Monthly Archives: January 2014

5 Tips to Preventing Heart Disease

Did you know that more women than men die each year from heart disease? Women are twice as likely as men to die within the first year after a heart attack, and nearly 63 percent of the women who die suddenly from heart disease have had no previous symptoms. These statistics are startling considering that the public is generally more concerned about men being affected by heart disease than women. In a survey conducted by the American Heart Association, about half of the women interviewed knew that heart disease is the leading cause of death in women, yet only 13% said it was their greatest personal health risk. Other surveys have shown that women are more concerned about cancer and osteoporosis than heart disease.

So, what can women do to cut their risk of heart disease? Below are five tips to keeping a healthy heart:

  1. Exercise. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (i.e. brisk walking) and muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days every week. You can also make other small changes to fit even more activity into your life by taking the stairs rather than the elevator, doing yard work, or parking farther from your destination and walk.
  2. Eat healthfully. Studies have identified several crucial ingredients of a heart-healthy diet — whole grains, a variety of fruits and vegetables, nuts, poly- and monounsaturated fats, fatty fish (such as wild salmon), and limited intake of trans fats.
  3. Don’t smoke. Your chance of having a heart attack doubles if you smoke as few as one to four cigarettes per day. Even if you don’t smoke, regular exposure to someone else’s smoke can increase your risk.
  4. Reduce stress. Your risk for heart disease increases if you’re depressed or feel chronically stressed. Strategies to reduce stress in your life include: learning how to say no, avoid people who stress you out, avoid hot-button topics, and pare down your to-do list.
  5. Know your numbers. Being proactive about your health and knowing your numbers will keep you aware and allow you to make any necessary changes before you get heart disease. Check out the article “How to Protect Your Heart” which explains the numbers you need to know.

Heart disease is a major health threat to women. It is crucial that we continue to increase the awareness of women, health, and fitness professionals about this fact. The preventive strategies above have the potential to significantly lower the risk of heart disease in both women and men. Be sure to talk to your doctor about your risk of getting heart disease.

ACSM. (n.d.). Women’s Heart Health and a Physically Active Lifestyle. Indianapolis, IN, USA


February is Heart Health Month

It’s February the “Month of Love” and KING CAKE!  It’s a time to focus on giving to our families and friends but also loving ourselves and where we are right now.   While we all know this, how many of us actually practice it?  I know as a mom and wife, I am guilty of not always taking care of myself.  It’s ironic that I have to stop and pump to feed the baby several times a day, yet I sometimes forget to stop and feed myself.  It’s a constant battle to balance taking care of the ones that we love while still continuing to take care of ourselves.  One of my goals for 2014, is to love myself and “the skin that I’m in” right now.  I want to challenge you to do the same.  Make time to do something for yourself, even something as simple as taking 10 minutes a day with a cup of coffee and journaling can refill your soul!

Speaking of self care, when was the last time you went and had a cholesterol screen?  Do you know what your blood pressure is?   February is also National Heart Health month.  Knowing these numbers can help you prevent cardiac related diseases (check out this article for more information on this).  I know that sometimes in our gut, we know that we might have high cholesterol or blood pressure, but we don’t want to go to the doctor because then we can stay in denial or pretend that we don’t have anything wrong with us.  The reality is, according to the Centers for Disease Control, cardiac related diseases take the lives of 600,000 people in the U.S. every year whether it’s diagnosed or not.  My wish is that each of you empower yourself with the knowledge of these 2 important numbers.  Heck, you can take care of you and the ones that you love by doing this together and making it a family event.  Make an appointment with your doctor, or find some of the free health screens that are happening in your community.  This can be your first step to taking care of you!

I wish you joy and lots of love this February and I’ll leave you with a little piece of my heart!


Live, Love, and Hug today and always,

Jenn  =)

August Hot Shots and VIP’s

Congratulations to our Hot Shots who came 10 times during the month, have referred a person, and have liked us on Facebook:

Brandy Bazile & Jason Burkhardt

Congratulations to our VIP members who came into the studio 10 times last month:

- Karen Berrigan

- Jason Burkhardt

- Brandi Williamson

- Robin Goldsmith

- Ashley Brewer

- Megan Shafferman-Brown

- Nancy Sorensen

- Brandy Bazile

- Erin Lavie

- Erin Cerise

- Carl Neuenhaus

Keep up the great work everyone! We love your commitment to being the best you can be!

A Different Resolve!

By: Erica Dammon, NASM- CPT

Yep, it’s here again, the start of a new year.  The fireworks go off, kisses are given, and promises are made.   Promises that begin with sincere conviction and declarations of “It will be different this year”, yet soon becomes overshadowed by the overwhelming demands of a busy life.  Next comes despair that the goal is unattainable and finally the big ‘I Give Up!’   Well, how about we actually make this year different!  What if we actually get all the way on board!  How, you ask?  Simple, by going about things in a whole different way.

Most of us have a very negative outlook on “getting in shape”.  The diet is going to be hard to stick to, exercise stinks, and do I really have time for this?  Well there is the first problem!  Negativity can sink even the biggest ship.  You need to practice breathing positive winds into your sails if you are going to get this boat moving.  A perceived lack of time is the other problem most of us find.  I get it!   There are a lot of us out there juggling jobs, kids, and yes even spouses that require a portion of our time.  Where do you squeeze in the lifestyle change?  I say it starts with a change of mind.  We have to learn to look at the journey differently.

Starting back up is hard, especially if you are walking back down a road you have bailed on before.  So let’s start this year’s trip in a different way. If you start your New Year’s resolution with the same group classes or elliptical workout plan, or even the same crazy diet, you are setting yourself up for failure.   Research tells us that switching up your routine brings a ton of benefits both mental and physical.  Changing a workout prevents the body from adapting too much, keeping that plateau away.  The more we do a specific movement the more effective muscles become at performing the movement and fewer calories are being burned.   Routine switches can help build new muscle and prevent the overuse of others, as well as creating new muscle memory.  And there is the simple ability that something new decreases boredom and allows you to get excited about exercising again.  Kick off this New Year with a new kind of workout!

So something different and new, oh and let’s not forget the time management aspect.  Remember the new fun plan still has to find a place amongst work agendas, after school activities, and functions for your spouse’s job.   Well I have a suggestion.  I am willing to bet that a lot of you have not tried Kettlebells.  It’s true they can be intimidating, but the benefits they provide make them worth a second thought. Henry Marshall, a NSCA certified trainer as well as an AOS and IKFF certified Kettlebell instructor says that they are “the most efficient fitness tool.”  Efficiency is one of the big necessities on our list!  Marshall says that Kettlebells train our body to work as “one synergistic unit linked strongly together.”  So what exactly does that mean?  It means that a kettlebell exercise is a full body conditioning exercise working multiple muscle groups at the same time causing the amount of calories we burn to sky rocket.  With each kettlebell exercise you create the momentum and work to control it and change direction.  On average a kettlebell workout burns 20 calories a minute.  That means in a short 20 minutes you can burn up to 400 calories, and if you last the whole hour you could burn up to 1,200 calories.  How’s that for efficient?

Kettlebells are considered a functional workout because the movement’s in each exercise is based on every day functional movement.  This means that as you get used to swinging that kettlebell around, you are going to start noticing how everyday activities start becoming easier, which has to make your life easier, right?   Your posture will improve, because the importance of form in each exercise will train your body to be aware of correct posture.  You will see a greater range of motion in your joints and muscles because kettlebell exercises are performed in a range of motion and not an isolated movement.   This range of motion action will build strength in the form of more lean toned muscle, which is what we are all looking for.

Hopefully I have caught your interest and you are thinking that these kettlebells are at least worth checking out.  But even if kettlebells aren’t the answer, there are so many ways to produce the same results.  Maybe Pilates or yoga are more your style, you won’t know until you try.  You don’t want a repeat of the failed resolutions of the past, and who knows you may find yourself excited about working out.  I always find that trying new things motivates me by presenting a challenge.  Attacking a challenge and moving forward with it can also instill confidence which has the ability to chase away negative outlooks and replace them with positive “can do” thinking.  At the end of the day it’s that “can do” attitude that is going to keep you accountable to yourself and make time in that crazy schedule of yours.   Taking a new outlook, making a different plan, and trying new things can breathe a much needed fresh breath in an old resolution.  Whether its kettlebells, yoga, or some other new thing, keep the ball rolling, and don’t let yourself get bored!


ericaAbout the Author – Erica Dammon, NASM Certified Personal Trainer

I was born overseas but hail the great city of New Orleans as my home town. My husband Mike and I have been married for 12 years and we have three amazing boys, Nicholas, Cody, and Benjamin. They have been the biggest adventure yet!

Training is a huge passion for me and I embrace core fitness values in both my training programs and my lifestyle choices.  I believe that food should be chosen for what it can do for you, not just for the flavor you crave at the moment. I believe in pushing yourself in all aspects of life because how else will you know what you are capable of accomplishing?  Pushups should never be done on your knees and core is where it all begins!

I am a huge football fan and a big part of the Who Dat Nation!!  I look forward to meeting and helping you achieve any and all fitness goals you bring in to Ascension Fitness!

Effectively Creating Change

By: Larry Gruber, CSCS, MES

As we approach the second month of 2014, it’s a great time to reflect on those promises you made to yourself at the beginning of the year (I hate the word “resolutions”).  Are you on track with your goals or do you notice that the steps needed to be taken just aren’t getting done? Don’t worry!  Don’t beat yourself up!  Let’s figure out a way to make sure that you achieve the results from any goal you set, no matter if it’s a new year’s goal or one you made yesterday.

For the sake of this discussion, we’ll talk about exercise and diet goals–since that’s my specialty.  When you set goals, make sure they are S.M.A.R.T. The “S” stands for Specific, for example: “I want to lose 15 pounds and 2 inches from my hips,” or “I want to do Larry’s bootcamp class 3 times a week.”  The goals also need to be Measurable:  you can measure 15 pounds or going to a class 3 times a week.  Are the goals Attainable?  If you travel for business and are out of town part of the week, you won’t be able to make my class every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  With that scenario, a better goal would be to take my class when in town and visit a gym to take a class when away on business.  You also want your goals to be Realistic. Setting a goal to lose 20 pounds in one week is not only unrealistic, but it’s also unhealthy.  And finally, you want to be on a Timetable.   “I will lose 15 pounds in 7 weeks–by March 14, 2014.”

Now that you have set S.M.A.R.T. goals, how do people change habits and routines into healthier and more beneficial ones?  There are three basic principals in creating change:

  1. Thoughts – What are your thoughts about exercise?  Are your thoughts negative?  Do you spend your time dreading it?  Or while exercising, do you just think about getting through it? On the other hand, are your thoughts about physical fitness positive?  Do you think about the amazing outcomes and how you will feel if you start exercising regularly and improving your nutrition?  Do you think about how you will feel more energized and how well your clothes will fit or how your chances of being a candidate for cardiovascular disease will be greatly reduced? You see your thoughts shape your focus and shape your motivation.  Your thoughts direct your energy and maintain focus.  Staying positive and staying focused on how you’re going to feel is key to succeeding not only in fitness, but in everything we do.
  2. Intentions – Let me introduce Lisa, a busy lawyer for a local hospital who had her second child four months ago.  Lisa’s story brings me to the next part of making change and that’s your intentions.  What do you think Lisa’s intentions and motivations are where healthy living is concerned?  Her intentions are greater than losing weight–it’s about creating an easier life, having more energy and being there for her children.  Her intentions and motivations are what keep her going even when she’s tired or busy.  What are your motivations or intentions?  What are your drivers?  For example, for me, due to psoriatic arthritis, exercise and stretching are so vital because they actually make me feel better and reduce the amount of pain I usually experience.
  3. Actions - The final component of making lasting change is ACTION.  Let’s face it, we’ve all been there–we have great thoughts and intentions, but without action, nothing happens, nothing changes.  ACTION is at the core of making change, making it happen.  In Lisa’s case, she had the right mindset (thoughts), identified her motivations (intentions) and knew that she needed help.  Lisa reached out to Ascension Fitness to help her make the change because she knew she needed professional direction and most importantly, accountability. Decide who will help you stay accountable so that you can keep moving, keep acting and keep striving to achieve those goals.  Will that person be me, as your trainer, your partner or a friend?  Pick a person who is reliable and whom you can trust.

If you are well on your way to achieving your goals, then you probably didn’t even finish reading this article.  If you need a little help–you aren’t alone.  Set S.M.A.R.T. goals.  Analyze your thoughts regarding your goal.  Dig deep for your intentions and motivations.  And, find that person who can keep you accountable so that you can take action!!  Happy New You!!!


larrygruber-headshot2Physical fitness used to be just a pastime for me, until more and more friends began asking for my opinion concerning their fitness regimen.  In 1999, after a successful restaurant management career in some of Chicago’s finest restaurants, I became a certified personal trainer through the American Council on Exercise and the National Academy of Sports Medicine. I’m also a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

As a personal trainer, I strongly feel that exercise should be an enjoyable and rewarding experience.  I structure the workouts so they are fun, combining traditional weight training with functional training, cardio-respiratory training and flexibility training, all aimed at helping you look, feel and move better.  In order for the sessions to be successful, the personal trainer/client relationship must be a very interactive one, requiring constant feedback from both parties.  I want and need your opinions and suggestions.

After training for 13 years in Chicago, I made the move south in search of warmer weather.  I’m so excited to be part of such a vibrant city, and I can’t wait to try its world famous restaurants.  Thanks so much for welcoming me to New Orleans!!

Top 5 Things This new Mom can’t live without!

By: Jennifer Lormand ACE- CPT, BS. Exercise Physiology, Author of mommymovement: new baby. new body. new life.

It’s been 8 years since my last baby and wow have things changed!  There are so many baby products on the market that it is overwhelming. Just buying the right type of diaper let alone bottles, blankets, and pack n plays can get confusing.  While I’m sure things like the Bumbo Chair, and the cradle swings are great I never used it for my others and don’t plan on using it for Cooper. Here are my top 5 baby items that I can’t live without.

1)       Boppy Pillow.  To me this is the best investment whether you are a nursing mom or not.  It’s great to help older siblings hold the baby, feeding, propping up the baby after a feeding, and for me I use the Boppy to get Cooper to sleep each night.  After I nurse him I roll him on his side facing me and let him lay on the Boppy while I pat his bottom and get him to sleep.  He feels close to me and my arms and neck aren’t killing me from holding this big boy up. =)


2)      Rock N Play.  Okay I have to admit this is one of those things that wasn’t around when I had my other two and I really didn’t get why everyone kept telling me that I needed one but I gave in and I’m so glad that I did.  Cooper has been sleeping in this every night in our room.  What I love about it is that his head is elevated so it helps with reflux and gas, he can’t roll over so I don’t have to worry about SIDS, when he starts waking up and moving around he is literally rocking himself back to sleep, and lastly he has been sleeping through the night in it for the past week! SCORE!!


3)      Fisher Price Bouncy Chair.  They have improved the bouncy chairs since my last 2 pregnancies, and I love this one.  It vibrates, plays nature sounds or songs, and it’s wider and longer so that it accommodates bigger babies.  This is Cooper’s favorite place to take a nap at daycare and where he hangs out while I shower or when we eat dinner!


4)      Medella Pump In Style Breast Pump.  Those of you who have gone back to work while nursing know what I’m talking about.  Your breast pump is like your BFF, you don’t go anywhere without it.  I love this one because it is much smaller than it used to be and the battery adapter makes it easy to bring out anywhere and be finished in 8 minutes.

5)      Tommy Tipee Bottles.  I know it’s probably surprising that Bottles have made this list but I really like these.  With Chase and Collin we used Advent Bottles and they would constantly leak and drive us crazy plus they were more expensive than most of the other bottles out at the time.  I love these because they have an easy grip on them so it’s easy for chase and Collin to feed him, they cost less, and of course THEY DON’T LEAK!

So there you have it; my top 5 Baby Items.  In case you didn’t recognize my model for the pictures this is Cooper! He is almost 3 months old and already has his modeling career under way =) I would love to keep the conversation going and hear about your favorite baby items.  Please feel free to comment below on your top 5 picks.  Share what’s your favorite baby item and why.

What is ITBS and how can you prevent it?

By Jamie McIntyre

ITBS, or Iliotibial Band Syndrome, is one of the most common overuse injuries that many active people (mostly runners and cyclists) suffer from. Those suffering from ITBS will complain about pain on the outside of their knee. The pain will typically come on at a certain point in their workout and then worsen as time passes. This pain usually goes away at rest. In its later stages, the same pain may begin with other, less stressful activities, such as stair climbing or even walking.

Now some of you may be wondering what exactly is the iliotibial (IT) band and how can you prevent ITBS? Your IT Band is a tough group of fibers that run along the outside of the thigh. It begins at the hip and extends to the outer side of the shin bone just below the knee joint. The IT band serves as both a shock absorber and a lateral stabilizer for the knee and hip.

ITBS is usually caused from tight IT Bands, so the best thing you can do to prevent ITBS is to stretch. To stretch your IT Band (shown in the picture below) stand tall with your right leg crossed over left. Lean to the right (towards front leg) until you feel a stretch along the side of left leg. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds and then repeat on the other side.

itbs stretch

The other thing you can do is foam roll for self-myofascial release (to learn more about why you should foam roll click here). To foam roll your IT Band (pictured below) lie on your side with a foam roller positioned horizontally under your hip. Put your forearm on the ground and lift your legs up if you can. Then slowly roll down the outside of your leg to just above the knee and back. Repeat this motion 4-5 times.

itbs roll


Stretching and foam rolling will definitely help prevent ITBS but if you do develop IT band syndrome, rest, ice and anti-inflammatory are the best treatments.

Stay Trim this Holiday Season

By: Jamie McIntyre, B.S. Exercise Science, ACE-CPT

Once again the holidays are fast approaching. Every year it seems like time flies and we’re back to the holiday season! We all know that this is usually not the season to get your bikini body, it is the season to eat, drink, and be merry. Even I have a tendency to over-indulge a little bit during the holidays (just like everyone else, I too think my mom’s apple pie is the best!). Every year, knowing that I may over-indulge, I devise a plan to staying trim during the holidays. I put together a list of my best tips and try to stick to them the best that I can. Instead of being selfish and keeping these tips to myself I thought I would share them so that we can fight the holiday bulge together! Here are my five tips to staying trim:

slim santa

  1. Promise yourself 15 minutes. When we’re busy with family, friends, and holiday parties our workouts can sometimes be pushed to the bottom of our priority list. To get my workouts in I promise myself that I will work out for 15 minutes. It is a small time commitment that will burn some extra calories before a big meal. Plus, most of the time I will start to feel good during the workout and push past that 15 minute mark.
  2. Catch up with friends and family. When you are at a party make conversation with people. It is much more difficult to overindulge in food if you are talking to people the entire time.
  3. Keep a food journal and be honest with it. Keeping a food journal is a great tool for staying trim all of the time but could be even more important during the holiday season. The trick is to be honest with yourself about what and how much you are eating. It is easy to underestimate how much you had at a party so I try to overestimate what I take in.
  4. Don’t beat yourself up. One of the worst things we can do is beat ourselves up about something we ate. Most of us (including myself) are guilty of this: “well I ruined my diet with (insert bad food here) so I might as well keep it going.” This does not make any sense, you know it, and I know it, so let’s all agree to stop thinking it. If you eat something bad that’s ok just try to make healthy choices the rest of the day. Remember to follow the 90/10 rule. Eat healthy 90 percent of the time and indulge the other 10%.
  5. Maintain, don’t gain. My goal during the holiday season is to maintain my weight. I know that I will probably not lose much body fat during this time so I set a realistic goal of maintaining my current weight.  This way I don’t get disappointed when I don’t reach a goal I knew I probably wouldn’t reach in the first place.

But most importantly, enjoy the time you spend with friends and family because that’s really what the holiday season is about. Happy Holidays!

Why Burpee Why?

By Erica Dammon, NASM- CPT

Yes, I am back to argue for another exercise that has not really gotten a fair shake.  Burpees are a form of punishment in the eyes of most people.  In case you are not familiar with a burpee allow me to elaborate.  A burpee is performed in four steps, from a standing position place your hands on the ground in a squat, then your feet jump out to a plank and immediately jump back to the squat and finishes with a jump back up to your feet.  The rest is just repeating at a rapid pace.  They are rarely a favored option, but this is not respecting what a burpee offers.  Maybe I just spent too much time thinking about burpees while mentally preparing to do 500 over a lost bet, but I think there is a need for a better understanding.  An understanding that maybe burpees are not some torture tool schemed up by trainers to punish clients.  Rather that these burpees were created for a happier purpose with proven benefits.  Burpees are the superhero exercise that gives any workout a major boost, in record time, with no extra equipment necessary!

Where did the burpee come from?  I mean what crazy person created such a thing, and to what avail?  It was an American physiologist named Royal H. Burpee.  He created the exercise in 1930 as a fitness assessment to evaluate different people’s fitness level.  Royal had a PhD in Applied Physiology so he knew what he was doing.  From there it was brought over to the US by the Armed Forces as way to assess physical abilities of recruits during WWII.  Since it’s evaluating uses, it has spread into the main stream fitness industry.  It isn’t rare for fitness professionals to pull in ideas on training from our military and incorporate it into more everyday use, and so we get burpees being performed in workouts all over place.

So why has this form of torture become such a popular one amongst trainers all over?  Is it possible that there is inherent value to this exercise that continues to be passed along?   Absolutely, in fact the burpee proves to be more than just a tool for evaluation and assessment.  Performing a burpee in quick repetitions is a total body exercise and also a fairly intense cardiovascular workout.   We know the military uses them in training, but so do professional athletic trainers for football teams.  You are using your chest, arms, shoulders, thighs, hamstrings, and abs in each execution, while driving your heart rate up.  Adding intervals of high intensity work, like burpees, in strength training routines can burn up to 50% more fat than if you were just performing a basic strength training routine.  Plus it is a great way to build up cardiovascular endurance, which is beneficial to everyone!   Really what more could you ask of an exercise?  Remember fun can be all about your perspective.

Well who would have guessed?  Turns out the burpee was created for a purpose completely unrelated to torture.  Instead there are actually big benefits that are gained when performing several in rapid succession, or multiple sets.  We live in a busy world that is always hunting faster results in less time.   Completing workouts that pack a powerful punch in a smaller amount of time is the reality of so many people trying to stay active and fit.  You want to get in, get it done, and get the biggest bang for the time spent.  With no equipment necessary, burpees can be added into any type of workout boosting your heart rate and keeping you in the zone.  When you are working multiple muscles in one exercise it mean less exercises are needed. Who doesn’t get excited about that?  Try adding them on a run around the park, just drop down and do 10.  It is such an easy way to add intensity to all the things you are already doing.  I think about it like this, if you are taking the time to do the work, you should want to get the most out of your effort, right?

The truth is that a workout that incorporates burpees is not a punishment, it’s a bonus!   Making time in your busy life to workout means you have made a commitment to push yourself to stay active, healthy, and fit.   When you arrive at the moment in your day that you have set aside to workout you should think about the value of that time.  What does it take to create that available time amongst everything else that you have going on?  It is very valuable time, and so you should put into that moment what it is truly worth.  I challenge you the next time you are facing 20 sets of 25 burpees, don’t wonder ‘why is my trainer mad at me.’  Instead think of how much more you are going to get out of these next valuable moments.  I believe when it comes to fitness it’s best to work hard, and never waste your time.