Left: Courtesy of Nikki Griggs; Right: Jaquayan Photography
Sometimes tragedy sets us down a dark path from which we’re challenged to bounce back. In 2007, Nikki Griggs unexpectedly lost the love of her life to sudden cardiac arrest—at just 27 years old. “While grieving, I felt that I had lost all control of my life. I was drinking, smoking, and neglecting my health on every front,” she says. In 2010, weighing 151 lbs at 5’4″, “I realized that I needed to start living again, not just existing,” Griggs says. In a little over a year she dropped 30 pounds and is now a certified personal trainer and nutrition specialist.
Accentuate the positive
When she first started to get back in shape, Griggs set a goal of completing a 5K race. Her workouts at the time were split between running, jogging, and light weight training about three days a week. “I started out doing more cardio than strength training, but that began to change when I noticed that the stronger I was, the better and faster I ran, with less aches and pains.” She now hits the gym five to six days a week, for an average of two hours each visit.
Eat right for your goals
At first, Griggs was discouraged because she was running and working out but not seeing much change on the scale. She then decided to heavily alter her diet. “After doing some research, I threw out all processed and packaged food. That’s when I began seeing results,” says Griggs. She now eats five to six clean meals throughout the day. “I also switch up my diet regularly to avoid food aversions, but I don’t really track calories. I pay more attention to my daily macros,” she says.
SEE ALSO: The Transformation Meal Plan
Train for peak physique
At the start of her fitness transformation, Griggs was running either a 5K or 10K every month. But soon she wanted a different challenge, so she signed up for her first NPC bikini competition in 2013. Since then, she’s entered 13 shows, with top-three placings in all but four of them. “I truly fell in love with the sport and the process of sculpting my ideal physique. I recently won a first place and an overall title in the figure division,” says Griggs.
Be a goal digger
Her advice to other women is, “Be a goal digger. Set SMART [Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-bound] goals, and as you achieve them, set more.” She also recommends starting slowly. “If you are just starting out on your fitness journey, don’t try to change your entire life overnight. Start out with one or two goals, like eliminating sugary drinks from your diet and walking 30 minutes a day for three days. Once that is no longer a challenge, build upon that.”
How she does it: A typical shoulder workout
- Warmup: DB External Rotation 3×12
- DB Military Press 4×10
- Cable/DB Front Raise 4×12
- Cable/DB Lateral Raise 4×12 Rear-delt DB Flye 4×12
- Barbell Upright Row 4×10
Nestled between the mountains, the ocean, and the homebase of tech titans like Amazon, Microsoft, and Boeing, Seattle is full of contradictions. While busy workers often stress their brains more than their biceps, easy access to the great outdoors encourages all those engineers and programmers to paddle, hike, and climb in their free time. A year of temperate weather—never blazing hot, hardly ever freezing—means there’s no down season. Seattle is relatively young, with its highest concentration of residents between ages 25 and 34, but all ages like to get out and play, even on those Northwest rainy days.
Gyms are scattered throughout the city, but just as often residents take to the water on Lake Union, Lake Washington, and in the Puget Sounds to row, sail, and paddleboard. Nearby mountains and trails are havens for hikers and trail runners, and the paved BurkeGilman Trail, which travels from Ballard all the way east to the wineries of Woodinville, is often crowded with runners, walkers, and bikers.
Local is the watchword in Seattle, where the city’s great access to seafood and produce makes for healthy farmers markets and thoughtful chefs. Though Pike Place Market, the city’s famous hub, sells its share of fresh foods, locals flock to the weekly Ballard Farmers Market to fill their pantries with crisp veggies from local farms and prepared foods. The city hosts a number of groceries and co-ops that focus on fresh, healthy food including Metropolitan Market, PCC Natural Markets, and Portland’s newly-introduced New Seasons. When eating out, Seattle diners can find all-local cuisine at Local 360 (the majority of ingredients come from within 360 miles), the fine-dining Sitka & Spruce, or longtime vegetarian spot Cafe Flora.
SEE ALSO: Fittest Cities in America: Minneapolis
5 fun, fit things to do in: Seattle
- Grab a paddle and kayak or try yoga paddleboarding on Lake Union.
- Lace up for a trail run or hike at nearby Cougar Mountain.
- Drop in for a WOD at Level4 CrossFit Seattle, billed as the first CrossFit affiliate in the U.S.
- Go for an indoor climb at Seattle Bouldering Project, which has more than 35,000-square-feet of climbing space.
- Face off against an opponent at Krav Maga Seattle, which mixes hanging out with high kicks.
Boy, do we have a prize for you! You could win a trip to this year’s Mr. Olympia, which takes place Sept. 14–17 in Las Vegas. The winning package includes reserved VIP seating, early entry to the Olympia Weekend Expo, early entry to Meet the Olympians, hotel, airfare, and more! What more could any bodybuilding fan look for?
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Turns out your stick-to-itness at the gym may actually help change the way your brain exercises control in other areas of your life. New research published in Frontiers in Neuroscience found that living a healthier lifestyle may increase executive function in the brain—the part that has the ability to exert self-control and set and achieve goals, as well as resist temptation and solve problems.
Scientists analyzed data collected from 4,555 adults via the “English Longitudinal Study of Aging.” They concluded that exercise and executive function were closely interlinked, even after controlling for other factors like demographics and health characteristics.
Those with poor executive function had subsequent decreases in participation in physical activity, while older adults who took part in sports or other forms of exercise had higher levels of executive function over time. Physical activity and executive function work together to create a positive feedback loop.
Running may be associated with sore knees, but a study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology says otherwise. Researchers out of Brigham Young University suggest running may reduce inflammation in joints, particularly in your knees, and can delay the development of osteoarthritis.
Researchers measured inflammation markers in knee joint fluid both before and after running. In participants aged 18-35, the concentration of those markers had actually decreased after 30 minutes of running.
“What we now know is that for young, healthy individuals exercise creates an anti-inflammatory environment that may be beneficial in terms of long-term joint health,” study lead author Robert Hyldahl, BYU assistant professor of exercise science, told BYU News.
SEE ALSO: 10 Tips for Endurance Training
For pain relief, there’s one more aid you can now count on. A 10-year study of more than 24,000 patients found celecoxib (sold as Celebrex) is just as safe as other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories when taken as a prescription.
The medication had been called into question for possible heart risks. “Overall, celecoxib is not any riskier than naproxen and ibuprofen,” says study author Elaine Husni, M.D., with the Cleveland Clinic. Plus, the medication also caused a lower rate of ulcers and GI bleeding than ibuprofen or naproxen.
SEE ALSO: 5 Natural Ways to Alleviate Allergies
1. Avocado Oil
It’s relatively high smoke point, flavor, and health benefits make avocado oil a top choice, according to Jenna Werner, R.D. Whether you’re searing meats or fighting a dry scalp, avocado oil is low in saturated fats and high in the monounsaturated fats that protect your heart. $18, avohaus.net
2. Grape-Seed Oil
High in vitamin E, which helps open up blood vessels for better flow, grape-seed oil is a great emulsifier for mayos, but don’t cook with it. It’s made up of mostly polyunsaturated fats, which produce free radicals when heated. $9, napavalleynaturals.com
3. Animal Fat
The only oil with cholesterol, animal fats are still rich in vitamins A, D, E, and K, and the rendered and clarified fats add a depth of flavor that is unmatched by other oils. For crispy potatoes, toss them in beef tallow before roasting. $9, epicbar.com
SEE ALSO: A Guide to Heart-Healthy Oils
4. Flaxseed Oil
An excellent source of chemicals called lignans, which may help prevent cancer. Due to its low smoking point and polyunsaturated fatty acid content, don’t cook with it; use as a dressing. Flaxseed also works as a terrific seasoner for cast-iron skillets. $17, bmausa.com
5. Coconut Oil
A rich source of saturated fat, which increases “good” HDL cholesterol (but also “bad” LDL), it’s made of medium-chain fatty acids that aren’t as harmful as animal fat. Coconut oil is great for sautéing vegetables or as a shaving-cream substitute.$5, traderjoes.com
Hands up if any of the following describes how you feel or look lately: Your energy and vitality have been drooping: you’ve seen an unexplained increase in body fat (“What’s that inner tube doing under my shirt?”); you’ve lost muscle mass and/or strength; you have less endurance than usual; the best way to describe your libido would be “nap time at a nursing home.”
If you raised your hand at least twice, you may have a deficiency in human growth hormone. Nicknamed the “wonder hormone,” human growth hormone — also called GH or HGH — is a peptide hormone that’s produced in the pituitary gland at the base of the brain and plays a crucial role in everything from body height, brain function, and skin health to bone density, fat loss, and muscle growth.
Unfortunately, GH production peaks shortly after puberty, then goes on a steady — and, sometimes, rapid — downhill slide from there.
Are you being shorted (so to speak) in the GH department? Let’s find out.
HGH: What’s the Big Deal?
As its name implies, GH is responsible for cell growth and regeneration. It’s crucial for building muscle mass and bone density, but it also plays a major role in keeping all human tissue healthy, including that of the brain and other vital organs. It can even boost your sex drive.
When secreted, GH stays active in the bloodstream for mere minutes — just long enough for the liver to convert it into growth factors, the most crucial of which is insulin-like growth factor 1, or IGF-1. The main driver of tissue growth, IGF-1 synthesizes amino acids and metabolizes fat and protein, which build muscle and burn fat.
In short, if you’re not hacking it performance-wise, GH could be the culprit.
Get an HGH Heads Up
Clinical tests are needed to confirm a GH deficiency, but our short quiz [TK URL] can give you an idea of your levels right now. If you find they’re low, there are various lines of attack you can take:
For one, work on improving your sleep quality — it’s then that your body secretes the highest amount of growth hormone.
After that comes exercise. A review of studies published in the journal Sports Medicine found that HIIT and resistance training stimulate GH production.
Give Yourself a Kick in the Abs
Whether you’re hoping HGH will help you muscle up, slim down, sleep sounder, or get it on better, an efficient way to raise GH levels is with a supplement like Growth Factor-9.
Made by Novex Biotech, Growth Factor-9 is the only growth hormone supplement clinically tested to increase serum GH up to 682% in two hours. This complex GH antecedent contains a patented ratio of growth-hormone-stimulating ingredients extensively vetted by researchers at a top US university. What’s more, it’s backed by four clinical trials and 13 U.S. patents.
What makes it so effective? A highly specialized ratio of critical GH-building ingredients. See, the only way to directly add more GH to our body is by injection, which is illegal in the US without a doctor’s oversight and costs thousands of dollars. It’s often abused in this way by athletes trying to gain an edge or celebrities trying to stave off the horrors of aging.
But you can naturally up your GH by supplementing with certain precursors that stimulate secretion of the hormone — they include amino acids like glutamine, lysine, and ornithine. But the timing of taking these aminos, along with the amounts, is crucial and hard to follow faithfully. Growth Factor-9, however, eliminates all of the guesswork. Packed with a proprietary combo with potent precursors, the formulation is easy to use and effective.
Take Growth Factor-9 before bed on an empty stomach. Combined with regular workouts, it can help turn your body into a GH-making machine. You may just find yourself looking and feeling younger, stronger, and more energized.
Growth Factor-9 is available at your local VitaminShoppe or GNC, or buy online at growthfactor9.com.
Find your fitness motivation starting to wane? Consider signing up for a workout that pits you against your peers. Research published in the journal Preventive Medicine Reports found subjects who took part in competitive workouts went to 90% more classes than those whose workouts were more individually oriented. Try kickboxing, basketball, or even running a 5K.