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Foam Rollers: They Hurt So Good

Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

Foam rollers are an excellent tool for a group fitness class or personal training session, both for resistance training and for myofascial release (aka muscle release). In essence, a foam roller can be used both for a workout (especially for the core), and a self-massage, using your own body weight.

Quick kinesiology lesson

Don’t worry, nothing you can’t handle. The kinetic chain is made up of the:

  • soft tissue system (muscle, tendon, ligament, and fascia)
  • neural system (nerves and CNS)
  • articular system (joints)

All of these parts make up a whole that is interdependent. For example, muscle tightness restricts the range of motion that a joint may be moved (i.e., tight hamstrings can affect hip and lower back mobility). If you’re confused, please refer to this handy chart:

Foam rollers help with tension and release

Odd as it sounds, for a muscle to gain strength, the tissue has to receive enough stress to cause micro-tears. Once that’s occurred, you can help your muscles recover by using the foam roller to break up adhesions in the muscle tissue and/or fascia. When these “trigger points” are decreased, blood flow increases, which is good!

Alexandra: I like to use the foam rollers for myofascial release with my group fitness students every so often, mostly because I always get a laugh out of their moans and groans when they discover their tight iliotibial (IT) bands.

Kymberly: I admit up front that I love foam rollers! Roll, roll, roll in zee … Hey, that really hurts so good. (Insert silent scream here as I roll out my tight hammies and upper back. Did you get the movie reference I just made two sentences ago?)

Different than Operation: Find the Iliotibial Band

My, oh My, oh Myofascial Release

Alexandra:  I was starting to think it was about time to introduce the foam roller to this quarter’s “crop” of university students when I found out about an app called Roll Release Techniques, which has 100 different videos for using the foam roller for self-massage.


My feeling at discovering an app that I could take onto the teaching stage with me was something like this:

Release Me, Baby!


This app packs in 100 videos, more than 25 different muscle groups, and demos that show up to 4 different levels for each group. The creator of the foam roller app, Dr. Ryan Emmons, is the one demonstrating the moves, and it’s simple to use and follow. Tap the muscle you want, then tap the level you want (regression, main, progression or advanced). Simple to follow along; simple to use.

As a fitness instructor who doesn’t use foam rollers enough to know all the possibilities by heart, I found the Roll Release Techniques App super handy. For a fitness enthusiast at home who wants to get some quick myofascial release, it’s also super because there’s no need to know the names or function of any muscles; you can just tap the picture of the muscle you want to work.

Usually I’m a bit snobby particular about the fitness information I’ll purchase and use, but this app totally rocked and rolled; well, it rolled! As you can see by the facial expressions on my students’ faces in these pictures, foam rollers are an effective tool!








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Readers and Rollers: What fitness apps do you use?

FitFluential LLC compensated me for this Campaign. All opinions are my own. Alexandra used her own money to purchase this app because it was totally worth $2.99 to get all the video demos.

Photo credit: Man jumping  kreg.steppe



4 Fitness Grammar Mistakes

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

Good Grammar Makes a Difference Even in an Exercise Class

You’re in the group fitness room having a great workout. Suddenly, you are shocked out of your reverie and exercise vibe by a loud, jarring, no-way-to-hide-it Grammar Gaffe. Yes, your instructor (or maybe you?) just committed a workout world grammar No-No, oh-no-you-didn’t.  We can’t speak for you, but we can speak with well-constructed cues and sentences. And we think you deserve high level fitness instruction in every regard. Therefore, we hereby share our Top 4 Most Common and Easiest to Clean Up Fitness Grammar Boo Boos.

But first, some Quick Quiz Questions:

  1. Do you lie down or lay down?
  2. Should you raise up or rise up?
  3. Do you eat healthy or healthfully or healthily?
  4. Do you have a fitness regimen or regiment?
Professor's Trail to Good Grammar

Yes, I really was an English professor. Take a look at our About page and believe!

Kymberly: Whether you like it or not, good grammar makes a difference. For fitness pros, having good grammar increases credibility, confidence, and communication. For exercise participants, hearing perfect grammar goes unnoticed. As it should, because then you can concentrate on the class, workout, routine, cues, choreography, good form — all the things you came for.

Bad grammar cued on a microphone from a stage and amplified to a fitness class or gym is like a huge speed bump on the road to fitness. When bad grammar happens, you hit the speed bump and notice the uncomfortable ride. No longer are you focusing on the road (class content). Instead, your attention goes to the bump. So let’s muscle through this people and go for body and mind working together.

Grammar Gaffe One

In the present tense, the biggest misuse is with the verbs to lie and to lay. Let’s go Grammar Lite to get the Lay/Lie dilemma sorted out.

If NO noun (person, place, thing, idea, or concept) comes after the verb (action word), you are in LIE Land. (Liar; liar, workout pants on fire!)
“Please lie down.”
“Lie over here (<—- no noun alert) where there is room to lay your mat (<—- noun alert)  on the floor.”

If a noun is the word to come right after the verb, then use LAY.
“Lay your mats on the floor.”
“Lay your head on your mat.”

Grammar Gaffe Two

Could we make this easier? The confusion and solution are super similar to the Lie/Lay situation. Again, we are talking about present tense of verbs: to rise and to raise.
If a noun follows the verb, use RAISE.
“Raise your legs in the air as if you really care about good grammar everywhere.”
“Raise your hand if you are having an amazing workout experience in this class with excellent grammar cueing!”

No noun after the verb? Then hallelujah and RISE up.
“Rise and take a breath.”

(If Dan of the Les Mills CX Worx DVD series shouts out “Lay Down” one more time, I am going to put him on perma-mute. He seemed cute; I was willing to overlook the tattoos even. Bump, bump, bump, ouch, ouch, ouch. I just can’t take it anymore!)

Grammar Gaffe Three

A Healthy Person Eating Healthfully

Alexandra: When I hear or read, “I want to eat healthy,” I am always waiting for the rest of the sentence. My brain is waiting for the noun. “Healthy” what? Vegetables? Grains? Cakes, cookies, candies, pies and ice cream?

You can say “I want to hang out with healthy people,” or “I want to eat healthful foods,” or even “I eat healthfully.” See how two of the three take a noun? (I’d mess with you and talk about direct objects and the accusative case, but even I’d lose interest. (Too many years spent learning languages, yet my kids can’t seem to hear me in any language if chores are involved).

While we’re at it, “healthily” is an adverb, but even I know that no-one actually uses this word unless college exams are on the horizon!

Grammar Gaffe Four

This Regiment is doing their fitness regimen: Push-Ups

Do you have a fitness regimen or a fitness regiment? The first is a plan you follow on a consistent basis. The second is a whole bunch of military people, usually formed of several battalions. While your exercise regimen may sometimes feel like it’s a battle, you probably don’t have command of a regiment. Although, if they’re good-looking, that might be quite motivating! And if you tell me you “do a fitness regiment,” I’ll wonder if you’re a bit of an, um, er, slag active sexual partner!

Why should you care? Because the people or companies you might wish to work with care; your students care; and your high school English teachers care! We care too, as we want all our colleagues to sound as smart and professional as possible!

Someday we may even tackle the difference between “workout” and “work out.” Today is not that day!

Readers: Do you have a grammar pet peeve? Vent here.

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Photo Credits: CreativeCommons.orgDVIDSHUB (Regiment)


All Sizes Welcome: Fitness Pros Want YOU in their Classes and Clubs

Back in the early days of the fitness industry — yes, we mean the 1980’s, and yes, we were there — we as an industry made an achy breaky big mistakey. We geared ourselves to get the fit more fit. And that worked…. Just not for the unfit. Overweight, unfit, larger, older, “uncoordinated” people felt totally left out and threatened by gyms seemingly full of taut, toned, tight hard bodies flaunting their lean stuff. We know; we flaunted. But we never taunted, and that is an important point to keep in mind.

1980s Perfect

Perfection is Over-Rated

Fitness professionals and our beloved industry have changed. And not just out of tight-fitting lycra and midriff-baring spandex. We’ve changed to embrace, welcome, nay, even beg all sizes, shapes, ages, fitness levels to take part in an active world that genuinely cares about the health and happiness of everyone. You included!

We want YOU in our classes. We teach group classes because the people in them are the ginchiest and grooviest. And after more than 30 years of teaching, we can definitely say that almost everyone walks in to the exercise room for the first time with one thought in mind: “This is freakin’ scary!” How can we possibly know that? Because new students always come up and tell us. Not in those words. More like, “I haven’t worked out before. I can’t keep up with all these people. I don’t see anyone who looks like me. I don’t think I’ll last the entire time. I’m not coordinated.” These are the most common, but they all mean essentially the same thing.

I want THIS lady in my classes. She makes me feel happy!

People who teach group fitness do so because they love working with people. You are that person!  When you’re in the group fitness room, all you need is a willing attitude and desire to try your best. So take a deep breath, remind yourself that the people in the club were once just as scared as you, and step into the light with these tips in mind:

  • Start in a class! Why try to go it alone? Get thee to a group exercise workout that looks do-able and a good point of entry for your likes and goals. You will be surrounded by like-minded people, guided by a caring instructor, taught to move safely, and encouraged to find success at your pace;
  • Introduce yourself to the teacher as a newbie or returnee or nervous Nelly. You will get suggestions, reassurance, insights on what to expect, modifications at no extra cost to your wallet or ego! Such a deal!;
  • After class, have the instructor go over the group class schedule with you to recommend workouts right for you, your goals, your comfort level. We instructors love being asked for advice. Who knows the classes and types of people in them better than those who teach them? So take advantage of us as a resource and leave with your class schedule circled and underlined with options just right for you. Hint – if the class says “Kick Butt KickBox” you might want to leave that for later. Words like “Gentle,” or “Self-paced” or “Intro” may call your name.
  • Attend with a friend, which will offer you immediate community, a shared experience, and boosted adherence (like our pithy slogan: attend with a friend. Quote us.) Every study ever done in the entire history of the world forever and ever shows that exercising with a friend increases success and happiness.
  • Strike up a conversation with other class participants. These are your future friends and support group. They have been where you’ve been and are going where you are going. So why travel alone and anonymously?

Be aware that we (by “we” we mean all humans) tend to see what we are looking for. If you think you are going to hit the front desk and be whumped upside the eyeballs by “perfect bodies,” that is exactly what you will notice. If you can take a deep, yogic or aerobic breath and look again, you will notice something fabulous — “regular” people actually inhabit gyms. All ages, all sizes, all shapes, all kinds of fashion statements, all levels of everything. What they ALL have in common is a desire to avoid embarrassment; a desire to be healthier; to be more energetic; to be loved; to have friends; to have a low stress life; to enjoy their bodies more each day.

We leave you with a true and somewhat humorous story — in our 20s we taught at a small studio. The owner was one of those “ideal” bodies. And she was also beautiful and kind. Genetic Freak! A potential member came in to the studio to inquire about the classes. She took one look at the owner and remarked, “Oh, I could never look like that.” Then she spotted us. You wouldn’t run screaming from us, but we aren’t perfect. We are fun! Anyway, the woman pointed over toward us and said to the girl at the front desk, “But I could look like that.” So we have called ourselves the Attainable Goals ever since. We hope you’ll come be an attainable goal with us!

Readers: If you are new to exercise, what would it take to get you into the group fitness room? If you’re a regular exerciser, what could you do to make a new person feel included?

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA



10 Reasons to Become a Fitness Instructor

There you were, shaking your groove thang in your group exercise class, anticipating your instructor’s next move, when you suddenly had that thought which comes to every participant eventually – “Hmm, I bet I could do that!  How hard can it be to teach group exercise? Shoooore does look enticing.”

Poodle Aerobics

This is the Perfect Hairstyle for New Instructors

In deference to your career (or hobby) musings. we thought we’d share some of the reasons you should consider becoming an instructor (definition: person who puts on music and a microphone and leads a group of people in movement).

1. You get paid to work out – Yup, every time you teach, you get money. Sa-weeet deal. This would probably not be a good time to mention that some places do not actually pay as they firmly believe you should teach for the love of it. Don’t fall for that trap – if you want to do something unpaid “just for the love of it,” become a parent. We do encourage a certain level of volunteering, but not in this way.

2. You get to meet lots and lots and lots of new people – And 99% of them are really kind and fun. Great news for extroverts, kinda scary for introverts. But even introverts can find a way to let their inner diva out. We’ve seen some kick-ass introverted indoor cycle instructors. If you do a good job, these people you meet will bring their friends to your class and you will become massively popular.

3. You can share your love of music and movement – All those dance and gymnastics lessons can be put to use, as you choreograph the freshest, finest dance-delicious classes ever known to the world of exercise. But don’t sing along on the microphone unless you have a tolerable voice. High kicks cannot save you if you make dogs cry.

4. You get personal satisfaction out of helping people improve their lives – This one is a big deal and supersedes all the other reasons. If you feel good when your students feel good, that’s good! Just ask James Brown ; he was a famous fitness instructor!

5. You will become a very consistent exerciser – You know, assuming you show up for your own classes on a regular basis. Subbing out a lot is lame. Getting paid is cool, but having a healthy, fit body is even cooler. And you’ll look hot. Cool and hot together.

6. You become a role model – Bonus points if you have children.

7. You get lots of positive attention – Yup, it’s all about YOU as long as you make it all about THEM! In other words, learn their names, know their goals, help them modify for their needs, be compassionate, be sincere, earn their respect and trust, give good advice that’s within your scope of practice, and interact. You can also stare in the mirror a lot if you like that kind of positive attention, as long as that mirror is at home in your bathroom.

8. Your social life will improve – Whether you’re single or partnered up, just take our word on this one. Can you say “flexible?”

9. You know the teacher is good – If you like people, enjoy leading, performing and educating, have essential knowledge of how the body works, hear the musical beat (for most formats), and have the ability to design an effective class, you are probably in good hands with yourself in charge!

10. It’s fun

What do you think? Are you ready to become an instructor? One place to start is with here: The American Council on Exercise, aka ACE.

Sign up to start "youthifying" today.

Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA