“Fitness.” For some (especially right before swimsuit season!), this word is a big ol’ scary thing. For others, it is an inspiration, a goal. For still others, it’s a complete lifestyle. We were lucky enough to talk to three dedicated, successful athletes ~ fitness competitor Tianna Ta (bottom right), Jiu-Jitsu artist Abmar Barbosa (above), and professional runner Nate Jenkins (bottom left) ~ about how they define and achieve their levels of fitness. They take us through what first drew them to their respective disciplines, what staying on top requires, and what inspires them most. So no, most of us aren’t aiming to achieve their levels of commitment, but we can learn from these three remarkable individuals that perseverance is key, and achieving our own personal fitness goals ~ however modest they may be ~ can be incredibly rewarding.
Fighting Words (of Wisdom)
By Kim Dunbar
For Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu artist Abmar Barbosa, the true meaning and art of self-defense is personal. It’s also why he is where he is today.
Ten years ago, then 18-year-old Barbosa ~ a trained swimmer ~ was cornered by a gang who wanted to steal his shoes. Unwilling to give in to their demands, Barbosa found out the hard way that he needed to learn how to defend himself. “I looked at all of the options and Jiu-Jitsu seemed the most aggressive,” he said.
Three months after discovering Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Barbosa entered his first competition. Although he lost the match, Barbosa spent the next four months racking up a 15-0 record. However, going pro in the sport wasn’t Barbosa’s original plan: “I decided I would try it for a year, and if nothing happened I would quit,” he said. But the self-imposed deadline came and went with the Brazilian-born martial artist on top of the game and he made the move to turn professional.
Now 28, the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt has won multiple world championships and over 40 titles. “The hardest part about the sport is when you win, because you want to keep winning,” he said. Barbosa is addicted to the feeling, and has his eyes on some big prizes: he is aiming to win the top five Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competitions in the world. “At minimum, I want to be standing on the podium,” he said.
A tall order calls for extreme dedication, but Barbosa is up for the challenge. “The important thing is to stay strong mentally,” said the fighter. “You have to stay strong because this is an individual sport, not a team sport. There is no one else to blame but you when it goes wrong,” he added. In addition to a sound mental state, Barbosa ensures he is physically fit by training twice a day, six days a week. Barbosa works mostly on his BJJ technique but adds cardio and weight lifting into the mix to stay balanced.
Barbosa lives the cliché of “eating, sleeping and breathing” his sport. He enjoys a 5,000 calorie diet and insists getting enough sleep in order for his body to recover is an absolute must. “I sleep 10-12 hours a day and take one or two naps,” he said.
Because Barbosa takes immaculate care of his body, he spends less time on the sidelines. For example, after tearing both the MCL and ACL in his knee in 2007, Barbosa has to wait a mere 45 days after surgery before getting the green light to start training again. “I know I am no machine, but I’m never broken or tired,” he said, reiterating the importance of having a positive mentality.
While not training, Barbosa takes on the role of instructor at his new Abmar Barbosa Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu studio in Hudson (he also has an academy in Brazil). Barbosa opened the studio in November 2009 where he not only trains to compete, but helps share the art with others. “I decided it was time to start my own team,” said Barbosa. “You can fight for a short time, but a team lasts for much longer.”
Barbosa expects of his students what he expects of himself: “You come here because you want to, not because you have to,” he said. “For that hour and a half you have to give 100% dedication.”
Dedication is something Barbosa takes personally and it’s why he is where he is today: “I started Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu because I was angry. I stayed because I liked it. Today, I live it,” he said.
For more information, please visit www.abmarbarbosajiujitsu.com.
Special thanks to Leo Morton
Tianna Ta – Pumped Up
By Kim Dunbar
Tianna Ta is getting a leg up on her competition. Literally. The Worcester native and former Pulse swimsuit model/cover girl recently entered the world of professional fitness modeling and is quickly ascending the ranks. But right now, she is waiting for the personal trainer she has enlisted to help her with her lower body workout.
“It’s important to train every part of the body. My legs are my weakest part,” said the 28-year-old model who works out with NV www.nvyourbody.com trainer Matt Carroll at World Gym in Worcester once a week. During the other five days she works out, Ta is motivated by her boyfriend Anthony Romeo (one of Pulse’s 2008 People to Watch), whom she credits with pushing her to the place she is today.
“If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be doing any of this,” she said. Three years ago, when Ta first started dating Romeo, she was the girl who came to the gym for cardio workouts only. “All of those workout clichés, like not wanting to eat protein because I was afraid of bulking up, that was me,” she said. Romeo, who owns the Gym N’ Juice bar at the same gym where Ta trains, began teaching her about nutrition and vitamin supplements, and her passion for fitness was born.
This, paired with the realization that her successful three-year-young modeling career could be a springboard to something more, led Ta to give in to her growing desire to compete. “It was something that I’d always contemplated and I finally decided to do it,” she said.
In July 2009, Ta teamed up with Cathy Savage, a former body builder and owner of Cathy Savage Fitness, to begin her competition training. She entered the International Federation of Body Building and Fitness’s (IFBB) new Bikini division, a more feminine division which puts emphasis on figure, muscle tone and overall beauty rather than muscle mass.
Two months later, Ta traveled to her first national competition in New York City where she placed third in her class. After being named one of the winners of the online Flex Magazine Model Search, Ta earned a spot in the Mr. and Ms. Olympia shows in Vegas and placed third, followed by two first place finishes in both Boston and Florida. Ta received her Pro card in November.
“This is better than regular modeling,” she said. “It’s more of a challenge to see how far you can go.”
And Ta plans to go far. While she ultimately aims to become a personal trainer, in the meantime she plans to conquer the cover of every magazine and help improve the image of her sport. Ta, who is a spokesmodel for supplement giant BSN, believes that the public has a great misconception when it comes to fitness modeling.
“It takes a focused, determined, disciplined individual to be able to do this and succeed,” she said. “The division I compete in is nothing like Hooters or any of those other typical ‘bikini’ contests. I also do not feel the pressure to take illegal drugs, as there is a stereotypical assumption with other divisions.”
While there is immense pressure for Ta to stay in shape and to stick to her protein rich diet which also includes good fats and plenty of fruits and vegetables, she loves every minute. “The moment I step on stage is the most thrilling moment,” she said. “As soon as I finish I want to go out and do it all over again.”
As long as she keeps up the hard work, she’ll certainly have the legs for it.
Run, Nate, Run
By Kim Dunbar
There are some classes you are forced to take in school as a teenager that you swear are pointless, like trigonometry, health and gym class. For Nate Jenkins, it turns out that one of those classes really did pay off.
“I started running as a kid to get in shape to win the mile run in gym class,” said the professional runner and part-time coach. “I ran cross country in seventh grade to get ready for basketball and by eighth grade I realized I was a much better runner then basketball player. That’s when I started running year round.”
Seventeen years later, Jenkins has run four marathons: Austin in 2006, the 2008 Olympic Trials in 2007, New York City in 2008, and the World Championships in 2009. The 29-year-old marathoner hopes to run even more, including a future Olympiad. “It isn’t an easy thing to do,” said Jenkins, who finished seventh at the last trials (only the top three make the national team). He is now aiming for a spot on the 2012 team.
Jenkins has come a long way since his high schools days of racing in (and winning) the state championships in Gardner and placing second in a Worcester 6K. While Jenkins has been hitting the pavement for nearly two decades, it wasn’t until after his running careers at Narragansett Regional High School and UMass Lowell that he took his natural talent to the next level.
“I’m a bit of a late bloomer. I needed to train differently than I was in the beginning to unlock my potential,” said Jenkins. “It wasn’t until after college when I was in graduate school (at UMass Lowell) that I actually started running on a level that told me being a national class guy was a real possibility.”
While Jenkins has enjoyed national level success, it also means he isn’t able to race around his old stomping grounds as much as he’d like. “There aren’t any national level races in Central Massachusetts at the moment which is too bad,” said Jenkins, who said the closest thing is Fitchburg’s annual Slattery’s Turkey Trot, a race he does intend to run.
Running on the national level requires hard work and dedication, but is something Jenkins relishes. “I love that there is no easy way out. I love the amount of work you have to put in to achieve something worthwhile,” he said.
Jenkins’s daily workout consists of two long runs a day; the first is either nine miles of easy running or a workout equivalent to 10 to 20 miles, and the second is either a nine mile easy run or some short hill repeats. He supplements the cardio with stretching routines, ankle and calf exercises as well as a strength program targeting the hips and glutes.
“I run between 100 and 160 miles a week,” said Jenkins, who consumes about 5,000 daily calories in order to replenish his energy. While Jenkins tries to stick to healthy foods, he does make a few exceptions: “Sometimes after a string of 20 mile days you just need to sit down and eat a box of Chips Ahoy cookies,” he said.
In between workouts, Jenkins takes to his blog where he shares his routines and progress. The runner credits written advice of others for his transformation from mediocre runner to national marathoner and uses his blog to pay it forward. “The blog is my way of trying to help someone else do the same thing,” he said.
Perhaps Jenkins will someday reach a middle school student questioning the purpose of his gym class. That’s when it will definitely pay off.
The Top 10 Fitness Trends for 2010
By Steve Hendricksen
1. Educated and experienced fitness professionals. Because of an increase in the number of organizations offering health and fitness certifications, it’s important that consumers choose professionals certified through programs that are accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies, such as those offered by ACSM.
2. Strength training. Strength training is an essential part of a complete physical activity program – for all physical activity levels and genders. In addition, some health clubs still focus exclusively on weight lifting and strength training.
3. Children and obesity. Health and fitness professionals see the growing problem of childhood obesity as an opportunity to reverse an alarming trend. There is also an increasing market demand for programs tailored to overweight and obese children.
4. Personal training. Education, training and proper credentialing for health and fitness professionals who act as personal trainers has become increasingly important, and is an integral part of staffing for health and fitness facilities.
5. Core training. Different from strength training, this type of training specifically emphasizes conditioning of the middle-body muscles, including the pelvis, lower back, hips and abdomen – all of which provide needed support for the spine.
6. Special fitness programs for older adults. With more and more of the baby boomer population reaching retirement age, health and fitness professionals are designing age-appropriate fitness programs to keep older adults healthy and happy well into their golden years.
7. Functional fitness. This is a trend toward using strength training to improve balance and ease of daily living. Functional fitness and special fitness programs for older adults are closely related.
8. Sport-specific training. This trend distinctly relates to young athletes. High school athletes are incorporating training into their off-seasons in order to stay in top shape for their sports, and might join a health and fitness club or local community health organization to increase strength and endurance.
9. Pilates. Incorporating core training using the entire body, Pilates classes have become a mainstay of many health and fitness clubs. Pilates also improves flexibility and posture.
10. Group personal training. Perhaps the most surprising top-10 trend of the survey, group personal training involves small groups in lieu of one-on-one instruction. The trend may reflect economic difficulties and makes financial sense for both the client and the trainer.
Source: American College of Sports Medicine
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