My Fit Pregnancy

     I wanted to bring you along with me on my pregnancy fitness journey. At 5 months and a weight gain of 12 pounds I haven’t had to make many changes to my workouts. Certainly, I do feel a bit heavier but if I didn’t have a belly I couldn’t really tell I was pregnant. I’ve had an easy time thus far–no morning sickness or fatigue–and I hope I can continue moving for as long as possible.

     In the video below you’ll see me doing different exercises at home with my kettlebells. I wanted to give you a taste of what my workouts look like and I will continue to document them over the next few months. However, I’m not recommending that other pregnant women do this workout, or any other, that they have not prepared their bodies for. I am building off of a platform of fitness that I’ve developed over the years.

     I did 4-5 sets of double kettlebell front squats, jumping rope, reverse lunges into shoulder press, kettlebell swings, and bear crawls. The video doesn’t show me resting but, believe me, I did. I did 3 exercises in the first superset and repeated 4 times (with a rest of about 2-2.5 minutes) before moving on to the second superset. I also did bent over rows but I had a technical issue so they didn’t make the video.

 

     I hope that, regardless of your physical condition or limitations, that you work on the things that you still can do.

Keep on Movin’

-CA

The Fitness Mindset

     This week I had a recurring issue with 5 different clients and it’s a common one that I’ve dealt with throughout my career. I’ve trained each of them for an average of 8 years but they struggled to recall how to do certain stretches and exercises that I’ve gone over with them dozens (if not hundreds) of times before. OK, 4 of them are over 65 and may have a hint of forgetfulness creeping in. And another is an overworked father of 3. But shouldn’t they have gotten it by now?

     I’m of two, somewhat competing, mindsets. On the one hand, my primary job is to give people guidance and the tools they need to become stronger, fitter, and more physically competent movers. But for that to happen, I need their cooperation. That mindset says, “I can’t do my job effectively if you don’t pay more attention and get involved in your own fitness.” If I occupied this mental space too long I could get very frustrated.

Angry face     On the other hand, another function of my job is to be patient with people and to get them moving at any cost. “Any movement is better than no movement,” is an axiom that I’ve clung to since the beginning of my career. So, I figure that it’s better that these clients do something while I’m there rather than nothing if I were to abandon them.

      All of this boils down to the simple idea:

Being physically fit requires you to have a certain fitness mindset

     It’s not enough to show up at the gym and be in close physical proximity to calorie-burning machines and sweaty people in order to get fit. Nor is it enough to mimic what you see others doing or hop on a machine and push until you’re tired. I hate to say it but being physically fit requires an outlay of mental energy as well. You have to have a purpose, a plan, a desire to learn new skills, and a willingness to endure discomfort in order to reach your goal. These are all mental traits that the vast majority of exercisers don’t have and are the reasons why most never reach their goals.

     Let’s look at the fittest bunch in the population, athletes. Do you think they arrived at their given areas of fitness and expertise by just going through the motions of their workouts? I don’t think so. As a former collegiate athlete I can tell you that the reason I stuck out all of the gym and on-court workouts, in addition to technical lessons, is because I had the goal of being a professional tennis player. I had a defined purpose. My plan to achieve that goal was to learn as much as I could (from proper lunge form to specific tennis tactics) and be engaged in the learning process so that I could be independent when on the court. In order to soak up all of that information during grueling hours of practice, I had to be willing to endure a lot of discomfort.

Novak Djokovic, the world's #1 tennis player, shows us how willing he is to endure discomfort to achieve his goals.

Novak Djokovic, the world’s #1 tennis player, shows us how willing he is to endure discomfort to achieve his goals.

     Now, I’m not suggesting that you have to take your fitness to the level of professional athletics. However, if you want to make any serious progress towards your goals, you’ll have to do more than show up. If the fitness mindset doesn’t come naturally for you, that’s just fine. You can learn it.

1. Define your goal or purpose

     Why are you coming to the gym? What change would you like to have happen? This should be the first step in your fitness journey. Some examples are “Lose 10 pounds,” or “Get to the gym 3 times a week,” or “Learn how to use kettlebells.” The only right answer will be the one that motivates you to get to the gym on frosty mornings of rainy nights.

2. Create a plan

     This step depends on your goal but, generally speaking, you’ll need to learn the fundamentals of strength training, i.e. squats, lunges, deadlifts, rows, presses. These movements form the basis of training programs that run the gamut from high-performance athletics to senior fitness. You cannot go wrong mastering these highly-functional movements.

  • To view video tutorials of these movements, click HERE
  • To read an article detailing how to put together your own workouts, click HERE

 3. Learn to earn

     The better you get at learning the skills needed to become fit, the smoother and more efficiently you’ll travel on the path towards your goal. If you have to constantly stop and think about how to do every little stretch, because you weren’t really paying attention to the instructions you saw or read, then you lose momentum towards the larger goal and are more likely to abandon it.

4. Endure discomfort

     This is the part that may be the most difficult for you to embrace. And it makes perfect sense since human beings are designed to avoid physical discomfort. However, you have to be uncomfortable in order to push your current physical limits.

Indoor climbing definitely pushes my physical and mental limits.

     I often have to tell my clients, who don’t squat low enough (even though they can), to “go to the uncomfortable place.” The self-protection mechanism is potent and can undermine your efforts for improvement. But, unless you are in immediate physical danger, there is no reason why you can’t push past the place where you’d prefer to stop. Choose to be better.

     If I can help in any way to support you in developing your fitness mindset or journey, please email me at [email protected]. I’d love to help those of you who are serious and committed to getting better.

Keep on Movin,

-CA

Fit Pro Feature: Dianna Scotece

This series is designed to bring you voices from the fitness industry so that you can learn from different approaches, in addition to my own.

Featured Fitness Professional: Dianna Scotece, CSCS

Dianna head shot

CA: Tell me a bit about your career as well as outside interests.

DS: I’ve worked in the fitness industry for 25 years and am currently a personal trainer in NYC. Throughout my career, I’ve stayed involved in competitive sports, including running marathons, swimming, and bodybuilding. For the last few years, I’ve been participating in Olympic weight-lifting competitions and have recently won my age division at the national level.

Outside of work, I’ve enjoyed drawing and painting for many years and have recently created an apparel line featuring a logo I designed. The company is called Her Strength and I created this image to honor both the strength and the femininity in women. But, because of demand, I’ve expanded to include men’s sizes and I eventually plan to create more logos to represent different sports.

Dianna-Her Strength T-Shirt

CA: Very cool. Why did you get into the fitness industry?

DS: I literally grew up in a gym. Back then it was called a “Fitness Center” filled with chrome-plated Nautilus equipment (of course). I would go there after school and wait for my mom to get off of work–she helped with the accounting. The members and staff there became my second family. It’s been a way of life for me since I was in elementary school.

CA: What is your coaching philosophy/approach?

DS: It’s very simple: I try to help my clients use their bodies in a safe and effective manner when they are navigating their environments. Hopefully the things we work on at the gym help them in their day to day lives.

CA: What are a few of your biggest coaching successes?
 

DS: A few clients to come to mind. They are the ones who, when they first started training, viewed their bodies as vehicles that carried around their brains. Now they lift, push, pull and squat with the best of any regular gym goer.

CA: What are the main reasons your clients don’t achieve their goals?
DS: They are very inconsistent with their workouts. That includes coming to the gym and doing their exercise homework.  And also some clients avoid exerting themselves because they don’t like being sore or sweating.
CA: How do you coach them through their “sticking points”?

DS: The biggest sticking points for some of my people tend to be the mental ones–these can be hard to overcome. The best I can do is listen and try to give them a way of reframing a situation or movement.

CA: Do you have any advice for my readers about how they might be more successful with their own workouts?
DS: Yes, leave your ego at the door. It doesn’t matter how much weight is on the bar if you’re doing it wrong. Learn a skill the right way the first time. Also, don’t talk during your set! 
You can check out more about Dianna on her web site: www.diannascotece.com
And don’t forget to check out Her Strength shirts on Dianna’s Etsy page. Go to www.etsy.com and search for Yourstrength
Keep on Movin’
-CA

Take Charge of Your Fitness

     Over the last couple of years, I’ve tried to use my site as a way to provide information that could help empower you towards greater fitness. While working with a trainer certainly beats going it alone, you shouldn’t need one in order to create solid, effective workouts. I want you to feel like you have the tools and know-how to walk into a gym with purpose and execute a plan that you’ve created.

     Sure, trainers love having loyal clients who stick with them for years. Not only can we track, monitor, and progress them more closely but we are rewarded financially by our efforts. With that said, the downside to client consistency is often their disengagement with the training process. They often get very comfortable with us and, in turn, pay little attention to the content and details of their sessions. With rare exceptions, clients want to be “taken through” the workouts. I’m proposing that they (and you) would benefit more if you exhibited greater control of your fitness.

     Clients who ask questions, observe technical details, and request feedback are the ones who stand a better chance of becoming more autonomous–their mindsets are focused on learning and growth. This means that if their trainers were to get sick or had to miss a session, then they’d know exactly what to do.

Whether or not you have a trainer, ask yourself:

Could I put together an effective workout on my own?

If the answer is NO, then you’ve got some work to do. At a minimum, the resources on this site can help you move towards a YES (see the Library Tab above). I want you to become more self-sufficient and capable of performing mechanically-sound, metabolically-challenging workouts.

In order to help me provide you with the information and answers you’d like to know, please post in the comments section below:

  • -Exercise questions you’ve always wondered about
  • -Topics that you’d like to see addressed
  • -Barriers that prevent you from being more fit
  • -Other tips you’d like to share that others might benefit from

Being fit should be every person’s right, regardless of one’s ability to afford a personal trainer. I look forward to sharing in this mission with you.

Keep on Movin’

-CA

Fitness ≠ Health

     I was struck by an article I read this week in the New York Times Magazine, entitled “Why Are Americans So Fascinated With Extreme Fitness?” There has been a growing trend in the fitness industry with ever more extreme workouts, from P90X for in-home puking to CrossFit for group puking. While I may be exaggerating a bit, many of the hard-core fitness fanatics participating in these methods embody the following statement from the article, “The ‘extreme’ version of anything is now widely assumed to be an improvement on the original rather than a perverse amplification of it.”

Why do we do this to ourselves?

Why do we do this to ourselves?

     Trainers are often looked up to as models of physical health and achievement, our level of fitness seen as the yardstick by which clients can measure their own. But now that there is this extreme exercise craze, I can’t claim to keep up with even the weakest of the bunch in a CrossFit or NAVY seal workout class. And I have no interest in trying. Because, to me, fitness ≠ health. Let me explain…

     I recently had a forced lay-off from exercise, about 4 weeks. I needed to take it easy after a minor procedure and, knowing I’d have to restrain myself from a higher-intensity approach to life, I braced myself for a very hard month. But something unexpected happened. I had no interest in working out. I didn’t even miss it for a second. In fact, I enjoyed being inactive so much that I extended my break by another month.

     It may be that my brain was tired from 20 years of structured gym training (not including the 7 years before that of formalized tennis training) or that my body preferred to experience life without the chronic aches that come along with lifting weights. It may have also been that I enjoyed having the time I saved from working out to devote to other projects I often short-change.

     Whatever the reason, I was blissful for 2 months and, ta-da, my aches disappeared and I felt mentally at peace with being a sloth. I didn’t experience the typical guilt of missing a workout or not exercising as intensely as I should have. Even if my fitness levels had dropped, perhaps I was experiencing greater overall health.

     Pushing yourself to be fitter and less sloth-like is probably the right approach for most people. However, if you ambled into the gym like my client last week, looking exhausted and fighting a bad cold, maybe it would be smarter to choose health over fitness. He’s so used to getting up early to run or lift (work on his fitness) that he’s forgotten how to obey the obvious signs that his body wasn’t in good health.

     Deliberately dialing down the intensity of a training session now and then can be the right move if you aren’t feeling well (read: sick, overworked, stressed, sleep-deprived). Yes, this trainer is telling you to fight the urge to push too hard. After all, being fit for a lifetime requires a balance of stress and recovery. And that requires you to honestly appraise what you need most to feel your best.

Keep on Movin’

-CA     

P.S. I’ve started back to exercise and I’m slowly gaining the wind in my sails.

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