The Best Way To Flatten Your Abs


I wanted to share a common misconception about fitness:

How we flatten our abs.

My desire to write a post about how to flatten your abs was spurred by a couple of questions I got last week at our personal training studio in San Jose. One was from a new client, and one was from someone who’s been training with us for years.

So, it goes to show you that you don’t have to be a “newbie” exerciser to get confused about “best practices”  🙂 .

The question from the new client was, “What foods should I be eating if I want a flatter stomach?

The question from the longtime client was, “What exercises can you add to my program to help me lose more belly fat?”

If you’ve been reading prior posts about our exercise and nutrition philosophies at lifeSport Fitness, you can probably guess how I answered both questions….

“Squats.” 😀

You see, a lean midsection comes from a combination of the right selection of full body exercises and small tweaks in your nutrition.

Doing endless amounts of sit ups and crunches is not going to burn belly fat.

It’s just going to make your belly sore. Worst case, it might make your back or shoulder problems WORSE, which is why we don’t program tons of crunch-type exercises into the programs we write for clients at lifeSport Fitness.

Consistently doing strength training – particularly multi-joint exercises like squats and dead lifts – will burn lots of calories and add lean mass to your frame, increasing your ability to burn stored fat for fuel.

These big, multi-joint exercises force your core to engage. Do them enough, and voila — your belly gets flatter and firmer!!!

 As for the “right” foods to eat to flatten your abs:  Eating a certain type of food is not going to melt your belly fat, either, though there are plenty of people on the internet who will be happy to sell you such nonsense (or they’ll try to sell you a “fat burning” supplement).

Eating whole, minimally processed foods, minimizing added sugar, limiting processed wheat products,  controlling your stress, and being in a slight calorie deficit will cause that stubborn belly fat to disappear.

This is all simple stuff that we often “forget.”

Remember, keep it simple and do the basics consistently.

Committed to your success,

Coach Becky

Getting More Out of Your Workout

When Going to the Gym Just Isn’t Enough
Everyone knows that regular exercise is beneficial to your overall health. If you’re faithfully hitting the gym and logging a full 30 minutes on your favorite cardio machine, that’s great, but you could be getting a lot more out of your workout.

While any exercise is more beneficial than just sitting on your couch, mixing up your routine could have added benefits. If you’re like most people, there’s probably an exercise or two that you absolutely hate, but did you ever wonder if maybe you dislike them so much because they’re working a weaker area of your body?

To fix those weak spots, create a variable routine that targets each of your major muscle groups. You should also alternate between focusing on increasing flexibility, building muscle and improving cardio.

A dynamic stretch to increase your flex

No matter how much you work out, daily commutes and long hours of sitting at a desk can really hamper your flexibility. A dynamic stretch, such as the forearm-to-instep lunge, can increase flexibility in your hips, hamstrings and lower back.

Give it a shot: Starting with your left foot, step into a lunge and bend forward at the waist. Your left forearm should be on the ground with your elbow touching the inside of your left foot. Your right hand should also be on the ground. Next, keep your right hand on the ground and twist your torso while reaching upward with your left hand. Return your hand to the ground before straightening your left knee and resuming a standing position. Repeat using the right leg, and try to complete about 3 to 5 reps on each side.

Building muscle doesn’t always mean bulk

Some people skip strength training altogether because they don’t want large, bulging arms and legs. But the truth is, it takes significant effort and specific exercises to gain that type of muscle mass. However, incorporating a simple strength-training move, such as the opposite arm/leg lift, can help you retain bone strength and raise your metabolism.

Give it a shot: Start from a kneeling position and place both hands on the ground in front of you. Your arms should be straight and your back should be parallel to the ground. Raise one arm off of the ground, holding it straight out in front of you, while extending the opposite leg behind you. Stretch your arm and leg in opposite directions and hold this position for 5 seconds. Return to your original position and repeat the move, alternating sides for 10 sets.

Kick up your cardio with sprints

Whether you’re on the treadmill or logging a few mile outdoors, adding a few sprints to your regular run will improve your cardio and has many other benefits, such as burning fat and building muscle.

Give it a shot: After you’ve warmed up, try sprinting for 10 to 30 seconds and then slow it down for about 30 seconds. The point is to go a bit faster than you would normally be able to for a longer period, but there’s no need to overdo it. Try to complete at least 3 to 5 sets during the first few workouts, but add more sets or increase your speed as you feel able.

If you’re already making it to the gym on a regular basis, adding a few moves like these will help you get the most out of your workout. If you want to focus more on a specific area, check in with one of the trainers at your gym for some additional targeted moves. Whichever workout you choose, just mix it up and keep hitting the gym.

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The body you want is not going to happen overnight

There is no question that we all wish we could look like the models on the magazines, or the toned and ripped athletes that we see on TV and the movies. The problem is that a lot of people seem to want everything to happen fast and they expect to get huge rewards from very little efforts. This is something that we can see happening in all areas of life. Individuals looking to become wealthy by working a few months on a new idea, or people hoping to achieve the body that Brad Pit had in Troy, by going to a gym for a couple of months and eating energy bars every night.

The real world works quite different from what we see on TV and the movies. The only way to be able to reach your goals in life, is to work hard to obtain them. If achieving a perfect body was something easy to do, we would not be seeing so many overweight people out there. Let’s get through some important information that you need to consider before you start to work on changing your appearance.

Educate yourself on proper nutrition
You could hit the gym every single day for many hours and you would never be able to achieve the kind of body that you want if your diet is not good. Eating junk food with soft drinks is not going to provide your body with the required nutrition that you need in order to burn fat and build muscle.

Get plenty of sleep
We know that you are probably wondering when we are going to start to talk about the best muscle building and fat burning exercises, but proper dieting and getting enough rest are more important than the kind of exercise that you do. The ideal amount of time for sleep is at least 8 hours a day, but some people claim that they can get more than enough rest from 6 to 7 hours of sleep per day. Just make sure that you feel rested when you wake up and that should be good enough. The reason why this is so important is because muscles don’t grow when you hit the gym, they grow when you rest after your workouts.

Include cardio and weight training in your workouts
If you want to have a toned body, you need to be able to get plenty of cardio, but you also need to lift weights to promote muscle growth while you burn fat. We recommend that you look for a professional trainer that will give you the best kind of workout routine for your needs.

Know your genetic limitations
Anyone can achieve a fit and toned body, but you cannot expect to look exactly like any guy that has a toned and muscular body. There are certain parts of your body that are never going to get bigger than their genetic makeup allows. This is the case with your ankles and your wrists. Find out if you are an ectomorph, mesomorph or endomorph and this will give you a good idea of the kind of body you can achieve.

Being consistent and understanding that it takes years to build a good body is essential for success. The reason why so many men fail to transform their bodies, is because they quit after a couple of months. They expected to get huge results in just a few months, but they only see very small gains. What they fail to realize is that it takes years to build a great body and those little gains will eventually lead to the body they always wanted.

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Fitness Habits To Feel More Like 20 When You’re 60

Whether you’re in your twenties yourself or you are raising kids, it’s important to instill good fitness habits at this age as they will greatly improve chances of being healthy and fit later on in life. This sounds logical, but it is also based on research, where early twenty somethings were studied, and the ones who practiced good fitness habits were healthier later on in life. It doesn’t require that you go to the gym seven days a week, it just requires that you create a lifestyle that incorporates a few habits suggested by accredited fitness experts.


Both before and after you lift, run, jog, swim or do aerobics, you should stretch for three to five minutes. Stretch slowly, and breathe through the stretches.

Incorporate Weights Into Your Workout

This will give you strength, relieve stress and protect you from getting diabetes.

Don’t Plateau

This often happens with runners. You have to switch it up. Run some days, walk, jog or power walk other days, and hike swim or go to the gym in between.

Drink More Water

Caffeinated beverages don’t count. A fun strategy is to try having a glass of water every time you visit one of your social sites except you might end up drinking too much water. The goal is eight tall glasses of water a day.

Learn Proper Form

If you don’t, then you won’t get the full benefit of your workout, and you could injure yourself.

Rotate Running Shoes

Here it goes. You have just been handed a ticket to shop for and own multiple pairs of shoes. Why? Because it’s actual beneficial to your feet, ankles, and legs to rotate between your running shoes as long as they are all high quality shoes created for running. This is based on studies, where those who rotated shoes experienced less injuries related to running. So go out and shop for shoes that go with your running outfits or track suits.

Eat Post Workout

This is important to insure you have energy to function and that your muscles can fully benefit from the workout you just gave them. Your snack should include healthy sources of carbs and protein, such as a banana and a glass of milk or a handful of raisins and peanuts in their skins or a glass of low-fat chocolate milk.

Try all of The Exercise and Dance Classes Your Gym Offers

This will do one or two things. For one, you won’t get bored. If you have ever gone to a certain fitness class for a while, and it got to a point where half way through the class you just weren’t looking forward to the next thirty minutes, then rotating classes will keep you engaged and on your toes. Also, after checking out all of the different classes, you may just find a couple that you get hooked on, and these can ensure you stay in shape for the rest of your life.

Make Fitness a Part of Your Life

Look at fitting your fitness routine in just like making sure you eat a balanced meal. In fact, if you go out once or twice a week for dinner or lunch, set it up so that you workout, shower and get dressed up for your dine out. On other days, you can set it up so that you meet with friends to do something physically exerting such as hiking, working out at the gym or going swimming. However, and this really should have its own paragraph, one of the most important fitness habits is that you don’t wait for others to exercise, always plan to exercise by yourself, and if your friends join you, then consider it as an added bonus.

Protect Your Posture

Maintain your posture through a few yoga poses while stretching or a pilates routine a few days a week.

Have Rest Days

On these days, you can do something totally different like walking when you spent the day before doing aerobics or weight training. Swimming is another thing you can do on a day when you don’t go to the gym or go hiking.

Listen to Your Body

Always pay attention to new exercises and activities you start and stop and what your daily diet consists of. This will make it easier to pinpoint changes in how you feel or why you have gained or lost weight.

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Re-start your Resolutions Today!

It is common for people to make New Year’s resolutions year in, year out. But the hard part is seeing those resolutions through. Hitting the gym or eating right is usually number two or three on the list right after quitting a bad habit or looking for a better career.

As the clock counts down to the New Year, each individual’s heart is filled with enthusiasm of starting a fresh and fulfilling the list that’s meant to impact their lives one way or another. But shortly after into the year, the days begin to turn into weeks, weeks into months and before you know it, another new year is fast approaching; the list is long forgotten.

You soon realize that nothing ever changes in your life. The great thing is that it is never too late to re-start those resolutions, no matter what time of year it is. So don’t thing about cancelling that gym membership or abandoning your diet plan just yet. They say that our worst enemy is ourselves. We agree to defeat even before the war has begun and become the first to beat on ourselves when something goes wrong.

Exercising and maintaining a diet plan has never been easy and the results don’t just occur overnight. Therefore, before you go so hard on yourself, first add ‘never give up no-matter what!’ to your list. Exercising and maintaining a healthy diet requires a lot of commitment, time and persistence from self.
Before you think of backing out, here are some pointers that will help you keep on track to achieving your resolutions.

1.Staying positive
Maintaining a positive attitude is crucial to obtaining the results you want. Telling yourself that ‘I am going to make it’ and believing exactly that is a great motivator to remaining focused on your regime. But don’t go rewarding yourself with a big slice of cake the moment you notice you’ve lost 2 pounds. Instead, keep at it to reap more fruit.

Designate a specified time for your gym sessions and also make a food timetable so that you ensure your diet is balanced or so that no food group is omitted in your diet.

3.Great company
Surround yourself with people who have the same aspirations as you. You’ll be able to motivate each other and also make sure you don’t miss any gym workout.

It is vital to remain fit and healthy for an extended healthy life. And once you start following through on your exercises and diet, the rest will fall in line. Picture this, when you’re healthy, you feel more confident and great about yourself, meaning that you are able to work more efficiently in your workplace hence more productivity, more income. It is like killing two birds with one stone.

No-one expects you to be an expert with the first try. Therefore, you need to start slow and start small. If it’s sit-ups and squats, start with 10-15 counts, then progress to 20-30 with time. The reason why most people give up the moment they’ve just begun is because they commence at a higher level than they should.

The more you exercise and diet, the easier it becomes with time and before you know it, it becomes a part of you. So if losing weight or becoming healthy is part of your resolution and has been for a while now, it is never too late to jump start on it. Start today!

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Clean Up – Self Myofacial Release

Working out is essential to staying healthy and having a longer livelihood. But exercise alone tends to constrict muscles, create soreness and body aches.

What’s not to love about spring? Flower blossom and crisp fresh fragrance in the air offering a perfect serene and ambience during morning workouts. A morning run in the spring is a very delightful way to start the day.

Working out is essential to staying healthy and having a longer livelihood. But exercise alone tends to constrict muscles, create soreness and body aches. Not everyone can afford a personal athletic trainer or masseuse to massage the soreness, kinks, and our muscles’ tight spots. Nonetheless, there is a way one can massage him/herself with the advantage of controlling precisely the place and amount of pressure to register.

Self myofascial release has gained popularity over the years and is a form of exercise that focuses on specific muscle areas with the aim of releasing the tension. Such exercises employ the use of massage balls and foam rollers among others. Fascia is a layer that covers every body structure such as the blood vessels, nerves, muscles and organs. Trauma or overuse of the muscles causes an overstress that result in tearing of the fascia layers. Improper healing of those tears then leads to the formation of adhesions (spots) that cause discomfort and pain.

These adhesions prevent the muscles from functioning as they should, hence barring the body from exploiting its full potential for fit, natural action. This is where self myofascial release applies. When pressure is enforced on these adhesions, it releases them thus restoring the body back to its optimum physical performance. Aside from relieving these adhesions, self myofascial release also helps prevent injuries, enhance flexibility, release stress from the body, eradicates tightness and knots in the muscles, minimizes soreness from exercises and improves blood flow which aids in quick recovery from a workout session.

Foam roller, ball and yoga block are commonly used for the self myofascial release routine. There are several types of foam rollers on the market for example high density foam roller, PVC piped roller and grids foam rollers. Although the high density roller is the most affordable, it tends to lose shape over a short period of time. The PVC piped roller offers a deeper and more profound intense massage.
Lacrosse ball is the most recommended by mobility trainers and physical therapists for self myofascial release. Things like mismatched socks and yoga block are not really a necessity for self myofascial release but depend on an individual’s preference.

Self myofascial release has become extremely prominent especially amongst fitness enthusiasts and athletes. It is a technique to minimize persistent pain and reintegrate a variety of injuries. However, it is important to know what to do and how to do it because performing it wrong can lead to discomfort and pain if you end up applying pressure on joints and bones instead of the muscle.
Just like performing any other workout, it is important to remain hydrated by drinking plenty of water after an extreme self myofascial release session. The good thing about self myofascial release is that it can be combined with the usual warm-ups during workouts.

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Walk Fit

Walking is a great addition to your current workout routine. It has a plethora of benefits and is a universal exercise. You can do it anywhere, and mostly anyone can do it, it’s free, it doesn’t require special equipment, and you can do it any time of day. By just adding 30 minutes of walking into your daily workout routine, you can change you! The benefits are countless.

It lowers blood pressure that can also be good for your cholesterol levels, and in turn reduces the risk of obesity. Walking is not only one of the best activities for your health and mental well-being, it can help you lose weight and keep it off. It will help your heart become more efficient and every day activities will become easier. You’ll sleep better, have more energy, and benefit from a little Vitamin D from getting outside.

Benefits of Walking:

  • It strengthens your heart. Regular walking reduces your risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • It lowers disease risk. It slashes your risks of type 2 diabetes, asthma and some cancers.
  • It keeps weight in check. It helps you lose weight and keep it off.
  • It can help prevent dementia.
  • It can help prevent osteoporosis. As a weight-bearing activity, it helps strengthen bones.
  • It tones. A good walk help shape and tone your legs, giving definition to calves, hamstrings and lifting your glutes.
  • It tones your arms. All the regular movement you experience in your arms while walking will help tone your arms, shoulders and even upper back.
  • It boosts your vitamin D levels. A little bit of sunshine outside each day will put you in a great mood and help your bone health and immunity.
  • It gives you energy. A brisk walk with help boost your circulation and increase oxygen supply to every cell in your body.
  • It makes you happy. Regular moderate-intensity exercise is a great antidepressant. It helps reduce stress and anxiety. It can also be done with friends while enjoying a nice chat.

Even though you are already in a regular workout routine at the gym several times a week, doesn’t mean walking isn’t for you. The key to overall fitness is cross training, or participating in various activities, and walking is the perfect complement to any training regimen. By adding walking to your routine, you end up training opposing muscle groups and end up balancing out your strength and reducing the chance of injury. Also, if you are used to high impact activities, your body could benefit from taking it down a notch once in awhile and walking. You’ll get all the benefits of exercise without the wear and tear and giving your muscles time to recoup.

Add a walk to your daily workout routine. You’ll be able to cash in on all the additional benefits it has. Speak with your trainer and see when the best time for you would be to work that walk into your schedule. Sometimes, to get you moving during the day, first thing in the morning may be best for you. Or, if you feel a little sluggish and tired by mid-day, head out for a walk on your lunch. Start walking towards a healthier you!

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Office Fitness

Sitting all day at a desk can ruin what you’ve worked so hard for at the gym. What can you do to keep fit and healthy at work? There are many ways to exercise while working at your desk in the office each day. Don’t let your hard work go down the drain.

Take the Stairs
If your building is equipped with an elevator, make the choice to take the stairs. Choose the stairs every time, and you’ll find it a good way to stay active and fit at work. You can even take it one step further and do a stair workout during your lunch or break. Do two stairs at a time, or increase your pace and burn off some extra calories from your lunch.

Legs and Bum Exercises
Exercises that you usually do in a gym setting can also be done at work. Take a break from sitting and typing and get off your chair and stretch. Do some squats beside your chair or lunge walk down the hall. You can even find an empty spot on the wall and do some wall sits. These are great ways to take a break from work and get the muscles working instead. There are many other leg exercises and stretches that can be done beside your desk such as leg lifts, leg curls, and leg kicks.

The arms are another muscle group that can easily get a good workout during a break from working at your desk. Tricep dips are a great example of a simple workout that you can do at your desk. Leave the keyboard behind for a bit and use a sturdy desk for support. Try doing some arm curls. Find something lying around that you can use as a weight and curl and work your biceps. Even doing some simple arm movements like pulsing the arms backwards while they are at your side or holding your arms out straight from your shoulder for as long as possible.

Neck and Shoulders
Rolling and stretching your shoulders is great for staying fit and helping with posture and relieving the stress and pressure from sitting at a computer all day. Press your shoulder blades back and hold that position for several seconds. Also try the shoulder shrug. Raise both shoulders up to the ears and hold for 5 seconds, then relax. These will also help get the kinks out and get you more comfortable to get back to work. Stretch your neck muscles by tilting your head (ear towards the shoulder) and holding. Do one each side. Don’t forget to put your chin to your chest and tilt your head up too. Hold each spot for a couple of seconds to feel the stretch.

A fun way to keep your core fit while at work is using your swivel chair to work out your oblique’s. Keep your feet flat on the floor and grasp the edge of the desk with your hands, sitting upright, use your core to swivel the chair side to side. Just simply by keeping good posture, you can work your core muscles. Keep feet flat on the floor, back up straight and arms at 90-degree angles to the floor for the entire day you are at your desk, you are working those core muscles. Try the sitting crunch. With elbows on the thighs, try to curl the chest in towards the legs while resisting the movement with the arms. Hold for 10 seconds.

Not only are you maintaining a healthy work-fitness balance, you are helping with better posture and probably even your work productivity. You don’t need to stay sedentary while working all day at your desk. Add some desk exercises and you’ll feel a whole lot better.

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Add a Little Yoga

You may already have a well developed training schedule that includes weight training, cardio/aerobic exercise and resistance training, but have you thought of adding some yoga. Because of its perceived gentle nature, yoga is often overlooked as an extremely effective complement to a regular exercise routine. Adding a little bit of yoga to your training/workout routine will offer many benefits. Ultimately, it will help you strengthen and tone your muscles evenly as you work out. The poses and meditation also enhance your flexibility, balance, and contribute to a happier training routine.

The postures of yoga target all the joints of your body even though you rarely use some. The exercises also strengthen joints you regularly work out such as hips, knees and ankles. It straightens and strengthens the spinal cord as well as tightens the core. These will in turn lower chronic pain on your lower back. It also lubricates your joints, which means they will hurt less while you are working out.

Adding some Yoga to your workouts can have several benefits:

  1. Core Strength – Yoga’s slow, focused movements demand a strong midsection, which creates a perfect foundation for strength training and bodybuilding. The isometric contractions that are part of many of the yoga positions tap into a new level of resistance training that cannot be accomplished with exercise equipment alone.
  2. Range of Motion and Flexibility – Yoga training will help improve performance and prevent injuries during workouts and athletics by gently increasing your range of motion and flexibility.
  3. Balance – Athletic training and weight training effectively develop certain specified muscle groups while some other may get ignored causing an imbalance in the mechanics and muscular system. Yoga training can help improve your body’s balance by addressing some of these underdeveloped areas.
  4. Effective Breathing – Breathing supplies your body and muscles with essential oxygen. During athletic events and workout routines, it is easy to forget to take in full breaths and deliver the proper oxygen levels to all required areas. Yoga helps to train your body how to effectively take deep full breaths.
  5. Downtime Exercise – Too much of something is not a good thing. It is important to take downtime when working out. Use your downtime days to stay active and by doing yoga. There are many yoga styles that are relaxed and less intense to offer the ability to exercise during off days (or even injured, with physicians approval).

Doing a few yoga moves before your workout will minimize or prevent injuries during the workout. Doing yoga after a workout will help your muscles recover and get ready for the next day. Yoga is also beneficial for your internal organs since it stimulates them and prevents various diseases. Get your trainer to help you out by adding some moves into your regular routine or in addition to your workout sessions, add some yoga on the off days. Adding yoga to your workout routine will add a whole new dimension to your total fitness that will serve you well for a lifetime. There are many styles and intensities that you can find one that is perfect for you and your fitness goals.

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Hiking for Fitness

Hiking is a great way to get outside, get some fresh air, enjoy your environment and get in some excellent exercise. It’s an easy, inexpensive addition to your workout at the gym. Find a local Conservation Area, National/State Park, or just a trail in your neighborhood.

It is wise to be prepared for your hike. Be sure to check your physical condition and limitations with the condition of the trails. Consider factors such as weather, terrain and altitude before you go. Preparation for the trip is very important, the more tough the terrain is; the more training may be required ahead of time with your trainer. Work with your trainer and let them know your plans. They can maybe even suggest some exercises to help warm you up before your hike. Hiking involves a lot of up and down hill and other terrains, each of these can put different strains to your body. Start small then slowly build yourself up to something more challenging.

It is important to prepare for your hike so you don’t end up with sore, blistered, tired feet. To start, pick a trail that best suits your own fitness level. Don’t be afraid to start on more level terrain and a short hike. Any type of hike is a benefit to health. If you plan on hiking over hilly or difficult terrain, make sure you take the right gear with you. Maybe a walking stick, hiking boots, a backpack with snacks will all be required. Whichever distance and terrain you choice, it is important to warm up and stretch before heading out.

Eating right is very essential if you want your hike to be a success. Make sure you have a diet that is rich in vitamins, minerals, proteins and all the good stuff your body needs to keep it fit and healthy and to keep you going throughout your hike. Bring some yummy, healthy treats along with you.

Here are 3 great reasons to start hiking:

  1. Experience Nature: The only way to truly experience the outdoors is by walking. It puts you in a hands-on situation and allows you to absorb every nuance of natures’ beauty. You will get to enjoy the sounds, smell and feel of the seasons.
  2. Get Great Exercise: Hiking provides the steady exercise that doctors recommend for weight loss and heart issues. Walking or hiking, unlike jogging, will not jar your joints or cause undue stress on your legs and back.
  3. Hike to Relax: Hiking allows you to let go of your stresses. Take a deep breath and get away from it all for just a little while.

Plan your hiking route, get some friends and family together and go out and enjoy what nature has to offer all while getting a great workout.

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