Monday, December 22, 2014

A New Year, Time to Tackle that Fitness Bucket List, and We've Got the Fitness Challenges for You!

Need a good kick in the pants and some camaraderie to help you tackle getting in shape in the new year? Look no further, we at Joy of Fitness have some fun (a relative word here) fitness challenges that will whip you into shape, tone and strengthen your body. Get moving, feel good and inspire others to do the same. You can do these challenges at home by yourself or enlist some friends and family. For some extra support and expert advice join our Facebook Group: Joy of Fitness Challenges.

The story behind the starting of these fitness challenges and the Facebook group: 
L to R: Shannon Stoughton (a.k.a. The Old Lady) &
Erika Laubach (a.k.a. The Youngin')
It all started with my learning that one of my wonderfully talented Fusion Fitness instructors, personal trainer and Institute for Integrative Nutrition graduate recently turned thirty. I witnessed her perform a killer push-up one day while leading one of her classes and thought, I may be forty, but I am forty strong and I will show this youngin' how it's done forty style. So I went into one of the storage rooms in the studio (I wasn't going to humiliate myself, I wanted to practice first, ya know), and got myself into an awesome plank, started to lower down into a push-up, then face contortion, sweat beads of fear, flashes of spectacularly failing the pull-ups portion of the presidential physical fitness test in elementary school, and finally plunk to the ground- another spectacular fail. Gulp. Swallow pride. Got myself off the floor and went back into the big room with a sweaty, forced smile on my face.
For some reason witnessing Erika perform a proper push-up that day in time triggered in me an existential mid-life fitness crisis. I mean, I have been watching people perform amazing push-ups my whole life and have helped clients learn and perform them as well. I have even managed to pull one off when I needed to. However, arms have always been my weak point and push-ups have always been a struggle for me which is why I personally avoid performing push-ups for exercise like the plague.

Yes, even fitness professionals can improve upon performance, technique and have areas of the body they neglect. I figured it was about time, after forty years of living, to face this upper body weakness nemesis and nip it in the bud. It's time to take my own advice to break bad habits of self-doubt and to woman-up by tackling this challenging area of my body and here's why. I would like to improve upon my overall health. Push-ups are a great way to increase total body strength (when done correctly which equals safely), including targeting the elusive core (ab muscles for stabilization), and the upper torso by engaging the pectoral muscles, deltoid muscles, biceps and triceps muscles. Most importantly for me, push-ups are perfect for promoting good posture by targeting and strengthening the muscles of the upper back as well, including the latissimus dorsi, rhomboids and trapezius.

Of course misery LOVES company so I decided to confide in Erika about my mid-life fitness crisis and asked her to come in on the challenge. Thankfully, she accepted and tasked herself with the walkout exercise. Thus, the thirty/forty challenge was birthed. My goal is to do 30 consecutive push-ups in 30 days and Erika has decided to tackle 40 consecutive walk-outs in 30 days starting January 2, 2015. That's correct, the younger ones do more- only seems fair, right!

We decided to take it public to hold ourselves accountable, to cheer each other on, give each other advice AND just in case there are a few folks out there kind of like me and need a good kick in the pants to get started!

I have posted our workout challenge as a pdf document and as a pic in our Facebook group group Joy of Fitness Challenges  and below, if you want to join in on the fun. We are also here to help if you have questions about proper technique. Our goal is to provide a different fitness challenge each month covering all parts of the body for 2015.

Ready for a fitness challenge? Join us!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Fit & Fabulous: Motivation,Tips & Tricks to Get Fit, Stay Fit & Enjoy It During the Holidays & Beyond!

It's that time of year, the hustle and bustle of the holiday season is upon us. Between pies and traveling, it can be hard to stay active and fit during this time of year. A to-do list a mile long, a mother lode of family obligations, work parties and last minute shopping means it's hard to get motivated and stay disciplined to exercise. You're stressed, busy and it's cold outside, so why not just take a break from your fitness program until the New Year? Because there are 34 days between Thanksgiving and New Years and we at Joy of Fitness are determined to help you make the most of them.  We've come up with some smart strategies, motivational techniques and a challenge to help you make fitness part of the celebration all holiday season long.

Try a dance based fitness class like Zumba!

Need some motivation, nibble on this:
  • Remember that exercise helps control weight. Want to be able to have your iced sugar cookies and eat it too, AND not gain weight over the holidays, then keep moving! When you engage in physical activity, you burn calories. The more intense the activity, the more calories you burn. You don't need to set aside large chunks of time for exercise to reap weight-loss benefits. If you can't do an actual workout, get more active throughout the day in simple ways — by taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking further away from the store or revving up your household chores.
  • Remember that exercise improves mood. Need another way to deal with that pesky relative besides drinking that extra class of spiked egg nog, insist they come along to your intense interval class. That will learn them and make you happy too! A workout at the gym, a group exercise class or a brisk 30-minute walk can help. Physical activity stimulates various brain chemicals that may leave you feeling happier and more relaxed. You may also feel better about your appearance and yourself when you exercise regularly, which can boost your confidence and improve your self-esteem.
  • Remember that exercise boosts energy. Winded by your gargantuan to-do list? Can't keep up with your boss at the annual holiday chicken dance competition... Regular physical activity can improve your muscle strength and boost your endurance. Exercise and physical activity deliver oxygen and nutrients to your tissues and help your cardiovascular system work more efficiently. And when your heart and lungs work more efficiently, you have more energy to go about your daily chores 
  • Remember that exercise helps promote sleep. Are visions of sugar plums dancing in your head and keeping you up at night. If you are struggling to fall asleep, or to stay asleep, regular physical activity can help you fall asleep faster and deepen your sleep.

Find relaxation and unwind w/ Yoga!
Need some tips & strategies to keep moving during the holidays and beyond, try these:
  • Acknowledge and accept that the holidays probably will affect your exercise program to some extent. Then you can...
  • Be flexible when your day gets busy. For example, instead of simply blowing off your 5 p.m. trip to class in favor of an office party at the same time, wake up an hour early and walk or jog before work. Or fit a brisk walk into your lunch hour.
  • Mix up your routine. For example, if you are a runner, instead of running four days a week, try adding in a strength training class and/or yoga class. The novelty of the new exercise will hopefully be a stronger motivator than the 'need' to do something else during your normal exercise time. An extra benefit is that cross training is the best way to avoid injuries and improve your time.  OR if you usually take exercise classes only offered at a certain time, try a new class that is offered at a time that works better for you during this busy time of year- variety is the spice of life! 
  • Organize your day the evening before. Prioritizing your tasks beforehand will help you find time to exercise. Each week, make it a priority to fit in three exercise sessions.  
  • Combine exercise with family commitment. For example, hauling the kids up a hill a few times can make a sledding trip as beneficial as a jog.
  • Just say no. You do not have to attend every party, go to every holiday extravaganza.  Take an honest look at your schedule, and instead of trying to squeeze exercise into your schedule, take other things out.
  • Consider online shopping- saves on travel time, shopping stress and may save some dough. The goal is not to do more (as we all have a tendency to do this time of year), but to do less, but do it all well.
  • Challenge yourself by creating a holiday wish list for one or more improved areas of physical fitness. Maybe you want to increase arm, leg , glutes, core strength or increase your cardio. Maybe you want to obtain more flexibility or balance. Challenges are fun ways to focus on one aspect of your fitness and to help you keep your discipline constant. Create your own challenge, whether it involves trying a new bodyweight exercise every day, testing different yoga poses or experimenting with an unfamiliar running workout. And be sure to check out Shannon & Erika in their holiday challenge!
  • Create a home workout for yourself or check-out our recommended Joy of Fitness 5-20 min. home workout routine, for those times you can't make it to the gym or class. Squats, push-ups, and many other exercises can be done without any gym equipment.
We also love these suggestions from an article written by Sophia Breene on Huffington Post Healthy Living:
  • Make It Official and sign up for a race, competition or fitness-y vacation like a hiking or bike trip in January or February so you have a good reason (and plenty of motivation) to stay in shape over the holidays.
  • Try Feet-First Sightseeing. If you're traveling or going on vacation explore a new city on foot or bike instead of in a car or by public transportation (weather permitting).
  • Find A Workout Buddy Stepping out at night for an 8p.m. fusion fitness class is much harder to skip when you're one half of a dynamic workout duo. Enlist a fitness-minded friend or family member (especially if you're traveling) to be your holiday exercise buddy. Encourage each other to lace up the sneakers for pre-dinner workouts and post-shopping trip runs.
  • Treat Yourself No, not to that extra slice of pumpkin pie. If it's within your budget, indulge in new workout clothing or fitness equipment before Thanksgiving to boost motivation throughout the holiday season.
  • Start A Fitness Tradition. There are tons of family-friendly holiday-themed running events in most areas. Sign up the whole family (don't forget the costumes) for a fun, goofy Turkey Trot or Jingle Jog. Before you know it, the annual race will become a family tradition. 
  • Include Everyone. Working out can often be a solitary activity, which may explain why many people skip the gym when friends and family are in town. Make it a group activity by inviting visitors to join you at the gym or a favorite exercise class.
  • Find A Promotion. Many gyms and exercise studios offer deals and specials during the holidays. Do some snooping and sign up if you find a sweet deal.
  •  Act Like A Kid. Childhood winter favorites like sledding, snowball fights and ice-skating get the heart pumping. Head outside for a sneaky (and super-fun) workout.
Be ready for the mistletoe. People are attracted to strong, healthy people. Your confidence will show if you've been keeping up with your exercise habits.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

In this season of giving thanks and giving back, Joy of Fitness is proud to be sponsoring a winter supply drive for the only emergency domestic violence shelter for women and children in Montgomery County Md, the Betty Ann Krahnke Center (BAK).  BAK is a 54-bed, short-term crisis shelter for women and children who are fleeing domestic violence and/or victims of sexual assault or human trafficking. BAK provides crisis intervention, safety planning, victim advocacy services, counseling and therapeutic interpersonal skill-building, with an emphasis on trauma reduction and personal empowerment. BAK’s intervention, prevention and education services empower women to  
create a new future for themselves and their children that is free of abuse, coercion and fear. 
Last year, BAK helped 155 women and 223 children move towards a safer
future. Some families stayed a week, others stayed several months.

Did You Know?

  • Domestic Violence occurs in all age, racial, gender, religious, socio-economic, educational and occupational groups;
  • Is used to intimidate, humiliate and frighten as a way of maintaining power and control; 
  • Has a devastating, lifelong impact on the young children who witness family violence.
Make a difference for women and children who are fleeing abuse and domestic violence in our community! Please join us this holiday season by helping us provide much needed winter supplies to the Betty Ann Krahnke Center.

We will be accepting the following winter supplies for BAK:

  • Mittens, gloves, hats, scarves- Adult & Kid Size (New)
  • Winter Coats- Kids (Gently Used, New)
  • Flannel Sheets- Twin (New)
  • Fleece blankets (New)
  • Diapers & Baby Wipes
  • Full Size Toiletries (shampoo, conditioner, body wash lotion)
  • Towels & wash clothes
  • Gift Cards to Target, grocery stores, gas stations, etc.)

Donations can be dropped off at the Joy of Fitness studio:
Woodmoor Shopping Center
Suite 131- Dark Lotus Studio 
10111 Colesville Rd.
Silver Spring, MD 20901

** We will be accepting donations during our class hours (see schedule) starting Friday, November 21 through Friday, December 19. **

Sunday, November 2, 2014

World Dance Fusion: It's More than Dance, It's Family Tradition!

Why did you become a fitness instructor? Becoming a World Dance Fusion fitness instructor was an evolution for me. I was already into dance and fitness as well as a professional educator, so this was a logical next step.

What are the traits you look for in an excellent instructor  Someone who has excellent technique, breaks things down clearly, knows modifications, and makes things fun!

...and how does that influence your teaching style? I come from a background in Physical Therapy, so I approach every class with "do no harm" mindset. I feel my participants become better aware of body mechanics and hence get a healthier workout.

What motivates you to get out there and exercise yourself? I love to walk, and that is my first choice for physical activity, followed by dance. I love the feeling of being awake and renewed that a good workout brings me.

Favorite dance step, why? It is what my favorite teacher, mentor and friend Kukuwa calls moving your "boomsbey". Simple circular rotation of the hips down one direction and back up the other. I love the core workout and the toning benefits. It is just simply pure fun! 

Inspirational Quote: "I have just got to do a better job at getting them to play better." John Harbaugh, coach of the Baltimore Ravens. My philosophy on teaching, if I stay on top of my fitness game, my participants will too.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Exercise: My "Drug" of Choice - Robin Jackson, Joy of Fitness Instructor

Why did you become a fitness instructor?
I always say I was thrown into teaching group exercise classes and I'm glad I was.  I enjoy the positive energy that flows throughout class.  Besides that, I love to see people working out and benefiting from it.
What are the traits you look for 
in an excellent instructor and 
how does that influence your teaching style? 
I look for high energy and how well engaged an instructor is with their participants.  I've been around numerous instructors from various backgrounds and these two traits have proven to be the most important for success in teaching.

What motivates you to get out there and exercise yourself?
I just love the feeling I get when I workout!  It's a huge part of my life.  Outside of the benefits one gets from exercising, it just makes me feel good.  It's a natural stress reducer and if I go too long without it I can feel my body getting lazy and tense.  Exercise is my "drug" of choice :)

Favorite exercise, why?
It's a toss up between a Walkout and a Turkish Get Up.  Both demand major core strength which of course is the powerhouse of the body!

Inspirational Quote:
"The quality of strength lined with tenderness is an unbeatable combination." ~ Maya Angelou

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Taking Bold Steps with Zumba: Jamesa Lewis, Joy of Fitness Instructor

Jamesa is all smiles leading her Zumba class.
Why did you become a Zumba instructor?
I became a Zumba instructor because I love to dance and I love to workout. Thank you Alberto, the brain child of Zumba, for coming up with this and not hesitating to step out and make it happen. After being a student in Zumba classes on and off for several years, I decided to take the bold step to become the instructor. I am so happy that I followed through, because I thoroughly enjoy teaching and having fun with my students as we move our bodies to the beat of several genres of music.  

What are the traits you look for in an excellent instructor and how does that influence your teaching style?
In my opinion, an excellent instructor keeps the energy going throughout the class and is in tune with each student ensuring, as much as possible, that everyone is engaged. As long as I am able to follow, as closely as possible, and I am getting a good workout while having fun, I'm all good. Those are the things that I try to emulate from the different instructors that I've had over time.

Jamesa rockin it!

What motivates you?
I love Zumba and I love to workout! That's my motivation. 

Favorite dance step?
I'm not sure what  it is called, but getting on my toes and tapping faster and faster while moving my upper body in a circular motion is so much fun for me, and my students all seem to enjoy it as well. 

Inspirational Quote: 

Nobody's built like you. You design yourself. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Raising Self-Esteem Through Yoga: Rekara Gage, Joy of Fitness Instructor

Rekara in supported bound ankle pose during
her Joy of Fitness restorative yoga class.
Why did you become a yoga instructor? 
I fell in love with the practice. Before doing yoga, I never would have expected that my body could move in the way that it can nor that I was as stressed and wound-up as I was. You’d be surprised by what that awareness can do for self-esteem and overall wellness (spiritual, emotional, physical, mental, etc.). I became a yoga instructor to help people appreciate themselves and realize their potential.

What are the traits you look for in an excellent instructor and how does that influence your teaching style? 
Someone who is helpful, patient, prepared, clear and creative has what it takes to be an excellent yoga teacher. I like to create a safe space for my students; one where they are reminded that we’re all students who are learning and progressing together. My classes are created to challenge students and let them play around; engaging their bodies and minds in ways that aren’t usually seen during the daily grind. 

 Rekara in supported revolved twist during her
Joy of Fitness restorative yoga class.

What motivates you? 
The feeling. My body feels so much better, my mood is so much better when I practice. Fitness in general is a pick-me-up. I can’t go too long without some kind of physical outlet to keep me balanced and centered. Luckily, yoga goes beyond just a physical release. 

What's your favorite yoga pose? 
I can’t say that I have just one favorite pose,

but I can say that I love poses like bridge. There’s so much growth and exploration in this pose because of its variations. With yoga, there’s really no such thing as “mastering” a pose. Students of yoga are always searching for ways to express poses differently such as feeling a pose more deeply or in new ways. This is a pose that you can really do that in.

Rekara in supported child pose during her
Joy of Fitness restorative yoga class.

Inspirational Quote: 

You don’t get better by doing nothing; you don’t get things done unless you give yourself to it, whole-heartedly.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Finding Sanctuary in Yoga: Jessica Whittington, Joy of Fitness Instructor

Why did you become a Yoga instructor? 
It was a very natural transition for me to go from Kung Fu to Yoga (both are martial arts and yoga is often referred to as the 'martial art of the soul' for how it reveals much inner truth to you as you progress). Yoga allowed me a sense of sanctuary during a very dark time in my life and for that I will be forever grateful. I love that the discipline is such a COMPLETE workout: developing strength with balance, agility, and breath control but also allows one to center the emotional life and calm the constantly over stimulated mind / nervous system.   

What makes a great Yoga instructor? 
Knowledge mixed with compassion and a nurturing quality. The minutiae inherent within the many different styles of yoga can be overwhelming if one attempts to parse the greater detail, so knowing how to communicate a short hand version of some of these concepts and seamlessly integrate them within a class' theme is a skill that takes a long while to refine. Also, being able to adapt a class on the fly to your students and have the right pacing based on the type of class can not be underestimated.
Jess in dancer profile.
What motivates you? 
Finding the perfect mix of music, sequence movement and mental intent ... when you find it the result is this 'moving meditation' which feels organic and effortless. In my own practice, it is the process of learning how to relax and trust my body during a very advanced practice that keeps me motivated and coming back for more every day. 

Favorite Yoga Pose: 
Lately I've really been enjoying variations of Hanumanasana (Flying Monkey Leap). I LOVE the incredibly deep stretch in the hamstrings / inner hips as you surrender the body to the pose and begin to extend the spine up and roll back the shoulders to open the heart deeply. It is incredibly activating in multiple muscles of the body and allows one to deeply plant the sit bones / pelivc floor. 

Inspirational Quote: 
'Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and to
endure what cannot be cured.' BKS Iyengar 

What Makes a Good Exercise Instructor?

As a fitness instructor and owner of a local fitness studio, this question of what makes a good instructor is always on the back of my mind because it seems to me, it's what keeps people coming back. The most important thing for me is that my clients get a good, appropriate for them workout and that they have a good experience, walking away with a smile on their face. I get a lot of "I hate you," looks, deer caught in the head lights stares of eminent doom during the workout, but ultimately I would say 99.9% leave with a sense of accomplishment and feeling good about the whole experience- at least that is what I strive for. 

In my seven years of instructing, I have learned a lot along the way and have found that a good instructor is more than being nationally certified, CPR and first aide trained, and keeping certifications current, or even knowing the mechanics of movement, the safe and effective exercises to perform and keeping up-to-date on the latest physical fitness and health related research. Good instructors not only impart their knowledge, they give of themselves. I truly believe the best instructors are the ones that get up and pour their hearts out, caring about each and every person that comes to their class each and every time. It's the same thing that you would want from a good school teacher- someone who not only knows the material and how to teach it, but LOVES the kids most of all. 

I'd love to hear from you. What do you think makes a good instructor? 

Friday, August 8, 2014

What's Your Motivation To Get Moving?

With busy lives juggling work, kids and home life it's hard to find time and energy to exercise. I totally get it! The funny thing is the very thing we feel we do not have the energy for is oftentimes the VERY thing we should be doing that will actually help us be more productive and enjoy the things we already have going on in our lives. At least that's what I think and is part of my motivational drive to keep moving, exercise, in order to live longer and enjoy an active, mobile lifestyle with my friends and family. The more we move, exercise, the more energy we have to do what we want. My other motivation is the fact that heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's all run in my family, affecting especially hard the women in my family. Also, I was recently diagnosed with Sj√∂gren's syndrome a chronic autoimmune disease in which a person’s white blood cells attack their moisture-producing glands. I experience fatigue, joint pain, dry eyes and other symptoms often. What helps me most- exercise. Consistent, regular exercise is one of the few things that has been proven to help ward off Alzheimer's, heart disease and diabetes, as well as keep those joints lubricated and functional, along with eating a healthy diet. That's what keeps me going. Honestly, I want to be around for awhile. What's your motivation and how will it help you get moving and/or stay moving? Yours in exercise, Shannon
Photo of me that my daughter took during one of my outdoor
exercise classes a couple of years ago.
I love being outside and moving!