Ask Amanda: An Apple A Day

So upon the consistent urging of my dear boyfriend, I finally got the Apple Watch Series 3 (you know, the one that has cellular).

I’ll pause for applause (*cough*).  Eh….ok.

I say “finally” because honestly, I’ve been an Apple addict for a long time now – I switched over to a Macbook from a s*tty PC like four laptops ago, I’ve had every iteration of the iPhone since 3.0, and I generally welcome our Apple, Google, and Amazon overlords in most of my day-to-day habits and choices.

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JUST PUT IT STRAIGHT INTO MY VEINS BRO

That said, I was a holdout on the Watch.  BUT WHY?

I think part of the issue was a weird attachment to my phone – my glorious, massive, brick of an iPhone 7 Plus.  I carry it EVERYWHERE with me – it actually has a ghetto-fabulous credit card pocket glued onto the back of the case so I have my transit card, credit card, and IC with me wherever I go, purse or no purse.

I was also carrying my phone everywhere to get steps, because ever since the demise of my FitBit somewhere around 2015, it’s the only thing I have tracking my movement, which is stupid and cumbersome when I’m just trying to run out for a quick coffee but saddled down with my 3-pound phone.

So I bit the bullet, saved up my salary, and got myself a glorious Apple Watch (series 3 GPS Cellular with 42mm face and Pink Sand Sport Band):

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#humblebrag on the low RHR no big deal

The photo above displays one of my favourite and most-used features: the heart rate monitor.  Yep, not only do I like to track my resting HR (a helpful indicator of your overall cardiovascular fitness), I also like to see how hard I’m working during my workouts – because truth be told, even trainers need to be pushed to reach their anaerobic (about 84% MHR and above) threshold from time to time.

The workout features of the Watch also include tracking calorie burn as well as average and peak HR during exercise – and I’ve compared it to my power meter output on a Spin bike and my Orangetheory results during class and both time it was spot-on accurate.

Besides “workout-y” workouts, perhaps my number one feature on the Watch is the activity tracker, which are the three rings featured on the main watch face below:

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The end of a particularly active (exhausting) day.

The red ring is your overall calories burned (this is considered ON TOP OF your basal metabolic rate, which is how many calories you’d burn anyway just being alive, which for most of us STILL makes up the bulk of our daily burn).  The bright green ring is your daily exercise minutes, which is calculated by a combination of heart rate elevation and overall movement.  And the third blue ring is your stand minutes, which gives you a point for each hour you got up and moved for at least one minute (so literally, how many hours in the day during which you AT LEAST stood up for 60 seconds – not too tough).

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You actually get little vibrating FIREWORKS when you close all your rings! HURRAH FOR ME!

As a trainer, I am constantly trying to encourage my clients to track their movements and eating habits and consider their larger patterns in the pursuit of their individual goals.  For examples, a lot of clients come to me telling me they’re “pretty active,” when in reality they do about one hour of moderate exercise per day (if that!) and sit most of their other waking hours, at work and leisure.

The Apple Watch doesn’t let you get away with that definition of active – between the daily burn goal (which you set), the exercise minutes (a minimum 30 per day), and the standing, the Activity app encourages more consistent movement patterns throughout the day – as well as gives you some great heart rate feedback on the exercise you are doing, in real time.

But what about those of us who don’t really care about our activity levels (breaking my trainer heart, but I know you’re out there)?

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You can customise your “honeycomb” of apps on your phone and it shows up organised on your watch.  Boom.

The Watch also has a lot of compatible apps for sleep quality tracking (another crucial component of overall wellness, and something few of us pay close attention to), a “quick add” feature that syncs to the MyFitnessPal diet tracking app, a notification-enabled period and ovulation tracking app called Flo (sorry, fellas, this one’s not for you – but ladies, if you’re not tracking your cycle and how it relates to your body and moods, you’re doing your physical AND mental health a disservice), and convenient for workouts AND cooking (ha!), a one-touch timer and stopwatch/lap app at a glance.

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There’s also compatible apps for calculator, Twitter, weather, language translators, and hey Dad – even your beloved Nest (a remote-control home thermostat) is on here!

Not convinced yet?  I haven’t even gotten to the cellular/phone-ish features.

The Apple Watch Series 3 is completely independent of the iPhone for most things (a notable exception: Watchify, the Spotify-playing app for Watch, which drives me NUTS because I can’t have access to my favourite non-iTunes playlists while running unless I take my phone), which means you can get your WhatApp notifications, take phone calls (yes, you  heard me right – you can ANSWER and SPEAK TO phone calls via your watch even without your phone, which is Inspector-Gadget style space age biz), and get news, FB, and Instagram updates on the run – no tethering to your phone required.

I still plan on taking an Apple Watch class from one of those geniuses at the Apple Store when I have time, but in the meantime, here are another 40 (!) tips and tricks to make your watch work for you.

And finally – because I know you’re all wondering – how much is this kit n’ kaboodle, anyway?  Here in Singapore I bought the watch for $648 SGD ($493 USD), added $88 for the AppleCare coverage (because I don’t do well with nice things), and pay $6.90/month for the cellular tethering on my mobile carrier.  Not too shabby considering that I absolutely love it, will use it until it is irrelevant, and find it wildly convenient and useful to my active, on-the-move, data-obsessed daily lifestyle.

Would you ever get an Apple Watch – or do you have one already?  What do you think?

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Ask Amanda: Weighty Issues

I was going to hijack my own post this week to talk about my fury over the post-Superbowl Lady Gaga body shaming, but you know what?  It’s still too soon.  I’m going to let that one simmer in the pot for a while before I just let the vicious a*sholes that broke her down have a piece of my (rational, inclusive, empowered) mind.

But I digress.

Today’s post is about something near and dear to me: the idea that you can get fit anywhere, anytime, and at any price point.  I recently opened two private fitness studios in Singapore – a small boutique gym called Fit N’ Fresh and a one-on-one transformation and weight loss institute called DISCREET – both of which are premium (read: not inexpensive) facilities.  That being said, I am a huge believer in bodyweight (equipment-free) workouts, and it is in fact on those workouts that I built my business back in 2009.

At that time, outdoor bootcamps were still very up-and-coming, and my business partner and I were determined to offer safe, effective, creative outdoor workouts – using absolutely nothing but our clients’ own bodies.  We wanted to redefine the concept of “exercise” not as something you do for a half an hour within four walls, but as something you practice in the pursuit of making your body a functional machine – no small feat, to be sure.

My personal training clients’ top excuses for not working almost undoubtedly fall into one of the following categories: no time, no space, no gym access (this includes the recurrent excuse of “travel,” which never ceases to frustrate me since I’m pretty sure you didn’t forget to pack your own human body on your trip), and/or not sure what to do when they’re on their own.

I’m gonna give you an early Christmas present and solve all of these at once.  BEHOLD:

AMANDA’S BODYWEIGHT EXERCISE BUFFET

Buffet, you say?  Yep, I’m talkin’ about a full feast of fitness, ripe for the picking – so pack up your plate if you wish (i.e. try all ten exercises) or pick & choose the faves that are right for you and your ability level (i.e. choose five and repeat them) and get ready to sweat it out in ONLY TWENTY MINUTES – no matter where you are in the world.  Perform each exercise for 45 seconds, resting for 15 seconds before moving onto the next exercise. Repeat the set (two total rounds) for the full 20-minute challenge.  

Easy, right?  Talk to me after it’s over. 😉

BURPEES.  My absolute favorite full-body bodyweight move and silver bullet of trainers everywhere, this one attacks all your major muscle groups while building cardiovascular endurance and warming you up (and um…don’t forget the push-up at the bottom, ok?).

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A REAL burpee includes a push-up (4).  Otherwise, it’s just a squat-thrust.

PUSH-UPS.  The best part of a burpee is the push-up, amirite?  Ok, maybe you hate me now.  But given that there’s literally hundreds of push-up styles, they’re one of the most versatile bodyweight exercises available.

SQUATS.  Like push-ups, there are about a thousand varieties of squats in the world, and lots of them don’t involve a lick of equipment – so push that booty back, get those quads ready, and work all the big muscle groups of your lower body in one swoop.

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LUNGES.  Speaking of…um…swooping?…lunges are another fantastic way to work the legs without any weights or equipment.  Step ’em forward, move ’em back, go sideways, or even jump it out – you’ve got so many ways to get lean, toned legs from this single move.

PLANK-UPS.  Perhaps the distant cousin of the push-up, plank-ups are often an easier movement for beginners and a great twofer when it comes to working arms and core at the same time.  Caveat: you gotta keep your hands under your shoulders and your butt out of the sky to make this one work (see form below):

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Butt down, hands under the shoulders.  Check yo’ self.

KNEES-TO-ELBOWS (three ways).  Traditional knees-to-elbows means connecting the knee to the elbow while holding a plank position (shown below).  I also count bicycle crunches as a variation on knees-to-elbows since the twisting and core engagement is similar, and it’s an easier modification for folks that need to build core strength.  And if you want to amp it up a bit – try mountain climbers, the plyometric version of this move.

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Try to actually contact the elbow with your knee if you can.

BACK EXTENSIONS.  We all get so caught up in training the front side of the body (think six-pack abs, a nice rounded chest, bulging biceps) that we forget that the back side is actually what takes the brunt of our poor posture, constant sitting, and core instability.  Whether it’s Superman holds, swimmers, or prone rows, integrating spinal strengthening movements into your bodyweight program is a necessity.

JUMPING JACKS.  Laugh all you want (but not at its extensive history), but this cardio move gets the heart rate up, shakes out the lactic acid from the limbs, and tones up your calves by hopping lightly and continuously on the toes.

REVERSE CRUNCHES.  Another one with lots of variations (leg drops, hip lifts, toe touches, and decline bench drops are a few of my faves), the reverse crunch works the rectus abdominus (lower abs) while allowing the neck to rest comfortably.

ISOMETRIC HOLDS.  Isometric exercises mean you hold a contraction for a specified period of time (rather than the contract-release pattern of traditional exercises).  Planks are perhaps the most diverse of this group for their many variations, but glute bridges (below) and chair sits are just as effective – as are the more advanced hollow holds (if you’re seeking six-pack status, this one is a must).  If you choose this type of exercise, try and hold it for 45 seconds straight – no cheating!

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Booty booty booty booty poppin’ everywhere.

So there you have it, folks – ten exercises, twenty minutes, zero equipment, and one hundred percent effective.

In case you’re wondering why I didn’t mention pull-ups, triceps dips, step-ups, box jumps, or a host of other very functional exercises that I also use on a daily basis – the answer is because they all use equipment (even simple stuff, like benches or chairs) and I wanted this piece to be LITERALLY about what you can do with your own body – and not a thing more.

All it takes to get – and stay! – in shape are consistency, determination, and focus.  There are no excuses – only priorities.  Make yours getting in a workout today.

Did I miss one of your favorite at-home exercises?  Share with me in the comments!

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.

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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:

SQUAT-PRESS / BURPEE / LUNGE-CURL / V-UP / SUMO SQUAT-RAISE / SIDE LUNGE / PUSHUP

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!

Where Do You Shop & What Do You Eat?

I showed up to a private client’s home today and after a few minutes of punches and kicks (yep, we were boxing), she stopped dead and asked me:

“Where do you shop and what do you eat?”

It was an honest, if charged, question – and it made me think.  Where do I really shop? oatmealshop What do I really eat?  What am I willing to disclose about both of these habits (and yes, I definitely consider shopping for exercise clothes a “habit” of mine)?

I mean, you think it would be simple enough to answer – but it got me thinking about what I consider my “staples” – both of fashion and food – and I wanted to share them with you, my faithful readers, should the rest of you have the same questions.

If I had a million dollars (if I had a million dollars), I’d probably shop 99% of the time at lululemon*.  Let’s be honest – their pants do for your legs and buns what the Wonderbra did for boobs in the 1980s, and their prints, cuts, and styles are at the absolute forefront of fit fashion.  I have a great deal of lulu stuff, mostly pants, although I have been known to splurge on the occasional jacket, built-in bra top, and headband.

That said, I am not in fact a millionaire, and so I do about 40-50% of my activewear shopping at Old Navy.  Whereas many women my age used to scoff at Old Navy, convinced their clothes were shapeless and low quality, I have turned many of the former haters onto the “dark side” of amazing savings and high-quality workout clothes at the O-Nave.  If you haven’t poked around their site in a while, it’s worth your time – and believe me, the sales and prices you can get are unmatched anywhere else (even Target).

Speaking of Target, I put them in my “filler” category – meaning if I can’t get a quality lifetime staple from lululemon or a low-cost trendy piece from Old Navy, I “fill in” my wardrobe with stuff from Target C9, Marshalls/TJ Maxx, Lucy, Under Armour, NIKE, Adidas, and even the occasional Puma.

Lest we neglect some of the cutest workout wear out there, I used to be a subscriber to both Fabletics (Kate Hudson’s apparel company) and Ellie, two of the best sources for new, creatively-designed active apparel.  I couldn’t sustain the monthly memberships to these fine resources, but rest assured that they are awesome and really well-made.

And now, onward to food.  What does a typical day of eating look like for me?

Well, I start almost every day with eggs or egg whites – hard-boiled if I’m on the run, scrambled in the microwave if I get a spare second.  If I know I have a long stretch of work ahead (i.e. like yesterday, where I went 6am-noon straight with no breaks), I’ll have a big bowl of oatmeal with a banana, flaxseed, cinnamon, and peanut butter stirred in to make sure I have the energy to get through.  Sometimes I do Bulletproof coffee but I can’t say I’m religious about it.

Once it’s time for a snack, I go for one of three combinations – an apple/pear with cashew butter, pitted Medjool dates with peanut butter, or 2% plain Greek yogurt with a Quest bar crumbled in.  These high-fat or high-protein snacks keep me going through the midday since I rarely have a proper “lunchtime,” so to speak.

If I do get to sit down and enjoy a lunch, it’s usually leftovers (whatever I made the night prior) or a salad of arugula, tuna, goat cheese, chopped apple, and walnuts, tossed in olive oil and lemon juice.  Again, real “meals” at lunch for me are rare.

For dinner, if you guys follow my Instagram you know it’s coming three nights a week from Blue Apron!  I love cooking with new, fresh ingredients and getting new ideas for healthy and tasty meals, so I’m a devotee there.  But I almost always cook for dinner – rarely does a night go by when we do “lazy dinner” (canned tuna, chili, or pasta) – I make it a point to cook fresh meals for myself and my fiance, and I think it’s a crucial part of our commitment to health and wellness in our own home.

But wait – doesn’t she ever have a sweet treat?  Yes, of course – but I only keep dark, dark chocolate in my house.  I used to keep ice cream, cookies, or other “indulgent” treats and promise myself I could portion them out appropriately – but after hundreds (thousands?) of failures to do just that, I gave up – and I don’t allow those foods in my home anymore.  I can control myself around a square of dark chocolate; I can’t around a creamy pint of Chunky Monkey – so I “block” myself from bringing it in the house.

Where do you shop (for activewear) – and what do you eat regularly?  Tell me

*you should know that during the writing of this post I actually went over to the lululemon website and purchased a jacket and pants.  #addict

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:

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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)

4:00-7:00 – 30 SECONDS BICYCLES / 30 SECONDS JUMP SQUATS (x3)

7:00-8:00 – PLANK (any format)

8:00 -11:00 – 20 SECONDS LUNGES / 20 SECONDS PUSH-UPS / 20 SECONDS KNEES-TO-ELBOWS

11:00-12:00 – BREATHER (just rest)

12:00-15:00 – 30 SECONDS BURPEES / 30 SECONDS LEG DROP CRUNCHES (x3)

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

18:00-19:00 – SIDE PLANK (30 SECONDS EACH SIDE)

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!

12 Days of Fit-Mas: A Gift Guide

Wondering what fit people really want for the holidays?

Well, if you’re me, you want simple, high-quality functional items that you can use/wear/enjoy every day.  

I scoured the internet to find my favorite practical gifts for the fitness buff in your life this holiday season – and I hope you can find something just right!

On the first day of Fit-Mas, my trainer gave to me…

a massive 64 ounce water “growler”

On the second day of Fit-Mas, my trainer gave to me…

two running gloves

On the third day of Fit-Mas, my trainer gave to me…

three resistance bands

On the fourth day of Fit-Mas, my trainer gave to me…

four monkey-face kettlebells

On the fifth day of Fit-Mas, my trainer gave to me…

five pairs of printed leggings

On the sixth day of Fit-Mas, my trainer gave to me…

six Crossfit dice

On the seventh day of Fit-Mas, my trainer gave to me…

seven pairs of rundies

On the eighth day of Fit-Mas, my trainer gave to me…

an 8-piece vacuum-seal food container set

On the ninth day of Fit-Mas, my trainer gave to me…

a nine-pocket hanging toiletry bag for the gym

On the tenth day of Fit-Mas, my trainer gave to me…

ten-toed socks

On the eleventh day of Fit-Mas, my trainer gave to me…

an eleven-dollar stackable protein shake bottle

On the twelfth day of Fit-Mas, my trainer gave to me…

twelve inspirational hair ties

What are you asking for from (fit) Santa?  What healthy gifts do you love to give?

Workout Review: RockSweat

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An L.A. icon

When a friend of mine invited me to RockSweat, I was immediately on board.  The idea is this: you go to an iconic L.A. concert venue (The Roxy) at 9am (not that early, all things considered) and hit a high-intensity interval workout set to high-energy rock music.  So I grabbed my friend Carrie from Steps2Nutrition and headed out to the Sunset Strip on a sunny Saturday morning.

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Post-sweat glow

What I didn’t expect was how truly music-focused the entire workout was.  When we got there, the tunes were already pumping over the amazing Roxy sound system, and a screen onstage was playing images to match the music.  As soon as you walked in, it felt like a night club – but without the alcohol stink and sticky floors (they clean it up really well for this event!).

The workout kicked off with Guerrilla Radio and I was already hooked – the 1-minute HIIT intervals were killer (think burpees, mountain climbers, push-ups, and squat-kicks, all back to back), but it was all balanced out by a (still tough) core segment (during which we learned about music history at The Roxy, which was cool) and a relaxing yoga segment to end it all.

Even cooler?  During one of the cardio segments I was able to get up on stage and actually “demo” the workout with the instructors, which I of course loved – and will be doing again soon!  After talking to the (awesome!) co-founders, Evan and Diane, and finding out about their concept, I wondered if what I do (group fitness instruction) would help them out – and they said YES!

So guys, if this workout sounds like something you can’t miss – and if you live in L.A. or are visiting – come ROCK on Saturday, November 22nd at 9am.  I’ll be teaching a segment, the music will be pumping, and we will SWEAT it up in style.

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Just two girls in a bar…working out

The gang's all here!

The gang’s all here!

How important is music to your workouts?  What’s your favorite fitness class?