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We Moved!!

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As of February 10th, 2015 please head over to my website to view new and archived posts!

Planting Your Seed of Fitness

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I’ve taken a long road to “fit”. Honestly, I was that kid who faked illnesses to get out of gym class and would gladly tell you the only time I ran was if something was chasing me. Now I’m on a regular schedule of working out for at least 45 minutes every day before work, alternating between high intensity interval training (HiiT), yoga and pilates. I hit the rock gym 2-3 times per week and attend yoga classes 2-3 times per week. I’ve fallen in love with kettlebells and weights. I take at least one day off a week for rest and ensure I’m alternating between exercising those fast-twitch muscles with those intense workouts with building slow twitch muscles and flexibility through yoga. Right now this is a good balance for me and I’m excited to see where I go from here. The things is, it was a long road to get here.

My partner has a favorite (non-original) line that he likes to use when I’m being self-defeating. “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is today.” He reminded me of this just this week as I was watching bouldering competitions on YouTube and lamenting that while I’m falling in love with climbing I will never be phenomenal at it. Excuses poured out of my mouth. “I’m too old, these climbing athletes started when they were kids.” “I’m too tall and heavy.” “I’m afraid of heights.” The list goes on and on, but I have to admit that after watching these athletes compete I learned new techniques and the next time I hit the gym I was able to do harder routes and I had more confidence. I don’t expect to be a rock star climber, but the point is that I’m getting better. I’m planting my seed today.

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“The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is today.”

I mentioned my road to being fit was a long one. The first time I was even introduced to a type of fitness I enjoyed was when I was about 15 and my theatre teacher showed us yoga during our warmups. It was slow and gentle and I could get into it. I then found that I enjoyed the jumping parts of track and field (high jump, triple jump, long jump, pole vaulting) which was fun for a while but I quickly became intimidated by the real athletes on my team and I also loathed the warmups. So that didn’t stick.

It wasn’t until after college that I really started caring about fitness. I moved to Boston, found myself walking to work and eating better (honestly, anything other than fast food was better than I had been eating in college) and I started dropping weight without even trying. I decided to check out a local yoga class and quickly fell in love. But, I’d walk through the gym to get to my class and would shake my head at the crowd on treadmills, ellipticals, and the weight benches. In part I was intimidated, and in another part I just felt like I wasn’t in that crowd. I had terribly negative misconceptions that people were there out of pure vanity and that it was just some daytime sex club for post sorority chicks and frat dudes. Years later I would find out how wrong I was, but at that time it was just not my scene.

It wasn’t until I went to school for massage that I started to really get it. The body is an incredibly fascinating thing. On one hand, it’s fascinating because of the amount of abuse it can take and keep on ticking. On the other hand, when you care for it right the body is capable of amazing feats of greatness. What I had yet to learn was that even MY body was capable of those things. 

Practicing massage is a lot like dancing. It takes a good amount of coordination and balance. It takes a good understanding of body mechanics and physics to avoid self-injury. Practitioners also benefit from being fit and healthy and having a more developed upper-body. I was blessed to have some classmates that came from the fitness world and they coached me to try getting in better shape and eating healthier. 

I started with free weights. Small weights, high reps. The reason this worked for me is that it wasn’t painful to do, and I saw results very quickly. I enjoyed feeling strong and seeing my muscles develop. Naturally, I then wanted to eat foods that helped fuel my body so I also began learning about better nutrition; a subject I continue to explore daily.

I continued with yoga and weights and naturally I had several lapses where I just slowly got out of my routine, only to pick it up again months later. But every time I got back into it I tried to take things further. I explored different types of yoga; some extremely challenging. I walked more and began hiking. I found summer activities, like paddling, running and swimming, that kept my attention and kept me active. It all started building. I was exercising because I wanted to be in shape for massage, and then the type of exercise I was doing demanded different parts of my body to be more fit so I started doing other exercises to support that. For example, when I found I enjoyed paddling it only made sense that I was continue with my free weights to build upper body strength. And in continuing with free weights I would need yoga to help me stretch those muscles for recovery. The combination of strength and flexibility came back into my massage sessions and I had more stamina.

It was about two years ago that I started getting into HiiT by following some videos online. For me, this was a perfect fit because I get bored easily if I’m doing a “routine”. The HiiT workouts I was doing were different every day. Similar to crossfit, I faced a new challenge and often didn’t know in advance what it was going to be. All I knew was that by the end I would be sweating my butt off and I would feel like She Ra. I suppose you can say I became addicted to the adrenaline; I definitely enjoyed the challenge.

I have to give the caveat that in most cases I do not recommend starting a new type of exercise by watching a video. It’s important, especially with intense workouts, to use proper form. By this point I had been working with a personal trainer, had studied anatomy/kinesiology and felt I was body-aware. Even still, I quickly transitioned to going to a kickboxing class that also did circuit training and I found it extremely helpful to have someone there who could call me out if my form was poor.

So I planted that seed back in 2003 that I wanted to be fit and my tree is still growing. I’m not a super-athelete, but I also feel like I could hold my own during the zombie apocalypse. The trick is to stick with it. Find new challenges that keep you interested. Listen to your body and know it’s a-ok to start slow. I started with walking and now I’m climbing three stories in the air and swinging around 25lb kettlebells like they’re kittens.

Also, did I mention the health benefits? Once upon a time I had “bad knees”, was on meds for acid reflux and insomnia, got colds regularly, and I had exercise induced asthma. With the right diet and exercise routine those have become vices of my past. I thought those illnesses were just part of who I was. Now my immune system is bangin’ and I feel stronger than I ever have!

I do have to say from my own fitness progress and from watching the progress of my clients over the years, it is imperative that you start at a level that’s appropriate for you. Diving head-first into a fitness routine that’s too strenuous for you is a great recipe for failure. For one thing, there’s a high chance of injury, which can start a terrible cycle of having to stop working out to heal, only to jump back in, overdo it, and re-injure yourself. So please listen to your body and take it at your own pace. The next issue is that if it hurts or you end up so sore you can barely walk the next day, you’re probably not going to want to keep going. Yes, it’s normal to have some burn, especially when you’re just starting out, but you can get in shape without pain. Seriously, I did it. If I was in constant pain I would not have made it this far. If you’re unsure of your fitness level and where to start I highly recommend working with a personal trainer. But if you can’t afford that it’s not a good excuse to not exercise. 😉 Look for community classes, beginner videos or just start with something really basic like long walks and a little jogging.

Finally, remember there is no finish line. Fitness is ongoing. Plant your tree today and keep growing!

Want some motivation? I just recorded my first virtual yoga class! Please check it out and let me know what you think:

For those of you who enjoy HiiT, I created two new progressions this week. It’s been a while since I’ve posted these but I’m hoping to make it a habit again. If you try them let me know how you did! Remember to warm up first!

Full Body, Cardio Focus (2 rounds, 45 sec activity, 15 sec rest)
  1. KB Swings (my reps 24/25)
  2. High knees 
  3. Side-plank leg-lift R (my reps 14/14)
  4. Side-plank leg-lift L (my reps 14/14)
  5. High knees
  6. KB snatch R (my reps 8/7)
  7. KB snatch L (my reps 7/7)
  8. High knees
Bicep Buster (3 rounds for time, my time 16:50)
  1. 10 reverse pull-ups in a pyramid (6-10-6 seconds) (for this, start at the top of the pull-up position and slowly lower down while counting out the seconds; for those who are proficient with pull-ups you can do regular pull-ups at the slow pace; for those who are new to pull-ups, try using a strap and modify as necessary to avoid injury)
  2. 15 R side crunches
  3. 15 L side crunches
  4. 30 bicycle reps
  5. 30 air squats
Now go shovel a foot of snow. 😉 Hehe, those on the East Coast may know what I’m talking about. I shoveled a good 14″ after this workout, and then did my cool down.

Fat, Flush and Fit

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It’s no surprise that January is the high income time for gyms, spas and nutritionists. Many of us spend the holidays expanding our waistlines and focusing on friends and family. Once that clock strikes midnight on January first (or, umm, after you sleep off your hangover), we turn that focus back to ourselves and flood to find the fastest way to “fit”.

While I’m no stranger to this cycle, I feel like the idea of making a 10, 30 or 90 day commitment is a mindset that we culturally need to move away from. I’m not saying quit your 90-day challenge, but I would ask what challenge comes next? One can’t do a 10 day juice cleanse and expect to keep off the 10-15lbs lost when they get back on solid foods. Nor can one expect that the results from doing a 90 day Burpee challenge will last if after those 90 days they take a month (or more) off. Staying fit means getting past the mentality that there is a finish line. A consistent healthy diet and regular exercise is the only way to maintain fitness. Go back and read that again; I know you don’t want to but it’s the truth. A consistent healthy diet and regular exercise is the only way to maintain fitness. 

A few things to note:

  • That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a pizza or cupcake or go on a relaxing vacation and lie on the beach for a few days soaking up rays. If you are keeping up with your healthy diet and exercise your body will actually process those breaks much better. Moderation is the key, right?
  • One of the hardest ideas to understand is that the diet and exercise plan that works for me may not work for you. More on this later.
  • While I’m not a believer in crash diets, there is a lot to be said for jump-starting your fitness goals with a cleanse.

Let’s look at that last point, cleansing, in more detail.

What the heck is a cleanse?

The simplest explanation is a cleanse is a way to press the reset button on your digestion. An effective cleanse helps rid the body of toxins by supporting the systems that process waste (e.g. the lymphatic system, liver, gallbladder, kidneys, etc.). Cleanses come in many forms, from the extreme (fasting/juice cleanse), to the basic (elimination diets/basic whole foods) to the mild (cutting out alcohol/caffeine/sugar/your own food addictions). I’ve learned to find success in a cleanse you need to start with one that meets you where you’re at. Go too extreme and you’re more likely to give up, go too mild and you won’t see results.

How do I choose the right cleanse?

This is the trickiest thing, and honestly I don’t have the answer for you. What I can do is give you my two cents (with the caveat that I’m not a nutritionist). My two cents really comes down to common sense:

  • If the person recommending a cleanse will profit from it be cautious.
    • Many cleanse-in-a-box companies participate in multi-level marketing, meaning that they resell their product to one person who resells it to a team who resells it to perhaps another team and then resells it to the public. This causes price inflation on the product and it makes my spidey senses tingle wondering if the product is actually effective or if it’s just hyped up as a get-rich-quick scheme. I’m not saying flat out don’t-do-it, but I’m saying do your due diligence and research the product on your own before shelling over your $$$.
  • Know what you’re putting in your body.
    • This should be a rule for life. My biggest beef with many of the cleanse-in-a-box products is that they don’t give you a full ingredient list (or at least they make it very difficult to find). They’ll often make big sweeping claims like “This one shake contains the same nutrients as 50 fruits, 100 vegetables and a million grams of protein!!” Ok, so what chemicals are you grinding into powder to add up to that and what are the short and long term side-effects?
    • The other claim I’ve been seeing lately that irks me is “it’s all whole foods!!”. Guess what? If you’re dissolving a tablet in water or adding powder to juice you’re not eating whole foods. Sorry to burst that bubble, but even if the original product was made from whole foods (which would be the accurate way of marketing it) once you PROCESS it by turning it into a powder or pill it’s no longer a whole food. That doesn’t mean there’s no nutritional value (e.g. I use protein powders and other supplements when desired), but it’s a false claim that begs the question, “What else is this company lying to me about?”.
    • Don’t just look at the “No’s” AND “Free’s”. “GLUTEN FREE!” “NO ANIMAL PRODUCTS!” “NO CHEMICALS!”. Look between those and ask, “What about GMO’s? Animal testing? Grain?” etc.etc. The front of the bottle doesn’t give you all the information. Heck, usually nothing on the bottle gives you all the information. I only recently discovered one of the vegan protein powders I was using had GMOs, and a popular brand of diet supplements uses GMOs, artificial colors and flavors, and all sorts of crap fillers. Again, do your research and don’t just believe what the rep, company website or product packaging is trying to feed you…literally.
    • Personally, when I cleanse I choose to make my own meals. I do often take individual nutritional supplements so I’m not trying to do a “holier than though” routine about never buying powders or pills, but for the actual cleanse purpose I want simple easy-to-digest foods that come from my own kitchen.
  • To Juice or Not to Juice?
    • For the sake of this post I’m defining a “juice cleanse” as any liquid cleanse; so not necessarily “juice”. That could be the Master Cleanse, a pre-packaged cleanse, making your own juices/smoothies, etc.
    • It’s a fact that if you switch your diet to just drinking liquids for a week you will lose weight. If you’re only goal is to fit into that wedding dress or that teeny-weeny-bikini then sticking to only liquids for 10 days may get you there. Just remember, that this weight-loss isn’t permanent. It’s up to you to then choose a healthy diet and exercise routine after the cleanse to keep the weight off (and even with that, once you return to solid foods you’ll probably put some weight back on).
    • Juice cleanses are not appropriate for all body types and I can’t encourage you enough to check with a nutritionist and try an elimination diet before you jump into a juice cleanse. While juice cleanses are done by millions of people each year, that doesn’t mean it’s automatically safe for you.
    • If you go with juicing pay close attention to the ingredients. One of the big reasons I recommend trying an elimination diet before a juice cleanse is so you get a better sense of how your body reacts to certain foods which will help you choose your own “healthy diet”. For example, my system does not do well with sugars. I’m prone to overproducing candida and there’s also a history of diabetes in my family. That means a cleanse like the Master Cleanse (which consists of drinking a mixture of water, lemon juice, cayenne and either honey or maple syrup) is a terrible choice for me. Believe me, I made the mistake of trying it. Keeping my body alive on just sugar made the candida spring through my system like a flame in a house filled with gas. Your body and how it digests food is unique and what works for some may not work for you (and vice versa).
  • What’s an elimination diet?
    • An elimination diet or cleanse is when you either suddenly or slowly eliminate different types of food from your diet, spend a little time without them and then slowly reintroduce foods one at a time and see how your body reacts. This is personally my favorite type of cleanse because it’s customizable and is a great way to learn about YOUR body.
    • Typically, an elimination diet starts by eliminating caffeine, alcohol, refined sugars and processed foods. For some, that is the whole diet since that may be challenging enough. To take it further one eliminates gluten, dairy, soy, goitrogens, nightshades and animal proteins. If you’re suspicious of a particular food allergy that food/food group would also be eliminated. When I do this type of cleanse, I take two weeks to ween myself off things, stick with the simplified diet for at least two weeks and then slowly introduce foods leaving at least a few days between to see how my body reacts. The entire cleanse usually takes me a month, though I’ve had friends doing more serious elimination diets that take 2-3 months.
    • Elimination diets often also include taking individual supplements that help support digestion. For example, I often take Milk Thistle to support the liver, Chlorella and probiotics for the digestive tract, and an antioxidant like acai berry or cacao. Your nutritionist may make additional suggestions.
    • For me, this is how I found out I had food allergies. I then went for food allergy testing blood-work that checked my IgG, IgA and IgE reactions against  laundry-list of the most common food allergy culprits. This left me with a guide of the types of food I should limit or avoid all-together. The first time I started eating right for my own body, I dropped almost 30lbs and have kept it off (cough, except when I cheated over the holidays) thanks to sticking with the healthy diet AND exercising regularly.
    • If you do an elimination diet I encourage you to pair up with a nutritionist or at least get some support online. The biggest question I always hear when I talk about an elimination diet is, “Then what do I eat?!”. The truth is, A LOT!! There are thousands of recipes you can find online that work for any elimination diet and as you get used to it you’ll learn what you can substitute to make your old favorites. I also encourage you to pick recipes that are seasonally appropriate. E.g. make sure you’re supporting your body with warm foods in the winter, and in the summer you might want more raw veggies and fruits.
  • That sounds like a lot of work, what can I do that’s easy?
    • There’s a wide rainbow of cleansing options between a juice cleanse and an all-out elimination diet. One of the simplest cleanses in the winter time is to just eat cooked veggie-rich dishes and really limit the animal proteins and grains you’re taking in (or at least switch to small portions of lean meats). For example, a large bowl of cooked kale with some cider vinegar, flax seeds and walnuts is a favorite of mine. Keep it simple and cook for yourself. If a month is too long try a week, or two weeks. Just do yourself a big favor and plan out your cleanse BEFORE you start. Concerned you won’t have time to cook your meals? Make large portions and freeze them so you have things to grab for lunch or dinners when you don’t have time. If you live off your calendar, schedule this in. Take it seriously and you may be amazed by the results.
  • Take everything you hear with a grain of salt, even if you’re on a low-sodium diet.
    • Many of us fall prey to fad diets and gimmicks. The main rules here are do your own research, listen to your body and remember that what works for some does not work for all. If your diet guru is telling you they have the be-all-end-all diet solution for EVERYONE…walk the other way. It’s also worth noting that the cleanse you did last year might not do it for you this year. How has your body changed since then? What does it need now? I’m sorry to give you the bad news that there’s no holy grail definition to a “healthy diet”, but we’re not one of the most adaptable species on the planet because we’re stuck on repeat. Our bodies are different and they change over time so we have to adapt.

Ok, I cleansed, now what?

Once again, there is no finish line. One cannot do a cleanse and then head to Wendy’s for the rest of the week and expect to continue feeling great. For starters, it’s just as important to have a plan for coming off the cleanse as it was before you got into it. Most cleanses will give you tips for how to come off them; LISTEN TO THAT. One can really shock their body by filling it with foods it’s not ready for. Hold off a few days for that pizza until your body is ready for it or you could seriously regret it (I’m talking severe digestive distress!).

And then what? And then you figure out what you learned. If you did an elimination diet what foods worked and what didn’t? How can you adjust your diet to give yourself more of what made you feel good and less of the crap that made you feel slow, bloated, fatigued, etc.? If you’re coming off a juice cleanse you may need to experiment with foods to find what works for your body. Try to really pay attention and feel how meals effect you instead of just remembering what you liked. For example, you might remember your favorite candy bar or bag of chips but not be craving them anymore. Perhaps those foods didn’t really fuel your body; don’t eat them for the memories.

If you gain weight after cleansing or return to eating foods you know don’t make you feel good, you didn’t fail. You’re still alive, right? So what did you learn and what are you going to do today to make you feel healthier? You’re not starting all over, you’re continuing your journey…and believe me, it can take time. One of the hardest things is not beating yourself up in the process. Stick with it, explore new recipes, find what feels best for you and remember throughout this process that your body needs exercise as well.

Oh right, exercise. :/

Yup, exercise. A body in motion stays in motion, so get up and move! Just like with diet, finding the right exercise routine is an individual exploration. I’ll have a lot more to say on this in a future entry, but for now let me encourage you to move that booty daily to keep your joints fluid, your muscles strong, your heart pumping, your brain sharp and…well, I could go on and on. Nearing the end of that 90 day challenge? I challenge you to remove the limits and challenge yourself physically on a regular basis for as long as you’re on this Earth!

My (Paleo) Meatloaf Brings All The Boys To The Yard

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When I was a child I thought that meatloaf was a a gross hunk of meat loaded with fat, carbs and cholesterol and covered in ketchup; gross. As an adult, I’ve learned that meatloaf is one of the easiest dishes to make and be creative with. It can also be an excellent source of protein AND veggies. Oh, and did I mention it’s comforting and delicious?

In all the meatloaves I’ve made, I’ve somehow managed to never make the same one twice. Partly because I never write down my recipe, and mostly because I tend to take the kitchen-sink approach and use whatever I have around the house. In my more recent experiments I’ve also found that slow-cooking meatloaf results in the most tender melt-in-your-mouth experience ever, and is really a “set it and forget it” meal. Yesterday’s meatloaf was no exception.

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Paleo GF Slow-Cooker Veggie Meatloaf

Paleo Gluten Free Slow-Cooker Veggie Meatloaf (or just “Awesome” for short)

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 lbs grass-fed beef
  • 1 lb lean ground pork
  • 3-4 medium-sized carrots, shredded*
  • 1/2 head of cauliflower, shredded*
  • 2 cups baby or regular spinach, shredded*
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup almond meal/flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp onion powder (or dice a whole sweet onion, I just didn’t have one handy)
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper or chili powder (I used chipotle chili powder)
  • 3-4 large dashes of coconut aminos (or if not strict paleo Worcester Sauce still has the best flavor)
  • Optional: 1 tbsp leaf lard, melted, OR 6 strips of bacon (which I was unfortunately out of)
  • 1 jar Paleo GF tomato sauce of your choosing (this is obviously the easy way, you can also make your own tomato paste concoction.

*I throw all of the veggies into a food processor with a shredding attachment to make it quick and easy.

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl mix the veggies with the spices and almond flour until thoroughly coated.
  2. Add eggs, coconut aminos or Worcester sauce, 2 tbsp of the tomato sauce and lard (if you’re using it); mix well.
  3. Add meat and mix it all together with your hands. Form into a loaf-shape.
  4. If you’re using bacon, cut the 6 strips in half and line the bottom of the slow cooker with half. Lay the other half on top of the loaf in strips.
  5. Place in slow cooker and cook on low 5-6 hours or until middle reads at 160ºF.
  6. Warm the remaining tomato sauce and top each slice with a spoonful. Enjoy!

I was so happy with how this came out. It just melted together perfectly! My partner went back for seconds and had to stop himself from grabbing thirds. He also had no idea that almost half of the mixture was veggies. Score! Did I mention it’s only 400 calories with 29 grams of protein per serving? Disclaimer: I am not responsible if you eat more than one serving per meal. 😉

Some additional tips:

  • If you don’t own a slow cooker, don’t worry! You can either still slow-cook it by placing the loaf in a dutch oven or other oven-safe deep covered dish and placing it in the oven on 200-250ºF until it comes to temperature. Or if you’re in a hurry just throw it in a loaf pan and cook at 350ºF for an hour. If you go for the latter, I recommend coating the top with tomato sauce so it doesn’t dry out.
  • This is a perfect freezer meal for work. This recipe makes ~8 servings (unless you go back for seconds and thirds)!
  • Missing an ingredient? Improvise! That’s what meatloaf is all about. I especially encourage you to try different veggies. Zucchini, summer squash and mushrooms are a few suggestions.
  • Why lard? It might seem silly to buy grass fed beef and lean pork and then add leaf lard to it. Well, aside from adding amazing flavor, leaf lard is actually one of the most healthy oils out there, especially when you’re careful about where you get it (I only buy from small farms, preferably local, who feed their pigs a healthy non-GMO/non-antibiotic diet). This article does a good job of explaining the benefits of leaf lard but I encourage you to do some Googling because there’s a lot of great information out there on why leaf lard is an awesome ingredient. It’s become a staple in my home.

Have your own favorite healthy meatloaf recipe? Share it! Thanks for reading!

No Longer Barefoot in Vermont!

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This is just a quick post to say I’m not dead, I haven’t stopped working out, I’m not eating crap, I’ve just….moved! In November my partner and I moved to Carlisle, MA. My massage and yoga practice reopened in December and business has been BOOMING!! You can now find me above Mountain Strength Crossfit in Winchester, MA (see my site for more details).

While I miss my beloved Green Mountain State, one of the really nice things about being back in MA is the accessibility. I’ve discovered a wonderful inspiring yoga studio, Serenity Yoga, and have been taking classes from Olivia and Nina. My partner and I have a membership to Central Rock Gym in Watertown and have been climbing 2-3 times per week. And every day still starts with a smoothie. 🙂

So things are GOOD and I hope to be writing again here more regularly. That said, look out for a possible name change because my bare feet are now on MA soil. BarefootinMA perhaps?

I hope all your health journeys are taking you in a good direction, and if not today is a good day to get back on the horse. 😉

Yoga, Workouts and Injury

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If you’re reading fitness blogs, or even just Facebook, you’ve probably come across the controversy of “Crossfit’s Dirty Little Secret“.  It was very disconcerting to me to read about a woman who ended up with Rhabdomyolysis due to pushing herself too far in her Crossfit workouts.  The thing that really upset me though is that this is NOT a Crossfit thing, injury, of all types, during exercise is not at all new but it’s also not being handled with the gravity that it deserves.  

The issue here is two-fold.  For one, trainer “certification” comes in a variety of colors and may involve years of study, or a day spent reading a 20 page pdf online and taking an open-book quiz.  I personally feel that anyone working professionally as a trainer needs a firm education in anatomy, physiology and kinesiology, along with proper training of the type of exercise one is going to train in.  The problem is that “proper” has no standards.  So how do we know when we’re getting a good education as a trainer?  

First off, I’d want to know that the exercise feels comfortable in my own body and that I fully understand my own body mechanics while doing the exercises.  This means that it could take time to digest the material.  For example, I only became a yoga instructor after practicing yoga for many years before seeking teacher certification.  That might be overkill for some, but I’d bet that if you take a weekend certification class in yoga and you’ve never practiced before you probably don’t fully understand the body mechanics of each pose.  Since yoga is complex let’s take a simpler example, kettlebell certification.  This is one I’m seeing a lot and as a lover of kettlebells I have to say I’m concerned when I see that you can get certified in a weekend and go from never having touched a kettlebell before to teaching a class on it in two days.

Once you understand the exercise fully in your own body, then the big challenge is knowing how to adapt it for others.  Not all bodies are created equal and while you might be able to do 60 double KB swings, your brand-new-to-working-out client is probably not up to that challenge.  Not only do you have to adjust reps to fitness level, but you have to know how to adapt the exercise to different body mechanics.  For example, someone with scoliosis may not be able to get into that perfect Vinyasa Triangle pose that you’re pushing her into, perhaps a modified triangle or a triangle from another style of yoga would be more fitting.  Help your clients reach their goals by respecting their bodies for where they are and then safely coaching them further.

Which brings me to my next point…respect your OWN body.  I love pushing myself but I listen to my body and know my limits.  This is a very hard skill to learn and I’m still not perfect at it but when I get stuck I try to ask myself, “Why do I workout?”  I workout because I love my body, I love feeling healthy, strong and full of energy.  While being sore after a workout is OK on a small scale, if it hurts to lift a glass of water the next day or walk to my mailbox then I’m achieving the opposite of my goals.  To take a couple quotes from “How to Not Fucking Kill Your Clients” (a great, albeit brash, response to the Crossfit scare-tactic article above), “Are 400 push-ups going to help your clients reach the general fitness, and overall well-being they crave?”  Ask yourself that, will bashing on one relatively small group of muscles over and over again actually help you with your fitness goals?  If your goals are to end up in the hospital then sure. 😉

Now to end this rant with a more personal story.  I have been researching Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT) trainings in my area.  Now RYT is not a high standard, per-say, it just means that teachers go through the Yoga Alliance, which doesn’t make them good or bad, but I wanted to see what was in my area as I continue my own training.  I started attending classes at a popular Vinyasa studio, thinking I would enroll in the teacher’s training course.  I found her classes to be VERY strict.  Vinyasa to her means that poses are done in a very specific way, and she went around the room manually adjusting people into these identical positions.  

On the plus side, I loved that I really sweat in her classes and you can tell by how full the room is that other people love this too.  On the downside, I noticed after taking her classes for over a month that I was developing injuries in my back and my wrists.  Her style of teaching was hurting me, and I hadn’t been listening enough to my body.  Since I still had paid classes on my card, I started going to courses at her studio offered by other teachers.  Many of them were trained by her so the form of the classes was basically the same, but I noticed some of the teachers allowed more flexibility, or at least didn’t push me into positions.  I still wondered though if I was missing something.  I doubted what my body was telling me and thought that maybe I just wasn’t up to par.  That’s when I went to a co-taught class and beforehand I listened to the two teachers discussing pains in their bodies.  They mentioned that the studio’s owner, the teacher I originally mentioned, had pushed one of them into a deep twist that she wasn’t ready for.  The other chimed in to say she does that all the time to her and she has to actually say “I’m not doing deep twists today.”  

I respect that especially with yoga there are many styles and some are very strict to honor the lineage of their style.  But I have to question the benefits of those practices if they’re injuring their students.  Can we still honor those strict styles while honoring the bodies of our students?  Can we learn to listen to them and be more aware?  If not, I’m afraid I’ll keep getting exercise-related injury clients in my massage practice.  My biggest advice to trainers out there is to take continuing education and challenge yourself to learn more, put yourselves in your clients shoes and adapt exercises for their fitness level.  To others like me who love those good hard workouts, trust your body to tell you when you’ve had enough.  If you’re in pain, don’t push it because you risk doing serious harm to your body or at least setting yourself back.

And with that, two quickie workouts.  The first is a low-cardio strength and stretching workout that I did after four days of pretty intense cardio.  The second is a nice shortie to get your pulse up without taking a lot of time out of the day.

9/3/13 – Strength and Stretching
  1. Pushups x 10
  2. Child’s Pose ~45 sec.
  3. Pyramid Bicep forward and reverse curls (12 reps @ low weight, 10 reps @ medium weight, 8 reps @ high weight, 10 reps @ medium weight, 12 reps at low weight; I used 8, 10 + 15lb weights, if you’re starting out I recommend 2, 5 and 8lb weights)
  4. Child’s Pose ~45 sec.
  5. Pyramid Triceps (same reps as pyramid biceps but using only one weight and doing seated overhead triceps extension and dumbbell skull crushers)
  6. Child’s Pose ~45 sec.
  7. Side-Crunch L x 10
  8. Side-Crunch R x 10
  9. Full sit-up x 10
  10. Bridge or wheel ~45 sec.
  11. Savasana 3-10 mins.
 
9/11/13 –  Intervals (3 Rounds, 45 sec activity 15 sec rest)
  1. KB Swings
  2. KB Snatch R
  3. KB Snatch L
  4. Box Jumps
  5. Weighted Sit-Ups