Personal Training, Featuring Anna!

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!

anna muscles

Have you ever worked with a personal trainer? What was the experience like?

In It

It’s January 18th and, according to WordPress, this is my 50th blog post. This is exciting because, when I started this blog a while back, I was really concerned about stalling out after a handful of posts. While I’ve certainly had my blogging dry spells, I’m proud that I haven’t completely abandoned this site all together.

But, I have to admit to having this fleeting thought:

Darn. Woulda been cool if my 50th post was a New Year’s Eve wrap-up.

You know exactly the kind of post I’m talking about because you likely read a dozen of them three weeks ago. I could have revisited last year’s New Year’s resolutions, talked about everything I learned in 2014 and then set goals and commitments for the coming year. And it would have been post 50, which is such a nice, fat, juicy number.

But, honestly, I don’t know where I would have started. And, 19 days later, I still don’t. The truth is that I’m so IN IT, that I just can’t step back far enough for that kind of reflection. I’m not winding down or gearing up. I hopped on a running treadmill a couple months ago and I am just trying to keep myself from slipping off the end of it.

He had it.
He had it.

But, it’s all good. This momentum feels good and right, and I think it’s fair if the particular rhythm of your life doesn’t match up with the calendar.

In the spirit of all that, I’m going to leave out a thoughtful conclusion to this post and jump back on the treadmill. (But, I’ll take a cue from George Gray and face forward.)

Question: Anyone else IN IT?

All I Need is MSWord and a Sharpie

It was yesterday, November 20th, when I realized I probably should have done NaNoWriMo.

On 11/1, it seemed so arbitrary. Why would the simple fact that it’s the month of November motivate me to write more regularly?

But now look at all of you with your word counts and camaraderie and #amwriting hashtags. Meanwhile, I fight against youtube wormholes (The Little Mermaid “Honest Trailer” -> every “Honest Trailer” ever made -> Golden Retriever puppies swimming compilation #12) and wonder if maybe I need one of those fake sunlight lamps.

I guess I could use a little something to keep me on track, even if it is arbitrary. There are a bunch of interesting apps and sites that calculate word count, score you against your peers, award badges, etc. I think it’s great that writers have so many tools available to them and applaud anyone who’s found success this way.

I guess it’s some kind of combination of impatience and paranoia that keeps me from using any of that stuff. I don’t really want to add another step to my writing process. Even if it’s “easy” it’s still another thing to do, another password I’ll forget. And I’ll just never be comfortable writing directly into a web application. I write everything – even these blog posts – in Word first and save them, often emailing myself documents as back-up. And what if an evil hacker gains access to the back end of one of those sites and publishes everyone’s crappy first drafts before they’ve been thoroughly edited and proofread? I know, I know…

Photo Credit:

But, why take the risk?

Especially when it takes just 2 minutes and a standard word processing program to create one of these babies:


Yep, I think the MSWord calendar template/red Sharpie method works best for me. Low tech solutions have their perks (no passwords, available during power outages, exercise hand-eye coordination).  And, honestly, I still really like paper. (I’ll always be that kid who loved shopping for new school supplies even more than new clothes).

I’ll pin this to my corkboard (a.k.a. live action Pinterest) and let you know how it works out.

Question: How do you keep your writing on track?

GOATs Reprised

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.)

CIMG1755I’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.

Also maybe, like, 2 chin-ups.

Question: What are your freakin’ GOATs?




Not so S.M.A.R.T.

I started to write this post about resolutions vs. S.M.A.R.T. goals, and how you’re really much better off with this acronym-guided goal-setting than the typical, vague, forgotten-by-mid-February New Year’s resolution…But, then I could only remember what 2 of the 5 letters in S.M.A.R.T. stood for. I sat in front of my computer for a few minutes really trying to remember without the help of Google. Because, honestly, if I was going to write a S.M.A.R.T. goal inspired post, shouldn’t I just KNOW what all the letters stand for? (And, what is Google doing to our brains? Pre-Google, I would have just remembered this, along with the name of the guy in that show and where the post office is because I simply had to in order to survive…)

But I was like “S…stands for ‘smart.’ Your goals should be smart, right?…” And then I realized the level of irony of this particular internal conversation.

So, then I finally googled “S.M.A.R.T.”

Well, first I watched this video from the most recent episode of SNL, which is all about New Year’s resolutions:


S.M.A.R.T. goals are:






It’s not rocket science. Basically, you’re more likely to make progress if your goal is something like “train 3 times a week so I can run that 5k at the end of March in under 30 minutes” vs. “work out more.”

At the end of December I set a S.M.A.R.T. writing goal. Instead of telling myself that I’d “write more” I wrote the following on a piece of paper, pinned it to my corkboard, and told a handful of close friends who could help keep me accountable:

Manuscript #2

Draft 1

May 1, 2014

I felt organized and motivated. Empowered.

A month later I wonder what the hell I was thinking.

OK, maybe it’s not that bad. I’d already been working on something for a few months, so it’s not like I was starting from scratch on Jan 1. I have a preliminary story outline. And it can always be a really terrible, pockmarked Draft 1 (as most are).

But, the truth is that I am way off from something that’s even nearly complete. Which could mean a couple different things:

  1. I’m not writing enough. –>This feels true. I’ve been less disciplined about setting aside designated writing time that isn’t peppered with a dozen snack/Netflix breaks
  2. My goal isn’t realistic. –> It’s possible. But, it feels like a cop-out to change my deadline at this point before I make a real effort to address possibility #1.

And, this is what I like about S.M.A.R.T. goals. Maybe it’s just me, but it feels so much easier to say “eh, screw it” when it comes to vague resolutions. But, if I have a self-imposed deadline looming, I’m more likely to regularly check in on my progress. And, maybe I’ll realize that May 1st just isn’t going to happen and I’ll need to go back in and tinker with the “time-bound” element of my goal. But, that’s a lot better than ditching the thing all together.

Question: What keeps you on track when it comes to setting and pursuing goals?