Turkish Get Up Tutorials

Some of you may have noticed the increased attention to Turkish Get Ups in class recently, and you either love it or you hate it! The truth is, the TGU is one of the most comprehensive things we do in our class. No other exercise requires the strength, stability, mobility and mental focus that the TGU does. Heavy TGUs have changed my body in so many ways, and have translated directly to the rest of my training. They are fun, effective and highly beneficial-but only if performed properly! To help ensure that your TGU practice is done with integrity and attention to detail, Joe and I put together a 3 part video series on the TGU, starting with a basic tutorial and then going into further details. I apologize that part 2 is not HD (not my fault, I swear! I am very tech savvy!).

So, in case you missed these videos on YouTubeFacebookStrength Coach, and The Female Fitness Forum, I have listed them here on my blog. If you use kettlebells in any capacity, do yourself a favor and spend the time to watch them. As Pavel would say, “Enjoy!”

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Ladies, Let’s Train HARD!

My friend and colleague, Alli Mckee, who trains HARD! Not so bulky, is she?

Lot’s of amazing strength and power happening with the OPTI ladies in the past few weeks! Phyllis and Maria are swinging 32kg, Little Lupe and Nat (who I trick with heavier bells!) are pressing double 12kg, Tasha is snatching 14kg, Peggy is doing double 8kg snatches, Annie, Denise and Stacia doing heavier get ups, Tracy and Joanne pressing a 16kg, Dana squatting double 16kgs, and all the new girls are catching up FAST. I am impressed, inspired and humbled every day by the level of enthusiasm and determination that the kettlebell girls display. I feel a personal and professional sense of duty to spread the word…that women can and should train heavy, hard and serious. That training with intention and purpose (and heavy iron!) will change your physique and sense of self. Spreading this message is the core of my professional mission and vision.
I am lucky to have a few female friends in the industry who share my passion and embody these ideals. I am even luckier to have all of you, whose work ethic and motivation give me purpose!

Unfortunately there is still a lot of miseducation about women and weight training, that lines the pockets of countless “professionals” and leaves customers feeling lack luster, and searching for the next fad. This drives me crazy! Recently I was contacted by fitness author and trainer, JC Deen, to contribute to an article he was writing on this subject after much success with an article about fitness marketing and how it has affected the female psyche. As a tremendous supporter of serious strength training for women, in both body and mind, I happily obliged and was honored to be a part of the piece! If you get a chance, take a look:

ATTENTION LADIES: Proof that lifting heavy will NOT make you BIG and Bulky!

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Client Spotlight: Dana Varela

In all the hustle and chaos of opening the new OPTI facility, I haven’t had the opportunity to recognize all of the amazing clients who have made this business what it is today; who’s energy, enthusiasm and dedication are what propel this blossoming grassroots effort. Last week, one of my female group clients joyfully and humbly approached the pullup bar, and banged out her first ever unassisted chinup. And then she did another one. While I stood there, beaming with awe and pride, I made a choice to commit to a more regular client spotlight-regardless of the endless pandemonium that exhausts a small business owner. Because they deserve it. Because they are the reason we are here.

Dana's 14kg Turkish Get Up

Dana Varela, busy mother of two school aged children (one of which has a very demanding dance schedule!) is an unassuming athlete. She is adorably sweet and perpetually friendly; small in stature and a secret little powerhouse of awesomeness. When Dana joined my group training program in February, I was completely unaware of her untapped potential. It was only after getting to know her better, and watching her [seemingly] effortless progress and determination, that I realized how truly special she was.

Dana has a work ethic that cannot be taught; the kind that is inherently part of her indomitable spirit. She has quickly joined the ranks of the most impressive ladies, both in attitude and ability, I have had the pleasure of working with. Her jovial personality, ability to take coaching cues, willingness to learn and improve, and dedication to her training are just a few of the reasons why Dana is the client I chose to spotlight this month.

I’ve noticed a somewhat common and slightly disappointing theme throughout my career with regards to those who perform well or achieve greatness. Often when an athlete is accomplished, particularly a female, people tend to have an “it’s so easy for them” attitude. There is this assumption that all the tough stuff just comes naturally to them, and the sweat and tears of the training process are periodically overlooked. At a glance, Dana may seem this way-“easily” accomplishing feats of feminine strength and making just about everything look effortless. True, she is an easy student, but it’s not because it’s easy for her. Rather, it’s due to her consistency and focus, that she makes things look effortless. I always tell my clients that even when something is overwhelmingly challenging, it should appear effortless and graceful to those who view it. That’s what happens when we own our movement and respect the progressions. Dana’s movement is unrestricted and intentional, and I promise you, it has not been easy. She has earned every single PR, every single compliment and every single pound lost through persistence and discipline, all while maintaining good humor and a seemingly unwavering smile.

In less than 6 months, Dana has worked up to pressing double 12kg kettlebells, 14kg TGUs, unassisted bodyweight chin ups, double 14kg squats, double kettlebell complexes, 24kg swings, double 32kg deadlifts, unassisted pushups, and bodyweight one leg deadlifts-all with a movement quality that is enviable. She has lost 14 pounds and has gotten into the habit of blaming me for her need to buy new clothes! The truth is, I didn’t do anything but the job I’m paid to do. Dana made a decision to change her life-and it shows. She has infected me (and everyone else, for that matter) with her glowing smile and contagious laughter. She is a joy to train, and am lucky to have her-not the other way around.

Congratulations to Dana Varela on embarking on a journey of strength, fortitude and self discovery! The journey has just begun, and I for one am excited to see what the future brings for her.

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Hardstyle Kettlebell Certification at OPTI

Optimum Performance Training Institute is excited and honored to be hosting a Hardstyle Kettlebell Certification (HKC) at our new state of the art facility!

Andrea Du Cane, Master RKC (and the only female in those ranks!) will be teaching the HKC at OPTI in Columbia on 17 September, 2011. Andrea is an amazing instructor with a host of knowledge and experience. Her expertise is matched only by her effective and meticulous teaching style, which is both firm but kind. Her success and humility make her an inspiration to coaches worldwide, especially to females trainers and trainees seeking a positive role model. I have been lucky to work with her on a few occasions, and am very elated to have her visit our facility to welcome new kettlebell instructors into our ranks.

When it comes to kettlebell training, RKC is second to none. The 3 day course is grueling and often has only a 70% pass rate due to it’s stringent testing and high standards. In an effort to prepare RKC hopefuls for the rigors of the challenge, and to reach out to more kettlebell zealots, Dragon Door offered it’s first 1 day kettlebell certification, the HKC, in 2009 in St. Paul, MN. Since then, the HKC has proven an effective “opportunity to build a superb and rock-solid foundation as a kettlebell professional” (via DragonDoor). I have had the pleasure and the honor of assisting at two HKC events with Master RKC, and my mentor, Brett Jones. I have seen first hand the drastic improvement in technique and teaching skill of the candidates through the high level of instruction and course material at the HKC. This course is a must for anyone looking to enter the lucrative world of the kettlebell trainer.

Attend the HKC and leave with these major advantages:

  • A deep understanding of the true benefits of kettlebell training—for both yourself and your clients
  • A solid knowledge of vital kettlebell training safety procedures
  • A workmanlike grasp of the fundamentals of biomechanics—to ensure your clients move with perfect form and avoid injury
  • A grasp of the key HardStyle skills and principles of strength
  • The ability to competently perform the three foundational kettlebell exercises (the Swing, the Get-Up, and the Goblet Squat)
  • The confidence you can now correctly teach the three essential kettlebell exercises—and troubleshoot common technique problems
  • The unique HKC template for designing an unlimited number of effective kettlebell workouts.
Don’t miss the opportunity to attend the first HKC held in the state of Maryland! For more information, email me at negf03@yahoo.com, or visit the site to register. 
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July Updates

Wow, what a month it’s been! Moving and setting up the new facility seems to have been the easy part, although we never would have concluded that at the time. Adjusting to the new space and finding a routine has challenged me extraordinarily, and has compelled me to become a better instructor and business woman. I believe that we must be challenged every day in order to stimulate growth and experience happiness. This month, challenge was not absent, by any means, on any single day! Challenge was the word of the month for June.

Our little program had meager roots. We started last June, in the back parking lot of Team Vic Fitness, with a mere six students, two times per week, learning how to deadlift, swing and perform Turkish Get Ups. I am proud and honored to say that four of those students are still with us and are some of our TOP performers and most hard working clients. Thank you to Jay, Mina, Peggy and Phyllis for ONE YEAR of dedicated training and congratulations on all of your amazing progress. You are truly remarkable and inspiring individuals!

The Original Group, July 2010

I am truly in awe over how much the program has grown in just one year, and am constantly making changes to it’s structure and programming to accommodate for this accelerating growth. Since June 2010, we have grown to an average of 30 group members, with a total of 8 classes per week-in contrast to the 2 we originally offered. That includes the weekly beginner class which is part of the Introductory Program I developed in response to the influx of eager students, which assesses every individual with the Functional Movement Screen and ensures their ability to swing and perform other movements before attending classes.

We have not only moved to a brand new, state of the art facility, but now have 60 kettlebells to train with (we started with just 15 and nothing over a 32kg!), 4 pullup bars and 4 TRX suspension systems. There is no shortage of equipment and people eager to utilize it-but there is a growing shortage of space due to the escalated interest in our unique program. This influx of new members is the main reason for all of the changes we will be experiencing over the coming weeks.

Over the past month, I have learned a great deal about how to structure and organize our groups to maintain quality and efficiency. I am sure I will continue to grow and learn, but this months updates are a result of what I have realized thus far. I would like to first thank you all for your enthusiasm and dedication to OPTI group training and our mission and vision. Without you, this dream would not have been possible. I cherish and appreciate each and every one of you for your loyalty and support, and the unique personalities that you bring to our group dynamic. Please continue to bear with as we attempt to get our wits about us in this new space! Remember that everything we do is an attempt to improve the program and enhance YOUR experience.


We are using a site called “Meetup” to track sign ups for our group training sessions. Classes are simply growing too large to accommodate everyone in an organized fashion, so I am asking everyone to join the site and RSVP to classes they plan to attend. This will ensure a moderately sized group and a better training environment. You can RSVP weeks in advance to secure a spot, but please remember to change your RSVP status should you choose not to attend so that someone else can take your spot. There is also a waiting list in case a class fills up that you would like to attend. Please refrain from signing up for classes, and not attending. We would like to keep this process as accurate and honest as possible.

I am going to be adhering to this very strictly beginning in July and will expect each and every individual in class to have signed up for the class they are participating in. This is imperative to our ability to run classes smoothly and effectively. To become a meetup member and begin signing up for classes, please visit the OPTI Meetup Page. This is expected to be starting in July, but I am sure there will be some growing pains and by August we will all be more comfortable with the process.


I’m very excited to add 3 new classes on the schedule the first week in July. There has been a lot of requests for an afternoon and Saturday class, so starting 5 July we will have a 12pm class on Tuesday and Thursday as well as Saturday 9 am class beginning 9 July. There is also a possibility that we will offer a 515 class on Monday and Wednesday in the future. It’s exhilirating to see something that you have created grow so rapidly and with such fervor. This group program is a source of much joy for me, and I will continue to add classes as it becomes necessary. Unfortunately, we are opting to pull the Metabolic classes off the schedule until further notice because they no longer work with my schedule. In the future, we hope to have other OPTI group instructors who can teach classes when I am not available.


When I started this program, it was so intimate that I opted not to utilize the Functional Movement Screen and simply eyeballed movement. As the program expanded, I incorporated the FMS and it’s corrective strategies into the group. As a result, every new member was given a custom warmup or “movement preparation” routine to perform prior to class. The existing students are going to be slowly integrated into this same format as time allows, based on their FMS scores. This will allow students to work on their weaknesses, and be more efficient with their warmup as it will be the same every time. As you are all aware, our program is not simply “group fitness”, but a program intended to identify and correct movement dysfunction, and the create strength and power out of that quality movement. The FMS allows us a reliable platform to do just that. Some of you may need to have your FMS scores revisited, and we will accommodate that as well. I am contemplating scheduling a “clinic”, in which we have a 2 hour window for individuals to come in, get screened, and receive corrective strategies. I will keep you all posted.


Our first happy hour in April turned out to be a great success. We had a great time and a pretty significant turn out. I really appreciate the time spent getting to know each other outside of the gym and building relationships with those we train with. The social aspect of our training is vital to our success; the support and motivation provided by your fellow students is an integral component to the group dynamic. I understand Summer is a painfully hectic time for most of us, so I expect that many will have to decline. We are planning our next happy hour for Saturday, 23 July. The location is still to be decided, but I am contemplating Facci in Laurel/Maple Lawn or Eggspectations in Columbia. Both locations have large areas that accommodate groups. Once the details have been finalized, I will create and event that you can RSVP to. I hope to see a lot of you there!


OPTI will be hosting an HKC with Master RKC, Andrea DuCane on Saturday, 17 September. This is a one day kettlebell certification offered by DragonDoor. If anyone is interested in attending with the intention of perhaps assisting with teaching classes, please let me know and we will discuss your readiness for such an event. Currently, Jamie and Mina are set to attend and I encourage anyone interested to look into the certification. 

Although it has been an incredibly challenging time for OPTI, I recognize that the transition has been trying for all of you as well and I appreciate your support. Thank you for all of your hard work and I encourage you to consistently embrace the challenges we face in class with intention and purpose. You all amaze me every day with your abilities and your zeal. I feel honored each and every day to be your coach. Here’s to the beginning of an exciting new journey!
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May Updates

Happy Tuesday, Everyone!

I hope everyone is enjoying the week so far and taking advantage of the warmer weather (finally!). This post is mainly to update you on scheduling matters for the upcoming weeks. Please be advised that once we move into the new facility (yay!) I will no longer have to cancel classes when I am out of town; I will simply have a qualified substitute to guide you through the training session that I have planned. Please make note of the following dates and updates and let me know if you have any questions or concerns. As always, thank you from the bottom of my heart for all of your hard work and dedication!

Class Cancellations:

"Won't you miss us?"

Friday 6 May: No Metabolic Class as I will be in California for a childhood friend’s wedding.

Wednesday 11 May: No 530 or 630 Kettlebell Classes as I will be in St. Paul at the CK-FMS Certification, learning new tools to make you guys BETTER!

Thursday 12 May: No 6 am KB Class-CKFMS

Friday 13 May: No 7 am Metabolic Class-CKFMS

*(2 and 3 June: Unless we are in the new space, Thursday and Friday classes will be cancelled as Joe and I will be attending the Annual Perform Better Functional Training Summit in Providence. If we have moved, class will occur with a sub.)*


If all goes according to plan, we will be moving from the Elkridge and Catonsville locations over Memorial Day weekend. If you are in town, and interested in helping out (Read: drink beers while pretending to move stuff), please let me know so I can keep you in the loop.


New OPTI Digs

The tentative date for our clients/family/friends only opening is Saturday evening, 25 June. We will have light fare and perhaps wine (if I have my way!), and would love it if you all came out to celebrate this dream of Joe’s and mine that has been many years in the making. The tentative date for our “Grand” Opening is Sunday, 17 July. For this opening, we will be inviting local businesses, teams, athletes etc to come take a look at our facility and see what we do. We will have demos and information to let the community know what OPTI is all about. Please let me know if you are interested in being a part of this event.


My friend, Ben Bruno, writes a very popular fitness blog and he recently did an exclusive interview with me! You might find it interesting, and you may enjoy the other posts on his blog. He does a lot of “compilation posts” where he compiles good reads and great videos for the week. Check it out:

Ben’s Blog: Interview with Neghar Fonooni

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Mindset: Shifting the Strength Paradigm

What I love most about the OPTI group performance program isn’t the kettlebell swings and snatches, heavy dead lifts or double front squats. It’s not the sweaty faces, chalked up hands, and smiling faces. It’s not even the feedback I get from students about about fat loss, strength gains and confidence building. Although those elements are all highly satisfying to me as an instructor, what really pleases me is this:

The ability to guide clients into a strength and conditioning paradigm shift.

My role as instructor and coach is not to simply train, but teach. I aim to educate clients as to why and how we train as we do, and give them the tools they need to alter their mindset. When clients can identify incorrect movement or give cues to other clients, it means I’ve really done my job. When the paradigm of a client changes from the disorganized cluster that is the mainstream fitness world, to the focused, systematic and purposeful mindset of true strength and conditioning-it is a beautiful thing.

I know I have asked a lot of all of you. I have effectively asked you to put your faith in me and do whatever I say. I have required that you come on board with the program completely or don’t come on board at all; strength training outside of class is strictly taboo unless it’s cleared by me and you have all processed and accepted this requirement. While I welcome and encourage questions, curiosity, and inquisitive dissent, ultimately I am the expert guide and my advice and recommendations should be followed. And all of you have gotten on board with that!!! It may seem harsh and strict, but the tight ship is essential for progression, injury prevention and ultimately, results. The fact that you, as students, have immersed yourself in the program and basically drank the OPTI kool-aid, well, it makes me beam with pride.

The paradigm has shifted from long, slow cardio on the elliptical machine to short, powerful bursts of swings, agility and airdyne sprints. The paradigm has shifted from isolating body parts in a body builder style of strength training to total body, functional movements designed to train the body as a unit. We’ve shifted from training with fixed machines to kettlebells, from spending hours in the gym to 30-60 minutes, from quantity to quality, and from crunches and “ab work” (which actually hinder back health and contribute to low back pain) to planks and other stability exercises for improving core strength. Most importantly we have shifted our paradigm from “working out” to “training”. Every time we pick up the bells we do so with intention, integrity and purpose. Every time we swing a bell we are “practicing the swing” as opposed to just swinging. Every time we perform a TGU we are practicing movement, stability, control, mobility, as opposed to just doing it for the heck of it. It is this type of purposeful training that creates strong, solid bodies and produces individuals with the body awareness and focus necessary to perform with physical integrity-both in sport and in the game of life.

The mindset of most gym goers is to simply get exercise out of the way, going through the motions and checking exercise off the to-do list. This is not you. If it ever was, it is not anymore. You are not an average gym goer. You are not a slave to the nautilus machines or the long walks on the treadmill. You do not cut workouts out of Men’s Health or Shape magazines and mindlessly wander through useless exercise after useless exercise. You are an OPTI Group Performance Member. You train with purpose. You train with intensity. You train with the intention of moving your body in the most efficient and effective manner, building strength, power, mobility and stamina. You dedicate the time necessary to foam roll, stretch and do mobility work so that your body can move more freely and effectively build the armor necessary to reduce the risk of injury and chronic pain.

Mindset is one of the pillars of the OPTI methodology. A well grooved mindset is integral in the quest for supreme fitness. It is mindset that guides your actions and fuels your efforts. It is essential in order to successfully train, eat and live to support your body, and without dialing in our mindset we are fighting a losing battle-simply surviving until the next obstacle sets us back. With the proper mindset, the proper paradigm, you can achieve anything.

You are amazing. Simply amazing. Each and every one of you. Your mindset and dedication make you unique and will serve to make you stronger from the inside out. You are elite, and I am proud to call you my students. I implore you to continue to adjust and refine your mindset in terms of health and fitness. Every time you consider doing something that is detrimental to your health (skipping class, a junk food binge, smoking, drinking excessive alcohol, not listening to your body, etc) ask yourself if this fits in with your new paradigm. Does this action support my goals? Does this action define the mindset I have worked so hard to achieve? With purpose and intention we can build better bodies and stronger minds, and through it all I am honored and humbled to be your coach.

Power to you!

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