Fitness Events In Austin through the Holiday Season

December 6, 2009

We set a record here in Austin today for the lowest temperature during this time of the year since 1950. With the holidays around the corner and the cold, many of us just want to stay and home and stay under the covers. However, there are many events in Austin that will help motivate you to keep your fitness levels up throughout the season.

Ranger Stampede 5K Run

Ranger Stampede 5K

When: Wednesday, December 9
Time: 5 PM (Registration at 4 PM)
Where: Texas School for the Deaf (1102 South Congress)
Cause: Event is free for students under 21 (otherwise $2) and open to anyone at any age. Any additional contributions will go to a charity of your choice. The race itself is part of a 7-event series that will happen once a month from November to May.  

Esmeralda’s Run 5K/10K

Esmeralda's Run

When: Sunday, December 13
Time: 9 AM
Where: Austin Tennis Academy (6800 Spanish Oaks Club Blvd)
Cause: Esmeralda’s son Brent Werbeck started this annual race in honor of his mother’s loss with a long battle with cancer in 2005.  “Through Esmeralda’s Run, my mother could be remembered for her valiant fight against cancer. People would remember how cancer never held my mother back and how it didn’t dampen her spirit…[this run will] ensure that my mother’s fear never came true. It would provide an opportunity for everyone to gather in remembrance of my mother and to unite together to fight the battle against cancer,” Werbeck said. Registration and donations can be done here.  

Resolution Run 2010

Resolution Run (New Years Day 2009) from event web site

When: New Year’s Day 2010
Time: 11 AM
Where: St. Phillip’s United Methodist Church (16321 Great Oaks Drive, Round Rock, Texas)
Cause: The race is a certified and chip timed, aiming to benefit Round Rock Serving Center–a non-profit corporation that carries out a community-wide mission of churches and other organizations. The organzation does many things for its city–include providing food, clothing, furniture and financial assistance for its citizens. Because it will probably be difficult for people to want to get out of bed at the start of the new year, the sponsors will be providing treats and door prizes. Register here.

Austin Marathon

When: Sunday Feb. 14, 2010
Time: 7 AM
Where: Congress Avenue and 2nd St.
Cause: Although the19th annual marathon does not have a specific cause, there is someone who is using the marathon as a way to show homage for her brother. Sarah Shary has started Running for Ryan.  In 2007, Sarah lost her younger brother Ryan while he raced in the 2007 Men’s Olympic Trials in New York. After Sarah was diagnosed with Lupus, she lost her urge to be healthy. Her brother came to her in a dream of her brother smiling at her while she was running–she became inspired to run the Austin marathon. She is not only running for her brother but also trying to raise $10, 000 for Wounded Warrior Project, a non-profit that helps veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan for coping services and couseling. To help Sarah’s cause, go to her web site, and to register for the marathon please go here.

Which event will you guys try over the holidays?

Cassandra Hernandez writes about North Austin and Pop culture in fitness. If you have any suggestions, please email her at


Learn How to Ride like Lance

November 30, 2009

Austin is very unique in many ways–including its friendliness to cyclists. Because cycling culture is so prominent in Austin, it is important that we take tips from experts to ensure safety while riding in the city.

Chris Carmichael and Lance Armstong

Chris Carmichael, cycling coach to Lance Armstrong and head of Carmichael Training Systems, was in town to promote his latest book: The Time Crunched Cyclist.

Through his book, he asserts that athletes can become “fitter faster and more powerful on the bike in just six hours a week.”

As a coach for both the 1992 and 1996 U.S. Olympic cycling teams, he knows a thing or two about teaching people not only how to advance their cycling skills but the fundamentals. Here are his tips for recreational cyclists:

Look Up: when you just look down on the ground in front of you, you do not have as much control of your bike and you will be more prone to for a bumpy ride.

When you look down as far the road as you can, that smooths you down. If you only look one or two bike lenths ahead, you get squirrelly action.

Hills: Don’t overexert yourself in the beginning of your ride. Take a steady approach when riding on the hillside.

A lot of times when (cyclists) hit short hills, they just want to get it over, so they spring to the top. Save you legs for later on, for hills no. 4, 8, and 16. If you try punching up those early hills, your pedal cadence will drop, you won’t shift and you’ll drag up the hill. You’re dead in the water.

Changing Position/Speed: Once you are on the bike, there are going to be instances where you need to shift your body. Get comfortable with riding in different ways and speeds.

If you spend 99 percent of your time above the brakes, your body doesn’t adapt to the lower position. You have less control (at high speeds) when you ride the brakes. Give your body time to get used to it.

Be careful out there cyclists! Make sure that you try to follow these tips when you are on the road!

Personal Trainer John Kelly, Owner of Kelly Personal Training

November 29, 2009

Working as a personal trainer for the past 28 years, John Kelly knows his way around a gym. He has trained over 30,000 people of all ages and fitness levels and owns two personal training businesses, including one in Austin. He was kind enough to let interview him, his answers are below.

John Kelly

What started your motivation towards staying fit and keeping healthy?

I think most people exercise to look better, perform better, feel better, and have an overall feeling of well being.  As a young athlete I was more concerned about the first two. Now as an ex-athlete with old injuries I am more concerned about the last two.

What has been your greatest moment as a trainer?

At some point you go from having a client/trainer relationship to having a valued friendship. You attend christenings, family gatherings, and sometimes funerals. Your clients go out of their way to help you, and you do the same. I moved to Austin from New Orleans after hurricane Katrina.  The week before I moved to Austin I met with each of my New Orleans clients and fellow trainers for the last time. Most of my clients were longstanding, some longer than ten years. I realized how dear my clients, co-workers and friends really are.  Everyday of that last week was intensely emotional as we said our final goodbyes; it was one of the more memorable weeks of my life.

What is it that is great about Austin in particular for fitness?

Fitness can be a simple as stepping off your stoop and just start running, walking or biking down the street. That can happen just about any anywhere.  Austin adds to that experience with miles of bike trails, walking trails, and green spaces.  I feel I am truly fortunate to have moved to here because of all Austin has to offer.

A unique aspect that I saw on your web site was your golf program and your focus on back pain relief. How did that start?

Several years ago I suffered with back pain for three years. A doctor told me I should consider surgery. Instead I began exercising with a MedX lumbar exercise machine in another doctor’s office, and I slowly incorporated strength training to my regiment. My pain gradually disappeared. A strong back and a strong body are less likely to suffer pain and injury. We use MedX rehabilitative exercise equipment at both our facilities, Kelly’s Personal Training and New Orleans Ultimate Fitness Training. We have had great success with the program; it is very gratifying to see people who have lived in constant pain become pain free.

Golfers swing in one direction creating potential muscle imbalances and increased risk of injury.  Our program is designed to increase strength and flexible and correct imbalances.  Increased strength and flexibility result in increased club head speed and less injury.

What advice would you give to potential clients about staying fit during holiday temptations?

Enjoy family, friends, and food. Taking a week or two off at the end of the year gives nagging injuries a chance to heal and you’ll recharge your batteries. It is not the one or two weeks that makes the difference; it is sticking to a program for the long term.  Very few people manage to do that year after year. If you reward yourself with a break now and then you’ll more likely stick to a program.

So, you heard it from a professional, it is okay to indulge over the holidays but make sure you get back on the wagon and to your fitness regimen after the break. Thanks so much to John Kelly and if you want to contact him visit his web site or blog.

Austin City Council passed “Ciclovia”

November 22, 2009

On Thursday, Austin’s City Council voted for Austinites to have a different type of fitness event–a ciclovia, a Spanish word meaning “bike path.” The event, which was voted to take place in May 2010 as part of the Bike Month festivities, is described as a “motor-vehicle free event that connects runners, skaters, and cyclists.

Other places that have enacted ciclovias in their area include Cleveland, El Paso, Chicago, Portland, Miami, New York City, San Francisco and Wayne County, Mich. However, this type of event is extremely popular in South America. The event originated in Colombia–every Sunday and holiday, the main streets are rid of all cars, so that citizens can use any other forms of transportation. From 7 am to 2 pm, runners, skaters and cyclists are known to take over the streets.

As part of this resolution, the City Manager will work with the community to build this event, but to also encourage future event of this nature that will encourage public health and cycling.

Currently, there are no plans as to an official site where the event will take place or how much road will be cut off for the event.

First, they need to round up volunteers and get help from neighborhoods, says Nadia M. Barrera, Bicycle/Pedestrian Project Coordinator.

What do you think about this event? I can see the traffic already! Let me know in the comments!

Cassandra writes about fitness in pop culture and north Austin. If you have suggestions let her know in the comments or email her: CassandraHdz AT

Celebrity Body Comebacks

November 21, 2009

Even if we love them or hate them, celebrities are prominent in our culture. When we see their pictures in magazine or advertisements, we may  try to aspire to be as skinny or as muscular as them, as they can be viewed as our standard of beauty. But what kind of pressure does that mean for celebrities? If they decide to indulge and gain five pounds, it can have a drastic effect on their image. In this post, we are going to look at celebrities who have gained weight in the public eye and then bounced back by becoming healthy. Let’s look at how they did it.

Alanis Morissette

After Alanis’s break-up with Ryan Reynolds in 2007, the musician went to work on a new album and lost sight of her weight. She went through a stretch where she was extremely self-indulgent but it did not start after the break-up. Alanis’ history with her weight began when she was 17 and an record executive told her she needed to lose weight if she wanted to succeed in the spot light. At that age, she took extreme measures to lose weight–eating disorders.

At 35, however, she took a different route to lose the weight. She credits Eat to Live, a book that promises to show you how to lose a radical amount of weight and to keep it off by comprising your diet of nutritionally dense food. She embarked on a mostly vegan diet–she cut out all meat and loaded up on beans, greens, fruits and tofu.

The singer said in an interview with People, “I’m eating like an adult rather than like a 7-year-old at a candy store,” she says. “Now, around food, I can be trusted.”

Along with better eating habits, she incorporated different fitness routines through sports. She now indulges in kickboxing, yoga, dancing and has just completed her first marathon.

As a girl, I understand the pressures that females feel to look their best. Sometimes, we lose sight that it could be hard to guys as well.

Seth Rogen

Many people have seen Seth Rogen in some of the funniest movies of these past couple of years–Knocked Up and Zack and Miri Make a Porno to name a few. In these films, Seth is explicitly portrayed as the “chubby, funny guy.”

He seems to poke fun at himself a bit in a scene from “Funny People” below.

Although being overweight did not hurt his reputation as it may have a female, when he started doing a press tour for movie Observe and Report, he appeared to be much slimmer. Reports at the time said he lost weight for the role of The Green Hornet–a far cry from his usual comedian role. As an action figure, the weight loss was necessary.

Unlike Alanis, Rogen is not as thrilled with his transformation. “I’ve been eating better and training – and hating myself for it. I feel like a sell out, I feel lame, I feel like a guy I would make fun of,” said Rogen.

So how did he lose up to 40 pounds for his role?”Its the lamest answer ever. I eat well and exercise.” Rogen told E! news. Seth has also incorporated strength training. But does he plan to keep the weight off after he is done with the role?  Nope, the funny man says it will probably be a “matter of hours” before the weight is back on.

So what do you guys think about celebrities in their weight loss? Do some inspire you or do you just not care?

Cassandra writes about fitness in popular culture and north Austin. If you have suggestion please comment below or send her an email at

Fitness in Pop Culture: The Biggest Loser

November 12, 2009

There seems to be a surge of research each year that shows the astronomical numbers for obesity in America. As someone who is reading this blog in particular, you know these numbers and how if someone would like to lose weight–it is not something that just happens over night. Losing weight not only takes work, but it is altogether a change of lifestyle.


In 2004, NBC launched “The Biggest Loser”, a reality television show that centers around overweight contestants who fight for a cash prize by losing the most weight. Whoever loses the most not only gains the title of the “biggest loser” but also wins $250,000.

With a prize this high, the contestants do not have it easy, they have to go through many hurdles including challenges, temptations, weigh-ins and eliminations until the final contestant remains to claim the title.

The contestants live on a secluded ranch for 12 weeks (with their own gym that 24 Hour Fitness built), two trainers (Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels), and a supportive group of people in their fellow “losers” to help them lose the weight. After they have reached the 12 week period, three contestants go to the finale, which is after they have been in the “real world” with no trainers and no designated schedule for three months.


Erik Chopin, Winner of Season Three of "The Biggest Loser" source:

There are skeptics to the way the contestants lose weight being applicable to the real world because the contestants work out for four to six hours everyday. But the show’s point is simple: diet and exercise alone (without extra supplements or surgeries) can/will lead to dramatic weight loss.

Trainer Bob: “This isn’t just a reality television show. This is about eight people’s lives and about our lives too.”

Although this show does have a good message and has valuable information for the viewers such as diet and exercise tips, it is still a reality show and they have to bring the drama. For example, in last night episode (week nine), there were seven contestants left when they threw the curve ball that there would be two separate contestants leaving instead of the usual one. The first person that would go home is the one that had the lowest percentage of weight loss compared to everyone else, and the second would be voted off.

During the commercials,  Bob Harper provides trainer tips to help viewers make small changes in their lives that might help them lose weight. For example: many people forget to monitor their caloric intake in beverages, one way to do so is to not drink them. There are 2.5 servings of in this 20 oz. bottle of juice, that means it contains 20 to 30 grams of sugar per serving which is more than a can of soda. Although this is something small that you can do in your life, it is a small step that can help people become part of the lifestyle.

The contestants who went home last night were Daniel Wright and Shay Sorrells.


Shay has lost 152 lbs since start of Biggest Loser

With a starting weight of 476 pounds, Shay was the heaviest contestant ever on the show. “I lost 100 pounds in nine weeks…I won my life back,” says Sorrells on Jay Leno last night in the video below. “The last time I was this weight was when I was a sophomore in high school.”

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What do you guys think, does this show motivate you to keep up with your exercise routines? Let me know in the comments!

The Biggest Loser airs Tuesdays at 7 p.m on NBC.

Stephanie McDonald: Owner and SW Boot Camp Coach

November 10, 2009

I talked to Stephanie McDonald, owner of Austin Adventure Bootcamp about her experience in fitness and what inspires her to achieve her goals everyday as she holds bootcamps for women across Austin.


Stephanie McDonald, owner of Austin Adventure Bootcamp

Here were my questions for Stephanie:

What is your history with fitness and sports?

My initial inspiration for fitness came at the age of 15 when I stumbled across a women’s bodybuilding contest on television. From that moment on, I knew that I wanted to compete in bodybuilding and I aspired to achieve a strong feminine muscular physique like Cory Everson, the reigning Ms. Olympia at that time. This passion was new and exciting for me as I grew up in a family where the women were not very athletic. I began weight training with some of the football players in our high school’s field house. I started by learning the basics and then through books and magazines, I expanded my knowledge. I continued weight training through college and throughout my twenties. However, it took me until the age of 31 to finally get up the nerve to step on stage in my first figure competition. That was it. I was hooked! I’ve been competing for about 5 years now and I’ve almost  earned my professional status in the sport, which would put me in the same bodybuilding federation as Cory Everson.

What drives your passion for fitness?

I’m driven by my desire to improve and push my body and mind. I really enjoy pushing the limits of my fitness level to see how my muscles will react. I know that if I put my mind into it and focus, I can accomplish anything. I keep telling myself this as I continue on my quest for my professional status. I’m also driven by the fact that I am a role model for my clients, my friends, and my family. So many women struggle with knowing what to do and having motivation when it comes to being fit and healthy; it is my passion to be able to help them achieve this.

What kind of fitness goals do you set for yourself?

I have been fortunate enough to accomplish my goal of competing as a nationally ranked figure competitor and my current goal is to achieve professional status in the IFBB. After that, I may move on to obstacle course challenges or triathlons. I find it’s easier to focus on fitness, when I set a goal event that I need to work towards. Plus there’s such a great feeling of accomplishment after I’ve completed an event, even if it’s just a 5K.

What is the best thing about your program for you emotionally?

I am so fortunate to have such great women in my boot camps! They are my inspiration, and in turn make me want to be a better fitness role model. The stories and emails that I receive month after month about the successes of our boot campers are so inspiring that I want to continue to do all I can in order to help them achieve their fitness goals.

What would you recommend for people to do to improve their workouts/eating habits outside of your program?

If I had to chose, I would recommend that people focus on their diet first. Eating a clean, healthy diet is important for so many obvious reasons; if you’re not eating clean, you’ll be hard pressed to see results regardless of your fitness routine. Jack Lalanne was once quoted as saying, “If God made it, eat it. If man made it, leave it.” That’s really good advice from someone who is exponentially more qualified than I am.

I want to thank Stephanie for taking out the time for this great interview. If you would like to learn more about her boot camp, or more about her please refer to her website.

Cassandra covers the North Austin beat. If you have any suggestions please email her at