It’s not always the case that “once an athlete, always an athlete” but for many high level athletes the routine of staying active in rigorous physical training becomes a lifestyle habit that sticks. I opened up talking to Holly Ringer about this, “I am a former pro athlete so training has always been a part of my life” Holly tells me, “After my professional basketball career ended I was unsure what I wanted to do next. I had been in the gym my entire life so going into a career in fitness was a logical next step for me. It did not come as naturally to me as I thought it would. I had always been the player, never the coach.”
“After many years of trial and error I decided to try teaching indoor cycling” Holly smiles, “This was the first time that I felt like a point guard again, and felt the same passion that I felt as an athlete. From that point forward I focused on group fitness and it’s been a source of happiness and joy for me ever since.”
I started my fitness career as a trainer in New York city” Holly tells me. And if you’re not aware of the crazy competitive market of trainers in NYC, then I’m here to tell you! (There are a ton of trainers in New York City!) “There are literally thousands of trainers and I feel like I have made a name for myself. This has required a ton of dedication, perseverance and passion. It’s cool though because I’d already learned so much about those traits from a life of playing professional basketball at 5’4. That was a 10 year journey that required the same type of dedication, perseverance and passion.”
Rewards of the Fitness Journey
“It’s the little things that are the most rewarding for me. It’s the joy I see in someone’s face when they accomplish a big goal. It’s the confidence a girl walks out of class with. It’s the transformations that occur when people change their body and ultimately change their life. It’s the friendships that I have made along the way that are not the cornerstone of my career and life.”
Workout New York
I had to ask how Holly’s participation in the Bravo show ‘Workout New York’ came about. “It was pretty much being in the right place at the right time. A casting director contacted me, told me about the show, and after shooting a couple pilots, I found myself filming a TV show. Yes. A TV show had been a goal of mine. In fact, I was a finalist to replace Jillian Michaels on the Biggest Loser in 2013. I was devastated when I did not get that role. I would love to be on a TV show again, it’s a big goal of mine. I love being able to share my gifts with as many people as possible.”
“Wellness is not just about your body. It affects every single part of your life. When you think about it that way why would you live your life any other way but healthy? Living a healthy life will give you more energy, make you a better brother, sister, mother or father. It will help you get the job of your dreams. It will help you make your biggest dreams come true. When you look at wellness this way it’s a choice to make your entire life better. Make that choice early in life and it becomes easier and easier throughout the years.”
I asked Holly what should a person really concentrate their energy on to get the most bang from their proverbial buck when it comes to health and wellness. Her answer, “Two things: Be mindful of what you eat. Move your body often.”
Holly’s 80/20 Fitness Rule
“Just move. Be active. Sweat every day. The rest will fall into place.”
The Fit & Healthy Mindset
“Everything starts with your mind. Everything starts with your thoughts. Your life is a reflection of what you are thinking on a daily basis. No one thought that I would be able to play professional basketball at my height. I did not care. Every single day when I woke up there was one goal I had in mind: getting closer to my dreams. I saw it so clearly that it felt like real life. My thoughts became my reality. Each and everyone of us has the power and the tools to do that same thing.”
Lauren doesn’t do this fitness thing the way anyone would tell a person to do so. Dropping out of University is such a cliche in some ways but not when it’s your reality. Lauren really did drop out of University to strike out as a fitness instructor, educator, and (dare I say, for fear of being cliche again) influencer.
On that note, maybe it’s best to just let Lauren tell you herself what she does in her own words, “I suppose I’d say I am a fitness lover who documents their lifestyle on social media, and who has somehow attracted a following!” Lauren laughs, “ I started out on Instagram and did it as a total secret. Then, when I had just under 5000 followers, EVERYONE at school found it. I was mortified! And then, I was bullied for it. And some of the boys in my year posted a photo on Instagram which was targeted at me, totally mocking my Instagram fitness account.”
“It made me want to stop, but I continued on anyway!” Lauren reflects, “ And I even went one step further and started a YouTube channel! I was embarrassed at first, but now I have no shame! I absolutely love what I do and aim to help, educate and inspire as many people as I possibly can during my lifetime.”
Even through the embarrassing manner in which this fitness life started for Lauren she plugged through it all and THEN decided to jump in with BOTH FEET…. In order to reach the largest possible audience “ I have started a new podcast, ‘Business Meets Fitness,’ which combines my two passions – business and fitness!” Laruen tells me, “ I also created a hashtag #StrengthFeed. It started off as a hashtag: a place whereby people share their journeys to become stronger, and to empower men and women, both young and old to become STRONGER.”
“When I say stronger, I don’t mean only physically stronger, but mentally too. Strength is not just about that which can be seen. Within yourself, finding strength enables you to achieve new heights.. and overcome things which you never thought you would be able to. Using this incredibly empowering hashtag, the #StrengthFeed allows people to connect with like minded individuals who are on the same path as them.”
When you talk to Lauren about her mission, you can feel her passion. I can relate, and personally tell you that the mission of connecting and uniting people that are having the same struggles, doubts, and challenges can be so helpful; so empowering. So many times in life as we face struggles or take on new challenges we feel alone, like we are the only one’s going through what we’re going through. But that is never really the case. Whatever doubts, obstacles, or difficulties you’re facing; there are so many others out there that are (or have) facing the same thing. It’s empowering to connect to a community that relates to you (and you to them too).
“Not only does this prevent the ambitious strength-seekers from feeling alone, but it also connects them to people who may eventually become their closest friends. Going on this journey can often be incredibly isolating. yet the community that has been created through the #StrengthFeed is so incredibly supportive.”
“Then, I decided to create two guides. Then, I turned it into a business, selling my training guide, and my guide which is all about tracking macros (I speak about this more later). This means that people can go on the journey together, and do it in the most efficient, effective and healthy way possible… and ALL science based… something which is SO important to me!”
After telling me what she does and what her ambitions fitness mission is, I had to ask Lauren how the heck did she become motivated to do all of this in the first place. “In my early teens, I was overweight.” says Lauren, “ Admittedly, not by a lot – yet I was unhealthy. I gorged on junk food as well as DETESTING exercise. I remember eating entire big bars of dairy milk chocolate (melted) almost every day after school, which I followed with either plain pasta and cheese, or pizza. My mum always offered me the healthy food that she and my dad would be eating, yet I always declined: I was incredibly fussy and liked to stick to what I knew.”
“Even at the age of twelve, I remember being incredibly insecure about my body. I would always edit photos to make myself look smaller (what a Generation Z thing to do!). And I always felt so large next to my friends. It wasn’t only my body I was insecure about: I caked makeup on my face even at this young age because I hated how I looked and would always tell myself I was ugly. By the time I reached fifteen years old, this became increasingly problematic, particularly as I was bullied at school for being ‘fat’. The boys in my year mocked me and called me ‘Macy Ds’ due to my size and due to the fact that I had a shiny forehead.”
“This, of course, made me hate myself even more. And it led me to take extreme measures. I cut my calories to a ridiculously and dangerous level, and began doing excessive cardio as it was the only way I believed weight could be lost. I became obsessed with the number on the scale. If one day went by where I didn’t wake up lighter, I punished myself through extra cardio or even fewer calories. I didn’t realize I had a problem. Until the panic attacks hit me.”
Throughout my year at University, I was not capable of lasting an entire day at school. My panic attacks were debilitating. I was no longer able to be a ‘normal’ teenager. If you’ve ever had a panic attack you will know what I mean. But each time a wave of dizziness came along, a panic attack came with it. And each time, I felt like I was dying. But even that did not stop me on my quest to be ‘skinny’.”
“A few months later, once I reached my ‘goal weight’ – I was still not happy. However, luckily, the people around me saw the damage I was doing to myself, and confronted me. This really hit home and I decided that it was time to change.”
“I remember googling ‘how to gain weight healthily’ and the first thing which popped up was weight training. So, slowly but surely I eased off the daily cardio, and switched across to lifting weights. I was SO nervous to begin with, but I asked the trainers in the gym for a little help, and after about ten months, I was off the cross-trainer completely. But, little did I know, I was training too often. I thought weight training 7x per week to absolute failure on each set was the way to go. On social media, I would always see memes with slogans such as ‘go hard or go home’ ..and I took them a little too literally.”
“I followed a few fitness pages on my Instagram page for inspiration, yet I wanted to interact with them. I was too embarrassed to like and comment on the posts, in the fear that my friends would see it and mock me for it. So, I created my own fitness page, which, at the time was ‘@fitnesslifelauren’ (which I then changed to @laurenfitness after a friend of a friend found me). I felt so isolated from all of my friends, as none of them were into fitness like I was, and it felt so good to be part of a like minded community.”
“In May of my A2-levels year (when I was eighteen years old), everyone found my fitness page. I was mortified. I seriously felt like I had been engulfed by a big, black hole. I didn’t want to show my face in school, and I knew for a fact that people were talking about me behind my back.”
“One night, all of the boys had a gathering together, and while there, they posted an image, with the caption: ‘Thank you so much @laurenfitness for my 90 day fitness meal plan’ – and then there were a load of hashtags such as #SponsorMePlease. The photo was of one guy shining a light (for the ‘good lighting’) on another, topless guy, and the location was ‘The NPC Night of Champions’ (NPC is an American bodybuilding federation).”
“As an 18 year old girl, I was mortified by the fact that my ‘friends’ were publicly shaming me in that way. It made me want to quit, never show my face in school again… and just hide away. But I didn’t. I continued, held my head high… and even went one step further and created a YouTube channel!”
I was doing what I was doing for ME, and because I knew that I had something to give to the world. So, I decided that I would let no one stop me!
Rewards of the Journey
“Meeting people whose lives I have changed. I never realise that I am doing it, but when I meet people and they bring me gifts, or turn up in floods of tears… THAT really hits me. It makes me so emotional seeing the impact I have on the lives of others. Sitting here right now, I still can’t get my head around it. It is incredible… and I don’t think it will ever feel real.”
Advice for a person getting started
Lauren’s Fitness Tip (Getting the most of what you put in)
“Don’t get caught up on the scale: Take progress pictures, and honestly.. Don’t even bother weighing yourself! How you FEEL is important, not how much you weigh.”
Lauren’s Fitness Gold Tip
“If I was to give only one piece of advice, it would be to TRACK. YOUR. FOOD. INTAKE.”
‘Tracking Macros’ (as it is called) is the most efficient way to progress. It’s SO easy and effective, yet so incredibly underlooked, because the best answer doesn’t sell diet books! I did write a guide called The Ultimate Guide To Tracking Macros to simplify EVERYTHING! There isn’t a ‘quick fix,’ despite what people so want. It takes time, and it takes dedication! So just do it the right way the first time, rather than constantly jumping from diet to diet and wasting a load of money!
Also, follow a structured training plan starting NOW.
So: tracking macros, and following a structured training plan. These are the two things which will get you the most bang for your buck
The most important thing to know
Everything in moderation, including moderation.
Lauren’s Fitness Mindset
Mindset is everything. For example, if you went in thinking 80/20, you’d think ‘ahh.. Training isn’t too important, i can skip it a couple of times per week’ – but if you start getting lazy, then you just won’t see the results you want!
Similarly, you need to love yourself. If you come at it all from a negative place like I did to begin with, you will hate yourself and it will really impact your life. Negativity breeds negativity. Positivity breeds positivity.
As an athlete in a variety of different sports that has taken Jordyn Kreller from the Pitch, to the Fieldhouse, to the Courts, to the track and then in and out of gyms….. It’s either quite a feat that she has continued to train so hard physically to prime and sculpt her body into a competition level fitness competitor. I can never make up my mind on whether most people would be just plain sick and tired of strenuous workouts and just let their hard earn physiques go or would the power of habit just keep the momentum going for most everyone that is such a long term competitive athlete.
As for Jordyn, the British Columbian native, years of preparation and participation in sports ranging from soccer, gymnastics, volleyball, basketball, field hockey, and track led her to be passionate about her health and fitness. “After years of sports, being coached by some of the best coaches in the industry, and observing them in their pursuit to help athletes, only motivated me to carry on this venture myself” Jordyn tell me, “I knew from a very young age that I wanted to help men and women of all ages achieve an athleticism that they have always dreamed of. Once I started weight lifting for the very first time at age 18, I knew that this was my place to make a significant impact on another person’s life. After years of schooling, graduating with a Bachelor of Human Kinetics and a Minor in Psychology, I pursued into both local one on one personal training and becoming an online fitness coach.”
“My current fitness journey has been nothing but blessings in disguise. With all the peaks and valleys I have experienced along the way, it has truly made me a stronger person. I have been into health and fitness since the age of 5, when I first started kicking a soccer ball around. Sports and competition (especially the preparation) taught me all about self discipline, poise, and grit.”
Jordyn’s description of what she does and her journey to get here is energizing and inspiring to those that want to be excited about being active. Next, I asked her what her mission is as a fitness coach, “As a fitness coach, my mission is to provide individuals with support, communication, and education on achieving a flexible and sustainable approach towards training and nutrition.”
My Motto is: “Achieve Your Body Goals, Train Like A Bad Ass, Have Nutritional Freedom, & Live Your Best Life”
“My biggest obstacle began in high school, after ending my gymnastics career at the age of 16, I went through a significant period of disordered eating and body dysmorphia.” Jordyn tell me, T’he scary thing was, I had no idea this was going on. The last thing I remember hearing the day I quit gymnastics was, “You know you will not be able to eat as much food as you do now …. Or else you will get fat.” This significantly impacted my mindset. Hearing those words shifted my mind from an girl who trained for life, to a girl who trained to get thin and stay thin. I researched articles upon articles; best ways to burn fat; best ways to stay lean; fat burning foods; fat burning workouts, etc.”
“I went from a solid 125lb gymnast to a 90lb thin girl. This is when I discovered the weight room and cardio machines. I abused cardio by performing 45-60 minutes of cardio followed by 60 minutes of weight training. I restricted my calories and feared every morsel of food that entered my mouth. I never went to social outings or parties, I hid in the library every single day during lunch hour, and I feared to walk across the school foyer because I knew people would judge me on my appearance.”
“If it wasn’t for my family and friends who voiced their concerns, I don’t know where I would be today. After battling this issue for 2 years, I finally went to see a dietician and a psychologist, and hired my very first personal trainer. And it was this trainer that made me want to get into personal training. “
“I learned a lot of what I rely on from a scientific perspective in my training and coaching during my research throughout my university career. Learning the research techniques on how to read specific scientific studies has allowed me to apply scientific knowledge to my practice. Although I love doing all of the research, I also find that trial and error is one of the best methods when it comes to strategies and methods. Nothing beats taking action with a client, observing the results, and seeing how you can make tweaks throughout their journey. That being said, any client who is willing to do whatever it takes to get results! It comes down to trusting the coach, and most importantly trusting themselves.”
I asked Jordyn about advice for beginners. When I say beginners, I mean real beginners who are just getting off their couch and trying to start getting active and fit the very first time. “I would advise them to stick to the basics to start” Jordyn advises. Get into resistance training. Either think about hiring a coach or research online “beginner workout programs”.
Dial in on your nutrition. Focus on the 3 basic macronutrients when having a meal: Carbs, fats, and protein. Each meal should contain a balance of a protein, complex carb, and healthy fat. Each meal should also contain a vegetable (think the more color the better) .
Assess how much water you drink. A good starting point is 2 L per day (be careful not to overdo it though).
Assess how many steps you get in a day. Do you sit majority of the day? Then go for a walk in the morning or the evening for 15-30 minutes. Work your way to get in 8,000-10,000 steps per day
How many hours of sleep do you get? Shoot for 7-8 hours per night minimum
How is your stress? Stress is something that many of us do not take into account, but has a huge impact on all of the above! If you find to be a highly stressful individual, find coping mechanisms, such as meditation, journalling, yoga, daily nature walks, etc.
Jordyn’s 80/20 Fitness Rules
“Mindset.” Jordyn simply states. “We underestimate how much impact the mind has on our journeys, no matter if we are a beginner or a pro. If you don’t have confidence within yourself or believe you can achieve your dreams, then you can’t and you won’t! When it comes to working towards you goals, it doesn’t mean taking the easy route … the easy route is not your 20%. The 20% is usually the tasks that we fear, that are difficult, and my be situations we avoid. But, once we take action on our fears and difficult situations, that is when a breakthrough happens. T his is the time when we become stronger human beings!”
“What we think about consistently has a direct impact on our actions. I always tell my clients, “Mindset is like peanut butter and jam! 😛 The combination is magical!” The mentality determines whether someone will dig deep and work through hardships to succeed, or simply claim defeat. It includes exercising courage, sustaining effort over long periods and leveraging self-talk to move through each pivotal phase, before ultimately accomplishing the underlying goal.”
As a self described ‘nomad’, Taryn Raine is always on the move. In Bali as we speak now on what she describes as a ‘wellness mission’, I can’t help but to be a little humored about the irony of her last name. “I mean, ‘Raine’ is that really your name?” I ask.
Taryn laughs and replies with a quick and certain “Yes. Yes, of course!”
You have to admit that for a yoga and wellness trainer, the name ‘Raine’ is almost a little too perfect.
“It’s my middle name” Taryn clarifies.
But it’s still so perfect..
Taryn’s journey to becoming a Nomad Yogi is quite a story….
“My fitness journey really started out of an insecure place, back when I was in adolescence.” Taryn says, “I was very worried about my image and fitting in, so I began to obsess over workouts. I would dig through the fitness pages in teen magazines and began paying attention to my diet. Around the age of eleven, I read my first “wellness” book, which is what inspired me to go vegan/vegetarian around that age. I was always mindful of my body and and my looks. It wasn’t until I accidentally stumbled into a yoga class my freshman year of college that I realized there is so much more to wellness than attraction. I learned that it is just as important to take care of the mind as it is to take care of the body. Since then, my fitness journey really evolved into this beautiful practice of marrying the physical, mental, and emotional practices into my life through yoga, weightlifting, meditation and spiritual practices.”
Taryn continued to practice, grow from, and enjoy yoga as her primary fitness and spiritual training regimen. Eventually, she decided to go ahead and get certified as a yoga trainer and instructor herself. “Four years ago, I became a certified yoga teacher and my life changed completely.” Taryn tell me, “At that time, I was working in the event world, teaching 7-8 times a week, and had a couple small businesses. I was very overworked, but I loved every moment of being about to teach my students and build a wellness community in the small town I had lived in.”
It’s always amazing to me how major life events (both positive and negative) become the impetus to lifestyle changes. That is exactly what ended up happening for Taryn….
“Many aspects of life began to unravel and I made the decision to sell all my belongings, close my home studio, and set off to travel the world.” Taryn tells me, “Still in love with teaching yoga and coaching my students, I began to teach online through my platform, the Remote Yogi, where I am able to share my knowledge on yoga, wellness, travel, and personal growth. Through free challenges, e-books, or online membership, I have been able to grow an online community of amazing women who are bettering themselves.
I also do a lot of life and spiritual coaching. I found that when it came to wellness, the self beliefs were just as important as the diet and fitness practices, if not more so. I began my coaching practice to help my clients truly believe in their own worth and ability to kick ass. It’s been an incredible journey so far and I’m still living out of my suitcase.“
Getting Started with Yoga
“The biggest things to remember when getting started with yoga is to stop being self critical.” Taryn says, “Often times, we have an image in our head of what yoga should look like or what a yogi should look like. The first challenge is to break through the expectations we place on ourselves, then we can experience the true benefits of yoga. It’s sad to watch. Beginner students will either beat themselves up for not being able to do certain poses or they’ll push themselves into a posture in a way that causes injury. This way of thinking can be dangerous! When starting any fitness practice, I suggest doing a gentle ego check and make sure that you coming at it with an open mind.”
“I know it can be intimidating and overwhelming. It sure was for me when I got started! When you’re new, just take it day-by-day. Don’t worry so much about having the perfect yoga mat or the perfect clothes or whatever. You really just need an open mind and a simple yoga mat and you’ll be fine. I highly encourage people try doing a beginner course at a local studio, if they have one in their area. If not, they can find plenty of online free challengers, like my own, that will teach them the basics from home. Home practice may also be good for those who are worried about feeling intimidated by the environment of a yoga studio.”
That “being said, also know that not all studios are created equally and not all teachers fit with all students. I always tell people to try different styles, different teachers, etc. I may not be the perfect teacher for you; that’s okay! The right fit is out there somewhere. The beauty is, everyone is different. Thank goodness for that!”
Yoga for Fitness & Spirit
I always like to ask Yogi’s what their thoughts are on whether yoga can be viewed as and practiced as just purely a fitness routine. So, in keeping with that, I asked the same of Taryn…
“In some ways, I think it is somewhat possible to separate the fitness element of yoga from the spiritual practice of yoga, understanding that the physical element is only one of eight different parts of yoga practice.” Taryn tells me, “I do believe that there are classes that are more geared towards the physical, fitness aspect of yoga. In many gyms, it may look like a power yoga or fit yoga class where the philosophy is not shared at all. (Sometimes, they even skip savasana, which is like the mini nap at the end of class and SO amazing.)”
“However when practicing yoga, there is a connection of the mind calming down and the breath working with the body. I think that inevitably leads to self growth and personal development, whether that spiritual or just the joy of having a calm mind. That experience is entirely on that the person’s own interpretation. I think it’s impossible to have yoga that’s true to the breath element that won’t transform people’s internal lives.”
Benefits of Yoga
“To me, the biggest benefit I’ve seen yoga create is the transformation it’s had on my mental health.” Taryn says, “Throughout my early teen years and into adulthood, I have battled depression and severe anxiety. Yoga was the first tool I used that completely got my brain into a surrendering, quiet state of mind. That’s really what hooked me in that yoga class that I accidentally stumbled into.
I honestly thought the movement was kind of silly and I was annoyed that I wasn’t getting enough of a work out. But at the end of class, I noticed that I hadn’t thought about anything other than yoga for the whole hour I was there. That blew my mind! As somebody who has suffered severe anxiety most my life, is was transformative moment. It was through this practice, and personal growth work, that got me completely off the anti-depressants I had been on intermittently since I was 12-years-old.”
“It continues to be the main reason I teach! Most of my students come to me with stress, anxiety, just this feeling of being overwhelmed. The yoga practice can help them take control of their bodies, but also take control their mind in a way that is different than a lot of other fitness practices. Now, I admit that I love lifting weights and I think there are similar effects in regards to focusing the mind. However, yoga specifically spends time working on the breath, clearing out the mind, and resting. I think these subtle changes are what makes yoga so much more beneficial for the mind and overall wellness.”
“Finding the tools to work with my mental challenges is something that continues to be a transformative.” Taryn tell me, “It still amazes me, but that wasn’t the greatest challenge. The biggest obstacle I overcame was my lack of self worth. This is a lot of what I coach about now actually. I spent my whole life thinking I wasn’t good enough. This is why it got into fitness early on. I thought I needed to be thin in order to be loved or belong. But it played out in many other painful ways in my life. I was underpaid and overworked at any job I ever had. I was emotionally and mentally abused in all my young relationships. I found myself in a marriage really young that was detrimental on my mental and emotional health.”
“Honestly, it was through becoming a yoga teacher, that I found the courage to make change. I was able to establish a community around me of people who were strong and supported me. I also took my own practice seriously. I was able to leave that marriage and then leave to travel the world. I grew into the strong and confident woman I am now. I believe in my own worth and value.”
Developing Taryn’s Fitness Philosophy
I asked Taryn how her fitness philosophy has changed and developed over the years. “At first, I felt really overwhelmed by everything. I would read every magazine, pinterest article, and take advice of my peers, but found that every piece of advice contradicted the other. It was rather confusing to me, so I just kind of bounced around and tried different things. I started to you feel out what felt good to my body, both with what I ate and how I moved. I experimented with what worked for me and what was fun.”
“I’ve read many books, watched tons of videos, and worked with a variety of trainers. Something I learned pretty quickly is that there would be different things that worked during different periods of my life. There are times with intense, cardio workouts feel goo and then there are times when I can’t bring myself to do more than gentle yoga. I think this is okay! Honor the body and what feels right to you first and foremost.”
“The strength training I’ve always kind of played with here and there, but it wasn’t until I made it a consistent practice, with my trainer, that I began to love it. He has me doing full body workouts three times a week. We created routines I could follow easily. The routine made it easier to commit and see results. I think having something easy to fall back on has been the biggest differences, as far as my consistency goes. Of course, I’ve tried other things like running and cardio kickboxing, but they didn’t feel good to me (even though my friends love it). I think when it comes to fitness and yoga, it’s really about trying out a bunch of methods and see what you like.”
“While I teach strictly yoga, a lot of my students are curious about fitness and other options. I tend to share what works best for me and help them explore things outside of my yoga classes that might be fun to try. My current fitness routine changes often, as I travel full time. Depending on my accessibility to a gym, it’s kind of always fluctuating. My ideal is a full body workout three times a week, with yoga in between. I usually give myself at least ten minutes of yoga stretches daily.”
“Exploring is one of the funnest ways to add in exercise and something I really encourage my students to do. Find places to hike, ride a bike, or take long strolls around your downtown area. A thing I loved more recently is the fitness bands. I travel with the small booty bands and I found that those are really great for being able to work out the whole body. For people who travel, just throw them in a carry-on and have some equipment to enjoy on-the-go.”
“My methods of finding what works for you are really the best practice for anyone. However, my tribe members are all women, currently, because we focus so heavily on self worth and self love conversations. I 100% think men connect with this too, but my teaching is from what I know, which is heavily female influenced.”
Rewards of the Journey
“As a teacher, being able to lead others is incredible. Everyone I work with is amazing! The most rewarding thing for me is honestly so simple. Reading the emails I get from people who are either reaching out for help or just thanking me for an impact that’s been made in their lives is the best part of my day. It feels so good to know that, not only have I been able to take charge of my own wellness, but that I can gift my lessons to other people and empower them to do the same for themselves. I always say that I’m not responsible for making a change of their lives, it’s always on them! But it is really cool to know that I might have given them the tools or lead them the knowledge they needed. It’s been amazing!”
“For somebody is just getting started and is currently living a more sedentary life, understanding your drivers is going to be most important. Understanding what motivates you, understanding the why behind what you’re doing. It has to be something bigger than to “look better.”
“While looks or bragging points might feel important, they are not going to drive you as hard as you’d think. For my moms and dads out there, it might be being the best role model that you can be for your child, showing that you’re taking charge of your health so that you can be around for your family to the best of your ability. For those career oriented, see the fitness as a way to better your overall performance and be more effective at work. Know your drivers for life.
What lights you up? What motivates you? Use that as the thing that’s gonna pull you out of bed and get you moving each day.”
“I’m also a huge fan of routine and scheduling things. You’re much more likely to do yoga or go to the gym if it’s scheduled in your calendar and you’ve got everything ready to go. Make it easy on yourself. Start morning routines or evening routines, whatever you need to do to get yourself in the right headspace. I think that’s the biggest hurdle when it comes any kind of personal development whether it’s physical, mental, emotional, etc.”
Taryn’s 80/20 Fitness Rule
“While it would be a lot easier if I told you to focus on doing one downward facing dog everyday for longevity, there’s honestly not one thing to focus your energy on that’s more important than mindset. In developing a firm belief in yourself and what you’re doing is so important. You’ve got to really believe in yourself from the beginner because there’s going to be good days and bad days whether you’re doing yoga, running, weight training, whatever. You are going to have days where you go in and kill it and feel great. Then, you’ll have other days where your body’s outta whack and you don’t do well. Those days suck. Having a firm belief in yourself and why you’re doing it is going to get you through those rough days. Having the mental strength to pull you through and again, having focus on those drivers is going to make the bad days much easier to deal with.”
“I think it really depends on why people are wanting get fit Regardless, it comes back to a mind thing. If someone is trying to lose weight, we have to pay close attention to mental wellbeing and stress. When we’re stressed out, our bodies release a hormone called cortisol, along with several others that impact our levels of anxiety and depression. Cortisol sends messages to your body that pretty much says. “we’re in survival mode!” Therefore, it might hold on to fat stores because it thinks that you’re preparing for winter or something. We also have a harder time sleeping well.”
“I often see people starting their fitness journey and they overwhelm themselves with doing everything perfectly. They’re obsessive about their diet restrictions and their fitness routine. They do everything right, but they’re not losing weight. In fact, sometimes they gain weight. This is because the obsession is causing too much stress on the body and it won’t function as well as it should. We have to get our mental space in the right zone, then just find really simple things commit to. 20% of what you should be focused on is creating routines and habits you don’t have to think about over time. Start super simple and add on as things feel easy.”
“What’s happening in the brain is going to release the hormones for how the rest the body responds. I can throw in some fancy science, but basically the way we think and feel about things impacts us in a physical way more than people give it credit for. If you don’t have your head in the right space, you can run all day long, pump weights all night, eat super clean, and still not feel great about yourself. You might even see physical results, like getting thinner or putting on muscle. However, if you’re not feeling empowered and good about yourself at the end of the day, then what’s the point? Really? What’s the point of you doing any fitness, if it’s not going to get you to be happier and living a joyful life? No one’s goal is the look good and feel miserable.”
Fueling the Body for Optimal Performance
“When it comes to diet (or anything really), I think it really varies for each person individually. As I mentioned, I when vegetarian pretty young, so that’s still heavily influencing how I eat now, but that may not work for everyone. I am a big fan of intermittent fasting, which means I try to have a small window for eating each day, anywhere from 6 to 10 hours. The goal behind this is to release hormones to help you perform better, very similar to the effects of ketosis. The keto diet can be great, but I found it challenging as a vegetarian. But these performance diets are really challenging. My concern is how stressful they tend to be, as the impact of stress can be detrimental. If you can really commit to it without it feeling stressful, try out different ones and see what works for you.”
Sometimes, it is easier to just start making simple changes. Add more fresh produce in your life and, of course, cut back on processed foods. I’d also say to cut back on meat, as most Americans eat too much of it. If you really want to see what works for your body, try cleansing out anything that can be a possible food sensitivity (dairy, sugar, gluten, etc) for a couple months and see how you feel as you start to reintroduce each one. My biggest advice: experiment!
The Yogi Mantra
Regardless of the goal behind your wellness journey, stop and evaluate the path that you’re on and make sure it’s one that’s gonna lead you to more self worth and more self love. That should be the main goal. Vanity is not bad, but usually not very helpful to our sense of personal worth and our own joy. Your fitness journey should be all about making the most out of your life and feeling joyous. I love getting a good workout and clean eating, but my aim is always self care and focusing on how I feel about myself.
It’s almost laughable how we sometimes make it seem like you need that piece of equipment and need to join this newest trendy fitness gym. Of course on the surface when you see extraordinary physiques and amazingly athletic bodies it seems only logical that in order to achieve these sort of extraordinary results, you’d probably have to go about spending extraordinary funds on specific equipment and/or special gym/s. I mean, it does seem logical.
You see guys like Eduard Checo and his group of Barstarzz Calisthenic athletes and it up-ends everything you were thinking about needing to have specialized equipment and/or gym memberships to fancy gyms. If you haven’t checked out some of the popular calisthenic athletes on Instagram, then I suggest you go take a peek at guys like Frank Medrano and Freddy Ping
When you see the physiques and athleticism they’ve built off of body weight movements, it blows your mind!
I sat down with Eduard Checo, the founder of Barstarzz, a calisthenics community teaching people how to be fit using their bodyweight and being creative with their body in the environment. “I created the fitness movement known as Barstarzz” Eduard tells me with a smile, “Now, we inspire and teach people to use their body weight as their exercise machine. We have been making regular internet content for this purpose since 2008. While being featured in publications like Mens Health, Mens Fitness, Forbes, and the New York Post as the expert in the field.”
Eduard’s inspiration that led him to this fitness path started early, influenced by how he looked up to his older brother. “My personal calisthenics journey started when I only 10 years old. I wanted to be like my older brother. He was huge and did a lot of push ups at home. Actually both my brothers at the time were really into working out. They would subscribe to all the magazines and even had a bench press in the house.”
“As a kid though the only thing I felt comfortable with was push ups. I didn’t think I was strong enough to do anything else. So every day I would crack out push up after push up. Inspired to be like my older brothers, I kept at it. Eventually I learned about squats, crunches, and different kinds of push ups from people I was hanging around.
In my teen years is when I learned more about pull ups. I would do them in my closet on the clothes rack. I was a really small kid, always the shortest in my class. Working out made me feel more secure at a time where self confidence was so prevalent. As I got older I learned the more extreme stuff from watching one person doing a muscle up and thinking i need to to be able to do that myself!”
Barstarzz is about teaching you to master your body with no limits. You can get big, strong, agile with nothing else but your body. We want to inspire you to get moving without having limitations on your creativity to workout.
We seen people learn brand new skills and teach them to really fall in love with fitness.
It’s hard to workout, if you love it you love it but a lot of people don’t and look at it as a chore. This makes it much harder to try and lose the weight or gain the muscle people might want. We integrate learning skills with your fitness goals so you are excited for each session. Each session you are not only getting lighter but you are teaching yourself a movement pattern that you probably never did in your life before.
We have great transformation stories from people who packed on tons of muscle from calisthenics to people who lost ton of weight from calisthenics.
Barstarzz was born from many of the Bar workout crews in new york. I wanted to create a crew that represented my neighborhood. I wanted to make videos on the internet and post it under this brand. I wanted to make it huge!
The Barstarzz Movie
The reference movie is kinda old. It came out at the time where dvds were popular. This movie we teach each workout step by step in tutorial format then give you workout routines you can use to reach your goal.
We now have a new workout program out called “Barstarzz BTX” which tells you exactly what you need to do day by day with bonus motivational videos, challenges, diet information, and exercise library.
This program was developed to give people a medium of losing fat while gaining muscle and learning new skills. This comes with a money back guarantee! http://barstarzzbtx.com/
I know we opened this story up talking all the things you don’t need to get strong and stay fit using your body weight but there are some pieces of equipment that is necessary to leverage your bodyweight in a way that maximizes your results. I asked Eduard about this…
“The portable pull up bar I think is something everyone must get. This the most important thing in my lifetime I had with training. The availability to be able to practice throughout the day at your convenience is huge. We offer a recommended one on our website.
We manufacture resistance bands which is also a good tool to use to be able to scale your progressions. For example a pull up is too hard? Use a heavy band to help pick you up to the top. As you get stronger move on to a lighter band. Then keep going lighter until you can do it freely. Same goes with the more advanced moves as well. “
Lastly, because calisthenics looks a bit daunting for a beginner to take on as a primary fitness method, I asked Eduard to tell me about a memorable fitness success story. He shared this one…
“It’s so tough I have so many of them. I think in general is the success of the culture. We were able to push a whole generation of people to be more aware of their bodies. We have influenced many others to implement are style of training to their systems, videos, and programs.
But here is also a good answer. Edrisse went from being a jogger to being a Barstarzz”
If you dig deep enough into the motivations of why people are conscious (in some cases hyper-conscious) of their health or make fitness a priority in their lives you’ll find the real underlying reason. For some it maybe that their family is littered with tragic stories of premature health decline or death, for others it maybe that they were teased as a young child, and for most people it will take a lot more that one or two questions to really get close to a the real underlying reason/s. A series of interrogating questions isn’t necessary for Rachel Murray to articulately tell me how her fitness journey began, “I was sexually abused in college, and given my athletic upbringing, my first outlet was running. But running became destructive. I built up a tolerance and had to run harder and faster and longer to feel the same thing — and I had been running to feel something; anything.”
After getting serious about running “It was then that my friend introduced to me to weight training. In college, after a friend introduced me to weight training and proper nutrition, because it was the first time I had felt truly empowered and strong in a long time. I fell in love with the feeling it gave me and wanted to share that with other women in need of confidence and empowerment.” Rachel’s exploits into fitness as a profession is so vast and varied that it’s difficult to contain what she does in one word or statement. “I do a lot of different things and it’s hard to explain, but generally, I’m a fitness professional in the entertainment industry. I’m a professional sports model and host, a fit-lifestyle blogger, a certified personal trainer/nutritionist and lifestyle coach, and an advocate for women realizing and reclaiming their innate, God-given value and purpose.”
When I asked Rachel about how she ended up where she is now, it’s clear that there wasn’t like a master plan or vision that led her to where she is today. “To be honest, I don’t think I ever thought like that. I don’t set 5 and 10 year plans, but I do get a thrill out of achieving the goals I set for myself. I’ve always been a goal setter, motivated by the idea and belief that nothing is impossible. My dad taught me to be resourceful (an invaluable lesson) and so, every imagined goal became a challenge, but in a fun, solve-the-mystery sort of way. Successfully reaching a goal motivated me to set a new goal, and the pattern simply repeated itself.”
Being the oldest of four children Rachel says she’s been drawn to leadership and ambition. “I spent my childhood moving every few years while my dad was in the military which made me highly adaptable and tenacious. I was raised in a Christian home, and my relationship with God is everything to me. My parents, who’ve prioritized their theology as long as I can remember, are a living example of the message of grace and two of my biggest inspirations (spiritually, relationally, and beyond). And so, every “nothing is impossible” goal I imagined became a challenge, but in a fun, solve-the-mystery sort of way. Successfully reaching a goal motivated me to set a new goal.”
Cause Fitness is Rachel’s program and channel for her fitness message. I’ll let her tell you about it in her own words….
As the name implies, Cause Fitness is all about Fitness for Effect.™
The meaning is three-fold in definition.
1) It’s about personal responsibility – it’s a call to cause your own fitness effect.
2) It’s about positively influencing those around you – it’s a call to cause a fitness effect on those around you; a ripple effect.
3) It’s a cause – a call to action; an invitation to get fit and give back. A minimum of 10% of all proceeds goes to causes (organizations and ministries) who are all about giving a hand up rather than just a hand-out (eg. Charity Water).
Rachel On Fitting Fitness Into Your Life
First of all, you have to plan for success, purposefully — make your goal a SMARTgoal, get professional guidance, and tell people about it, for accountability and support.
But after that, unless you’re set on training for a marathon or Ironman (a goal that requires hours upon hours of endurance practice), or professional bodybuilding (a goal that requires extra training volume, and slower harder sets with extra rest time between them) there are many training protocols and methods to suit almost any other fitness goal that can be done efficiently and still be effective. For example, depending on intensity and level of exertion, HIIT circuits are a great way to get stronger and burn body fat in in very little time (10-30 min max), all while increasing your resting metabolic rate for up to 48 hours post workout! Read: harder work NOW means more calories burned longer, even while binging Netflix.
Fitness Advice from Rachel
The advice would depend on the person (can vary greatly based on their personal motivations, history, limiting factors, lifestyle, mental/emotional health, etc), but generally, I’d encourage them to remember their “why”. Why are you making time to workout? What is the reason? If the reason isn’t motivating enough, I’d encourage them to find a reason that is personally motivating and remind themselves of that daily (post-it’s, alerts, notifications, wall-art, photos, etc). This is because mindset changes everything. You must decide to change before you can commit to change, and you must commit to change before you begin the process, because it will get difficult. You have to be ready for obstacles and want to change badly enough to push through even when they do. Change always requires challenge.
80/20 Rule for Fitness by Rachel
Planning and preparing. If you have a plan of action, the tools for the journey, and your environment is primed for success (20%), then the work (80%) will seem much easier, and the goal so much more achievable.
On Fitness Modeling
In 2007, a model friend of mine sent in photos of me from a boating excursion that summer to his agency (without my knowledge). I got a contract from them shortly after and signed, booking my first job just a few days later. It was something I had secretly always wanted to do but wouldn’t have pursued it without the push. I’m forever grateful!
I love that it’s new every time. Even if I book recurring jobs with the same company, the job is never the same twice, and rarely boring. I’m always meeting such amazing and inspiring people, too, and that leads to friendships and business relationships, and collaborations, and more!
I’m certified in exercise nutrition (sports nutrition) and believe food is our fuel. The more active we are, the more (calories, carbs, etc.) we need; the more sedentary we are, the less we need. Gotta earn your starches! 🙂 But, I’m bit of a hybrid of Sports Nutrition and Paleo because I stick to my mantra “God-made over man-made” wherever and whenever possible. This means real, whole foods. Nothing artificial. I’m not a vegetarian, but I believe greens should take up the most real-estate on your plate in every meal. A full amino-acid profile for protein is vital for health and fitness goals, so I do consume and advocate animal proteins, but I keep red meat to a minimum and eat a lot of eggs, chicken, and natural whey protein shakes.
I’m working on a book, a memoir. And I just launched a new web-series on my YouTube channel called “Real Talk with Rach” as a way to open up about my story, be transparent, and discuss topics that we, as a society, generally hide from out of fear, but desperately need to face/own-up to in order to evolve and heal and grow and reconcile and move forward. Topics like vulnerability, forgiveness, body image, self worth, and compassion are examples of things we’ll be talking about in future episodes.
My hope is that this series builds a strong online community that spreads the messages with their circles and positively influences others to build similar communities. I want to create a ripple effect. That’s always been my vision for Cause Fitness. It’s Fitness for Effect. That happens when we learn how to give AND receive, and really DO LIFE together, working through rather than avoiding hard topics and conversations. We need more courageous and compassionate people. We need bravery and vulnerability and integrity.
I’d love for the book and the online community to become physical community who gather and participate in future retreats and workshops and community outreach events.
I hope that I can help you see your value as innate, not to be earned; I hope I can help you see that while fitness and health are vital to your quality of life, they can’t save you like I used to think they could; and I hope that I can help you better understand, through basic fitness and nutrition education and a little personal responsibility, how simple taking care of yourself really is.
Jordan Stanford appears to most people to be a perfect workout icon. She’s strong, successful, and carefree. She posts pictures of herself doing seemingly impossible yoga poses, which has earned her the nickname ‘Bendy’. She seems like she has it together all the time and doesn’t struggle, fail, or stumble. But Jordan doesn’t want to be a perfect icon as much as she wants to be a warrior princess. Despite how she appears on the surface, Jordan has had her share of setbacks and challenges. The difference lies in the way she handles them: head on. Her perseverance and optimism have made all the difference for her, and those characteristics shine through her teachings to this day.
Six years ago, Jordan Stanford found herself at a crossroads at the young age of 21. Having graduated from university with a degree in Psychology, she wasn’t able to take the next step to become a counsellor for another four years. “Suffice to say, I felt a little lost and didn’t really know what to do with myself. I was practicing yoga at the time, and my brother suggested I look into training to become a teacher…”. She was living in Kent and decided to do just that. “I started out taking on classes at local gyms, covering classes where I could. It helped to build my confidence and experience, but after a while, I realized that’s as far as I could take it.
I began to run my own classes at my family home, which were amazing. I could run the classes how I liked, tailor each session to my intimate group of students, and set the room exactly as I wanted. It was a beautiful space with lots of positive energy. But just as the classes were starting to grow to the point where I was running multiple classes a day, we had to sell the house…”. Jordan being Jordan, she didn’t see this as a setback, but as an opportunity to grow beyond what she thought possible.
She moved to London to start a new chapter and continued to push her own boundaries. “Becoming a yoga teacher was how I initially got into the fitness industry. Since then, I have furthered my knowledge by completing my level 3 personal training and pilates training, along with various other courses in nutrition and seminars from industry leaders.” When asked why she has such a strong drive to keep growing, she responded, “I am continually striving to learn and grow as a trainer, and as much as I like to study theory, I believe the best way of learning and developing is through practice, trial and error, trying things out, and seeing what works.”
Jordan has since founded Hiro Fitness, a health and wellness studio in London, UK that offers personal training, yoga, and nutrition services. Jordan’s mission is to become a real life superhero and help others do the same with training programs ‘fit for Captain Steven Rogers himself.’ Her geeky humor and inspiring positivity are what attract thousands of followers to her studio and coaching techniques. She even recalled the struggles of her early teaching days with fondness, recognizing that those experiences brought her to where she is today. “Being forced out of my comfort zone really was when the magic started to happen, since moving to London I have been fortunate enough to work at some of the top gyms and hotels in the world and partnered with incredible brands.”
Philosophy and Methods
Jordan’s goal in teaching is to create classes that are explorative, fun, and intuitive. She wants her students to push and challenge themselves, while also enjoying what they’re doing. “People say ‘get out of your comfort zone’, but I don’t want to suffer through something I’m not enjoying. You have got to have fun whilst doing it. Of course challenge yourself and push through when it gets hard, but you have to have fun with it. That’s when you really start to see results.” Jordan encourages her students to think outside the box and find something active that makes them truly happy: “Pole dancing, rock climbing, adult ballet, parkour, martial arts. I moved away from training that is solely to make me ‘look good’ and have started training to make me a badass and learn new skills I didn’t know my body could do.”
Jordan believes the most important factor in achieving physical goals is to have the right mindset. “The power your internal dialogue has is so so strong. The more you start to tell yourself you can do whatever you want to do, the more you start to believe it. Taking positive actions leads to positive outcomes.” One of the things that sticks with you after meeting Jordan is her ability to put her teachings into practice. She truly believes what she shares with her students, and keeping herself in the right mindset is how she stays positive and focused.
Jordan has come a long way since her days teaching classes in her family home in Kent, but the most rewarding parts of her job come from her students. “I have had many rewarding parts: every time a student comes to me excitedly after a class when they are first able to touch their toes in what could be decades! When people trust me to open up about their mental health and how my sessions have helped them. Genuinely seeing improvements in people’s mental and physical health is the most rewarding part for me.”
What are the most important parts of a yoga practice that a person would need to learn / master first?
There are countless asanas (poses), but there are those few ‘key’ poses that you’re likely to see in most yoga classes. Taking the time to learn the proper alignment and build up the strength to execute these poses correctly will make all the difference when you are looking to get more from a practice. I would say Chaturanga, Warrior I/II, and Downward Facing Dog. People get these wrong all the time and rush through them, but we spend a lot of time in these poses so getting them right is crucial.
What are your go-to snacks when you’re on the run?
I always keep an emergency protein bar in my bag, Herbalife Nutrition Vanilla Almond or RXBAR Chocolate Sea Salt are my faves. But when I can, I try to have some homemade snacks that I can take with me. Most recently, I tried Cheesy Cauliflower Muffins from Dr. Steven Gundry’s book The Plant Paradox, and they were way better than expected! They definitely deserve another go.
Can you share a workout session that you routinely do in the gym?
Working with relatively light weights, a typical session might look like:
· 10 single leg deadlifts on each leg with an 8-10kg dumbbell
· 12-15 stiff leg deadlift with a 20kg barbell
· 15 hip thrusts with bar
Repeat for 3 rounds
I also like to include some abductor work with a band:
· 20 side lying legs lifts
· 20 side plank clamshells
· 20 seated pretzel abductions
Repeat on the other side
What’s the funniest thing that’s ever happened to you while working out?
I was at my teacher training in a group of 15 women with a male teacher. We were all sitting around in a circle during an anatomy lesson, and our teacher was going through the anatomy of a lunge when some of the girls starting hysterically laughing. Our teacher, bless him, was hanging out his shorts – we saw everything! Most people would have been so embarrassed, but he joined in with us laughing, put it away, and got on with the class. Since then, I’ve seen it a few times with students in class. Guys, just remember baggy shorts and low lunges do not mix well!
You probably can tell from afar that Ashleigh is a fitness aficionado. Her sporty, fit, and flexible frame tells it all, almost. Her unassuming and bright character very well conceals her exceptional accomplishments as a dancer, her life-impacting achievements at www.thenewthin.com, and the academic gig at Utah Valley University.
Between torn ligaments, tendons, muscles, severed knees and ankles, and hip surgeries; she’s stood high above life-threatening and career-marring strains as she educates women on how to win in fitness, diet, and life. In a bit, you’ll learn how Ashleigh’s gripping survivor story is propelling her to change other people’s lives for good.
Dancer, strength training expert, university teacher, writer, and founder of The New Thin, Ashleigh De Lello’s schedule is pretty fixed. When she’s not training clients, she’s in the classroom teaching Dance majors or outdoor hiking with her family and dog.
Usually, Ashleigh runs and engages The New Thin users online, takes sessions of fitness classes with her members and take Dance Conditioning classes for Dance major students of Utah Valley University as she shares from her wealth of experience and knowledge of strength training.
From the beginning
That began back when I was 13 years old. I started dancing 5 hours a day when I was 7 years old and when I was 13, I woke up overnight and everything changed. I had pain in every joint and muscle. You could hardly touch me without me wanting to scream in pain. I had like a 104-105 degree temperature with sweating profusely but freezing. This was the first day of 4 and a half years that I’ll fight for my life.
And I was patient for 2 and half years I traveled all around the country to every top specialist in every field and no one could figure me out. If you’ve ever watched the TV show ‘House’, that was on Fox a few years ago, I was one of those types of patients where I was clearly dying but nobody could figure me out. All my tests came out perfect, all my blood tests scan …everything. I was essentially sent home to die, told I was a mystery, told I had some unknown virus nobody could figure it out.
Over the course of those years, I became so sick that I was practically bedridden, I’d lost most of my hair, gotten down to 90 pounds, didn’t have the strength to lift up my finger someday. My whole body was ravaged with pain.
I finally got a diagnosis. 2 and half years of a very rare parasitic infection that actually…the parasite goes in and takes over the function of your organs. So literally I was starving and was dying and that combination with an unknown virus was what was so deadly for me.
So after that diagnosis, it took another 2 years to be able to function in my life again. And it was such a slow process of literally being able to move from my bedroom to the bathroom, to walking down a few houses from mine, to walking around the block and eventually being able to go school.
And when I tried to go back to dancing I was so weak from everything I’ve gone through for those 4 and half years that I didn’t have the strength to dance, I didn’t have the energy and I didn’t have the actual strength which is what introduced me to Strength training. And I remember the first time of going in and barely able to lift a 1 pound weight. I understand the process of literally starting from ground zero. And that is when my love and passion for strength training began because it forced my pathway back to doing what I love most which was dancing but I saw how the body truly has no limit. Obviously, I had survived a life-threatening illness but also I saw the evolution of what my body could do strength-wise through consistency in the gym. Of doing this strength training exercises and slowly but surely, seeing my body gain strength and that was ultimately what allowed me to get back to dance again.
So that’s really when my fitness training began. It began about Age 18 when I survived my illness and had to strength-train to dance again. So 18 years old is when my fitness training started.
On overcoming obstacles
Obviously surviving that illness was my biggest obstacle. And how did I do it? Perseverance. Being a fighter and not giving up. I was told at 13 years old that I’ll never dance again, that I’ll never have children that I’ll never live a normal active life and I was told that I should accept this.
And I told them that **giggles** shove that diagnosis because I wasn’t going accept that that would be my life and so I never gave up. I fought every day even when I felt like I was dying, I’d look myself in the mirror and say I’m getting better every day and I accepted that no expert was going to set the limit on my life. And we fought and we fought, we researched and we researched until they found answers and through all of it, I just envisioned myself dancing again, I envisioned myself being healthy even when the very thing I’ve just had energy was something I had completely forgotten.
So overcoming, it helped struggle that severe is just as much as mental and emotional as it is physical because your body literally…it’s easier to give up. Because I was so sick, every day was so hard. The mountain ahead of me getting well just felt insurmountable. It was everyday small efforts and I did everything I could.
I went on an extremely healthy diet just to not take anything away from my immune system. Every food that I gave my body I wanted it adding to my immune system, adding to my chances of survival. That was what food became for me, it was life and death. I will literally look at food and ask “does this add to my immune system or take away?”. And I wanted to get better more than anything else. So here I was, a teenager going off sugar for four years because I wanted my immune system to have every fighting chance. So I did it through healthy nutrition, I did it through a positive mindset that would not accept any limit. I was determined to conquer and I did.
Fitness Philosophy and research
A lot of it came through personal experience obviously through research and studying as well but it came through my experience because I went through a lot of injuries after I had gone through that illness I just had a lot of scars just because my body had endured so much. So when I got back to dancing I suffered through a lot of injuries through my professional career. I’ve pretty much have injured every part in my body- torn ligaments, tendons, muscles, my knees, both ankles, I’ve had two hip surgeries, I’ve gone through that process of literally learning how to walk again, tears in my shoulders.. you name it, spinal injuries
Not something that I’m proud of or grateful for but it did give me an incredible understanding and knowledge of the human body because, through all that, I had to rehabilitate all these injuries, and I really intricately, personally, learn the mechanics of the body and what everything does and how important every part is, and that, of course, was the best knowledge you could get. I t’s that firsthand experience and working with a lot of experts all across the country and learning their expertise as I was blessed to rehabilitate with them. As I was in different places in my dancing career.
And so research and science behind it come through working with these people, through working with my body, through understanding what was super effective at building progress strength but in a way that didn’t tear down my body.
So many workouts nowadays are hardcore- it’s about burnout, it’s about total exhaustion. I have a professional dancing career so I don’t want to be doing tons of tuck jumps and box jumps and all these really aggressive things that were also hard on my joints, tendons, and ligaments, and muscles because I wanted to be strong for dance and not tear myself down in training. So it was researching study of how to effectively build progressive strength in a way that wasn’t also destructive and that was such an amazing learning experience.
I had to learn that way because I did have all these injuries that I was always rehabilitating. So the incredible thing that came out through years of research with all these amazing people that I got to learn under, but also application to my own body and seeing specific exercises that targeted all those areas that women really struggle with and was able to in a way, build the body that I want in a super efficient way without increasing my risks of injury by doing really explosive movements and repeated plyometric but being smart about it.
Why the philosophy is unique
Working-out smarter and not harder. That’s really where my philosophy became and what makes it so unique because also I always wanted to maintain the aesthetics of a dancer and a lot of people want that quote “dancer body” without dancing, right?
So I was able to develop workouts that specifically added and supported my body as a dancer and didn’t take away from it. The workouts also made me progressively strong and functionally fit because that was so important to me. I value health more than anything else because of my experiences and that has always been my driving force.
What also makes this different because I saw a missing gap in the fitness industry. No one was really addressing women’s relationship with their body and with food and with exercise. Because you can you can tell someone do this workout or eat this way but that doesn’t last. It’s not long enough and that’s we have some women looking for new exercise program because they haven’t addressed the internal relationship with themselves.
And the internal relationship is what drives the decision-making process.
So you have to address that first. I knew when I wanted to develop my program the New Thin I wanted it to be a total transformation program- mind, body, spirit. So I have an entire mind section in the app from the videos addressing the relationship with their body, how to heal their relationship with their body, how to heal their relationship with food so they get off their diet cycle forever. It’s not just about eating healthy following this plan but actually heal our relationship with food so that we stop dieting- we no longer have the destructive relationship with food that so many women suffer with.
The whole idea was to start approaching fitness from a place of self-love. Especially growing up in a daunting world where we live our lives in front of mirrors. There’s a lot of destructive patterns with people’s body, with dancers, with eating, or with their self-image. And that just comes because of what we do. Our bodies are a tool and we spend every day in front of a mirror. So many women are driven to exercise or eat healthy because they are unhappy with their body and of course, I think we should always try to improve ourselves in every way.
My whole goal was to really teach women how to approach fitness from a place of self-love, not self hate because of what I’ve gone through I truly understand that the greatest gift we have in life is our bodies because they make everything in our lives possible. Because I’ve been so sick, I’ve been on my deathbed, because I’ve gone through so many severe injuries. I want to teach women, it’s not a matter of “ah, I have to work out because I hate how I look, I hate my legs”. Rather, “I have a healthy body that allows me. It’s a gift to move my body and to get fitter and stronger. This is a gift, this is something I get to do not a punishment for how I look and eating healthy is the same way I wanted to truly teach women that food is the fuel for the life, that food is not something negative, it’s a gift.
Every time we get to eat, it’s what allows our body to function and to live”. That has been the biggest difference that I’ve really seen with the women that I’ve worked with is that mindset shift that really leads to life-long changes, that gets them out of that diet mindset, it gets them out of that diet cycle. It heals the relationship with food, it heals the relationship with themselves so they actually can look in the mirror and feel self love. They start exercising from a positive place, a place of gratitude.
The reason I called my program the new thin is because for so long women were pushed to be thin through excessive exercising and deprivation diet and I called it the new thing because it’s redefining what it means to be strong, fit, and healthy which is, of course, is my passion with everything I’ve been through. And the New Thin is about approaching fitness from the place of self-love.
Every woman responds to my method because I really spend so many hundreds of hours of research really figuring out what was most effective in the least amount of time to target women-trouble areas. Not all workout programs are created equal. These are specific to target women’s body in a way that she wants it targeted. And it takes specific exercises to do that. So I’ve men do my program and they love it but I strategically designed it for a woman’s body and mind.
What’s been rewarding is seeing women change from the inside out and getting lasting physical changes because of that internal transformation and seeing the self-love that enthuses their life and how it affects their everyday gratitude, their everyday happiness, the relationships with their spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend, children. Their lives truly change because it’s an internal transformation that leads to an external one. So being able to use all my experiences and all the hardships that I’ve had with my body have really been rewarding and I’ve been able to help all the women in the program.
Advice to fitness and health enthusiasts
I’d say it starts with gratitude of understanding what it is to have legs that walk, to have eyes that see, to have arms that work to be able to move your body. And when you start appreciating that, you understand that you want to move it. If you can approach it from the place of gratitude, then you’ll be more active. It’ll last.
You find something that you enjoy that is strategically designed to give you the result. Don’t just exercise because it gives you the result. Follow a science-based system. My workouts are only 25 minutes long and honestly, I got in better shape following my workouts in these 25 minutes workouts than I was dancing 5+ hours a day. Because they are designed to be strong and effective. We all have super busy lives and more of that tends to be one of people’s greatest excuse not to workout.
Everybody has 25 minutes, right?
Easily even just putting social media away for 25 minutes. So you need to find a system that is scientifically designed to give your most bang for the buck. And to be careful that it’s a system that it’s going to give you the result you want for your body without tearing your body down. It’s really important to me because I’ve seen so many people that start really intense programs and they get injured and that’s not the point of working out, to destroy your body. Yes, it is to push it to its limits and to get stronger and fitter and have great endurance and be healthier. It’s not to be incredibly hard just for the sake of being hard that you get injured.
Body empowerment = life empowerment
When you do that you’re going to make healthier choices and you’ll be more active because of your mindset towards it. A lot of people don’t succeed in fitness because they have a negative mindset towards it. It’s a negative thing because they don’t like how they look or they have to eat healthy because they hate how they look instead of all of it been approached from a positive thing in their lives. One of the things I actually believe is that body empowerment will lead to life empowerment. We all feel better when we take care of ourselves. When we exercise that discipline it pours over to other places of our lives. So if we can approach it from the right mindset that is the most important thing you can do to make it- something that actually lasts because it’s a positive thing in our life.
The body as the greatest gift
It’s everything. If you’re going to approach fitness from a negative place and negative place for your body it’ll work out to be super effective if the whole time you’re focusing on what you hate instead of what you’re grateful for- an opportunity to work out. I say that a lot but I mean it, I’ve lived it and your body is truly your greatest gift and you need to take care of it. It’s a blessing in this life that a lot of people take for granted and like I said your body makes your whole life possible.
On workout programs for dancers
Yes, I’m a dancer. And No, dancers do not need a workout program aside from their dancing program. mI was a professional dancer to teach dancers. I’m a professional ballroom dancer which is called dance ball, we compete. We call ourselves athletes because we are and any athlete, to be super successful, they outside of their sport in the gym to be better for their sport to prevent injury to be stronger, faster, have greater balance and agility. Dancers need the same thing but it’s really lacking in the dancing world.
I actually teach a course at the local university, Utah Valley University that is called Dance Conditioning. It’s required by Dance majors and it’s a whole class that we go over the importance. We go through muscular, physiology, anatomy and we go through the whole body about correcting misalignments, and strengthen, and how we need to strengthen better so we can dance.
That was pivotal in my dance career not only for injury prevention but to be able to move faster, have greater agility, balance, speed- all of that didn’t just come from dancing but came in my time from the gym.
It’s a goal of mine to educate more dancers and I’d love to have taught this course at the university for several years and it’s just been incredible to see that mindsets shift dancers. It’s absolutely necessary, especially for dancers to be serious about it and want to make it a professional career. Dancing is a strength to the body but also tears it down. It’s very hard on the body and so we need that foundational training to help support dancing. A lot of dancers still don’t know that. It’s definitely a goal of mine to help spread that message to educate and I’ve been blessed to do that through the university.
“So absolutely dancers need training outside of the gym.”
Overrated and underrated exercises
Ok, wait. I have two folds about the most overrated exercises. A lot of movements done with machines is overrated because, for the most part, is push and pull and you’re not building functional strength and total body strength. That’s why one of my favorite equipment in the gym is the cable machine because it allows you to move through four ranges of motion and it just makes so much sense in your functional life.
This is especially if you need that type of power and explosion in your sport or what you do in your life. But they are not necessarily for getting a desirable shape and I think that mindset has been put out there by a lot of fitness people because that is what they do and that’s what is in a lot of programs. And people have been bitten by the intensity-bug but I’ve seen so many people get hurt. So many people mess up their back, their knees, have hip issues, and it’s totally unnecessary. In those type of explosive movements, you need to have perfect form and lots of people just starting out are not going to have that. And so you’re not even working the muscles you think you are. You’re just putting a lot wear and tear on your joints and tendons and ligaments. And I’ve just seen way too many people destroy their body trying to get into shape and it just not the point and not necessarily.
Underrated exercises are some of your simple exercises that target specific muscles that look simple in their form but are the most effective. So sometimes simplicity gets overlook because it is simple and people want to do more exciting things. But you know, some things never change, that foundational stuff is always, always importance especially functional type movement that requires your entire body to work together.
So sometimes we can get into too much isolated, or we go too extreme and do explosive movements. Anything that challenges your body and your balance and requires your whole body to work together and your muscle recruitment to be maximized, throughout your body, that’s going to give you total strength and body functionality and allow you to function better in your life or sport or dancing or recreation.
I hate the word ‘diet’. I know it’s easier to say when we’re referring to how we eat, I just hate the diet mindset. Because it just doesn’t last for people. 90 million women are looking for a new diet every 3 months and the reason why is because most diets we enter into this restrictive mentality and most people can’t maintain that. That’s why most people fall on and off the diet and that diet cycle goes round and round and round. That’s why I don’t prescribe to one particular diet paleo or the fully ketogenic or the fully intermittent fasting or whatever it may be because it has an end date. Because it feels too restrictive for them.
My whole philosophy is to eat real food. Real food fuel your body, achieve a lifestyle of eating that’s sustainable. I can be super strict for 30 days and totally fall off the wagon. I’ve seen too many people do that with the paleo with the ketogenic, and the more they do more metabolic damage they gain, more weight back because they’ve been on this restrictive cycle. So my philosophy is to eat real food I also approach from a place of balancing your hormones and not just calories and calories like that is an old mentality.
Yes, you’ll lose weight over time if you eat fewer calories than you’re exerting but it’s not going to achieve with lean muscle gains and burning fats. That’s about stabilizing your blood sugar so that’s why I was encouraging women- ‘if you can do one thing…’ I’ve 3 different [principles in my nutrition plan that’s so easy to follow.
They are long-term sustainable and that’s why they work and that’s why it’s easy to get off the diet cycle because it’s not this restrictive mentality that most diets have but one thing that I’ve really pushed and tell people to do here is- if you can do anything, stabilize your blood sugar when you eat. And that means you eat very simply a combination as I talked about on my snacks, about protein, fats, and Carbohydrates- PFC.
So when you put food in your mouth, it’s very simple. Make sure you have a protein source, a healthy fat source, and a carbohydrate source. That combination will help to stabilize your blood sugar. So that’ what we want to operate on if you can do one thing, is eat PFC.
Most people eat way too much carbohydrate and not enough protein and definitely not enough healthy fats. That’s one simple thing that I follow and tell everyone to do that is super effective and is going to go a long way towards making it a part of your lifestyle. And for helping you with narrowing your fitness course but also your health course. The reality is, diets don’t work. It’s why we have new diets all the time and that’s why we’re more active than ever and yet we are more obese and unhealthier than ever because diets don’t work. People need to find a way to eat balanced portions on their plates and stabilize their blood sugar.
We’re going to be healthier, fitter, and happier if we can keep that basic thing-PFC.
I’ve learned so much and I’m also, of course, a certified personal trainer but I’ve learned so much for myself from my own experiencing with battling life-threatening illness with overcoming so many injuries that I know what it feels like to process, I knew what it feels like to start from ground zero, I know how it can seem impossible to get from point from A to Z. But what I know is that the human body and the human spirit has no limits. But it can overcome even the most insurmountable odds and that it starts with us believing in ourselves knowing that we are capable of all things, our bodies are capable of all things no matter where our starting point is.
I’ve started over time and time again and I know scary the human body can be and I know how incredible it can be and that is what drives me. Like I said before, our bodies are our greatest gifts. And what drives me is helping people to have that internal transformation, of healing their relationships with their body, and food and exercise and coming to approach a healthy life from a place of self-love and that is where the real changes happen, that is when the lasting changes happen. It is when greater peace and happiness and joy and gratitude enter their lives.
That is my greatest passion, it’s not only just helping women to get fitter and healthier but helping them to truly achieve self-love towards themselves their body in removing stress and ending the diet cycle forever. That’s all that drives my passion behind developing the New Thin. And we are a part of a Facebook group The New Thin Nation which is for all the women in the program and it’s so incredible to see them every day interacting with each other, show their frustrations, share what they’re struggling with but also share their successes and support each other. I’m in that group every day supporting them, motivating them, giving them tips and tricks. I don’t want to just create a program about women that I had nothing to do with. I want to be part of their journey because it is something so much bigger than just working out and eating healthy.
And that’s why also with my program I wrote The Food Freedom Playbook which is completely devoted to helping women cure their relationships with food and ending the diet cycle forever and that has been such an incredible journey to really see women finally cure their relationship with food address the role food plays in their lives so that they can heal it and they can fix it and they can get off from the diet cycle. This is a transformation program and it’s been so many ways my life’s work and my greatest passion and I feel privileged every day to be alive and to move my body and to have a chance no matter how many times I have to start over. And I hope to show people how incredible they are and how incredible their bodies can be and to start seeing it as their greatest gift.
A dancer-cum-fitness expert has a simple yet effective formula to attain a rewarding fitness lifestyle.
Alex Wong | Obsession for Perfection
Alex Wong is a dancer and fitness expert who started dancing since 7-years-old. Snapping both Achilles’ tendons did not deter him from chasing his dream and finding satisfaction in what he holds dear as purpose. At thealexwong.com he shares with his teeming visitors a variety of fitness information to help them get through their challenges.
You might have caught the NYC/LA resident in some TV and film dance flicks. When he is not doing that, you might find Mr. Wong in a gym exercising or taking dance classes. Despite his fixed schedule, he has time to engage his following at @alexdwong on the major social media platforms where he also shares inspired fitness contents.
Fitness, training, and influence
Currently, I usually work mostly in dance for TV and film, and then on the weekends, I fly around the country to teach at conventions. I also created content for my social media with fitness and dance inspired clips – to me that ends up almost being like a live business card.
Why this fitness journey?
I started dancing when I was 7 and I have never stopped since. I wouldn’t even really consider it a journey but I just consider it life. However, in the early part of my career, I only danced and didn’t cross-train much. I started lifting when I was 24 after I started working on TV just because I felt like it would look better. Then a few years ago I was introduced to group fitness classes because of ClassPass. Currently, I mix all of it together- dance, gym, and classes.
Because dance is a visual and aesthetic art/sport, sometimes you are not doing things that are anatomically healthy. I make sure when lift or when I’m in fitness classes, however, that I train with good form. I find that I am in the best shape when I am taking a lot of ballet class and then lifting at the gym. Ballet is like a lower body and stamina workout whereas when I’m lifting at the gym I mostly focus on the upper body. Ballet really targets muscles you would not regularly use.
Dancers, workouts, and satisfaction
Most dancers do train outside of dance. There are a few reasons for that. I think one thing is that our bodies get used to doing the same things over and over again and so cross training will help even out those body imbalances and help prevent injuries. Another reason that speaks to me as well is I genuinely just like to stay active and I find fitness quite fun, so I do it as a “hobby” outside of the whole “dance cross training” thing. A lot of dancers also do pilates or yoga, which most people feel like it compliments their bodies quite well. I don’t enjoy those as much as I like more intense high energy workouts.
It’s never too late to start, and the first step towards living a healthier lifestyle. Definitely set an initial goal and plenty of small steps. I also find documenting so you can not only feel but also see the difference is an amazing motivator.
I think focusing energy on small incremental fitness goals is the most rewarding. I like having a fitness tracker (like an apple watch) that helps me hit goals. It can be quite fun and also working out with friends definitely makes it more fun and there is someone there with you on the journey.
The 80/20 Rule
A bit part of that 20% is just the effort to get going. There have been multiple times where I have been tired and not wanted to work out and then I forced myself to do it, and not once have I regretted it. In all my years I can only think of ONE time where I really didn’t want to go to the gym, I made myself go and when I sat on the equipment I said to myself, “I really can’t today”. That only happened ONCE. All the other times once I got myself there I eventually started.
Power of the Mind
I think it’s almost the most important thing! Especially for fitness where you’re pushing your body a little more than what you think it can do every time. It really is mind over matter though. You will surprise yourself over and over again.
If you set your mind to it you truly can achieve almost anything. I had a lot of physical struggles which includes me snapping both of my Achilles’ tendons. I am back from it and stronger than ever before!
Danny Dreyer developed a running style that elevates the experience of running
Danny Dreyer is a running coach and author (based out of Asheville, NC) that teaches people (both runners and walkers) how to move their bodies more efficiently. The basis of Danny’s methods are anchored in Tai Chi, hence the name ‘Chi Running’. Danny has studied Tai Chi for over 15yrs and is still filled with passion when speaking about the ethos of Tai Chi. “Tai Chi is all about moving from your center, your core, and not from your arms and legs” Danny tells me, “Most people think that running is all about moving your arms and legs but when you change that way of thinking and movement running becomes a much more enjoyable and safer activity.”
With the Chi Running method Danny teaches how to use your powerful core muscles and engage those muscles to facilitate running more efficiently and with less effort. “When you’re using this technique you’re using big strong core muscles that don’t tire out as quickly as your arms and legs” Danny teaches.
Danny estimates that he’s taught over one million people the Chi Method of running.
“Most people run really well when they are kids” Danny says, “but life takes a toll on your body over time and it changes the way you tend to move your body.” Starting out in the Chi Running method is like hitting the reset button at first. “If you watch kids run, they typically run with a natural forward lean as though they were sort of falling forward,” Danny explains, “Because kids don’t have strong leg muscles kids lean forward and utilize gravity to assist them in moving their bodies forward.”
It’s important that your body has really good posture in order to make the method work. Your body has to have a strong core in order to have really good posture and in order to apply the Chi Running method.
You have to mindful of your body and what is trying to tell you. It’s not enough to just listen to your body, you also have to respond to what your body is telling you. “For example, if you’re working at a desk slumping forward and your neck starts hurting, you need to correct your posture and sit up to correct your posture and relieve that tension and pain.”
Danny developed Chi Running while training as an ultra-marathoner. While training for his first 50 mile race he was introduced to his first Tai Chi instructor. “After one class I applied some of the body movements from Tai Chi to my running form. After one application the results were remarkable. I ran the same time but my body didn’t feel like it at all.”
Body Sensing & Mindfulness
The traditional methods of physical therapy and training are centered around strengthening the muscles around the area of injury. Chi running is a mindful practice that trains you to listen to you body and correct the problem before it becomes an injury. If you feel a twinge or problem, you listen to your body and change it so that you can keep moving without doing any further harm.
Having a clear mindset is knowing ahead of time what your goals are and developing a plan to get there.
If you want to do something in your life, have a reason for it. Have a reason that benefits you. This makes all the difference once you get into a training program. The person that get’s in the middle of a training program without clear goals is going to struggle. They’ll struggle to get started, maintain momentum, and struggle to recall what they are working for and working towards.
Chi Running reduces the amount of impact when you run. Two-thirds of all runners get an injury each year that interrupts that runners’ training program. Two-thirst is a LOT! “If the CDC got a hold of statistics like this, they might consider banning running” Danny explains.
There are two ways that people get injured while running:
1) Impact: Simply banging your feet on the ground can cause knee and back problems for the high impact effects of movement.
2) Overuse: These are people that push too hard, train beyond their limits, do not allow enough recovery for their bodies.
We teach people to run across the ground instead of into the ground. You want to glide across the running surface instead of banging your body against the surface causing high impact stress on the body. We change running techniques from pushing themselves around with their legs to falling forward and working to keep from falling.
You don’t see elite runnings running with their legs out in front of them.
The moving parts of you body need to loose, lean, and relaxed so they can openly flow when the core needs to be very strong to super very good posture.
Chi Walking takes the same principles of Chi Running and applies those principles to walking. “If you notice people walking around you will notice that most people lead with their hips and their legs. Their shoulders and back and they walk leading with their hips and legs out in front” Danny points out, “If you throw your leg out in front of you, you lock out your knee in front of you.” A little lean added to your gait will engage your core and increase the efficiency of walking.
This method shortens your stride length and decreases the impact with your walking surface due the effects of ‘rolling on the soles of your shoes’ that occurs while leaning forward (ever so slightly).
I love half-marathons because it’s just long enough a distance that it forces a person to seek out a more efficient technique of running.
The effects of improving your running spill into other aspects of your life. “Can you imagine improving your posture and core body strength while safely improving your running efficiency?” Danny asks, “Now imagine that same person needs to go ask their boss for a raise.” You can imagine the improved perception and confidence that person gains through running safely and efficiently.
“It’s not running that hurts your body, it’s the way you run” Danny Dreyer