Full disclosure: I’ve been friends with Anna since I was a wide-eyed college freshman straight off the turnip truck. She’s one of my closest pals, which made our first training session a lot of fun.
Even though we’ve known each other for (ahem) 18-ish years, and I had some idea of what she was looking for in a workout, we still began our first session with a frank conversation about goals. This is a crucial part of the personal training experience. Sure, we could have jumped into a high-intensity circuit right away, or started with some treadmill sprints. But Anna can go for a run on her own or sign up for a group fitness class any time. The benefit of working with trainer is getting a program that addresses your unique needs and goals. Communication is key!
We also talked a bit about the concept of “toning.” It’s impossible to change the quality or shape of your muscle, and “spot reduction” is a weight-loss myth. But you can increase the size of your muscles and decrease you overall body fat percentage, which can give you a more “toned” look.
Based on Anna’s goals and exercise preferences, I designed a program that utilized tabatas (eight rounds of 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest) and circuits. Quickly moving from one movement to the next (e.g. push-ups, banded rows, banded good mornings) incorporated resistance training, while keeping her heart rate elevated. Anna also had concerns about strengthening her back and shoulder muscles, as she spends a lot of time at the computer and struggles with slouching and rounded shoulders. So I threw in some banded pull-aparts (a CrossFit staple!).
Another consideration was Anna’s day-to-day life. She has a full-time job and two kids; there’s not a lot of time for the gym or lengthy workouts. My goal was to create a workout that could be replicated at home, broken up into shorter segments, if necessary, and completed with minimal equipment and space. We skipped bars, kettlebells, and dumbbell (all of which I LOVE, don’t get me wrong) in favor of a variety of resistance bands, which are versatile, portable and inexpensive.
Anna was a model client; she put in 100% effort and was up for everything I threw at her, even monster walks, which are just funny looking. We’re already strategizing our next session, which we may move to the park for some running intervals!
Have you ever worked with a personal trainer? What was the experience like?
It’s snowing out my window now, which makes this moment from last week seem even further away.
I was in New Orleans, walking back from a sweaty WOD at CrossFit NOLA on Magazine St. (A great box to drop into, btw!) The sun was shining, the air was balmy, and these Mardi Gras beads tinkled like wind chimes.
It’s cold and grey here in NYC, but I’ll do my best to focus on how lucky I am to be able to take my little show on the road whenever the opportunity presents itself. (Have laptop. Will travel.) I worked from a swanky hotel lobby by day and wandered through the Garden District and French Quarter by night. I love New Orleans. It’s a city that somehow manages to be super down-to-earth and mystical at the same time.
I was super lucky to get to test the Marc Pro electric muscle stimulation device and write about it. Like a lot of runners and CrossFitters, I’ve done some pretty weird stuff in the name of recovery (ice baths and pickle juice recovery drinks are among said things), so I was stoked to get electrified!
I quickly learned that that’s not quite the way the Marc Pro works. If you deal with soreness, swelling or chronic pain, I encourage you to read my review and leave a comment!
I’m not knocking e-content at all, but there’s something so exciting about seeing your name in print. I’ve been writing for TheBoxMag.com for a while now, but my first print piece was recently published in the January/February 2016 issue.
I had the opportunity to interview PT gurus Kelly Starrett and C. Shanté Cofield on why mobility is so important to athletes, specifically CrossFitters. Even though I feel like I just scratched the surface of this topic, I learned a TON and feel super proud of this article.
You can order the January/February issue of The Box online or pick it up at your local Barnes & Noble.
Looking for more reading material? Check out my Contently profile!
I think it was an evening in early November that the coach leading the circle talk/warm-up at my CrossFit box asked us all the question: “Are you interested in doing a nutritional challenge during the month of December?” To which my response was essentially:
I did the Whole Life Challenge last year and lived to blog about it, but I’m tellin’ ya, I barely scraped by. I was hating it by the end and “cheating” left and right. I did NOT want to deal with rules and points again. I’m a fairly healthy eater already, and December? That’s when we all let down our hair and unbutton our fat pants.
But, I signed up. The more I thought about it, the more I didn’t really want to have to unbutton my fat pants on New Year’s Eve. I also realized it wasn’t particularly smart to give myself permission to eat cookies just because “the holidays” and skip workouts when the weather was bad. I didn’t want to go into the new year bloated and annoyed with myself, promising to clean up my act on January 1st. I wanted a running start so I could work on other fitness goals, like strict handstand push-ups, strict ring dips and stringing together some legit toes-to-bar.
The challenge was Paleo/Zone. There was a points system for staying within guidelines, and we also got points for WODs, stretching, sleep, etc. I figured out my Zone blocks, bought a vat of coconut oil and hardboiled a bunch of eggs. I used a food scale and measuring cups to build perfectly balanced three-block meals and one-block snacks. I used MyFitnessPal to record everything I ate.
That lasted about six days.
I know the Zone has worked for SO many people (including some of the people at my box), but I found it incredibly annoying. I’d spent most of last February and March annoyed by food and didn’t want a repeat experience. Also, I was hungry and unable to focus on anything. I figured my body was just “adjusting,” but after a few nights of going to bed with a grumbling stomach, plus one of the least productive weeks I’ve had in a long time, I decided to ditch the Zone.
I figured I could manage Paleo-centric eating and Zone-ish meals. Most days, I filled half my lunch plate with greens, a piece of chicken and couple spoonfuls of guacamole and called it a day. It was easy and sustainable. And way healthier than the canned soup or cheese and crackers I’d been resorting to out of laziness. I also started cooking more of my meals, ordering out way less, drinking fewer glasses of wine and indulging in fewer treats. (Paleo desserts are a thing, but you usually have to make them yourself.)
Did I cheat? Yes, I did. But, because I knew I’d have to own up to it later, I (mostly) saved my non-Paleo indulgences for the stuff I really wanted. Dry, grocery store cookies sold by the platter? I’ll pass. Freshly baked cake with buttercream frosting from the local bakery? That’s worth the point.
So, one month of eating Paleo-ish? Did it change my life for the better?
In some ways, yeah. It kind of did. Here’s what I got out of this little experiment:
Better sleep. This has been the biggest thing for me. (I actually thought about saving it for last, but most people probably won’t read this post in its entirety, so here goes…) For months I’ve been waking up around 3:20 a.m. (Seriously, it’s that precise. That number in glowing red digits haunts me.) Sometimes I’d be awake for 20 minutes, sometimes it would be three hours. I’d see some improvement when I cut out alcohol, but I still experienced some level of sleep interruption.
Well, about two weeks into the challenge, I started sleeping through the night. Correlation or causation? Not sure, but I’m thinking that reducing my sugar intake by eliminating grains (in addition to sweets and booze) might have something to do with it.
Paleo pancakes. Notice that this is second on the list – they’re just that good. I’ve been telling everyone. 1 mashed banana, 1 egg, ¼ cup of almond meal, 1 tbsp of coconut oil. Cooked in pan lightly coated with coconut oil. So delicious and filling.
Fewer digestion issues. Anyone else just accept abdominal pain and bloating as part of eating? I did. I can’t remember one Paleo meal that left me feeling uncomfortably stuffed. However, I did have pizza last night and felt that familiar belly stretch. That being said, it was really good pizza, so it was sort of worth it. Plus, I live in Brooklyn…above a brick oven pizza joint; it’s not like I’m never going to have pizza again.
Renewed attention to intake. This happens with any kind of diet, cleanse or challenge. It’s pretty obvious-sounding, but paying attention to what you eat makes you pay attention to what you eat. It’s easy (for me at least) to become a grazing garbage disposal for potato chip bag remnants and random handfuls of trail mix. Establishing some rules or guidelines helps me reset and remember concepts like servings, portions, eating off of a plate…
-1 lb. Yep, you read that right. I lost about a pound. How’s that for an endorsement? But, honestly, it’s a win for a few reasons. First, I didn’t really have a huge weight loss goal in mind. I wanted to clean up my eating and drinking a bit and maybe gain some definition by reducing my fat layer. Judging from my before and after photos, that did happen. See:
Sike! (Note: I don’t know this person or why he chose USA Today as a visual reference, but good for him.) Yeah, I think my photos are just going to live on my phone for now. Not ready for that level of disclosure. The other win? I normally gain a little flub over the holidays. December weight loss is sort of like dog years. If you think about it, I really lost 7 pounds.
I’m not the only one who saw benefits. There were some challengers who lost over 10 lbs., and one of my teammates achieved a bunch of new PRs. Almost everyone reported feeling and looking better. We decided to keep our little secret Facebook group open and continue to share articles, healthy recipes and product reviews.
I’ve decided to move forward in a Paleo-ish fashion. I’ve got a bunch of new recipes and meal planning tricks under my belt. I honestly don’t miss having grains and dairy on a daily basis. I’ll probably re-incorporate beans here and there, and if really want something sweet that’s made with flour, sugar and butter, I’ll go for it.
Oh, and pizza. There will always be a time and place for pizza.
As I alluded to in my last post, I did something this weekend that I’ve never done before: I volunteered as a judge for a CrossFit competition. I haven’t been so scared about counting since this vampire muppet heckled me from my living room TV.
If you talked to me in the days leading up to the competition, you knew that I did NOT want to do it. Essentially, the job consisted of counting athletes’ reps and ensuring they were meeting movement standards on things like snatches, kettlebell swings, hand release push-ups and sit-ups. It sounds simple, and it kind of is – I’ve been doing CrossFit for over three years; I’m more than familiar with proper form and I count my own reps all the time. But, I convinced myself that once the pressure was on I was going to miscount or piss someone off with a “no rep” call, throw their time and ruin the entire competition.
I think that stems from my general tendency to avoid confrontation. (Can’t we just be nice?) Also, my confidence gets wobbly in black and white situations. I was always the kid who preferred essay questions over true/false and multiple choice tests. I generally feel better in the grey area where no one is technically wrong as long as you can back up your thoughts with an intelligent argument. Ask me to say “yes” or “no” with less than a second to deliberate and I start to get hives.
But I’m always harping on CrossFit’s community aspect, and they needed volunteers, so I did it. I made sure I was familiar with all the standards and did a few practice runs with my coach. My stomach was in knots that (VERY EARLY) morning, but I showed up, grabbed a clipboard and managed to get in the zone.
There were three separate events and multiple heats, so I had the opportunity to judge about 10 times. And, halfway through, I realized that I was actually having fun. Turns out I’m capable of firmly correcting someone’s hand placement during sit-ups, calling a “no rep” when it’s warranted and counting! I can count!
So, <insert obvious conclusion about the value of stepping outside of one’s comfort zone>. But, also, FUN can happen in the most unexpected places.
When’s the last time you did something that scared you?
There are signs of spring in New York! The sidewalk snow banks are steadily melting into dirty street slushies. The fragrant piles of frozen garbage are thawing. And crabby, pale New Yorkers from all five boroughs are clawing their way out of their stale apartments and bracing themselves against the sun.
Remember the sun?
I admit that I am guilty of this particular brand of hibernation. And now that I work from home, it’s a bit more extreme. Yes, the total number of times I’ve changed into “real” pants over the last three months may be less than 10 (though I still argue, to my husband’s chagrin, that Rite-Aid jeggings are indeed pants), but I promise you that I have not been inactive.
I’ve actually been quite a busy little wordsmith. Some of what I’ve been working on is of the contest/submission variety and, as a deeply superstitious person, I’ll need to keep those details under wraps. But, I hope you’ll check out:
Life lessons I Learned (or Relearned) from Climbing a Rope
Anticipate and prepare. This can mean a lot of different things. When it comes to rope climbing, it means packing long socks.
Take a second before you start. Take a deep breath, pay attention to your footing, get a grip and have a plan. This can help you establish or reclaim control of a daunting situation.
You’re more likely to do something stupid when you’re tired. This is particularly relevant when dangling 15 feet above the ground.
It’s great to have support and guidance, but you’re ultimately responsible for yourself. Encouragement and advice go a long way, but when the stakes are high (literally and figuratively) you’ll likely find yourself on your own. This can be a particularly difficult lesson, but the faster you accept it the better off you’ll be.
It’s all about your core. AKA guts.
Know your limits. Listen to those guts. Only you know how far you can go and still come back in one piece (without burns, rips and twisted ankles).
Taking risks is important (and sometimes fun!). It’s scary to push yourself when there’s the risk of getting hurt. But real growth happens when you step outside your comfort zone. And it’s kind of a cool view from up there.
One of my VERY first posts to this blog over a year and a half ago was about GOATs. (As in the things that “get your goat,” not the cute, prancey, furry kind you meet at the San Diego Zoo…though I’ll go ahead and share this photo again because there is happiness making power in a real live goat. You’ll see that I was hot and sunburned with 2nd grade style scraped knees from surfing lessons. But petting a goat still made me smile.)
I’ve been doing CrossFit since August of 2012 and have made significant progress in so many ways. My endurance is stronger, my form is better. I’ve seen my one-rep maxes climb for pretty much every lift and I’ve improved on skills that once seemed impossible like handstand push-ups, rope climbs and double-unders.
But chin-ups…Ugh. I can’t tell you how frustrating it’s been to hang there and jerk around like some spastic weirdo. Month after month, I got nowhere on my own and had to resort to using one of those big rubber bands to sling-shot me and my chin up over the bar. Then, before and after workouts, I started experimenting with jumping from the ground while gripping the bar. At first I jumped a lot to get my chin up over the bar. Then a little less. And soon I just needed to stand on my toes so I could start with slightly bent arms.
Then, this week, on the eve of my 34th birthday, I just did it. I went off to the far end of the gym and, while no one was looking, I did one. And then I was immediately flooded with “tree falling in an empty forest” brand of self-doubt. Did I actually do that? I called over my coach and had her watch me. She gave me a big hug and told me she was proud of me. I did a freakin’ strict chin-up, dude!
It’s kind of a perfect way to start this next year of life. It’s a reminder of all the things you’d expect: certain things take time and failure is part of the process. Of course, of course. But, also, it’s kinda like “Great! OK…so…now what?” It feels amazing to achieve a goal, but how long can I really rest on the laurels of a single chin-up? Or any other accomplishment, big or small. Maybe I’m a total masochist, but I like to maintain some level of restlessness. Otherwise I start to feel stale and like I’m wasting time (aka life).
So, what’s next?
Book #2. I’m recommitting. I’m reclaiming my writing days. Revised timeline TBD.