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Nourishment for the Soul

If you had met me about 4 years ago, I’m willing to bet you never would’ve guessed that the girl standing in front of you, who took painstaking care of herself on the outside, was dying on the inside. I also bet it wouldn’t have even crossed your mind that those toned thighs and tight abs this girl was so proud of, came at the expense of her vital organs. If you had met me 4 years ago, you probably would’ve assumed I was healthy and in tip-top shape. You would have been wrong.

There are people, who view fitness and nutrition as essential components for a balanced lifestyle. Then, there are people, who become addicted to the rush of burning calories, shedding pounds, fad dieting, and ultimately altering the aesthetics of their appearance. I fell into the latter category.

I’ll just say it plainly: I suffered from anorexia nervosa. For most of my life, in fact. That shameful secret I hid from the world – and tried to hide from myself – nearly killed me during my first semester away at college. My body may have appeared to be everything I’d always wanted it to be, but the truth was it could barely function. At the height of my sickness, I’d struggle to stay conscious after a grueling several hours at the gym without any food or water to fuel the workout. This was no way to live. None whatsoever.

Finally – when the situation could no longer be ignored - my family intervened by pulling me out of school and signing me into a rehab facility. I felt like my life was over, but in reality, it had only just begun. Those ensuing months were simultaneously the most difficult and most fulfilling of my entire life. For the first time, I got healthy. Legitimately healthy. As in, I learned what “healthy” truly means.

After a period of intensive physical rejuvenation, emotional recovery, and mental retraining – much of which is still an ongoing process – I can say with utmost confidence that I’ve ultimately achieved the balance of fitness and nutrition that had been missing throughout those lost years dominated by my eating disorder. Today I enjoy a full and active lifestyle, free from the all-consuming obsessions that once plagued every waking moment.

I discovered yoga. I realized that running is not, in fact, an instrument of torture. I became educated on “clean eating” habits. I got strong…not skinny. And, above all, I embraced myself. Every quirk, flaw, and guilty pleasure. I learned to love my own individuality.

It’s not the number on a scale that makes a person worthwhile. It’s the risks they take, adventures they embark on, passions they pursue, obstacles they conquer, and mountains they climb. In the few years following my initial freedom from anorexia, I’ve accomplished goals that had once seemed impossible. I interned at an Off-Broadway theater in NYC. I graduated from college summa cum laude. I was cast as a performer at Walt Disney World. And now I’m following my dream of becoming a writer.

All because I finally figured out what it REALLY means to take care of myself. Health and fitness isn’t just nourishment for the body. It’s nourishment for the soul.

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Four-move Total-body Dumbbell Workout

Now, I talk a lot about the workouts that I do while teaching group fitness or trying out classes around the City, but I haven’t spent a lot of time explaining what a weight-room workout looks like for me. So today, I’d like to share an awesome four-move total-body workout I enjoy, that you can do just about anywhere, as long as you have a set of dumbbells. While I like all the fancy equipment available in a big gym, sometimes a good old-fashioned dumbbell routine is just what you need.

And the best part: Outside of warming up and stretching, this workout only takes about 20 minutes.

A workout designed to maximize effectiveness

Not only does this routine work the entire body with four fairly simple compound exercises, but it also features movement in all three planes of motion. In case you’re not familiar, the three planes of motion are front-to-back (sagittal), side-to-side (lateral) and rotational (transverse), all of which are important areas to address in a workout. And this workout includes some pushing motions, followed by pulling motions, which combined will help get you strong in the front and in the back.

I designed this workout to utilize a heavier set of dumbbells, which is why we only do each move eight times before moving on to the next, but we repeat the circuit for four rounds. I used a pair of 15 lb. dumbbells and would recommend starting with 8 or 10 lb. dumbbells to build up your strength. If you only have lighter dumbbells available, say 5 lbs. or so, then you can do 10-12 reps per each move and only complete three rounds.

Disclaimer: This may not be right for you. It’s just an example of something that I do in the gym. Ask your trainer or doctor before proceeding with caution!

Four-move total-body dumbbell workout: The four moves explained

Here are the move descriptions and links to video and photo tutorials:

  1. Squat to overhead pressWorks the glutes, quadriceps and shoulders. Key things to note: Start with your feet hip-width and drop your butt back just above your knee line as you squat, with your knees in line with your toes. Also, you want to make sure you dig in through your heels as you stand up, brace your core and try not to thrust your hips too far forward. At the top of the move, your body should make one straight line with the dumbbells right above your shoulders.
  2. Plank rowWorks the core and upper back. Key things to note: Your hands should be shoulder-width and directly under your shoulders. Your body should stay super still and level as you row your elbow back toward your hip, squeezing your shoulder blades back and down. Keep your butt and thighs nice and tight. You’ll want to use hexagon-shaped dumbbells for this, so you can keep your balance.
  3. Curtsy lunge with bicep curlWorks the core, quadriceps, calves and biceps. Key things to note: You need to keep your chest lifted, keep your elbows under your shoulders and by your sides as you curl up your arms. And, your front knee should be right over your front heel, don’t let it lean in any direction. When you push back to the set position, squeeze your butt for a little extra kick.
  4. Chest fly hip bridgeWorks the triceps, biceps, chest, core and glutes. Key things to note: Keep your shoulders back and down on the floor as you open your arms, elbows slightly bent. You should dig your heels into the floor to keep your glutes and posterior chain engaged. Squeeze your pecs in as you return your arms to the set position over your body and above your chest.

There you have it. In just 20 minutes, you can tone and sculpt your whole body. Have fun!

Questions of the day

What are some of your favorite weight-training moves? How long do you like to devote to workouts?

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I Am A Runner!

My ah ha moment –  here’s my story, a story I wrote to my mentor and my friend:

I’m a runner! Oh my gosh, I AM a runner! I never thought I would have said that a year and a half ago, until I met Nicole. It’s at this time I was accepted into the SkirtSports Kick Start 5k Program as a beginner. On my application, I said I was recently diagnosed with fibromyalgia and severe athritis and the doctors told me “whatever you do, do not run,” so, I was excited and terrified all at the same time when I got the email saying I was going to be a part of this amazing program.

Walking into that first meeting I had no idea what to expect – we shared stories, smiles and tears and I have to say, it was my WOW moment. Here was a group of beautiful women of all ages, all of us sharing, all of us nervous, but somehow, for me, it felt like we had already known each other — it was comfortable!

The following day I started my training. It was tough at first, having never ran before or even played sports, but I persevered, and I pushed, and then I hurt myself. I pulled my calf muscle, and let me tell you, it hurt like the dickens! So my training was stalled by about a week and a half, and then I continued.

That Saturday night before my first 5k I was so excited and so nervous. I layed out all my gear – my SkirtSports skirt, and team KickStart top, everything, down to my lipgloss! I didn’t sleep well that night, the butterflies just flitting around, but by the time I arrived at the destination the next morning, I think I relaxed and told myself “I am doing this!”

So, I ran, and ran and I finished my first 5k, woo hoo! I achieved all the goals I set for myself – I will Start, I will not DNF, and I will Finish – accomplished! I’ll never forget that day and all the feelings surging through me! Let’s move forward to Saturday, September 13, 2014. I ran a 10k, 6.2 miles – weeks of training, sweat, tears, frustration and pure joy. I ran my 10k virtually, in the afternoon at beautiful City Park. When I completed my second lap around the Mile High Loop, I was elated, I was weeping, I was jumping up and down and hugging my husband and most of all, I was so very thankful for Nicole and everyone at Skirtsports for their encouragement, their friendship, their cheers!

I can honestly say that I would probably have never become a runner had it not been for Nicole and KickStart, so I wanted to say THANK YOU, thank you with all of my heart and the tears in my eyes as I write this. I have not only become an athlete, but a stronger, more confident woman. I know that I can push myself much further and harder than I thought, stand taller and take on the world. I have shown my daughters that their Mom is someone they can look up to and be so proud of. I am a RUNNER – and I do run with mascara and lip gloss. Gotta look cute, even when huffing and puffing and sweating!!

I now run at 3-4 times a week, different parks, different mileage, different lip gloss!

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