Music Monday: Mastodon, "Naked Burn"

There's more to life than lifting finding music to lift to. Every Monday I'm going to post a different song that I use while I train, program, or prepare for events.

This week's Music Monday pick is my current obsession (next to gumbo but that's a topic for another day): Mastodon's "Naked Burn".

Don't be scared by the title. It's appropriate for work and a child's ears. If the child likes metal, concept albums about Moby Dick, and being confused.

Save yourself
Don’t wait on me

What is your current jam? Post it in the comments or send me a message to let me know. I'm always looking for new music.

Until next Music Monday....

Stay tuned for tomorrow's Tuesday Ten... or go back in the Blog and check out older pieces. You can always mosey on over to the Archives to read my nationally published articles too. #ShamelessSelfPromotion

5 Ways An Injury Makes You A Better Person

I can hear y'all now: "Amber, how much booze did you consume on Thanksgiving to say that?" Answer: none. I'm just incredibly delusional and insane from only squatting and benching the last six months.

Whatchu Know 'Bout Injuries, Amber?

In all seriousness, if you've been in the sports world for any extended amount of time you're going to suffer an injury. When you've been in the game 14 years, you may or may not have suffered quite a few.

  • Premature birth meant my shoulder bones didn't fuse all the way together and BAM! lots of dislocations and separations before I got it under control.
  • Exercise bulimia caused me to run 7 days a week and left me with 4 bulged discs that sidelined me for 10 months before the pain ceased.
  • Being a nerd studying for the Bar exam in 2015 caused me to develop a nasty desk slouch that has wrecked my subscap/neck, and trap...and forced me to only squat, bench, and act like I enjoy cardio the last six months while we fix it.

5 Ways An Injury Makes You A Better Person

1. You Actually Do Preventative Maintenance

Yea, yea. We know we're supposed to always stretch, mobilize, and see the chiropractor or massage therapist even when we aren't injured. You know-- to PREVENT injuries. But most of us are lazy creatures and don't do what we're supposed to (maybe I'm just projecting?). If the dentist can't convince you to floss regularly then it's safe to say your coach or healthcare providers may not be successful in getting you to do XYZ.

But when you're injured all of a sudden everything they say suddenly sinks in and you become Mr. Mobility. After you're healed up, you'll never want to suffer that injury again so you'll actually keep doing those stretches and drills.


2. You Promote Your Local Economy

This goes hand in hand with number 1. You actually set and KEEP appointments with your coach, massage therapist, chiropractor, acupuncturist, nutritionist, and whoever else you run to to heal your broken soul during an injury.

You may even keep the local ice cream parlor or coffee shop in business.


Regardless, you are the reason your town is thriving. Way to go! You are truly a god among mere mortals.


3. You Volunteer More

Or you should. If you're injured and can't compete, then I fully expect your butt to be in a chair, at a table, or helping coach at local (and national) meets. Seriously. You aren't dead to the community just because you can't snatch for the time being. Well, you may be dead to me but it isn't because you can't lift. It's just because I'm a jerk.

But seriously. If you don't volunteer for your organization, then you can't complain about anything. Even your injury. Ok, that isn't true, but just don't be a s**t human being. Our federations run on volunteers so give back even if it's for one session.

Jill Of All Trades at the first USAW meet on the Mississippi Gulfcoast, The GPX Open Presented By  Mississippi Barbell .

Jill Of All Trades at the first USAW meet on the Mississippi Gulfcoast, The GPX Open Presented By Mississippi Barbell.


Trust me, if I'm having to announce, do cards, side judge, and tell the loaders what color plates go on the bar, and I see you Instagramming in the crowd, I will despise you and probably call you out on the mic. Don't even try to tell me "You must be a horrible meet director for having to do all of those jobs at once." You try and grow a nonexistent sport in a state that never had it and get back to me. SOAPBOX SALLY.

4. You Get A Life

Hopefully you already had one. But 9/10, an athlete doesn't have one outside the gym. Then when they get injured they have an existential crisis and spend hundreds on counseling..... Wait, was that just younger Amber? Awkward.....

When you're injured you may start to try new activities you never had time for before. Reading, socializing (lololol what's that), trying new exercises that don't hurt you, cooking...whatever you kept avoiding. Maybe you even go on dates and look like a human. But as Shrek's Cousin, I wouldn't be able to advise you on that. HEY OH!

Shrek's Cousin washed her hair, went to Vegas, and saw Celine Dion like a 78 year old woman but hey--it still counts as a life.

Shrek's Cousin washed her hair, went to Vegas, and saw Celine Dion like a 78 year old woman but hey--it still counts as a life.


You could actually buy a suit and step back into the courtroom like a real attorney. Your parents will be really proud of you even if you have linebacker shoulders and have to have everything tailored.

5. You Create Hilarious Videos

This one is specific to me and I'm 99.99% sure I'm the only one who laughs at them but I needed another item on the list. And a way to shamelessly promote myself.

Enter: Team Infirmary Pro Tips. What started as a one time goof on an Instagram story has turned into daily therapy sessions for me. I just like to be as dark, troll-like, and hilarious as possible. Even when I'm healed I will forever be on Team Infirmary.


If you want to join me during your injury, post your own Team Infirmary Pro Tips on Instagram! Tag @sheppardstrength and #TeamInfirmary so I can see them. Fuel my ego and give me something to look at while I drink a glass of my own tears.

I post a new Tip daily @sheppardstrength on Instagram and combine a week's worth every Thursday for Pro Tip Thursday (on Instagram and Facebook). Add me as a friend so you don't miss out!

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Step Outside Your Gym For Some Real Performance Changes

David Bowie urged us to "turn and face the stranger" for some "Ch-ch-ch-changes" but you don't have to turn that far from your own gym to see changes in your performance.

I've been unable to perform the olympic lifts due to a scapula injury for the past few months so I took my training outside the weight room last week. I dabbled in some other fitness adventures so I wouldn't go crazy. I mean, come on, squatting, benching and accessory work isn't any fun. Especially when it's all you can do.

Here are three workouts I'm glad I tried and why you should try them too: rock climbing, Pure Barre, and a group conditioning class.

Rock Climbing, Slidell Rocks, Slidell, Louisiana

Aside from pushing yourself past your fear of heights, climbing makes you feel like a champion. Well, when it's over. Your first climb up is a little intimidating but once you get past the nerves, you'll feel like you can conquer the world. You can always practice your Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible III impression while climbing too.


Indoor rock climbing is an intense shoulder workout but it's also really fun. You'll take turns climbing and belaying, both of which are shoulder burners. If you are belaying then you are the "spotter" for the climber. You will continuously pull the slack out of the rope while they ascend and safely bring them back down when it's time. I got a nice shoulder and bicep pump when I belayed. Great for you guys who want to get your #swolefie on

You can also try your hand at bouldering. This is my favorite thing to do. While climbing looks cool and you have to conquer your fears each step, bouldering keeps you closer to the ground so you aren't as afraid to jump or dive for a position on the wall. Plus you work your core like nobody's business.

Pure Barre, Purre Barre Mandeville, Mandeville, Louisiana

I thought Pure Barre, a workout utilizing bodyweight and small isometric movements, would be easy. I lift heavy weights. I jog. I've ran half marathons. A class with a ballet bar surely couldn't be any harder. Well, let me tell you: it is.

Pure Barre Mandeville storefront; no reproduction of their classes were allowed so check the link below to see what the movements look like!

Pure Barre Mandeville storefront; no reproduction of their classes were allowed so check the link below to see what the movements look like!


Those tiny pulsing movements with 2 pound weights, a tube, and a nonweighted ball obliterated my soul. There was a lot of tempo work and very small movements (in an inch, out an inch) that left my stabilizer muscles, abs, glutes and thighs sore as can be. Most movements were single arm or single leg so you can focus on gaining some structural balance too. You know, what you lose in your compound movements that you do day in and day out.

Your first class isn't expensive ($10-$15 dependent on the area) so I recommend finding a location near you & giving it a shot. I went three times in one week so safe to say I may be a little biased.

Group Conditioning, Garage Gym (Stephen Vallette), Mandeville, Louisiana

I do not like conditioning as much as I like strength training. (Maybe that's why it's second in my business name? Disregard the fact the profession is called "Strength & Conditioning") So if I'm going to do it, I'm going to do it with other people.

My old friend Stephen Vallette is a traveling personal trainer in the North and Southshore of New Orleans so I caught up with him when I was back home for a nice conditioning workout.

Ignore the dismantled sled, this was after the workout, but pay attention to his fancy cone hat.

Ignore the dismantled sled, this was after the workout, but pay attention to his fancy cone hat.

Rounds included: 30m sled sprints down and back, 10 Russian Kettlebell Swings, 10 medicine ball tosses with 20# on each side, 20 push ups, various ladder drills, and suicide sprints.

It felt great to sweat hard again....after I was done. I wanted to die during the session but I was glad I did it. It's no surprise one of his clients has lost 10% bodyfat with his classes. Check him out at LaMarque Street Park every Saturday at 7:30am in Mandeville for the group strength and conditioning class and message him for more information on any other classes.

3 different workouts, 3 different styles but they were all fun, fresh, and didn't leave my scapula hurting. Don't be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone every now and then. You'll never know what you've been missing if you don't try. It's always "fun" to be sore in muscles you never knew you had before.

Have you tried any of these workouts before?  Drop us a line in the comments, shoot us an email, or sound off on social media and let us know what you thought about them and what other workouts you tried outside of your normal gym.

5 Ways To Make Running Fun

Running isn't synonymous with fun for most people but that doesn't mean it can't be. The American Heart Association recommends 75 minutes of vigorous activity, like running, a week to keep heart disease away. Those minutes don't have to boring; here are 5 ways to make running fun so you enjoy yourself while reaping the health benefits that come along with it.

Run With Friends

What better way to have fun with your workouts than to bring your friends along for the ride.

  • More likely to show up, and keep showing up, knowing your friends are waiting for you.
  • Easier to keep your conversational pace because you're talking to your friends during your run.
  • Set challenges with your friends: whoever logs the most time or runs the fastest mile gets a free dinner on the group for that week. 
If you have to run a race, why not do it with your friends & dress up for it.

If you have to run a race, why not do it with your friends & dress up for it.


Set Goals

Goals are as unique as the person making them so don't be afraid to set as many as you'd like.

  • Start with 10 minutes daily and add time each week as you feel comfortable. Eventually 10 minutes will seem like a warm up and you'll be itching for more distance.
  • Pick a race date in the near future to set a goal and create a deadline to achieve it.
  • Set short term goals to help you reach your long term goals.
  •  Keep track of your personal progress and let your competitive nature run wild as you try to beat your distance or time often.

Change Scenery

Keep things fresh by changing up your route or workout regime. You don't have to drive across town or try the latest fitness craze to do so.

  • Reverse your route.
  •  Hit the trails or bleachers instead of the track.
  • Add interval training to your routine. Alternate between walking,  jogging, and sprints.
  •  Play a sport. 90 minutes of soccer can have you running up to 9 miles a game.
Spartan races, mud runs, and obstacle races are a fun way to change scenery.

Spartan races, mud runs, and obstacle races are a fun way to change scenery.

Watch TV On The Treadmill

Some days it's too hot or cold outside to run. You would prefer to lay on the couch and binge watch your favorite show. Take yourself to the gym and watch it while you run or walk. Most gyms have wi-fi or cable TVs on the equipment now so there's no excuse to skip out on your training.

If I had to run I would make sure Shondaland kept me entertained. Image source: ABC 13

If I had to run I would make sure Shondaland kept me entertained. Image source: ABC 13

Make A Playlist

Music may make Missy Elliot "Lose Control" but it will keep you motivated and your workout fun.

  • Select songs based on the pace you want to keep.
  •  Know you lose steam 15 minutes into your run? Put your favorite song at the 15 minute mark to boost morale.
  • Pick songs to get you on the track, stay there, and power through your workout.
Lady Gaga keeps me company running. Image source:

Lady Gaga keeps me company running. Image source:

Reap the health benefits associated with running by ensuring you exercise weekly. Stay motivated by keeping your friends involved, setting goals, changing scenery, and utilizing entertainment in your fitness journey.

Do you have tips to make running fun? What are you favorite songs to run to? Let us know in the comments and if there's a topic you want to hear about, let us know!



*** Originally published as part of a Ghost Writing Project ***

Inability To Outsource Could Lead Your Gym To Failure

Every gym owner feels his gym is the best on the block. That's not a problem; be proud of your work. But if you think you know everything & couldn't benefit from another set of eyes or ears then you're letting your ego stunt your growth as a coach. You are also stunting your athletes' growth.

Doctors bring in outside help all the time. An orthopedic surgeon isn't going to try to do brain surgery: he is going to call in a competent neurosurgeon ( I can't guarantee he will look like Derek Shepherd though).

If other professions call in hired guns when they need help, why can't some gym owners seem to pick up the phone and do the same? We explore that issue below and discuss why they can harm your facility.

1. Pride/Fear Of Failure

Some coaches want to be seen as infallible. They feel like they are looked down upon if they attend an event they aren't an expert in or ask for another coach's advice. That's the farthest thing from the truth. Anyone worth their salt would view asking for help when you need it as an attribute to being a successful coach, not a failure.

Knowing your limits as a coach doesn't mean you can't continue to hone and build your skill set. You want to bridge those limitation gaps with education & knowledge.

But if your athlete has outgrown your coaching level, be man (or woman) enough to find some help. There are certain athletes I could only help so much with where I was; in order to not hinder their growth as an athlete I helped find a new coach who could do more than I could at the time.

If you are just starting out and need help with your business model why wouldn't you seek counsel of someone who has done it before? There's a lot of trial and error in business ownership but by seeking guidance you can lessen the falls you have to take. When we first started Mississippi Barbell we had plenty of mentors, including 2004 US Olympic Coach Gayle Hatch.

Image Source: Daniel McKnatt

Image Source: Daniel McKnatt


Utilizing someone to do your day to day tasks like media posts or website content, just like you do for bookkeeping, can help free up your time to focus on coaching. Otherwise you'll burn out quickly and some things will fall through the cracks.

Don't let your ego stand in the way of your business.

2. Inability To Recognize Peers

Certain sports pride themselves on community. While that may be true for some businesses and athletes, it's not true for all. In towns with dozens of gyms a gym owner wants his to stand out. There's nothing inherently wrong with that.

But if you're a gym located in an area where there are experts in a field you aren't strong in, why wouldn't you learn from them? If an athlete wanted to become really great at ring work and your main focus is weightlifting, then you should help find them someone in the area who is great at gymnastics.

If your athletes have issues with the olympic lifts, then why wouldn't you team up with an organization that focuses on those? Either shadow their coaches or set up a clinic in your facility.

Listening to peers or offering your own advice (like seen here at Mississippi College School Of Law) helps grow the community

Listening to peers or offering your own advice (like seen here at Mississippi College School Of Law) helps grow the community


Either way, the coaches involved should be able to recognize the value of the other coach. There is an opportunity for both to learn in either situation. So long as they are professional they have an opportunity to have a "skull session". When coaches continually refuse to better their athlete then that athlete may leave their facility. That coach can then develop a reputation of being hostile.

3. Inability To Allow Current Staff To Grow

As a gym owner you should never discourage continuing education. While there should be an in house curriculum for your trainers, there are also many opportunities to learn and grow outside your walls.

If a coach asks to shadow you or another trainer in your facility I hope you've been saying yes. If not then you need to seriously ask yourself why you're in this field.

You can't be an expert at everything so don't discourage learning from someone else. And don't be upset if you refuse your potential staff and athletes shadowing opportunities and they go elsewhere.

A true leader will want their staff to grow and do better than they have. Seriously.

Shadowing International USAW Coach Danny Camargo, along with Tyler Smith, at my first National meet as a coach

Shadowing International USAW Coach Danny Camargo, along with Tyler Smith, at my first National meet as a coach


Stunt their growth and you'll find your coaches will be leaving you to form their own gyms. In some instances it may be inevitable but that doesn't mean they have to leave with the bridges up in flames. If you do your job right and earn your staff's respect and don't stunt their growth, then they will continue to represent your brand in a good light throughout their career. I still mention my high school coach and mentor (Chris Lachney) and it's been a hot minute since I studied under him.

Coaches lead their athletes by example. If you want your athletes to listen to you then you should be willing and able to listen to others. Outsource tasks that aren't necessary for you to do, allow them to seek help from other coaches in fields you don't excel at, and continue your own education yearly. Your members will thank you by staying and referring you to others.

Looking to shadow a coach or want to schedule an consultation? Email us at and follow us on Instagram @sheppardstrength

4 Ways Your FitBit Helps Your Strength Training

If you have a FitBit then you know it's not a matter of if but when it will take over your life. You get out of bed to walk in circles if you haven't met your goal. You haul each grocery bag in one at a time when you used to pride yourself on taking them in one trip.


You know owning a FitBit drives everyone around you crazy but did you know it's actually helping your strength training? I'll wait while you pick your jaw off the floor.

Here are four ways your FitBit is accelerating your gains:

1. You Actually Do Your Active Recovery

Active recovery is like eating kale. You know it's good for you. You know everyone says you should do it. Even you say you're going to do it. But you don't. Instead you think about doing it and wind up elbows deep in a bag of Jalapeno Cheetos laying on the couch. If that sounds oddly specific that's because it's my life story.

Image credit:

Image credit:


FitBit gets you off that golden crusted couch and moving. It's just like your mom-- it nags you until you do what it wants. It does it often so that it actually succeeds. Before you know it you've walked the neighborhood or the entire mall and BAM! active recovery is complete. You may have a new outfit on your hands but you've gotten that blood moving. Which means your muscles will recover faster and you'll be able to push more, or more efficiently, in future workouts.

2. You Go To Bed

Sleep affects strength gains. If you can average 8-9 hours a night not only are you superhuman but you're also going to do better in the gym. That shouldn't be an Earth shattering revelation for you. If it is we need to have a meeting so I can learn what rock you've been living under.

Just because we should be getting sleep doesn't mean we are. Everyone knows the best time to stalk, I mean browse, social media is in bed.

So how does FitBit get me to go to bed? While it doesn't electrocute you to force sleep, the new FitBit Alta has some pretty cool features on it to help the process.

  1. You can set silent alarms to alert you when it's time to go to bed (or conversely when to wake up). A gentle and gradual vibration emanates from the wrist band so you don't jump out of your skin & spend the next 10 minutes trying to figure out if you did in fact just have a heart attack.
  2. It tracks your sleep for you. The interface on your smart phone will not only show you how long you have slept but how well you slept. If you tossed and turned, the graph is going to show you those restless periods. If you woke up, it will show you when you woke up and how long it was for. $20 you were probably skimming Instagram. #nofilter
Image credit:

Image credit:

You'll eventually see patterns & (hopefully) will want to work on your sleep hygiene so you get better quality sleep. The more sleep you get, the better chance at getting a new FitBit Badge you have. If that means nothing to you then your performance in the gym will improve too.

3. You Stay Hydrated

In the immortal words of Derek Zoolander, "Water is the essence of wetness, and wetness is the essence of beauty." Ok, it may also be the essence of strength gains too. You may think you're getting enough water but if you aren't tracking it, you can't be too sure. Most folks are surprised when they see their total for the first time.

FitBit lets you keep track of how much water you drink in real time so you can be a beautiful Mer-Man who just so happens to have the squat of He-Man.

Image credit:

Image credit:


4. You Know How Your Training Is Effecting You (Heart Rate Monitor)

You've got your neon spandex on and you think you've been busting your tail in the gym. You consult your FitBit for feedback through the Heart Rate graph.

FitBit turns full Maury Povich & hits you with the truth, "You have NOT been training like you thought!"

Image credit:

Image credit:


The FitBit tracks your heart rate throughout the day, not just when you workout. While the heart rate monitor isn't 100% accurate it still does a good job at letting you see where you are at in training.

Does your heart rate stay spiked after training? You may need to calm it down on the speed racing. Are you resting too long in between sets? Move it or lose it sister. It may also alert you to signs of exhaustion and over-training.

Checking out the feedback can help you adjust your intensity so you're getting the most out of your workouts.


Your FitBit, like your right eye when you try to use liquid eyeliner, isn't perfect but it gets the job done. You'll be moving more with it, tracking your sleep, guzzling down water, and staying on top of your heart rate patterns. Once you're armed with this knowledge, there's no stopping the gain train. Well, as long as you keep lifting.

Image credit: Best Buy

Image credit: Best Buy

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