Monday, May 30, 2011

TOTAL ABS AND CORE - Part 1 and 2


By Monika Tarkowska-Carter, CPT, LWMC, HLC 2
These two videos show different variations on exercises for abdominals using the stability ball. In Part 1 I talk about the simpler exercises that most people know, adding slight variations to make them more challenging. Part 2 consists mostly of more advanced exercises. The ball is used here to challenge balance and core stabilization to a higher degree.
Make sure to do at least a 5-10 minute warm-up before beginning any exercises.
Do the level of exercises that fits your ability. Perform them slowly and correctly, through the full range of motion if you can. Make sure your abdominals are contracted at the very beginning and at the end of the movement.  Your lower back should never be sinking down or be overarched. Your butt shouldn’t stick up into the air, unless you have back problems, in which case to protect it, you might want to lift your butt a little bit higher than the straight line.
Start with 1-2 sets of 12 and build up to 15-20 repetitions and up to 3 sets OR do 1 set of different exercises to work the abdominal muscle fibers in many different angles and positions. No matter how effective the exercise or how much you like it, it’s always good to vary your routine. Your muscles get used to the same movement and are not pushed enough if you are doing the same exercise over and over. That’s when you experience plateaus. You will see results faster this way and the routine will be less boring.
Some of these exercises don’t look as hard as they actually are. If performed slowly and correctly you will see how your whole body will feel the burn. You are using a lot of muscles to stabilize the holding positions as well as other muscles to help you with the movement itself. In Part 2, you will particularly feel your shoulders, scapular stabilizers, triceps, lower back, glutes, legs, inner thigh muscles, and of course all the abdominal muscles.
You may want to have a spotter for some of the more advanced exercises, especially at the beginning, until you get used to them, and are sure you are doing them correctly. It is sometimes good to have someone else’s feedback because it’s hard to see your form in some of these advanced moves.
Please, always consult a physician before starting any exercise program.

Friday, May 13, 2011



By Monika Tarkowska-Carter, CPT, LWMC, HLC 2
This is another video where I tried to include a very intense use of the core muscles in all the triceps exercises.  Some of them are very advanced so make sure you can stabilize correctly and are able to do the easier ones first. They require minimum equipment and are all very effective if done slowly and correctly.
Please, do a 5-10 minute warm-up before doing any exercises.
Depending on your level, try to do 12-20 repetitions per set.  Aim for the amount of repetitions that gives you a nice burn but not to a point where your form is compromised.
If you haven’t worked out in a while, it’s probably smarter to start with just 1 set and progress to 2-3 sets as some of these exercises can produce extreme soreness.  The weights would vary from 5-15 lbs for women and about 10-25 lbs for men. As always, you don’t have to do all of these exercises in one workout, but rather alternate them with other muscle groups to get a better overall workout. For fat loss, toning and definition you should rest about 30 seconds between sets or switch to a different muscle group without resting at all. Proper stabilization is critical in these exercises as it is fairly easy to strain the shoulder joint doing them incorrectly.
Make sure you engage your core muscles in all the exercises. They play a very important role of supporting and stabilizing you, especially in full body exercises like triceps push-ups.
All the exercises should be performed slowly, without momentum, and through a full range of motion (if you don’t have any injuries or joint issues). Try to engage your triceps muscles at the very beginning of the exercise and then again contract them all the way at the end of the range.
If you don’t have much time to do your workout, choose the exercises that require more core involvement. This way you can skip the abdominal work as your abs will already be involved to a huge degree doing everything else.
Always consult a physician before beginning any exercise program.

Monday, May 2, 2011



By Monika Tarkowska-Carter, CPT, LWMC, HLC 2

You have the best intentions. You have a strong will. You are really committed. You exercise a lot. You think you eat right. You try to maintain a healthy lifestyle. All of this just to lose a little weight; or maybe a lot. You have tried everything. And……nothing is working.
Frustrated? I bet. Angry? For sure. Feel like giving up and having a giant portion of your favorite ice cream or a basket full of fries? I don’t blame you. But I have a better suggestion. Before you decide to quit for good and lose your self-esteem in the process, let’s try to look at some possibilities of why you may have such a tough time losing weight.
There are many valid reasons why people have real difficulties losing weight. And it makes me really angry when others are so quick to put down those who struggle with weight loss unsuccessfully. In some cases, they are right: it DOES come down to eating less and moving more, but many times the solution is not so simple.
There are many obvious reasons, but there are many more that are not so obvious at all. Let’s explore all of them, especially since certain obvious ones may not seem so obvious to some people, and vice versa.
To make things a bit clearer I am going to divide the reasons why you might be unsuccessful into 7 different categories. For those of you who think it’s all about calories in versus calories out (or for the “eat less, move more” camp), I strongly encourage you to read this article to the very end before you voice your opinion. This comes not only from 20 years of my work as a trainer and holistic lifestyle coach/nutrition counselor but also from someone who has experienced, in my own journey to fitness, MANY of the reasons listed below first hand (unfortunately), and knows they are all real.
So here are the general categories for your weight loss failures:
  • Physical,
  • Nutritional,
  • Physiological,
  • Hormonal
  • Environmental
  • Emotional
  • General

I know that some of these categories could, in some circumstances, overlap, or make together an entirely different category, for example, medical, but I divided them the way I did for a simple reason. I wanted them to be easily understood to an average reader while at the same time providing a considerable amount of detail.
In Part 1 of this article I will simply list the obvious reasons for weight loss frustrations and the not-so-obvious reasons  that some of you have probably never even given much thought to, or at least haven’t suspected them as the culprit in your own arduous battle of the bulge.
In the follow-up posts (future articles coming soon) I will talk about how to smartly address them without losing your mind and giving up for good.
So here they are:
1. You exercise too little
2. You exercise too much
3. Your exercise is inappropriate for your age, fitness level and goals
4. Your exercise intensity is too low or too high
5. Your exercise program lacks the proper balance of cardiovascular exercise and strength training
6. You are overdoing cardio
7. Your exercise program is poorly designed or lacks any specific design to begin with
8. Your form is incorrect on pretty much everything because you never learned how to perform the exercises appropriately. You think it’s OK because you’ve watched others do it
9. You have no idea about proper intensity, load, sets, reps, tempo, rest periods between sets, etc. and how they affect your workout outcome
10. You simply don’t have the knowledge when it comes to exercise and workouts
11. You lift weights that are way too light to make any significant difference in gaining lean body mass and losing fat
12. You don’t get enough recovery

1. You eat too much
2. You eat too little – YES, you are reading this right: TOO LITTLE
3. You don’t eat enough protein
4. You are skipping meals
5. You don’t eat often enough
6. You don’t have any idea what a balanced meal or snack is
7. You have no clue about the amount of calories in major macronutrients
8. You can’t tell what a vegetable or fruit is: is it a carbohydrate, a vegetable, a fruit or something else altogether? (Trust me; I do hear it a lot!)
9. You don’t know how to read food labels
10. You have no clue how many calories your body needs per day to maintain weight or lose weight
11. You have no idea how many calories are in the foods you are eating and how much you have consumed at the end of the day
12. You starve yourself thinking you are going to lose more weight faster
13. You cut out entire food groups from your diet, often without deeper understanding why
14. You don’t drink enough water
15. You have food allergies or sensitivities (known or unknown)
16. The quality of the foods you eat is very poor – yes, it DOES matter!
17. You think you know about nutrition but do you really? – This is a very broad point that will need a broad explanation

1. Poor sleep
2. Lack of R&R (rest and relaxation)
3. Disrupted circadian cycle (the natural rhythm of when your body is supposed to wake up, eat, work, exercise, rest and sleep)
4. “Leaky gut” syndrome (increased intestinal permeability) this can cause a whole slew of health problems and, consequently, major difficulties in losing weight
5. Dehydration
6. Disconnect from your body – you don’t hear what your body is telling you about how it feels after eating, exercising or not getting enough rest

1. Your levels of stress are high and therefore so is your cortisol
2. Due to high levels of chronic stress (of ANY kind!) you are constantly in a state of sympathetic dominance (The “fight-or-flight” response)
3. Your evening meal is unbalanced and inappropriate for your metabolic type and you wake up in the middle of the night wide awake (usually around 4- 5am), sometimes sweating, and can’t go back to sleep – the cause: high levels of cortisol
4. Due to bad timing of foods or not eating for prolonged periods of time, your blood sugar is constantly low which causes your cortisol to sky rocket
5. Your insulin levels are always high because of too high an intake of sugars and too many carbohydrates in your diet, causing insulin resistance (difficulty handling blood sugar caused by the inability of the cells to respond to insulin and therefore the need for pancreas to constantly produce more of this hormone) – a precursor to diabetes
6. You have adrenal fatigue from under sleeping, overworking and/or high stress or (surprise!) improper breathing pattern
7. Your adrenal glands are exhausted and so are the hormones they are supposed to produce – you are constantly running low
8. The production of your sex hormones or their precursors (DHEA, testosterone, pregnenolone, progesterone, etc.) is suppressed due to adrenal fatigue
9. You are estrogen dominant (mostly women, but could happen to men as well) and your estrogen levels are too high in relation to progesterone
10. Your body cannot produce enough of the hormones needed to deal with stress because you have been brainwashed to believe you should avoid saturated fat in any form or amount
11. You’re a woman going through menopause or are postmenopausal and since your estrogen has decreased considerably, the ratio of testosterone to estrogen has increased and is out of balance – you now have a lot more abdominal fat and more of a man’s body
12. You have a thyroid dysfunction
13. Any hormonal imbalance in general

1. You live in a heavily polluted area
2. You have been exposed to too many toxins of various kinds: heavy metals, organic compounds, etc. which are stored in the adipose (fat) tissue in your body
3. You have poor detoxification capability
4. The toxins stored in your body have been playing havoc with your hormones
5. Your digestive system has been adversely affected by toxins
6. You have parasites you don’t know about
7. You have yeast or fungus overgrowth
8. You have food sensitivities or allergies (I am repeating it here on purpose as it could be considered a nutritional or an environmental reason)
9. “Leaky gut” syndrome – this is repeated here as well since it could be either a physiological or an environmental reason, or both

1. Lack of self-esteem: you don’t value or respect yourself enough
2. You have a bad relationship with food
3. You have a bad attitude towards the whole process of losing weight
4. You don’t get enough quiet time (and I don’t mean “rest” here) – time by yourself, time to think and reflect, time for introspection
5. You are in denial about things in your life that might affect your weight: your love relationship, or lack thereof, your sexual frustration, strained family relationships, financial stress, etc.
6. Your constant desire to control everything (and your realization that you don’t/can’t control anything) and inability to just “roll with it” sometimes
7. Your past traumas that haven’t been dealt with (from childhood, teenage years or more recent), even if you don’t think they could possibly be related to your weight
8. Constant harsh judgment of yourself AND others
9. Inability to be compassionate towards SELF
10. Expectations that are way too high and unrealistic
11. Lack of purpose in life – this is a really BIG one!

1. Lack of knowledge about nutrition, exercise and health
2. Resultant poor choices about health related issues
3. Prioritizing – not realizing that health should be one of the top priorities

4. Goals that are not S.M.A.R.T: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely
5. Having no plan at all
6.  Making the same mistakes over and over again

In the next few blog posts I will explore all the different reasons mentioned above, show you how to recognize them and give you ideas for solving them.
In Part 2, (coming next) I will talk about the PHYSICAL reasons for not losing weight in more detail.
There are many real and valid reasons for weight loss failures, all of them worth exploring. Keep one thing in mind, however: the biggest mistake people make when trying to lose weight is constantly repeating the same things that made them fail in the first place.                                    
 The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result”.                                                                                         
                                                                                               Albert Einstein