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.

Resilience

     On Sunday, Novak Djokovic claimed the Wimbledon title after a hard-fought five-set match against Roger Federer. I was lucky enough not to have my regular clients so I could stay home and watch the entire affair. Although I was beginning to get cabin fever after the match headed into a third hour, the drama was so compelling that I didn’t mind missing out on the sunny morning.

     After having played and watched thousands of hours of tennis in my lifetime, I can honestly say that Djokovic won one of the greatest mental battles I’ve ever witnessed. He had come into the match having lost five of his previous six Grand Slam finals and was starting to doubt his ability to win the big titles after a record-breaking 2011, when he became the number one player.

     The match began with Federer winning the first set in a tiebreaker (for the tennis uninitiated, that means it was a tight beginning) and appeared to have the momentum. Novak improved his chances by winning the second set, and then the third. He was leading 5-2 in the fourth set when Federer began clawing his way back and ended up winning that set, pushing the match to a final, fifth set. After having let the set (and his grip on the match) deteriorate, Djokovic took a bathroom break. At this point, I (and the commentators) thought that Djokovic was going to let the match slip away as he had done so many times before.

     However, Novak came back from the break focused and determined. Federer was the one who blinked under the pressure and Novak came out on top. He became quite emotional after the nearly four-hour match ended.

Djokovic wimbledon win

When asked afterwards how he was able to pull out the victory, he referenced his bathroom break as a turning point. He gave himself a pep talk, piling on the positivity and self-belief.

     “I managed to have my convictions stronger than my doubts in this moment,” Djokovic said.

     His lesson is a simple, yet powerful one that we can all apply in situations of adversity. Being resilient under stressful conditions—when facing injury, illness, or even work screw-ups—is a fundamental, yet often overlooked part of being successful. When things are going well it’s easy to be positive and patient with yourself. But it is in the moments of doubt, when our faith in ourselves is tested, that we must be even more positive. As Djokovic demonstrated, we have a choice how we respond to situations that are not ideal. If we can practice his brand of self-belief and resilience then we’ve got a better shot at coming out on top.

Keep on Movin’

-CA

 

Book Excerpt 2: The Workout

    Today’s excerpt from my upcoming book, The Workout, is a piece about the childish (and outright disgusting) behavior that some gym members display. If you’ve spent any time in a gym you’ll recognize the characters immediately.  Enjoy.

     For better or worse the gym represents a suspension of reality, a way to put on hold the mental stress of household chores, the in-laws’ constant interference, a talk with the adolescent child about habitual internet porn surfing, the clinical upkeep of a dull marriage.

     Unfortunately, the downside of mental vacancy can mean the loss of decorum and tact as some members regress into elementary school nitwits. The gym must trigger memories of 4th grade and I can see the recess hierarchies still intact. Social cliques and belligerent twits interact together while loners drift beyond boundaries. The playground atmosphere keeps the gym buzzing with gossip corners, popularity contests among rival group fitness members, and bullies. This last group can be a problem—people who don’t know how to behave courteously or who hector for fun. They commandeer benches already in use and refuse to share equipment. They almost dare you to challenge them just so they can wrap you around the flagpole. These ruffians must get hounded at work and need an outlet for their frustrations or they bully others and can’t relinquish that domineering mindset.

     Traditionally, men unleash more aggression when establishing their workout space by leaving sweat on equipment like they just peed on the mailbox. Women tend to ask for machines while men silently claim their turf and expect bystanders to move if they’re in the way. Every so often, though, I’ll watch a woman switch gender roles and refuse to give back the weights I was kind enough to share. Then, I’ll start looking around for one of those alpha males to elbow her in the face while he flexes in the mirror, admiring his guns.

     Bullies don’t have a monopoly on tactless behavior, though. The most off-putting part of my job deals with, not the client who slumps into child’s pose whenever she’s stressed (during our sessions), or the doctor who cancels at 5:30am for our 6 o’clock appointment (in the middle of fucking winter), but the shameful spreading of germs.

     Regretfully, I’ve watched members sneeze without bothering to cover mouths, spraying dumbbells like a crop duster coating a field of apple trees. Unknowing bystanders grab those weights for curls or presses, often scratching a nose itch or redirecting errant bangs, bringing someone else’s cold dangerously close. I’m repulsed by the infirm member who coughs into his hands and then grips the banister on his way downstairs. Nose blowers occasionally opt for towels instead of tissues and then use them to wipe their benches after a set. I’m sure you’ve seen people sweat all over equipment, leaving drops around treadmills and sweaty head outlines on machines, and then fail to clean up their mess.

     Anonymity in the gym allows some insolent members the freedom to be absolute pigs. Besides, why not abuse the maintenance staff a bit more? It’s not like cleaning poop from the steam rooms or bodily fluids from the shower walls sucks at all. And it’s not as if these silent laborers can visit the doctor if they get sick from such exposure—they don’t have health insurance. Let’s burden the lowest-earning, hardest-working employees even more by having them disinfect equipment after entitled members sweat, spray, and walk away.

Public safety lesson: Use a towel when lying or sitting on any surface, don’t touch your face (even to fix your tousled hair—you shouldn’t be too pretty at the gym anyway), and wash your hands after every workout and bathroom break.

Keep on Movin’

CA

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