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October 6, 2011 / Angela McCuiston

NASM Live Workshop

I’m very excited about today because I’m going to my first personal trainers live workshop.  There are several conferences and workshops put on throughout the year and this one is put on by my certifying agency: the National Academy of Sports Medicine.  I learn by doing so this will be a great refresher for me and I’m hoping to not only pick up some new ideas but meet some new people!

Eventually I would REALLY love to go out to one of the Perform Better Summits or their Learn-By-Doing Seminars, but I just haven’t gotten the funding to go yet.  I live down at the bottom of the country by the ocean which, while it has its perks, also means there isn’t a large metropolitan area or airport nearby and everything is far away.

If you haven’t heard of the Perform Better Summits before, you should really check them out.  Here are a breakdown of a few of them:

Three Day Functional Training Summits


Providence, RI- June 1-3, 2012

Chicago, IL- June 29-July 1, 2012

Long Beach, CA- August 10-12, 2012

From Counting Reps to Counting Revenue

With Results Fitness Business

Early Bird Registration- $329.00
(sign up 8 weeks prior to event)

Only $399 Pre Register
($450 at the door)

  • Achieve success in the fitness industry by creating the business you want, the life you want and the freedom you want.
  • Learn how you can make 6 figures and work less.
  • Find out the exact recipe to transition from being a passionate fitness trainer to being a successful fitness business owner.
  • Walk away with steps to change your life, your career and your business.
This is NOT one of those internet marketing “pretend you’re in the fitness business” seminars – this comes from an in-the-trenches successful facility — voted one of America’s TOP TEN facilities by Mens Health magazine 2009.

Perform Better’s “Learn By Doing” 1 Day Seminars:

The Concept

Perform Better’s Learn-by-Doing Seminars are designed to provide trainers, coaches and therapists with a hands-on learning experience with some of the top professionals in the industry – at a price that is very affordable.

The Staff

The top notch presenters at the Perform Better Seminars include many of the most respected names in the field.

The Format

There will be four/five presenters at each location. In the morning session each presenter will give a 60 minute lecture on their topic. In the afternoon each will direct a corresponding Learn-By-Doing station. Attendees will be divided into smaller groups and rotate to each station.

Functional Movement Screen Seminars

with Gray Cook & Lee Burton

$399 Pre Registration
($450 at the door)

Intro Videos

Benefits of Attending the Functional Movement Screen Seminar

  • Improves functional and athletic performance
  • Helps to reduce the potential for training and sports injuries
  • Provides a simple grading system to assess athlete/client movement
  • Can be easily utilized in both the athletic/sports medicine and general fitness professionals
  • Identifies physical imbalances or weaknesses
  • Rehabilitates imbalances and strengthens weaknesses with simple corrective exercises
  • Allow trainers to better individualize training programs for greater athlete/client results
  • Teaches the trainer and athlete/client to Identify the difference between movement quality and movement quantity.
  • Allows athletic trainers, strength and conditioning specialist , personal trainers and physical therapists to identify current injury trends and stats as they relate to the prevention of non-contact injuries.
  • Allows trainers to Identify potential cause and effect relationships of mirco-trauma as well chronic injuries in relation to movement asymmetries.

2012 Dates Coming Soon!

October 5, 2011 / Angela McCuiston

3 Lean Body Secrets No One Has Told You | Articles

3 Lean Body Secrets No One Has Told You | Articles.

Oh how I love this article.  Why?  Because it speaks the truth about what it actually takes to not only GET that lean body but more importantly KEEP it.

It means being weird, sometimes.  Or what your friends might perceive as weird.

You might be riduculed.

Once you get off the fat train and onto the weight loss wagon you might notice the amount of discouragement you receive from your peers.  Those people you thought would support you instead try to sabotage you!  They see you losing weight and their first instinct is to bring you food and say “oh one donut won’t hurt, why not go off your diet for one day”?  And in the long run, they are right, but what they don’t tell you is that they will try to do this to you EVERY day and that WILL hurt you.

In fact, let’s talk about that for a minute.

Those of you who have lost weight, were you surprised at the amount of people, friends even, who didn’t support you?  They got mad at you, turned their backs on you, became snotty or what have you while they saw your success?  Sure, they liked you when you were fat, but when you actually did what you said you were going to do and started taking the weight off, suddenly they didn’t want to hear about your struggles any more?

There are a few reasons for that.

  1. It makes them realize that THEY are all talk because they see what it takes to get it done and they don’t want to admit their laziness.
    It’s true.  If you don’t do the work to lose weight (and come on, you KNOW what it takes, deep down, right?) then you are not putting forth the effort, you aren’t doing the work, it’s YOUR FAULT.  Nobody makes you fat but you, and no one takes that weight off but you.  It’s easier to complain than to do the work and that’s why your friends don’t like you all the sudden, because it’s so much easier to have a friend to complain with and share in the blame game, than it is to actually suck it up and quit with the extra nibbles.  I know, because I have been there.  I like the extra bites.  But I know that when it comes down to it, those extras add up, and suddenly, I’m whining about not losing and my friend is.
  2. Your success makes them feel like you are bringing their weaknesses into the light.  Aka: you call them out without meaning to. 

    This goes along the same lines as the first point, but isn’t it true?  Why do we envy people?  They have what we don’t.  Some times we can change that.  If they have more money, well, get off your butt and go MAKE more money.  The government won’t give it to you, you have to, as Dave Ramsey says “get up, leave the cave, go kill something and drag it home”.  YOU are not entitled to anything.  This includes money, cars, fame, or that hot body that you want.  You want it?  Go after it and do what it really takes.  Stop kidding yourself.  You KNOW what you need to do but most people would rather complain about why things aren’t happening than looking inside saying “you know, this is going to be a butt-load of work, but I want it, so I’m going to do what it takes”.  This includes fat loss.  It takes HARD work to get that body.  It was hard to pass up the extra bites out of the candy dish at work.  It was hard to get up and go do your walk every day like you know you needed to.  It was hard to drag yourself out of bed early to go to boot camp class. or to workout with a trainer, or to pass up that extra whatever it is and eat more protein. Fat loss sucks because it’s HARD.  That’s why so few people succeed.  We’re not good at doing hard.  We want it and we want it now because I exist I have the right to have it.
    NO, you don’t.
    You have the right to go out and do it and get it, but you don’t have the right to just become it.  That’s why you’re still fat.  Ouch.  The truth hurts.  And that’s why your friends don’t like you.  You going out and DOING it brings light to the fact that being fat IS your fault, you CAN do it and all they are doing is complaining.  No one likes to be called out.

Oh wow, it’s easy to get on a soap box isn’t it? 🙂

What I said might hurt and you might be saying “but I have a medical condition! It’s genetic!  My parent’s fed me too much junk as a kid which meant I was a fat kid and I can’t be anything but fat!”

Ok, fine.  It’s still your fault.

No, it’s not your fault that you have a condition, you have “fat genes” or your parents didn’t know the difference between a box of Swiss Cake Rolls and an apple.  What IS your fault is what you are going to do about it.

If you are sitting here saying those things, then the answer is, you’re going to complain and blame….and stay right where you are.

I can say that, because I have fit in that category for too long.

Brief Explanation of Why I Can Say This Stuff

I wasn’t a fat kid, my parents aren’t fat and I didn’t struggle with body image growing up.

I was doomed.

You see, my mom, her mom and her grandmother ( my great-grandmother) AND my dad’s mom (my grandma) all have hypothyroidism.  To varying degrees, and I may be the worst out of the lot, only because I’ve had more tests done than they have.  You see, I competed in a figure competition and while I wouldn’t change that experience for the world (I did some seriously hard work and I reaped the rewards of watching my body change almost daily before my eyes), I did go about it blindly and stupidly and probably had a hand in wreaking my own health without knowing it.  I hired a well-known coach (he produces Olympians so I thought “get the best!”.) who did not provide hardly any support, would not sub out anything (I hate asparagus and cream of wheat but no, I had to eat them several times a day….really??) and gave me cookie cutter programs of 6 days a week training and 2x’s a day cardio. Sadly, the norm in the competition world.  If you see that, it’s the mark of a man or woman who doesn’t know the science behind it all, but sees it work on a few (maybe themselves) and gives it to many.  This is otherwise known as “bro-science”.

In any case, the addition of “fat burners” several times a day probably did nothing for my pre-disposed thyroid.

What happend?  Well,after the post-competition rebound weight gain of 20 lbs, I developed a habit of binge eating that destroyed my relationship with food that lasted for 2 years and culminated this past year in the resulting weight gain of my highest weight: 156.  I gained 20 lbs. in only a few months.  On a 5’3″ person, not so good.  My competition weight? 114 lbs.  A couple years ago I kept trying to lose weight, couldn’t and finally got to the point where the brain fog was so bad and lack of energy so pronounced as that I couldn’t get out of bed (literally) that I saw a doc who ordered tests, finding out 1) my thyroid had shrunk almost in half on one side 2) It hardly worked at all 3) what it did produce did not convert to the active form.

What does that mean?  Means I am on Armour Thyroid meds (combo T4 and T3) for the rest of my life and the dosages will have to be constantly tweaked according to my lifestyle.

Also means I have a NASTY time losing weight.

Point in case.  I was 156 in March. My fighting weight is a happy 120. If you’ve seen my wedding pictures, that’s where I was.  I decided that after much therapy I had broken the addiction to food and binging and was ready to try weight loss.

I lost 3 lbs in 5 months.

Says to me something’s wrong right?  First trip to the doc showed T3 levels were still about the levels of an 80 year old man.  So I upped the meds.  Came back in July and everything showed great!  Doc gave me the standard I have no idea what’s wrong with you answer “you’ll just have to work at it a little harder”.

He must not have heard me because at the time I was

  • biking up to 100 miles/week
  • leading 2 beach boot camp classes (participating as much as leading)
  • Lifting 3 x’s a week
  • Training several times a week
  • Alternating trying to run with swimming (due to a hip injury that won’t heal)
  • Restricting calories

Yeah, the mantra “move more, eat less” didn’t seem to be working.  Until my massage therapist opened my eyes.  She said
“Are you being consistant”?

The truthful answer was NO, I wasn’t.  I was tracking “everything” but leaving an awful lot out of the log, so I hit my 1500 calories but in reality was eating more than that.  No idea, because the extra bites of cereal, grapes, peanut butter, candy, you name it, didn’t go into the log.

I said ok, enough, I am the problem.  Let’s fix this.

So I have been HONEST with myself, logging everything.  Hitting my protein more often than not and my calories almost daily.  Yes, I’ve had slipups and those days have cost me progress, but I’m aware and honest and guess what?  I hit a new low today of 144.6!  Not that much but mind you, this is a learning process and every little ounce of fat loss is a victory for me.  I am staying consistant. Consistant with my tracking methods, honest, consistant with EVERYTHING.

I bemoaned my state for so long saying it had to be something else, my meds weren’t right, blah blah blah.  But really, I wasn’t being honest with myself.

So if you are fat, more than likely, you are the problem.  BE HONEST.  What are you not counting, not logging, lying to yourself about?  Just write it down and don’t feel like you have to make yourself have a large deficit, make it a small one, stick to it, and on days you feel like you can go lower, go lower.

Did I mention most of my weight loss has come in the last few weeks when I have been LESS active?   Yeah, I’ve gone to 2x’s a week lifting, not participating in boot camps and the cycling has come down.  Mostly this is due to the hip injury I’m getting looked at, but the good news is, my body responds positively to less.  That’s also a bummer 🙂

I can also say that the journey will be more difficult for some than others.  Maybe you have medical conditions, maybe you don’t.  Maybe you have an unsupportive family/spouse, maybe you are surrounded by people rooting for you.  Whatever it is, just go for it!  It’s your life, and life is too short to live in excuses.

There is, obviously by my case, more than one way to lose fat/weight.  Sometimes people can lose by just moving more (not in my case), some by just eating less, some by just being consistant.  The equation is always the same: Calories in vs calories out, you have to burn more than you consume.  Period.  How people’s bodies respond to different styles of training, different foods etc. are all different so the specifics of that formula will change as well.

  • Some respond better to heavy exercise
  • Some respond better to very light exercise
  • Some do better on larger deficits
  • Some do better on smaller deficits
  • Almost everyone responds well to cycling programs (be it calories, carbs, both…)

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach as that figure coach made me believe.  Your body is different, so go find out what makes you different, how you respond.  But believe that weight loss is possible, because it IS!  Give it time, but go do it.  Don’t live another day under your own excuses.  And if you need help, well, that’s why I’m a trainer. 🙂  I can train you, I can point you to fat loss experts (Leigh Peele is one – I highly recommend her Fat Loss TroubleShoot if this article rings a bell with you.  Lyle McDonald is another, and you can see the items of his that I endorse on the boot camp site or on my site.  He is the expert at this and can teach you so much, I HIGHLY recommend his books, especially the Guide to Flexible Dieting), and I am here for you.

Contact me and we’ll get started!

So, QUIT WITH THE EXCUSES!  If you want it, go get it!

And read the article above.  Well, shucks, I’ll post it here. 🙂

Read more…

October 4, 2011 / Angela McCuiston

It’s Oatmeal Season

If you all aren’t subscribed to Fresh Food Perspectives and you have any interest in healthy food and recipes at all, then you should be.  The author, Jenna Bradock, is a registered and licensed dietician and she loves to post not only recipes but helpful tips, favorite foods and uses and all kinds of goodies.  I got this gem in my inbox this morning and since I LOVE breakfast and oatmeal, I thought I’d share it with you.  In fact, on a side note, if you love breakfast too, there’s a man dedicating his life to it…no I”m not kidding.  You can check out his site with endless breakfast ideas at  

So, without further ado, here is her post on Oatmeal and the recipe to follow!

It’s Oatmeal Weather

That’s what I thought as I walked outside this morning to let my dog out. Mid 50′s makes me want to forget my usual smoothie for breakfast and break out the crock pot and steel cut oats. Yes, the crock pot.

My dad introduced me to using a mini crock pot for cooking steel cut oats. I love steel cut oats because of their texture. Let’s pause for a moment to discuss the difference between oats.


Steel cut oats start basically the same as Old Fashioned, they just haven’t been rolled out flat. Steel cut oats still have the bran of the oats which translates to more fiber and a lower glycemic index than rolled oats. (This means that the rise in blood sugar after eating is less than when you eat rolled oats.) So they are a better choice although any oatmeal is better than a poptart or doughnut in the morning. =)


The major deterrent to steel cut oats is that they take a long time to cook. This is where the crock pot comes into play. However, I don’t want to get up 3 hours before breakfast to turn it on. My dad introduced me to the timer-crockpot system. At Target, you can purchase an outlet timer that has a digital screen on it. You just type in the time you want the outlet to turn on, plug the crock pot into it, and turn the crock pot to “on”. Simple and breakfast is waiting for you when you get up.  My dad’s recipe is super delicious. To be honest, I still don’t get mine to turn out quite like his. But here is his “super scientific” recipe. Have fun with it and add whatever sounds yummy to you!

Dad’s Steel Cut Oats

1/4 cup of steel cut oatmeal
1 and 1/2 cup of water
two packets of sweetener of choice or brown sugar
1/8th cup of craisins
add cinnamon to taste, 1-2 teaspoons
two teaspoons of ground flax seed
1/4 to 1/3 cup of blueberries
one finely diced apple
set up in a crock pot overnight and set the timer to start the croc pot 3 hours before eating
October 3, 2011 / Angela McCuiston

Music Strong is Getting a Makeover

If you haven’t noticed yet, my main site, is looking different these days!  The original site was just a placeholder until I could find a program I liked and since I like WordPress so much, I decided to go with them for re-doing the Music Strong site.

If you go visit it now, you’ll notice there’s a lot missing, but don’t worry, that information will be coming back as soon as I can get to it.  A quick shout-out to Jonathan Nation for the work he has done so far.  Jonathan has been invaluable in helping me start my business!  Not only did he help me come up with the name Music Strong, he has set up the new website for me with what’s there now.  So if you like his work, check out his website, or his podcast/website – he’s in it for entrepreneurs and wants to help them out.  So if you’d like some help or some infomation, check out what he’s done on my site so far and then go check out his stuff; he does a great job!


You’ll see on the new website that my blog posts here also show up over there (which is really nice!)  and I will also be adding other things as time goes on: Bio, Store where you can buy not only training packages with me, but boot camp classes, Flute information, etc.

So, keep a lookout, things are changing and the site will be complete in no time!

September 14, 2011 / Angela McCuiston

How to Squat – From Diesel Strength

Diesel Strength and Conditioning | Athletic Strength Training.

This is a comprehensive (read: long and highly detailed) post on HOW to squat.

It’s amazing that something so incredibly simple, something we did as 2-year olds without a second thought has become so incredibly difficult for us.  Unless your daily job has you squatting (like lots of people who are not in a cubicle-based-computer-obsessed societies do), we have forgotten this most basic of human functions.  Our hips are stiff, we bend at the “waist” because we don’t know where our hips  are, we round at the back and keep our legs straight….it goes on and on.

Just look at the picture of this child squatting and what do you see?  No problems with balance or flexibility, no excess tension, she hasn’t learned any muscle compensations – no, everything works exactly as it should.

Compare this with your typical desk jockey….think this range of motion would be easy?

Not likely.  Attainable yes, but with LOTS of work.  Which tells me there is hope for all of us!  Just because you can’t squat not doesn’t mean you can’t learn and get there.  You can work on your mobility, your flexibility and technique and it can happen for you.


And just because it makes me happy to look at pictures of happy kids squatting with perfect, unadulterated technique, here’s another picture of how we were born to squat….BEFORE we learned to mess it up. Yes, that’s right, we LEARNED to mess it up.  Which means you can un-learn it!

Everything about what this child is doing is right!  His spine is in neutral alignment, his neck is free, his knees are in line with his toes….how did we go from that to all wrong?


We went from this beautiful picture of ease to this:


You get my point.


In fact, let’s get back to the article at hand.  This article put out by Diesel Crew will show you a lot of different ways to squat and coaching cues to all of them.

The take-aways from this post  are EXACTLY what I talked about in my presentation at NFA: the 3 aspects of form you must master if you want to lift.  You must arch your back (keeping your chest tall, towards the ceiling) draw your shoulder blades back and down, and drawing the belly button in toward the spine – also known as “bracing” which they cover in the double breath.

From the article:

How to Squat Video Series Summary

How to Squat – Squat Tip #1 – Elbows Down, Chest Up

How to Squat – Squat Tip #2 – Setting the Lats

How to Squat – Squat Tip #3 – Setting the Lower Back

How to Squat – Squat Tip #4 – Fewest Steps Possible

How to Squat – Squat Tip #5 – The Double Breath

Tip #1 – Elbows Down / Chest Up

After you unrack the bar and before you even attempt to move into the squat, you must take care of your elbows and chest. You must drive the elbows down. Drive them down until they are facing the ground. As you drive the elbows down, you’ll notice something else; your chest rises. This is a good thing. In fact, you need to accentuate this thoracic extension.

Driving the elbows down will help you engage the lats for more stability and tension. The lats are an important part of the “core“. This, along with pulling your chest up, will keep your head up when you are in the bottom (hole) of the squat.

Because what will happen when your elbows drift up and back?

Your torso will fall forward and the hips will rise too early when you are drive upward. You see this with athletes who don’t have good torso strength or immobile ankles, hips and upper back. This might be ok when the weights are light, but will put a lot of stress on the lower back when the weights get heavier.

Remember “perfect practice makes perfect”, so keep drilling form.

So you’ll notice first off, the chest must be high and the elbows come back.  This CAN help retract and depress the shoulder blades, but what you’ll notice most of all is that you set the bar high on your traps (NOT ON YOUR NECK! 🙂 ) and then only way to do this is to have your hands on the bar in a closer grip so that they are close to your shoulders, not far away.  This can lead to big time instability.


Tip #2 – Setting the Lats

When the lifter prepares to squat, they must first create tension. This is especially true if the weight is a max or near maximal effort. In the first part of the how to squat series we learned about pulling our elbows down and our chest up. As we do this, the next step is to squeeze the bar very hard. Not only squeeze the bar hard, but engage the lats by pulling the bar into your upper back. This tension is so important for stabilizing the torso, protecting the spine, helping you to remain upright and increasing the amount of weight you can lift.

In fact, renowned back special Stuart Mcgill states that the simple act of engaging the lats during the squat can add 20-30lbs to your squat weight immediately.

Remember, more tension equals more strength.

See that beautiful picture of the back muscles?  Those muscles are HUGE players in helping you play the flute.  If they are weak and can’t stand up to the task of holding the flute up, when they fatigue, your rotator cuff muscles and shoulders take over, even your chest muscles and your neck flexors take over and you wonder why you’re in pain.


If that last paragraph wasn’t enough to convince you, make sure to head over to the article via the link above and check out the videos.  You can see that when performing this squat, the shoulder blades are squeeze together (what he calls setting the lats) and arches the back (lots of lovely good tension there keeping the back in neutral alignment) and the core is safe and protected and stiff – in a good way.  The amount of strength and power to do any kind of squat with good form is immense and translates into being strong enough to handle the demands of playing Beethoven, Tchaikovsky or Debussy.  Squatting will give you a strong core and a strong body, which equals a strong flutist!


Tip #3 – Setting the Lower Back

Setting the lower back is as easy as slightly arching the lower back (into it’s natural curve) while taking a huge breath and isometrically contracting the abdominals simultaneously.

When you first watch the video it might look like Ryan is overarching his lower back. He is in fact, just setting it hard into its natural position and holding it. Most times when lifters unload the bar from the way they assume a posterior pelvic tilt under the weight. This position isn’t optimal especially when we talk about stabilizing the lower back and pelvis prior to squatting. He has to consciously move his pelvis back to neutral and “set it”. And like we stated, this is a dual effort with the bracing of the abdominals and his breathing pattern.

Coaching Cues

Remember, don’t just squat down. You will lose tension!!! Move the hips slightly back (loading the hamstrings and glutes and setting the back) and spread the knees. The act of spreading the knees will lower you (under tension) into the hole.

I didn’t go into too much detail with this at the convention.  Arching the lower back is good, and you should not do it to the point of lordosis (as you can see in the picture) but what it does is that it forces the spine to stay in neutral alignment and stay safe. Practice these basics of form without weight until your are comfortable, because as you can see by now they are crucial to safety and strength.

Something else they touch on is the hip hinge.  This is something I really talked a lot about in my presentation and if you’ve ever gone to any body mapping or Alexander Technique classes, you’ll know what it is.  The hip hinge is basically understanding where your hips are and bending from that place while keeping your spine in neutral alignment.  In layman’s terms?

  • put your fingers in the crease between your leg and body
  • Push
  • your butt should go back
  • if not, 1) you are pushing in the wrong spot 2) you are not pushing hard enough 3) your body doesn’t know what the heck you’re doing because you haven’t bent this way in so long and is trying to bend from the middle of the spine like usual.
  • as your butt goes back, you should feel a pulling stretch in the back of your legs
  • Keep your shoulder blades back and down, neck looking down or slightly in front of you and lower back arched – thus, keeping your back in neutral alignment.

You MUST master this before attempting any kind of big lifts like squats or deadlifts, or even Romaninan Dealifts, Good Mornings or split squat.  You truly need to understand that the body should bend at the hips (which are not the body things that stick out of your body at the top of your legs – that’s the top of your pelvis, your hips are the JOINT) and your butt and hamstrings should do the work of pulling you upright again.  We’ll get into this in a later article

To end the article I really like how they talk about mobility exercises for the upper AND lower body, because the squat is truly a full body exercise, not just a lower body one.  If you have lousy upper body mobility (aka, your arms don’t go backwards much, chest is tight, etc.) you will not squat well.  Period.  Give some of these exercises and stretches a shot and see how they work for you.  The favorites are the upper body mobility work, shown below.  This, believe it or not DOES have to do with your squat, but they are all excellent exercises/stretches to do:

  • before your workout
  • before your practice session
  • in the morning or before bed
  • any other time of day – the more you do them the more flexible you become!
September 12, 2011 / Angela McCuiston

NFA Convention Recap

So I’ve been back from the convention for a few weeks already, and I haven’t found the time to be able to write anything!  My head has been swimming with thoughts and ideas, but, fortunately for me, business has picked up in a big way and, well, I had a lot to catch up on.  You see, the last day of the convention, an article about me and my boot camp class was run in the Sunday paper.  A full page full color spread in the Lifestyle section!  I’ve seen an increase in personal training clients from that, so I’ve been up to my eye balls in writing plans, training clients, running my boot camp classes and responding to the emails and questions I got from NFA.  I have put out a newsletter since then, which gave a big update on the convention, and if you aren’t signed up for my mailing list, you can do so in the bar to your right where it says “sign up for our newsletter” and I will send you the latest one!

Oh yes, and if you want more information about my boot camp classes (the one to the right was taken at our beach location) you can check out the new website! It’s at  I’d love it if you left a comment and can give me your feedback.

So what happened at the NFA?
As stated in previous blog posts, I was very blessed to have been able to give two presentations.  The first was on Friday at 5 PM and was a panel discussion titled “Injury Prevention and Pain Management”.  My fellow panel members, Dr. Susan Fain, Karen Lonsdale and Lea Pearson along with myself all spoke on different topics relating to playing the flute and some suggestions on overcoming the special health challenges it presented.  Lea talked about breathing and body mapping, Karen talked about the ergonomics of the flute and how to set up for practicing be it solo or in a band setting and Susan talked about some common injuries and solutions to them with posture and stretching.  I, of course, gave a quick overview on the benefits of strength training for flutists.  I had so much to say and sadly, I ran out of time – 10 minutes just isn’t long enough!

We had a really wonderful turnout and I did not have enough handouts for everyone to get one, so if you would like a copy of my handout for this presentation and did not receive one, you can download it here:

Using Strength Training to Prevent Injury and Improve Pain


My second presentation was just me and it was on Sunday at 8 AM.  I went far more into depth about the benefits of strength training for flutists, and then demonstrated proper weight lifting form (which we all did together), did a little body mapping in finding where our hips are (here’s a hint, it’s not the bone that sticks out) and then we did some sample stretches and some activation exercises.  It was a lot of fun, and again, I ran out of time.
The easiest way to for me to remedy my problem is for flute clubs and associations to hire me to come out for a day or a weekend to give a workshop and then we can really go  in-depth about how things work, and do some exercises together!  In fact, I had a few people approach me about doing that very thing so be on the lookout to see me coming to your area and if you would like me to come to your area, you can get in touch with me by emailing me at or via the contact link on my website:

Again I had a great turn out and ran out of handouts so if you would like a handout and didn’t get one, you can download it here:


Lift, Play, Love : Basic Weight Lifting for Efficient Flute Playing

I also had a “muscle man” image that I used that went along with both handouts. You can get him here:


Career Development Workshop

I am very grateful to have been selected as a participant in the 2nd Annual Career and Artistic Development Committee’s Career Development Workshop.  The room was not nearly big enough to hold all the people and we had people spilling out into the hallway trying to get in!  We learned a lot of things: from how to write a mission statement, to a bio, to a cover letter, to how to take a good publicity photo and what NOT to do.

In addition, I and two other people got to present our business ideas to the group and ask for help on certain parts of our projects.  I presented my business Music Strong, and while it is not exactly in its fledgling stages and I have a lot of the work done, my biggest problem is in reaching my audience.  I needed help finding out how to go to where the flutists are and where the people who need me are.

I got a LOT of positive feedback from people who heard me; compliments on the business concept, comments on how excited people were that I was doing this and overall enthusiasm for my business.  I also got asked to come give a presentation in Texas, so be on the lookout for information there!


Other wonderful happenings

I had a lot of great things happen at the convention.  Besides my name getting out there and being recognized, I was also asked to help man the Performance Health Committee’s booth.  I was more than happy to do so – not only for the opportunity to socialize and network with my fellow health professionals, but to answer questions and help the myriad of people who came by with health questions.  It is so rewarding to be able to look at someone, listen to their problems and even if you cannot diagnose or fix their problems, you can give them HOPE and that is super exciting.

I made a lot of new connections, new friends and got a lot of great music I hope to be performing soon.  The convention was a success in every way and I’m very blessed to be able to have been a part of it. Now I’m working on presentation proposals for next year for Vegas!

If you went to the convention, if you got the chance to come to these presentations, workshops or even if you didn’t, I’d love to hear your comments about it and if you have suggestions on future articles or presentations, I am welcome to those as well.

Meanwhile, here are some pictures from the convention.  I hope you enjoy!

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See you in Vegas!

September 10, 2011 / Angela McCuiston

Exciting Announcement!

Read more…

September 7, 2011 / Angela McCuiston

Into the Headwind

I had a LOVELY bike ride today. By some standards it would not be considered as such. Why, do you ask?

Simple, because of the 22 miles, 11 of them were INTO the wind. And not just any wind. Tropical something-or-other Lee blew through here the last few days. I rode down Hwy 98 and up 30-A, which for those who don’t know is right along the Gulf of Mexico the whole way. The waves are up and the wind was blowing big time in my face.

Why would I like that? Well, besides the fact that I knew that I would get to FLY back (oh and I did, it was fun!) was because I knew that mother nature was providing the resistance. It was like a Drill Sergeant: you never knew how long the challenge would last or what it would be. Just when I thought that I was going to get a break, I’d upshift to make it a little higher and I’d be hit with a 15mph gust that almost threw me off the bike. I’d put my head down and push through it…and the wind would let up long enough for me to enjoy the scenery.

Riding your bike outdoors forces you to challenge yourself. You have to peddle yourself back one way or another because no one is going to come get you! And you can’t just get off, like on a stationary bike. Besides this, you get scenery.

I guess that’s it, the challenge is what I’m after. I like being challenged, and the road does that. I don’t know what the wind will do, if I’ll have to be on my toes for potholes, or what, but it’s a challenge to take yourself out so far only to know you have to get yourself back and no amount of whining or complaining will change that.

It’s easy to get yourself off a piece of gym equipment, to walk out of the practice room, to just get up and leave things, but when you are out cycling, running, maybe even swimming if you aren’t in a pool, there’s no one but yourself to depend on to get yourself back.

In the Army, we call that INTESTINAL FORTITUDE.

I like it, but I also like to call it inner strength, and finding out that you really are made of more than you thought you were.

So find your method of challenge – and go discover your own amount of intestinal fortitude! 🙂

September 2, 2011 / Angela McCuiston

The Joy of a Deadlift Well Done

Cookie Monster

Image by nickstone333 via Flickr

I came across this video the other day in a post I read from a girl powerlifter.  She also LOVES cookies, and calls herself the “Cookie Monster”.  She is living proof of 3 things:

  1. You can be a female powerlifter and still be feminine
  2. You can be a female who lifts a LOT of weight (like over 200 lbs.) and not get “bulky” – um, she’s TINY, but with fantastic curves (she’s very proud of them).
  3. You can still enjoy cookies and not give them up for life, when you lift and enjoy them occassionally. 🙂  Read her blog sometime (watch out for her language though, sometimes she’s unedited, and she does that on purpose) and get inspired.

Musings of a Powerlifter « Munchies, Muscles, and Mischief.


Ok, but the point of this post is the video I found of Benedict Magnusson performing, get this, a 1015 lb. deadlift!  I believe he holds the title of world’s strongest man.

There are a few things to notice in this video:

  1. The Power of the Crowd – do you think he could have done this without all the cheering, yelling, encouragement and yes, even the yelling he did himself to psych himself up for the lift?  I seriously doubt it.  Studies have been done on this very effect.  Studies aside, think about it. When you are doing something, anything that’s difficult, don’t you feel like you have the power to outperform even your own expectations because of the encouragement of the people around you?  Now think of a library, or a tennis court; it’s quiet, almost awkard it’s so quiet.  Imagine trying to perform this lift in that kind of atmosphere.  I seriously doubt it could happen.  This is why classes  like my Boot Camp Class are so good for you: you feel motivated, encouraged and you NATURALLY end up doing more because of the people around you.
  2. His form was spot on.  He didn’t “hump” the weight.  No rounding of the back, waggling back and forth, compensating by putting his hips up first, scooping or anything else.  No.  His form was exactly the way it should be with his spine in neutral alignment and his body using the muscles God intended to be used for this lift: his posterior chain,  not his upper back, quads and hip flexors but his hamstrings, glutes and back muscles.  He didn’t have to compensate to look good in front of other people by sacrificing his form to get the weight up.  No, he did it exactly right on the way up AND down.  Did you notice that?  He set it down with perfect form, too!
  3. He set it down with perfect form. He didn’t feel the need to drop the weight from that high instead of setting it down under control (1000 lbs. would probably have left a hole in the floor anyway).   How many people in the gym do YOU see, lifting more weight than they can with good form to convince themselves they are really stronger than they are (when all they are really asking for is a slipped disk)  I mean, I can’t even watch this video all the way it makes me cringe so bad. This guy is asking to be paralyzed.  But I see it in the gym every time I go in there.  He’s trying to make himself feel like he’s strong when he has no idea what he’s doing, and he WILL get hurt doing it.  What are the differences between him and Benedikt?  Can you see it?
  4. The smile of satisfaction.  My favorite part of this whole video is when he got the weight locked out at the top and he looks around and smiles; the crowd goes nuts.  That is the look of a man who is satisfied with knowing he didn’t cheat, didn’t compensate, he lifted an INSANE amount of weight without hurting himself and he has every right to gloat.  The guy in the last video has no right to anything but a broken back.

I plan on posting a deadlifting post later, but for now, I just want to share this one because it makes me laugh with happiness everytime I watch it.  Everything about it is what’s good about lifting weight: you’re strong, you’re confident, you’re competent, you have no NEED to gloat about anything because you have control over your body.


Lift on. 🙂

August 31, 2011 / Angela McCuiston

When Was the Last Time You Took A Break?

Like most siblings, I grew up driving my brother crazy, and him doing the same to me.  He’d try to hug me, I’d get grossed out, he’d get mad, I’d cry, you know, the usual.  Then I went to college and left him at home with mom and dad and the coolest thing happened: we became friends.

Me and my little brother

I count my brother among one of my best friends now.  He knows me unlike few others (save my husband and parents) and can relate to me on a large scale.  We both love music (though in different ways), LOVE lifting and can talk for hours about nutrition, psychology and our workouts.

One of the funniest things that happens between us happens over and over again.  One of us will call the other looking for advice about some aspect of nutrition or asking some question about “why is my strength stalling?  I can’t bust through my plateau!” etc. and invariably, one of us will ask the other

“When was the last time you took a break?”

It never fails, give us a few months and one of us will be calling the other complaining about something and that question will arise from the other one of us.  That’s one of the neat things about having a sibling with which you share a lot of common traits: we undersand that both of us

  • overanalyze things to death
  • are dead-set of getting things right the first time
  • When we get into something we go in 110% – we don’t dabble….which invariably leads to burnout

All of these traits can be seen in a positive or negative light.   On the positive side, the analyzation leads to greater self-awareness and discovery with deeper understanding for future struggles and the perfectionism and enthusiasm belie a FANTASTIC work ethic.  On the negative, the analyzing will drive our friends and/or significant others crazy, we tend to lose out on the learning process by perfectionism and by ceasing to dabble in something, burnout occurs a lot faster.  I’m willing to bet that a lot of you reading this can relate to me on one, if not all of those personality traits.

So the question invariably comes up

When was the last time you took a break?

From dieting?

From training?

From practicing?

The list can go on and on.  We all need times of solitude, times of respite, of quiet.  We need times to break out of our routines and habits – which is why we go on vacations.  But sometimes, you don’t necessarily need a vacation from life, you need a vacation from your workout or your diet.

Two Take-Home Points

1. If you find yourself asking “when was the last time I took a break” and have a hard time answering definitively, that’s your first clue it’s time for a break

2. There are warning signs everywhere

  • you are not sleeping well
  • you have no desire to workout
  • you are frequently tired
  • You DREAD going to practice and when you are there, you get very little done, you have little stamina
  • You are in pain more often
  • The things that used to bring you joy now cause you dread
  • just thinking about your workout makes you tired
  • you suffer physically.  This can be seen in any number of ways, be it lack of sleep, lack of interest in things, joint pain, muscle pain, headaches, feeling “wired but tired”, hair becomes dry or falls out, you get sick more often and take longer to recover (sick can mean anything from viruses to allergies, because your immune system becomes cocmpromised)

The gym is for tearing down, rest is for repair and building

When you lift weights, you aren’t going to build or strengthen your body, you are literally tearing your body down.  You cause low-grade (sometimes mid-grade) inflammation and during REST is when your body repairs the damage you’ve done, creating new tissue, stronger or bigger tissue.  If you are constantly working out, going heavy 6 days a week and not giving your body a chance to repair, pretty soon you’re going to hit a wall.

Rest is underrated and you desperately need it.  If you’ve been lifting 5-6 days per week for years, I beg you to stop.  Switch to 3 days a week and work your whole body.  Do the big lifts: deadlifts, squats, bench press, pull ups or rows and throw in extra stuff for mobility and stability like lunges on top of it.  It will feel weird at first, but I dare you to do it for 3 months and see if you don’t grow more during that time than you ever have since you started.

Sometimes, you need a break from your diet.

We have break times like this at Christmas, Thanksgiving and maybe your Grandma’s birthday party, but if you have been anal retentive about your diet or even been gung-ho and “on your diet” for months and can’t remember the last time you just let yourself eat….it’s time.  You have to be willing to trust yourself that you will do yourself no harm by not tracking and weighing your food.  If you’ve been dieting for months and can’t remember the last time you ate at maintenance calories, then today is the day.  Stop today and take 2 weeks, starting today, and eat at maintenance calories.

What about practicing?

So what happens when you take a break?

You might find out that a host of good things happens.  Not only does your enthusiasm for the sport or the instrument return, in regards to lifting: you might have gotten stronger, or bigger or even leaner, depending on what you were trying to accomplish in the first place.  When the inflammation response goes down, water drops, muscle repairs and hormones stabilize, good things happen and suddenly, what you were training for, actually starts to work the way you were hoping.

My brother's amazing calvesCalves like these are grown OUT of the gym.  Just ask my brother, they belong to him and he works out 2 DAYS A WEEK.

In regards to practicing, I assure you, your technique does not fly out the window, your tone does not disappear, nor do you simply lose everything you worked for in the last decade. On the contrary.  Just like in lifting, good things can happen.  Your tone, your technique, your memory, whatever you’ve been working on can actually IMPROVE!

Point in case…

Let me tell you a story.  At some point during my first year of graduate school I said to myself “I want to be principal flute of USO” (the top university orchestra).  I thought this thought once and filed it away in my subconscious.  I worked very hard on my excerpts and worked all year to improve.

Then came the summer.  I knew I should practice, and I did, in fact, but I practiced piccolo mostly.  I didn’t practice that much.  A few hours a week, maybe, not a few hours a day.  I began practicing in earnest about a week or two before auditions for the next school year, just to see how things were.

I stepped into the practice room and to my amazement,

  • my tone was better
  • my technique was spot on, better than during the school year and more accurate
  • my excerpts, while certainly not flawless, were better than I had ever played them, even without working on them all summer.

I went in to the audition room, played the Debussy the best I ever had (in one breath no less!) , nailed William Tell FLAWLESSLY, had FUN in the audition and guess what?  I got 1st chair.
What happened?

What happened was that I gave my body, my mind and my abilities time to rest.  I worked hard all year on improving my technique, my tone and my excerpts, then I basically took 2-3 months OFF.  It allowed my brain and my body to actually absorb and process what I had learned.  You see, you don’t necessarily get better when you are in the middle of practicing, the results show up later.  What they forget to tell you is that it’s partly a result of rest.

So, take heart from my story, and take a break.  Your body will thank you. 🙂

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