by Jenny Gaal, Fitness Director


Every day we run into tons of different nutrition recommendations….What are we to believe? Some of these claims offer us good advice, while others seem to have more agenda than truth behind them. A few tips to consider while figuring out just what is actually healthy.

  1. Unhealthy foods are often packaged and marketed to appear healthy. Shiny packages and entertaining commercials certainly do their job to burn brand images and healthy claims into our brains, but buyer beware…low fat, low calorie, low sodium, cholesterol free, and various claims are often nothing more than marketing. Stick to the produce section next time you shop for groceries.
  2. Eating out a lot will kill your healthy diet goals. Good nutrition habits, after all, require dedication, and sacrifice. Make a point to plan ahead or don’t be bashful to make special requests in restaurants.Reduce total carb intake too- A low carbohydrate diet is no fad. The first low-carb diets have been part of almost every popular and effective weight loss diet book in the last several decades. Every time you’re instructed to reduce sugar intake and eat more veggies – as in the South Beach Diet, Mediterranean Diet, American Diabetes Association Diet, American Heart Association Diet or DASH Diet (to name a few) – you’re most likely following a lower carbohydrate dietary lifestyle.
  3. Find what works for you! The key to maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle is finding the smart food choices and exercise that you can commit to not what might work for someone else or claims to be the best new breakthrough.
  4. Reduce sodium intake. There should be no more than 2000mg of sodium per day in your diet. Take a look at the nutritional label next time you make a reach for a bag of processed foods-you maybe surprised. Excess sodium effects more than just water retention and high blood pressure.

by Jenny Gaal, Fitness Director


Did you know that getting an hour of activity a day can improve your children’s health and help instill good behaviors. Developing a love of exercise in children remains especially important because the Centers for Disease Control estimates that 17 percent 2- to 19-year-olds — 12.7 million youths — are obese.

It can be tough to incorporate exercise in between school and homework.  However, there are fun ways to add in extra activity. Here are some tips to help encourage adequate physical activity:

  1. Make exercise a family activity. The entire family should take a walk, play basketball or ride their bikes after dinner, for example.
  2. Add activity to daily tasks. Is the grocery store, book store or a favorite restaurant within walking distance? Try walking instead of hopping in the car.
  3. Try a new class. Football, soccer or swim teams do not work for every child. But gymnastics, martial arts, dance or yoga classes can get children moving.
  4. Mandate tech-free time. Ask children to step away from their gadgets for an hour a day and encourage them to use this time to be active. Even something like an hour of tag can make a difference.
  5. Model good behavior. Lace up those running shoes, pull out the yoga mat or hop on the bike. Children who see their parents being active are more likely to be active themselves.


Reduce Stress

by Jenny Gaal, Fitness Director

As a mom, it’s hard enough keep up with exercise without all the added stress thrown in. Here are eight ways to maintain your fitness and your sanity throughout the craziness of back-to-school season.


  1. Manage Your Stress

I’ve found doing an activity every day, just for the sake of enjoyment, is one of the best ways to minimize stress. Before the school year starts, sit down and make a list of ten activities you enjoy. Here are some examples…. exercise, yoga, dancing, hot bath with essential oils and magnesium salts, reading a book or magazine.  Every day, try to fit in at least one of these things for a minimum of thirty minutes.

  1. Eat Food You Like

A healthy diet won’t be sustainable if you don’t enjoy the food you eat. During this busy time of year, it can become even easier to slip into bad eating patterns.  Instead, practice moderation while slowly incorporating healthier food options.  There are plenty of delicious and nutritious foods out there, so don’t settle for bland and boring just because it’s good for you.

  1. Play With Your Kids

It shouldn’t be hard to play with your kids, but sometimes it can be difficult to go from get-things-done mode to play mode. Challenge yourself to make that transition once a day. Losing yourself in play and forgetting about all the things that need to be done will go a long way in easing anxieties and worries you might have. I also find taking breaks throughout the day to play with my kids brings a new and refreshing perspective when I come back to my work.  Physical play presents some opportunities to get in a few exercises with your kids as well.

  1. Move Some Weight

I am amazed at how many moms I come across who don’t engage in some type of resistance training. That can mean anything – bodyweight exercise, kettlebells, or Olympic lifts. Not only is moving weight around regularly good for your health – bone and joint health in particular – but it also relieves stress. It doesn’t have to complicated and require a lot of equipment, either.

  1. Stock Your Home Gym

You might intend to make it to the gym three days a week once the kids are in school, but that’s often easier said than done. Set yourself up for success by investing in equipment for use at home.

  1. Walk Every Day

Walking is an easy activity to do every day.  Walking helps balance the pelvis and relieve stress. It’s also something you can do anywhere, with or without your children. Aim to walk briskly for at least thirty minutes.

  1. Sleep Whenever Possible

Sleep-need I say more… If possible, take naps during the day with your younger children. Go to bed at least eight hours before you need to wake up. That way, even if your kids keep you up for two hours at night, you’ll still get in a minimum of six hours of sleep.

  1. Set Goals and Reward Yourself

Having small-scale goals that fit into the big picture is a helpful way to make sure you accomplish the things that are most important to you.  This applies to all aspects of life, especially fitness!  And don’t forget to reward yourself when you achieve your goals.


`HUg for gymnast

by annejosephson on JAG GYM Blog

Parents love their kids.

Parents want to see their kids do well in school, music, the arts or sports—whatever their child decides to pursue.

So it follows that parents want to help their child succeed.

But if help that involves coaching your child at home or requiring her to do conditioning or flexibility training not prescribed by her coach, no matter how well-intentioned, is not a good idea.

First, it’s not your role in that very important parent-coach-athlete triad. You are not the coach (unless you are the gymnastics coach, but even then the division between the gym and home needs to be clear, so this still applies).

Second, the gymnast it can be confused hearing corrections that are counter to what the coaches tell her. Not to mention it can build up resentment in the gymnast who just wants home to be home.

Finally, it can be downright dangerous. Unlike a sport like basketball or soccer, where it is perfectly fine to shoot some hoops or go kick the ball around after dinner, gymnastics performed at home can injure your child quite severely. No matter how excited you child is to demonstrate her round-off back handspring for grandma, you are far better off catching it on your phone when she’s at the gym and playing it back for grandma.

All of this said parents still want to know (aside from driving and paying tuition and fees) how they can help their gymnast, and I think that is terrific. So I’ve come up with a list of 10 things that parents can do to support their athlete no matter the sport.

1.       Fill your athletes’ emotional bucket. The best part of the parents’ role, in my opinion, is the cheerleader. Lots of hugs, smiles and “way to go-s” are the privilege of being a parent. Even when they are teenagers, and they roll their eyes at your kooky thumbs up signs or constant “I love you”s deep down they both love and need it.

2.       Listen to your athlete’s stories about practice, frustrations, and fears with understanding and patience. Don’t try to solve them for her. Just listen. Sympathize and maybe ask a couple of questions, most importantly: How can I help?

3.       Nourish and hydrate your athlete. The fuel that goes into your athlete not only gives her the energy to make it through a demanding workout but also plays a major role in how she recovers from training.

4.       Make sure she gets sufficient rest. I know how difficult this one is. The demands on young athlete’s lives between training and school can make it impossible for them to get all the sleep they need. Nevertheless, do the best you can to make sure they are going to bed as soon as possible and give them space to get some extra sleep on nights off and weekends.

5.       Pay attention to her health, physical and emotional. If she complains of chronic pains, take her to the doctor. If a doctor recommends she stop or modify training, either get a second opinion from another doctor or follow the prescription. Make sure that she completes physical therapy. And if you notice dramatic shifts in her weight, anxiety or any other behavior that signifies emotional distress and get help immediately.

6.       Check in with her coaches as needed, but certainly every 8-12 weeks. A brief check in with her coaches to ask about your child’s progress is appropriate. It is an excellent time to inquire what you can do to support their work (i.e. does she need private lessons? New floor music etc.)

7.       Communicate any medical/emotional needs or family changes to the coach. While I advocate a gymnast navigating her relationship with the coach, when it comes to medical or emotional needs, this information is best delivered by the parents, preferably in writing. If the athlete has limitations, the coach needs to be made aware of that. If she is on medications, the coaches should know and be made aware of times meds might be changing to monitor any unusual behavior at the gym. If parents are separating or a grandparent is critically ill, these pieces of information are useful in the coaches supporting and understanding if the athlete is acting out. Not to mention, no coach wants to have a gymnast try a double back for the first time if she just discovered her parents are splitting up.

8.       Speak to the teachers/principal regarding your child’s gymnastics (if needed). Perhaps getting a dispensation for PE would allow your child to get some homework done, so navigate this with the school administration for your child. Or if, for instance, it would be helpful to get all her homework assignments on a Friday so she can get a head start over the weekend (and it is feasible for the teacher to do so), the parent should be the one to make this request. If the gymnast has to miss school for competitions or medical appointments, the parent can be helpful in informing the school and arranging the makeup work.

9.       Keep the other parts of the gymnast’s identity intact. When a child is heavily involved in a single activity, it can become very easy to be solely focused on that activity to the exclusion of all others. This does not create a well-balanced human being and can cause a major crisis if the athlete is forced to retire (or even if she decides it’s time to hang up her grips on her own). So make sure that other dimensions of your child are supported. Perhaps she also is an artist, singer or musician. Or maybe she is part of the Girl Scouts or a faith-based youth group. A good test is if every holiday gift and birthday gift relate to gymnastics, you need to do some re-thinking. And make sure she participates in your family’s life, including having chores like her siblings and occasionally going to their activities or games to show her support of them.  Ensure that she attends school events and has friendships with classmates.  Finally, make sure that there is time for your family to connect as a family.

10.   Make the experience fun. Get together with other parents to make the experience of being part of a team a fun one. If you have a pool, host a team swim party. Slumber parties. Meals together after meets. Making all the girls on the team good luck grams with other parents. Whatever you can think of, be the social facilitator with other parents to make happy memories outside the gym.

Did I miss any tips? What other suggestions would you add?


annejosephson | August 6, 2015 at 12:40 pm | Categories: Uncategorized | URL:

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by Jenny Gaal, Fitness Director


Football, cheer, soccer and all fall sports are starting to gear up for a fun season of sports.  A number of effective fitness training drills can be applied to the average person to get into great physical shape.  Strength, speed, agility and stamina are all areas to condition for any sport or overall fitness.   Here are five effective drills that we have incorporated into our Kids Performance Fit classes and Adult BootCamps programs at Fun & Fitness Gymnastics.   Easy enough to try at home to improve your performance or come check out a class!

  1. Tire Runs

Sprinting through tires laid in a zig-zag pattern will help to develop speed, agility, endurance and leg strength. Begin at one end of the tires, and step into each tire with one foot, one at a time. Do this as quickly as possible, making sure to lift your knee up high after stepping out of each tire to avoid tripping. Once you get to the end of the laid out tires, repeat the process by sprinting through the tires back to starting position.

  1. Shuttle Runs

Shuttle runs work on speed, endurance and lower body muscle strength. Shuttle runs involve gradually increasing the distance of each sprint. The best place to perform this is on an actual football field – or even a soccer field – with the yard lines marked off. Begin at one end of the field, and sprint 10 yards, then sprint back to starting position. The next sprint should be done for 20 yards and back, then 30 yards and back, and so forth. Make sure you touch the yard line with your hands before sprinting back to the start.

  1. Vertical Power Jumps

This activity develops power and muscle building in the legs. Vertical power jumps involve jumping as high as you can repeatedly with explosive power. Begin by standing upright, then slowly bend at the knees and hips. With all your force, propel yourself vertically into the air as high as possible. To get more out of the jump, drive your knees towards your chest when leaping. Do not rest between jumps. Instead, transition into each jump immediately upon descent. Repeat 10 to 20 times for a great leg work out.

  1. Box Jumps

This involves jumping up onto a large stable box approximately two to three feet high (depending on your height). Box jumps promote power and muscle building as the vertical power jumps do, but with a little variation. Begin by standing at the foot of the box, about eight inches away. Jump up onto the edge of the box, stand up straight, then jump back down to starting position. Repeat 10 to 20 times.

  1. Ladder Drills

The ladder drill encourages speed, agility, coordination and leg muscle strength. Use an imaginary ladder laid out on the ground. To make things simpler, draw a ladder pattern on the ground with some chalk to visualize the ladder. Begin by standing at the bottom of the ladder with your feet shoulder width apart. Step into the first square with your left foot first, then immediately with your right foot. Step on the outside of the second square with your left foot first, then your right foot on the other side of the square. Step back inside of the second square with one foot at a time, then back to the outside on the fourth square. Continue this pattern until you reach the top of the ladder, then run in a straight line back to starting position. The key is to make your steps as quick as possible to maximize the effectiveness of this football fitness training drill.