How to Choose a Personal Trainer

How to Choose a Personal Trainer

As a Coach and Personal Trainer I get asked about how to choose a personal trainer all of the time.  Just like choosing a mental health counselor or even a life partner, choosing a trainer is a complicated process.  After all, you will be spending your hard earned money and your time to work with this person for several hours per week.  Just like any relationship, there are many variables to consider.  Below are the 5 things to consider when choosing a trainer that is best for you and your goals.

Goal Alignment

The first thing to consider when looking for a trainer is your overall goal.  Is it your goal to get stronger, leaner, better at a certain sport, improve mobility, repair injuries, or to just feel better?  There are many different reasons to want to work with a trainer and there is no one size fits all when it comes to the client-trainer relationship.  The relationship must be mutually beneficial for both parties.  For instance, if your goal is to just feel and move better, working with a trainer who specializes in prepping clients for a bikini competition is probably not the best option.  Not only, does it not align with your goal, but the trainer will not benefit from this pairing.  Before you seek out a trainer sit down and figure out the why behind wanting to work with a professional so your time and money, and the trainer’s time, will not go to waste.  Why do you want to invest in your time and spend your money to work with a trainer?  From there you can begin to research trainers who will align with your overall goal.

Personality

The next, and equally important factor to consider is personality.  If you are going to invest time and money into working with a personal trainer you want to make sure you get along right?  Just like making new friends or looking for a life partner, it is not productive if personalities don’t mesh.  If your potential trainer does not allow a discovery call or coffee date to see if you will get along, that is a red flag.  You want to make sure that you can converse well together and build a trusting relationship with this person.  For instance, if you are trying to heal your relationship with food and improve your body image, you won’t work well with someone who believes that you need to restrict food and look a certain way.  You want to make sure your beliefs and way of thinking about fitness and health align first and foremost.  Approach the process like an interview process and come with questions you have prepared ahead of time to go over with your potential trainers.  

Assessment Process

Does the trainer jump right into your sessions without doing a movement assessment?  If your trainer does not take the time to put you through a movement pattern assessment, move on to the next one.  Beginning workouts before looking at how your body moves and assessing any dysfunctional movement patterns is like prescribing a drug to someone before a diagnosis.  Be sure to ask your potential trainer if they provide an assessment in your discovery call.  You should be able to communicate any sort of limitations and injuries you might have so you will feel safe and comfortable going into your first session.  

Word of Mouth

What are others saying about your potential trainer?  You can usually find reviews on Google and Facebook but you can also rely on friends and colleagues to guide you.  You also want to look at their social media platforms and website.  How do they advertise their services?  Do they rely on before and after pictures or do they rely on former client reviews focusing on how they feel and how they improved their lives?  It may be a red flag for you if they rely on aesthetic appearance pictures as these are sometimes not realistic in terms of how clients got from point A to point B.  You want someone who looks at the overall picture of a client and works on changing behaviors above all.  Before and after pictures emphasize appearance only and you never know what drastic measures were taken.  Often times, the before and after image paints an unrealistic picture of the bigger picture and it doesn’t speak to how the client was able to maintain the healthy life choices and behaviors.  

Pricing

Making sure the trainer’s rates fit into your budget is important if you expect to work with someone for several months.  Before you start shopping for a trainer sit down and figure out how much you can afford over the next 3-6 months.  I say 3-6 months because that is at least how long you need to invest in training to see impactful and lasting change.  From there, you and your potential trainer can decide how many times a week you need to work together and map out an overall plan.  While you want to make sure you can afford personal training, you also want to make sure you aren’t looking based solely on price.  As the saying goes, you get what you pay for, so you want to make sure the investment isn’t too cheap.  

Certifications and Experience

The last thing to consider is what certifications and experience your potential trainer has.  Make sure that he or she has an accredited certification through an organization such as NASM, ACE, or NSCA to name a few.  You also want someone who is always learning.  Ask if he or she continues to pursue knowledge in the field.  Things change in all industries over time and that is why it is required for trainers to re-certify every two years by adding more tools to their training toolbox to better serve their clients.  How many clients have they trained?  Are they just starting out or have they trained 100s of clients who can speak to their style and effectiveness?  Either way, find what makes you most comfortable.  If you are brand new to training it makes sense for you to find someone who has trained more people.  Conversely, if you vibe with someone who has just started, it can be very rewarding to work with a newer trainer.  

These are just a few of the things to consider when looking for a personal trainer but they are the first things to consider.  From there you can try a trainer for a short period of time to see if you are making progress and if it isn’t working for you do not be afraid to move on.  Communication and consistency are key in any client-trainer relationship and both parties should feel that they are getting something positive from the transaction.  In the end, the most important part of working with a trainer is how you feel when you walk away from each session.  If you feel good and happy, and like you are moving toward your goals then you are in the right place.  Making sure someone supports and challenges you equally is key to the best client-trainer relationship possible!  

How to get your Inactive Child to Enjoy Activity

How to get your Inactive Child to Enjoy Activity

I went on a two mile scooter ride today with my 10 year old.  Now I consider myself very strong and active but I totally underestimated how that would feel. I’m impressed Liam had the leg strength to do that relatively easily.  Your base leg starts burring after a while.  This may seem like a normal activity to do with your child but for us it is special.  

My son has never been into organized sports and any mention of starting a sport sends him into a state of resistance and a hard no!  In an effort to get Liam moving more than he currently does, I have been going the extra mile (literally) and getting active with him. It’s quite a challenge to motivate myself to swim with him or go on a scooter ride with him after a day of work and a workout for myself but it’s time. 

He doesn’t love traditional activities. He loves trampolines, scootering, swimming, and sometimes running. As I mentioned, organized sports are not a thing for him quite yet so we had to get creative. In doing so, I also didn’t want him to develop an unhealthy relationship with exercise and activity so here is what I did:

  1. I asked if he wanted to compete with me with steps. He said yes so I got him a kid’s fit bit and he crushes me every day. Even on days that I work when I get lots of steps!  
  2. Told him to choose one activity to try and said if he didn’t like it after 30 days he can move on to another. This week we are trying a kid’s CrossFit class at Risen Strength. Fingers crossed. 
  3. I have subjected myself to copious amounts of scooter rides, swimming, and walks with the dog when he asks even when I’m tired as hell from a long day. 

My older son gravitated towards team sports from day one. Liam gravitates towards learning all the countries and their accompanying flags and languages. Very different but both gifted.  It isn’t my goal for Liam to lose weight. Is he bigger than the average child?  Yes, but all I can do is prioritize healthy food choices 80% of the time and movement as a way to feel better and mentally decompress.  I’m hoping he learns to love it into adulthood. 

What do you do to keep your kids active when they don’t love activity?  

How to find a Body Positive Gym/Trainer

How to find a Body Positive Gym/Trainer

As a trainer and coach it is in my job description to push people to their limits and help them reach their fitness and health goals.  I take this role very seriously and there was a time that I believed this meant that more is better.  I used to train 6 days a week and go hard every single day because I thought that was the best thing for me.  Over time, however, I have developed a more relaxed approach in an effort to lower stress and inflammation and I want to help you find a body positive gym or trainer that works for you.  I like to go hard 3 days a week and do things like weightlifting, yoga, or walks the other days with two planned rest days where I do nothing.  Exercise is an amazing thing and has so many benefits but the body sees it as a stressor so finding that perfect dose for you is key.  Too much can cause injury, hormone issues, and major stress to your body so we have to be careful not to overdo it.  

Unfortunately, many gyms and trainers follow the no pain no gain philosophy and they do not consider the issues that forcing exercise and pushing people too hard can cause.  Phrases, like ‘sweat is fat crying’ or ‘train insane or remain the same’ reflect an all or nothing fat-shaming culture and sadly I have heard trainers and coaches use these and many more.  There needs to be a healthy balance and there is definitely a way for a trainer to be positive and push someone past their comfort zone while still keeping that person’s goals and individual needs in mind.  Are you looking for a gym that accepts you no matter what your body type, allows you to modify without shaming, and makes you feel like a superhero every time you finish a workout?  The search for a new gym that will make you feel this way can be daunting but the Body Positive Fitness Alliance has designated 8 pillars of Inclusive Fitness Practices and these can help to guide you in your search.  

The Body Positive Fitness Alliance strives to make all gyms and all trainers more focused on body acceptance and realistic mindful exercise for all types.  Their 8 Pillars are as follows:  

  1. Accessibility: Our spaces are physically accessible and our practices are for all bodies. We consider your financial, communication, learning, safety and other access related barriers to fitness.
  2. Approachability: Our attitudes are positive, realistic, and predictable. Our processes are transparent. We acknowledge our own privilege is a barrier between ourselves and those we serve.
  3. Enjoyment: We provide fun moments and experiences to help you associate challenging physical work with happiness and success.
  4. Community (my personal favorite): We create conditions for meaningful connections between individuals undergoing similar experiences. We are leaders by example and we protect our communities’ values.
  5. Scope of Practice: We acknowledge our professional and personal limitations and do not prevent you from seeking a higher level of care for conditions outside our scopes of practice. We implement evidence based practices and follow guidelines from major professional organizations.
  6. Full Health: We ensure your experiences are safe and enhance your overall quality of life. We do not intimidate or shame; rather appropriately challenge you with consideration for your mental, emotional and physical health.
  7. Body Positivity: We do not assume your ability based on what we do or do not know about you. We create and hold space for you to exercise autonomy over your body, our relationship and your experience.
  8. Growth: We prioritize growing as professionals to better serve you. We regularly self-evaluate our practices and their alignment with the Eight Pillars.

In reading these pillars think about what kind of gym environment you are in each day. Does it serve you?  Or, do you leave feeling less than?  Do you find yourself thinking in all or nothing terms and doing extreme things to fit into that culture?  Do the coaches encourage extreme measures for weight loss and promote unhealthy relationships with food just to look a certain way?  If so, it’s time to re-evaluate. Plain and simple. Life is too short to be somewhere that makes you feel less than.  I am partial to Orangetheory Fitness and we offer one free class to check it out but there are tons of options out there for everyone and it may take some time to find the right fit for you.  The most important thing is that you have to enjoy it and your main motivation cannot be for the burned calories or aesthetic benefits or you will not stick with it.  Exercise should be enjoyable and make you feel good so get out there and find movement that works for you friends!  

 

Four Reasons you NEED Carbohydrates

Four Reasons you NEED Carbohydrates

With the advent of the Atkin’s Diet in the early 1970’s most of us grew up in a time where carbohydrates were villainized and portrayed as something you need to avoid at all costs in order to lose weight or not be fat.  Over the years there have been numerous diets that revolve around this flawed thinking and somewhere along the way we lost sight of why we truly need carbs.  Think, Whole 30, Paleo, and Keto diets.   There are many reasons to eat carbohydrates but I am going to focus on the 4 reasons that they are a necessary part of your diet.

Brain Function

The brain needs glucose to function properly.  Since the body most easily creates glucose as it metabolizes carbohydrates, it stands to reason that without an adequate amount of carbohydrates in your diet you may experience brain fog and lower cognitive function.  In a 2008 study done by Tufts University this hypotheses was tested and showed that the women in the study needed carbohydrates to think more clearly.

While the brain uses glucose as its primary fuel, it has no way of storing it. Rather, the body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose, which is carried to the brain through the blood stream and used immediately by nerve cells for energy. Reduced carbohydrate intake should thus reduce the brain’s source of energy. Therefore, researchers hypothesized that diets low in carbohydrates would affect cognitive skills. The data suggest that after a week of severe carbohydrate restriction, memory performance, particularly on difficult tasks, is impaired.  

“Although this study only tracked dieting participants for three weeks, the data suggest that diets can affect more than just weight,” says Taylor. “The brain needs glucose for energy and diets low in carbohydrates can be detrimental to learning, memory, and thinking.

In essence, if you deprive yourself of carbohydrates you are also depriving your brain of its main energy source and diminishing your ability to take in information and hindering memory and thinking abilities.  

Carbs are our main source of ENERGY

I have said this before and I will say it again.  You do not walk around with an uncharged cell phone, so why would you try to exercise or exist without our body’s main source of energy.  Glucose, which comes from carbohydrates, is the very first option that our body goes to when we exercise.  When we are doing high intensity interval training workouts like CrossFit, Orangetheory, or heavy weightlifting carbohydrates delay fatigue and allow us to compete at higher levels for longer periods of time.  

Without an adequate amount of stored glucose the body will turn to muscle protein for energy which does not allow protein to do its main job of building and repairing muscles.  High levels of training day in and day out without optimal carbohydrate consumption will cause fatigue and will not allow you to maintain and build new muscles.  

Recovery and Sleep

Along the same lines, we also need carbohydrates to recover from intense physical activity.  Just like we fill up our gas tanks when they are empty, we need to replenish our glycogen stores after we train hard.  Most of us will naturally reach for a protein shake after a workout, and this is also necessary, but carbohydrates are also something we need in order to get the most out of our training post workout.  My blog on pre and post workout recovery explains just how to fuel and re-fuel before and after your workouts.  

In addition, carbohydrates have been shown to help with sleep.  According to a study done in Australia, carbohydrates can help you fall asleep faster.  It was found that high glycemic carbohydrates such as potatoes, cereals, rice, and fruits eaten 4 hours before bed can boost tryptophan and serotonin, two brain chemicals involved in sleep.  Carbs before bed?  Yes please!

Carbs are delicious as f*@k! 

This goes back to my anti-diet agenda.  Carbohydrates are a delicious and nutritious food group that has been villainized for long enough.  They taste amazing and they make you happy.  If you want potatoes, eat them.  If you want rice, eat it.  What is sushi without rice for god’s sake?  If you want a fun treat like a piece of candy or some cookies, eat them.  Deprivation leads to scarcity mindset which leads to bingeing which has long term effects both physically and mentally.  Life is too short to skip the carbs or skip the dessert.  Just eat it!  

Fruits and vegetables are the most micronutrient rich sources of carbs but things like rice, potatoes, pasta, oat, breads, cereals, quinoa, beans, and legumes are tasty and a filling addition to any meal.  Get creative and don’t fear the carbohydrate!  Happy eating!

Pre and Post Workout Fuel:  What Should I Eat?

Pre and Post Workout Fuel: What Should I Eat?

As a coach I get asked all of the time about what to eat before and after a high intensity workout like Orangetheory or CrossFit.  The simple answer:  protein and carbs.  The more complicated answer involves a precise number of grams of protein and carbs timed before and after a workout so that you are properly fueled and properly recovering from a tough exercise session.  If you know me you know that I am a self proclaimed diet culture dropout and I do not count my macros to the exact gram anymore, but I do mindfully eat enough before and after a workout because I know what my body needs to fully recover.  Below, I am going to explain why pre and post workout fuel is so important, what to eat before and after a training session, when to eat it, and give you some of my favorite go to pre and post workout meal ideas.  Before I get started, let me first say that learning how to properly fuel with whole, nutrient-dense food is top priority.  Don’t overwhelm yourself with timing protocols if you are not yet ready to.  

Why do I need to eat a pre and post workout meal?

Pre-Workout:  

The pre-workout meal actually does not contribute right away to performance in the gym and has little effect on direct fuel for your workout.  Most food takes about 4-5 hours to digest to become usable as fuel, and glycogen, the main storage form of glucose in the body, synthesis takes about 24 hours.  So why do we need the pre-workout meal if we are not using it right away?  The pre-workout meal is more about blood sugar control and nervous system function.  For instance, if your pre-workout meal is consumed too far from your training session your blood sugar will be on the down slope and you may experience lightheadedness and dizziness while trying to intensely work out with very low blood sugar.  This is why it is recommended that you consume your pre-workout meal about 90-120 minutes prior to your training session.  Your pre-workout meal should consist of protein and carbohydrates with little to no added fats.  

Specific macronutrient recommendations:  20-25g of protein, 40g of carbohydrates, little to no fat (fats are slower to digest and are not the source of fuel we need for high intensity exercise, and they can delay the digestion of the nutrients that we need for the workout)

Post-Workout:

My favorite meal of the day!  The post-workout meal is important for two reasons.  One, to restore your glycogen stores, and two, to recover from the nervous system response that occurs after an intense workout session.  Exercise is great for us but the body sees it as a stressor and we absolutely need to be responsible about recovering from every intense exercise session.  High intensity interval training causes a spike in cortisol, our fight or flight hormone.  If you do not refuel after a training session you are potentially causing long term cortisol dysregulation and even adrenal issues as well.  Typically you want to consume your post-workout meal within 45 minutes after your exercise session and it should consist of protein and carbohydrates with little to no added fats just like the pre-workout meal.  

Specific macronutrient recommendations:  25g of protein, 50g-100g of carbohydrates depending on training intensity, little to no fat

Post-Post Workout:

This meal should be consumed about 60-90 minutes after your post-workout meal and should consist of high quality protein, carbohydrates, and fats.  The reason quality is so important here is because at this point your nervous system has calmed down and this is a great window of time for nutrient absorption.  Quantity is not a big issue here so there is no set amount of protein, carbs, or fat that is recommended.  Just eat a solid and balanced meal with whole, nutrient-dense food.  

I have no idea what to eat for my pre and post workout meals!

This can be overwhelming at first but just keep it simple.  Remember that you need to make sure fat is at a minimum in these meals so plan to find things with simply protein and carbohydrates in them.  I realize it can be challenging to find things with zero fat but try your best.  Below is a list of some of my favorites but there are many more options.  Play with the quantity of each food to meet specific macronutrient goals if you want to be precise.  

  • Siggi’s fat free vanilla yogurt and granola
  • Overnight oats (almond milk, oats, protein powder, berries, chocolate chips, and whatever goodness you want to add).  I also use a brand called Oats Overnight when I am feeling lazy.  
  • Protein shake with a banana 
  • Egg whites and gluten free waffles (or whatever waffles you enjoy)
  • Good Culture cottage cheese and fruit
  • Sliced turkey or chicken with rice or sweet potatoes 

These are just a few ideas and of course there are many more options out there.  Experiment with what you enjoy the most and feel free to give me a shout out on my Instagram if you want to share your ideas.  

What if I train first thing in the morning?

If you train at the crack of dawn you do not need to worry about waking up even earlier to get your pre-workout meal in.  Essentially your pre-workout meal is dinner from the night before.  Make sure that your dinner is complete with protein, carbohydrates (including vegetables), and fats.  The fats will slow down the digestion of the meal which will help for the morning fuel needed to train so early.  One more thing to consider is supplementing with 5g of BCAAs (branch chain amino acids) if you are training fasted.  Training can break down lean tissue and since you won’t have consumed any protein prior to the training session, you want to make sure that the natural catabolic effects of intense exercise are mitigated by adding BCAAs in prior to an early morning workout.  

What if I train more than once a day?

I don’t recommend training very intensely more than once a day but if you must the pre, post, and post-post workout meal suggestions remain the same.  Recovery is of the utmost importance for anyone but if you train hard more than once a day please be responsible and fuel properly.  

Simply put you need food to fuel and recover from exercise.  Don’t overcomplicate it and make sure you are picking food options that you enjoy and look forward to eating.  Happy nourishing!  

 

What is the big deal with bananas?

What is the big deal with bananas?

Hey y’all! Yes I said y’all….I am originally from California but was raised most of my life in Gainesville, Florida so I am pretty much southern. My very southern grandmother would be so proud if she were here to read this! Anyhow, I digress. You are probably wondering what the hell is this banana this crazy woman keeps talking about and why is this blog called Eat the Banana?  What in the world can this woman come up with that is interesting about a damn banana? Before I tell you why I named my blog what I did, let me tell you a little about what brought me to this point of sitting in front of my laptop blogging about bananas.

I was raised by a single mom who taught me I should always pursue my goals and dreams and that I should never let anyone or anything stop me from doing so. She also taught me to do all of the “right” things.  You know, go to school, get good grades, be nice, be successful, work your ass off and go to college, get a job, and be happy.  It is that simple right?  I am in no way knocking the lessons she taught me because without her I do not know where I would be, but she did her best right? She was doing what any woman trying to support a growing kid would do and that is fantastic.

But, in teaching me how to be a strong woman with goals, she forgot one simple detail. My mother was very clear that there were many people who will try to bring me down but she was not clear on the fact that I, my own self, would self doubt and be the biggest obstacle to success if I let my thoughts take control. She was brought up in the 60s and 70s and wanted me and my generation of women to be strong and say fuck it to all of the norms and rules of society, and while this is an important lesson to learn for a young girl, it is not your biggest enemy. Your biggest enemy are the voices in your head telling you that you are not good enough or you cannot accomplish what you want to do in life.

Fast forward to my 20s. I am living alone in Atlanta working at a job I really did not love but it was the job I got out of grad school so it was the right thing to do right? I made very little money but gained good experience and lots of good friends while in Atlanta, but I ended up moving back to Gainesville where I got married to my first husband, because, that was the next step right? That is what we are supposed to do at that age! A year later I was a new mom and my marriage was falling apart. I do not regret this a single bit but it was tough to say the least. Believe me when I say that I started to believe I was not capable of a loving and solid relationship that would last. It was my BIGGEST insecurity!

Fast forward to my 30s, where I am married to my second husband who is seemingly amazing and perfect and a year or so into that I am a mommy again. A few years later this marriage was falling apart. I tried my best to fix it but it just could not work and BOY did I feel like the biggest failure of a lifetime!  Two babies from two different dads made me feel like I was going to be called to be on the Maury Povich show any minute. At this point I was just a stay at home mom and had no job so I of course felt like a total loser in that I had no idea how I would go back to work and support myself and be a mom.

When life give you lemons right? I picked myself up, still with all of the self inflicted judgement that was going on in my head, and I pursued a passion I had always wanted to pursue.  I quickly became a personal trainer and moved my way into a very lucrative and satisfying career at Orangetheory Fitness Gainesville. I could write an entire novel on how much I adore my job but if you follow me on social media you get enough of that on the daily so I will spare you the gory details.

One of the continuing education certifications I earned early on was the Level 1 Nutrition Coach through the Nutrition Coaching Institute. I originally thought I was way too busy with two kids, 17 coaching hours a week, and very much needed me time and time with my fiance, to actually use this new certification but one day a member at OTF approached me and asked if I could help her. Before I knew it I had about 10 clients on my hands!

During this time I had the amazing luck to have a skilled therapist who helped me own my experiences and be proud of them.  She helped me shout it from the rooftops and not care what anyone thinks.  So yes, I have had two husbands and both marriages failed.  Yes, I have two kids from two dads.  And finally, yes I am happily engaged to the love of my life.  WHO GIVES A FUCK!  If you do not like it then you can quietly exit stage left and I am fine with it.

The point is that you are your biggest critic. More than likely you are judging yourself harder than others are and the MOST important person you need to please is yourself. You do not have to follow any path that you do not want to nor do you have to do anything to fit someone else’s opinion of what you should do. All of the other people who may judge you do not have to look at you in the mirror and be happy with what they see. You do. In the end you are truly the only person who needs to be happy with what they see.  Otherwise, everything else goes to shit.

You are probably thinking, get to the point woman! I want to know what the fuck is so great about a banana and is it going to change my life for the better? Well that depends on how you think about the banana. See, the banana is just a metaphor. While I am loving all of the posts people send me while they happily and proudly eat a banana, (insert shameless tag of Chiquita banana for some sort of endorsement here) it is not just about an actual banana folks.

How did the banana come to fruition?  In my pursuit to save the world as a nutrition coach I made a post one day about how people are so scared to eat fruit or carbs or sweets and I assured everyone that they will not die if they eat a banana nor will the become obese and unhealthy (that just happened to be the fruit I was eating at the moment). The original post is pictured below but I stressed that the diet culture has ruined our mindset about food and terrified everyone, specifically women, of a simple little banana. In my post I urged people to just eat the damn banana. From that my business name was born and now I am setting out to save the world, one banana at a time.

I figured another way to get this very important message out was to write a blog about bananas. No I am not going to write about actual bananas each week. I am going to write about nutrition, life, fitness, health, kids, family, love, and how to maintain sanity with all the crazy that life brings us. Most importantly I want to empower women not to be afraid of a little banana (insert whatever word you want here) and inspire them to be true to who they are.  In other words, if you follow this blog you will probably laugh, cry, learn a thing or two about nutrition and fitness, but most importantly you will learn to grab life by the damn BANANAS and go get what you want!