Core Conditioning Combo #1 – Follow the video & just give me 5 minutes!

Dear clients, friends and family,

I bet there’s one thing we all have in common and that is the desire to look and feel our best. And in my experience, most people would love to have a flat, toned, rock hard abdominal region. But abdominal conditioning is about more than just vanity. When you have a strong core, that strength radiates out to the rest of your body and you will move with more grace, power, efficiency and be less likely to get injured.

It’s important to note that your core is not just the abdominal region. It includes all layers of the abdominal musculature (deep and superficial including the external/internal obliques, rectus abdominus and transverse abdominus), the muscles surrounding the spine on the posterior side of the body, the hips and glutes, and the pelvic area. So a solid core conditioning program will address all of these areas and include movements and exercises in a variety of planes and angles.

I’ve designed a 6 day Core Conditioning program. You will complete one circuit each day for six days and each day will require about 5 minutes of your time. Then you rest on the 7th day! By following this program, you will hit all the important areas and movements each week.

So here’s how I’m going to do this. I’ll send you 2 circuits each week – one early in the week and then one late in the week. That will give you some time to practice all of the movements. So you’ll get each of the 6 days over the next 3 weeks. Then once you have all 6 days, you’ll start the 6 day program and follow it for 6 weeks. That will bring you right to the start of summer. Can you imagine how incredible your abs will look by then?! Just remember to follow a good nutrition and cardio program too for the best results!

Day One Exercises include:

• 90/90 Leg extensions
• 90/90 Crunches
• 90/90 Torso rotations
• 90/90 Reverse lift

Here’s the video clip so you can follow along.

Here’s a direct link if you can’t see the video above…

Yours in health and fitness,

Sherri McMillan

ps. Practice these moves over the next few days and stay tuned for Day 2 coming on Friday.

Change your Program & Change your Body!

Dear clients, friends and family,

If you really want to change your body, you’ve got to change your program and mix it up. And now that summer is upon us, it’s the best opportunity to spice up your program. Do something different. Enroll in a new activity. Sign up for an event like a Triathlon, 10km Fun run or Adventure Trek. Try a new class. Hire a trainer. Just commit to doing something different.

Since the warmer weather is upon us, it’s a really good opportunity to also ensure you’re getting outdoors for some of your workouts. Take up cycling. Try an Outdoor Bootcamp program. Go kayaking. Get yourself some Vitamin D and get outside of the four walls of a gym. The fresh air will do you some good.

For those of you who are local, our new Group class schedule starts May 1st. We’re offering some really fun new classes including some Outdoor Bootcamp programs. Plus you can still drop in for our Learn to Run or Triathlon programs. Call us at 360.574.7292 or 503.287.0655 for more details.

Here’s the link to our new schedules that begin May 1st. Best advice we can give you is to schedule your workouts into your dayplanner – always carve the time out for yourself first!

Here’s a link to the list of upcoming summer adventures we’re hosting. Tons of fun stuff going on and we’d love for you to join us!

Yours in health and fitness,

Sherri McMillan

‘Bring your Child to Work-out Day!" THIS Thursday!

Dear clients, friends and family,

Thursday is National ‘Bring your Child to Work Day’. We hope you take a different spin on it and “Bring your Child to Work-out Day!”

If you workout with us in Portland or Vancouver, we’re hosting a special parent and kids workout day. Take your child to a class with you or bring them to your personal training session. It will be a great bonding experience and an opportunity to teach them to love to move their body! If you don’t workout with us, check with your gym to make arrangements.

Bottom line – These days kids hardly get any activity. Most schoolwork involves sedentary activity and with television and video games as after-school pastimes, the temptation to sink into couch potato-land becomes pretty overwhelming for our kids. Check out these startling stats:

• Children today are approximately 40% less active than they were 30 years ago
• 20% of children and teens are overweight enough to threaten their future health
• One report states that the number of overweight children ages 6-11 has increased by 50% in the last 15 years and by 40% in those ages 12-17. Lack of exercise is considered a major contributing factor
• 40% of children already have at least one risk factor for heart disease and reduced fitness due to an inactive lifestyle
• Children spend an average of 26 hours a week watching television and also spend 25-30 hours a week sitting behind a desk

Here’s some goals you should strive for. The American College of Sports Medicine guidelines for exercise and children are as follows:

• Children should be involved in daily physical activity like walking or cycling around the neighborhood, performing household chores or running errands
• Children should exercise three times a week for at least 20 minutes with activities that require moderate to vigorous levels of exertion, like brisk walking, stair-climbing, racquet sports, jogging, dance, swimming laps, skating, cross-country skiing or cycling.
• For most children, it’s fine to do 15-20 minutes of resistance or strength training sessions twice a week using higher repetitions (25 reps) and lower resistance as long as there’s proper instruction and supervision
• Children should stretch on alternative days for 60 seconds each stretch
• Vary the activities to work different parts of the body
• Involve children in deciding what to do

Kids who exercise can experience the following benefits:
• Daily physical activity builds a healthy heart and stimulates muscle and bone growth
• Healthy, fit kids have more energy, sleep better and often have better eating habits than their sedentary peers
• One six year study found that the academic performance of students who exercised regularly had significantly improved compared to students who did not participate in regular physical activity
• It appears that children benefit from better concentration, memory, creativity, problem-solving ability and overall mood for up to two hours following exercise
• One report states that exercise can boost a child’s self-confidence and self-image. It also reduces aggression and decreases anxiety and depression.

Let’s start ‘em young folks!

Yours in health and fitness,

Sherri McMillan

Why are Americans the Fattest Country in the World?

The Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.
The Mexicans eat a lot of fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.
The Japanese drink very little red wine & suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.
The Italians drink excessive red wine & suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.
The Germans drink a lot of beer & eat lots of sausages and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

Conclusion: Eat and drink what you like. Speaking English is apparently what kills you…

Ha ha! In all seriousness Americans work the longest hours, are the most stressed out and take the fewest holidays in the world. So use this as a reminder that we need balance in our lives. It’s all about the yin & yang. You can’t go hard all the time because eventually you burn out.

Take a moment to just breathe. Breathe deeply. A deep cleansing breath bringing positive energy into your body. Oxygenate your entire system. That in and of itself brings forth great health benefits.

You know best what will help to relax you and counter any life stressors. Maybe it’s a bath, reading, getting a massage, hanging with your friends, going to a movie, taking a holiday, meditating, taking a yoga class, praying…Whatever it is – just do it. Your health depends on it!

Yours in health and fitness,

Sherri McMillan

Have you ever wanted to finish a Tri?

Dear clients, friends and family,

Have you ever wanted to finish a Triathlon?! Well, if there is a will, there is a way! I’ve had 100% success ratio with anyone ever wanting to finish a Tri – I can definitely get you to the finish line. Don’t swim? No problem. You can side stroke, back float or doggie paddle to the swim finish. Don’t run? No problem. You can walk the whole thing!

Our Group Training clinic starts this Saturday at our Vancouver Training studio at 9:00am. Call 360.574.7292 to register. The cost is $199 and includes the cost of the actual Triathlon ($70) so it’s a great deal. The group support is fabulous. If you can’t join us but want to follow along on your own, email me at and I’ll send you a copy of the training program that we will be following.

It’s a fabulous way to get in shape for summer, take your fitness to a whole new level and get super toned and fit!

Happy Swimming, Biking & Running,

Yours in health and fitness,

Sherri McMillan

Learn to Run and then Jump out of a Plane??!!

Dear clients, friends and family,

Spring has arrived! As the days get longer and warmer, we typically want to spend more time outdoors. It’s also a time of year when many people get inspired to start taking better care of themselves – especially with summer and swimsuit season just around the corner!

Many people will start a running program to help jump-start them into shape. However, most new running programs don’t last very long because people wind up getting injured because they’ve done too much, too soon. So I wanted to pass along a good Learn to Run program that will ease your body into the impact forces associated with running.

Follow this program 3x/week on alternating days.

Week One: (Run 1 min. Walk 4 min) x 4 = 20 minute workout
Week Two: (Run 2 min. Walk 3 min) x 5 = 25 minute workout
Week Three: (Run 3 min. Walk 2 min) x 6 = 30 minute workout
Week Four: (Run 4 min. Walk 1 min) x 6 = 30 minute workout
Week Five: (Run 5 min. Walk 1 min) x 5 = 30 minute workout
Week Six: (Run 6 min. Walk 1 min) x 5 = 35 minute workout
Week Seven: (Run 7 min. Walk 1 min) x 5 = 40 minute workout
Week Eight: (Run 8 min. Walk 1 min) x 5 = 45 minute workout
Week Nine: (Run 9 min. Walk 1 min) x 5 = 50 minute workout
Week Ten: (Run 10 min. Walk 1 min) x 5 = 55 minute workout

This program will get you in great shape and prepare you to run a 3 mile run by summer!

Note: We are also starting a Learn to Run program at the end of this month at both our Vancouver and Portland locations. Nothing like a group to keep you accountable and get you to the finish line! Call 360.574.7292 or 503.287.0655 for more details or to register.

Yours in health and fitness,

Sherri McMillan

ps. Have you ever wanted to jump out of a plane? I’m tandem skydiving this Saturday March 27th in Molalla Oregon. The cost is $180 per person and I’m freaked out so the more people there to do it with me, the better! If you’re interested, email me at

Exercise isn’t supposed to be painful!

Dear clients, friends and family,

An effective exercise program does not need to be painful. In fact, there is no study to date that has found extreme muscle soreness indicates a good workout and yet, so many people gauge the intensity of a workout by how stiff they are the next day.

Most of us have experienced muscle soreness. Remember the feeling after your first day of skiing, your first spring run or your first fitness class? This sensation is referred to as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) because it takes about 1-3 days after the workout for the stiffness to kick in. The severity of DOMS is dependent on the novelty and intensity of the activity. So if you participate in a new sport and you go really hard, expect to be very stiff. Even if you are really fit, if you do something your body isn’t used to, you’ll probably pay for it unless you take it easy.

The message is, if you’re training appropriately, there’s no need to be extremely sore. It’s OK to think “Hey, my muscles feel like they had a great workout yesterday.” However, if you have a problem getting out of a chair, walking or even just moving, you’re training too hard – and not very sensibly. Calling in sick for work because you worked out too hard the previous day is not going to make your company very happy or get you the results you want!

While lifting weights you will experience muscular fatigue, a slight discomfort and a temporary “burning” sensation at the end of a set that goes away as soon as the set is finished. During cardiovascular exercise like running, cycling or fitness classes, your heart will be beating more quickly, you will be breathing heavier and you may feel fatigued at different points of your workout. These sensations are all normal.

However, during exercise, you should not feel sharp pain. This is not normal and you should stop the exercise immediately and consult a sports physician or physiotherapist. The key to exercising safely is being able to distinguish between muscular fatigue and pain.

To reduce the likelihood of extreme muscle soreness, always warm up, cool down and stretch. If you are participating in a brand new sport or activity, progress very slowly. Don’t go hard on your first day. Give your body a few workouts to adjust and then gradually pick up the intensity. For example, if it’s your first day of biking, choose a flat route, take lots of breaks and go for only a short ride.

Once you’ve established a consistent exercise routine, there are no extra health benefits from pushing yourself to be extremely sore. Pain is a warning signal that you have done too much, too soon.

If you do find yourself suffering from DOMS, back off on the intensity of your program and progress more slowly.

“No pain, no gain” is a myth. Pain is not necessary and may in fact be detrimental to improving your fitness and getting results.

Yours in health and fitness,

Sherri McMillan

When is the best time to do abdominal exercises?

Is it better to do abdominal exercises before or after a workout? A.M., Vancouver, WA

Actually, there are pros and cons to both. Performing abdominal exercises before a workout will help to warm-up and prepare the core/abdominal muscles for the actual workout which will involve these muscles in some manner. However, you must be careful not to overly fatigue these important muscles prior to exercise as they are the spine and pelvis support network. If totally fatigued for example, prior to a loaded back squat and/or deadlift, poor form and injury may result. So if you do your abdominal exercises before your workout, you would want to take it easy and train at a sub-maximal level for the rest of your workout.

If you wait to perform your abdominal exercises at the end of the workout, you can train them more aggressively because you won’t have to worry about the over-fatigued state as we mentioned above.

You can even perform abdominal exercises during a workout in between exercise sets so long as the intensity does not exhaust the abdominal muscles and compromise the quality and/or safety of any of the other exercises in the workout. For example, sometimes a workout circuit I will follow will be a lower body exercise, upper body exercise and then a core exercise and repeat this template with different exercises each time through.

Yours in health and fitness,

Sherri McMillan

ps. Join us for March Muddy Madness on Sunday March 21st.

Use your head to get results…

Did you know that Neuromuscular Facilitation can really make your workouts a lot more effective? Neuromuscular what? Neuromuscular facilitation is just a fancy term for Muscle Smart or teaching your muscles to contract more effectively. You see, your muscles are under direct control from your nervous system. In order for your muscles to work, a nerve stimulus must arrive at the muscle which will cause it to contract. So the coordination between your muscles and your neurological system is critical to maximize any movement or exercise.

Studies demonstrate that most strength gains that occur in the first month of someone starting a new weight lifting program are a result of this phenomena. It has been coined the “Learning Effect” and occurs as the nervous and muscular system learn to work together as a team.

This muscle-nerve relationship can be used to your advantage to maximize the effectiveness of your workouts. A number of studies have been done to measure this effect. One study had it subjects perform a number of standard weight lifting exercises. The subjects were hooked up to EMG’s to measure muscle activity as the exercises were performed. Stage two of the study had the subjects perform the exact same exercises with the same speed and same resistance so that they mimicked the first stage exactly. The only difference was that the second time around they had the subjects really focus on what they were doing. They had them concentrate on contracting the muscles that were supposed to be working in each exercise. Basically, they had them put their mind into it. In this second stage, the amount of measured muscle activity significantly increased. So the message is clear – the mind-body connection is critical to maximize the work a muscle will do.

On a practical level, what does this mean for your workouts? There are definitely some exercises you can dissociate from. For example, you can get up on a treadmill, plug in an 8 minute mile and then allow yourself to think about your day or read a magazine or watch TV. You will burn the same amount of calories whether you focus or not. But, with weight lifting, focus is critical. We sometimes see exercisers sitting on a leg press machine reading a magazine and just going through the motions. We feel obliged to tell them that if they put down the magazine and focused, every rep and set would be so much more effective and they’d see results much more quickly. A lot of exercisers would find that if they just concentrated while they were performing the movements, they wouldn’t have to do 2-3 sets of each exercise. If it’s a really good set, one set is often enough. Wouldn’t you rather get the same results in a shorter period of time? Would you rather spend 40 minutes or 2 hours in the weight room? Think of all the extra time you’d have if your workouts were more efficient!

An understanding of this entire mind-body scope has taken on a whole new level of interest. A lot of coaches are realizing that on any given day, there are a number of athletes who could possibly win an event. The one who stands on top of the podium, generally is not the one who is the most fit or talented but the one who tapped into the enormous amount of strength stored inside of our bodies. This untapped strength is only accessible if the mind can overcome any limitations or barriers. For example, did you know that it was once thought that a 4-minute mile was humanly impossible? It wasn’t until that barrier was broken that others were able to tap into the strength that was always there. Within one year, another 5-6 people broke the 4 minute barrier and within another year, another 50!

We would literally astound ourselves if we actually learned to really effectively coordinate the brain and the body. Our physical capabilities would be phenomenal. So although you may not be gearing up for a 4-minute mile, learning to use your brain during your workouts will definitely take them to the next level.

Yours in health and fitness,

Sherri McMillan

Is it best to do cardio before or after a weight lifting workout?

Dear clients, friends and family,

I get this question asked all the time…

Is it best to do cardio before or after a weight lifting workout?

It’s actually best to mix up the sequence of your routine during your weekly
regime. For example, if you always do your cardio exercise first, next
workout do a brief warm-up, then do your muscle conditioning exercises and
then finish with your cardio. Then next workout, do your cardio first and
muscle conditioning last. It will be a completely different workout and a
new stimulus for your muscles and your heart.

Or intersperse cardio intervals within your muscle conditioning session for a killer workout. For example, you could do a Lower Body exercise, then an upper body exercise, then a core conditioning exercise and then a 3 minute cardio interval. Repeat again with different exercises.

With that said, if your primary goal is muscle conditioning and developing muscle tone/bulk, you may want to do your muscle conditioning first when you have the most energy and strength so you can really focus on this area. And vice versa if your focus is on cardio conditioning.

Hope that gives you some direction to your workouts!

Yours in health and fitness,

Sherri McMillan

ps. Happy Valentine’s Day – Remember to give Fitness not Fatness for V-Day. And if you do indulge this weekend, be sure to get your workouts in! It’s all about balance!