Suspension Training Workouts

Most of you have probably heard of or seen a suspension training system.  It looks  a little like something you might use to move furniture or ratchet down a kayak on the top of your car.  These straps may look a little silly, but this system is one of the most versatile pieces of workout equipment out there.

  • You can use it anywhere, and I mean anywhere!  I have looped it over tree branches, shut the anchor in hotel room doors, and I currently have one dangling from a machine at my studio.
  • It is portable and packable.  The straps weigh nothing and take up a small amount of space when you are packing them for a trip or putting them away when guests come over to your house.
  • You can do a high intensity interval workout (HIIT) using the suspension system.  Check out these routine ideas.
  • You can get a full-body workout done in 20 minutes.  There are so many ways to use this piece of equipment to exercise every part of the body.  Because it is bodyweight focused, your core is challenged during every move.

Try out the moves below to get a full-body routine done fast.  Do each move (or each side  if the exercise works one side at a time) for 45 seconds.  Rest for 15 seconds before moving to the next exercise (or side).  Finish all the exercises in the set, rest for 2 minutes, then repeat 2-5 times.

Also, please note the very adorable gym dog, Lily, sleeping away in the background.

Class Review – February 2018

This year, one of the things I wanted to do is try new things in the fitness world.  I am always reading and researching and learning from the other therapists and trainers at my studio.  I also try to soak up as much knowledge as I can when talking to the great practitioners in my network, but I haven’t actually been out there to try what the other guys are doing in a while.

So I have committed to trying something new each month and to write a review about it.  By no means do I pretend that these are objective reviews.  Think of this as more my opinion as a fitness expert (it does say opinionated fitness guru in the title).  Also, there may be things I don’t like that you do.  I am not here to debate, just stating my thoughts because my name is in the url.

Orangetheory Fitness®

I must admit, OTF (that’s what the regulars call it) was on the top of my list of classes to try.  I love High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), especially in a group setting where you all get to suffer together.  I am also a fan of the simplicity of something like OTF and appreciate how much this place has their business dialed.

From the moment I booked the appointment online, I was amazed at the efficiency of OTF’s system.  Booking a free class online was super easy.  Immediately after I booked, I received a confirmation email with all the regular rules and regulations the go along with appointments, but it also had detailed information about what to expect.  It let me know location, where to park, what time to arrive, what would happen when I arrived, how the class was laid out, etc.  Very helpful for a first-timer.

The day of the class, I arrived the 25 minutes early they suggested.  I was greeted at the door with a cute, welcome sign with my name and the 4 names of the other first-timers on it.  One of the ladies at the desk took me on a tour, showed me where I could store my stuff, gave me a heart-rate monitor, help set up my station, and watched my rowing form.  By the time class started, I felt pretty comfortable.

Class is set up in 3 blocks – rowing, treadmill or spin bike, and weights.  You spend about 20 minutes at each station and run through 2 sets of intervals.  I started on the rower and the coach incorporated distance sprints with reps of a squat and press for our first interval and then timed sprints for the 2nd interval set.  The treadmill station used incline and speed against time for the intervals, and the weight section went through 2 different weight routines.

The cool thing about class, is that you are at the same number station as you move about.  I was station 1, which meant station 2 was always to my left.  This was great because, as it turns out, station number 2 lady was super nice, an OTF regular, and super helpful if I got a little lost with what was going on in the class.  It was kind of nice to travel from station-to-station with a new friend next to you.

The whole story behind the “Orange” in Orange Theory is that they want you to get at least 12 or more minutes in the “Orange” or “Red” heart-rate zones.  These zones represent a heart-rate 85% or higher of your max heart-rate.  They calculate max heart-rate by subtracting your current age from 220.

Throughout the class, the coach came over 4 or 5 times to make sure I was getting along ok.  Throughout class, your heart-rate, zone, and time spent in the “Orange” and “Red” zones are all displayed on a screen under your name.  It is sort of fun because you can have a friendly competition with the others in the class.  Class was energetic and went by pretty quickly.  After class, the coach took the time to go over my heart-rate and explain what each of the numbers meant.

After I left the studio, I was sent an email with my stats from class (see right) and more information about membership.  Again, the process was so dialed-in and efficient.


Cons:  Using a calculation of 220 minus your age to establish your max heart-rate is the easiest and fastest way, but definitely not the most precise.  I understand why they do it this way as it takes no equipment and could be calculated by a 3rd grader, but it could mislead people into thinking they are working harder or easier than they really are.  I spent 35 minutes in the “Orange” and “Red” zones and class was a workout, but definitely not a “killer”.  T

The weights section of the class was creative, but not super challenging.  It was hard to get my heart-rate high during this part and I didn’t feel like I got a whole lot out of it.  However, keep in mind, I do lift on my own 3-4 times a week.

Pros: As I stated above, they have their system dialed.  It is so smooth, so beginner-friendly, and so professional.  Even the workout was organized and methodical (and if you know me, this is a HUGE plus in my world).  I also like that they use common exercises like running/walking and rowing to do most of the intervals.  The simplicity allows for people to find good form and adjust as needed.

The staff was friendly, helpful, and always checking in on me.  Before class, during, and after I was never standing around feeling lost.  Someone always had their eye on me to make sure I knew where to go or what to do.  The studio was well-designed and organized, they kept it cool and had good air movement, and the music was pumping.

Resolution Reboot – A Plan for Success

So how are those New Year’s Resolutions going?  If your answer is “not so great”, you are not alone.  80% of people have given up on their resolutions by February.  But don’t worry, this is not failure, just a temporary set-back.  It is also not an excuse for YOU to give up.  With a little organization, re-motivation, and of course, a PLAN you can continue to work towards your goals.  Let’s get you back on track.

Grab a pen and paper and play along with me.

Identify Priorities

The first thing we need to do is establish your priorities in life.  What things are most important?  Where do you want to put your focus?  A lot of people come up with resolutions that do not coincide.  Establishing a connection between your goals and resolutions with your priorities in life will give you a much better success rate.

Answer these questions:

Who are the most important people in your life?

What are the biggest things you want to accomplish in this lifetime (you can be vague)?

How much time do you want to spend on yourself versus on/with others?

Looking at 2018, what do you want to accomplish over the next 10 months?

Identify your “Why”

Now that you have your priorities established, it is time dig into why you made your New Year’s Resolutions.  Knowing the root of your motivation to change will help carry you through the tougher points of your transition.  It will also help you identify if your goals truly represent what you want.  Establishing your “why” can help you modify your goals so they reflect what YOU want for YOURSELF rather than what you think the world wants of you.

Answer these questions:

How will your life be different when you accomplish your goal?

Who will benefit from you accomplishing your goal?  Yourself, family, work?

What will you lose out on or miss if you fail or give up?

What areas of your life will improve when you reach your goal?

Is your goal a final destination or a step in a larger process?

How will you feel once you accomplish your goal?

Why did you choose to change this year?

Make REAL Goals

With your “Why” established, you can now make real goals that fit with your life.  At this time, it is also important to recognize if you need to adjust your goals to match your life and priorities.

Answer these questions:

What is your goal for 2018?

What are 2 or 3 smaller goals that would help you move towards your 2018 goal?

Can you imagine yourself accomplishing this goal?

Is there anything you need to do to prepare or before you start working towards your goal?

Make a Plan

Now you have real goals, that fit within your lifestyle, and your “why” to keep you motivated.  All that is left, is a solid plan.  Success is not solely based on discipline and hard-work.  Trying to make major change without a plan is like running a race without knowing the route.  You can go as fast as you can, hour upon hour, and never reach the finish line.

Answer these questions:

What can you do TODAY to work towards your goal?

What obstacles are there to accomplishing your goal?

What are 2-3 solutions you can think of to help you overcome your obstacles?

What can you do on a daily basis to help you reach your goal?

What can you get done in the next 2 weeks to work towards that goal?

What can you plan now, to help you work towards your goal in the next 3-6 months?

What are good indicators that you have accomplished half of your overall goal?

Change is hard, but it is much easier when you know why you are changing and have a clear road map.  Do some work up front so you don’t find yourself struggling later down the line.  As Antoine de Saint-Exupéry stated, “A goal without a plan, is just a wish”.

Heart Health

February is National Heart Health month.  Did you know that heart disease is the number one cause of death in both men and women and is responsible for over 1 million deaths annually?  Don’t panic, there are some things you can do to help prevent heart disease and keep your ticker in tip-top shape.

  1. Get Regular Check-ups – High blood pressure and cholesterol are major risk factors for heart disease.  Keep yourself informed about your levels, adjust your lifestyle to help keep your levels in a safe range, and avoid foods heavy in saturated fats.
  2. Maintain a Healthy Weight – We are not talking about being “swimsuit ready”.  Obesity is linked to many other health factors which can lead to heart disease including high triglyceride levels.  Maintain a healthy weight and especially avoid extra weight around the belly/mid-torso area.
  3. Limit Alcohol and Smoking – Overconsumption of either of these will increase you blood pressure and ultimately increase your risk of heart attack and stroke.  Studies suggest no more than 2 drinks per day for men, and 1 drink per day for women.
  4. Eat a Healthy and Balanced Diet – Avoid foods high in saturated fat, foods with high sodium levels, processed foods, and sugar.  Whole foods should make up the bulk of your diet with fresh vegetables being the star at every meal.  Balance your plate with a fat, protein, and carb at every meal.
  5. Exercise Regularly – You don’t need to be a marathon runner, you just need to move every day.  Try my at-home beginner’s workout or my beginners HIIT workout to start.  Exercise helps strengthen the heart and improve circulation.
  6. Get Your Sleep – Lack of sleep comes with an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure.  Start creating better habits to get more sleep.  Check out my post on sleep for ideas on how to set yourself up for a more restful and restorative sleep session.
  7. Manage Stress – High stress levels can lead to high blood pressure and high cortisol levels.  Those high cortisol levels can lead to an increase of belly fat.  Take time out of everyday to breathe, calm yourself down, and relax.  Even 2 minutes of deep breathing can help interrupt the stress cycle.
  8. Know Your Risk – Get clear on your family health history and your genetic risk.  Be proactive in the care of your body, don’t make it a guessing game.

Healthy hearts equal healthy bodies.  The great “side-effects” of taking care of your heart are weight-loss, clearer skin, more energy, less aches and pains, and more.  Improving your diet, moving everyday, and taking some time for yourself can have lasting results that will not only improve your heart function, but improve your overall health.


Class Review – January 2018

This year, one of the things I wanted to do is try new things in the fitness world.  I am always reading and researching and learning from the other therapists and trainers at my studio.  I also try to soak up as much knowledge as I can when talking to the great practitioners in my network, but I haven’t actually been out there to try what the other guys are doing in a while.

So I have committed to trying something new each month and to write a review about it.  By no means do I pretend that these are objective reviews.  Think of this as more my opinion as a fitness expert (it does say opinionated fitness guru in the title).  Also, there may be things I don’t like that you do.  I am not here to debate, just stating my thoughts because my name is in the url.

Pure Barre®

Prior to entering the Pure Barre studio in Boulder, my only experience with a barre class had been at a conference a couple years back (not a Pure Barre class).  At that time, I felt it was pilates on steroids.  After taking this class, my opinion has not changed much, but my enjoyment has swayed a bit.

First things first, the Boulder studio is adorable and super girly, which I love.  It is stocked with cute leggings, headbands, tanks, and other girly stuff.  There are empowering quotes on the walls along with an impressive display of the media in which Pure Barre has been featured.  It’s clean, easy to check in, and they took care of me as a new person, explaining the layout and the class routine.

Now let’s start class.  The instructor could not have been nicer.  She gathered the equipment I would need and set up a spot for me.  She explained the class moved quickly and gave me the run down of the different parts.  The music started and we were off to the races!

To say class “moved quickly” might be an understatement.  We started flying through complex pilate-ish and yoga-ish moves at rapid speed.  I felt as if I was flailing a bit and not really in control of my body as we moved through the first core routine.  Although the cues that were coming through the mic were spot on, there is no way at that speed and with little instruction, many people could do those moves with the proper form needed to protect their backs and necks.

As we moved into the upper body portions, I started to feel a bitt better.  Still moving at a fast pace, these moves were a lot less complex and could be done at a quicker pace.  Its was nice to get my arms working this way – low weights and massive reps to burnout.  There is no way I would do that on my own and it was a nice change of pace from my usual lifting sessions.

We approached the bar to start working on the lower body.  Barre classes are famous for their “tuck”.  Basically a scoop under of the tailbone or a posterior pelvic tilt.  I could write another blog on why I don’t love the “tuck”, but we will leave it for another day.  For me, it really boils down to the fact that we don’t walk around all day with a “tuck”, so why would I want to strengthen myself into a non-functional position?  I understand it helps some people recruit their butts a bit more, but I just can’t get around it.  That being said, if you do the exercises without a tuck, listen closely to the cues the instructor is saying, and just keep yourself in a safe range of motion, the exercises really do burn your booty.  I was definitely feeling the sides of my butt (glute medius) and my obliques.

There was one more round of core work at the same speedy pace before the class was over.  During this round, I did see a few ladies modifying some of the exercises and it was obvious they learned them from one of the instructors.  It was good to see that there were options to keep the exercises safer.   To go one step further, I would love to see Pure Barre offer an intro class to their clients and go through the moves with a bit more explanation on where to focus their attention and on proper form.


Cons: I am just not a barre fan.  It’s just not for me.  I am so particular about form.  The speed at which the barre class moves, it is impossible to do the exercises correctly and work the intended muscles.  Maybe, sometimes they are getting it right, but for the most part it is just too fast…and double leg raises on your back are not something to be doing quickly.  At that speed it is more likely to cause back pain then strengthen your core.  In all seriousness, if you have injuries or have had back or neck pain in the past, this is not the place for you.

Pros: The place is clean and friendly.  The instructor encouraged me by name at least 3 times during class and came over to adjust my position a few times.  She gave great instructions prior to class starting and checked in with me after class to see how I felt.  I could not imagine a more professional instructor.

Getting Started – High Intensity Interval Training

If you work out, know people who work out, or ever read anything on the internet about working out, you have probably heard of High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT. I know, it sounds “Intense” for lack of a better word.  Sounds like something crazy bootcamp people would do, or a high school football team, or celebrities.  But I am here to tell you ANYONE can do HIIT and EVERYONE can benefit from it.

The basic application of HIIT is to push yourself into an uncomfortable range during your cardio exercises and then fully recover, and then repeat for a certain amount of time.  That’s it.  That’s the magic equation.

Of course if you really start to dive into it, there is research on heart zones and RPE’s, and on time on vs. time off, and which intervals are better for weight loss and which ones are better to build endurance.  There is so much info on HIIT, that it can be overwhelming and keep you from just trying it and reaping the benefits.  Read below for the great benefits of HIIT and some “starter” workouts to get you going and on your way.


  • You’ll Burn More Calories – Not only do you burn calories while you are performing your HIIT workout, but that burn will stay with you for up to 2 hours after your finish your workout.  That means you can do your workout, shower, and head to work and still be getting a high calorie burn.
  • Great for your Heart – Due to its high demand on your blood vessels, HIIT can increase the flexibility and the elasticity of your arteries and veins.
  • Adaptable – You can do an HIIT workout on the treadmill, during a hike, in the middle of a bike ride, in a pool, everywhere and any movement can be turned into an HIIT session.
  • Reduces Blood Sugar Levels – After just 2 weeks of HIIT, one study found that there was an increase of glucose metabolism in the muscles, bringing sugar levels back to normal.
  • Saves You Time – Because you are working harder, you don’t have to work for very long.  You can get most of the same benefits in 15 minutes of HIIT session that you can get in 1 hour of jogging according to a 2013 study.
  • More Weight Loss – According to one study of persons with Type 2 diabetes, HIIT training has a bigger affect on weight loss than steady cardio.
  • Increased VO2 max – This means your body can utilize oxygen better during intense exercise.  You will be able to work harder and harder, but it will start to feel easier.
  • Increased Endurance and Stamina – Just 1 minute of high intensity work can improve your endurance.  The benefits of your quick HIIT workout will carry over to your next big hike, bike ride, run.
  • Reduces Liver Fat – According to a 2015 study, HIIT can help reduce the fat surrounding your liver by up to 16% in just 12 weeks of training.

The bottom line is…If you are not doing HIIT…START.

Here are a 3 HIIT workouts for the beginner/intermediate athlete (and by athlete, I mean you, not Tom Brady).

Walker’s Delight Routine

  • 0-5 Minutes – Walk at Regular Pace.
  • 30 seconds High Intensity – Uphill walking, quicker pace, skipping, big arm swings, anything that gets you heart pumping really nice.
  • 1.5 minutes Low Intensity – Regular walking pace or slower, dynamic stretching, backwards walking.  Just don’t stop moving.
  • Repeat Step 2 and 3 for a minimum of 10 minutes or a maximum of 20 minutes.
  • Last 5 minutes – Walk slow or stop and stretch to cool down.

Rainy Day Treadmill Routine

  • 0-5 minutes – Warm up with brisk walking or slow jog.
  • 45 seconds High Intensity – Increase the incline or speed to get your heart pumping.
  • 2 minutes Low Intensity – Back to your brisk walking or slower jog.
  • Repeat Step 2 and 3 for 6 circuits.
  • Walk slow for the last 3-5 minutes.

New Runner Neighborhood Blitz

  • 0-5 minutes – Warm up by walking a 2×1 block circle around a neighborhood (2 block straightaway to a right turn to a 1 block straightaway to a right turn to another 2 blocks, followed by a right turn to  1 block to bring you back to the beginning of your circle.)
  • 5-10 minutes – Walk the 2 block straightaway, run the 1 block straightaway.
  • 10-15 minutes – Run the 2 block straightaway, walk the 1 block straightaway.
  • 15-16 minutes – walk
  • 16-18 minutes – run
  • 18 – 20 minutes – walk
  • End at 20 minutes or repeat steps 2 and 3 to make it a full 30-minute workout.

Apply to Intern with Brenna Backe

Brenna Backe is the Owner of Koa Fit Personal Training Studio in Boulder, CO and has been in the field of personal training and coaching for the last 20 years.   Koa Fit just celebrated 5 successful years in business and Brenna is looking for an intern. Brenna’s unique training method has helped hundreds of clients who struggle with chronic aches and pains or had simply “given up”, get back in shape. She helps her clients build strength, lose weight, develop better body awareness and coordination, while decreasing the wear and tear on their bodies.

The current fitness arena is filled with Cross Fits, bootcamps, and high intensity interval training. There is a need for a more balanced workout. Brenna has been creating this missing link in fitness for the past 9 years at her 2 studios (previously sold her first studio, Active Fitness Solutions in NJ) and has been so successful she is looking for someone to train with her and help her at her studio.

If you are looking to develop a more specific and targeted form of training, Brenna would be interested in hearing from you.   She is looking for someone to start as an intern and then move into a personal trainer role at Koa Fit. Internship benefits are listed below.

This is the pilot of Brenna’s internship program. Due to that, she is not charging. Instead, she is exchanging 2 hours per week of admin/gym time at Koa Fit for the 8 weeks during the internship program.

Internship Includes:

  • Education Material
  • Assessment Tools and Guidelines
  • Exercise Protocols for special populations from Elite Athletes to Older Adults
  • One-on-One Trainings with Brenna
  • Opportunity to Shadow Brenna with Clients
  • Opportunity to take on paid training sessions

For more information or to apply, please fill out the information below.

Application Deadline is January 31, 2018