Forza! Rereopening on December 28

Hooray! We now have the okay from Governor Walz to reopen gyms! With Christmas coming so soon, I’ve decided to wait until after Christmas to reopen. We will hit the New Year running by starting on Monday, December 28th. We can all feel good after a workout at Forza! on New Year’s Eve! The new dates for the Google Sheets sign up are entered and ready for you! Have a Merry Christmas and see you soon!

Forza! Reopening on Sept 14

Wow! Covid 19 came out of the blue for me! Everything is so different now, including how things will operate at Forza! Over the summer, during our forced hiatus, I’ve been thinking about how to continue classes in as safe a manner as possible. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

Classes will be held on Mondays and Thursdays at 8:00 am and 11:00 am only. (I am currently not offering evening or Saturday classes.) Only 5 people can workout at any given class. There are 5 stations set up around the 4 corners of the room with 1 in the middle to allow for maximum physical distancing. Each station has different equipment available, thus each station will have a different workout posted. These workouts will change every 2 1/2 – 3 weeks allowing for someone who attends class both days to workout at each station at least once. I have created a Google Sheets sign up page for you to sign up for these stations (If you haven’t received your email invite for that sign up, please let me know). If you sign up for the same station every time, you will be repeating the same workout every time, so as you sign up, please try to sign up for a different station each day.

Procedures for attending classes at Forza!:

  • Please don’t come if you have any Covid 19 symptoms or have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for Covid 19. If you have traveled out of the state, please wait 2 weeks after your return before coming back to class.
  • Please wear a mask at all times when entering or exiting the building or while using the restroom and maintain 6 ft of distance from others. Both doors will be open before and after class to make it easier to do so.
  • Upon entering the building, use the hand sanitizer provided.
  • Enter Forza! and drop off coats, bags, etc… changing shoes if wearing any (please, no street shoes in the exercise areas). Bring your own filled water bottles, as there will be no water available except from the restroom sink.
  • Proceed directly to your station and look over the workout. All equipment needed for that workout should be at your station. If you would like any additional equipment, please let me know and I will bring it to you. If you have any questions about how to perform an exercise, please ask and I’ll come to you.
  • There are foam rollers available at each station for warm ups and cool downs.
  • I’d prefer it if you kept your mask on for the entire workout, but if you’d like to lower it so only your mouth is covered that is okay and if you need to lower it all the way to catch your breath, please face away from the center and stay as far away from others as possible while your mask is down.
  • I will be wearing a mask at all times and will maintain 6 ft of distance. If I need to make a form correction, I will do so verbally or visually.
  • When you have done as much of a workout at your station as you’d like, you can be done. You don’t need to stay the whole hour.

In addition to these safety measures, after every class, I will be washing all mats and equipment used at each station with soap and water as well as disinfectant. Also, touchless faucets and soap dispensers have been installed in the restrooms.

I realize this set up is not as conducive to socializing as you are used to, but hopefully with these changes, Forza! will be able to offer you a safe space to work out while we continue to hope and pray for a vaccine! Meanwhile, stay safe and I look forward to seeing you soon!

Awareness is Key

Happy Holidays, everyone! 2020 is almost here. ‘Tis the season for making New Year’s resolutions. For some of you, it probably sounds something like this: “I really need to get into shape. This is the year! I know how important exercise is to my health and well-being. I just have to commit. I need to make this a priority. I can do this.  My New Year’s Resolution is to exercise at least 3 times a week.”

How has that worked for you in the past? I’m guessing for many of you, not great. So, I’d like to suggest a new approach. At Forza!, I espouse a strong mind-body connection. I ask you to pay attention to your form and how your body is feeling. I’d like to extend that mind-body connection to before and after your workouts. Before your workout, I’d like you to check in with yourself and ask yourself questions like:

How is my energy level? Am I dragging my butt into Forza! or am I raring to go?

How is my general outlook on life?  “Life sucks!” or, “You know, things are pretty okay.”

Do I feel ready to seize the day?

How did I sleep last night?

What is my current stress level? Am I able to roll with the punches?*

Then, after your workout, immediately as well as later in the day or even the next day, ask yourself those same questions. Ideally, your answers to the questions above should be “You know, I actually feel better, stronger, less stressed”.  If you are conscious in more than just a general sense of how exercise improves how your mind and body feel, what do you think that will do for your motivation to exercise? “Gosh, I was dragging when I came in, but now I have all this energy.” And wouldn’t you rather approach exercise as a “feel better” endeavor than as a “have to” slog?

So what about the mind-body connection during your exercise? While you are in the midst of your workout, I still want you to pay attention to how you are feeling. For those of you who’ve told me that a particular exercise doesn’t feel good, I’ve given you alternatives. If an exercise doesn’t feel good, ask yourself why? If it is because it hurts your elbow, or hip or back and any corrections to form I’ve suggested don’t help, that exercise might not be for you.

We all have different body types and past injuries that make a difference, even from one side of your body to the other. On that particular day, you might not have slept well or are under a great deal of stress. I hereby give you permission to skip any exercise on the board that doesn’t feel right on that day (or maybe ever). If you want an alternative, I’ll be happy to provide one. If you want to simply do an extra set of an exercise on the board that works on one of your weak spots, go for it.

However (there is always a but, is there not?), this is not permission to “wimp out” (unless you really are under a lot of stress). If you don’t want to do an exercise because it is “hard”, ask yourself this: “When I do this
exercise, how do I usually feel afterwards?” If the answer is “I feel like Rocky at the top of the stairs, then “just do it” (I may be mixing my references, but at least they are all sports related). Look at the wall in Forza!: “Pain of discipline or pain of regret. Take your pick.” That still holds true. But how much easier is that discipline when you know how great you will feel afterwards?! Awareness is the key!


So let’s make a New Year’s Resolution together. I resolve to be more aware and present in my life in 2020!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


*Questions from the book Intuitive Eating – A Revolutionary Program That Works by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch


Guest Blog Post by Cheri Sanford

Try Something New at Forza!

About a year and a half ago, I started attending strength and conditioning classes at Forza. Gretchen is an extremely knowledgeable instructor, and I’ve been amazed at the positive changes I’ve noticed both in my body and my attitude toward exercise because of her classes.

Recently, I tried the latest addition to the impressive lineup of equipment she offers – bungee cords! And I’m not talking about jump-off-a-tall-structure kind of activity here. This workout is safe, great for all body types, and remarkably fun.

Since it was my first time, Gretchen took the time to walk me through set-up. She explained how to select and attach the right harness and bungees for my size. After securing the cords and making sure I felt comfortable, she led us through a series of movements that targeted different muscle groups and required quick bursts of cardio. The bungees create resistance that challenged me without the impact or strain of some other types of exercise. The best part? I couldn’t stop smiling during this class! At the end of the efficient 30 minute routine, I felt the rush of experiencing something totally different combined with the rejuvenating effects of a good workout.

Forza is the only place in town offering this unique approach to a stronger and more resilient body. Join the fun on Mondays at 6:00 pm. I know I’ll be back again!

Snow Shoveling? Don’t forget to breathe!

As I was shoveling yesterday for the umpteenth time this winter, I was thinking once again about snow shoveling injuries and prevention. One of the things I found myself doing during our first snowfall of the season (back in OCTOBER!), which I imagine is the case for most of you as well, is holding my breath while picking up my shovelful of snow and tossing it. As soon as I realized what I was doing, I corrected my breathing. So how should you be breathing? As with any of the exercised we do in class, I tell you to exhale on the hard part, starting the exhale before the hard part begins (for example, starting your exhale before you stand up from a squat). In snow shoveling, the hard part is picking up the shovelful of snow and tossing it. Intraabdominal pressure builds up when we inhale, which is a good thing as it stiffens our spines and helps prevent injuries. But holding your breath while exerting a lot of effort is a great way to hurt yourself. That pressure needs to go somewhere and if you have a weak spot, say your back, your abdominal muscles (hernia anyone?) or your pelvic floor, that weak spot will continue to get strained until something bad happens.

To prevent that bad thing from happening, you strengthen your core – abdominals, back muscles, pelvic floor – and you breathe properly. Inhale, drive the shovel into the snow, start your exhale, pick up the shovel and toss while exhaling the rest of the way. Here are some more tips for proper snow shoveling form. All good things.

Hopefully, we are done with the significant snowfalls for the season, but being in Minnesota where March is the 3rd snowiest month, I’m not holding my breath!

10 Years and Counting! Happy Anniversary to Forza!

As of the end of last month, Forza! has been in business for 10 years! Hard to believe, as the time has gone so quickly.  For those of you who have been with me from the beginning, thank you very much for your support! For those just joining us, welcome!

Back in January of 2008, we started with mostly kettlebells, pull up bars, a few exercise balls, some jump ropes and a lot of space. Along the way, we’ve added TRX and TRX rip trainers, Surfset Surfboards, Gladiator Walls, Battling Ropes, Bulgarian Bags, lots of other types of balls as well as a few other miscellaneous “toys”. We’ve also added new techniques: Resistance Stretching, Original Strength Resets, Functional Movement Screens, and newly added Postpartum Corrective Exercises (much of which actually applies to all of us, including men).

It’s been very rewarding to find ways to help all of you get stronger, become more resilient, and build body awareness. I’m looking forward to continuing working with all of you. I will keep adding new things (a new piece of equipment to help build glute strength should be arriving soon) and keep looking for ways to make our workouts more productive and fun!

Here’s to the next 10 years! May we all see even greater returns on our investment in our health and fitness!

Fermentation Experimentation

Last week there was an article in the Star Tribune Taste Section about fermentation called “Take your veggies to funkytown.” It includes a recipe for sauerkraut as well as one for pickled carrots. Why ferment?  Fermented foods are good for your gut, they are nutrient dense and those nutrients are more available to you after they’ve been fermented, and finally, they add flavor complexity and variety to your diet.  The brine from your veggies can even be added to soups and sauces!

FermentationI’ve recently begun experimenting with fermenting my own veggies.  So far I’ve pickled whole radishes, shredded beets and this morning I started a batch of shredded sweet potatoes. For those of you who might be intimidated by the process, let me assure you that it is incredibly easy, especially if you invest in a few time saving, specialized pieces of equipment. You can buy a starter kit for just over $21 that even includes the salt. You supply the veggies and the mason jar.

The process is simple with these kits:

  • Starting with any veggie or combo of veggies you like (with or without any additional flavorings like herbs) chop, dice, slice your veggies in whatever format you like and pack them into a mason jar so your veggies fill nearly to the top.
  • Mix up some salt water (this is the only tricky part especially if you don’t like salt). There are lots of recipes on-line you can follow for how much salt to use, but I just add some (1/2-1 tsp) salt to a couple cups of water and taste, adding more salt or water until it is as salty as I like and then pouring over the veggies. If you don’t get it salty enough, your veggies will not ferment.  If you get it too salty, you will have overly salty veggies. Don’t get too worried as there’s a pretty big margin for error here. If you didn’t buy a kit with the salt included, make sure you buy a high quality salt like a Himalayan or Celtic Sea Salt.  Yes, this matters.  Don’t use Morton’s or any other iodized salt!
  • Once you have your veggies completely submerged in salt water, add your glass weight to make sure they stay under the brine and place the lid on your jar followed by the airlock filled partially with water.
  • Place your jar in a shallow dish in case it leaks (they tend to do this), then you can leave your jar on the counter or put it away in a cupboard and forget it for a week.  After a week, start tasting. When I fermented whole radishes, I left it for at least two weeks. When your veggies are cut into smaller pieces or are a softer veggies like green beens, they ferment faster. When they are fermented to your liking, place them in the refrigerator.  The cold will stop them from fermenting any further.
  • Then eat them right out of the jar or add them to salads, sandwiches, soups…!

Happy fermenting!

Resistance Training and Brain Health

42883-1_aslHere’s another great article on exercise and brain health, entitled “A Lift to Brain Power“.  I’ve posted articles in the past talking about the benefits of exercise on the brain.  Most of those studies were done using aerobic exercise.  This study focuses on the benefits of resistance training in staving off the lesions that occur in the brain over time and that are linked to memory problems and cognitive impairment.  In this study,  women ranging in age from 65 to 75 were placed into three groups.  All three had brain scans done prior to starting the study as well as testing on walking speed and gait pattern.  As we age, our muscles weaken which in turn causes our gaits to slow and become less stable, possibly contributing to declining brain health.  One group was assigned light resistance training one time per week, one group was assigned light resistance training for two times per week and the final control group was given a stretching and balance routing two times per week.  All these women continued their training for one year.  What the study showed was that while all three groups still showed a progression in the number and size of lesions in the white matter in their brains, the group who were assigned resistance training two times per week had significantly less white matter shrinkage than the other two groups.  In addition, their walking speeds were faster and their gait smoother than the other groups.

All of this is good news for those of you coming in to Forza! twice a week.  It should be a wake up call for those of you who are less faithful in your exercise routine.  I’m all for walking or running, especially outside, but it is not enough!  We need the extra muscle building and brain protection provided by resistance training.  Let’s hear it for those squats!

My Experience with Scar Tissue Release Therapy

condition-FAI-02When I first started Forza! I would perform each and every exercise along with each and every one of my classes.  After a year or so of running my classes that way and, in particular, repeatedly performing a sideways walking kettlebell swing in multiple classes per day, several days in a row,  I developed what I now know was an FAI (femoral-acetabular impingement) with a labral tear. In English it simply means the cartilage in my hip socket was getting pinched between my leg and hip bones and leaving some tears in that cartilage. This is a common overuse injury for athletes, but there was another factor that I discovered much later that I believe contributed to my injury.  I’ll get to that in a bit.

FAI symptoms are rather vague and it took me several years to figure out what was going on. I sought treatment with a Sports Med doctor, multiple chiropractors, an acupuncturist and read everything I could find on-line related to hip pain. Over the next four years, my hip felt better at times but was never completely pain free. Last year it got really bad after a fall on a slippery slope that bruised my tailbone and kept me from doing any hip hinge movement (required in most of the exercises I do).  I had finally had enough.  I wanted some answers.

I went back to the Sports Med doctor and got an MRI to tell me what was going on.  After being diagnosed with the FAI, the first step in my treatment plan was a cortisone shot in the hip.  Let me tell you, neither the MRI or the treatment was fun to do.  They both involve a very long needle being inserted deep into the hip socket and then the injection of dye or cortisone into the hip.

So I had the cortisone shot and it did give me some relief, but only for a couple of months, and I did not want to go through that again as it was painful, expensive and not a long term solution. I was also not thrilled with the idea of surgery, the recommended next step.  I was back to just living with the pain, now knowing what was causing it, but not able to fix it easily.

Marjorie Brook

Then along came Marjorie Brook.  We were both attending an Original Strength (OS) Level II workshop in North Carolina in February.  When I found out that Marjorie worked on scar tissue release, I was intrigued.  I have a C-section scar that is 19 years old, but never really thought much about it.  No one mentioned it as a possible contributing factor in my hip pain, and why would they?  The hip pain started over a decade after the C-section.  The OS staff let us borrow a small storage room where we set up a message table and for about 15 minutes, Marjorie worked on my scar.  She told me that the scar was thicker on my right side, the side that was injured.

Marjorie has a gentle touch, but it is still painful, like the snake bite your friends would give you in elementary school where they twist the skin on your arm in opposite directions.  Just in that short amount of time she worked on me, I could feel a difference, not just there, but throughout my whole body.  I came off the table and walked around a bit, then we did some OS resets and Marjorie spent some time helping me figure out how to stand upright again.  I believe the scar had been pulling my rib cage down toward my right hip and messing up the ligaments in my hip a little bit, making my hip less stable and more likely to get injured.  Who knew?!

Since that time, I traveled to Long Island to get more work done on my hip and after about a month of adjusting, I can honestly say most of the time my hip pain is completely gone.  I don’t have that constant ache and even when I do notice some pain after a strenuous workout, I now know how to stretch myself out of my hip, do my OS resets and the pain goes away again very quickly.  No more painful shots.  No surgery needed.  Wowsa!  Three cheers for Marjorie!

I am so thrilled with Marjorie’s work and want to help spread the word about the effectiveness of Scar Tissue Release Therapy, that I’ve invited Marjorie to Minnesota to present a workshop for Therapists on October 9 – 10, 2015.  Click below for the workshop details.  The early bird discount ends on June 30th and Marjorie is also offering a free cervical spine stretching download for the first 10 people who sign up.  Great incentives to act fast.  I know you won’t regret it.

Marjorie Brook Seminars - Forza flyer

If you are not a therapist, but have a scar you’d like worked on, Marjorie will also be available on October 11th to work with individuals.  I highly recommend it!

Upcoming OS Workshop

imagesIf you’ve been reading my posts, you know how much I value the workshops  put on by Original Strength.  If you haven’t had a chance to attend one (and I can’t recommend it strongly enough) you have another opportunity coming up in July.

Original Strength Foundations Level 1 Clinic

Saturday, July 18, 2015
8:00am 5:00pm
American Strength Training Center LLC
1636 Gervais Suite 13 Maplewood, Minnesota 55109 United States         Organizer:  Ken Graack  Telephone: (651) 330.6783
Email:                                                                                    Cost:  $397

Attend if you can.  You won’t regret it.