5 tips from Gisele’s trainer for a workout you’ll actually enjoy

Genetics might prevent us from achieving a body like Gisele Bundchen’s, but we can at least work out like her

Celebrity workout guru Jill Payne, who has trained Bundchen, hosted a workshop at BSC Studio last month as part of an eight-city tour to promote her new mind-body brand, Spiritual Athlete. And while we can report that there’s no magic push-up to get supermodel fit, Payne might help you achieve Bundchen’s blissful attitude.

Spiritual Athlete is a hybrid motivation and fitness program that’s concerned with reducing stress and promoting positive thinking over counting reps and sets. Payne’s philosophy is that if you’re mentally positive, you’ll naturally have more energy, inspiring you to be more physically active. In addition to deep breathing exercises and acupressure work, Payne encouraged workshop attendees to envision themselves “moving like a 10” in a “beautiful state” both before and during the workout.

“All beautiful states require physical energy,” she said. “If you want to thrive in anything – relationships, a career – you have to ask yourself how you can get to a place physically where you’re able to live in that beautiful state.”

Here are some of Payne’s basic exercise principles so you can find joy in your own workout—or at least a little less struggle.


Payne got her start as a yoga instructor – a practice that relies heavily on breathing through sequences of poses – and she encourages linking movement to breath in any workout. “Breath is directly related to energy,” she said. According to Payne, taking deep breaths throughout a workout keeps your nervous system calm and contributes to an overall sense of well-being. “Most of us breathe into our chests, which doesn’t calm your body,” she said.

The key to deeper breath is activating your diaphragm – a muscle below your lungs – so you can breathe into your belly. Before your workout, lie in a comfortable position on the floor and hook your fingers under your ribcage like you’re trying to lift it up. Start at your sternum and work your way down toward your hip, massaging the muscles under your ribs as you go. This should help loosen your muscles and allow deeper, more restorative breath.


It might seem too easy, but Payne believes smiling throughout even the toughest sweat session is the simplest and fastest way to get into a positive mindset about your workout. “Before you do anything, your question should be, ‘Am I at a 10? What do I need to do to get there?’” she said. “Smiling is the easiest place to start.”

Target overlooked muscles

Payne has a whole-body approach to fitness, but she puts her focus on the diaphragm, the psoas (the deepest muscles in your core that run from your spine to your legs), and the glutes – three muscle groups that aren’t often at the core of training. According to Payne, these three muscle groups are at the center of your body’s most basic needs for success in fitness and in general: breathing and moving. Payne believes a workout that doesn’t address these muscles leads to compensated movement patterns that can result in injury.

To strengthen the psoas and glutes, Payne suggests practicing a yoga posture called bridge: Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor, hip’s width apart. Stretch your arms alongside your body toward your feet; your fingertips should be able to graze your heels. If you have a yoga block, place it between your knees; if you don’t have access to one, focus on keeping your knees hip’s width apart throughout the pose. Without putting strain on your neck, lift your hips toward the ceiling. Pay attention to engaging your core and your glutes as you lift — the movement shouldn’t be driven by your legs. Hold the pose for several breaths, then release back to the floor. Repeat this movement several times, breathing deeply into your belly to activate your diaphragm.

Talk to yourself

“Our lives are reflections of the stories we tell ourselves,” Payne said. “You want to be on the same team as the voice in your head.” She insists that positive internal dialogue is key for the kind of motivation that leads to lasting change.

When you’re feeling frustrated with your fitness progress, Payne discourages comparing yourself with others who might be more physically fit; instead, she suggests repeating phrases like, “Everything I need is right here,” and, “Move like a 10.” Positive thinking helps keep stress levels low and energy up, she said, ultimately contributing to a stronger workout.

Strike a pose

If you find yourself struggling to keep momentum during challenging reps or circuits, Payne suggests a power pose: Try a superhero stance with your feet hip-width apart, your hands on your hips and your chest lifted, or raise your hands above your head like you’re a rock star thanking a crowd. Moves like this “make you feel like you’ve already won,” she said, and contribute to an overall sense of positivity. “Exercise can be used to empower, rather than make you feel bad,” Payne said. After all, her number one piece of advice for sustained physical empowerment? Find an activity you love and make it fun.

By Lauren Friel
Originally appeared on March 4, 2017  

Running buddies everywhere you go

RIO DE JANEIRO — Allan Stirling settles in with a pint at a crowded Irish pub of the sort that seem improbably to operate in every city on the planet, and greets — by name and with enthusiasm — many of his fellow patrons.

A Brit who married a Brazilian, Stirling is a member of the Rio Hash House Harriers, the local chapter of a global running fraternity. That’s how he’s come to know not only all of these people, including the many other expats who choose to spend an evening in an Irish pub in Rio de Janeiro’s Ipanema neighborhood, but also the city itself.

After running weekly with the group, "I know more about the geography of Rio than my wife does," Stirling said, raising his quickly emptying glass to yet another newly arrived running buddy.

International running clubs like this one offer travelers an insight to the places that they visit unavailable from guidebooks or escorted tours, not to mention a chance to shake off their jet lag with some physical activity and make instant, interesting friends among the locals.

“It’s life in the raw,” said Stirling. “You’re meeting people.” Besides, he said. “It’s a lonely thing to run by yourself.”

There are runners, and fast-increasing numbers of running clubs, in the remotest corners of the earth, with networks of new ones starting up or expanding for particular groups including everyone from black women to gays to mothers.

They’re easy to find online. Many local running stores have them. So do chains, such as Nike’s — including the Nike Store in Ipanema just down the Rua Visconde de Pirajá from this bar. The Road Runners Club of America and USA Track & Field each lists its affiliated groups in the United States, with links and contact information.

 Hardcore runners will find like-minded competitors while on the road in ultramarathon, trail-running, and triathlon club. There are also niche groups such as Black Girls Run, a domestic network of running clubs for black women; Moms RUN This Town, with several hundred chapters in the United States and Canada; and the International Front Runners, a coalition of 100 clubs worldwide for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered runners.

Most are open, welcoming, and friendly to visitors — and none perhaps as welcoming and friendly as the Hash House Harriers, which originated in 1938 in Kuala Lumpur among British colonial officers and expatriates for the precise purpose of gathering for a run in an exotic foreign place, followed by socializing at a restaurant they called the Hash House. One of the rules is, simply: “Members are friendly to all.”

Today, there are nearly 2,000 chapters, including one at an Australian research station in Antarctica, all replete with odd traditions you’d expect from an activity invented near the twilight of the British colonial era.

Designated “hares” in every club map out ever-changing trails along routes usually marked in chalk. But the highlight is the post-run get-togethers, which feature beer and drinking songs such as “I Wonder What’s Under a Scotsman’s Kilt,” among others with less printable lyrics.

“It can be quite messy at times,” said Stirling, ordering another beer.

Once a year, the hashers run in red dresses to commemorate a traveler who once came right from the airport at a Hash House run in Long Beach, Calif. — and proceeded to run along in her red dress and heels.

Hash House Harriers chapters typically reflect their local cultures. Boston’s, for example, hosts pub crawls on the Friday and Saturday nights before the Boston Marathon, a hangover run on the day before, and a cheering section during the race itself, at which the members hand out beer instead of water.

Rio’s has a Carnival hash heavily populated by runners in town for the Brazilian version of Mardi Gras. Its weekly runs are often at night to avoid the heat and take advantage of stops at the occasional bar da esquina, or corner bar, every few kilometers. They often follow the promenades along the city’s astoundingly picturesque beaches.

An oil and gas industry consultant, Stirling has hashed all over the world in his travels, including in Azerbaijan and Dubai, where the club ran in a desert wadi outside of town at night with flashlights, drinking surreptitiously from the back of a four-by-four to avoid offending local religious restrictions on public consumption of alcohol.

He even has a hash name: “Stizzer.”

“You’ll be well-received,” Stirling said, ordering another pint and by now surrounded by several friends who have joined him at the table. “You just turn up and people welcome you.”

By Jon Marcus
Originally appeared on December 23, 2016

Boston is One of Top 10 Fittest Cities in U.S. According to American Fitness Index

All that running along the Charles must have something to do with it: Boston is among the top 10 fittest cities in America, according to the American Fitness Index (AFI).

The annual report, published by the American College of Sports Medicine, measured the health and fitness of 50 major metropolitan areas in the U.S. by looking at factors like smoking, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease rates; access to healthy choices like parks and farmers markets per capita; and mental health.

The Boston metropolitan area, which includes Newton and Cambridge, ranked at number seven out of 50 (moving up from last year’s number nine ranking) and earned big points for the city’s walkability score. Boston had more public parks, playgrounds, and farmers markets per capita than the AFI’s target goal for a healthy city.

Bostonians also had a lower death rate for cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and a lower percentage of currently smoking residents, but a higher percentage of asthma, coronary heart disease, and “days when mental health was not good during the past 20 days” than the AFI’s target goal, according to the report.

The report also noted that Massachusetts had a “higher level of state requirement for physical education classes” than in other areas.

Boston came in below San Francisco (6), Seattle (5), Portland, Oregon (4), Denver (3), Minneapolis (2), and Washington, D.C., which has been number one on this list for the last three years. Hartford ranked number nine, behind Salt Lake City, at number eight; San Diego ranked number 10.

Nationally, the U.S. has made some general improvements toward a healthier lifestyle, including a 5.2 percent increase in park expenditures per resident, 11.8 percent more individuals reporting physical activity within the last 30 days, and a 4.7 percent drop in the percentage of people who smoked.

By Kristin Toussaint
Originally appeared on May 16, 2016

The 8 Most Beautiful Running Routes Around Boston

It’s time to ditch the treadmill and take your run outdoors. When the weather heats up, so does the sidewalk traffic. Fortunately, there’s a plethora of beautiful running routes around Boston. Here are eight great runs with a view.

1. The Esplanade

The Esplanade is the most popular running route in the city—sometimes resulting in pedestrian traffic jams—yet locals continue to flock to this stretch of pathway along the Charles for its water views and incredible nightly sunsets. It’s about 2 miles one-way from the Harvard Bridge to the Museum of Science. For the return trip, cross the river and head back along Memorial Drive for stunning views of Beacon Hill, Back Bay, and Fenway.

2. Comm. Ave. Mall

If you’re out on a city run admiring the Back Bay townhomes after weaving through the Public Garden, be sure to detour to the Comm. Ave. Mall, where plush timbers provide shade and a welcome reprieve from the shoppers and tourists on nearby Newbury and Boylston Streets. It’s a little less than a mile from the Public Garden to Mass. Ave. along the tree-lined stretch.

3. Carson Beach and Castle Island

Castle Island, Pleasure Bay, M Street Beach, and Carson Beach make up an almost 7-mile stretch of beachfront running. Save for a view construction spots, you can run unobstructed from the JFK Library to Castle Island. This route has it all: city views, ocean breezes, Harbor Island views, boats, water sports, and historic Fort Independence, which is on the National Registers of Historic Places.

4. Chestnut Hill Reservoir

Popular with Newton residents and Boston College students, the short reservoir loop is only 1.57 miles, but provides a nice escape from the city. The sun also sets over the water, which makes this Instagram-worthy route worth riding on the Green Line.

5. Jamaica Pond

This water loop is also around 1.5 miles, and it also features stunning sunsets. Locals in the know head out to this spot early in the morning, when the rising sun reflects off the water and lights up the pathway.

6. Back Bay Fens

The exterior loop around the Fens is about 2.5 miles, but the real treats are the interior pathways that meander through a community garden, the Kelleher Rose Garden, and more. If you prefer to measure your miles on even pavement, the Fens is also home to Roberto Clemente Field, which features a three-lane, rubberized all-weather track.

7. The Arnold Arboretum

This 2.6-mile trail within the Arboretum’s grounds takes you through the 281-acres filled with 15,000 trees, shrubs, and vines. Although it’s lush, runners may want to visit this trail during off-peak times, as this popular “living museum” sees a lot of foot traffic.

8. Franklin Park 

There’s a 2.1-mile loop within Franklin Park that makes it a popular after-work running spot. Venture off the beaten path to see the ground’s real beauty, which features bridges, stone walls, and plenty of grass for a post-run stretch. Franklin Park is also home to numerous 5K charity runs throughout the year.

By Melissa Malamut
Originally posted on May 14, 2016

How to Take Outdoor Fitness Classes for Free This Summer

Forget spending time inside a gym. Warmer weather and sunshine are finally here, and with them come the release of the Boston Parks Fitness Summer Series schedule. A joint effort between the Boston Public Health Commission, the Boston Parks & Recreation Department, and Blue Cross Blue Shield MA, the Summer Fitness Series brings free workouts to parks all across Boston’s neighborhoods—providing ample opportunity to workout outdoors. The series includes Zumba, yoga, and kid-friendly “On the MOVE” programs. Check out the full schedule and class descriptions here.

By Kristin Toussaint
Originally posted on, May 10, 2016

Tips For Those Starting Running After 40

Rodrigo Martinez was inspired by reading about the ultra-endurance of a tribe of Mexican Indians in “Born to Run.” Gary Van Deurse was bored by walking. Therese Walsh wanted to improve her health.

All three made their moves around 40, lacing up their sneakers to run their way to better fitness. Martinez now regularly races half-marathons after ditching a life consumed by business travel. Van Deurse hopes to run his first 5k in the fall. Walsh is already planning her running “homework” for her goal races later this year.

Starting to run with no prior experience comes with challenges at any age. But are there any special physical considerations for newbies who’ve crossed the threshold of 40?

Sports medicine specialists say yes and no. Yes, there are inescapable biological changes brought on by aging, but no, they shouldn’t stop you, unless you run into injury trouble.

Dr. Jeffrey Zilberfarb, an orthopedic surgeon at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and New England Baptist Hospital, thinks exercise of any kind is particularly important for people after 40. More than a decade of scientific studies have shown physical activity rivals any drug for improving cardiovascular health, bone strength, and mental health. As people age, he argues, exercise becomes even more critical to counteracting natural decline.

“We never lose the ability to train and to get stronger,” Zilberfarb said. “Anyone can get into shape, assuming your heart and your lungs are good. You can always do something.” As early as age 30 our bodies start to lose muscle mass at the rate of 1 percent per year. Exercise can’t completely stem that slide, but it can slow it. Some elderly people have trouble lifting themselves out of a chair, but others in their 70s are still running marathons, thanks to regular training — not solely because they won the genetic lottery.

With aging, tendons and ligaments lose water in their collagen, making them less flexible and more likely to tear. Discs in the back get stiffer. Bones become more brittle. Aerobic capacity diminishes. Metabolism slows.

But exercise changes bodies both young and old. The “good” stress of training makes muscles stronger and bones thicker. Exercise also boosts the number of mitochondria, the powerhouses of the cell. And fitter bodies make better use of glucose, the cell’s fuel. As an added benefit, physical activity elevates mood, decreasing both anxiety and depression.

There are risks, however. J. Alex McKinney, director of services at Marathon Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine in Newton, says it is important that older runners understand the stress running places on the body. For starters, each foot hammers the ground 300 to 500 times per mile at a force of up to three times your body weight. Age reduces stride length, leg strength, and aerobic capacity, he says, so he recommends getting a biomechanical assessment of risk for injury.

Furthermore, Zilberfarb warns, forget the old mantra “no pain, no gain.” Do not run through pain, especially if you are older. Pay attention to pain that does not go away. It could be a stress fracture that, with a little time off, won’t be debilitating. If your hamstring is screaming, give it time to heal.

Constant joint pain should send you to a health provider’s office. Running doesn’t cause osteoarthritis, multiple studies have shown, but if you are among the majority of people who develop the degenerative disease of cartilage and bone after 40, it might be time to consider a lower-impact activity, such as cycling or swimming.

All new runners — including anyone who hasn’t run for years — should start out easy, experts say. Build up mileage or minutes gradually, at a rate of about 10 percent a week. Get some sleep and eat good food.

“Eating a well-balanced diet with plenty of water throughout the day is important for energy levels, blood flow, and tissue mobility, followed by eight hours of sleep to help release growth hormones within the body to accelerate the tissue-healing process,” McKinney said. For Walsh, 45, it’s her second time joining a weekly Couch to 5K class, both run as wellness initiatives by her employer, Hebrew Senior Life. Members methodically mix walking and running over several weeks until they can run the entire 3.1 miles.

Unlike her attempt two years ago, Walsh has been faithfully running three times a week between sessions — her homework — to maintain her fitness. Despite back surgery for a disk problem, arthritis in her knee, and exercise-induced asthma, she still feels better after she runs.

“The nights I run after I get home from work, I have more energy left over to do small chores that I normally would put off,” she said. “I know I was worse when I didn’t do anything.”

Van Deurse, 41, is wary of injury, with the memory of hurting his arm clearing ice dams last winter still fresh in his mind. But he wanted something more strenuous than daily walks. He gradually upped his game from running one mile on his own in April to a high of four miles in June.

“I definitely feel better. My weight hasn’t changed a lot, but I feel stronger and leaner,” he said. “I just bought a pair of pants and I went down a size.”

Martinez, 43, took as a challenge a doctor telling him as a child that his flat feet meant no running. Growing up in Mexico, Martinez played volleyball and soccer but never considered running until he turned 39.

He wasn’t sleeping well; his weight was creeping up; and he knew he needed to change.

When he read Christopher McDougall’s tale of the Tarahumara people running barefoot through the rocky canyons of Mexico, he took it to heart.

“My body compared to my 20s is not in as good shape, but compared to my 30s, I’m in much better shape,” he said. “I have to make more of an effort and be more deliberate about what I’m doing. But I’m healthier now.”

By Elizabeth Cooney
Originally posted on July 17, 2015