Tag Archives: personal training

How to Do a Pull Up: Step One


You’ve been wishing you were strong enough to do a pull up for ages.

You’ve thought about how you’re going to achieve your goal.

You’ve had a few days to get your plan and materials together.


Here’s STEP ONE: The Flexed Arm Hang


Hang for as long as you can (up to 10 seconds).  Drop down and repeat.

Aim for 8-10 repetitions.

And before you ask: yes, it’s okay to use a chair to get up into the hang position.  (Just watch out for it on the way down!)  You can also jump up into the hang position.  This first step is all about building strength in the biceps as you hold your body weight.

Leave a comment to let me know how it goes!


Aqua Yoga: Buoyancy and Balance

This is the first in a four-part series, posting weekly on Thursdays, to introduce concepts of Aqua Yoga.

I love the water– I love the feeling of floating and being free and light.  Being in the water allows me to both escape my body and come in very fine balance with it at the same time.  For that reason, aqua yoga provides me a way to play with buoyancy and balance in a way that a land-based mat yoga class does not.

Let’s dive right in and think about it.

When on land, balancing postures are some of the most physically challenging parts of yoga.  We must feel confident that we aren’t going to fall.

Scary!  I am so worried about falling that I can't keep my hips stacked or raise my leg to full extension.

Scary! I am so worried about falling that I can’t keep my hips stacked or raise my leg to full extension.

We must trust that we have the strength in our legs to hold our weight.  If we’re really good, we even try to concentrate of getting the alignment of the body correct so we can breathe deeply and experience the full expression of the asana.  But let’s be honest– most of us are working so hard just to hold the pose in whatever way we can that we are cutting short the experience we’re trying to achieve.

This Dancer looks pretty graceful, but I cannot hold this alignment for very long...and I'm certainly concentrating more on the physical work of the pose than the breath moving through me.

This Dancer looks pretty graceful, but I cannot hold this alignment for very long…and I’m certainly concentrating more on the physical work of the pose than the breath moving through me.

Enter buoyancy.

The water helps to alleviate much of the risk  of balancing postures.  First of all, who cares if you fall?  Rather than risking an injury, you just get wet.

With a little support from a noodle, I can feel confident in this more complete expression of Half Moon.

With a little support from a noodle, I can feel confident in this more complete expression of Half Moon.

Next, the water carries about 75% of your bodyweight when you are standing in chest-deep water.  That means less weight on your joints, and that can help you focus on the correct alignment of each body part.  It also translates into the ability to hold postures for much longer than on land.

All of this together means that you can hold a well-aligned pose long enough that you can breathe deeply and enjoy the full expression of the posture.  Without all of the gripping in the muscles due to lack of confidence and/or physical stamina, the ease of breath while in water flows freely.

Experimenting with balancing postures in the water is available to a wide population, especially to those people who lack confidence to try them on land. Whether you are obese or pregnant, practicing aqua yoga balancing postures is fantastic for their strength-building potential.

An aqua yogi at eIght-months pregnant, able to find Full Moon with the support of the water.

An aqua yogi at eIght-months pregnant, able to find Full Moon with the support of the water.

Now, don’t go thinking this means that balancing postures in the pool easy.  Because you are buoyant and gravity isn’t doing it’s thing to keep you on the floor of the pool, you are forced to concentrate on the rooting down in the base leg of the posture.  By bringing your focus to your foot, you can begin to think of how the posture is stabilized, then trace the alignment of the body up from that base.  Again, because you are not working so hard just. to.get.in.the.pose. you can turn your attention to alignment and breath.  This deeper level of inner focus that can be achieved in the pool will translate to a mat practice, too.

Three first-time aqua yogis playing with buoyancy and balance in Graceful Dancer.

Three first-time aqua yogis playing with breath, buoyancy and balance in Graceful Dancer.

Grab some noodles and get in to the pool.  Aqua Yoga can help you find your balance, both mentally and physically.

Good health and great happiness to you!

I teach Aqua Kriya Yoga classes and host private events in Austin.  Here’s a complete list of certified Aqua Kriya Yoga teachers.

Health at Every Size


I received an inquiry from a potential client a few months ago asking if my personal training philosophy was aligned with the Health at Every Size movement.  I had to admit that I had never heard of HAES, but I would investigate it and get back to her.

According to the website:

Health at Every Size® principles help us be at peace in our bodies, supporting people of all sizes in finding compassionate ways to take care of themselves. It includes the following basic components:

  • Respect, including respect for body diversity.
  • Compassionate Self-care
    • Eating in a flexible and attuned manner that values pleasure and honors internal cues of hunger, satiety, and appetite;
    • Finding the joy in moving one’s body and being physically active.
  • Critical Awareness
    • Challenges scientific and cultural assumptions;
    • Values body knowledge and people’s lived experiences.

— An edited excerpt from Body Respect: What Conventional Health Books Leave out, Get Wrong and Just Plain Fail to Understand about Weight, by Linda Bacon, PhD., and Lucy Aphramor, PhD, RD.

As far as making peace with body size and developing compassionate approaches to thinking about how we view and treat people of various body sizes, I wholeheartedly embrace the pro-tolerance message that recognizes that weight is not an indication of personal value any more than it is the sole contributor to a person’s health matrix.  Just like there are plenty of people who are considered “normal weight” who lack fitness, people with larger than socially-accepted body sizes can have a positive health profile.

As a personal trainer, my job is to support people on their wellness journey. Fitness is one of the components of a healthy lifestyle, but it is only part of the puzzle.  Sound nutrition, quality sleep, and maintaining a low-stress outlook on life also contribute to overall wellness and good health.  Knowing that my primary role is to help people build healthy habits through meaningful exercise, I want to support people of any size.

I’m pleased to say that I have been working with the woman who introduced me to HAES since May, and she is determined to create a healthier lifestyle for herself.  Incorporating regular exercise into her week and intentional movement into each day, these habits are building blocks to greater wellness.  Like anyone beginning a new exercise program, she is reaping internal health benefits through the increased workload on her body.  Whether or not this translates into a change in body size isn’t the point– it’s that going up and down stairs and taking the dog for a walk are now pleasurable activities that help her to feel vital and strong.

Fat shaming may be popular– particularly in the media– and even seen as en vogue in certain social circles.  But if we truly care about people as individuals, we must see them for who they are and value their health, just as we do our own.

I urge you to read through the Health at Every Size website and sign the pledge!

Good health and great happiness to you.

Planning for Summer

On Monday I admitted that it’s been kind of a bummer of a winter for me, training-wise.  That can mean only one thing: I’m starting to look ahead to summer!

Summer in Austin is brutal.  There are no two ways about it.  We are talking surface-of-the-sun hot for a solid two months (if we’re lucky) and just plain miserable for three months.  But there are ways to get yourself ready to endure the heat beast.

Right now is a good time to set a late-spring training goal.  Maybe you’re looking at a 10K or a sprint triathlon?  Peak season for shorter distance road racing and sprint tris is May and June, so it’s time to start putting training plans in place if you have those goals.  For most people, a 12-week training effort will yield best results, as that is enough time to get you tuned up for your event, but it’s not so long that you lose focus or get yourself injured from overtraining.

Maybe you want to set yourself a goal of a destination-event during your summer vacation.  Again, now is the time to start surfing online to find out what is available.  Or you can do what my family did growing up, and plan the vacation around the race!  It’s a good way to keep yourself motivated, and having a race involved adds another layer of anticipation to the already-exciting reward of going on vacation.  This anticipation adds to the happiness you feel regarding the event, so it’s like you’re getting a double-dip of mental boost from the exercise.

Perhaps your summer goals may be about trying something new.  Maybe you want to go for a swim in a variety of local pools and swimming holes.  As always, the more planning and prep work you do now, the more likely you are to achieve your goal later.  I can say from experience that if you live in Central Texas, this is a really fun summer goal– and it’s one the whole family gets to enjoy.

There’s always a logistical element to planning ahead (duh!), but getting all the puzzle pieces to fit together is part of the fun for me.  Right now I’m juggling my swim lesson schedule, family vacation time, boys going to soccer camp, childcare for The Stowaway, and a number of as-yet-unknown variables for Summer 2014.  But I also know that I’m starting to plot out my strategy for starting marathon training in July (yes, you read that right!), as I’m still hoping to get in to the NYC Marathon this November.  As that is my big fitness goal for the year, I find it easiest to put it on the calendar and work backwards from that date.

All of this means I have a lovely few months ahead of me to do some new things.  More about that in the next post!

Do you have summer plans yet?  Do they involve fitness goals?

Gifting Fitness

This wasn’t the blog post I had planned to write for today, but I’ve received several inquires after my series about gift-giving for fitness friends and family

You good people out there want to know how you can give the gift of fitness by giving Balance Virtual Bootcamp membership to a loved one.

Here’s the deal:

  • The next 8-week session of Balance Virtual Bootcamp kicks off Monday, January 6th.
  • Each participant will receive workouts Mon/Wed/Fri (with exercise descriptions and links to demo videos) and have access to a private Facebook page for support.
  • Workouts can be done at home with minimal equipment, and each workout can be adapted to suit a wide range of fitness levels.
  • Registration is $50.

If you’d like to gift a registration, please contact me: karen @ balancepft.com (no spaces).  I’ll invoice you via PayPal and send along and enrollment information that you can give your giftee.

Easy peasy!

(If you have more questions about Balance Virtual Bootcamp, check out the FAQs or send me an email!)

Interested in a more personalized approach?  If you live in Austin, I’d be happy to work with you one-on-one.  My in-home personal training services are a fantastic gift for yourself or someone you love.  I also do small group training if you’d like to work out with your spouse or best friend.   Mother/Daughter pairs have become a big part of Balance in the last few years, and it’s so fun to work with them and watch them bond over healthy activity.

If you’re not in Austin but think having the personalized direction of your workouts would benefit you, check out my virtual training services.

I appreciate your support and interest in my services.  It’s such a blessing to get to do work that I love which brings fun and fascinating people into my life.

Good health and great happiness to you!


Get EQUIPped!

For the last eight months, I’ve been working like crazy.  In addition to my personal training clients, prenatal classes, Aqua Kriya Yoga classes, Balance Virtual Bootcamp, and blogging, I’ve been developing an entirely new program.

In February I launched EQUIP Fitness Business Development out of a desire to share my passion and knowledge of running a real-world fitness biz.  I’ve enjoyed getting to know other fitness pros as well as people who have been thinking about making the entrepreneurial leap.  One of my services is a phone coaching session where people “Pick My Brain,” and together we try to clarify their hopes and dreams for becoming a fitness entrepreneur.

But  Monday September 30th is the date I’ve been working toward all year. Next Monday the first cohort of fitness pros kick off Strong-Skilled-Smart, EQUIP’s signature business development program.  In just six weeks, we’ll walk step-by-step through the process of envisioning and launching a viable independent fitness business.  I’m so excited for what’s in store.

I still love my clients, both those I see in-person and those I know only online.  But the former college professor in me was itching to get back to some teaching, and Strong-Skilled-Smart is a way for me to do that and help others reach their dreams.

If you’re interested in enrolling for the inaugural offering of Strong-Skilled-Smart, it’s not too late!  REGISTER NOW to grab your virtual seat!

Aqua Kriya Yoga is Here!

2013-06-09 09.04.32

What a glorious weekend!

I spent all day Saturday and Sunday at a training certification to become an Aqua Kriya Yoga instructor.  The weekend was one of peace, thoughtfulness, intentional movement, joy, and just plain fun.  I am so excited to bring aqua yoga to the Balance Personal Fitness Training community.

Aqua yoga hopes to bring  to the pool the breath and body awareness that so many enjoy through a practice on a sticky mat.  This wellness modality appeals to populations who have mobility issues as well as those who appreciate the healing sense of the water.  With my experience and love of working with prenatal women, I am looking forward to having pregnant women experience the buoyancy and stability of the water.   As someone who has labored in the water with all three of my children and birthed two of them into the water, I believe pregnancy, breath, water, and movement are a natural combination.

Spending the weekend with a group of ten women in an exploration of this new application of yoga was a powerful reminder of the energy that women have when they gather.  Aqua yoga is incredibly empowering– especially for people who have been intimidated by traditional yoga– and moving through the poses in the water and in the company of other women sparks instant community.  I envision leading classes at women’s retreats, girl’s night in, or with neighborhood moms groups.

The training was led by (Swami) Camella Nair, a well-respected yogi and the guru of aqua yoga.  Camella’s teaching style is a beautiful blend of yogic philosophy, practical application for working with students, and a healthy dose of reality.  For someone like me whose experience with yoga comes from a fitness angle rather than a spiritual or mystic avenue, Camella was welcoming, accepting, and inspiring.  I am honored to walk in her footsteps and spread the goodness of Aqua Kriya Yoga.

For details about my upcoming classes (starting THIS THURSDAY!) or hosting a private class, please see my brand new Aqua Kriya Yoga page on my website.

Good health and great happiness to you!