How To Use Headphones In The Gym

Does the headphones cable ever get in the way of your workout? It used to happen to me all the time. Not anymore, once I discovered this nifty trick! Yeah, I said “nifty.” You read it right.

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FitMentality Podcast | Episode 2

The FitMentality podcast is up and running. Listen here!

This episode we welcome my good friend, Sham Sanghera, of Inspired Wellness. We chat about things to consider about when food is pasteurized, as well as why we choose to eat organic when we can.

Please enjoy, share, and comment to let us know what you think!



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The Road to Professional Volleyball | Interview With Ysabel Zulueta

Ysabel Zulueta


Ysabel Zulueta is a volleyball player on the brink of going pro. For most of us, at some point, we wanted to grow up to play a professional sport. Again, for most of us, that ended up not quite being the case. Ysabel, on the other hand, has that chance. She is working towards getting to go to play professional volleyball in Slovenia this fall.

As soon as I heard about her journey, I immediately thought about how cool it would be to share her story with the fine readers/followers of this website. Many of us have had “what if” moments. What if we had pursued this? What if we had pursued that? Ysabel gets to answer her own “what if I had the chance to travel all around Europe, while playing professional volleyball?”

This interview is not only meant to share a glimpse into her story, but it provides an example we can all gain inspiration from in terms of doing what it takes to pursue our goals.

FitMentality: When did you start playing volleyball?

Ysabel: I started in middle school because of my good friend. Her mom was the coach, so we got all our friends together to play and wanted to try something new.

FM: Describe your high school volleyball experience

I was on the freshman team my first year of high school. I was doing a top spin jump serve; which is rare. If I missed a serve in practice, the consequence would be to run about 5 laps per missed serve. There was a lot of pressure because of that serve. My coach saw potential in me as a player and wanted me to excel. Especially in that serve, because it was an advantage for my age group at the time. 

 My sophomore year I moved up to varsity. I was one of the main hitters with the upper classmen.  It was a lot of fun, but of course a lot pressure. You can’t forget about the rivalry for positions; especially if a cub takes a spot of a mama bear, haha. But that’s how it always is in sports, no veteran wants to lose their spot to a newbie.

FM: What’s your favorite memory from the time?

The best game I can remember was during my senior year versus Monta Vista. We were rivals and had the same amount of wins during the season. This game determined who won league and who advanced to CCS (Central Coast Sectionals). We were down, I want to say about 15 points. The pressure was on, I definitely thought we were going to lose because the team looked like they gave up and the game hadn’t even ended yet! Monta Vista had the home advantage and the crowd was so energetic! The environment felt like a college game where the external factors either make you or break you. Coach called a timeout and gave us some motivational words. We sided out and it was my turn to serve. I had never been under so much pressure and made sure to not only keep my serve in, but make it tough and effective so the other team could not terminate the ball.  I served about 8 serves and we won all those 8 points. I must say (that I can remember), I have never been so nervous! I visualized each serve going over (plus it doesn’t help when your coach is staring at you on the side lines as he bites his pen!) Then, after a good run, I missed a serve and Monta Vista received another point – a point closer to winning the game. Somehow the team pulled through and executed everything we did and WON THE GAME! Our team ran to the floor and we were jumping and shouting “We won! We did it!” To experience that was the BEST FEELING OF MY LIFE. When I see moments like that on TV, I literally tear up because I know how that feeling is – It’s definitely a ONCE IN A LIFE time feeling and I am truly lucky to be one of the few who’ve experienceed that moment. Now moving forward in my career I thrive on wanting to experience that feeling again.

FM: What about college?

I played two years at San Jose City College. Starting outside, all League MVP, and First Team Coast All Conference.  I was also ranked number 6 in the State of California for hitting with girls who were 6’0 ft+ (which I definitely felt accomplished with the height I am at) I was also ranked on the state list for digs and serving aces.

During my freshman year, mid-season, I tore my knee and fractured my ankle on the same night, during a game. I was so eager to come back, that I didn’t do rehab because I felt like I couldn’t miss the opportunity to play. I got right back on the court.

My sophomore year, I got a concussion. Haha tell me about it, right? These injuries never stop. As me and our right side were switching positions on a serve, somehow her shoulder and my head collided. It knocked me out! I never felt that kind of force! My vision was impaired and the only part of my vision that was clear was if I were to roll my eyes up as if I was looking towards the ceiling. Side view and lower vision looked like a TV with no cable and all static. It was game point and the set was going to me. I went up to hit a middle set and I blacked out! When my vision came back, I saw myself getting blocked and we lost the game. My vision was really limited afterwards and my head was throbbing badly. I saw a trainer after the game and got asked a few questions, which were procedure for a concussion. The question I remember till this day was when I was asked “What year is it” and in my head I said 1994, but I caught myself and said the correct year, 2009. I was rushed to the hospital to get a cat scan. I was supposed to take three weeks off, or at least until my head stopped throbbing (which of course is weeks) but only took a couple days off. I lied to my trainer and my coach that I was fine. I didn’t want to take time away from playing because your sophomore year is so important to be noticed from 4 year schools and racking up last minute awards that would make your volleyball resume stand out from others.

FM: What was it like playing at the university level?

I was being recruited and offered scholarships at both out of state and in state schools. Sadly, those offers got pulled. I ended up being recruited at California State University East Bay. There were a lot of girls playing the same position as me, so I had to work hard every day at practice and fight for the starting position or make the traveling team. You definitely felt pressure to be noticed by the coach because you wanted to travel with the team. Division II NCAA is one of the highest levels besides PAC 12. Sometimes it felt like I didn’t get a fair shot (and that is my personal perspective). It was frustrating and felt like I reached depression. I felt like it was a sign not to play anymore. I used to view it as a fun competitive sport, but I think it became more of a job and I wasn’t going anywhere with it at the time. This also affected my schooling. I lost my drive in everything. During the off-season, I played with some guys and tore my lateral collateral ligament by swing blocking. At that time, I was noticed by NDNU and WJU and was looking to transfer there for volleyball. I was not only recovering from an injury, but I couldn’t afford the schooling even with the scholarship they offered. After that, I decided to stop playing and focus on school. I felt depressed and it was a sign not to play anymore.

About a year after all that happened, I started playing in indoor leagues again. It was hard getting back into the “fun” aspect of volleyball with friends because I was more competitive than everyone else and wanted to win so bad. I think it had to do with my experience and wanting something so bad.  I realized I needed to just enjoy the game and the time with my friends. Once that kicked in, I noticed that I still had a passion for the sport. This is how being a coach started. I wanted to show players the kind of opportunity they could have. I wanted to share my experience with them and show them what it takes to play at the college level, since no one ever showed me. I wanted to train them in ways I wasn’t trained and make sure they had a fair shot at the next level. I coached at Milpitas High School (where I went to school), Foothill College, as well as a few clubs teams around the bay.

FM: What did you learn after sustaining so many injuries?

From what I learned while getting my BS in Kinesiology is YOUR BODY IS IMPORTANT. As well as rehabbing an injury is very important! That’s what I try to do now with players. As bad as they want to get back on the court [after an injury], it’s better to cool down and fix things correctly. If not, you will end up re-injuring yourself and setting yourself further back than where you initially started. With the knowledge I have, I wish I had when I was younger or had someone explain the concept to me and made it sink in. Not rehabbing definitely caught up to me over the years and till this day it’s still an issue. Muscle imbalances, some muscles won’t fire when doing a specific exercise for a certain muscle, and also compensation. Training for this tour is a little difficult because I cannot do certain exercises like I did in high school. In rehab, I have to modify everything until I get stronger.

FM: When did you know you wanted to make volleyball more than a hobby?

I want to say, when I started coaching at Foothill College. The competition out there and how passionate our head coach was about making our players better and showing them the correct steps to contact coaches and sending film, etc. When I saw our sophomores receiving offers from 4 year universities, I said to myself “Izzy you can do this still!” I mean, I can’t go back to college and finish my career, but I can still have a career in volleyball with my competitiveness and drive I have within. It’s something I had to do for myself and finish unfinished business.

FM: Describe the physical training you do.

Right now, it’s mostly rehabbing my spine. I have a 3 herniated disc, resulting in numbness in the legs. I do basic lifting and stability stuff. Nothing too serious. I’m focusing on the importance of building stability and strength.

FM: What’s the toughest part of your training?

I’ll say, when you reach exhaustion. My motivation right now, is thinking about Christmas. The top teams send their players back home for the holidays. I want to go home to my family for Christmas – the holidays are very important to me and to my family. That’s my motivation, that’s my drive when I feel like I can’t push any further. I’ve never had motivation throughout my volleyball career that meant as much as this. You don’t know what you have until you lose it, type thing. Meaning, I never thought I wouldn’t be able to spend the holidays with my family. I have to work for that luxury because at the end of it all, I want to see my family every chance I can get while being in Europe.

FM: How do you prepare before a big match?

In high school, I didn’t prep that much. It had to do with the mentality of being young. I mean, I was regular kid who went to school, did my work and was pumped by 6th period on game day. Sometimes on the bus ride to the school, I would listen to my music and block everyone out. But then I thought to myself  “why so serious- it isn’t game time yet, enjoy the time with the team” so I switched it up to hanging out with my friends on the bus and chatting, cracking jokes, and being kids!

 At the college level, it was similar, but a few days before a match I started doing imagery during practice. Immediately before games as well. I still use imagery before tournaments now. I learned it from my high school coach. He always said “see yourself doing it then you will. If you see yourself messing up then you’ll mess up” – Jeff Lamb. I always understood the gist of what he meant, but it didn’t really make sense to me until I got older and started competing at a higher level.

Usually, a few minutes before a match, I like to be by myself and listen to music to pump me up but also calm me down at the same time. I like listening to House, Dubstep, and Reggae. It’s a good mixture.  I also like to watch the opposing team – how they warm up – specifically what are their weak areas on passing or where they choose to always hit during hitting lines. I like to study the competition.

FM: What is your nutrition like as a high level athlete?

I pretty much eat six meals a day. My nutrition is based on body weight. I’m not looking to lose weight, but gain muscle and get stronger.  Even if I’m competing, ill still eat foods I enjoy like pizza, or a burger, or ice cream. There is no point in eating things you don’t enjoy in life, honestly.

FM: When did you realize you needed to adjust how you ate in order to be at your best in your sport?

When I went to East Bay, we were forced to eat healthier. We had double days – four hour practices in the morning, then team lunch at our dinning commons, another 3 hours of practice afterwards, then team dinner. Which helped, because during the lunch break, if you didn’t eat well, you couldn’t practice at a high level because you’d feel sluggish after break and could not perform at your best.

FM: Tell us about the opportunity you have to play in Europe

While coaching for Foothill, I met an international coach at a tournament, who referred me to another coach. The downfall about going on this tour is you have to pay for the expenses yourself, to get out there. That’s how I started the GoFundMe fundraiser. It’s a 2.5 week tour, that meets in Slovenia and travels to different countries to play against their teams.  When we aren’t playing against a team, practice will be like college where it’s double days. In this case, while you are at practice, you have coaches and players traveling from all over to see you play.  My mindset is to execute everything I do while I am out there and play my best along with enjoying this once in a life time experience.

Depending on what team you sign with, it determines your pay. The higher level the team, the more you get paid. I know people that play on both the higher level and the lower level teams. There are different accommodations between the two levels. Those factors play a role in my motivation.

FMWhat has the experience been like as you work to make this a reality?

It’s tough.  I mean, I don’t want to sound like a baby but having to work at 5am during the week drains me out. I can’t just train for a living.  It’s tough to do both. My manager made a very nice gesture to cut down my hours, so I wouldn’t get burnt out for this upcoming tour; but I don’t have room to make less money.  It’s challenging to balance work – rehab – training – and down time. Nothing comes easy in life and it’s something I really want, so it’s something I have to work my butt off for.

FM: How can FM readers help you get there?

FM readers can go to my GoFundMe page. It’s a website I saw from one of my professors who was raising money for her dog. GoFundMe is a way for people to see what I’m fundraising towards and what my financial goal is. I have to pay for my flight and the tour itself, so any donation helps, even if its $5/month until I leave. Donating money is a great gesture, but sharing my site and story on social media also helps.  

I just want to say thank you for taking the time to listen to my story, thank you to the FM family for giving me this opportunity to share my story. Lastly, thank you to everyone who is supporting me on this journey. It’s definitely a dream come true to be this close and now I just have to execute this dream and make it a reality. 

For more information on her journey, as well as an opportunity to support, check out her GOFUNDME website!

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FitMentality Podcast | Episode #1

The time has come! The FitMentality podcast is live!  Listen to this episode



It’s Okay To Be Vulnerable

Think about anything you do well. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

A sport. Public speaking. Telling Jokes. Fitness. Nutrition. Anything.

Now think of the people you know that are really good at something.

For you and for them, there was a time when you/they were not good at whatever it is you/they are good at now. No one tries something for the first time and is just as good a they are with experience. Yes, some folks have talent that others don’t, and seem to pick up an activity quicker. However, every single person was not as good at what they are good at now, at some point.

This sounds obvious, right? “Duh. Of course we get better with more practice” you tell yourself. First, props for saying “duh.” That one has lasted throughout the years. A marathon of a slang word, that “duh.” Second, that’s exactly my point! Anything that someone is good at now, they were not so great at at one point. If we know this,  why are we so afraid to learn new skills because we might not be good at them at first?

This situation applies to life in general, but in this article, I’ll use a fitness reference.

Often, folks are scared to take the first step to a fitter body. What if you look silly trying an exercise you haven’t done before? What if you don’t look as great in the gym as the people who have fine tuned their fitness and nutrition? What if people judge you on your workout? What if those cute workout clothes you bought don’t look as cute in the gym as they did in the store?

Let’s be clear, most people in the gym don’t give a second thought about other folks in the gym. They are focused on what they went there to do. They don’t care about how you are dressed, how your work out looks, or if you seem to be experienced. The few people who seem to be sitting there judging? Those types of folks are everywhere. Maybe they have their own insecurities they have to work through, and that’s why they judge others. Some people just aren’t nice. It’s okay. You have more important things to worry about.

Let’s apply the previous point we made about experience and where we all start. Every single person in the gym, who seems to know what they are doing, had to start from scratch at some point. Yes, even the guy who looks like he just came from a fitness magazine cover photo shoot. At some point, he had to learn how to strength train. How to eat right. Even the woman who seems to have curves in all the right places, didn’t know how to reach those goals at one point. We all have to start somewhere.

I point this out because we need to be aware of when we avoid the fitness activities we know would be beneficial because we are too scared to be vulnerable. It’s okay to be apprehensive. It’s okay to feel a little self conscious. Recognize the feeling, and remember we all had to start somewhere. It doesn’t matter that others are farther along their fitness journey than we are. That’s their journey. You are on yours. It’s great to be inspired by folks who have made it work so far. Other than that, it doesn’t matter. Literally, everyone had to start somewhere. Stop worrying about other people and focus on yourself. Do what you need to do where you are on your fitness journey.

It’s okay to be vulnerable. You’ll get better at it. I promise.

How Do I Pick A Personal Trainer?


You often hear that it’s a good idea to work with a fitness professional. Someone who can help you reach your goals. Someone that can teach you how to do the exercises that would benefit you. Someone to help you wade through the sometimes overwhelming world of fitness information. But how do you know if a fitness professional is good? What qualifies someone as “good”? If they are in better shape than you, is that enough? I realized that I often suggest FM readers connect with a  fitness professional. I also realized, without giving at least a little direction as to how to go about looking for a fitness professional, I may be sending folks on a wild goose chase.

Well, reader, look no further. Actually, you may need to look a little further, but this will be a good start.

I reached out to my pal Keith Gacrama. He is a Strength Coach and Personal Trainer, as well as the owner of The man knows his way around a fitness facility. He gets people strong, fast, and looking good. You name it. We chatted about the topic of what to look for in a fitness professional.

“Why should I work with fitness professional, anyway? I’ll just watch YouTube videos or follow a DVD!” You might say to yourself. Well, friend. Yes, you are right. There are lots of videos out there. The problem with watching a video and trying to copy it, is that it’s difficult to know if you’re doing the movement correctly. Even if you think you’re doing exactly what you are seeing, without a trained eye helping out, that’s rarely the case. Without knowing faults in your movement, you won’t be able to correct them. If you aren’t moving in a way that you should, you’re not being efficient with your movement. Also, without doing movements correctly, you risk injury. A fitness professional can help lower your risk of injury, while you progress towards your goals. “We’re only given one body. We need to make sure it’s running properly” explains Keith.

It’s important to note that simply because it seems that someone knows more about fitness than you do, doesn’t necessarily mean they are the best choice for a trainer or coach. Finding a professional who is certified is a great start. However, there are so many certifications, and so many ways to apply the information, there’s more to it. Keith suggests looking out for fitness professionals who can break explanations down into simple terms and movements. It’s not simply about using technical terms. It’s important for a trainer/coach to help you understand why you are doing what they have you doing. The more involved you are in what you’re doing; the more you understand WHY you’re doing it, the more likely you are to stay motivated and work hard to reach your goals.

A good conversation to have with a potential trainer/coach, is how they progress their client. Now, the goal that a person has, will determine the type of progression/program a trainer will choose. However, it’s still an important question. It’s not as simple as making each workout harder than the last one. Keith explains “there’s more to it than running yourself into the ground or beating yourself up each and every workout.” He explains that pain or soreness are not indicators of an effective training session. You hear many people referring to how good their workout was, because they are in so much pain. Now, this is different than people sharing their experience. It’s true, sometimes we get super sore, and it can be funny when a day or two after doing squats, it can be tough to stand up off of a chair. What we want to be careful with is the idea that one only knows they had an effective workout, if they are in pain.

When first working with a fitness professional, make sure they plan to put you through some sort of screen or assessment. These are important as they point out dysfunction in our movement. If a trainer doesn’t do this, they wouldn’t know what to correct or build on. Jumping right into an exercise program without knowing what movement dysfunction needs attention can be dangerous. “If they don’t do that (screening/assessment), I’d look elsewhere” suggests Keith. In addition to having a client go through a movement screen, keep an eye out for the trainer to have a plan as to how to address what they found. It’s important to know what needs work and how to improve it. “Even elite athletes need screenings done. It’s how we lower the probability of injury during their season” explains Keith.

It’s also important to see how well you get along with your potential fitness professional. Do you enjoy conversation with them? Do you feel they care about your well being” Do you feel that they listen to you? These things seem obvious, but it’s important to feel comfortable with your trainer/coach. Think about it. If you don’t enjoy your time with your trainer, or if you just don’t get along, you won’t be likely to stay consistent with the plan you both set. Some trainers are more firm in their delivery than others. That’s okay. Different people respond to different approaches. It’s all about what you feel comfortable with, and what you feel is a healthy connection that will keep you consistent with your game plan.

In the end, it’s about being your own biggest advocate. Whether or not you are able to work with a fitness professional in the near future, you should still educate yourself. See what seems to make sense. See what doesn’t make sense. See what information clashes with other information you read. What have you learned from your experiences? How do those experience coincide with what you have read or heard. There are many fitness personalities/authors/trainers. The more you learn about what folks have to say, and the approach they have, the more you’ll start to learn about what direction you may want to try.

Granted, all trainers/coaches need to start somewhere. I don’t mean to sound like if a trainer doesn’t know everything in the world, go somewhere else. Learning never stops. Maybe the rates of a more experienced coach or trainer are a bit higher than you can do right now. Maybe a trainer that you are working with doesn’t have prestigious certifications yet. We all have to start somewhere. These are simply ideas to think about when on your search for a fitness professional. If who you speak with doesn’t have all of the answers right away, but is clearly actively working to improve their body of knowledge and ability to deliver that knowledge, that’s a good sign. See how you feel about who you are working with, be smart, and take it one step at a time.

I want to thank Keith Gacrama for taking the time to share his thoughts. For more on him and how to get in contact, check out as well as his professional page on Facebook.

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