Tuesday, September 25, 2012

I'm a trainer! Now what?

Some of you may know, I was laid off from my job in public relations and corporate communications this past spring. While I enjoyed my job, and felt I was pretty good at it, my position was relocated out of state and I was left to start over...again.

The PR / Journalism thing was good to me for the past 10+years, but I felt I was spinning my wheels and would never get anywhere. I wanted to move up and make a difference in my company, but that was not to be.

If there's one thing I have learned in my nearly 40 years on this earth, however, is that when one door opens, it's time to crawl through a window!

I ditched my corporate aspirations and decided I would re-enter the fitness industry. In a past life, in college and shortly beyond, I was a trainer and manager of a local fitness center. I enjoyed the work. The people were fun, motivated and energetic. Why did I ever leave? Looking back, I guess I felt with a fresh college degree in my hands (and one that was not health related), that I should put it to work.

I went to grad school and got an MA in Journalism, worked in PR in auto racing in Indiana for a bit before relocating back East to NJ where I have since held a string of communication-related jobs - none of which ever really took me anywhere.

So here I am, 20 years later I'm back in the fitness industry and I couldn't be happier. I now hold a personal trainer certification from the National Academy of Sports Medicine and have started working part-time for a local personal training studio. I'm also looking for private clients in the area. I have access to two different gyms and a plethora of outdoor venues for training and I can't wait to get started.

Why train with me? I am experienced female weight lifter who knows that lifting heavy will NOT make me look like a man. At my best, I deadlift twice my weight and can do more pullups and chinups than most men at my gym.

Train with me and I will create a custom fitness plan to suit your personal goals. Whether you want to train weekly or work with me via email/online support, I have plans that will accommodate your needs.

Email Jenn at fiercefitfearless@gmail (dot) com for more information.

Until then, train hard and have fun!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Guest Post

I was recently contacted by a very nice guy at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance who asked if he could post a guest article on the importance of exercise in the fight against cancer. As a firm believer in the healing powers of proper nutrition and exercise, of course I said yes. So, without further delay, here is his take on the importance of exercise - specifically as it pertains to those fighting cancer.

Exercise - Cancer Treatment’s Secret Weapon
by David Haas

In addition to conventional treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation, the fight against cancer has a new weapon: working out. And while it’s well known that exercise is healthful for everybody, it plays an especially vital role in cancer treatment, with benefits ranging from improved stamina to a better body image.  Experts from the National Cancer Institute state that regular exercise at a level appropriate for a cancer patient’s condition can improve not only quality of life, but also ups the odds of surviving the disease.

Cancer and its treatments impose severe stresses on the body. Pain, fatigue, weight and appetite loss can make exercise the last thing on a cancer patient’s mind. But, oncologists and therapists say, for many people it should be one of the first things.  And although ‘exercise” may conjure images of vigorous aerobic workouts, the new recommendations for exercise during caner treatment emphasize that it’s movement of all kinds that makes the difference, whether it’s running a mile or stretching gently while in bed. The key is movement – activity that keeps limbs flexible and blood and oxygen flowing to the brain and body.

The role of exercise in cancer prevention has been well documented, with statistics showing that regular workouts can actually reduce the risk of cancers including breast and colon cancer.  But until recently its role in active cancer treatment and recovery has been less studied. Now, though, exercise that takes into account individual needs and concerns may be added to treatment plans for a variety of cancers. Strength training, aerobic exercise and stretching can all help cancer patients to feel better, move better and tolerate treatments more easily.

For individuals who have undergone surgery for breast cancer, weight training and stretching can stabilize and strengthen the shoulder and chest muscles. Aerobic exercise, which can be as simple as a daily walk or as intense as running, cycling or organized sports, oxygenates the blood, keeps blood vessels flexible and stimulates the immune system. Even those who are bedridden can benefit from gentle exercise such as raising and lowering the arms or lifting the feet. Stretching and flexibility workouts such as yoga or tai chi can keep joints working and muscles relaxed. This kind of exercise also incorporates meditation and mindfulness to help reduce stress and activate relaxation responses, with benefits for blood pressure and the immune system.  Individuals recovering from surgeries may find stretching helpful to strengthen healing muscles and tissues.

Some types of cancers, such as mesothelioma, colon and other upper body cancers, cause wasting and weight loss. Strength-building exercise can build back muscle, which supports the body, stimulates appetite, and creates a more positive body image. An added bonus is improved balance and coordination.

Experts from NCI caution that while exercise should be a part of cancer treatment, exercise regimens should be planned with the help of the care team or a physical therapist familiar with the special issues affecting cancer patients. Some treatments can leave patients nauseated and dehydrated, so care must be taken to keep hydrated during exercise.  Because some cancers are associated with muscle weakness, precautions to avoid falls may be especially important.Treatments for some cancers can also cause bone fragility, so vigorous exercise or high impact workouts may increase the risk for fractures.

Because exercise places extra demands on the body’s energy reserves, nutrition is also important. Cancer and its treatments can cause a loss of appetite or an inability to tolerate the healthy fats and carbohydrates needed to support the body during intense exercise, leading to fatigue and loss of stamina. Keeping well hydrated and nourished is essential for exercisers with cancer.

Exercise during cancer treatment gives patients a sense of control and normalcy, which contributes to overall quality of life as well as physical comfort.  Working out also encourages connections with others and a sense of community. Fitness can also be an important aspect of post-cancer survival. Many cancer survivors commit to regular exercise as a part of their ongoing wellness regimen, but experts urge some caution for these individuals as well since treatments may have some lasting effects such as bone weakness or balance and coordination problems.

For those coping with cancer and its treatments, exercise offers benefits for mind, body and spirit. Along with treatments, nutrition and emotional support, new research suggests that working out may be the newest weapon in the fight against this disease.

About the author:

David Haas is a cancer support group and awareness program advocate at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance. David often blogs about programs and campaigns underway at the Alliance, as well as creative fitness ideas for those dealing with cancer. You can read more of David's posts and find a ton of additional information by clicking here.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

30-Day Consistency Counts Challenge Winners

“The person who makes a success of living is the one who sees his goal steadily and aims for it unswervingly. That is dedication.” - Cecil B. De Mille

The face of determination.

The first FFF fitness challenge - the 30-Day Consistency Counts Challenge - was a tremendous success. Almost 100 women participated and nearly all gained strength and lost pounds and/or inches. I want to congratulate all who participated. I created this challenge after reading so many stories of women in the group second-guessing their methods after just a few days! I hope you all learned a bit about the importance of choosing one method for strength gains/weight loss and giving it a chance to work before f*cking with it.

Our Winner:

Sara Barrett
Start Weight: ~ 184 lbs, 32% BF
Goal: Cut and drop BF
Why: “I wanted to drop 20 lbs by July and started that goal since January and have made no progress. It's no longer about weight on the scale though, I just want to be less fat for my summer activities. New Goal: Entering the dating pool again in a bit so I gotta look sexy!”

End Weight: 176.4,
“I lost -9 lbs! Lost -2 inches from my waist and 1 from my hips!”

Sara has been selected as the winner of our first challenge due to her unwavering commitment, enthusiasm and dedication to sticking with her plan. She is always one of the first FFF members to chime in when others have questions or concerns and her terrific results were a great start to what will no doubt be a long healthy lifestyle! Way to go, Sara!

Challenge Cubs Honorable Mentions

Kirsty Gibson
Start Weight: 218.5 pounds
Goal: Lose body fat and build strength
Why?: “Going to Florida in September and I want to look awesome in shorts/dresses/bikinis.”

Weight 218.5lbs - 215.5lbs (3lb down)
2" above navel: 93cm - 89cm (4cm down)
Navel: 103cm - 99cm (4cm down)
2" below navel: 111cm - 108cm (3cm down)
Hips: 111.5cm - 108cm 2.5cm down)
Thigh right:          65.5cm - 64cm (1.5cm down)
Tight left: 65.5cm - 64cm (1.5cm down)

Kirsty is fighting hard to re-gain control of her body and we’re so proud of how well she did in the first challenge. While her numbers aren’t huge, she will no doubt continue dropping pounds and inches as she continues on her journey. Keep it up Kirsty! You’re doing GREAT!

Lauren Hadaway
Start Weight: ~152lb, BF: ~20.2% (19.9 and 20.4 readings within a few days of eachother)
Goal: body recomp, lose the muffin
Why: "It's something I've always strived for but never quite hit."

End Weight: ~152 (my weight flucuates all over the map daily. Hard to tell)
BF: ~19.7%. "I Don't trust the machine, but I can see more ab definition."
DL: 6x155 -> 5x190
Bench: 8x40 (dumbbells) -> 6x105 (barbell)
Squat: went from 135-> 125, but I don't think I was going parallel before. ATG now.
Glute Bridges: 8x135 -> 8x205
Chins: 5x -10lbs (assisted)   ->  4x +10lbs (added weight)
Taking Pics. Going for another month after tweaking some things.

Lauren’s experience proves the scale doesn’t tell the whole story. She made huge strength gains and lost inches while maintaining the same scale weight. This is a true indicator of lean mass gains and CNS training. Keep it up!

Erica Zbyszewski
Starting Weight: 153 lbs
Her goal: “Drop fat, build muscle, get strong, and be able to look at my (very white) legs and not see an ounce of cellulite. Also, lose some of the boob weight. It would be nice to be able to buy a normal cup-sized bra that doesn't cost a hundred dollars.”

Why: “I've never had muscles. I want to go to there.”

End Weight: Between 146.3 and 147 (loss of ~6+ lbs)
Erica lost inches and reports she is able to wear clothes that had been packed away long ago. Much of the cellulite is gone and her bra size went from 34 F to 32 DD.

“I LOVE lifting heavy and am so happy to have found this great support network.”

I wanted to recognize Erica for setting specific goals and achieving them. In just under 30 days she used consistency to lose approximately six pounds and is able to shop for bras in a regular store. (Only women would understand this one).

Den Mother Award
Though her cubs may not always like it,
the tough love of a mother can't be beat!
I created the Den Mother Award to recognize an FFF member who is always a positive influence on the rest of the members. Tanis Parenteau’s results speak for themselves (we’ve all seen the photos!), but her attitude is infections. I hope she is as inspiring to the rest of you as she is to me.

Tanis Parenteau
Start Weight: 136.5lbs, 18% bf
Goal: Cut -- going from lean to ripped
Why? “Giving myself a six pack for my 35th bday on May 27th

End Weight: 130.5lbs (couldn't get calipers done--trainer didn't show)
R bicep: -1.5cm
L bicep: -1.5cm (this is great, I carry fat in my tris!)
Waist: -1" (measured inches for this)
R thigh: -1.5cm
L thigh: -1.5cm

I'd like to ask each of those recognized here to comment on this with the method they used to make their gains/losses throughout this challenge so our readers can see that, while there are many methods to gain strength and lose fat, the one thing they all have in common is CONSISTENCY!

Stay tuned for new challenge announcement later today or tomorrow.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Mirror, Mirror...Tell me the truth

The 30-Day FFF Consistency Counts Challenge starts today!

Despite the Challenge rule that you are only allowed to weigh in on Days 1, 15 and 30, I wanted to point out that the scale can sometimes be more of a negative influence on your psyche as you progress in your fitness journey.

Take me for example. In January of 2011, I was 130 lbs and pretty soft and I had no strength or muscle tone. Fast forward to August of 2011. I was down to my lowest weight in 15 years - 113 lbs. (picture below, left). While my progress was good and my weight was close to the goal I had set for myself (110 lbs), I did not look like I wanted to.

Today I weighed in at 123 lbs (photo bottom right), but I look leaner than I did 10 lbs lighter. The roundness of my belly is noticeably flatter, the cuts in my hip area and obliques are more defined and I am also significantly stronger.

When I began my IF journey more than a year ago, I thought I would weigh 110 lbs when I got lean and mean. Hah! It looks more like I'm recomping and may even top out closer to my original weight when all is said and done in another year or so, but I will look like an entirely different person.

The moral of the story - the scale can mess with your mind. If you are looking to be strong and lean, you have to be willing to accept the fact that you may weigh more than you thought you should.

August 2011, 113 lbs.
April 2012, 123 lbs.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The F-Word

Learn why FRESH FRUIT will not make you fat at Fitnesssafari.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Back from the Brink - How IF Changed One Woman's Life

Lisa today - 114 lbs of
Every day, rising at the crack of dawn, 38-year old Lisa C. hopes to grab a few moments peace before waking her five children. “I wake the kids up and it's a mad dash to get them all dressed and fed - if they'll eat,” she said. “Then it’s out the door with everyone's bags and homework.” An hour later, after the older kids are at school, she may have time to run errands, clean the house and spend time with her two-year old Twins, Tessa and Griffin.

By noon it’s time to pick up six-year old Holden from kindergarten and little J.D., 4, from preschool. She heads back to the house for lunch in the hopes of getting one of the twins to nap before it's time to pick up Eli, 9, from school. Her evenings are filled with homework, dinner, bed time for the kiddos before she is able to even think about taking time for her. If she’s lucky, she’ll get an hour to workout or spend with her husband. “He's a deputy and works shifts, so he often conks out by the time my 9-year old is in bed,” she said.

With so little time for herself, it’s a wonder as to how has she managed to get in such fantastic shape. Her secret? Intermittent Fasting, or IF. “IF has been great because I can get so much more done,” Lisa said. “I'm not making and eating my mini-meals every two hours. On workout days, once I've put Griffin in bed for his nap and turned on the TV for the others, I can go down to the basement to train.” Lisa said she can often find snippets of time to herself throughout what is otherwise a whirlwind each day. “I love it,” she said. “And it’s great for burning off some extra calories.”

“I was teased at school. It was a big blow to my self-esteem. I have days where I still think I am a size 16. It's a battle for me.”

From the looks of her, she’s doing something right. But Lisa wasn’t always ripped. In fact, this energetic mother of five has spent most of her teen and adult years fighting body image issues. “I was chubby as a child and then spent most of my life going up and down the scale,” she said. “I was teased at school. It was a big blow to my self-esteem. I have days where I still think I am a size 16. It's a battle for me.”
Lisa at about 145 lbs pictured
with her husband, Lee.

Born in Minnesota but now living in Marietta, GA, Lisa earned a BA in Art Education before holding down a string of jobs including receptionist, retail associate in a frame shop, a travel manager for a local University, assistant teacher in a Special Ed class, and office manager for a building inspector.

As a child, Lisa said she was shy and quiet around others. Perhaps that’s what drew her to art and dance – both of which she immersed herself in throughout her high school years. It’s also when the pressure to be thin increased.

“My idea of the perfect body was completely distorted,” she said. “In the dancing world, the perfect body is lithe, slight. The ideal body is similar to a model's only on a smaller scale - a tall dancer has a shot in Vegas or perhaps The Rockettes.
"I thought I was fat," she said.
"One is expected to be strong and fit while maintaining a waif-like appearance. Girls with eating disorders were all around me.” At  5’3”, 120 lbs, Lisa was a perfectly healthy weight. “I thought I was fat,” she said. “There was a lot of pressure to be thin. I lost parts to other girls who were much thinner. I remember a male dancer telling his partner she was the heaviest he had worked with. She was 5’6” and 112 lbs.”
Lisa in 2009 with baby Tessa.
Trying everything from severe calorie restriction to the latest fad diet, she spent the better part of her adult life in a lost in the quagmire of contradictions that rules the health and fitness industry. In high school, she tried extreme calorie restriction coupled with a ton of exercise. “I lost weight and got down to 15% body fat, but I was hungry and felt terrible most of the time,” Lisa said. The rebound effect to her extreme diet was eating whatever she wanted which did not work at all, so she went back to restricting calories, consuming a mere 1,200 calories at 145 lbs. She combined this diet approach with lots of intense cardio. “I was running 25 miles a week.”  Not surprisingly, this did not work at all either.

Somewhere between the ‘fad’ diet programs, Lisa experimented with standard bodybuilding diets and working out and said it worked fairly well. “I was doing more high-volume/lower intensity weight training every other day, lots of intense hour-long rowing sessions four days a week and Tabata HIIT two days a week. Aside from bench I did isolation exercises; no other compound movements. I was hungry and it was tiring and it was not very fun.” 

In college, Lisa hit bottom. “I gave up. I was tired and I didn't have the energy and focus it takes to diet like I had been,” she said. “I found comfort in food. Diet is far more important than exercise and so, even though I was taking two or three dance classes a day, the workout did not come close to burning off the calories. Before I quit dancing, I weighed 140 lbs. After I quit, I gained more weight. At my heaviest non-pregnant weight I was 180 lbs.” 
Lisa in May 2010. Not fat by any
standard, but not yet fully fierce!

 At her thinnest adult weight, Lisa was self-admittedly ‘skinny fat.’ “I was 123 lbs. I don't know what my bodyweight was, but if I had to guess I'd say 26%.”
Today Lisa is 5’3”, 114 lbs and is a proud member of the FFF 200-lb club with a deadlift personal best of 215 lbs x 4 - all thanks to Leangains.
Like many of the FFFers in the group, Lisa literally stumbled upon the Leangains approach. “Martin must have one of those automated friend apps on Twitter because he requested to be my friend. I didn't look at his profile for a long time because I thought he was trying to hit on me. :D  One day I decided to look at his profile and clicked on his blog and I started reading. It made sense and was backed up by scientific studies. I was really open to whatever. It was a flippant, ‘what the heck’ decision.’”
As it turns out, it would also be a life-altering decision. Since starting Leangains in January of this year at 123 “skinny fat” lbs, she’s managed a nice recomp – adding muscle and burning off body fat while managing to increase strength.

“I follow the Leangains as closely as I can,” she said. “I calorie and carb-cycle based on whether it's a rest day or training day. I eat mostly whole foods. I stay away from processed foods as much as possible. I drink lots of coffee. Lots of veggies and fruit and meat.”
For her training, Lisa works out every three days with two rest days between each workout. “I mostly do RPT [reverse pyramid training]) with big, compound movements - Deadlift, Squat, Chin-up, bench press.” All workouts are low volume with heavy weights. “I am doing almost no cardio right now.”
Lisa is also the person who is largely responsible for the creation of the FFF Facebook group. Earlier this year, when she came upon my personal blog – fitnesssafari.blogspot.com – she encouraged me to start the group on the popular social networking site. Shortly thereafter, Fierce Fit Fearless was born.

As of the time I was wrapping up this article, FFF boasted 1,0921 female members (and Martin) – four more than when I wrote this paragraph yesterday – and we continue to grow daily. From the veteran to the noob, this group has become a community of support, encouragement, and education for women who are looking for a no bullshit way to change their lives. No question is off-limits, but stupidity is highly frowned upon. We discourage unhealthy diet practices, binge/purge activities and the abuse of the Leangains or Eat Stop Eat systems. Thanks to members like Lisa, this group has become the go-to source for any woman who wants to lose fat and gain muscle naturally, efficiently and in the healthiest manner possible.
 "stupidity is highly frowned upon"
While she looks amazing and her progress is unquestionable, you may be surprised to know that Lisa still struggles. Regardless how amazing she looks today or how much she can lift in the gym, her fight with body image remains as a stubborn remnant of her past. “When I have a ‘fat day’ I remind myself that I am not that person anymore,” she said.
Her story just goes to show the influence society has on each and every one of us – down to our core. It is people like Lisa, and communities like FFF, Girls Gone Strong, Beautiful Badasses and Strong is the New Skinny, that will lead future generations along the path to a healthy life and, more importantly, a healthy attitude toward fitness and our bodies.
As we wrap up 2011, Lisa is setting her goals for the coming year and beyond:
Her goals in fitness:

  • I want to look good naked. Who doesn't? 
  • I don't want to give up.  I want to continually push myself, set new goals, and then reach those goals.
  • I want to inspire other women to really go for their own fitness goals. I want them to look at where I have come from and say "I can do that too!" and then do it.
Her goals in life:
  • When I'm old and gray I want to be able to look back and see that my life was meaningful and complete.  
  • I want to find the good in every situation. One of my sons is so positive.  Any time something goes wrong big or small, he makes a comment that starts with "At least..."  I want to be like that.  
  • I want to be a great role model for my children, especially my daughter.  I want her to see that she can be strong in all aspects of her life.  

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

1057 Fierce Females and going Strong!

FFF Gear Now Available at Spreadshirt!

We cruised passed the 1,000 mark - sprinted, actually - a few days ago and are already up to 1,057 members. The group has been an education for me. There are so many amazing, inspirational women out there who are doing FIERCE things - at home, at work, in the gym...everywhere! 

This group has proven that there is a mindset change taking hold in the fitness world. Gone are the days of Jane Fonda videos and Susan Summers' Thighmaster...Cheesy spandex tights and leg warmers have been replaced by funky knee-high socks and Converse sneakers...Many women are even ditching the gloves and bar pads, opting for chalk and bruises instead.

I'm so proud to be a part of this revolution that I will be featuring a profile from a different member of my group every couple of weeks. I want everyone to know what makes the FIERCE woman tick. I'm hoping their stories will be as inspirational and motivational to you as they have been to me.

Stay tuned for the first installment in about a week - and HAPPY HOLIDAYS!