Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Life, Crossfit and a Lesson on Patience

Hi everyone! I'm back. It's been way too long. I didn't realize how much I missed writing to you all here. Life, as it seems to do, has been throwing me curve after curve and finding the time to THINK let alone write just doesn't happen often.

My old laptop was basically dead and I hate blogging from my phone, so I just pushed off keeping up with this old girl here. Good news! I recently bought a shiny new laptop and have no more excuses. If I can sit on my ass on the couch, I have time to share some thoughts here.

So, what have you all been up to? I've been super busy at work, keeping up with my teenager, and spending time with the hubs. He had a setback earlier this year when his cancer returned, so his surgery and recovery really took over our lives for most of this year.  I'm not bringing that up for sympathy. Everyone has shit in their lives they're dealing with - and he's a fighter. He's doing ok now. I'm bringing this up because, while he was undergoing surgery and recovery, I put most of my life on hold and it wasn't healthy. I felt guilty for doing things when he wasn't able to do much himself, but he would have never held it against me. 

So, a couple of months ago, I started to take more and more time for myself - something I think is important for us all to remember to do. While surfing used to take up basically all of my free time when the weather is good, it's not that way any longer. Want to know why? I discovered Crossfit. I was always intrigued by the culture, but I told myself it was too expensive and the workouts didn't make any sense. An old friend of mine (I met back in college in the 90s), owns a Crossfit gym with her husband. Shameless plug - JSA Crossfit in Manasquan, NJ, is the real deal. 

The instruction we receive - whether a seasoned veteran of the box or a noob like me, is comprehensive. The warm-ups are dynamic and suited purposefully toward the day's WOD. The workouts are insanely difficult for the most part. 

245 lb deadlift out of nowhere. BAM!
More often than not, I can't even finish a scaled version in the allotted time. But you know what? That's OK. Learning this was a revelation for someone like me who can't stand unfinished checklists, incomplete work or anything that's halfway done. I have learned to enter the box, give it 100% and walk out with my head held high. I'm performing movements I've always wanted to learn. While I'm using the "training wheels" bar as I like to call it, I'm ok with working on technique with a light load. I can add weight later when my body knows what to do with it. 

I've never been a patient person but, day by day, WOD by WOD, that's exactly what I am becoming.

Monday, November 25, 2013

"I've found a love for working out."

Exhibit A
It's one month until Christmas and my friend Whitney has more to celebrate than usual. See Exhibit A above - a small mountain of clothes that are now so big and loose that she's finally letting them go. She's now four months into her training and happier than ever. Don't believe me? Read her testimonial below and get it straight from the source.


There are some things I can do now that I felt I couldn't before I started training with Jenn. One was to simply go into a gym and feel comfortable. I've also found that I have much more stamina and confidence going into my workouts. For example, when we started, I struggled to just get through the 10-minute dynamic warm-ups.  Now I I can get through it without feeling out of breath and having the overwhelming desire to give up before I even start. 

On the physical side, I have been able to lift more weight, complete more reps and have seen the length of time I can train without rest increase - and I move through our strength circuits faster as well. I am able to - and need to - wear my under armor shirt (from college) under my clothes since my workout T-shirts have begun to look like "Moo-moos," as Jenn calls them.  [Jenn: Hopefully some of those shirts are in the pile above...]

I have also found that the benefits of training go even further than looser clothing and better cardiovascular conditioning. Recently I was able to play in my college Alumni soccer game which I haven't participated in for a couple years because I felt that i couldn't play and didn't want to embarrass myself. This year I played in the game and did pretty well. In addition, all of my friends noticed that I seem happier and healthier. 

Moving forward, a couple things I want to tackle and look forward to is possibly completing a mud-run/short walk/run. I know that these are future goals because, right now, I'm taking it slow which is better for me. More immediate goals I'm focusing on is doing every exercise that Jenn tells me to do and to increase my reps within the time allotted. I also want to continue to lose weight by exercising and by incorporating healthy choices into my lifestyle - which I have been doing, but is always hard. 

I mentioned to Jenn that I stand taller now because that's how I feel (haha). Basically, when you have a stomach on you i feel like you naturally hunch a bit to try and disguise it. But now that I've working out and gaining confidence, I stand taller because I'm proud of myself. My 9-year old nephew, Jack, swears that I've gotten taller every time I see him. Even though I explain to him I haven't grown in years he still tells me, "Aunt Whitney, you got taller, don't lie to me". 

Through this experience, I am learning about the right types of exercise I should be doing for my goals, my weight, my limitations and how to complete them correctly so that I do not hurt myself which is very important. I've also learned that keeping a food journal is so helpful due to the simple fact that you forget what and how much you eat in a day. If it's there on your phone or a piece of paper you realize, WOW, I really should not have an extra snack right now. Also the staff at All Star Sports Academy and my coach, Jenn, have never made me feel like i couldn't finish an exercise or walked away and left me to try stuff on my own. Every time I work out, I have support from the other small group session attendees and/or the staff to keep me going. Now when I miss an exercise day I feel like crap and I can't wait to workout - even if my body doesn't feel like doing anything I always get in there and then I don't want to leave. 

I agreed to work with Jenn because I have been lazy for such a long time. I played three sports in high school and then college soccer and, through it all, I was told what to do and when to exercise. When i graduated college i just wanted to RELAX. Well, relaxing did not help me in any which way because I realize that it wasn't so much relaxing as it was being lazy. So I told myself that if an opportunity came up I had to take it because, if not, I would be an idiot. Jenn presented personal training at All Star Sports Academy to me on the off chance I would say yes and it was the best decision I have ever made. Now I've found a love for working out because I have seen improvement in myself and have overwhelming support from my family, co-workers and friends. I workout now for myself; not to please a team or a coach - just for myself. I have gained such an education on the body, food, calories, and exercises through this time spent training with Jenn that it has made a great improvement in my lifestyle. And, as the famous Carpenters sang, "We've only just begun...".

Jenn: Way to go, Whitney! Keep up the amazing work and we'll be in that mud run together next spring!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Does Originality Exist in a Modern World?

The idea for today's topic came to me after an interesting situation presented itself to me this morning. First, a brief history - I am a strength and conditioning coach at All Star Sports Academy in Toms River, NJ. We do a lot of youth athlete training at our facility and this includes team training where an entire hockey team or basketball team will come in to train with us one night a week. A few weeks ago, while I was coaching a group of young teen male hockey players, one of the owners of the gym was observing. The players were about as bad as my 14-year old daughter with their gossip and slacking off when they were supposed to be pushing through a conditioning session. The owner said to them at one point, "Somewhere there is a team getting their work done. You'll know them when you meet them."

This gave me an idea. The next morning, I fired up my laptop and created this:
I printed a couple of these flyers, featuring last year's local high school hockey regional champions, and left them on his desk, hoping he might actually post them somewhere to help motivate the kids. These kids, pictured above, obviously got their work done and it paid off big time. He told me he saw them and liked them, but that was the last I heard about it. They weren't posted anywhere or mentioned again.

Yesterday, I heard him throwing the phrase "Are you all in?" around in regards to something he had read. Ok, I know I didn't invent the phrase, but this was weird. Then, today, he posted a video on facebook asking fitness professionals if they are "all in" for their clients. Ok, good application of an awesome idea; I'm down with that. But, initially, it bothered me that it seemed like he took my motivational slogan and made it his. But then I thought about it. I obviously didn't invent the phrase - gamblers have been saying it for centuries in who knows how many languages and fitness professionals have no doubt been using it forever. I came to the conclusion that, if it was never mine in the first place, it can't be stolen.

So what is an original idea and, more importantly, do they even exist anymore? I mean, Nike didn't invent the phrase "Just Do It," but they picked a font and an application and made it their brand.

To give credit where credit is due, I only came up with the idea to use that phrase after my boss made that comment to the team during my session. I simply took it one step further in my mind. I have no idea where it came from. I read a lot of blogs and watch a lot of television and live sports. I could have heard it weeks or even months ago and it was just sitting around in my subconscious waiting for me to find an application in which I could use it that would be meaningful to me.

In essence, I arrived at the idea of athletes being "All In" because of what he had said (that combined with the new "One More" Gatorade commercial that's been on all of the time). He said he got to the idea of fitness professionals being "All In" from various reading he's done and listening to others over the past few months. For him the concept application crystalized not when he saw my flyer, but when read something by another fitness professional.

Regardless of how either of us came to our respective points, does that make the "Are You All in?" idea his or mine? Or both? Or neither? And, perhaps most importantly, does it even matter? I say no, it doesn't matter, especially if the idea continues to evolve and feed other ideas like this one most certainly has.

Which brings me to the main point of this ramble. What does it mean to be original? Do you have to come up with an idea, a product, a phrase, a song so completely new that no one anywhere has ever thought about it? Is that even possible? Or, do you just have to find a new way to arrange the words or the pieces or even invent a new use for it?

Marketing and advertising are all collaboration - just like the creation of music. There's not a single recording artist out there today that doesn't have another's "sound" threaded through his/her "original" works. Inspiration surrounds us every day - it is the blending of the sights, sounds, smells and feelings all around us, continually weaving the very fabric of our lives. In fact, each and every training session at our facility is founded on science of the body and of movement that came from other very smart people long before our turf floor was installed. This science blended with each trainer's personal style and favorite movements and methods has helped us to create something unique in our area. Just because it's a remix of sorts doesn't make us any less effective as coaches. Quite the opposite, actually. Some food for thought.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Progress Continues

Hey everyone, I wanted to pop in and give you all a brief update on how Whitney's doing. While we haven't weighed in again, she reported that when shopping in Maine with a friend a couple of weeks ago, she was able to buy shirts a couple of sizes smaller than she had been wearing. I can attest to this because one of her (former) favorite workout t-shirts was hanging on her like a moo-moo. She's doing amazing!

While on the same trip, she was also able to bike for miles on end through the New Hampshire hills on a BEACH CRUISER no less. She was able to hike and keep up with her friend who she had been visiting who is some kind of nutsy outdoor adventure type.

Her workouts are increasing in intensity every week. She's up to five 3-minute rounds hitting the heavy bag while carrying on a broken conversation - and that's at the end of our workouts! Additionally, she's looking forward to attending her college reunion next month and playing in the alumni soccer game which she's forgone the past few years because she just couldn't play due to her weight and de-conditioning.

I have really grown to look forward to our training sessions. We have great conversations and a lot of laughs, all while working out together.

Stay tuned for more updates and maybe some pics from her alumni weekend if she's willing to share ;)

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

If your child is a youth athlete, read this

Is your youth athlete at risk?
I'm going to take some time to discuss something that I had been peripherally aware of up until I watched the documentary titled "Head Games" (available now on Netflix) about athletes and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).

CTE is a progressive, degenerative brain disease that you and your child cannot afford to ignore. Previously known as Dementia Puglistica (DP), the disease was originally diagnosed in those involved in boxing and is caused by repeated blows to the head. This includes concussive and sub-concussive events. Meaning, whether or not you or your child has ever been diagnosed with a concussion, you may be at risk for CTE.

Have your or your child ever been involved in a collision and reported seeing stars? Have you or your child ever been hit in the head and blacked out? Have you ever said things got "fuzzy" after a collision? If so, you have suffered a concussive or sub-concussive event.

Depending on the sport, the risk and frequency of suffering blows to the head can increase exponentially. Today, athletes in contact sports such as football, hockey, lacrosse, MMA, boxing, and, yes, even soccer, are reporting more and more concussions. Are they happening more often? Probably not. What seems to be happening is that the awareness regarding CTE by the sports organizers and the general public is increasing after a number of very high profile elite athletes committed suicide and/or murder in what seemed at first like random events. Scientists, however, have diagnosed many of these athletes, including NFL legend Junior Seau, with CTE after autopsy - and it's not just long-time NFL veterans who are suffering.

Scientists, researchers and player safety advocates are trying to raise awareness that the damage done to our children during their first 10 years in their sport is putting them at risk for CTE and related brain disease later in life.

Did you know that the only football league in this country to limit full-contact practices is the NFL? Here we have a thousand elite athletes, in prime physical condition, and they're only allowed to hit one another once a week (not including game day). Yet, we suit up our 8 year olds in helmets that are too heavy for their underdeveloped neck musculature 4-5 times a week for full-contact practices?

Concussions are bad, we all know that. What many people don't know is that all of those seemingly small hits our kids take to the head every day in practice are adding up and youth athletes, in general, are more vulnerable to the effects. It's being reported that sub-concussive hits may be as damaging as diagnosed concussions, and football players are not the only athletes at risk.

Girls' soccer players, in fact, are reporting more and more concussive and sub-concussive events.
"The American Journal of Sports Medicine studied the rate of concussions in high school athletics from 2008 through 2010...Of the 1,936 reported concussions during the study, 47 percent were suffered playing or practicing football. No. 2 on the list: girls soccer, at 8.2 percent."
So what do we, as parents, do? Do we stop our kids from playing the sports they love or is there a way to make their play safer? Advocates are working hard to introduce legislation that will help better protect our youth athletes and, according to this article, every state but one has already enacted bills to help get kids off the field at the first sign of head trauma and prevent them from returning to play until they have fully recovered.

Yet, like all legislation, the actual implementation and enforcement may not be consistent. As parents and care givers, it it our responsibility to be in tune with our children and speak out for their safety and protection. I know it's hard to tell your kids they can't go back into the game, but it's not the parent's job to always be liked. It's our job to protect first. If you see your child suffer a blow to the head or if they are involved in any kind of collision and are slow to get up or just don't seem themselves - TAKE THEM OUT. I don't care what the coach or other parents say. This is YOUR child/children we are talking about.

If your child is complaining of chronic headaches or suffering mood swings, inability to fall asleep or even cognitive/memory problems, remove them from play and have them checked out by a neurologist. Researchers are still learning about CTE and have yet to find a cure or treatments at this time. Your best defense is through prevention. Kids will get knocked around - and that's the name of the game, so to speak. But allowing them to return to play before they are ready can cause irreparable, irreversible damage.

*Please take the time to explore the linked articles. CTE is a serious disease that can be prevented through awareness.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

"Are you getting taller?"

We're three weeks in now and some amazing things are beginning to happen for Whitney. "In the past week, no fewer than three people have asked me if I'm getting taller," she said. "I'm 27, I know I'm not still growing."

I think she's looking taller because she's already losing weight around her face and neck. We haven't weighed in again, but there's no need. Her body is already changing. She's also noticed that some of the people around her are suddenly becoming more active. After buying some boxing gloves and target mitts to practice with, her father has pitched in and is happy to help her spar on her "off" days. And one of her friends has begun walking a couple of days a week with her at the local reservoir - a 1.6 mile loop. In case that doesn't sound like a lot of exercise, try strapping a couple hundred pounds to your body and then taking the same stroll.

Enough of my comments and observations. Below is Whitney's week 2-3 update:

ME: You're two full weeks in now, how's it going?

WHITNEY: It’s going pretty good, coming to the workouts isn’t so much of a hassle anymore I actually feel like if I missed a workout I wouldn’t feel right. Also i’ve noticed my confidence has increased with showing up to the gym and working out.

ME: I've noticed how much your stamina is already improving (boxing for 1:00 straight when you started at :30 seconds just a week ago. Have you noticed any differences in your day-to-day (energy at work, home, with family and friends)?

WHITNEY: My energy levels definitely have increased and my sleeping has improved. Usually during the day due to my job consisting of mostly driving I found myself wanting to fall asleep at the wheel and then waking up 2-3 times during the night. Now I work, go to workout and when I get home I can actually relax and fall asleep. Also my job entails a lot of stress and Im able to bring some of that stress to the workout as well which is a great release.

ME: You told me a man at your job is also starting a fitness program on his own and said you two should be "each other's support group." How is that working out? Do you find extra motivation from him and others who know about your training?

WHITNEY: YES!!! Basically when I started these workouts I decided to not tell anyone, once you tell people then its like a flood of questions and I didn’t want to happen. Then I realized, why shouldn’t I be proud of the decision I made to improve myself? I realized that sometimes it’s important to tell people because then it’s not only creating a support system for yourself but it’s also creating a sense of accountability. You can talk like your doing all these things to improve yourself but if you don’t start showing it, its all false but when other people are involved in someway it’s almost like they are waiting to see the change too and you get a sense of not wanting to let people done which all goes to motivation.

ME: How is your nutrition this past week? Are you still keeping your food journal? Did you take my advice on the orange juice? :-)

WHITNEY: I am still keeping my food journal which now that I keep it on my phone it has become so much easier to keep updated. Also it’s amazing to see what you consume in a day and how all the protein, fat, sugar and such add up. I did take your tips about the nutrition and i’ve noticed a positive difference.

If anyone is interested in the type of training we're doing, here are a few sample circuits she performs during our sessions:

KB swings x10
KB cleans  x10/10
KB press x10/10
Small steps on an aerobics step x 30

Dead Ball Slams x 10
Dead Ball Granny Toss x 10
Dead Ball Soccer Throw x 10

Alt Arm Rope Slams 10/10
2-Arm Rope Slams 10
Seated Rope Russian Twists - 10

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Meet Whitney

Today I wanted to tell you all about one of my newest, and most determined clients. Her name is Whitney. I met Whitney at a Kid Rock concert we were attending with mutual friends. We got to talking about working out and weight lifting and hit it off from the start. I found out she used to train heavily in college - we're both former soccer goalies - high school for me, college for Whit. But she admits she let some bad habits fill a void after she graduated.

Without going into too much detail, let me just say this. Whitney is one of the strongest women I've met in a very long time. She may not "look" like it from the outside, but I see it as clear as day. At the age of 26, she is 5'7" and 353 lbs (when we started). She is in danger of life long health problems and, like most people in her position, she knew she needed to do something. But she just didn't know where to begin.

Then we met about a month ago. Me, a personal trainer looking to grow my business; Whitney, a woman in need of motivation and instruction to bring out the athlete that's hiding inside. It was a perfect match.

Whitney and I started officially working together last week. She has committed to training with me three times a week, comes to my bi-weekly strength club sessions and began making some lifestyle changes regarding diet and how she spends her free time before we even began training.

I'm going to be posting updates from Whitney's journey and am counting on my followers to comment at any time with encouraging and motivating words to help keep her fire burning. She has a long road ahead of her, but she's already moving in the right direction. I know that, with consistency and some simple changes in her diet, she will find tremendous success.

Whitney's Week 1 Update

Me: Whitney, what was the biggest  challenge you faced starting this program?

Whitney: Motivation to say yes and to actually attend all workouts with a positive attitude. Knowing you're overweight is hard, but actually feeling it through every workout and your food choices is harder and a constant reminder.

Me: Did anything surprise you? (Something you thought would be difficult that wasn't so bad? Something you thought would be easy that wasn't...)

Whitney: I thought that these workouts would have a large amount of cardio (running) in them because that is what everyone told me before: “just run and the pounds will melt off.” But the truth is, ya its easy for a small little petite person to tell someone overweight to “just run,” but overweight people can’t run that well - that's the problem. These circuits and workouts that I have been completing (with Jenn) are not only a good workout, but also fun and involve cardio without you even thinking about it.

Me: How do you like the facility and the training environment?

Whitney: I like the atmosphere of the facility [All Star Sports Academy in Toms River, NJ]. All of the staff that I have had the pleasure of meeting were polite and you can see that they care about all their members. The facility is packed full of different free weights, machines, open space and perfectly set up so that you can have a group running at the same time of one-on-one training and everyone feels as though the entire facility is open to them.

Me: Are you noticing any changes in your energy level? Appetite? Cravings?

Whitney: I have noticed that my craving for Coke Cola has decreased and now I can take a sip and be satisfied when before I would drink two full bottles worth in one setting. I have noticed that, now that I eat three squared meals a day with or without a snack, I feel full and am able to stop. Also what has helped is realizing the difference between a craving for a specific food/drink rather than my body being actually hungry which has helped decrease my intake.

Me: How are you sleeping? Is this better or worse than before we started?

Whitney: My sleep has definitely improved. I try to get to sleep between 10-10:30 at night. Before I would not be able to fall asleep until around 1 am and I always wake up at 6:55 am (5 minutes before my alarm). I fall asleep faster and I've noticed that when I wake up I feel energized, not sluggish.

Me: What about how are your clothes are fitting?

Whitney: I’ve noticed that I don’t have to stretch out my clothes before wearing them much anymore, also i’ve always had a hard time finding clothes that fit around my neck. My pants are fitting better around the waist and a little loosely and people at work have noticed and say things like, “your shirt looks big on you” and “your clothes are hanging off of you.”

Stay tuned for Whitney's next update coming soon!

NOTE: I'm not posting pics of Whitney yet. I want to give her some real time to groove her new habits first. But, rest assured, we will be proudly posting her progress pics after a few months of consistent training.

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