Correcting My Own Form: 4 Common Exercise Mistakes

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I love learning about health and fitness and over the past six or seven years have braodened my knowledge of the topic considerably. I teach group fitness and feel confident guiding others, but it’s an ongoing constant improvement process. I still don’t consider myself an expert, but back when I first started the blog I was even farther from it. I was just a fitness enthusiast who was sharing the workouts she did for fun. I made no claims to be an authority and it’s a good thing because looking back on my old posts … girrrrrrl no.

Every one in a while an old workout post will surface and while most of them are fine, there are a few pictures that make me totally cringe. I thought it’d be fun (and useful) today to call myself out a little. Fitness Trainer Nicole is going to correct the improper form of Fitness Enthusiast Nicole. 

5 Common Exercise Mistakes (That I’ve Made)

1. Low Back Arch in Plank

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from 8-Minute Abs 2.0

I did a whole post on common planking form mistakes, and I definitely used to be guilty of letting my low back arch down towards the ground. And I have to make an embarrassing confession about it:

I used to do it in pictures on the blog because I thought it made my butt look good.

GAHHHNOOOOOFJDKSLFKEJLKEG OEDJFSKLD:S I’m the worst. Well, I was the worst when I was 23 years old.

There’s a natural curvature to the low spine and planking isn’t about eliminating that; it’s about tightening through the core to prevent it from being over-exaggerated. plank-correct-form

Not as bootylicious, but definitely harder on the abs and easier on the low back!

2. Knee ahead of Toes

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from Chair Interval Workout

When you’re in a squat or lunge position with the heel on the floor, your knee shouldn’t jut out farther than the toes. You want the support of the ankle joint underneath it so that the knee isn’t in a strained position. There are exceptions to this rule, but in general think knees behind the big toe.

I’ve definitely seen worse than in the above picture, but this would be safer for the knee:

lunge-hop-correct-form

Notice the weight is in my front heel and the knee is stacked over the ankle.

3. Kettlebell Swings Higher Than The Chest

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from No-Jump Quiet Workout

I know in CrossFit they swing overhead and if you have a CF coach instructing you how to do that then great, but with traditional kettlebell swings, you only bring the bell to chest height. I don’t do CrossFit so I stick with the standard and when I use kettlebells in group classes tell students to do the same. If the kettlebell is easily coming up to head height like it is in the above picture, you’re probably using a weight that’s too light for you!

My kettlebell is in storage for the summer so here’s the correct form from a previous blog post:

20-minute kettlebell workout -- broken up into four sections, each 4:30 long

The top of the swing is chest height.

4. Craning Neck during Push Ups

craning-neck

from AMRAP Quickies Workout

Your neck is part of your spine. When in push up position, we typically know to hold our core in a neutral position (as if we were planking) but don’t always apply that logic to our necks. You should be looking at the floor a few inches in front of your hands; not at the ceiling.

The problem with this, in addition to it being uncomfortable for your neck, is that it sets off a chain of misalignment through the rest of the body. Notice in the above picture how craning my neck is causing my back to then arch. Besides the fact that I’m cracking up (Joe walked in on me taking self-timer push up pictures haha), here’s a much better push up:

push-up-form

Notice how shifting my gaze downward a few inches helps me keep the core engaged, removing that sag from the low back. I’m also not rolling forward through my feet.

Fellow instructors/trainers–what are some of the common form errors you see with clients? Everyone–what are the form corrections you’ve made for yourself?

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P.S. I genuinely appreciate when people call out form errors in the comments of my posts so please never be afraid to correct me! It’s helpful for me and everyone reading the blog. Seeing myself in pictures throughout the years has helped me improve immensely and constructive criticism isn’t “trolling.” 🙂

Choosing a B Vitamin Supplement: Things to Consider & What I’m Currently Taking

b-vitamins-1

When I went on my blog trip to New Hampshire, I was excited to learn more about the MegaFood product line because I was admittedly a little overwhelmed when I first browsed the selection. There were so many options, some of which seemed very similar to each other, and having minimal knowledge of supplements I didn’t know how to choose the right one(s) for me. This was especially true of their line of B Vitamins. I eat very little meat so it’s important to supplement my diet with B12, but what’s best? A B Complex that has B12 and other B Vitamins or just a B12? And Methyl B12–what’s that? Balanced B or Adult B-Centered? Or should I just take a multivitamin that has B12 in it?

By the end of our trip to MegaFood, I had a much deeper understanding of their products and supplements in general, and want to share what I learned with you all. That being said, this post is not meant to be prescriptive. The most precise way to know what’s best for your body would be to get bloodwork done to see what, if any, deficiencies you have. And as you’ve probably gathered by now, I’m not your doctor. 😉

Choosing a B Vitamin Supplement

Methyl B12–What the What?

MegaFood has two B12 options: Vegan B12 and Methyl B12. “Vegan” I understand; “Methyl” not so much. If you’re like me and unfamiliar with this, here’s the simple explanation: Think of Methyl B12 as the active or usable form of B12. Now some people can take a regular, non-methylated B12 supplement and convert it into that useable form without an issue. Other people’s bodies, however, can’t. And if you can’t methylate the B12 than a regular B12 supplement would essentially be wasted (your body wouldn’t be able to use it). If you fall into this category than Methyl B12 is for you.

Good to know: MegaFood’s Multi for Women contains methylated folate and B12.

Balanced B Complex vs. Adult B-Centered

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My next question for MegaFood was the difference between the Balanced B Complex and Adult B-Centered–the ingredient list looked pretty similar so why make two? And which to choose? After learning about methylation, the first difference became clear to me: Adult B-Centered has methylated forms of folate and B12 as well as the active form of B6; Balanced B Complex does not.

The other major difference is that while Balanced B is a multivitamin supplement, Adult B-Centered is a multivitamin and herbal supplement. It contains Lemon Balm, which is traditionally used to help restlessness, and Bacopa, which supports healthy cognitive function.*

My B Vitamin Supplement Picks

I mentioned Blood Builder in a previous post, an Iron-B12-Folate-Vitamin C-Beet Root product that I’ve found to support better energy levels during my period.* It has the non-methylated form of B12 in it which leads me to believe my body can carry out that conversion (that’s my uneducated guess). That being said, I don’t know for sure so the methylated form can’t hurt. During the rest of the month I’ve been doing the Multi for Women with the addition of Adult B-Centered.

I wouldn’t necessarily feel the need to supplement my multi with more B12 since it already contains it but … you’re supposed to take two throughout the day and I literally have never remembered to take the second one. Ever. 😉

Did you know about the methylated difference between supplements?

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Disclosure: This post was created in partnership with MegaFood. I’m a paid ambassador but all opinions–as always!–are my own. I appreciate your support of the brands that make this blog possible! 🙂

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, and this product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Understanding Blogging: What Are Affiliate Links?

A Guide to Understanding Affiliate LInks

I don’t often blog about blogging, but I’m in the process of revamping my “About” section on the site (it’s painfully outdated–don’t even bother clicking on it haha) and want to have a mini resource section that explains how the content on this blog is or isn’t affected by the business of this blog. I’m all about that transparency, yo! My hope is that this post will be useful for readers confused about affiliate links.

How am I affected by clicking this? Is she being paid to place this link? Does this mean the post is being sponsored by a brand?

I hope there’s also some useful information in it for fellow bloggers who may be new to blogging as a business and in need of some monetization guidance. I’m by no means an expert here (so far from it!), but I’m going to share what I’ve learned so far in this bizarre blogging adventure I’ve been on for the past few years.

If you’re just here for the health and fitness fun, then this will admittedly be a boring post for you and you might want to skip it. 🙂

What’s an affiliate link?

An affiliate link is essentially a link to a page or, most commonly, a product that has a little tracking code on it. The tracking code gives credit to whomever sent over the traffic. So let’s say I’m part of the XYZ Sweet Potato affiliate program and my ID is PUMPS123. If I mention XYZ Sweet Potatoes on the blog and say “hey guys, I used XYZ for this recipe” with a link to the XYZ website, the link will have my ID info attached to it (XYZSweetPotatoes.com?/refID=PUMPS123 instead of just XYZSweetPotatoes.com)*. The tracked link still brings you to the exact same web page though.

*For the record, not all affiliate links are structured that way or even remotely close to that, I’m just giving an example.

Affiliate programs all have different terms, but let’s say with good ol’ XYZ that I get 2% of sales. If you visit their website by clicking my affiliate link and then make a sweet potato purchase from them (right then or, in most cases, within a longer specified time frame), XYZ would pay me 2% of whatever you spent. It’s essentially a referral fee.

Again, all programs vary as far as compensation structure, but basically affiliate links allow bloggers to get a small monetary kickback from purchases their followers make because of them.

Now let’s talk about why the hell you’re ordering sweet potatoes online … 😉

So basically I can’t trust anything bloggers recommend if they link to it with an affiliate link?

That’s not the case at all! There’s a big difference between a sponsored post and a reference to a favorite product using an affiliate link (although sponsored posts may very well include affiliate links).

Let me use Amazon as an example. Amazon has an affiliate program. Amazon also sells everything under the sun. So let’s say I fall in love with ABC Nail Polish after a friend recommended it to me and I want to include it in my monthly roundup post of favorite things. When putting together the post, I’ll see if you can buy ABC on Amazon. If you can, I’ll link to the product page on Amazon using an affiliate link; if you can’t, I’ll link to the product page on ABCNailPolish.com. So I don’t see that as disingenuous; I see it as a viable way to turn a passion into a career. Hopefully you agree! 🙂

Remember, with affiliate links, the brand isn’t paying a blogger to mention them (that’s a sponsored post). They are providing financial incentive by giving a percentage of sales (or flat fee), but to be honest here, the financial kickback from the majority of affiliate links isn’t big enough to motivate even the most corrupt of bloggers to recommend a product that they don’t genuinely like. I can’t speak for the entire blogging community, but I know what I would NEVER promote a product I disliked, regardless of monetary incentive. Period.

How much do bloggers make from affiliate links?

Totally depends on the size of the blog and social media following. For the average blogger, I don’t think you should expect affiliate links to be your biggest revenue stream by any means. They’re certainly not for me anyway. I do still think it’s a worthwhile monetization strategy, however, for top-trafficked posts and in the event a blog post goes viral. For example, if I use a sneaker affiliate link in the outfit details of one of my workout posts, that one link will probably generate me 10 cents over time. No literally. Ten pennies.

Now let’s say I use a Stitch Fix affiliate link in a review post on my latest delivery and that post goes viral on Pinterest. Now the reach of that link goes beyond my immediate following to all the non-Pumps & Iron readers who stumble upon the post via Pinterest. That affiliate link has the potential to generate a more significant amount.

My best advice for bloggers is to start by making a list of the products you absolutely love, use all the time in real life, and mention frequently on the blog. Research if the brand has an affiliate program. Apply to it if they do. Those are the affiliate links that are going to perform the best because they’re associated with products you constantly use and would be talking about anyway.

How does clicking an affiliate link affect me?

The most important thing to know is that purchasing via affiliate link does not cost you anything. There’s no added referral fee or hidden charges or anything like that. In some cases, affiliate programs actually allow bloggers to offer their referrals a discount. So from a monetary standpoint, you’re either positively affected or not affected at all.

Affiliate networks use anonymous info of yours to make sure your activity is credited to the correct referrer. Don’t freak out! We’re not talking about SSN, the names of your children, the passcode to unlock your iPhone or anything like that. When your computer uses the Internet, it has it’s own unique IP address. As far as it relates to affiliate links, the affiliate network can see that a certain IP address went from pumpsandiron.com over to Amazon.com using my tracked link and then completed a purchase.

A friend of mine was worried I’d be able to see how much she spent shopping online if she used an affiliate link of mine, but there’s no personally identifying information shared with me at all. I can see a purchase of X dollars was made and my kickback from it was X dollars but I can’t see anything about who placed the order. Fear not, your secret Amazon Prime addiction is safe. 😉

How does using an affiliate link on my blog affect SEO?

I’m not an SEO expert by any means, but if you’re a blogger using affiliate links, you should make sure they’re nofollow. This website is a really good resource if you’re new to the whole nofollow vs. dofollow thing. To really oversimplify things (because that’s about as deep as my understanding of it goes haha), if a company is paying you to link to them, Google doesn’t want to give them credit for traffic from that link. Even if the website is reputable and awesome, this is a good policy! Think about it: If crappy, unauthoritative websites can just pay for traffic to increase their ranking then your Google searches would be super frustrating.

By adding the nofollow tag to sponsored/affiliate links, you’re telling Google, “hey there Googz, don’t count the traffic from this link towards the site’s ranking–it’s a paid link.” If you don’t do this, Google might ding your website’s SEO ranking. Better safe than sorry!

Affiliate Networks & Programs I Use

Most brands use a third party to manage their affiliate programs. These third party networks act as a manager, streamlining the connection between brand and influencer. There are a ton–CJ, Impact Radius, ShareASale, the list goes on. Here are ones I personally focus on and utilize most frequently on the blog:

Amazon Associates

Because you can buy almost anything via Amazon these days, I use this affiliate linking program for general products (fitness equipment, beauty products, books, etc.).

Shopstyle

I use this for activewear and general clothing items. In workout posts, for example, I’ll always list my outfit details and sometimes even include a widget with items to recreate a similar look. Shopstyle is like a one-stop-shop when it comes to fashion. You can search a database of TONS of brands all within the same interface so it really helps streamline things. Instead of joining a separate affiliate program for each individual clothing brand you wear, you can use Shopstyle for (almost) all of them.

A little tip for new bloggers–while Shopstyle makes things convenient, if there’s a particular brand you wear all the time, it may be worthwhile to see if they have a separate affiliate program. I’ve found that the commissions are usually higher going directly with an individual brand than through Shopstyle or rewardStyle (<–same idea as Shopstyle but it’s invite only and really more for fashion bloggers).

Commission Junction

I first joined Commission Junction specifically for Stitch Fix. I had done a blogger trip with Stitch Fix and shortly after they invited me to join their affiliate program via CJ. Once I joined CJ, I then had access to the countless other brands using their platform so I applied to programs with those that were a good fit for my blog. The two I utilize most frequently on Pumps & Iron (in addition to Stitch Fix) are Shopbop and Revolve. I’ve been a loyal (“obsessive” is probably the better word choice haha) online shopper with Shopbop and Revolve for years and years–long before I ever started blogging–which makes the promotion of these brands so natural and fitting.

What’s made CJ a favorite over other affiliate platforms is that they really go beyond just links and banner ads. I’ve had the opportunity to do some fun campaigns and post sponsorships because of them

One Offs

The other affiliate networks I use are really just one-offs that I’ll join specifically for a brand that I’m obsessed with who uses that platform. One example would be Fabletics. I have a ton of their workout clothing and wear it frequently on the blog so it made sense to join their affiliate program when they invited me via AvantLink. Is AvantLink ever going to be one of my major sources of blog income? Probably not unless a blog post about Fabletics happens to go viral. Is it worth the hassle of managing yet another affiliate network for one brand? In some cases my answer is no, but again, I wear Fabletics gear all the time. In this case, I think it is.

Some other affiliate platforms I’ve either used in the past or currently use:

And I’m sure there are another 100 out there that I haven’t heard of. This, my friends, is why filing taxes is such a disaster for bloggers (ha!).

Phew, ok, long post. And kinda boring. But it’s important to me to have all this information out there as I build up a resource section for my blog.

Any questions? Leave a comment! Have some info to add? Please do!

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