Author Archives: Neely Hogan

Love Your Heart

Our heart is thought of as the center of our thoughts and emotions. At times we speak of the heart when someone has great enthusiasm or courage. February is American Heart Month. The topic of heart disease can be somewhat discouraging. But beating inside your chest is a pretty powerful muscle. Here are some amazing facts about this faithful organ:Love Your Heart

  • The more education you have, the lower your risk of heart disease.
  • The normal heart valve is about the size of a half dollar.
  • The first pacemakers plugged into a wall socket.
  • Happiness and a strong sense of emotional vitality helps lower your risk of heart disease.
  • The number of heart attacks peaks on Christmas Day followed by December 26th and New Year’s.
  • The first heart cell starts to beat as early as 4 weeks.
  • The first “study” showing benefits of vegetarian diet appears in the Bible’s Book of Daniel (600 BCE).
  • The blue whale has the largest heart – weighing 1,500 pounds.
  • Modesty prompted the invention of the stethoscope. Before it existed, doctors had to press their ears directly to each patient’s chest.
  • Heart disease has been found in 3,000-year-old mummies.
  • Your heart is about the size of your two hands clasped together.
  • Your heart beats 100,000 times a day.
  • Regular exercise is the most important key to heart health.
  • The beating sound is the clap of valve leaflets opening and closing.
  • Each minute your heart pumps 1.5 gallons of blood.
  • Your heart is a coordinated machine. The right side pumps into your lungs while the left side pumps it back into your body.
  • You control your heart health through diet, exercise, and managing stress.
  • Heart cancer is very rare because heart cells stop dividing early in life.
  • A woman’s average heartbeat is faster than a man’s by almost 8 beats a minute.
  • The heart has it’s own electrical supply and will continue to beat when separated from the body.

Heart And Vascular Team. “22 Amazing Facts About Your Heart (Infographic).” Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic. Cleveland Clinic, 02 Aug. 2016. Web. 10 Feb. 2017.

At My Best

At my lowest weight 8 years ago, I was 147 pounds and size 6. I was 26. I have not weighed less than 160 since junior high. During a different conversation, I told my best friend about my weight and she was surprised. We didn’t talk too much more about it. I suspected her surprise came from the fact a lot of women think they are “fat” at 147 pounds.

Like a lot of women when I see models, celebrities , and other fit women I can get caught up comparing myself. But my profession (and rational mind) quickly reminds me that there are several ways to achieve your ideal body- healthy or not. And your ideal body may not be the same as the woman standing next to you. 

The fact I’m a female personal trainer comes the added pressure of having the “perfect body,”  “ripped abs,” or “flawless eating habits.” It’s a stereotype that is like a ton-of-bricks on your shoulders. Absolutely, there are those men and women who devote hard work and time to being very lean and ripped. I do respect that. After being 147 I know what that “look” requires. (I will write more about what is required in a later post.)


May 2008

I looked amazing (if I do say so myself) when I was 147. I had the advantage of starting with more muscle than a lot of women, so I started at 175ish and I’m 5’8. I achieved this 28 pound  weight loss in about 12 weeks to enter my first figure competition. That was pretty reasonable weight loss progression. But what my body experienced at this weight wasn’t worth it. 

I was 147 pounds and under well-under 16% body fat when I stepped on stage dehydrated. (In effort to show off your physique you have to cut water before stepping on stage.) I also hadn’t had a menstrual cycle in about 8 weeks. When I finished the long competition day all I wanted to do was eat and go to sleep. The admiration of family, friends, and clients kept me going during competition prep. But I didn’t have the energy to celebrate this journey.

I’m not writing this discourage weight loss, but to offer the process  some perspective. A healthy goal weight for me wont be the same for  you. I come from a long line of tall, athletic family members. I am a “foodie,” “food snob,” “kitchen nerd,” “food artist” (not to be confused with sandwich artist). For me dry broccoli and chicken 3-6 times a day for the rest of my life would be the equivalent to waterboarding. So some extra quality calories and being hydrated will keep me around 160-170. This makes me around size 10, because my thigh muscles require it.

I workout 5 days a week, because the benefits outweigh the cost of not being fit. I’m proud to say I can leg press 500lbs, run 3 miles a couple of times a week without dying, and I help teach others how they can be proud of their fitness too.

I’m still working on pull ups. I hate pull ups.

Dec 2015

Dec 2015

My 160-170 might be your nightmare. My weight might be  your goal weight. But my best is different from your best. A healthy YOU is what matters. If you strive for good health, a reasonable weight is a side effect. If you want to be “ripped” by all means go for it. I know what it takes. I’m just not the healthiest, happiest, best version of myself when I’m there.

Healthy Eating: The Basics Never Change

I was curious, so I searched the internet for “healthy living.” Google had about 576,000,000 options for me in .48 seconds. I narrowed the search to “diet plans.” Google had 21,300,000 results in 0.39 seconds. These numbers seem ridiculous, but there is something out there for everyone. I’ve heard and seen a lot of “healthy eating” over the past years, but the basics never change. Here are concepts I’ve seen healthy-eaters master over the years.

The Joy of Cooking is cookbook title. Preparing food isn’t everyone’s idea of joy, but basic cooking skills are necessary. Dining out wastes money and calories. And diners have little control over the cook who prepares the meal. In a study published in the journal Public Health Nutrition, authors and researchers Julia Wolfson and Sara Bleich analyzed data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Study (NHANES)

As part of the NHANES data gathered between 2007 and 2010, approximately 9,500 adults 20 and older were asked about their cooking habits. Researchers found that households that reported cooking dinner at home most frequently (6 to 7 times a week) consumed “significantly fewer” calories and ate better than those who relied more heavily on restaurant meals and frozen foods.

The researchers found that 8 percent of adults lived in households in which someone cooked dinner no more than once a week; 44 percent cooked dinner 2 to 5 times a week; and 48 percent reported cooking dinner 6 to 7 times a week. Compared to the low-cooking category, those in the high-cooking category consumed significantly more fiber, fewer carbohydrates, and less sugar.”

Calories count. Calories are just units of food energy. A lot of people hate the idea of paying attention to calories, but it is necessary. You can’t cut your electric bill if you aren’t paying attention to leaving the lights on. Start with turning some lights off. And using less heat in the winter. This gives you a handle on how you are using electricity. You have to cut your food energy (in general) to cut your weight. This takes a conscious effort.

Quality of calories count even more. After you have paid attention to your quantity of food you have to begin to understand the quality of your choices. Eat boxed and canned food sparingly. If it had a mom, and came from the ground it’s edible. Eat unadulterated food. Or as close as you can get. Don’t drink your calories. Eating lean protein, fruits and vegetables with a splash of complex carbohydrates and healthy fats will help your body run optimally. Pasture-raised and organics do matter, and if incorporated into your grocery bill correctly are affordable.

Staying informed. If you don’t know how many calories are in a Starbucks Frap there are a ridiculous amount of websites/apps/wearable fitness monitors/software that will tell you. “Not knowing” is no longer a good excuse for being ignorant to nutrition. If all the info is confusing and you don’t know how it applies, then hire a professional. Me and thousands of professionals love to help clients apply nutrition knowledge. We can’t do the work for you, but we can give you honest and educated guidance. Since you limiting dining out, use the money to hire someone.

Nutritional intervention for weight loss or healthy lifestyle will work 80% of the time. Some people do have physiological roadblocks to weight loss that are not solved by nutrition and/or exercise. If, after 3 months with consistent nutritional and fitness effort, you aren’t seeing results consult your doctor. Bloodwork, urinalysis, and/or have hormone levels checked and evaluated.

Patience. Learning how your body best performs is a gradual process. What works for one person may not work for you and your lifestyle. Or it might. Never give up. Nutrition is an individual thing. There isn’t a single blueprint for everyone, but mastering basic healthy eating is crucial to the process.

Gifting Fitness

Q: How do I give a fitness-related gift? I don’t want to imply my family member is out-of-shape.

giftA: Gifting fitness to a friend or family member can be tricky. You care about them, which is why you want them to enjoy the health benefits of exercise. You just don’t want to insult your loved one in the process.  There are some helpful guidelines to making sure your thoughtful gift won’t offend anyone:

  1. LISTEN. If your friend or family member has mentioned they need new workout shoes, clothes or want a fitness gadget this might be your moment. It is okay to casually ask about their “New Years Resolutions” now. Maybe they will have fitness in mind. Keep in mind with clothes, if not 100% sure about size, DON’T BUY. Gift cards are best options for yoga pants.
  2. GIVE THE GIFT OF EXPERIENCE, NOT A THING. Maybe something you can do together, gym membership fees, personal training consultation, or a fitness class.
  3. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE. Know the person you are buying for, not everyone would enjoy hot yoga. Sometimes massages are uncomfortable for shy people. If you have a fitness junkie in your life. YES. They probably will enjoy an expensive fitness class, gift certificate or gadget.
  4. OBSCURE GIFTS. Wireless headphones can be used for running, and while you walk to class or work. This way you avoid them unwrapping a fitness dvd and feeling judged.

Lastly, if YOU would like to receive a fitness related gift, ASK! Fitness and wellness gift giving is tough and awkward at times. Make it easy on your loved ones. Tell them you want to sweat!

Gift Certificates are now available!

A2i Gift Certificate (2)

Breakfast with Bryant

My son, Bryant, is a creature of habit. Included in his morning routine, that begins somewhere between 6:30-7:00 AM, is chocolate milk, fruit, and/or “eggy” pizza. These requests sometimes come with manners, but we are working on it.

IMG_3534This morning was chocolate milk and fruit. This simple request can go terribly wrong in most kids’ diets. The hormone, high fructose corn syrup chocolate milk and chemically sprayed fruit every morning does nothing to aid his little body in optimal growing. Instead I’ve made the decision to include organic milk, organic chocolate syrup, organic “dirty dozen”, and “clean 15” fruits for Bryant. Sure, the chocolate syrup has sugar, but I can control the amount.

Organic milk is a staple in our home

Organic milk is a staple in our home

EWG Pesticide Guide

In our budget we spend an extra $20 on organic meats and dairy each week. We buy fruits that aren’t heavily sprayed with pesticides. These are known as the “Clean 15.” When it comes to conventionally grown, non-organic fruits, if it has a rind we buy it. A great resource to help you make food decisions is

Food Matters, created by James Colquhoun and Laurentine ten Bosch, is a great film turned informative website about all things food. In one article, 10 Tips for Buying Organic Food on a Budget, remind us:

-Organic food doesn’t contain food additives, flavor enhancers (like MSG), artificial sweeteners (like aspartame and high-fructose corn syrup), contaminants (like mercury) or preservatives (like sodium nitrate), that can cause health problems.

-Organic food doesn’t contain pesticides. More than 400 chemical pesticides are routinely used in conventional farming and residues remain on non-organic food even after washing. Children are especially vulnerable to pesticide exposure. One class of pesticides, endocrine disruptors, are likely responsible for early puberty and breast cancer. Pesticides are linked to asthma and cancer.

-Organic animals aren’t given drugs. Organic farming standards prohibit the use of antibiotics, growth hormones and genetically modified vaccines in farm animals. Hormone-laced beef and dairy consumption is correlated with increased rates of breast, testis and prostate cancers.

You don’t have to shop at Whole Foods or search out every organic product. That is a little extreme if you don’t have the budget. If I notice Bryant has really started to like certain foods, and I know the ingredients are questionable, I try to find the healthiest source. I have done this since his birth. I’m not strict with food 100% of the time. I don’t think that is necessary or even healthy. But 80% of the time he is getting balanced, healthy foods. How do I measure efficacy? Besides scheduled checkups as a newborn, Bryant has visited the doctor ONCE in 4 years for illness. His behavior and learning ability is adequate. I believe what I feed him is directly related to these things.

Now, if I can figure out how to keep him in his own bed at night, that would be perfection!