minutes of easy cardio, like jogging, jumping jacks, or cycling.

Next, alternate 2 minutes of high-intensity cardio (like sprinting, jumping rope, or burpees) with 2 minutes of full body exercises (listed below), continuing for 5 rounds.

Rest 30 seconds between each 4-minute round, finishing with a 1-minute plank after the fifth round.

Cool down and stretch for 1-2 minutes.












One more step – pat yourself on the back for having a) worked out on vacation and b) made it through a really tough 20 minute effort.  Now bon voyage!


Vietnam ahoy!

Workout Wednesdays: Mountain Biking Spin Class

Hey there fit readers!  It’s Wednesday, which means it’s time for yet another superfun playlist that I’m working on in my Spin classes this week.

This week’s theme is mountain biking – lots of technical work and one long, continuous hill (yep – it lasts for FIVE songs!).  Check it out:

MountainRideWe take off (after a warmup song) on a long flat path (double time seated) to the mountain – then proceed to hit some rollers (single beat / double beat) and a standing quick steady into a stand / aggressive / sit combo (8 beats in each position, dropping to 4 beats after the first 2.5 minutes of song 5).

From there, the hill begins – we start with a steady standing build and drop into a “power climb” (on beat with bursts of tempo running) for song 7 – then reverse it and build in the saddle and stand into a “power climb” on song 9.  Song 10 is the longest – and also the last – so we use it to push to the top of the mountain in three 1-minute tempo pushes – with resistance adds to max.

Sound like fun?  This is what’s happening in at least one L.A. gym this week…

What are your favorite tunes right now?  Leave me a comment!

Workout Wednesdays: Triple Play Spin Class

Hey guys – happy Wednesday!  Remember to check me out over on FB today for #AskAmanda (where you can ask me anything about health, wellness, and nutrition – and if I don’t know myself I will find you the answer!).

For now, I just finished putting together my weekly Spin class playlist – and it’s a triple play!  I like to segment my classes into manageable parts so my students feel like they’re going on a journey – and making progress throughout the class.

Before I go further, check this week’s song list:

TriplePlayWhat I’m doing here is building sets of three songs (after the warmup) that start with rolling hills, go into the “flats” (double time pace), and then build back up into a hill climb (third song in each set). 

At the end of the ride, I offer a 3-minute (get it? triple play?) riders’ choice sprint where students can choose whether they want to work on tempo or resistance for three bursts of 40-second maximal efforts – heart rate bonanza!

I can’t wait to ride this one out with my class on Friday and next week!

What are your fave workout songs right now?  Anything you’re Spinning to?

Workout Wednesday: Spin Class Playlists

A student of mine came up to me after class and asked me if I post my Spin playlists on my blog.  I realized that I didn’t….but I easily could!

And so a new TFB tradition has been born.  Each Wednesday (which, by the way, is ALSO #AskAmanda Wednesdays on my Facebook page!) I will feature a recent playlist I’ve been working on with my Spin classes, along with some notes on the ride.

This week’s theme?  BOOTY WERK.  Check the tunes:


As you can imagine, this ride gets HEAVY toward the end to emphasize the “pull” part of the pedal stroke and increase activation in the hamstrings and glutes.  I like to start off with some double time running in the saddle and out (songs 2/3) and then hit it into a steady climb to build resistance (song 4).

From there I go to power climbs (starting students on beat, asking them to pick up tempo for short bursts, then add more resistance; songs 5-6) and a single/double (aka uphill/downhill; tempo AND resistance changes; song 7).  Song 8 is low resistance recovery, followed by a 2-song build to finish with full turns, all-out power pushes, and one-minute sprints (songs 9-10).

The full ride is 45 minutes long and turned my class into a sweaty, legs-burning mess this past Monday – and we’re ready to do it again on Friday!  Who’s with me?

What are your favorite songs to Spin to?

Flex Friday Workout: Luck O’ The Irish

Ok, I get that “lucky sevens” and “Irish luck” refer to two very distinct and separate forms of luck.  But just throw me a bone here; I’m trying to do a cute little workout thing, okay?

Small sets can be beneficial tools for building fitness using heavier weights.  For example, if you are plateauing by lifting 10-pound dumbbells 10 times, this workout would suggest you lift 12 or 15-pound dumbbells 7 times to try and “max out” your lift.

As always, progress only at the level you are comfortable with – and always make sure your form is mechanically correct (or ask a trainer to help!).  Do the best you can to make it through the workout staying strong, active, and motivated to finish.


Here’s the basic deal – you choose seven exercises (I chose these exercises based on efficiency – you work the upper and lower body as well as the core and cardio, using weights and body weight alternately), complete seven reps of each, and complete the whole set seven times – a total of 49 reps per exercise.  The exercises I chose are:


Don’t forget to warm up with 5-10 minutes of low-intensity cardio and finish with 5-10 minutes of targeted stretching and/or foam rolling.

Do you have a circuit or interval workout planned for next week?  Tell me about your burn!

A Weight Training Breakdown

The secret is out: I love lifting weights.  I always have, or at least since my dear friend (and soon-to-be bridesmaid!) Marilyn took me to the gym our freshman year of college and showed me how to properly lift them.

Immediately I was enthralled – goodbye, cardio body, hello, strong, fit body (well, stronger, fitter body – in college I was still quite soft what with the all-beer-and-booze diet).

I dragged through 20 minutes on the elliptical (hey, it was the early ’00s) just so I could be warmed up enough to power through my favorite part of the workout – weights!  I loved picking them up, feeling their heavy weight, slogging them around the weight room and feeling like a warrior princess when I progressed to the next level.  I was hooked.

Fast-forward nearly 16 (!) years later, and the love story continues.  I lift weights most days of the week, taking one rest day during the week (usually Tuesdays, when I teach a high-intensity interval class at the gym) and one yoga day on the weekend (usually Sunday).  I lift in splits, I lift in supersets, I lift with drops, I lift with intervals.

But I always lift with purpose.

I wanted to share with you guys a few of my favorite moves, the weights I use to do them, and one of the ways I structure my sets, just to give you some ideas for your own weights workouts – and I am happy to hear what you do in the gym too!

TFB Fave (Shoulders & Triceps)

Key Moves (3 sets, 12 reps):

TFB Wedding Dress Workout (Back & Biceps)

Key Moves 3 sets, 12 reps):

TFB Lean Legs Day

Key Moves (3 sets, 15 reps):

What are your favorite body parts to lift?  What exercises do you like best?

Flex Friday: The Winter Wonder Workout

Ok, I get it.  It’s cold outside (yes, even here in L.A. it is freezing!).  We’re coming off the holidays and you feel lethargic (and perhaps guilty) as all get-out.  Working out may be the furthest thing from your mind as you use every last speck of mental energy to think about going back to work on Monday (ugh).

But alas, my fit friends, there is a way.  A way that only takes 20 minutes, is guaranteed to get you sweating, and is a full-body, equipment-free workout that will help you start feeling the burn in 2015.

Even if you didn’t set a fitness-related resolution this year, there’s no excuse to NOT try this short, fun, high-energy workout in the comfort of your own home – no cold weather gear required:


I know I know, there’s a lot of text to look at – but worry not!  All you need is the timer on your phone or watch and some grit and determination, and you’re ready to rock it.  Here’s the details:

0:00-1:00 – JUMPING JACKS

1:00-4:00 – 10 PUSHUPS EVERY 30 SECONDS (the faster you go, the more rest you get)


7:00-8:00 – PLANK (any format)


11:00-12:00 – BREATHER (just rest)


15:00-18:00 – 90 SECONDS BURPEES / 30 SECONDS WALL SIT (x2)


19:00-20:00 – STRETCH & HYDRATE

Let me know if you give this one a try – and which portion of the workout you think is the toughest!