When your gym fails you.

Given that we’re so close to the new year, and the high number of people who put “get fit” or “start working out” on their resolution list… I think this post has perfect timing.

I’m a big believer in the idea that the gym you go to will either make or break you if you’re just starting out. The atmosphere of that gym, the availability of things you need to be fit, the staff, their general business motto, etc. Your gym needs to fit you and your goals. If you don’t feel comfortable there, the relationship isn’t going to last.

So what do you do when you find that perfect fit of a gym — and it starts to go to the crapper?

I’m sure all of the fitness lovers who watched Planet Fitness haul out their squat racks, flat benches, then were told no more deadlifting etc… will feel me on this.

It’s frustrating as hell when your gym starts to implode around you. It’s been happening at my gym for a few years now. I’ve watched machines break and then take longer and longer to get fixed. I’ve watched the recent summers come and those air conditioning units take almost all summer long to get installed in the windows upstairs. I’ve watched as every rain storm the buckets on the first floor line up because that ceiling leaks.

Now, I’m going to pause here. Gyms promote health and fitness. You have a 2-story gym where the first floor ceiling leaks. Do you have any idea how badly the roof of the place has to leak to have a floor leak? The mold?!

Back on track… a new gym is opening up in my area. A annex of a YMCA in the town I grew up in — which is the next town over from my gym. Which means: Competition. Apparently, this isn’t concerning to the manager or owner of the establishment I call “gym”. Nothing is being done to fix the leaks, improve the overall space, draw people in by offering incentives or deals. Fix the machines that remain broken.

Last week, I was filling up my water bottle and walked by the pitiful excuse of a row cable machine. Being 30-weeks pregnant, I’d like to be able to use it again. I’ve been doing supinated rows at the tower cable machine, and it’s to the point now where, last night, using it — I said fuck it. It’s too hard for me to get up and down from the floor. Which is where you have to be to use that particular machine for a row at the proper angle.

I’ve watched other gym members attempt to use it for rows in a variety of ways. All of which are sketchy and not safe. And even then, we all question when one of the sides is going to let go. It snags and jerks, almost tearing your arm out.

But the row machine has been broken since Aug. 13 of this year. I was in there the night it snapped. And last week, this note had been placed on it: wpid-20141216_174045.jpg

Clearly I’m not the only one feeling that my gym is failing me. Last summer, four of the most used machines went unusable for more than three months. One even longer than that. Why? Padding. We came in one day and the pads were gone and the now familiar “Out of Order” signs on them.

Broken treadmills remain broken for long periods of time upstairs. Then mysteriously just disappear. If you want to run, you have only two options. The other treadmill doesn’t pace up fast enough — and will randomly stop on you.

I pay, along with every other member, pretty good money every year to use the facility. It’s one of the few in the county where if you want to lift heavy — you can. It’s only normal that we want machines and equipment that works. Or to be able to find items that were there just the other day.

My gym just doesn’t care. At all. About any of its members really. Yes, it cares more about the elderly crowd that comes in. That’s been made clear by the warnings about slamming weights (I’m surprised a Lunk Alarm hasn’t been installed like at Planet Fitness), vocally encouraging each other, etc. Basically, if you want to actually work out, you now have to follow a set of rules that just don’t belong in a gym, period.

So what happens now?

In my situation, I’m jumping ship. Because I’m a trainer and ordered a lot of smaller weights for my classes and to transport for home training clients, I get pretty great pricing through a distributor. And I’m taking advantage of that by setting up a gym in my garage finally. I only really do the Olympic lifts, and like the heavy weight, so I don’t need much.

But what if you don’t have that option? What if you use the treadmill? Or prefer the cable machines over free weights?

Look into the gyms around you. Look into their incentives for getting you to leave your gym and come to theirs. Gyms are becoming more and more like cell phone companies. They want you to come and give them your money, and they’re willing to offer you deals in order to rope you in. Shop around like you would when buying a car. You’ll be surprised at what you find out. And probably a lot happier.

What if you’re in a situation like mine? You’re in a hometown gym, and you’ve got options, but not many. Know what? Almost every single YMCA offers income based member fees. That’s right. Odds are, you’re paying out of your behind for that annual gym membership — when you don’t have to. My local Y is about $100/year on average cheaper than the gym I go to. $100 a year. That should be incentive enough to jump ship on your hometown gym if they no longer value your membership. And guess what? They’re machines always work. They have trainers on hand to help show you how to properly use machines or do exercises (did I tell you my gym no longer has that?). YMCAs, which are non-profit, even run specials. That’s right, a fitness center, run solely on donations, have deals every year where you can get membership for $1, or a different kind of deal.

My hometown gym, which is for profit, doesn’t even do that. It’s been years since they ran a “deal”.

The gym is where your fitness health starts. Make sure it’s a good fit, that you’re valued even a little bit, and you’ll go leaps and bounds (and sticking with that goal will be a hell of a lot easier).

Foodie Friday: Caramel Apple Butter Cupcakes.

Things are starting to get a little bit busy. And little is a severe understatement.

This week has been full of meeting, appointments, trying to stay on top of house chores and more… Not to mention the official start to winter sports season, so I’m away from home more often than not. It’s that time of year where I tend to forget what my husband and dog look like because we both leave for work at 6 a.m. or earlier, and I come home around 3 p.m., just long enough to grab some food, my camera gear and zip off to whatever basketball/ice hockey/wrestling/cheerleading/ski/etc… event it is I’m covering – only to get home by 8 p.m. if I’m lucky.

It’s because of the crazy schedule, I’m a week late in posting my Thanksgiving Foodie Friday post. And I’m not going to lie: I can’t tell you how the frosting tastes because I haven’t tried it. I do know the actual cupcake was pretty dang good. I can say this though, my entire house smelled amazing while I was baking everything. wpid-photogrid_1417796975073.jpg

Word of advice? If you plan on spooning or knifing the frosting on? Cut the frosting recipe in half. You’ll have SO much waste if you don’t. If you plan on piping it on, then stick with what’s in the recipe.

Another thing… I doubled the apple butter and caramel in the frosting recipe. I taste tested it after everything was all mixed and it was way too tart for my likes, and given I’m no longer a big sweets person (except for on Sundays at my parents for dinner. I blame my mother, it’s all her fault for making too many yummy things), that speaks volumes.

Caramel Apple Butter Cupcakes (From Snappy Gourmet)

Ingredients
Cupcakes:
  • 1 (15.25 box) yellow cake mix
  • ¾ cup apple cider
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup Apple Butter (Musselman’s is probably going to be your easiest find, it’s sold everywhere. Unless you’ve got a mom like mine and makes it from scratch then cans it. If you do, or you do it yourself, use the homemade, as we all know homemade is best!)
Frosting:
  • 3 (8 oz.) packages regular cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 3 (4 oz.) sticks unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • ¼ cup thick caramel topping
  • ¼ Apple Butter
  • 6 cups sifted powdered sugar
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 muffin pans with paper baking liners or spray pans with nonstick spray.
  2. In a large mixing bowl mix together cake mix, cider, eggs, and ½ cup apple butter with electric mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes. Spoon batter evenly into prepared pans so that each cup is about ⅔ full.
  3. Bake cupcakes for about 19-23 minutes or when toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Place on wire racks and cool completely.
  4. To make frosting, mix together cream cheese and butter in large mixing bowl until well combined and lumps are all gone. Mix in ¼ cup caramel and apple butter until well combined. Slowly mix in powdered sugar until well combined. Frost cupcakes as desired with pastry bag or knife.
  5. If desired, warm remaining ¼ cup of caramel in microwave for 15 seconds or until drizzling consistency. Cool slightly then drizzle over cupcakes. Sprinkle nuts on top. Store in refrigerator until ready to serve.wpid-wp-1417797019954.jpeg

WW: Double Lift Weights Faster.

I have felt very heavy today. It seems that Baby Rebel has decided to lay at the bottom of my stomach all day long, giving me the feeling that I’m carrying around a 50-pound stone. To top it off, it’s snowing, heavily, my gym closed early today like they do the day before EVERY holiday, and I can place bets on that no, they won’t open tomorrow after all (they’re typically only open for a few hours on Thanksgiving, and for a $5 donation to the local food pantry, anyone, even non members can work out).

So after turning my kitchen into a complete disaster trying out a new cupcake and frosting recipe for tomorrow, then making dinner… I rolled out my mat and grabbed some kettlebells.

Sure, I could have just sat on the couch, relaxed a little. Enjoyed what I’ve got for power before we lose it (which I really hope we don’t). Snuggled with my dog and read a book or pinned some pins… But I know that moving for at least a half hour was my best option.

My little guy resides primarily on my right side, and right against my back. If you ever see me walking with a severe lean to the left side, and maybe even my right arm up in the air, don’t mind me, I’m just trying to stretch out and release some of the tension (and pain) he’s causing by parking those long legs of his right there. Being still for me during this pregnancy has been severely uncomfortable most times.

Getting moving tonight it was…

On the pretty sure chance that I’m going to lose a complete day this week at the gym, and feeling ambitions, I hit up two of Jen Sinkler’s Lift Weight Faster challenge workouts.

The Oyster

*3 rounds per side, 6 rounds total

One-Armed Clean x 10 each side
Racked Squat x 10 each side
One-Armed Push Press x 10 each side
One-Armed Bent-Over Row x 10 each side

The Swing Dancer

*Complete 3 Rounds of this kettlebell & body weight circuit as quickly as possible.

Bodyweight Star Jumps x 10 reps
Kettlebell Two-Handed Swings x 10 reps
Bodyweight Lateral Lunges x 10 ea side
Kettlebell Two-Handed Swings x 10 reps
Kettlebell One-Armed Rows x 10 ea side
Kettlebell Two-Handed Swings x 10 reps

Now, my total time was probably about 30-minutes for both. Considering I can’t bowl right through the workouts, I’d have to say, that’s pretty dang good. Even given I had to work on my mat around my dog, who always makes himself at home on it the second it gets rolled out.

Give each one a shot, and if you do, post your times for each and what you thought of them!

Transformation Tuesday: Not what you expect.

This is a different kind of Transformation Tuesday post.

And in it, weight isn’t going to be discussed. First, because for me, it’s never been about the number on the scale. It’s been about what I see in the mirror, how I feel every day. Even before pregnancy.

I also hate that once a woman becomes pregnant, her weight and how much she gains is suddenly an open topic for any and all to discuss. No. What that woman weighs and gains is for her and her doctor. Unless she chooses to speak about it herself, let it lie and stay away.

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Hitting the gym, 18 weeks out from what was to be my first figure competition in October. June 13, 2014.

On June 13 of this year, I thought, in all seriousness, I was taking a different kind of progress photo at the gym. Sporting my latest Goodwill find, a little modified because t-shirts make me sweat SO bad in the gym in the summer, I snapped a quick photo.

I was working my way into a training program that would hopefully have me stage ready by Oct. 26 of this year in the Granite State Open. A competition I planned to compete in with a friend of mine who had done a few shows already.

I had no idea that nine days later, I would be finding out I was five weeks pregnant.

I knew the body could do amazing things having had several friends and family members go through pregnancies, but it wasn’t until I myself was experiencing it first hand that I realized just what my body is truly capable of.

It’s amazing how much the body changes and adapts to what is going on inside, and just how much you’re still capable of doing while it’s all going on. That first week I knew I was pregnant, I thought I’d have to change so much more with my routine, and had planned to, as time passed and the pregnancy progressed, make those changes and adaptions.

At almost 28-weeks… I haven’t really had to change anything.

I go to bed a little earlier of course. I eat an extra meal (or two) a day. I’m dealing with a lot of severe pain with my spinal disease. But otherwise, it’s all still business as usual.

I’m still working full time, teaching classes, hitting the gym three times a week, doing yoga. I’m still out there raking away at the leaves (although my husband wouldn’t let me shovel snow either time we’ve gotten it so far). Cleaned up my gardens… and so on.

The body is a well oiled machine. And if you treat it right, it will stay that way. Even when it’s creating another life inside.

I can still see the tips of my toes, but I know nearing the third trimester, they will disappear.

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Nearing the end of my 27th week of pregnancy. Prepping for something else completely now.

22-weeks after snapping what was supposed to be a photo of me pre-competition journey, I snapped another photo in the same shirt. It’s one of the only few of my own that still can accommodate that growing belly of mine (I’ve since raided my husband’s side of the wardrobe and taken claim to some of the shirts he’s no longer able to wear because I’ve turned him into a meat head over the years and he likes his weights too).

In the photo, to the quick looker, not much has really changed. That baby bump is certainly there, and there is no way to disguise or hide it. Baby Rebel even pushes himself out against my baggiest sweats. But my muscles have become a little softer, the result of many, many weeks of continuous “maintenance mode”, cutting out all supplements, and being a little looser with my diet here and there (two bowls of Trix cereal before bed is totally acceptable, right?). And because I’m in maintenance mode and can’t really push myself, my strength is waning some.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s nothing. Nine months of having a front row seat to watching my body do something glorious – transform and create life.

Workout Wednesday: Classes, LWF, and Cardio.

I did something I haven’t done in awhile this past Sunday – I worked out with my class. Right there, alongside them, for all five rounds.

Typically, since getting pregnant and having that sluggish touch-and-go energy, I will demonstrate the full out exercise, a rep or two and give the modified versions of each, then set my class off to do their thing. I will walk around, watching the form of everyone, assisting when they’re a little off, or need help when they are having a hard time picking up a move.

For the past 20-some-odd weeks, it’s had me curious as to which style I was going to keep post-baby for all of my classes. My classes cut off at 10 people so that I am able to give the attention to each member there that they need. I want them to get the most from my classes, and that means helping them do it injury free.

Pre-pregnancy, I’d stand in front, facing the classes, doing the full workout with them, instructing and watching. If I saw someone who needed a little adjustment, I’d let the class roll on with the workout, while I went to help that class member. That approach works, and the feedback I got on my “style” was positive. The people who were attending my classes didn’t feel that I was scrutinizing their every breath, hovering over them. They had been to classes like that and found it a little unnerving and made them feel like they would “screw up” an exercise more because of it.

So when, in attempt to scale back the amount of hours logged working out, I stopped doing classes over the summer and started taking the opposite approach, I worried. I wondered how I could keep the dynamic of my classes the same, but not workout alongside my clients. I’ve mastered the art of not hovering, and it was hard. Luckily, most of my classes now are set people, and they’re still small. Over the past year, we’ve gotten to know one another well. So while they are working out, I walk around the room in a big circle, counting out reps, calling out the change in exercise, giving encouragement and just chatting with them. If I see someone now who needs help, I approach it the same as I did before. Let the class go on, while I helped the class member who needed it.

And it’s worked. They don’t feel like I’m hovering, they’re comfortable, and they keep coming back.

One of the greatest things for my class members to see this past Sunday is: That my workouts don’t just kick their asses, but my workouts can kick my own too.
I could have written my own for the day. I could have pulled one from my arsenal of workouts from classes past… Instead, I went to Jen Sinkler and her Lift Weights Faster for a good butt kicker of a workout. The one I chose? The Tortoise and the Hare.

20 Pledge Planks
15 KB Swings
10 KB Jump Squats
5 KB Windmills

The workout on Sinkler’s page calls for four rounds for time, but I pumped my class for five rounds.

Anytime I give a class a “for time” workout, I get amazing results. The encouragement I hear passed around, the drive and push that I see. It creates a spark inside my class members, so I wasn’t surprised when all five rounds were completed in 20-minutes or less.

I also learned, that the months I’ve been spending sans cardio? Have taken a toll. Good thing I started hitting that stair stepper for 15-minutes a few times a week.

Leaving Facebook.

I’m just a small town girl, which has shown me one thing: I never, ever want to be famous. Ever. I never want to walk down the street, swarmed by fans and have cameras thrust in my face at every turn. I never want to have to struggle to keep my private life private. I want to be able to come and go as I please. Live my life on my terms.

So then why does it feel like I’m smack dab in the middle of a red carpet, being grilled about why I wore my hair the way I did today (it’s down, a simple bobby pin keeping my long bangs from my face, if you must know)?

Because small town living.

My county has a population of 37,000 people spread out over about 17 different towns. Breaking it down, that’s really not a lot of people. Topping it off: Both sides of my family, the DiNapolis and the Vanorses are well known in this county. Everyone knows one side or the other. Add to that, my job. It’s puts me out there in the public frequently, be it covering games, attending something for theSCENE, etc. And the final piece of this pie? Being a personal trainer, or a small business owner, leaves me still out there, in the open.

The first 20 some odd years of my life were lived in relative obscurity. Once in awhile, I’d cross paths with someone who knew my family, and that was that. Somewhere, about eight or nine years ago, these people I’d cross paths with became more and more, and what was worse was: They felt that they had a right to my life.

The more I became known in my job (it happens when you’re the sole woman in a male dominated department), I could add complete strangers to the mix. People I didn’t know approaching me, and because I worked for their local news source, they felt they owned me. deactivated2

Life changing events, like marriage, babies, etc, draw out the worst in people. And my pregnancy has certainly been no exception to this rule. It had pulled people out in droves, the masses able to access me with harassing, menacing words in regards to my size, my continued lifestyle of staying healthy and working out, and more. When I didn’t know right at 20-weeks what we were having due to scheduling issues (another small town pitfall, when doctors are out, you have to wait), I was criticized. Despite it being out of my hands, and only two weeks later, at 22-weeks, we had our scan and found out we were having a healthy baby boy. Now it’s the name thing. Because we have decided to wait until we meet our miracle before naming him, criticism.

A lot of it, I have zero control over. I cannot quit my job. I cannot voice to these people how I really feel about their intrusion to my life, as I risk losing my job and it can damage my business. I can only continue to sigh, let it roll off of my back and move on.

I do not want these people to feel that they have a right to my child. Because they do not. He is entitled to a quiet and private life, just like my husband is. Just as I, when I’m on my own time, should be entitled to the freedom of living my life. Yet, no one gives me that opportunity.

The one area that I do have control of it? Social media. Twitter and Instagram are great platforms. They’re basic, they’re simple, and to my benefit, not entirely “in” in my area. They’re obscure forms to socialize. And I love them dearly. The profile you see of me is genuine on those platforms. The life of fitness, my crazy dog, and more. I’m honest and I’m open there. Why? Because it’s free of scrutiny of the public eye here.

Facebook? No. Despite my locked down settings, my vague profile on there, it left me too accessible to the public. So what did I do? I deactivated my account. I clicked that button and felt an incredible sense of freedom. I know it’s only one small aspect in the grand scheme of what is really going on here, in my small corner of the world. But it has taken a great weight off of my shoulders. I feel I can breathe a little easier. I can focus on my pregnancy, my family, my work, my business…

It’s amazing how something so small can be so big at the same time.

But now the issue being faced is: As the designated poster for sports previews, championship stories, etc, I no longer have access to the one driving source in our social media world here at the company I work for. So, who will pick up the social media input? Which brings the question of, can an employer maintain a social profile? Or is it up for them to decide?

I’ve certainly opened quite a rank can of worms with the click of a button.

Workout: Back to Basics.

This blog has only seriously been a million days in the making. Well, not really a million, but ten days. Seriously. Between a storm that knocked out power for three days, insanity at work (gotta love poll papers!), clean up from the snow storm, and life in general… It’s been a bit since I’ve been able to sit down and put this blog together.

Working out has been my therapy. It has helped me work through ups and downs, demons, happiness, sadness, frustration, anger… Everything. I sometimes find myself in the gym for hours, working my body – and my mind, in sync. It has kept me level.

The funniest thing ever, when I first started telling people I was pregnant, was what they’d say to me, informing me of things I would surely miss. I’d miss drinking. No, not really, because I’m not much of a drinker. I’d miss seafood. Again, no, not really, because I don’t eat seafood (I know, a coastal person who has no love for the food from the sea or lakes).

What I do miss, is being able to hit the gym after a long, stressful day of work, or after a day where it feels like everyone has piled everything on me to handle, and just go at it. Work it out and get through it. I also miss heavy lifting.

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It sucks doing it, but my “junk sets” are now my actual sets. Starting deadlifts with 65# and squats with 45#. Hard to believe 21 weeks ago, I hit a deadlift of over 300# and a squat of over 200… I’ll get back there. And that unimpressed face will be a crap eating grin again.

That’s where I’m dying. In the gym. Out of every year, I had maybe a total of 4-weeks in which I would put my body through just a typical maintenance workout. Give my body one month, maybe a month and a half, to just chill out after putting it through some pretty rugged workouts. So, you can imagine, when I hit week 23 of pregnancy, being stuck on loop in maintenance mode… I was wilting like an unwatered plant in the sweltering hot sun.

I’ve been constantly fiddling with my workouts since finding out I was pregnant. For a run, I was doing something completely different every time I was in the gym. Most of the time, it was a set workout of doing x for arms, x for back, and so on. I’m getting bored. Like anyone would after five long months.

Which brought me to thinking, what can I do now? What haven’t I done in awhile?

So now, I’m bringing it back to the basics. It’s a win-win for me at the moment, I’m getting bigger, my range is being limited by that growing belly, and I really don’t know how much longer I’m going to be able to work out. I’d like to think that I’ll be doing it right up until the baby comes, but in attempts at being realistic: I know that might not be what happens.

Leg Day

Squat
Deadlift
Standing Calf Raise
Hamstring Curl*
Romanian Deadlift

*For us pregnant ladies, being on our bellies once it starts to grow gets hard. To modify it, use a cable machine, or a band looped around your ankle and bend your leg at the knee (like you’re kicking your hiney).

Arms & Back

Dumbell Drag Curl
Hammer Curl
Kick Back
Dumbell Triceps Extension
Wide Grip Pull Down
Supinated Row

Shoulders & Chest

Single Arm Overhead Press
Lateral Raise
Single Arm Upright Row
Face Pull
Cable Flye
Pec Dec

As of right now, I’ve only done one full cycle through the workout program. When I hit legs for the second time last Tuesday, I didn’t quite approach the reps in each set the same way, and I did the same tonight with my second time through with arms. The exercises stay the same in the workout, but alternate between straight sets with straight reps at a set weight, do staggered sets where you do 2 sets with maybe 10 reps of a light weight, then do a set to failure, or do pyramids.