bench press

Need some assistance with FREE WEIGHTS and FUNCTIONAL MOVEMENT?

Watch these how-to videos if you are just starting out, OR if you are an experienced weightlifter hoping to correct or check your form!

Check out VIM’s Free Weights & Functional Movement Series – Each week we’ll post a video demonstrating a new move. First up, BENCH PRESS!

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[slideshow gallery=”3290,3231,3230″ width=”402″ align=”left”]Read on to get to know her:

Amy received her certification from the American Academy of Personal Training (AAPT). She also graduated from the University of Massachusetts Boston with a BA in English and a minor in dance.

Coming from a professional dance background and after a series of painful injuries (tear in ACL and hip, fractured sesamoid), her training methods focus on proper alignment and body awareness combined with high intensity workouts. More importantly, she emphasizes injury prevention and facilitated stretching. Amy believes that training, or “getting into shape,” should not only include nutrition and exercising, but also developing a positive mindset and outlook on life.

When she’s not teaching or sweating it out in the gym, Amy spends the rest of her time in the studio. She is blessed to be dancing with several Boston and Cambridge-based companies.

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Want more variation in your workout? Exercises performed with kettlebells are a great way to shock your muscles into growth while improving power and explosiveness from the ground up!

Check out VIM’s Kettlebell Video Series – Each week we’ll post a video demonstrating a new kettlebell move. Next move, KB Side Bend!

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autumn quinoa salad

Autumn Quinoa Salad
Recipe adapted from Blue Zones

It’s finally starting to feel like fall again! Which means I’m getting ready to start cooking warm, fall foods. For me that means cinnamon, root vegetables, squashes and cranberries. It does NOT have to mean you throw away your summer diet! It’s still just as easy to find healthy fall foods as is is to enjoy the fresh fruits and veggies of summer.

What’s in season in Massachusetts at this time of year? Here’s a quick list:

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Broccoli raab
Brussels sprouts
Celeriac/celery root

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Peas and pea pods
Peppers (sweet)
Shelling beans
Squash (winter)

I have no idea how to use escarole, so if you have any ideas, let me know! I’m going to focus today’s blog on an autumn recipe that involves the nutrient-dense, ancient grain: quinoa. Why is quinoa so great? It’s a high protein whole grain, which can actually make you live longer. By eating 90 grams of whole grains a day, you can reduce your risk of mortality by 17%! Crazy!

autumn quinoa saladHere’s what you need to make this delicious autumn quinoa salad:

  • 1 1/2 cup quinoa
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 2 green onions, minced
  • 1 carrot, shredded
  • 1 cup frozen green peas, thawed
  • 1 (15.5-oz.) can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup unsalted roasted peanuts
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley

So how do you do it?

  1. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan. Add the quinoa and salt to taste. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, cover and cook until the water has been absorbed, about 12 minutes.
  2. Remove from the heat and transfer to a large bowl. Stir in the green onions, carrot and peas, and set aside to come to room temperature.
  3. Add the beans, peanuts, cranberries, oil, vinegar and parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper and toss to combine.
    *Variation: Substitute cooked brown rice for the quinoa, or a different type of nut in place of the peanuts.

That’s it! It’s great hot or cold, so feel free to use the extras as leftovers the next day.


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Want more variation in your workout? Exercises performed with kettlebells are a great way to shock your muscles into growth while improving power and explosiveness from the ground up!

Check out VIM’s Kettlebell Video Series – Each week we’ll post a video demonstrating a new kettlebell move. Next move, KB Dead Snatch!

Read more

For years, artificial sweeteners have been promoted as safe ways to cut calories and aid in weight loss.

The logic is simple: since obesity has been linked to diabetes, artificial sweeteners must also help with diabetes prevention. However, a new study shows they could actually increase glucose intolerance by changing the composition and function of gut bacteria. The findings were supported by experiments in both mice and humans performed by the Weizmann Institute of Science. They claim, “the widespread use of artificial sweeteners in drinks and food, among other things, may be contributing to the obesity and diabetes epidemic that is sweeping much of the world.”

A little history…

Most studies linking sugar to health problems have been highly criticized because the government subsidies corn, which is used to make high fructose corn syrup, and ends up in most processed foods. Also, major corporations feel threatened because they know the sugar content in their products are far more than what’s healthy.

Despite protests, the World Health Organization released draft guidelines last year that halved the recommended maximum added sugar intake (10% of daily calories to 5% of daily calories, 200 to 100 calories for a 2000 calorie diet). In response, the International Council of Beverages Associations, whose members include The Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, released the following statement:

“ICBA is disappointed that the WHO has confirmed the conditional recommendation suggesting a further reduction of the intake of free sugars to below 5 percent of total energy intake, as it does not reflect scientific agreement on the totality of evidence…we will continue to offer innovative ways to help consumers to achieve calorie balance through smaller portion sizes, no- and low-calorie beverages and transparent, fact-based nutrition information.”

For companies like Coca-Cola, the solution to the attack on sugar is to replace sugar with artificial sweeteners. Many people think if there are no calories, there is no harm.

But is there?

There is confusion over why the use of artificial sweeteners has not been aiding in weight loss. Some studies even show opposite effect. Another interesting fact worth noting is that overweight people often have different bacteria in their intestines than slim people do, but it is not clear what the link is & whether or not bacteria somehow cause obesity or diabetes. However, it has been found that even though artificial sweeteners do not contain sugar, they still directly affect the body’s ability to metabolize glucose. More specifically, they can lead to glucose intolerance: the inability of the body to cope with large amounts of glucose, the first step towards diabetes.

Now Let’s Get Sciencey!

In an experiment led by Dr. Eran Elinav of the Weizmann Institute of Science’s Department of Immunology, and Prof. Eran Segal of the Department of Computer Science and Applied Mathematics, mice were given water laced with 1 of 3 types of sugar substitutes (aspartame, saccharin, sucralose), water, or water with sugar.

It was found that those given artificial sweeteners developed glucose intolerance, while the others did not. Next, the researchers killed the mice gut bacteria with antibiotics, and found it reversed the effects (the mice were no longer glucose intolerant). When they transferred gut bacteria that had been grown outside of the mice in the presence of artificial sweeteners into healthy mice, the healthy mice developed glucose intolerance.

But enough with mice. Let’s talk humans!

In an elaborate study called the Personalized Nutrition Project, it was found that there was a significant association between reported consumption of artificial sweeteners, gut bacteria, & glucose intolerance.

They also performed a controlled experiment with volunteers who did not regularly consume artificial sweeteners. They asked them to consume them for a week, then tested their glucose levels and gut microbiota. It was found that some, but not all, had begun to develop glucose intolerance. This was because there were 2 different populations of human gut bacteria: one induced glucose intolerance when exposed to sweeteners, and one with no effect either way.

Dr. Elinav believes certain bacteria in guts of those with glucose intolerance reacted to chemical sweeteners by secreting substances that caused an inflammatory response similar to a sugar overdose, promoting changes in their ability to use sugar.

Wow. Heavy Stuff.

The only real solution to health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity is healthy eating and exercise.

The current American diet is not healthy, and metabolic diseases will continue to be a concern until Americans drastically alter their lifestyle. Artificial sweeteners are not the solution to sugar, sugar is not even the problem. The problem is the quantity in which sugar is consumed because it is in practically everything! And the current recommended added sugar intake is not labeled as a percent daily value on nutrition facts. And as long as major food corporations have the money and legal ability to influence government policy, there will be little change in the regulation of sugar and artificial sweeteners in foods.

So what should you do?

If you haven’t read my last blog post, you should. Because you’ll learn ALL about what “healthy” really means. Eat plants, eat whole, REAL foods, not ones made in a lab with 10 billion ingredients that you can’t pronounce. I’m a proud host to a healthy gut bacteria population! Besides, real sugar tastes good. Just don’t eat too much.

Want more variation in your workout? Exercises performed with kettlebells are a great way to shock your muscles into growth while improving power and explosiveness from the ground up!

Check out VIM’s Kettlebell Video Series – Each week we’ll post a video demonstrating a new kettlebell move. Next move, KB Single Leg RDL!

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Good question.

It seems like in the past few decades, this question has become harder and harder to answer. With new research and the ease of accessing and publishing information (both true and false), “healthy” has become one of the most ambiguous terms out there. To clarify, let’s review a quick definition:

Healthy: free from disease or pain : enjoying health* and vigor of body, mind, or spirit

*So… what is health? Another definition for ya:


  1. the condition of being sound in body, mind, or spirit :  freedom from physical disease or pain : the general condition of the body

  2. a condition in which someone or something is thriving or doing well

I don’t know about you, but the concept of a “healthy” diet still seems pretty unclear to me. Based on these definitions, “healthy” food should make me “thrive,” and benefit me physically, mentally and spiritually. I certainly love chocolate, though I can’t say that I have a spiritual connection to the stuff. So how do we determine what a healthy diet really is?

I think most people might reference fruits and veggies, which is certainly a good place to start. Most Americans don’t get enough of these crucial food groups. But that’s not the only part of a “healthy” diet. Another good resource for understanding healthy food is the government issued My Plate. I’m not an adamant subscriber (obviously, I don’t drink milk and I find the pictures too unspecific for my taste), but for the general public it can be a great resource for getting started.

But here is my interpretation.

Eat plants. This includes fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds. Eat lots of them, and try to keep them as “whole” as possible. This means avoiding their processed counterparts – but NOT like the plague! Part of a healthy diet, in my opinion, is being mindful about how much you are eating as well as what. That doesn’t mean restricting anything at all. If you eat a lot of cookies, cut back. But you don’t need to eliminate your favorite foods to be healthy. That would be neglecting the mental (and maybe spiritual) aspects of health.


With that said, if you like to drink milk and eat meat, by all means, go for it. Just maybe not all the time, and opt for lean and local sources. Read ingredients. Watch portion sizes. Experiment with foods and flavors and see how each makes you feel. You may notice that eating certain foods make you feel better (and happier!) than others, and not just in the moment of eating them.

I know that may not be very specific, but I don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all approach to diet. Our bodies respond differently to different foods, and we all have various lifestyles, activity levels, cultural habits and genetics. Find what works for YOU as an individual! Eat your plants and move your body, and choose everything in moderation. You’ll likely turn out alright.

If you have more questions about nutrition, feel free to send me an email! I’m happy to talk about more specific topics or address any curiosities you may have.

Email Sarah with questions or comments:

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Want more variation in your workout? Exercises performed with kettlebells are a great way to shock your muscles into growth while improving power and explosiveness from the ground up!

Check out VIM’s Kettlebell Video Series – Each week we’ll post a video demonstrating a new kettlebell move. Next move, Half Kneeling KB Press!

Read more