Monthly Archives: June 2013

One-Exercise Workouts: the Cross-Climber Burpee

I’m a big fan of timesaving, full-body workouts that can be done virtually anywhere with no equipment.  Seriously, there are ZERO excuses to skip a workout with that kind of resume. My favorites include core work, cardio and plyometrics to keep me in top form for derby and running.

I call this a One-Exercise Workout, but it’s really a couple of exercises blended together into one super ass-kicker.  Push through these as hard and as fast as you can while maintaining your form – make sure you’re landing lightly and if you feel a sudden or sharp pain, stop immediately.  These are not for the faint of heart, so be ready to ache afterward – but the results are absolutely worth the burn.  Plus, as soon as you’re done with the set, you’re done with your workout – simple, huh?


Cross-Climber Burpee:

Start position:  standing straight, legs together, arms by sides, shoulders back.

Drop to a crouch, hands on the floor slightly in front of your feet.


Jump feet back to land in plank position.




Holding your plank, pick up right leg and twist lower body to tap right knee against left elbow.  Return to center and repeat on left side, tapping left knee to right elbow.




Return to plank (if you’re feeling particularly masochistic, you can throw in a push-up at this point) and hop legs back into a crouch.


From here, you’re going to spring up into the air!  Jump up as high as you can…arms outstretched over your head if you have the ceiling room, or clasped behind your head if your Hobbit house was built in the 1950s like mine.  Imagine your legs as springs, propelling you to the ceiling.


Land lightly in a crouch – that’s one rep!  Shoot those legs back out into a plank and hit it again!

As for sets, play around with what works for your timeframe. When I’m rushed for time, I like to do mine Tabata-style – 20 seconds of 100% effort as I do as many as I can as quickly as possible, followed by 10 seconds of rest and repeated 8 times.  That’s a 4 minute workout that hits every muscle while increasing my endurance, boosting my metabolism and making my butt look fantastic in shiny shorts. You can’t beat that with a bat.









Gather ‘round, kids, and I shall tell you the tale of the PyroBot. Don’t worry, this book has pictures and the sentences are short. (Well, shorter, anyway. By the fifth revision, I remembered that verbosity is part of my charm – which is code for “F it, I am what I am.”)

Once upon a time (6 years ago on this day, to be precise), there was a skater named Pyro. In 10 blissful months with ACRD she’d skated off 60 pounds, become co-captain of her hometeam and was finally starting to feel like a productive member of her travel team. She still had a long way to go, but basically, everything was coming up Milhouse.

I'm either calling the jam or doing the Funky Chicken.  Hard to say.

I’m either calling off the jam or doing the Funky Chicken. Hard to say.

Our hapless (but never helpless) heroine was jamming at practice when a low block shattered her left tibia/fibula in 11 places. She kept a brave face as they waited for the EMTs, reassuring teammates that she was doing just dandy (“I’m not in shock, I’m just pissed off!”) and cracking dirty jokes until the ambulance doors closed. Then the tears started. In that moment she realized she was going to miss more than just next week’s bout, and the reality of that hurt even more than the floppy leg.

That sound the cans make?  My leg kind of sounded like that!

Crash! There goes reality and PBR all over the floor.

Five looooong (seriously LONG) days later, Pyro became PyroBot. Dr. Clinton Bell did an impressive job of reassembling her, installing 2 plates, 17 screws and a stabilizing rod. He also did a great job of being cute as a button.


Metal detectors and MRI tubes are my sworn enemies.

Pyro spent the first month in a wheelchair. There wasn’t much to do in her wheelchair besides drink. So Pyro drank a lot.

It's hard to tell if you've had too much to drink if you don't have to walk a straight line.

It’s hard to tell if you’ve had too much to drink if you don’t have to walk a straight line.

Pyro’s entire life kind of imploded at this point, but she was lucky to have the support and love of good friends who were there for her through some rough patches.

Eileen Left's other arm is in a sling, but she still pushed me around all night.

Eileen Left’s other arm is in a sling, but she still pushed me around all night.

After another three months on crutches and a final month in a walking boot, Pyro was finally cleared for physical therapy. She was told she’d probably always walk with a limp and that she would never skate the same way she used to.

Then Pyro found yoga.

Outfit not recommended for bikram yoga.

Outfit not recommended for bikram yoga.

Yoga restored her balance in every sense of the word. Her flexibility and strength returned. She became braver, calmer, and happier. She drank less. She smiled more. She laced up her skates when she was cleared, but pain and fear kept her from contact for 4 months. She didn’t want to quit, though. She became PyRef.


And she track managed for awesome teams.




Oops, I'm trying to ref instead of coaching.

Oops, I’m trying to ref instead of coaching.

Then a funny thing happened – the fear faded and the pain became easier to tune out. Pyro started bumping skaters at practice instead of blowing her whistle. She skated for travel team again, soon becoming co-captain and eventually captain. She joined a hometeam – an amazing group who challenged her to work harder and become a better skater than she ever was before the injury. She even played co-ed derby, which she LOVED.




Pyro soon began to run again, and the last of that limp disappeared – along with the last of her drinking days. She entered as many 5Ks as she could, then set her sights higher. Pyro never ran farther than 8 miles at once before her injury, but after becoming Pyrobot she ran 2 half-marathons and a 15K within 4 months. Once she was able to use her legs again the way they were meant to be used, she never wanted to stop.



Spending so much time with physical therapists inspired Pyro to hire a personal trainer – then eventually become a trainer herself. She focused on corrective and rehabilitative exercise so she could help her friends heal from their injuries, too. She discovered that muscle not only provided a protective layer to help prevent injuries – it looked damn good too.


And that, my darlings, is how a girl who thought her world was ending turned it around into something far better than she could’ve ever imagined. It took time and hard work and it hurt a lot. But she came out on the other side stronger, wiser and with the understanding that every challenge is just an opportunity to prove her mettle. Now her mission is to help others see that no matter what they are going through, this too shall pass and life will be amazing again. It won’t happen overnight and you’ll have to work to make it happen, but it will happen.

Insert Balls Joke Here

My gym is filled with pink balls.  They’re deceptively innocent-looking, but don’t let their bouncy appearance fool you – my balls really make my clients sweat. Exercise balls are a fun way to challenge your balance and build core strength – plus a swiss ball is WAY more fun to sit on than an office chair.

I try to do this workout once every other week to mix up my usual skating, running and lifting routine. It’s a nice change of pace and the word “balls” never fails to make me smile. I run through this routine 2-3 times, resting no more than 3 minutes between each set and no more than 30 seconds between each exercise. Sometimes I’ll take the 3rd set to failure (meaning I ignore the listed number of reps and just keep going ‘til I can’t any more) – this method of training can help you push past fat loss plateaus.  Remember, the more intense your workout is, the more calories you’ll burn (and the less mindless cardio you’ll have to do).

What you’ll need:

A swiss ball (make sure you have the appropriate size for your height)

A medicine ball (6-12lbs is a good starting weight)

The workout:

Stretch and warm-up

Ball Plank: This move takes a basic elbow plank up a notch by forcing your core to work harder to stay balanced.  Hold for 30 seconds.

Elbow plank on swiss ball


** When the plank becomes too easy, you can ramp it up by doing plank rollouts: from your elbow plank position, use your arms to roll the ball 2-3 inches forward, keeping your core tight. Pause for a breath and roll ball back to start position.  Repeat 12-15 times.  You don’t need to roll it out more than a couple of inches to feel the effect of this move. I also draw tiny circles or figure 8s with the ball when I’m feeling particularly masochistic.

Ball pike to pushup: This is a compound exercise that hits pretty much every muscle! Start in a straight arm plank with feet on swiss ball.

Ball pike - neutral position

Bend knees and tuck butt under, curling ball toward body.

Ball pike tuck

Straighten legs to return to start position, then immediately do a pushup.

Ball pike pushup

Return to start position.  That’s one rep!  Do 12-15 reps of this one. Aren’t balls fun?

Trunk rotation:

Lie on your back in bridge position with your shoulders centered on your swiss ball.  Keep your core tight and let your head lie back – don’t strain your neck. Hold your medicine ball above your chest, arms straight.

Ball rotation neutral

Keeping your core tight and your legs and feet still, slowly rotate torso as far as you can to the side while maintaining balance and keeping arms straight.  Pause for a moment, then slowly return to start position, using your core to maintain balance.

Ball rotation side

Repeat on other side.  That’s one rep – aim for 12-15.

Grab a drink of water and put your swiss ball aside – time for some allover toning with your medicine ball.


Squat press:

Stand straight up, shoulders back, chest out and hold your medicine ball at chest level with your elbows near your sides.


Bend your knees and push your butt back into a squat, keeping your weight in your heels and your knees behind your toes.  (If you have knee problems, don’t take any squat below 60°)  Make sure your knees are parallel to each other and not dipping inward.  At the same time, straighten your arms at chest level and push the ball out in front of your body.  Keep your shoulders down, core tight and chest up.


Straighten legs to return to start position, squeezing your glutes as you drive through your legs to power back to standing.  Bend elbows and draw ball back to chest. Repeat 12-15 times.


Single-leg woodchops:

These are fantastic for balance and will make every square inch of your body burn.  Do these as quickly as you can with proper form and burn even more calories while building muscle all over.

Stand on right leg, left knee bent and held at waist height.  Hold your medicine ball in both hands and rest it on your knee.


Maintaining balance on your right, leg, straighten your left leg and float it diagonally off the ground as you straighten your arms and raise the medicine ball diagonally overhead to your right.


Now, quickly and forcefully bring the medicine ball down in a chopping motion as you bend your left knee and bring it back to your starting position to meet the ball. Don’t make contact with the ball with your knee – use your upper body and core to stop the motion of the ball just before they connect.  That’s one rep.  Complete 12-15 on your right leg, then shake it out and switch to your left leg.  Almost done!

Lateral lunge with medicine ball taps:

Start standing straight up, legs together, medicine ball held at chest level with elbows by sides. Take a big step to the left and bend your left knee, sinking into a side lunge. Keep that knee behind those toes!  Tap the ball on the ground in front of your left foot, then return to your start position and immediately repeat the lunge on your right side. Aim for 12-15 lunges on each side without stopping.


Roll that swiss ball back out and drape yourself across it, face up or face down, for a fantastic spinal stretch after all your hard work.  Let me know if you enjoyed this workout!  I always welcome feedback.

Plyometrics and sock derby

Our rec league, Internal Affairs, accepts new skaters at the first 2 practices of every month. These intake practices usually focus on basic on-skates skills – stops, falls, crossovers and all of the other little details that make an athlete proficient on her skates.

The problem with this structure is that it takes some skaters several months to actually play the sport – and as anyone who’s played roller derby can attest, you spend your first year of contact figuring out what you’re doing besides just turning left and bouncing off of people. We spend so much time teaching people to pass their minimum skills assessments that we don’t always get to teach them actual gameplay ‘til much later.

Then there’s the fact that many new skaters haven’t built up their fast-twitch muscle fibers yet.  Fast-twitch fiber is crucial for explosive, powerful movement, but it’s hard to develop those fibers on skates – your wheels don’t provide enough resistance with the ground to build the muscles you need to skate the way you want to.

So tonight, we did things a bit differently. I ran a full hour of cardio/endurance, plyometrics, agility, blocking/timing drills and scrimmage completely on foot.  Then we geared up and rolled for real for the last 30 minutes.

My thoughts: it mostly went exactly as planned. I had to cut the skating time a bit because we spent so much time offskates (I originally promised only 30 minutes on foot), but we needed it.  I watched lightbulbs come on over several heads as the stress of trying to figure out how to skate was removed and my girls could just concentrate on gameplay. Some of my freshest meat are the hardest hitters with the best timing when on foot!  It was enlightening and I can’t wait to try it again.

Here is the workout in its entirety.  Let me know if you have any questions or would like clarifications on any exercises or drills.

What you’ll need for this workout: a rink or other flat area to run across, preferably with a derby track already clearly marked; an agility ladder (if you don’t have one, you can use duct tape or chalk to make one on the floor/ground); shoes or socks you can run and hop in; jerseys and helmet covers.

Dynamic warm-up: neck/shoulder/arm circles, windmill toe touches, butt kicks, high knees, standing iron cross, inchworm/dogwalk series [toe touch, inchworm out to downward dog; alternate bending and straightening legs to stretch calves and hamstrings. Lift each leg and draw circles in both directions in the air before walking hands back in to toetouch, then slowly roll up, one vertebra at a time, ‘til you’re standing up straight].

Plyometrics and conditioning:

Side-step squats – step right and squat, back to neutral, then left and squat – repeat for 30 sec

Mohawk squats – legs wide, toes pointed out – down on a 2 count, up on 2 count for 30 sec

Crossover steps – (three lateral steps, then reverse direction by springing off outside foot) – start slowly, speed up – 30 sec

Speed skaters for 30 sec – mountain climbers for 30 sec

Agility ladder – one in, two in, two up one back, out in, ali shuffle (both sides)

Quick feet to burpee – jog down rink – quick feet to burpee – side shuffle back

Quick feet to burpee – skip down rink – quick feet to burpee – side shuffle opposite side back


Discussion and demonstration: legal blocking zones

Partner up for squat bumps – standing still, hip to hip – get low and pop up – 30 sec each side

Stagger partners so that one is behind and slightly to the side of the other – have partner in back step around partner in front, first gaining position, then using hip/booty to make contact – switch positions after a minute on each side

Blocking/timing drill: Snake line in center of track – person in back comes up outside and each person hipchecks them to outside – then hipcheck up inside – have them walking quickly with light feet (“scampering”)

Stop line – number off, grab jerseys and panties

Sock derby: 4-6 jams – play full 5 on 5, with penalties served by doing 10 push-ups, then rejoining pack  – stop in between jams to answer questions, repeat rules, etc


Put on skates

Partner snake drill: skate in pairs through double line, focusing on matching speed and timing your cuts – use verbal communication and touch your partner’s hips or thighs to stay close.

Blocking/timing drill: single paceline on track – skater in back comes up outside and each skater in line hipchecks them to outside – then come up inside – do both sides twice. Focus on not cutting the track as a jammer and staying in-bounds as a blocker.

Truck and trailer demo: how to swing off your partner’s hips to block jammer

Partner up – practice swinging off each other’s hips, skating around derby track (choose a couple of jammers to dummy-jam through a few times, then pass the panties off to another pair)

Cooldown laps – opposite direction

Cooldown stretch

Natural Pain Relievers by Pyro Maim Ya

Given how sore I am today, it feels apropos to reblog this article I wrote last year about my favorite natural pain relievers.

Originally posted at

High performance, high attitude athletic apparel for the alternative athlete


 Natural Pain Remedies by Pyro Maim Ya of  Pynk Fitness

[or as my daughter calls them, “Mommy’s hippie medicines”]

I’m not a big fan of painkillers.  Well, I take that back.  I was a HUGE fan of painkillers after my leg surgery, along with whiskey and poor decisions in general. These days, my body is a gaudily decorated temple that I’m nourishing as naturally as possible – I really don’t even like to take OTC painkillers anymore.  I’m an old busted-up derby gal though, so the need for pain management frequently arises.  When it does, I’m really thankful to have these supplements on hand.

Most of these are anti-inflammatories, just like your over the counter drug of choice.  They’re also mood boosters, which helps when you’re hurtin’.  It’s important to note that the simplest remedies – rest, ice and elevation – are also frequently the most effective remedies, so please add those to your pain treatment plan for best results.

[Standard boilerplate disclaimer: I’m not your nutritionist or your doctor, I can’t prescribe or diagnose or cure anything, blah blah blah, purple giraffes and David Bowie.  I’m just a trainer with a big mouth who likes the vitamin section @ Whole Foods a LOT.]

  • Turmeric: I already knew turmeric was pretty much the most awesome spice on the rack after I successfully treated a staph infection with it a couple of years ago.  It’s an antiseptic and antimicrobial, so it’s great for disinfecting wounds and treating infections. I didn’t realize until recently what a powerful pain reliever it is too.  The active ingredient curcumin in turmeric lowers the levels of enzymes in the bodies that cause inflammation.  Research has shown its positive impact on rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and other inflammatory skin conditions and even depression.  You can find either turmeric or curcumin in supplement form – I take a brand called Curamin that I found at Central Market. I also eat a lot of curry and frequently throw a little turmeric into meat rubs, stews, eggs and roasted veggies.
  •  Fish Oil: Most of the health benefits of fish oil can be attributed to fish oil’s omega 3 essential fatty acids – and the health benefits are numerous.  Fish oil is an antidepressant and an anti-inflammatory that is useful in treating anxiety, ADD/ADHD, arthritis and cardiovascular diseases, to name a few. It also helps your body burn more fat when you exercise – and a lighter frame equals less pressure on your joints. I take fish oil supplements daily and try to eat salmon or tuna 2-3 times a week.  It’s a great excuse to splurge on sushi. Flaxseed and walnuts also contain small amounts of the omega 3 ALA, so they provide some of the same benefits.
  • Green tea: Besides lowering your risk for cancer and heart disease, green tea is a powerful anti-inflammatory.  Its antioxidant properties help boost your immune system, which can speed your healing time if you’re injured or under the weather.  (Squeeze in some lemon, lime or orange for a dose of Vitamin C.)
  •  Bromelain: Bromelain, an enzyme compound, is an effective inflammation reduction agent that also inhibits some types of tumor growth. One of the best natural sources of bromelain is pineapple, which further supports inflammation reduction with its high vitamin C content. Extracts of bromelain have proven to be as effective as some non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. There is evidence that bromelain supplements may reduce swelling, bruising, inflammation and pain after surgery and injury. A topical form of bromelain is even being used experimentally for burns.
  • Quercetin: Quercetin is a flavonoid with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The real magic, though, is in its analgesic effect on nerves. By boosting production of nerve-relaxing nitric oxide and elevating serotonin levels, quercetin enables nerves to naturally feel less pain.  I’ve noticed it gives me more energy, more endurance and more overall muscle strength – I don’t feel fatigued during bouts or workouts when I’m taking it regularly.  It has worked wonders for friends with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, and while poking around online I found a study that showed how quercetin significantly improved recovery after spinal cord injury. It’s found in onions, apples, berries, grapes, broccoli and squash, or you can buy it in pill form at GNC or most health food stores.
  • Capsaicin: Magnum’s gonna say that I’m using this article as an excuse to eat spicy foods, but there’s a method to my madness that goes beyond my love for anything that tastes like burning.  Capsaicin is the active component in chili peppers and is an irritant that produces a burning sensation in anything it touches, causing the brain to release endorphins that can produce a state of euphoria for heat-seekers like me.  Capsaicin temporarily desensitizes pain-prone skin nerve receptors, which makes it effective in topical creams.  It also interferes with pain signals to the brain, which can translate to increased endurance and less muscle fatigue for athletes.
  • Cherries: Tart cherries may relieve pain better than aspirin, according to a recent study.  Their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties may help relieve arthritis and gout pain while protecting the body against cardiovascular disease – cherries can even help inhibit the growth of tumors.  Plus they taste AMAZING, especially this time of year.  I’ve noticed lately that I constantly crave cherries – I think my body is crying out for the Vitamin A and potassium for their bruise-healing properties and the vitamin B-6 for its natural energy boost.
  • Glucosamine:  Glucosamine is proven to slow progression of osteoarthritis of the knee – studies show it works as well as or better than ibuprofen, but with fewer side effects. In four 2005 studies that gave glucosamine sulphate versus NSAIDs, the glucosamine worked better in two, and was equivalent to the NSAIDs in the other two. I used to take a glucosamine/chondroitin/MSM blend GNC makes called Triflex, but I recently started using Instaflex and love it even more (it has glucosamine and MSM + other natural pain relievers like turmeric, cayenne pepper, ginger and boswellia).
  • Olive oil: The key ingredient here isoleocanthal, which is chemically related to ibuprofen (though it has none of the negative side effects ibuprofen does). This is SUCH a lovely excuse to dip a crusty chunk of bread into a nice dish of high-quality extra virgin olive oil, don’t you think?
  • Positive visualization: Yes, you absolutely read that right. I believe firmly in the power of the mind – what we think, we become. Look, circumstances are what they are.  You’re in pain and that’s stressing you out, but you can control how you react to that.  Close your eyes, take several deep breaths and picture yourself pain-free, injury-free, and rockin’ the track (or the gym or your knitting needles or the pole or whatever it is that you rock so very hard when you are able-bodied and feeling sassy). It helps to have to have some like-minded friends who will also send good thoughts your way (my dear friend Stevie Nicks & Licks has sent healing vibes out to me more times than I can count, for which I am ever grateful). If you’re more into prayer you can definitely do that too – whatever works for you.  The important thing is focusing on the belief that you WILL be 100% again very soon. I’m more than happy to send my own hippie-ass healing vibes to anyone who needs them – I have plenty to go around! You can also try guided imagery, yoga or meditation – all have measurable effects on your stress response to pain.

Have you ever used one of these natural solutions before? Did it work for you?

Full-body burnout with Loca and Pyro

My best friend Loca took the day off work to train with me yesterday.  Loca’s back and arms make grown men cry (and her one-armed pull-ups make me a little weepy myself), so I knew I’d have to bring my A game to challenge her obscenely high level of fitness. My plan – compound moves, plenty of core and lots of plyometrics.

We took the TRX suspension trainer (one of my favorite training toys), a 10lb medicine ball and our yoga mats out to the lake for some fresh air and Vitamin D.  The TRX easily hitches to any tree, but you can also hang it over a closet door if your weather isn’t as comfortable as ours was. Most of the exercises in the entire workout require very little space to perform.

Dynamic warmup

20 windmill toetouches
20 standing iron cross kicks
20 standing single leg pikes
20 sidestep squats
20 side lunges with warrior arms
20 lateral shuffles with side kick
10 jumping jacks
10 cross jacks
10 burpees

20 Single leg hip rotations
20 curtsy squats
60sec curb step-ups

10lb medicine ball:
20 single leg woodchops
20 single leg deadlifts
10 squats with front raise

TRX suspension trainer:
10 squat to low row
30sec plank with scissor legs
10 mountain climbers
10 bicep curls
10 chest press

10 jumping jacks
10 cross jacks
10 burpees

60sec Elbow plank with toe taps
60sec bicycle crunches
30sec flutter kicks
10 spiderman push-ups
10 inchworms with push-ups

Yoga cool down

Best Stretch Ever

I figured I’d ease you into my blog by teaching you one of my favorite stretches (look, if I went straight to spiderman pushups on our first day together, you’d probably close this tab and search for muffin recipes instead).  This is a great cooldown stretch after a derby practice or offskates workout – your hip flexors will thank you for it.

Anyone who’s ever skated one of my practices knows how much I love a good cooldown stretch. A cooldown stretch is much more important than you think – if you’re just hopping off the rink without giving your muscles time to slowly release some of that built-up tension, you’re putting yourself at risk for soreness, fatigue or injury.

This is my absolute favorite stretch ever – it targets your back, shoulders, hips and legs, plus it helps slow down your heartrate and breathing and gives you a nice warm fuzzy feeling. I’ve heard it called the Py-retzel, since the end result is rather pretzel-like. I try to do it at the end of every practice and I always hear such happy sighs all around.

How to twist one up:

Lie on your back, right leg straight and flat on the ground and bend your left knee, pulling it in toward your chest.  Hold it here for a few seconds, then open your hip a little and pull knee in toward armpit to get a deeper stretch.

Lift right leg straight up so that it’s perpendicular to your body and cross your bent left leg so your left foot rests over the top of your right thigh. Your legs will form a figure 4. With your left arm on the inside of your right thigh and your right arm on the outside, clasp your hands behind your thigh and gently pull it toward your chest.  You can bend your right knee a bit as you pull to get a deeper stretch through your hip.


Release right thigh and lower leg to the floor.  Keeping left knee bent, gently twist your torso so that your left knee touches the ground next to the right side of your body. Try to keep both shoulderblades pressed firmly into the floor as you take a few breaths and allow your spine to release.  Straighten your body out, give your legs a little shake and repeat on the other side.

If you’re flexible and would like a deeper stretch, you can bend your bottom leg and catch the toes of your foot in your hand, using your other hand on the knee of your top leg to counter-balance the stretch.


I usually follow this one up by rolling onto my stomach, pushing into upward dog, then pushing back into child’s pose for a few breaths before I take off my gear.  No matter how charged up I am from practice, my muscles and mind immediately feel more zen for the drive home.