Stronger U Fitness Welcomes Brant Luehman!

Brant LuehmanCertified Strength and Conditioning Specialist

Brant Luehman
Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist

Stronger U Fitness is proud to announce the addition of our newest trainer, Brant Luehman!

Brant is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He graduated from Hamline University with a degree in psychology, where he earned success in both football and track as a two time All-American athlete in the 1600 meter relay.

From that strong foundation, Brant has pursued his passion in health and wellness. He worked in a rural hospital’s fitness club where he lead a variety of classes (boot camp, water aerobics, and Silver Sneakers, among others). He moved to the Twin Cities, founded 3:12 Fitness, and began providing in-home personal training. He has also been working for a metro fitness club.

Brant rises to the challenge of working with a diverse population. Due to his athletic background and previous personal injuries, Brant has had success working with individuals who have physical or health-related limitations. In a day’s work he may train an elite athlete, an individual who is working-out for the first time and then see a client who is well into their eighties. In addition, he coaches three high school sports and works with athletes in the off-season.

We’re excited to see the energy Brant brings to our community!

New or returning client? Brant will be offering 10% off all 3-month packages purchased before April 15th!

You can contact Brant at (715) 554-0492 or

Stronger through Pregnancy

Jaime Holker began training in the Fall of 2012.  She and her husband were ready to start a family and she’d had debilitating back issues in the last few years.  She didn’t want being a mother to be halted or hindered by her back issues.  When she began training at Stronger U Fitness, she had very limited range of motion as her whole body worked to protect her back.  Her legs and glutes had atrophied.  She was concerned that recreational activities would injure her.  She wanted to enjoy life more.

Her pregnancy began around the time she began training, so we focused all of her training on working through daily movements.  How would it be to bend over a crib multiple times a day?  Get up and down off of the floor while carrying a little one?  Hold his weight for a length of time?  We spent the first several months paying attention to movement patterns, increasing flexibility and especially strengthening the abdominal, glute and thigh muscles that would help to support her back and her functional movements.

As Jaime’s training progressed, she was able to squat lower and lower, lunge without losing balance or feeling her knees hurting.  She could hold her weight in full body pushups.  In February and March we began adding more complex movements like deadlifts and standing hip hinges.  She almost tripled the weight that she could pick up during this time–and it was nearing the end of her pregnancy!  This video shows Jaime deadlifting 95 pounds.  She was able to do 6 reps of 115 pounds later the same evening.  All while being 9 months pregnant–she’s a rockstar!

Jackson was born in the early morning of May 22nd, and Jaime’s doctor feels that both her delivery and her recovery were aided through her consistent training.  Now, two months later, Jaime is already 5 pounds lighter and 7% body fat less than when she began training.  She is also 5 inches smaller throughout her body than she was pre-pregnancy!  She’s increased her muscle weight by ten pounds.  She says mornings are the only time that she really faces back strain, but that knowing how to move when she picks Jackson up is making all the difference in the world.

Welcome, Jackson!  And, Jaime, thank you for inspiring us.


Client of the Month, Mary Connor

Mary Connor puts her heart and soul into her training.  Lately, every time she walks in I tell her, “Today’s going to be another tough one.  They just keep getting harder.”  And she grinds out another session, with more exercises, more weight and in less time than her last session.  Mary started training with me because she wanted to deal with chronic back and neck pains.  She was hoping to gain upper body strength and overall balance.  We worked for a time on building up her core and free weighted movements.  And then we discovered Mary’s inner body-builder.  Whether it’s standing hip hinges, barbell glute bridges, deadlifting, or placing a bar across her back for good mornings, we’ve found her sweet spot.  I can demonstrate an exercise once and she’ll master it.  Since beginning with complex lifts in December of last year, Mary’s overall strength, balance and pain management have increased.  She’s gone from lifting the 45lb barbell to lifting 100lbs+ in most full body exercises.  I can’t tell who’s having more fun when she’s training.  Congrats, Mary!  You’re one strong Chic!

Client of the Month, Grace Sjoberg

Stronger U Fitness honors Grace Sjoberg.  Grace is a hard worker, who completes her home workouts just about every week, works hard on her food and strives for the best she can be.  She’s always an inspiration to me!  Her first several years of training at Stronger U Fitness, we focused on weight management, lowering her body fat and creating a sustainable lifestyle.  Since she began, she’s gone from 27% body fat to a steady 11-13%–she’s quite the athlete!


In the last year, Grace and I began specifying her training in a way that would focus on greater hip and shoulder flexibility, and offer her stronger spinal support.  During this time, Grace has gone from having some difficulty with box squats to having no problem sitting almost in the floor—and look at her straight back!

Grace has put in a lot of effort to reach her goals it’s a pleasure working beside her.  Congratulations, Grace!

Client of the Month, Alan Hagstrom

This month I want to honor Alan Hagstrom.  After beating cancer and recovering from a bout of the shingles, Alan took a hold of life and is making huge improvements weekly.  He decided to start tracking his food habits at the first of the year and learn what they are.  Alan began reading about processed foods and refined sugars and their effects on his body.  He lowered his overall sugar intake, increased his protein and veggies and works to consistently eat within his recommended calorie allowance.

Besides that, Alan is walking weekly with another Stronger U client, building social support into his routine.  He’s visiting his local fitness center three times a week and increasing the distance he walks or bikes.  He’s also gaining strength and balance in his workouts with me.  In the last month alone, Alan has dropped 3lbs, 1.5% body fat, and 5 inches throughout his body (since he began training in 2010, he’s dropped 11 inches throughout his body!).

Alan says that what drove his current motivation were his health recovery and a desire to optimize his ability to enjoy life in the future.  Additionally, he wishes to build on a “burgeoning new consciousness” of what it takes to feed and exercise his body correctly.  Here’s what Alan has to say about his first quarter experience with our Cruise White Bear Lake contest:

“Thanks to Kris and her focused good counsel, the Cruise White Bear Lake has turned out to be one of the best events I have ever taken on. Kris has led me on a strengthening exercise program each week specifically designed for my personal situation, age, treatment recovery status, and general health. For exercise outside the sessions, while I am not jogging due to foot conditions long beyond my current control, I have been able to do plenty of walking with fellow Stronger U Fitness client Alan Wyman, with a neighborhood walking group, or on my own. Also, thanks to the availability of a fitness center for the town home association to which I belong, I have accomplished some treadmill walking and cycling indoors while waiting for the outdoors to be decent for regular walking and cycling.  Walking with Alan Wyman has included discoveries of indoor areas for walking at the coliseum in the state fairgrounds and in the fascinating St. Paul Skyway system. That made the Cruise especially fun this time.

Perhaps the most educational and life changing aspect of this particular race, however, has been the nutrition discoveries online with Lose It!  Keeping track of what I eat each day has made a significant difference in my perception of good eating and finding ways to get to my goal of healthy eating and weight loss. Kris again has been key to this process, analyzing with me my daily and weekly patterns, helping me set achievable goals and encouraging me along the way. For the first time in years I am close to the weight that both feels good and looks right. Having lost about ten pounds in the first quarter of this year, I am on track to be where I want to be.”

Congratulations, Alan!  Your zest for personal growth is inspiring!

What Constitutes Exercise?

I get questions all the time on whether one thing or another would be considered exercise.  It’s easy to think that exercise must be an all out effort, sweaty and breathy, where you feel you’ll fall over before you finish.  This mindset fails for a few reasons:

  • It isn’t fun–If you feel like you have to go until you drop, you probably won’t be inspired to exercise often.
  • It’s stressful–Always training at the highest possible intensities becomes catabolic.  It actually can break your body down.  High intensities can help boost your metabolism, but these can be achieved in the equivalent of 5-8 ’100 yard’ dashes.  Too much intensity for too long can have reverse effects on your body.
  • It’s harder to plan for–Intense workouts should be specific and efficient (think of the circuit training we do in the studio).  Feeling the need to set multiple hours per week aside to work and work can be difficult.

So what can you do if you want to get in the recommended exercise amount each week without feeling overwhelmed or breaking down your body?  *Recommended exercise is a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate exercise for basic cardiovascular health; 300 minutes per week for greater weight loss or body composition results.

Use a Rating of Perceived Exertion scale (or heart rate monitor) to help you identify the amount of work you’re doing through your daily activities.  On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being the lowest movement and 10 being the most intense, consider “3-4″ moderate intensity, “6-7″ vigorous intensity and “9-10″ all out effort.  At “3-4″ you should notice that your breathing is more rapid, but not at all labored.  At “5-6″ it should be difficult to hold a conversation.  At “9-10″ you will experience very labored breathing.

Your goal?  Turn your daily activities up a notch, so that they count at a “3-4″ on the RPE scale.  The more you’re moving moderately, the higher your daily metabolism will be.  Do activities that you enjoy and don’t feel like “real” workouts.  Schedule specific training times through the week  (more weight training and some cardio) where you can commit to keeping between a “5-7″ on the RPE scale.  These will cycle in intervals, from “3″, to “5″, down to “3″ again and up to “7″.  These intervals are great for your cardiovascular health and your metabolism!  With healthy nutrition and increased time of daily activity, you can achieve a great body composition using 2-3 very targeted (30 minute sessions) a week that cycle this way.  An RPE of “9-10″ should be used by a well-trained, healthy individual, in very short bursts (again, we’re thinking of quick sprints with all out force; these aren’t sustainable levels of intensity).

Try out the RPE scale this week as you go about your daily activities.  If you’re down at a “1″, ask yourself how you can move up to a “3″.  Find more and more natural ways to move in your every day life and you won’t feel as if you’re having to schedule in hours of tough training.  If you’re already doing hours of exercise, ask yourself if you’re moving smartly–instead of staying at a “7-8″ for 30-60 minutes multiple days per week, try cycling into intervals.  Do 2-3 minutes at a “3″ then one minute at a “7″.

*As a note, do remember that doing something that feels like a “3-4″ for several weeks will adapt your body, so that it is more a “1-2″.  This is where it’s easy to cheat ourselves.  Remember exercise is relative to your current conditioning.  If you are sedentary, ill, out-of-practice, a full day of house cleaning is exercise.  If you’re moving regularly and always keeping your home in order, cleaning is a daily activity (unless you up the intensity).  Always be fair to yourself, move as often as possible and love on your body!

For more information, feel free to ask me directly how to cycle intervals and whether training in the highest intensities are recommended for you.  For an RPE chart that you can keep beside you while training on your own, click here.

New Pilates Class!

Start your week with an early morning Pilates class to help you feel stretched, strengthened, focused, and rejuvenated.  Pilates exercises are designed to correct muscle imbalances, strengthen the core, and lengthen the body from head to toe.  Take care of yourself and have fun while building this healthful habit into your weekly routine.   Classes, taught by Emily Stevenson, are offered on Sunday mornings from 7:00-8:00a.

Classes are Drop-in Rate, $10/student

Emily has been teaching Pilates,Yoga, and other types of fitness classes for the last 10 years.  Certifications include Mat and Reformer through Stott Pilates, NASM Certified Group Trainer, YogaFit, and is an American Heart Association BLS trainer. In addition Emily has a master’s degree in Psychotherapy and works as a mental health counselor and Psychology instructor.  She believes that a healthy mind must accompany a healthy body and strives to blend her passions to help individuals improve their overall psychological and physical wellness.  She is grateful for the opportunity to help people achieve their goals and to be a part of their self-enhancing experience.

Interested?  Call or email Emily:  612-743-5889 //

Vacation Training

Spring Break is coming soon. That means travel time for many families. Even though you are on the road, that is not a reason to give up on workouts. You can do fairly comprehensive workouts with just a few items packed in your bag. Remember those colorful rubber fitness bands hanging on hooks at the studio? They are not very expensive, they are lightweight, and they pack very easily. I have brought mine along on a number of trips.

Those bands can be used for a wide variety of exercises and I can attest to the fact that you can burn calories using the bands. Kris can show you how to make good use of them before a trip.

On my most recent trip I also brought along a strap similar to the TRX in the studio. That is harder to use as you must have a sturdy mounting place for it. The top of a door works, but make sure the door swings away from you and it is not too soft. I left a couple of minor marks in the top of one door. It is also heavier and may only find a place at home or on driving trips.

For the most complete and effective workout, bring along a laptop with Skype installed on it. I keep up with my scheduled workouts with Kris while traveling that way. We can see each other so she can demonstrate an exercise and she can monitor to make sure you have your shoulders back or your feet wide enough or whatever else will make the exercise work.

In the photos you can see that I brought along a yoga mat and that helps when you don’t otherwise want to get down on that hotel room carpet or have a lanai with a rough floor like in my photo.

During the workout, I a reposition the camera on the laptop to make sure that Kris can see when I do it right.

The small inset that Skype provides helps to show me what Kris is seeing on the other end. Sometimes, that other end is a little blurry but it shows enough detail to work well.

So, next time you are going to be away on vacation or a business trip, don’t forget that there are ways to keep in shape on the road and we are in a connected world. A world that allows us to take our trainer with us.

p.s. For those in the Cruise White Bear Lake Challenge, the time using Skype counts as in the studio time. For the double points, do the workout on your own.

Client of the Month, Melinda Lopes

Melinda is a woman who can set her mind to something, plan out her schedule accordingly and stick with it for the long haul.  After a yearly checkup in the Fall that revealed high cholesterol, she decided she was ready to increase her cardiovascular health and lower her body weight and body fat.

Melinda began coming into the studio on her own time through the week to exercise on the treadmill and bike, as well as complete extra stretching.  She also started logging her food regularly enough to understand her personal habits and make appropriate changes.  She says that helped her gain a lot of awareness and make healthier choices, especially regarding wine.  Not realizing the slower digestion of food that occurs when consuming alcohol, or considering the amount of calories that added to her total day, Melinda hadn’t taken wine into account.

Holding to these goals for the last four months, Melinda has made serious improvements.  Down 17 pounds on the scale, she’s lost 5.5% body fat and 13.5 inches throughout her body.  Her overall strength and biomechanical control have progressed as she’s increased her movement and flexibility.  Melinda has taken opportunities to engage in sports with her kids and enjoys fitting into a size “small” pant!  She’s even experiencing medical improvements as lymphatic fluid drains better.

She says she had to make the decision to come to the studio while she was out running around because if she was at home she wouldn’t be exercising.  I know the big commitment it has been for Melinda to fit her goals into her busy daily schedule and I applaud her determination and success!

Congratulations, Melinda!

Client of the Month, Alan Wyman

Congratulations to Alan Wyman, client of the month!  Alan made it through the holidays leaner than he was at the beginning of December.

Alan was sick at the beginning of our 4th quarter contest in October–that kind of “can’t get out of bed” sick that didn’t afford him a way to join into the contest.  He found a few ways to set goals and move himself forward the second week, then started rallying the third and fourth weeks.  Alan was able to finish the contest in 3rd place!

Alan became serious keeping his calories down, drank tons of water daily, started doing cardio and resistance training at home on his own, and started walking with a partner.  He got a hold of actionable steps he could implement each day that help him to reach his bigger goals.  I can’t say enough how excited I’ve been for Alan every time he jumps on the scale and sees it go down!

In the last three months of 2012, Alan lost 12 pounds of fat, 4% body fat, dropped 9 pounds on the scale and over 6 inches throughout his body.  Super, super work, Alan!

If you want to make a simple commitment to yourself that will help you mark your progress easily, grab that pair of jeans or button-down shirt that is just a bit too snug.  Take a beginning picture now (or at the start of our contest), then retake a picture once every 4 weeks.  It will give you a lot of incentive and also be a marker other than the scale or mirror (which might not tell you the whole truth).  Get those too tight clothes out and resolve to get into them in the next 12 weeks!