Strength and Fitness

The phrase “train mean” represents the importance of giving physical activity – whether walking, jogging, or strength training – 110%. A well-designed fitness and strength program includes both aerobic and anaerobic exercise, but not necessarily in the same session. Aerobic exercises, such as cycling, walking, and running increases cardiovascular endurance, while anaerobic exercise, such as strength training, increases strength and power.

Opportunities to improve strength and fitness begin from the moment we wake, until the moment we fall asleep. Just as weight loss is more than what we eat, strength and fitness is more than time spent at the gym. As always, towards the bottom of this page you’ll find a photo gallery that contains relevant posters and charts.

Take A Stand For Health

Humans evolved for active lifestyles involving hunting-gathering and agriculture. However, with recent advances in technology, there has been an upsurge in desk jobs that require prolonged sitting and limit physical activity. Unfortunately, most adults sit 7 – 15 hours each day. We sit while driving to work, we sit at work, we sit while watching t.v., we sit while playing on the computer, we sit at dinner, and we sit in our bed before we lay down to sleep.

When are we not sitting, really? The 60 minutes while you’re at the gym? That’s not enough. In fact, evidence suggests that all this sitting is in itself a health risk, regardless of the amount of time we spend at the gym. Take a stand for your health and commit to spending more time standing.

Health Benefits

The benefits of standing include reduced risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes, increased resting energy expenditure (REE), enhanced blood flow, better focus, and stronger bones.

  • Burns more calories compared to sitting (20% increase)
  • Reduces strain on the lower back from prolonged sitting
  • Increases muscle activity compared to sitting
  • Combats a sedentary lifestyle compared to sitting
Opportunities to Stand More
  • Standing workspace
  • Standing desk at home
  • Stand while watching TV
  • Stand while playing on computer at home

Elevate Your Work

Elevate your workspace and take your health to the next level with a standing desk. Considering most of us spend 8 hours per day working – whether at home or at an office, you can easily reduce sitting time by modifying your current workspace to a sit-stand desk (i.e., workspace that supports both sitting and standing). With a little ingenuity, you can easily convert your current desk into a standing desk. For example, move your monitor or laptop to a bookshelf or counter or add a few books or boxes to your current desk. Of course, you should give yourself the option to sit when you get tired and this can easily be achieved with a bar stool or raising the height of your chair.

Before anyone decides to email me about their desk job, let me say this – any amount of standing is better than no standing. Try to make it a point to stop every 45-60 minutes to stand, stretch, and/or take a quick walk. Sitting nonstop all day should not be an option.

Standing Fatigue

To reduce risk of injury and standing fatigue, you should wear comfortable shoes and stand with proper form (e.g., avoid locking the knees). Poor standing posture increases asymmetrical pressure on the knees, hips, and feet; which, if not corrected, increases risk of injury over time. Depending on your current level fitness, it may be beneficial to initiate a walking program and bodyweight exercises (e.g., walking lunges and bodyweight squats) prior to attempting to transition to a standing desk.

Last, but not least, it is important to alternate between periods of sitting and standing. If you lose track of time, consider using a timer. For example, sit for 30 minutes and then stand for 10 – 15 minutes, and repeat. Over a period of 4 to 6 weeks, sitting duration can be reduced, while standing duration is increased.

Stand Tall – Look Lean

Bad posture – especially over prolonged periods of time – can lead to numerous health conditions such back and neck pain, inability to tolerate a certain position for long periods of time and even difficulty walking. The better your posture is, the less your risk of developing these musculoskeletal problems.

Walk Your Way Slim

When it comes to health and wellness, and achieving sustainable weight loss, walking is one of nature’s best remedies. What’s more, walking is the most eco-friendly form of transportation and it’s free. Walking for just 20 minutes a day has been shown to reduce the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and depression.

In fact, a study published by the University of Utah in 2014 found that women lowered their risk of obesity by 5 percent for every minute of brisk walking they performed throughout the day. In cancer patients, a walking program reduced percent body fat in patients with breast cancer after only 12 weeks.

Minimal Shoes

If walking is new to you, you may feel compelled to purchase athletic shoes with a lot of cushion – don’t. Athletic shoes should protect your feet while supporting natural foot structure; they should not add 2 inches to your height or interfere with gait. Whenever possible, opt for shoes with the least amount of cushion or minimalist shoes. Minimalist shoes and/or walking barefoot (also known as “grounding”) has been linked to improvements in physical and mental health. According to Patrick McKeon, a professor at Ithaca College of Health Sciences and Human Performance, walking barefoot can improve balance and posture, and prevent injuries such as shinsplints, plantar fasciitis and tendonitis. I personally do not run or walk barefoot in public due to the risk of injury and disease.

Strength Training

Strength training is a form of physical activity that is designed to improve muscular fitness by exercising a muscle or a muscle group against external resistance. Strength training, like all other fitness-related training activities, requires the design and implementation of an effective program (or programming). When combined with proper nutrition, strength training serves to increase strength and endurance, while improving body composition and reducing risk of injury.

Examples of strength training activities include weight training and bodyweight training. Weight training can be performed using free weights (e.g., dumbbells), machines (e.g., leg press), or barbells. Examples of bodyweight exercises include walking lunges, push-ups, flat lying glute bridges, chair dips, box jumps, and leg raises. When it comes to barbell training, the major lifts (also known as the big five) include the back squat, deadlift, push press, bench press, and power clean.

The strength training resources I utilized to learn the big lifts include Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength Basic Barbell Training book, Basic Barbell Training DVD, and Practical Programming for Strength Training book. I also attended Ripp’s Starting Strength Seminar in Wichita Falls, Texas in 2014. If you are genuinely interested in barbell training (specifically barbell training), I highly recommend Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength program. Starting Strength has been called “the best and most useful of fitness books” and I would agree.

Interval Training

If you’re serious about shedding body fat, add high-intensity interval training (HIIT) to your current workout. HIIT alternates periods of moderate-to-high intensity effort (such as sprinting) with periods of low-to-moderate intensity effort (like walking or jogging). It is often contrasted with long duration, “Steady-state cardio” (e.g., jogging).

Health Benefits

One of the great things about HIIT is flexibility – unlike most specialized training programs, HIIT can be easily modified to meet all ages and fitness levels. Not to mention, is generally considered safe – and beneficial – even in populations with high blood pressure, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. While it’s often used in the context of sprint intervals, HIIT can actually be employed while running, walking, biking, and swimming – as long as you are alternating periods of moderate-to-high intensity exercise with a short rest period. The health benefits of interval training include improvements in cardiovascular fitness and strength, fat loss, and reduced risk of developing certain chronic diseases (e.g., obesity and type 2 diabetes). Did I mention shorter workouts? Interval training is usually completed in 15 minute sessions.

Programming

When structuring a HIIT program, you need to consider 4 factors: duration, frequency, intensity, and the recovery (or rest period). When it comes to intensity, HIIT generally requires 80% or more of your maximum intensity. In simple terms, you are working at an intensity that makes carrying on a casual conversation difficult.

Sprint Intervals

Sprint intervals are my favorite type of interval training. Do you remember sprinting the 50-yard dash in elementary school? Perfect! Sprint intervals are more or less like sprinting the 50-yard dash, except, a lot of times. No really, sprint intervals consists of sprinting a short distance at maximum intensity (or close to it), and then walking back. Once you are back to the starting line, you sprint at maximum intensity again. Yes, it’s hard work, but sprint intervals are the ticket when it comes to fat loss.

If sprinting is too much for you right now – no worries. Start off slow. Walk fast for 30 seconds, and then slow for 60 seconds, then repeat (do this for 10 – 20 minutes several times per week). With time, you will build up your strength and fitness capabilities.

Rock My Fitness Program

My training program consists of barbell training, sprint intervals, bodyweight exercises, and indoor soccer. The bodyweight exercises I utilize include walking lunges, push-ups, flat lying glute bridges, chair dips, box jumps, and flat lying leg raises. The major barbell lifts I perform include the low bar back squat, deadlift, push press, and bench press. My strength training program varies, but in general, I train each lift twice per week.

In general, most of the strength coaches I’ve worked with utilize either the 3 x 10 or 5 x 5 strength training methodology. After experimenting with both methods, I’ve developed a combination approach that includes higher repetitions (2 x 10) to warm-up and lower repetitions (5 x 5) to train.

Daily Routine:
  • Warm-up (15 – 30 minutes)
  • Strength Train (5 x 5)
  • Sprint Intervals (15 – 20 minutes)
  • Indoor Soccer (30 minutes)
  • Total Time: ~ 90 minutes
Warm-Up:
  • General Warm-Up: Walk/jog for 10 – 15 minutes with intermittent stretching
  • Strength Warm-Up: Two sets of ten (2 x 10) with light weight.

Prior to barbell training, I complete both warm-ups (above). While I realize this may seem excessive, I like to feel really warm prior to lifting heavy weight. You can view a video of me squatting via the page Rebel Lifestyle.

Strength Training

  • 5 x 5 with “Heavy Weight”
My Favorite Lifts:
  • Squat
  • DeadLift
  • Bench Press
  • Press
  • Romanian DeadLift (RDL)
  • Straight-Leg Deadlift
Programming
  • Monday and Wednesday: Squat + DeadLift (5 x 5)
  • Tuesday and Thursday: Bench + Press (5 x 5)
  • 5 x 5 = 5 sets with 5 reps
Strength Training Schedule
  • Monday, Wednesday, and Friday: Squat and Deadlift
  • Tuesday and Thursday: Bench Press and Press.
  • Saturday: Bodyweight exercises and indoor soccer. Saturday is my free day.
  • Sunday: Rest.

Sprint Intervals

Sprint intervals are one of my favorite interval training exercise. I sprint 90 yards, walk 90 yards, and repeat. I do this for 20-30 minutes, 3 times per week.

  • Sprint intervals for 15-20 minutes.

Indoor Soccer

Last, but not least, I play a little bit of indoor soccer whenever possible. Growing up, I played soccer for one of the most competitive soccer clubs in the country, Challenge Soccer Club, and was ultimately awarded a full soccer scholarship to McNeese State University. Soccer is my happy place.

Rules Breed Rebels

Keep in mind, I am not someone who can adhere to strict rules, not even the ones I program for myself. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to imply I slack off (or skip workouts). What I mean is, if I want to modify my programming just a bit for that day (e.g., add something in or take something out), I will. Considering I’m not training for a competitive event, I keep my personal programming fun and flexible. Granted, I’m not suggesting this approach is best or that you need to implement a flexible program like my own – at all. I’m simply trying to explain the madness behind my training program. My point is, I’m not a fan of strict rules, in any area of my life. Nor can I do the same exact thing, day, after day, after day. How boring!

As you can see, my fitness program includes several different training methods. You can learn more about my nutrition regimen and/or view several of my YouTube videos (e.g., squat and soccer) by visiting the page titled Rebel Lifestyle.

Strength and Fitness Progress

In the photo gallery below you’ll find a photo of my strength training progress. As you will see, I gained 15 pounds (or 15 percent of my total body weight) via strength training. I did this using the method I describe above and a mostly raw plant-based diet. No meat, dairy, or protein supplements. Just a lot of minimally processed plant-based foods.

Big hugs and rebel love,
Dana

FAQs and Misconceptions

I don’t want to get too big

I often hear women state that they don’t want to “get too big.” Our goal is to increase lean muscle mass while decreasing fat tissue via a comprehensive strength and fitness program, not simply increase the size of certain muscle groups via isolated training. You can easily increase strength without looking like a powerlifter. If it were that easy to “get big,” men wouldn’t waste their time or energy using dietary supplements, reading fitness and strength magazines, and perusing online resources – they’d just get BIG. Besides, just because someone has big muscles doesn’t mean they are actually strong. Our goal is to actually increase strength and power, not just look strong.

I don’t want to get too bulky

I’m not sure what “bulky” even means, but it’s important to understand that strength is not equivalent with bodybuilder physique. Professional bodybuilders (both male and female) utilize a very specific training method including “bulking and cutting” as well as ergogenic aids (e.g., steroids, protein supplements, and diuretics) to achieve their desired look.

What are your thoughts about cutting and bulking?

Not good, using anabolic steroids and engaging in the act of “cutting and bulking” isn’t healthy long-term. You can get lean without bulking.

How do I get 6-pack abs like the girl on the cover of _____ magazine?

You don’t. The girls who flaunt 6-pack abs on the cover of fitness magazines are fitness models – not real athletes. In order for a female to get 6-pack abs like the fitness models seen on the cover of fitness magazines, you need to use diuretics and female steroids. Most athletes are not super ripped as a certain percentage of body fat is required for optimal athletic performance.

Muscle striations are not normally visible in well-nourished, hydrated individuals. As I briefly mentioned above, this look is achieved by using diuretics (to promote dehydration), anabolic steroids, and extreme carbohydrate restriction (which, serves to further enhance dehydration). Dehydration is desired to achieve visible muscle striation.

My point is, fitness models get ripped for photoshoots using practices that are unnatural and unhealthy long-term. Competitive female athletes, on the other hand, avoid dehydration and carbohydrate restriction as these practices severely hinder athletic performance, and instead, achieve their physique through proper nutrition and exercise.

Thoughts about pre-workout?

The active ingredient in most pre-workout supplements is caffeine. Caffeine is added to pre-workout supplements because caffeine increases power and intensity, and reduces fatigue during exercise. Not to mention, reduces delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) after training. Unfortunately, pre-workout supplements also contain a whole host of other ingredients, which may be harmful to health or even illegal. An alternative to pre-workout supplements would be pure anhydrous caffeine (e.g., 200 mg tablets); which, can be purchased OTC at most grocery stores and pharmacies. I have a poster about the benefits of caffeine on athletic performance in the photo gallery below.

Learn More

Rebel Lifestyle

To learn more about my lifestyle, click here.

Rebel Grub

To view photos of my clean and green grub, click here.

Posters and Charts

To view my posters and charts, click here.

Shopping Lists

To view my shopping lists, click here.

Meal Planning

To view meal planning information and inspiration, click here.

Pinterest and Facebook

Don’t forget to follow me on Pinterest and/or Facebook.

Strength and Fitness

Except where otherwise noted, content on this site is licensed under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license. This means you are free to use my work for personal use (e.g., save the file to your computer or share via social media) as long as you do not modify the image or use the image for commercial purposes ($).

References:

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Wilmot EG, Edwardson CL, Achana FA, Davies MJ, Gorely T, Gray LJ, Khunti K, Yates T, Biddle SJ. Sedentary time in adults and the association with diabetes, cardiovascular disease and death: systematic review and meta-analysis. Diabetologia. 2012;55:2895–2905. doi: 10.1007/s00125-012-2677-z.

Levine JA, et al. Move a Little, Lose a Lot. New York, N.Y.: Crown Publishing Group; 2009:26.
Matthews CE, et al. Amount of time spent in sedentary behaviors and cause-specific mortality in US adults. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2012;95:437.

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Healy GN, Dunstan DW, Salmon J, Cerin E, Shaw JE, Zimmet PZ, Owen N. Breaks in sedentary time: beneficial associations with metabolic risk. Diabetes Care. 2008;31:661–666. doi: 10.2337/dc07-2046.

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Gómez-Cabello A, et al. Sitting time increases the overweight and obesity risk independently of walking time in elderly people from Spain. Maturitas. 2012 Dec;73(4):337-43.

Chaput JP, et al. Workplace standing time and the incidence of obesity and type 2 diabetes: a longitudinal study in adults. BMC Public Health. 2015 Feb 10;15:111.

Alkhajah TA, Reeves MM, Eakin EG, Winkler EA, Owen N, Healy GN. Sit-stand workstations: a pilot intervention to reduce office sitting time. Am J Prev Med. 2012;43(3):298-303.

Kim JJ, Shin YA, Suk MH. Effect of a 12-week walking exercise program on body composition and immune cell count in patients with breast cancer who are undergoing chemotherapy. J Exerc Nutrition Biochem. 2015;19(3):255-62.

Ormsbee MJ, Bach CW, Baur DA. Pre-exercise nutrition: the role of macronutrients, modified starches and supplements on metabolism and endurance performance. Nutrients. 2014;6(5):1782-808.

Ormsbee M.J., Lox J., Arciero P.J. Beetroot Juice and Exercise Performance. J. Int. Soc. Sports Nutr. 2013;5:27–35.

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