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Holiday Fitness Survival Guide 


By Dorene Internicola

NEW YORK, Dec 10 (Reuters) - Sticking to a fitness routine is not always easy, but holiday feasting, drinking and family can make it even harder.

'Tis the season, experts say, to bend your fitness routine so it does not break.

"Consider the holidays a time to maintain fitness, not a time to set new goals or be ambitious," said fitness expert Shirley Archer, author of "Fitness 9 to 5" and "Weight Training for Dummies."

The average American gains one pound (.45 kilograms) each year during the holiday season, Archer said, but it's a fate you can avoid by being active when time allows.

"Research tells us that you can get an effective strength training routine in as little as 15 minutes," she said. "This is not ideal to build strength over time, but is sufficient to keep what you have during the holidays."

A bare-bones cardio workout can be accomplished by fitting short, 10-minute bouts of activity into your holiday plans.

Danielle Hopkins, group fitness manager and instructor at an Equinox fitness center in New York City, tells her concerned clients to try to sweat at least 20 minutes a day.

"I stress the importance of keeping to your routine. The main thing is putting it on your calendar," said Hopkins, who said drinking too much makes it harder to make it to the gym.

"Always make room. It's pretty easy to do. If you're traveling, bring your running shoes, or a jump rope, or look for a gym."

And rest assured that one night of over-indulgence won't derail a year of work.

"Everyone's diet has a bit of wiggle room," she said. "I think it's good to imbibe a little, but be strategic about what you'll allow. Have a little bit."

Constantly avoiding holiday temptation is tiring and in the end unsustainable, according to Gregory Chertok, a sports psychologist with the American College of Sports Medicine.

When navigating holiday stresses, from family to poor food choices, Chertok, who is based in New Jersey, said a simple change in attitude can yield powerful results.

"Embrace challenge rather than avoid temptation," he said. "Avoidance over time can be pretty exhausting. Just like our physical muscles, our mental muscles can get exhausted. Will power requires replenishment."

He said studies show when people try too feverishly to control themselves, their will power wanes.

"There are ways to keep your will power at a strong level, such as staying away from overly restrictive diets, planning the occasional indulgence and eating small frequent meals," he added.

Surrounding oneself with people of similar health and wellness inclinations can also facilitate positive choices.

"We're influenced very powerfully by others' behavior," Chertok said.

He encourages his clients to allow for the occasional slip up. Being self-forgiving and self-compassionate leads to greater success.

"People who set strict goals will self-chastise, self-criticize," he said. "That doesn't allow for high performance or self esteem. As human beings, we take care of ourselves when we feel worthy of self care."

Trainer Tracy Anderson, whose fitness DVDs include "Metamorphosis" and "Mini-Trampoline Workout" stresses consistency.

"The most important thing is to become a consistent exerciser, where you go and have 30 minutes to one hour daily of focused work," she said. "That is the number one best thing we can be doing."

But her advice for people fretting about the holiday season is to feed your soul.

"One time a year is not toxic; in fact, it is the opposite," she said from her New York home.

"It feeds your soul so much that it helps your stress. I say eliminate the word diet from your vocabulary for three days before and after a holiday."

Archer echoes the sentiment and suggests enjoying the pleasures of the seasons.

"All too soon, your routine will return and you can hit your fitness program with renewed commitment and enthusiasm," she added. (Editing by Patricia Reaney and Andre Grenon)

Baytown Student Highlight— Chad Crow

What is your name and age?

Chad Crow, 37 

When did you join Elite MMA?

February 2012 

Why did you decide to start taking martial arts?

I have always wanted to try Jiu Jitsu after watching the first UFC tournaments.  Also it looked like a fun way to stay in shape. 

In the past what had caused you not to take martial arts?

Too busy with family and other activities 

Is this your first time taking martial arts and what classes do you take?

Yes this is my first formal classes to take.  I train Jiu Jitsu and Kickboxing. 

If you had any concerns about joining Elite MMA, what helped you with your decision?

Time was a concern, I am a shift worker and am off a lot during the week but with my sons getting a bit older and being off to school during the day, it freed up my afternoons. The flexible schedule particularly the noon class makes getting my training in on a regular basis achievable, especially when I am working night shifts. 

Since you have been part of Elite, please share what you have been able to accomplish?

From a physical standpoint my cardio and strength have increased along with learning how to defend myself. Jiu Jitsu especially does this because no matter how much you run or exercise (lifting weights) they can’t match the total body effort that is required during training.

From a mental standpoint I have watched myself and others grow in confidence as we each improve from month to month.

Anything else you want to share with someone who is looking to get involved with martial arts or looking to change their current lifestyle?

I have recommended Elite to many people due to the many great aspects and teaching that can be accomplished here.  The great family friendly atmosphere that is created makes anyone like myself who simply wants to try it out to ladies who want to learn basic self defense principles in a great environment.  Also the kids program is outstanding. The instructors Robert, Julian, and Matt do an outstanding job with kids, not only teaching them Jiu Jitsu, but also in building their confidence, along with teaching them how to be respectful to not only adults but other kids as well. 




Westheimer Instructor Highlight: Derrick Stenson

What is your martial arts teaching history and where do you currently teach?

I have spent most of my life in some form or fashion in martial arts. I started in Japanese Karate (1973) at the age of six and trained 4 years until I moved to Texas. I started in Tae Kwon Do in (1977) and trained 5 years. Then in high school I started training in Chinese Kung Fu (1984) Northern Long Fist and Hsing I for 6 years until I left for chiropractic school. I was one of two assistant students that assisted in teaching Northern long Fist.  After finishing with my degree in chiropractic I began missing training and a started training again at Elite Martial Arts in 2008 and the rest is history. I’ve been training in Muay Thai since 2008. I started out assisting the Muay Thai class under Romel Agra in 2011.  I am currently teaching at the Westheimer location. 

What is your current rank in martial arts?

I am currently a two strip blue belt in BJJ 

What caused you to start practicing martial arts?

The first movie I ever saw was with my uncle and it was “Way of the Dragon” with Bruce Lee and the following year I saw Enter the Dragon and that was all I needed. 

What is your educational background?

I graduated Life Chiropractic University in 1998. I’m a chiropractor and a certified addictionologist. 

Do you have a competitive history in martial arts?

Yes, I have competed and won many tournaments in Tae Kwon do and Chinese Kung Fu. 

What do you see is the main benefit the average individual can receive from martial arts?

Martial Arts will build confidence, self respect and help you overcome adversity. When you know how to fight your mind is a little calmer, a little freer, and a little more relaxed. When you know how to throw a punch, break an arm, or choke someone unconscious there isn’t too much threat of physical confrontation and if there is threat, it is easier to walk away. 

What is your favorite part about practicing martial arts?

I love the constant challenges that martial art provides as there is always something new to learn and grow from. it’s a way of life for me. 

Where do you hope martial arts will take you later in your life?

Continue growing as a person and sharing my experiences and knowledge with other people and help them grow as a person and a martial artist.

Muscle Recovery and Fatigue 

I often get asked about how to get more training in.  For many people fatigue and muscle soreness keep people from training as much as they would like to.  Here are some simple things you can do to get in more mat time.

The speed in which major muscles recover after an intense workout is largely dependent on the body’s nutritional reserve. Supplementation with vitamin C can reduce post-exercise muscle soreness and decreases levels of an enzyme (creatine kinase) associated with damaged muscle. Supplementation with the amino acid carnitine yields similar results: less muscle soreness and fewer biochemical indications of tissue damage after physical exertion. In addition to repairing muscle tissue post-workout, micronutrients also delay muscle fatigue during workouts. Supplementation with the amino acids asparagine and carnitine increase the capacity for muscles to utilize free fatty acids and spare glycogen, thus improving endurance. In one animal study, time to exhaustion was increased by 40% in the supplemented group. Nutrients benefit more than skeletal muscle. A study on female runners demonstrated that folic acid improves vascular function. Clinically, this meant that folic acid improved the smooth muscle function of their arteries leading to better blood flow during training.

If you are interested in really performing your best, we can set up a specific plan tailor made for your training and your goals that really fits your life. 

Ashley Nguyen, PharmD 

Zoetic Compounding Pharmacy


Ashley has been a student at Elite MMA since 2005.  She is currently a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.  She founded Girls in Gi’s in 2009, which was a project she took on to empower and enroll women mentally and physically and by using BJJ as the platform for that. She is also a wife, mother, and a pharmacist that loves helping people to feel better, perform better, or just feel as normal as possible.



Greenway Student Highlight— Misa Nguyen


What is your name and age?

Misa Nguyen, 26 

When did you join Elite MMA?

May 1st 2015 

Why did you decide to start taking martial arts?

Because it looks fun. I know I would make new friends and I also get to learn a new skill while having my body in shape 

In the past what had caused you not to take martial arts?

My work and school schedule

Is this your first time taking martial arts and what classes do you take?

No, I used to take Taekwondo when I was 7, for a year.  Right now I'm taking Jiu-jitsu and kickboxing.

If you had any concerns about joining Elite MMA, what helped you with your decision?

At first I thought it was a bit expensive, but I can take any classes, anytime I want.  Also, my instructors and classmates always encourage and motivate me to go everyday.

Since you have been part of Elite, please share what you have been able to accomplish?

I was 120 lbs when I first started, then I went down to 110 lbs after 3 months. By the end of October I gained 9lbs. So I know I've gained some muscle weight.  I also got 2 stripes on my first belt test and the best part is I've met and become friends with so many cool and awesome people.

Anything else you want to share with someone who is looking to get involved with martial arts or looking to change their current lifestyle?

It might seem hard and intimidating at first, but you just have to take the first step. Do your best to go everyday for the first 10 days, this is how I trained my mind and body to get into the routine. Then you get to eat whatever you want and never have to feel bad.

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