Tag Archives: Health

Final Project – Picking Up the Fork After you Pick Up the Weights: The Importance of a Healthy Diet

15 Dec

Sitting Down at the Table with Victoria Villalba

Victoria Villalba, a 21-year-old senior at Rowan University, is training to compete in a Physique Competition in Baltimore Maryland April 13, 2013. Villalba discusses her diet, shows her typical routine for preparing a meal, and divulges which meal is the most important of the day.


Setting the Table With Dr. Craig Wax and Patricia Scassera, R.D.

As a society, we are consumers. Whether it is wearing the latest fashion or buying the newest technology, we look for the product that is simply the best.

The same holds true in the fitness world. From bodybuilders to casual lifters, it has become a competition to find the best workout supplements in hopes to be molded into the best possible shape. Those in the lifting community try relentlessly to find the best product in order to obtain the big arms, the flat stomach, or the tiny waste seen in magazines. The question that arrises is, are these protein and creatine products really the best thing to put into your body?

Patricia Scasserra, a registered dietitian in the South Jersey area for the past 30 years, says no.

“I think they’re unnecessary and dangerous. People think that they can pump stuff into their bodies without consequence as long as it’s not drugs or something like that. Supplements in large quantities can do the same damage that medications and drugs can.”

Scasserra warns that although protein builds muscle, to be careful not to take an excess amount.

“Too much protein puts an extra load on your kidneys that you don’t really want or need. The best thing for young kids when they’re working out is certainly larger portions of meat, poultry, and cheeses to increase their protein. I would never recommend a protein powder or an excessively high protein diet.”

Although a number of articles have been written about the downsides of protein powders, it is easy to see why it is such an attractive option. Scooping powder, dropping it in water, and shaking it up is easy and fast. It’s quicker than cooking and cheaper in the long run.

Dr. Craig Wax, a Mullica Hill family physician who specializes in everybody and everything,  earned his Bachelor of Science in food science research from Cook College of Rutgers University. Wax says he sees why there is a market for protein powders.

“Protein powders aren’t necessary, but may be helpful for those who don’t take in enough protein as part of their regular diet.”

Wax acknowledges that when trying to make extra gains in size and strength, increasing protein may slightly help. However, he believes that there are better alternatives.

“A diet comprised of water, food that grows from the earth, and daily exercise will serve all populations well,” Wax says.

Food that grows from the earth has its benefits. Eating natural food is not only healthy, but you’re getting all the vitamins and minerals you need in addition to good carbohydrates.  Carbohydrates may be a scary word to hear in the fitness world, but they’re essential.

“Your body needs carbohydrates. Like a car uses gas to run, your body uses carbohydrates,” says Scasserra.

A diet is fundamental to personal health in addition to continuing gains from lifting. Wax says it best:

“The benefits of a healthy diet is a healthy life. You can feel vibrant, you can be well, you might not get sick. You can excel at school, at work, and you can have great relationships with other people. A healthy diet is where it all starts after drinking water.

For more information, Scasserra recommends visiting the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website, www.eatright.org. This is a national organization that dietitians belong to where you can find the most accurate and up-to-date information.


Post 5: Working out with John and Kimmi

20 Oct

When it comes to health and fitness, two well known trainers in the South Jersey area are John Tyson and Kimmi Sterner. Tyson is the Rowan University Intramural Manager and Supervisor as well as a certified personal trainer. Sterner is also a personal trainer, as well as a turbo kick, YogaFit, and Spin instructor at Rowan University. When it comes to lifting and staying active, these two know the tips of trade. Both recently sat down with me to tell me what they know about health and fitness in South Jersey.

Courtesy of John Tyson

Kimmi Sterner
Courtesy of Kimmi Sterner

Tyler: Thanks you two for talking with me today!

John: No problem!

Kimmi: Of course!

T: So tell me, at what age did you start to get into fitness? 

J: I was about fifteen years old.

K: When I was a senior in high school I began expressing an interest in fitness. Nothing too serious, I just really wanted to start doing yoga.

T: So you both were in high school at the time. What made you interested in fitness? 

J: I had starting gaining weight after I quit sports in sixth grade. I joined a summer basketball league and lost about 20 pounds over the summer. Aside from feeling and looking better, when I got back to school it brought me a lot of good attention that I was not used to. This was something that boosted my self esteem while allowing me to get into a healthy lifestyle. 

K: My senior year of high school I was severely depressed- it was bad. I started looking for other ways to solve the issue other than medication. That is when I started taking yoga, joining the gym, and beginning to find what it is that makes me happy.

T: Kimmi, since those days in high school you have come a long way. You are now well decorated in certifications. How many do you have?

K: As of now I have certifications for YogaFit, Turbokick, PiYo, Hip Hop Hustle, Spinning, AFAA Primary Group Exercise, and ACE Personal Training.

T: John you also are certified in personal training. Describe the process to me. 

J: First, research which CPT license you want and how much it costs to take the test. For example, there is ACSM, NASM, ACE, etc. They all have different prices and have different topics. Purchase whatever study materials you feel are necessary for you to learn the most and take the most out of. There are flash cards and all types of different books that go into more detail with some of the topics for each one of the tests. Study for a good 12 to 24 weeks so that you have enough time to actually learn and not rush the material. Sign up for a test date and testing center. The last thing you do is actually take the test. If you follow this process then you should have no worries.

T: I imagine it is a gratifying feeling to train someone. Can you explain the feeling to me?

K: The feeling I get when I train someone is indescribable. No matter what kind of mood I’m in, training a client never fails to put me in a better one. I’m lucky enough to get the chance to change a life every single day. Being a trainer isn’t just about fitness- it’s therapy for people. Each time I train a client I am reassured that this is exactly what I am supposed to be doing with my life.

J: Exactly. The feeling I get when I am training someone is somewhat comparable to the feeling of giving someone a gift on Christmas. It just feels good to see that person want and anticipate something so much, and I am the one to help give that gift to them and bring a smile to their face. It is an amazing feeling.

T: Can you give my readers some advice on how to stay healthy in South Jersey? 

K: Wake up early, work harder than anyone you know, and before you go to bed at night feel confident that you did something that day for yourself that made you feel healthy and energized. Oh…and don’t funnel beers every night.

J: The journey of living a healthy lifestyle is something you have to do for yourself. When you do it for others the feeling will not be intrinsic and you will not enjoy it as much. Don’t rush into making a lifestyle change. It is a process that takes time and if you do it the right way it will be something that becomes habitual and enjoyable.

T: Along the same lines of advice, what do you tell your clients when they first start out? 

J: I tell my clients that whatever you give into this program is what you will get out of it. If you don’t give it 100 percent, you cannot expect to get 100 percent of the results back. I tell them to always stay positive. If they don’t see the results they want immediately and if they continue to give it their all, they will get to where they want to be at the right time.

K: I tell them that what they are doing is amazing! However, there’s a difference between being interested in getting in shape and being committed to it. I tell them that they’ll find out which one they are when they are faced with an obstacle or set back. I tell them this because they will either keep pushing through because it’s important to them, or they’ll give up. It’s my job to get them to commit.

T: What is one mistake people tend to make when starting out?

J: Definitely running too much. A lot of people think cardio is the immediate answer to all problems when it actually is the smallest part of making physical changes and lifestyle changes. Strength training and nutrition is a lot more crucial to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. If you run too much, all you do is eat away your muscle and contribute to your body fat instead of decreasing it. It honestly is a double edged sword.

K: People starting out tend to do exactly what society says is “right.” What people don’t realize is everyone is different and honestly, getting in shape is pretty easy- the key is to find something you like to do. When embarking on the journey to get fit everyone automatically assumes they have to suffer. The truth is, if you do the things that you don’t like doing, you’ll give up a lot quicker than if you find something you like to do.

T: Thank you both for spending time with me today and teaching not only my readers, but myself so much about what you do and why you do it. You gave a lot of  great advice and I can’t wait to apply it to my life. How can my readers get in touch with you if they are interested in you becoming their trainer in South Jersey? 

J: They can visit my website. (If the link does not work, copy and paste “users.rowan.edu/~tysonj44” into your browser.) My email is linked there to contact me, my certifications are on there, and also some information about health and fitness.

K: Go to the Rowan Recreation Center main office! Fill out a form and just request Kimmi

Post 4 – Working Out Your Brain

10 Oct

In the gym most people have one goal: improve their body. Rarely do you ask someone why they work out and they say, “to raise my serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine levels.

Being that this is a health and fitness blog, it isn’t exactly appropriate to say working out is like having your cake and eating it too, but let me explain. When you work out, you are bettering your body and getting to that ideal physique that you set as your goal. In addition to sculpting your body, you are also doing so many positive things for your brain that you do not even realize.

Michael Hopkins, a Dartmouth graduate student affiliated with the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory Laboratory, says “it looks more and more like the positive stress of exercise prepares cells and structures and pathways within the brain so that they’re more equipped to handle stress in other forms.”

For residents in South Jersey, this quote an important piece of information. In a Press of Atlantic City article titled, “Smoking and cancer rates much higher in South Jersey than in North Jersey,” author Hoa Nguyen says, “while most smokers know of the health risks, several in South Jersey said that their habit had become so ingrained in their lives that that they believed smoking helped them cope with stress.”

Unless for some reason you have a pre 1960’s mentality, you should be aware that smoking is not good for you. Emphysema  lung cancer, and blocked blood vessels are just a few of the repercussions smoking can have on the human body. To do it because you’re “stressed out,” is no excuse.

Dylan Coladonato, a 20 year old junior at Rowan University, says, “Working out is my stress reliever. That one to two hours everyday in the gym gives me time to get away from my homework, my job, and everything else that I have to worry about. I look forward to being able to have that personal time to myself.”

While working out, you are not just bettering your body, you are bettering your mind. This is just one example of how time in the weight room benefits your brain power as well as your lifting power.

Next time you’re stressing out about a paper, grab your running shoes and go for a nice jog. If your boss is getting on your last nerve, get in the gym and pump a little iron. The benefits of staying healthy far outweigh the consequences of harming your wellness.

Top 10 Tips to Prepare For a Workout

5 Oct

You wake up and decide today is the day you are taking initiative in your life to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Suddenly you are getting first day jitters, hoping you have everything you need to make a smooth transition. Remember, everyone who lifts once had a first day. Nobody is born knowing how to do an exercise, and nobody is born “in shape.” This is a guide to make sure you have everything you need to have a flawless first day, first month, and eventually routine.

  1. Find a Gym
    1. This step probably seems obvious but there are so many different gyms in the South Jersey area. The differ in size, price, and sometimes clientel. Here are a few options of different gyms and health centers based on your town in South Jersey.
  2. Schedule
    1. Working out is obviously the main purpose of going to the gym, but repeating the same work out everyday is not beneficial. In fact, it is possible to overwork your muscles and joints. That is why it is necessary to make a schedule so you can plan out your sessions. An example of isolating body parts to workout is,
      1. Monday: Legs
      2. Tuesday: Chest
      3. Wednesday: Biceps and Triceps
      4. Thursday: Shoulders
      5. Friday: Back
      6. Saturday: Rest or Cardio
      7. Sunday: Rest
    2. It’s important to give your body a day or two to rest. Adding an abdominal workout or a run to the days routine won’t hurt either.
  3. Music:
    1. Working out is a time where you can tune out the world and really just take a break and have some alone time. Listening to music is not for everyone, but it really helps a lot of people stay focused and pump them up to maximize their performance. Pandora radio is a great application for smart phones that allows you to customize your playlists including ones specifically for workouts.
  4. Shoes/Outfit: Nobody really thinks too much about shoes or clothes at the gym, but when you look good you feel good. You do not want to be at the gym with no motivation to perform well. Feeling good is going to give you a positive mind frame to lift and work out well. Plus, you’re going to be on your feet 95% of the time there anyway, so you might as well make the investment to be comfortable.
  5. Pre/Post Workout: What to eat before a workout should be a light meal like peanut butter on toast or fruits with natural sugars like an orange. Post workouts should be something high in protein such as a steak, chicken, or protein shake. For more information on protein, view my post on working out in the kitchen.
  6. Partner: Today is the day you hope to bench press your personal best. However, you will not be able to do that if you don’t have a spot. Going to the gym with a partner is helpful for not only encouragement, but for having a spot. A spot is short for spotter, who makes sure that you do not drop the weight and hurt yourself.
  7. Motivation: For some it’s a picture, for some it’s watching Rocky or a favorite song. Whatever it is, have something accessible to hone in on when you need that extra encouragement. Some examples is make the background on your phone a picture of someone whose body you hope to emulate. Find a YouTube video that really gets you pumped up, such as this one. Whatever it is, have it in you back pocket for those days when you just do not have the motivation to lift.
  8. Notebook: One of the best parts about starting workouts is to track your improvements. By taking a notebook with you to your sessions you can track how much stronger or how much better your endurance is getting. Example,
    1. Day 1: 3(sets)x 5(reps) lifting 125 pound
    2. Day 8: 3(setes)x5(reps) lifting 135 pounds
    1. Day 1: Ran 1 mile at 8:04
    2. Day 5: Ran 1 mile at 7:55

Being able to track your improvements and see how much your hard work is paying off makes the lifting fun and something to work for.

9. Check Form: Most injuries happen from poor form while lifting or lack of stretching. It’s vital that if you do not know how to properly use a machine or do an exercise, you ask someone who works at the gym or you look it up online. There are many websites that provide tutorials how to do different types of lifts.

10. Cleanliness: Hopefully you join a gym that is clean, but no matter how clean a gym is there is still bacteria from sweat on machines or benches. Bringing a towel to the gym to wipe your sweat prevents you using your shirt that has been on multiple surface areas. Most gyms have a liquid cleaner to spray on the machines after to wipe down. Also, to prevent bacterial diseases like ringworm, impetigo, or athletes foot, be sure to shower right away and do not re-wear gym clothes until they’re washed.

Hopefully this list is beneficial to your beginning stages of going to the gym! I want this to serve as a reference and helpful reminder for many workouts to come!


29 Sep

Just the fact that you’re reading this right now means you are taking a step in the right direction to living a healthy lifestyle in South Jersey, CONGRATULATIONS!

Taking initiative and finding the motivation to live a healthier lifestyle is often the hardest part- you just accomplished both.

What you can expect in the coming weeks is a complete guide to fitness and health in South Jersey. Following this blog will detail the ways you can lose weight, add muscle, or just maintain your figure in the best most healthy way possible.

As a student of Rowan University whose home is up North, I had no choice but to adapt to my surroundings in South Jersey. I have discovered by trial and error a lot of different resources for staying fit in this environment. I hope to relay these methods to you.

Where to exercise, workouts, meal plans, and tips are going to be outlined in order for you to have the most success and beneficial growth. Beginning a new workout plan is a marathon, not a sprint. Together we’re going to accomplish our goals and be in the best personal shape of our lives.