Thursday, December 12, 2013

Zumba(r) Step! My DVD review.

In it's never-ending quest to dominate the world of Fitness, Zumba(r) has introduced a step format that rolls out in early February, 2014.  The consumer DVDs just came out this week and of course you know who had to buy it and pay for rush shipping so I could be the first kid on the block with the new stuff...  I know, I know, first-ness is kind of an obsessive thing with me.

I'm very excited for this format!  I'm getting my license on March 1 (driving to Canada for it) and I hope to start teaching it March 3!  I've taught step for over 20 years, so as long as they let us use our own choreography, I'll be ready.  I'm half ready now because I'm a good guesser and the format is almost exactly as I expected it would look.

Here are some basic facts based on my first run-through of the DVD.

  • It follows the Zumba format of letting the music drive the movement.  When the music changes, the movement pattern changes.  
  • It's still based on international rhythms and the typical dance steps from those rhythms, with some pop (30%) songs.
  • Not necessarily 32-beat, but the songs do feel like they have a steady beat - no dramatic pauses mid-song and not a ton of parts in any of the songs. 
  • It's not tapless.  (I know some step instructors will die inside reading that, lol, so I figured I should put that comment up near the top so I can clear that air).
  • When I started typing this, I'd only seen the first 5 songs, and my review read:  "Step tempo pretty much in a normal range for step - I didn't measure with my metronome but nothing in the first 5 songs as I type this sounds like an egregious tempo liberties.  The tango is slower than a normal step tempo, but the movements are very focused plie squats so it makes for a decent squat/toning song."   But in the sixth song, an oldies rock and roll style song, it was so fast I had to get out the mentronome and measure it for myself - 167bpm.  Yes, I'm a geek.  First of all, I have a mentronome and second, I knew exactly where it was.
  • Very simple routines.  This is not the advanced, multi-layered choreograhy that many of us used to teach.  There are almost no layers at all, perhaps one layer to add a larger limb movement, but no layers in the sense that you're "building" a routine.  This will be boring for those who are used to advanced step classes, but for new participants it will be easy to catch on, if it's cued well.  
  • The Rizer is used, sometimes to step on, sometimes as an accessory.  Sometimes when it's used as an accessory it's cute and feels like it fits into the choreo for that spot.  But sometimes, it looks like they're tapping on the Rizer because they just remembered they have a Rizer there and they should probably use it. 
  • A few of the moves that you would see in an old-school step class.  There are basic steps, and a few across the tops, and some lunges from the top, alternating knee lifts or side leg lifts, T-steps, some knee-lift + tap downs, and straddledowns.  Yes, some of them tap.
  • Not every musical segment uses the step.  There are sections of some songs that use the floor, or just tap on the step.  So IMO it's a near equal blend of dance and step.  
  • There are times where it's used very effectively like some lunge passages that are killer.  Kind of like Zumba Toning, but with a step.
  • Personally, I would not teach this without verbal cues, but there was an option on the DVD to turn the cues off.  I suppose if you're going to do the same routine week after week, after a while you could cut your cues down because you're not teaching any layers, really.  IMO, this is one of those formats where if you don't cue, you're gonna be dead in the water.  People have a hard enough time following Zumba; if you add a 4 inch Rizer(tm) that they can trip over, you've got to cue.  Visual, verbal, air traffic control signals, whatever works.  But cue.  Please, fellow instructors, I'm begging you.  CUE!
  • Three contraindicated moves, for those of us who are either certified in group exercise or step (I have held both, although Exersafety Association where I got my step cert is now defunct).  I was NOT happy to see these, especially on a DVD that will be sold to the masses and to instructors who will follow it "because Beto did it on the DVD."  But in my choreography, I simply won't do them.  (1) One minute into the warm-up, they started doing a move that was 4 jumps in a row, march march, 4 jumps in a row.  This is too early to be jumping in a fitness class (sure, it goes with the song, but so would a good fist pump without the jump. AAAAARRRRGHHHHH!).  (2) The very old recommendations for step were a maximum tempo of 128bpm.  Many instructors have exceeded that tempo, as have I, but the majority of instructors commonly accepted that 135 was about the top "safe" end of stepping.  167 is way above that, although in their defense the movements are pretty simple.  (3)  In the same song that's 167 bpm, they have multiple repeated moves on the same leg.  The industry standard number of repetitions on any one leg in a step class is 16.  They were doing 24 and I think they also snuck 32 in there once.  

Overall, this is a format with a ton of potential.  

Some will love it.  Others will hate it, especially advanced steppers.  I'm planning to rock the hell out of it.

Existing step instructors will catch on quick, if they can get over the idea that step must be tapless, layered, and 32-beat.  Step didn't start tapless, nor did it start 32-beat.  Everything old is new again.  As an instructor who is a stronger "educator" than "performer," I think I'll fit right into and enjoy the format a lot as it resonates with my stepping roots.  

Existing Zumba instructors who have never taught step aren't going to have as hard of a time as I think some people are predicting.  But I think the "performers" are going to have to put on their "educator" hats because there are some safety issues inherent with a four inch high obstacle that can't be ignored.  Cue.  Cue.  And then cue a little more.

Here is the playlist.  Some of the songs are ZIN(tm) songs that instructors will recognize.  I wasn't thrilled with about half of the songs, but that's the beauty of Zumba over pre-choreographed formats.  We have the freedom to choroegraphy our own works, and for those of us who enjoy that freedom, it allows us the ability to really show our uniqueness and personality.

Bem Vindos (ZIN 41)

I Came to Party (ZIN 45)
Boogaloo de Paris (salsa)
Love on Me (pop)
Chande Papa Dio (bollywood?)
Tanguajira (Tango)
La Aguafiesta (I know I've heard this song, but I can't find it on my iTunes)
Pam Param Pam Pam (reggaeton)
I Want Your Love (old time rock and roll)
Tempo (bachata)
Zumba Viento (cooldown) - very pretty song and I liked the stretch patterning.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

My knees feel great, but my back hurts.

This is my second blog post about squats and knees.  The first talked about why a group exercise instructor might give different instructions than a personal trainer regarding the same exercise.  A group exercise instructor in charge of many people is going to give cues that keep the majority of them safe, even if it means omitting exercises that could be done with no problem by many people (and in fact are done every day).  A personal trainer, on the other hand, is paid to assess the individual and make recommendations on exercises and movements based on that person's present fitness level, injury history, and goals.

This post is not intended to be an exhaustive study of proper squat technique.  I'm just going to mention one unintended consequence that I've seen in group exercise classes when the following cue is given all by itself.

Most of us have heard that cue.  I've given it.  And it's not technically wrong.  But I don't like it any more.

Here's what I see a lot of.  This is me.  I didn't inflict it on anyone else!  I'm going to follow the knees-behind-toes cue, and see how far that cue gets me absent other information.

The knees are well behind the toes just like the cue says.   Problem is, in over-focusing on keeping the knee back, I've shut down mobility (in this case, flexion) in my ankle.  When my ankle stays relatively locked and my knee bends, the only way I can keep squatting without falling over is to over-hinge in my hip joint, putting un-needed stress on my low back.  My video shows me keeping my head up and shoulderblades down, but sometimes this squat is accompanied with a head drop and a lurch forward in the upper back.  Ouch!

What really drives me nuts is when people get down into this squat and pulse there by moving only their knee joints; the glutes bounce up and down but the back stays low and the ankles stay locked.

This is a problem for several reasons.

1)  The most obvious is the stress on the low back.
2)  A quieter problem, but still a problem, is the lack of mobility in the ankle.  We need ankle mobility and calf flexibility to stand, to walk, for basic function.  A well-done squat promotes mobility in the ankle.
3)  It's not functional!  OK, maybe if you're are a jockey.  But if you are not a jockey, the risks of hurting the back and reduced ankle mobility outweigh, in my opinion, the benefits of the glute bounce.

Let's view a better squat (from a knee perspective) for a moment.  Thank you, B. and T. for letting me use you as examples.

Here, the knee is still behind the toes for the duration of the movement, but notice that it gets closer to, and further away from, the toe throughout the squat.  The whole motion is like the coiling and rebounding of a spring - three joints are moving - the ankle, the knee, and the hip.  Since the ankle is also moving, the back isn't as hinged over, creating less strain on the low back.  The concept is called triple flexion.  All three joints share the load.

How could / should this be cued?

Here are a few things that I do to get safe and effective squats in group exercise situations where I don't have time to lecture for long or spend one-on-one time (unless someone is acting really dangerously, then I will correct them).

1)  I pre-educate members about "triple flexion" before class, and then I can say "triple flexion" as a quick cue that reminds them about the shared load on all joints.
2)  Or I'll say - "Bend three joints - hip / knee / ankle and keep your chest up."  Sometimes it's easier to cue a more obvious part of the body.  When I say chest up, I really mean flex the ankles.  If they can't keep their chest up, chances are that they're not flexing the ankles.  (note: this cue works most of the time but sometimes people will flex at the ankle and the knee but not at the hip, then we get knees way out in front of the toes, so it's important to emphasize all three)
3)  Or I'll say - "Drop the hips back and keep the chest up."
4)  This one depends on how good of a sense of humor your class has.  "You have to go potty, but the toilet seat is dirty so you have to hover over the seat.  BUT, you don't want to pee on the back of your shoes.  Don't look down!!!"  This actually gets great compliance but don't say it if it's going to get you fired.

Takeaway lesson

What's the best cue ever?  There's not just one.  But good cues are:
Meaningful to your audience.
Concise, yet complete.
Gets the highest rate of compliance, without creating safety issues, dysfunctional movement, or offense.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

...But my trainer told me.....

I want to thank member Jeff from one of my personal training classes for asking this question most recently. It's a question I address often in small-group training, so I thought it a worthy topic for member and trainer co-education.

I have two points to discuss regarding a common fitness cue.  This post has gotten longer than I thought so I'm only going to address this first point in today's post, and will follow up shortly with point two.

(1)  Why group exercise instructors and personal trainers cue differently, and how neither is wrong.
(2)  Why the "knees behind toes" is an ineffective, and possibly harmful, cue.

(1) Group Exercise Cues v. Personal Training Cues.

If I had to write a list of the cues that I've heard (and given) in group exercise classes throughout my fitness career, I'd have to say one of the cues that rises near the top of the list is this.

This cue is so prevalent in the fitness industry that our members can quote it, so I'm going to use it as my example, throughout this post.  

When I've got my group exercise hat on...

It's 9:00am and I'm introducing myself to my exercise class.  It's a big class, and I know many participants by name, yet I don't have their health histories to know what their injuries are.  Also, during a group fitness, it's not in my scope of practice to customize a one-hour dance class for every injury.  Lastly, there are always new people attending class and many of those newbies sneak in quietly after I've already started my warm-up; their bodies are a complete mystery to me.

Given 20-50 people in my class, no time to assess, and the job of giving a safe and effective class to a mixed-fitness group of exercisers, the fitness industry has given me a set of guidelines for how to keep the majority of people safe in class.  They're called contraindications, and instructors are supposed to avoid those movements in group classes.  Knees over the front of the toes while squatting is contraindicated in a group exercise class.  

In order to keep as many people safe as possible, fitness certifications are conservative in their recommendations.  We instructors have to keep a large group of you safe and this is the easiest way to do it, avoid the things with the highest statistical risk of injury, even though the probability of injury is relatively small.  Common injuries in the general population are shoulders, knees, and low back.  These members are allowed in our classes, so we "protect" them with contraindications.

Group-ex is a hard job.  Sometimes it's like herding cats.  We want everyone to be safe and to give you an effective workout, so sometimes we will avoid things that one individual or several individuals could do quite well.

Personal Training hat on now...

Most people call it personal training.  I see it as personalized training.  It's quite different than group exercise. You are paying for information specific to you.  I train one person at a time (or in a small group) to achieve their fitness goals.  It's more personal, I get to know your body, your physical tolerance for exercise, your preferences.  I assess you, formally and in detail during our first one-on-one session.  I assess you during each session, providing individualized, real-time, feedback so you can get better right away.

It's my job to ask you about your injuries, and to avoid doing you harm.  

It's my job to send you to a doctor if you have an injury.  It's not in my scope of practice to diagnose you, but it's within my scope to support a doctor's or physical therapist's exercise / rehab prescription.  When you tell me about what you've injured, I'm gonna go look it up and be sure that nothing I ask you to do is going to make it worse (Jeff, if you're reading this, that's why I asked you which one of your 5 muscles you hurt, so I could go home and figure out whether I had to be careful with you in hip adduction, rotation, flexion, or all three).

AND, it's my job to ask you about your goals.

"No exercise is contraindicated for everyone; every exercise is contraindicated for someone."

When I put together a mental picture of your injuries, your current fitness level and your goals, I can make recommendations that will be suitable for your lifestyle.  For example, we're getting near ski season and several of my clients are skiiers.  If your knees are healthy, and I know that you're a skiier, here's what I'm going to consider.  You need to have endurance in a position with shins flexed against your boots; the knee is right up to the toe and possibly beyond.  I'm going to need to make sure you can flex at your ankle, which means I have to stretch your calves, and you're going to need quadriceps and glute strength, plus lateral knee stability.  How am I going to prepare you for a high-intensity activity where the knees track near and over the toes if our training exercises never align your knees near your toes?!?  I wouldn't focus solely on training you with your knees in front of your toes, but I certainly wouldn't forbid it.  Plus, you already do it every day.

Got a second?  Try one or more of these things.

1)  Sit on the toilet
2)  Go up stairs
3)  Get up from a sofa or other soft chair.

I rest my case.

In conclusion, your personal trainer and your group-ex instructor might say things that are different.  When there's a difference in what you're hearing from two fitness professionals, ASK QUESTIONS!  If you ask your instructor or trainer a question and they look at you like a deer in headlights, ask them to please find out for you.  Fitness is a large and ever-evolving field.  Even the best trainer won't know everything, but a good trainer will look it up for you.  Another thing to consider is whether your instructor and/or trainer are certified in their activity, and whether their certifications are current.  Current education matters (I also hold a license CPA, but it's dormant, so you would not want me to do your taxes)!

Please keep in mind that this is one instructor/trainer's opinion, without reference citations.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

3-2-1 class revisited.

Here is a quick example of one of my 3-2-1 classes.  The second set of exercises is in the video

Warm up

"3" - one minute each of push-ups, one-armed band rows, band squats (rotated groups)
"2" - one minute each of lateral shuffles + air jump rope and front/back jogs + jacks
"1" - squat jumps

45 second reset, then repeat the first 3-2-1 with one-armed rows on the other side and a different hand position for the push-ups (I like to stagger hands)

"3" - one minute each of triceps dips, band walks for glute med/min, plank balances with Bender Ball
"2" - one minute each of partner shuffles forward / back and partner bob/weave
"1" - one minute of partner jumping high fives

45 second reset, then repeat second set of "3" exercises with plank balance on the other side (opposite arm and leg lifted from first time), band walks in opposite direction.  Note:  skip the "2" and the "1."

One round of Tabata

90 second rest and everyone grab mats, one-legged balance + rotation challenge to give additional heart-rate to come down.

Shorter round of 3-2-1, 30 second intervals

"3" one legged supine bridges for hams/glutes (both sides), then held bridges heels up/down/up/down
"2" plank + down to forearms then back up (both sides)
"1" plank mountain climbers

Final cooldown and stretch.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Focus on a Format: 3-2-1

I’m always in search for the elusive “perfect workout.”  Perfect, however, is in the eye of the beholder.  Instead, I’ve decided to settle for “really great,” and explain to you why this is “really great,” and you can decide for yourself whether it fits within your fitness preferences.  The entire idea is not mine; I designed my class based on an idea shared by Kim Witherspoon, whose boot-camp sub had used a format of this sort.  Many thanks to Kim and to the anonymous trainer; I took the bones, assembled the skeleton, and added my own flesh and skin. 

For participants, this blog entry might help you understand what you’re doing and why, so when I’m telling you about strength versus endurance, you have a better understanding of how hard to work and why it’s good for you.  For instructors, this gives you a skeleton and a little flesh.  But make it your own.


The format, “3-2-1” describes 6.5 minute cycles consisting of 3 minutes of strength at low cardio, 15 seconds transition/active rest, 2 minutes of muscular endurance at medium cardio, 15 seconds transition/active rest, 1 minute of HIIT at high cardio.  Each cycle contains 6 separate activities.  Three one-minute strength exercises, two one-minute cardio-vascular challenges with a muscular endurance component, and one high-intensity cardiovascular challenge (goal = anaerobic).

Strength section – 3 minutes.  Using body-weight and the resistance tools I have available, I select three strength exercises that challenge different teams of muscle groups.  Most of the exercises are done in a stationary position, rather than moving around the room, so the participant can focus on working on strength as opposed to balance and timing.  An example of 3 exercises would be: a primarily upper body anterior chain exercise like a push-up, a primarily upper body posterior chain exercise like a row, and then a lower body anterior/posterior chain exercise like a barbell lunge.  The key in exercise selection is to select movements that (a) will fatigue the participant in slightly less than one minute and (b) ideally, uses more than one muscle group, so the heart rate is kept in the low end of target heart rate zone.  Exercises like push-ups and rows, although primarily for strength, will increase a particpant’s heart rate since the number of muscles working and needing oxygen for the muscle fibers to fire will increase heart rate demand.  This makes a strength exercise into a low-end cardio vascular exercise.

Muscular endurance section – 2 minutes.  Vigorous cardio-vascular exercise that would be in the participant’s medium range for target heart rate.  Here, we move.  Something simple, with multiple options for intensity and impact, that people can learn quickly and repeat.  Personally, I don’t dance in this class.  We do cardio like 4 marches/jogs/runs forward + 2 jacks, 4 marches/jogs/runs back + 2 jacks.  I like to use a lot of low-body focus here, for muscular endurance in the legs.  Alternating anterior lunges.  Traveling squats.  Corner lunge + reach to 2:00, 4:00, 8:00 and 10:00.  If I’m targeting the upper body for muscular endurance, it would be with a band, and a repetitive action that mimics the earlier strength action, but with less of a load (think “finish work”).

HIIT section.  The good news is, it’s only for a minute.  The bad news is, I want that minute to feel like you hate me after about 10 seconds, you are kicking, scratching and clawing into 30 seconds, and by one minute your legs are lead, your breath is loud, and you can. not. go. on.

Then we do an active rest like a slow walk to bring the heart-rate out of anaerobic zone and back into a safe zone for strength training….and we do it all over again 5 more times!

Why?  Why?  WHY??

Each one of these “why” answers could be a long blog post of its own, so please forgive the shortness of the answers.

  •           Muscular strength is functional for daily living, and spending 24 minutes on strength (not just endurance, tiring strength exercises) is adequate for increased strength when done 2x a week.
  •            Lean muscle tissue, which increases with strength training, burns more calories than fatty tissue.  Although there is controversy regarding how much more, it’s been shown in several carefully controlled studies that muscle burns more calories than fat.
  •            Intermittent interval format burns more calories after class.  According to Dr Len Kravitz (whose lecture I attended August 2012 regarding the research he performed), steady-state cardio exercise and intermittent / interval / HIIT exercise burn about the same amount of calories during class.  However, the calories burned after class, as the body replaces its oxygen deficit and recovers from exercise, is greater for intermittent / interval / HIIT than for steady-state exercise. 
  •           Bursts of high intensity activity occur in daily living – sometimes we have to run across airports so we’re not late for the plane, or chase after children getting into danger.  In addition to the calories burned with HIIT, having practiced burst training may give you increased confidence in your ability to use it in real life; you’ll know your capabilities, what it feels like to work that hard, and how hard you can push yourself.  
  •      By alternating between strength, endurance, and HIIT, you are working one system hard while allowing other systems to take a back seat (not complete rest because you are always using multiple energy systems).  That makes 3-2-1 an efficient workout for strength and calories.

Planning considerations for instructors:

Multi-level exercises.  Each exercise should have an option that is accessible safely to everyone.  Some participants with wrist issues can’t do push-ups, so a wall-push-up or a chest fly is a better alternative.

Permission to work at one’s own pace and instruction on how to do so.  This should be a “challenging” class.  That said, everyone in class should be encouraged to work within their own definition of “challenge.”  If I’m training a client one on one, I can take them to their personal edge and push them, push them, push them.  But in a class setting, it is an instructor’s responsibility to watch a large group of individuals, and to teach those individuals bodily awareness so they can self-pace and self-monitor.

Easy to teach exercises.  There is very little time for transition between exercises (15 seconds) and cycles (30-45 seconds as they come down from anaerobic).  Pick simple exercises with simple form cues.  If it takes too long for you to cue, heart rates drop and effectiveness drops.  If participants don’t understand the goal and the form, they can get hurt.  Keep it simple to understand (there’s a difference between easy to understand and easy to do…..)

Vary the muscle groups worked.  This consideration comes into play both in picking the 3 strength exercises within a cycle, and also in picking all of the exercises that will be done in a class.  Personally, I like to repeat a cycle twice, so each exercise gets two “sets.”  This is especially helpful when I’m doing a one-sided exercise like a stationary lunge.  The first time around, I’ll hit the right leg and the second time around I’ll hit the left leg.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Stroops + CrossCore = Training Bliss!

The longer you've trained with me, the more fitness tools you've seen.  I'm a firm believer in rotating the challenges we place on the body on a periodic basis, because it's beneficial for you.  Once your body gets "used" to a movement or a piece of equipment, it gets more efficient and the move becomes less challenging.  That's when I change something, such as:

(a) the duration of the activity
(b) the angle of approach to the activity (on CrossCore, steeper is harder for the same exercise)
(c) the speed of the activity
(d) the body position of the activity, to challenge your balance
(e) the order of the exercises
(f) the equipment

No class is ever the same.  On the flip side, I try not to change too much between sessions so that the learning curve prevents you from getting a good workout.  There's a balance between throwing the kitchen sink at you and giving your body several new challenges in each session.  

In late August, I attended training conducted by Stroops and purchased two of their SFP kits.  Their SFP (Stroops Functional Performance) kits are this:  cuffs that go around the ankles, wrists, biceps, and thighs, that are then attached to elastic bands.  You can hook up anywhere from two to eight cuffs at a time, and anywhere from one to eight bands at a time.

Why would you do this?!?

Well, the CrossCore (one of my top two favorite pieces of equipment, ever, the second being ViPR) has a different type of resistance than the Stroops equipment, which make them complementary.  With the CrossCore, the ropes are static so the amount of tension on an exercise is constant.  An elastic band like the Stroops fabric-covered "slastics" changes tension as you move deeper into the exercise.  And, the springy properties of the slastics allow for some smooth movements that aren't possible with the CrossCore.

Notice the cuffs that attach to our trainers' wrists and ankles.  I don't have enough right now for our entire small-group class, but I will be purchasing more within the next week to ten days so we can incorporate the training into our sessions.

You will sweat underneath the cuffs.  A lot.  They're neoprene, kind of like wet-suit material.

Options for my clients:

(a)   Use my cuffs, which I allow to dry between sessions.
(b)   Wear sweat-collecting wrist-bands and high socks, and use my cuffs.  This way, you have a washable barrier (the wrist band) between someone else's previous sweat and your skin.
(c)   Purchase your own cuffs  You need at least two, but four is better so you don't have to move them back and forth from wrists to ankles to wrists to ankles.  They are $12 each, plus shipping.  I'll figure out the shipping once I figure out how many cuffs I'm buying and then will divide the shipping between purchasers.

Is it worth buying your own cuffs?  Consider this. We will be using this equipment a week on, a week off, a week on, a week off, for at least the next 6 months and probably longer.  I envision this fitness tool integrating into our class in a similar manner to the way we rotate in the Havyks and the ViPRs.  You are not required to purchase anything.  You are free to use my equipment.  But if you prefer not to share equipment that gets sweaty, I'm providing you with options.  You can facebook me, or email me.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Zumba(r) Fitness. Still think it's a fad?

Even though Zumba(r) Fitness has been around for 12 years, I still hear people say, "Oh, it's just a fad."  If you had listened to me five years ago, you would have heard me say the same thing.  My mind has changed significantly on this topic!  Now, I teach three Zumba(r) Fitness formats and they're my highest attended classes of any format I've ever taught in 22 years of fitness (certified or licensed in >15 formats).

Check this chart, though, if you still think Zumba(r) Fitness is a fad.  It's a marketing slide that goes from product awareness to product loyalty.  It was presented by CEO Alberto Perlman at the Zumba (r) Fitness convention opening address, 2013.  Photo taken by me, altered only to straighten horizon and add the source at the bottom.

1)  Product Awareness - what percentage of the public is aware of your brand.
2)  Consideration - of those who are aware of the brand, what percentage are interested in trying it
3)  Trial - what percentage of the aware market has actually tried your product
4)  Loyalty / advocacy / retention.  After trying it,what percentage of people actually stick with the product?

All of the segments on the chart are interesting - 91% of people have heard of Zumba(r)?!?  Wow!!!  That's step 1!  If no one has heard of a product, it's pretty hard to get them to come to your classes.  :D  And of the people offered a chance to try it, half do at some point.  Those are great odds!  Well better than any other format I teach.  Heck, half of the instructors I know have no idea what the formats are that I teach or the products I use (I do some niche stuff), so for 91% of customers to be aware of Zumba(r) Fitness, that's HUGE!  The higher this number, the more people have the opportunity to flow into our classes.  

The segment I find the most compelling is the bottom stripe - loyalty.  The number inside the teal circle - 30%, is the retention rate for Zumba(r) class students.  Nearly 1/3 of the people who try a Zumba(r) class stick with it.  That's crazy-good retention.  The number in the black is the retention rate for the fitness industry - ahem - 7%.  No wonder people are getting as many and more results as some of the "intense" formats out there.  It's really quite simple.  People are sticking to a fitness regime rather than dropping out.

I won't debate with you on whether you like or enjoy Zumba(r) classes; they're not for everyone.  2/3 of the people who try it don't stay.  But I stand my ground, based on the fact that Zumba's retention rate is more than 4 times the average client retention rate in our industry, that Zumba is not a fad.  It has become integrated into fitness, into music, into pop culture, and its effects on multiple industries have changed them for good.

As a fitness professional, I'm going to take a closer look at that chart and apply it to my other formats to see what areas I can improve upon in order to generate business.  For example, my retention in some formats is very high (higher even than Zumba(r)!), but the awareness is low.  So even if you're not a fan of Zumba(r) Fitness, I may have given you something of value by sharing a marketing measurement tool with you.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Zumba Warrior, created by Jani Roberts

One of my favorite courses from Zumba(r) Convention 2013 was Jani Roberts' workout, Zumba(r) Warrior.  Yes, it's a kick-ass workout that will challenge even the fittest participants' aerobic thresholds and muscular endurance in practically every muscle group.  Yes, it's rock-n-roll, dub-step, sexy, bold, edgy, in your face, totally Jani-esque.

But it's more.

The workout is leveled very well.  There are three options for each move, and they're taught in a progressive sequence.  Beginners can stick with the first level, which is challenging but with minimal impact.  Participants wanting more of a challenge can progress as the levels progress, and the earlier levels are sound movement preparation for those that follow.

The premise is quite simple.  After a warm-up stylized for martial arts and bootcamp motions to dramatic music (think, opening music to Cirque du Soleil - yes, I shazammed it!), it's an intermittent workout with a fairly specific rise and fall.

5 minutes of progressive hard work (hard, harder, ridiculously hard anaerobically taxing)
2 minutes of active recovery

Repeat 5 more times, then cool 'em down.

But it's more.

A major theme of the class is "going within."  So intent on your own focus that no one else's movement matters.  It's a familiar concept.  We've probably all heard of being "in the zone."  That's what she means.  I use this concept in my HIIT and weight training classes - don't worry about anyone else, just focus on working hard, whatever "hard" means to you.  Jani takes it even deeper, into seeking the source of your power within, tapping into it, and being constantly aware of it.  So, not just shutting out others' activity, but being mindfully aware of every single move you make.  She had some wonderful ways of describing the internal experience of bodily movement.

I'm an obsessive note-taker.  :D  So I wrote down several of her drills and my favorite cues.  If you're one of my clients, don't be surprised to see some of her 5-minute sequences in my HIIT and CrossCore classes.  An interval sequence might even sneak itself into Zumba(r) Toning.

More photos to come.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Five Months Later... and

(UPDATE FROM 2014 - I am no longer involved with Take Shape For Life.  Some day there might be a follow-up blog article about this, but I didn't want to leave my TSFL blog posts sitting here without that disclaimer)

25 pounds lighter!

Today, at 25 pounds down, I've gotten rid of 27 inches and 8% bodyfat.

Yesterday was my five month anniversary of being a customer of Take Shape For Life.  I started with the 5 and 1 plan, with pre-packaged meal replacements 5 times a day and one sensible 'lean and green' meal.  Everything low glycemic.  No white flour.

"You don't have to be perfect," they say, and I definitely wasn't.  BUT, when I've cheated, I've been really conscious about whether it was something I really wanted and had I already cheated recently.  If I'm going to cheat, it's going to be for Godiva or Moonstruck, and it's going to be one piece, not 12.

In the first 3.5 months, I ate "5 and 1" with no cheats about 70% of the time.  25% minor cheats, 5% of the time significant cheats.  The better I followed the 5 and 1, the more I lost in that week.  And in the first 3.5 months, I lost 23 of my 25 pounds.  I'm not racing anyone, so I was quite happy with the speed of my results.  23 pounds on my frame is a dramatic amount, not just in my frame but in my face; people notice, and some of my clothes started to fall completely off my hips... not to mention cargo pants slipping down in the middle of teaching two Zumba classes.  Almost 22 inches lost in my circumference measurements.

A few things have slowed down my weight loss in the last month and a half.

(1)  Taste fatigue ===> food substitution.  There's a lot of variety, but I'm getting tired of pre-packaged meals.  I have started adding a few healthy, low glycemic snacks from Dr A's book, either in addition to or in replacement of a TSFL pre-packaged meal.  My favorite items are non-fat greek yogurt with a small amount of small-chopped low glycemic fruit (raspberries are very low glycemic and strawberries are low glycemic), steamed cauliflower with a very small amount of extra sharp cheddar cheese, and broccoli with hummus.  The TSFL cocoa is a morning staple for me and my tastebuds have adapted to like it; but I like it even more with one teaspoon of gourmet cocoa powder added to kick up the flavor (Toblerone, Godiva, Sharfenberger), adding only a few calories but keeping the nutrients of the TSFL product.  When I am not carefully tracking these replacement snacks, my calorie deficit isn't as big as it is when I'm eating controlled TSFL meals.  HOWEVER, this isn't necessarily bad.  The things I'm eating are healthy replacements, and I'm not going to eat 5 and 1 forever.  I am learning what works, and what doesn't, and overall I'm still creating a calorie deficit with more healthy foods, fewer pre-packaged foods.

(2)  Reduced workouts.  My "calories out" have dropped recently, since our taekwondo schedule has changed and there are classes that conflict with my job.  I have not figured out whether to change my work schedule so I can re-attend TKD, whether I will replace those workouts with something else, or whether I need to tighten up my eating.  But I'm aware of the issue and I'm working on it.


Overall, I'm very satisfied with the program.  The coaching model, with Candy as my helpful but noninvasive coach, works for me.  What I like about the coaching model is the push towards behavioral change.  Not just eating less, but about changing habits and thought patterns.  Candy didn't do that for me.... she made me do it for myself.  I'm not sure what I expected from a coach, but I really like how she approaches it.  Rather than tell me what to do, she asked me to figure out my own solutions.  "So, how are you going to handle that?" or "What are you going to do now?" or "What is your time management looking like now?"  No shoulds.  Lots of questions that I get to answer for myself.

This is the way I hope to coach, the way I was coached.  If you are ready to answer some hard questions for yourself, translate those answers to behavioral change, then you're ready for a coach.  If you want a coach who has successfully coached dozens (hundreds?) of clients, then I'll send you to Candy.  If you want a brand new coach who empathize exactly with where you are right now because she's been there just a few months ago, then you should work with me.  I've done the whole spectrum - followed the plan perfectly, cheated slightly, and had all-out bad cheat days.  And I've learned something from each experience.

This is not a program that others can do for you.  It's a program that you have to do for yourself, with others cheering you on.  It does work, but only if you work it.

Personally, I'd like to lose another 10 pounds to be solidly in the middle of a healthy weight, rather than on the edge of overweight.  And a little more sculpting in my arms during tank top season.  :D  I'm primarly about "healthy" but I do have a little bit of "vain" in me.

Keep on keepin' on.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Screw the Comfort Zone!

(UPDATE FROM 2014 - I am no longer involved with Take Shape For Life.  Some day there might be a follow-up blog article about this, but I didn't want to leave my TSFL blog posts sitting here without that disclaimer.  The weight loss was real, but the results weren't permanent.  I have always contended that restricted calorie diets only work as long as we are eating restricted calorie diets unless the underlying behaviors causing the poor eating habits are addressed.  I still believe that from the bottom of my heart.  TSFL didn't do that for me in the long term.)

Sometimes, the greatest personal growth we achieve is when we step out, or are kicked out, of our comfort zone.  For example:

This former high school gymnast who was afraid to do a handstand on the high bar, six years later was the first of her business partners to bungy jump off a 150 foot bridge in Nanaimo, Canada.  And she risked everything she owned to get that business off the ground (pun intended).

I never thought I would have kids, until I met Clint.  I wanted him, and he wanted kids.  So we had one, and then he was cute and fun and challenging. Now we've got two.  If I had never made that paradigm shift, there wouldn't be piano music and singing coming from my living room right now.

I never, EVER, thought I'd be a stay at home mom.  In fact, I used to openly scorn my mother for being a housewife even though that choice benefited me directly.  This gal was going to be the career woman who would never depend on a man for anything, though I might like to have one around.  And for many years, I had a career that was full-time plus, lucrative, and kick-ass travel package (I did international work).  Yet, a little over a year after my mother died, I gave up the money, the prestige, and the trips all over the world.  I became my mother.  I'm sure she laughs hysterically in her grave every day about that.

Although I'd been in fitness for many years, I openly scoffed at Zumba when it came out.  For another seven years, I continued to scoff Zumba, calling it "hi/lo with hips and shoulders."  And today, I teach 5 regular Zumba classes a week, plus Zumba Toning, plus Zumba Gold.  My classes have always been reasonably well attended, but with Zumba they have exploded.  And I LOVE the format!  It took me seven years to figure out that this hip and shoulder thing wasn't just a fad, but I'm glad I figured it out.

An accountant to the bone, I don't tend to make gut decisions, I make analysis-based decisions.  Pros.  Cons.  Risks.  Rewards.  I think it through before deciding for myself, and I never ask anyone to follow me unless it's a decision I've tested myself.

If I hadn't made a paradigm shift 3 months ago, I would be sticking to a way of thinking that I'd maintained for many years.  And I'd still be 171.4 pounds.  Instead, I decided to listen, to focus on my entire health picture (including depression, health, and weight).  Was it an easy thing for me?  Hell no.  It challenged many of my long-term beliefs about health and eating, and it made me feel a little like a hyprocrite to speak out for so long against low calorie diets and then try one.

Today, the hypocrite behind the typewriter weighs less than 150 pounds.

But it's not "being on a diet."  It's sooooo not that.  It's behavioral change.  The people who are most likely to keep weight off are those who address the behavioral aspect of their health choices, eating included.  A stress-based eater (me! me! me!) who doesn't address the link between stress trigger and eating is still a stress-based eater.  Less than 10% of the people who lose weight keep it off.

Take Shape For Life is an important piece of my behavioral puzzle.  While it would be great if I had had the individual discipline to "do it without pills, bars, shakes or supplements," the fact is that over 50% of the people in the US are overweight.  Over 30% in the state of Oregon are OBESE!  The "do it on your own" method is clearly not working in today's society for most people.  Yes, there are people for whom it works, and a little less than 10% of them even keep it off.  To them, hearty congratulations!

Others need a catalyst.  Something to jumpstart them so they can get on a successful path.

If you want to learn about why I chose Take Shape For Life, why I think it's not only safe, effective, and long-lasting, then I'm happy to tell you.  I'm not a hard-sell sales person.  I'm not going to chase you down.  I can't, and won't, make you do anything.  You have to be ready.  I want to work with people who are open-minded enough to listen to facts about the program and who are willing to shake up their foundations, then make an educated decision to join me.

When you are ready, I am a catalyst.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Stress, depression and 5 lbs of M&Ms

I'm not writing this because I need anyone to feel sorry for me.  I'm writing this to explain, for anyone who hasn't felt it, or to reaffirm for others who have felt it, what stress and depression eating are like.  And more importantly, what I'm working on in order to break my own cycle.  If you've never struggled with depression or had a depression-motivated struggle with food, God bless you and thank your lucky stars!

In June of 2009, my father died in my arms.  It wasn't a surprise that it would happen, but it was a surprise that it happened on that day.  The experimental chemo would either cure him or kill him, and it killed him, fast.  Has it really been 3 1/2 years?  It doesn't feel like it.  The nightmares are still fresh.  So is the wondering about whether he was still alive (I saw a tear leak from between closed eyes) or if the machine with its loud "eeeeeeeee" of flat-line was the truth and the tear just a reflex of an already-dead man.

So here's where the stress eating comes in.  A stay at home mom, grieving not just the loss of her father but the feeling of being orphaned, taking care of two demanding children who were not grieving.  I can remember going to costco and buying 5 pound ziplock bags of M&Ms and setting them on the kitchen counter.  Kid #1 argues with me about homework, I walk into the kitchen and pop a handful of M&Ms into my mouth.  Kid #2 pees her pants - another handful of M&Ms.  Someone calls about an estate or insurance issue - another handful of M&Ms.  I would eat a bag of M&Ms that size in about 2 days.

And then I'd hate myself for doing it.

So I'd clean out the kitchen of the kinds of treats most likely to incite poor eating choices. That's when it would get really hard.  I'd pace in the kitchen.  It's a small kitchen.  Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, with this palpable negative energy, clenching my fists, wanting to scream my head off.  Trying to think about whether there was some smidgen of chocolate that I'd forgotten to throw out.  Looking for some way to work off the nervous energy.  In graduate school when I was stressed, I'd sprint several miles out the Burke Gillman Trail (Seattle) and then when I was spent, I'd walk back.  But I couldn't take off and sprint with 2 kiddos in the house.  I couldn't scream my head off, either, not in front of the kids.  Sometimes, I'd sit on the floor of the kitchen with my back against a cabinet and just cry.  And cry.  And cry.

Time to go get more M&Ms.  Or Reeses peanut-butter cups.  Or whatever else is quick, convenient, and CHOCOLATE.

And the cycle begins again.

That's stress eating.  That's food addiction.  I've never smoked a cigarette in my life.  I drink alcohol once every two months, if that.  So maybe I'm full of baloney because I haven't been addicted to other "worse" substances.  But I'd argue that my mental craving for chocolate, or sugar, or something tasty that would take me temporarily away from my grief was just as powerful as a smoker needing a cigarette.

So if you've never felt that pull, thank your lucky stars and be proud of your self control and good health.  Really.  I'm responsible for my choices and I'm a product of my choices.  They weren't all good ones, but at the time, they served one pain although causing another one.

What does this have to do with my weight loss?  A lot.

Because I still believe that a low-calorie diet is only a tiny fraction of the answer.  Last year, I decided to lose weight and I joined Weight Watchers.  10 pounds down over about 8 weeks.  Gained it all back throughout the rest of the year.  All the tracking in the world, all the low calorie pre-packaged meal replacement stuff, it's worth nothing if I don't address the issues that made me stress-eat in the first place.

That's the key.  Looking myself in the mirror and speaking to the person who is there.

I told my health coach the other day, this can't be a competition for me.  It can't be a "I lost 16 pounds in 7 weeks!" thing.  My weight is but one symptom of what's happening in my life, how I perceive myself, the choices I make (granted, it's a symptom that causes problems of its own).  I'm measuring not just my weight, but what else I'm changing.  My sleep habits.  Meditation.  Completing tasks I'd rather not do.

More on this later.  This post is getting really long.  But if there is a point to this post, it's this.

Look not just at the weight.  Look not just at the PCMRs.  Look into the heart, the soul, make sure they're addressed on some level.  Because if they're not, all the PCMRs in the world aren't going to do a damn bit of good.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

How's that "diet thing" going for you?

When I last checked in, I'd had a less than stellar week of eating.  I'd cheated, more than once, more than twice, and had gained a little weight instead of losing.

I am happy to report that last week I was back on track.  156.6
And with today's weigh-in, I was at 155.5

We all fall; it's how long it takes for us to get back up that matters.

My weight is still going down, which is in the direction that I'm wanting it to go.  I"m still working the program, cheating occasionally.  That's right, I cheat.  But now, when I cheat it's a small cheat in the range of 100-150 calories rather than the 500+ calories at least that I would have cheated with a couple of months ago.  Further, I've added some stress reduction to my habit profile.

But is it a "diet thing" that I'm doing?  No.  People gain weight back from "diets."  This is why I have spoken out against diets for YEARS.  Diets don't work long term!  You (general "you") must address the underlying reasons for overeating.  Figure out what is triggering the bad habits.  Build new habits.  Without that step, no amount of pre-packaged low calorie meal replacements is going to help long term.

Here is what is working for me.  None of these are official TSFL approved methods.  This is just one client, one future health coach, on a journey towards improved health.  So please don't quote TSFL on this, quote Nancy K.

1)  I make my "cheats" count.  If I'm going to cheat, it's going to be on something I really, really want, that really tastes great to me.  To me, it's not worth the calories or sugar to cheat by eating something that I don't think is truly yummy.

2)  I keep my "cheats" within reason.  When under stress, I've been known to make chocolate chip cookies with my kids.  3-4 big scoops of dough.  And then after that, I won't count how many cookies I eat.  It could be 6-7 cookies, plus dough, in a day and a half.  Would I eat a stick of butter by itself?  No, but I've eaten the equivalent of a stick of butter wrapped in sugar and rolled in white flour, over a one-day period, many times.  Now, if I'm going to make cookies with my kids, I eat one tablespoon of dough and 2 cookies on day 1.  On day 2, I get 2 cookies.  Ideally, I wouldn't eat either dough or cookies, and I wouldn't feed cookies to my kids.  However, we're not there yet.  We're improving, but we're not doing it cold turkey.

3)  I keep Medifast snacks in my car.  

4)  I've started blending vegetables into things.  Bwah ha ha!  Stealth health that even my little veggie-averse child can't avoid.

5)  The Vitamix is my friend.  The Medifast soups are, for the most part, decent tasting, especially when spiced up with a few herbs.  Soup has become a common lunch food for me.  When I have "taste fatigue" and I feel like a Medifast soup will be boring, I'll make my own soup with the Vitamix.  Steamed broccoli, a bouillion cube, water, 1/4 a small steamed onion, and a tiny amount of extra-sharp cheese.  Tasty!  Cheese is a bit of a TSFL sin, so I make sure that I use extra-sharp so I can get great flavor without eating much of it.

6)  Chocolate chips.  Chocolate is my absolute weakness.  It's my favorite food on earth, and I'm pretty sure that's never going to change.  So when I'm going to cheat with chocolate, I'll have 10 chocolate chips, a maximum of twice a day.

Again, some of these cheats are probably going to make my health coach smack her head against the monitor if she reads my blog (Hi, Candy!!!  Are you out there?), so please don't quote that they're TSFL approved.  

See you next week, approximately.  :D

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ant Poison and Shiny Red Boots

When Connor was four, he had a pair of shiny red rubber boots.  We played out in the back yard frequently, searching for bugs, climbing the play structure, kicking balls.  One day outside, I told Connor, "Stay away from the powder on the side of the house.  Daddy sprayed ant poison and it will make you sick if you touch it."  His reply, "OK, mom!"  Five minutes later, he comes to me and I can see the dust on his boots, grinning proudly.

"Mom!  I stepped in the poison and I didn't die."

This is what it's like to be the mom of a kid with ADHD and ODD, and was an aha moment for me, even though he was as yet undiagnosed.  Defiance.  Built-in.  If I told him not to do something, that pretty much guaranteed he was going to do it.

I don't have ADHD, but I have a streak of ODD.  I'm defiant.  I don't like to follow rules.  People telling me what to do annoy me.  When I need to, I play well with others, but the overall idea of authority doesn't sit super-well with me.

Like son, like mother.  This last week, I stepped in the ant poison.

I'm supposed to be changing habits.  I'm supposed to be eating low glycemic.  Sugar is not my friend.  So, what did I do last week?

I had 2 chocolate chip cookies
I had a piece of pita bread at a Lebanese restaurant.  Home made, heavenly-smelling, worth every calorie.
I had at least a dozen Hershey's chocolate hearts.
I ate a few slices of cheddar cheese and snacked on mozarella while making a lasagna
Ghiardelli milk chocolate chips.  I won't tell you how many
A pat of butter on my salmon before steaming it
Whipped cream on my TSFL cocoa

I didn't just step in the ant poison, I stomped in it.  Part of it is basic behavioral psychology - a painful experience makes you change, you change just enough to stop feeling pain, then you stop changing.  So a big part of it is that I was successful for a month and I got lazy and started coasting.  Another part of it was that I'm starting to get weary, rebellious, sick of those little boxes.

I could have done any ONE of those cheats above and probably still been OK.  However, I should not have done all of them.  They were all conscious choices; no one pressured me or forced.  Lazy?  Self sabotage?  Boredom?  Depression?  Lots of reasons, probably all of the above.  It wasn't my best week of the program, but it was a learning week, and a week I intend not to repeat.

No excuses.  No whining.  I've adhered 100% to the program today.  It works for a reason.  I'll probably stomp in the ant poison a few more times along the way.  But that's just me.  A rebel.  A perfectly imperfect, defiant, rebellious person.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Little boxes, little boxes - 4 weeks on TSFL

The one-sentence summary is this.  I started in the 170's and a month later I'm in the 150's.  Read on for more info.

On Wednesday 1/6/13, a big box arrived on my front doorstep.  Inside that box were 20 or so little boxes.  Reminds me of an old Jack In The Box commercial where they sang, "Little boxes, little boxes, there's a blue one and a pink one and a yellow one and they all look just the same."  A fast food parody of Janice Joplin, I believe.

Anyway, the boxes came, and I had the "intro" call with my health coach, Candy.  We went through the highlights of the getting started booklet - 5 of the little boxed meals (shakes, bars, pancakes, eggs, soups, puddings, chili, faux cheese puffs) per day and one "lean and green" meal.  OK, I can do this.

On Thursday, I ate my first bar.  Chocolate mint.  So far, so good.  And I got on the scale for my starting weight.  Ahem.  Apparently the Christmas season was more merry than I thought.  171.4.  I hadn't weighed this much since pregnant.

The good news.

1)  The weight loss happens, quickly.
Week one weigh-in - 166.4 - down 5 pounds
Week two weigh-in - 164.2 - down 2.2 pounds, 7.2 total
Week three weigh-in - 161.6 - down 2.6 pounds, 9.8 total
Week four weigh-in - 159.2 - down 2.4 pounds, 12.2 total
Week five weigh-in - ???? tomorrow!  But I did cheat a little this week, so we'll see how it goes!  When I weight in midweek I was down 13 total, so we will see what the Valentine hearts did to me.  They say you don't have to be perfect, so tomorrow morning I will find out!

Woo hoo!  12.2 pounds!

2)  The weight lost has been primarily fat, not muscle.  This was one of my biggest problems with fad diets, and it hasn't been a problem with this eating plan.  A lot of crazy diets will produce quick weight loss at the expense of lean muscle tissue and the water it stores.  But I've been pinched, Bod Podded and tape-measured.  I'm losing fat.  Part of this is because I'm eating low glycemic and healthy.  Part of this is because I'm weight training and have been drinking a booster of amino acids right after working out (by Dot Fit, ask me for more info) to recover quickly and repair muscle.

3)  The coaching process has been good.  Helpful, available, but not overly intrusive or micromanaging.  No one solves my problems but me.  Candy is more the person who bounces questions at me, "So, how are you going to handle that?  What could you do to make that taste better?  What will you do next time that happens?"  Treating me respectfully as if I'm intelligent enough to make my own decisions, which I am, and trusting that I can over-ride the emotional component to my eating, which I'm doing so far.

It's not been easy.

First, I had to plan better.  Eating every 2 hours to keep my blood sugar steady took a little planning ahead so I would have something in my purse or my car or a clean shaker jar and a package of shake mix for meals away from home not involving a microwave or stove.  I'm getting a lot better at that.

Second, the first week SUCKED.  I'm caffeine free for the most part, but getting sugar-free was rough.  Day 2, I had NO energy.  None.  And I had to teach 3 fitness classes.  22 years of experience and the sheer force of my stubborn will got me through that day.  Days 4 and 5, something was still rebalancing hormonally because I was a raving b*tch.  Seriously cranky.  Just ask one of my best friends, Amy A.  She is still talking to me, thank God.  I figured out that the TSFL oatmeal gives me the most energy and I eat that first thing in the morning; sometimes I also eat 2 boiled eggwhites with that if I'm teaching back to back classes (Monday morning, Friday morning).

Third, although I'm not physically hungry hardly ever, there are psychological cravings.  They're still there.  I don't care how pretty the TSFL brownie on the little box looks, it ain't no Dessert Tray chocolate fudge torte.  Not even close!  And the "healthy" snacks, dill pickle spears, celery stalks, sugar-free jello, and 10 almonds, they're all well and good but they're not exactly what the old sugar-crazed me has in mind.  I don't know if this is normal or not (Candy has been very diplomatic about not telling me I'm abnormal - thanks Candy!) but I would have nightmares about eating huge portions of sugary, chocolaty, rich, tasty foods.  They seemed so real, I'd have to count pillows to make sure I hadn't eaten one.

Fourth, the jury is still out on whether the habits will change.  The underlying habits - depression and stress related eating - have to be retrained in order for the weight loss to stay off.

Fifth - my family isn't totally in line with this yet.  Emotional support, yes.  Ready to clean the kitchen of potato chips, ice cream, and other tasty treats, not so much.  But when I'm cooking, they're eating what I fix or fixing it themselves.  At this point, that's all I can ask of anyone except the five year old.  :D

So at this point, I would give TSFL a good review.  I will consider becoming a coach.  I would recommend that the skeptical ask questions of a coach they trust, whether that's me or someone else.  I can point you to some.

See less of me later!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Why am I testing out TSFL?

If you've known me as a trainer, you've heard me say that eating foods as close to natural form as possible is a great way to stay healthy and to lose or maintain weight.  You've heard me criticize magic pills, meal replacement bars, cookie diets, and the like.  You've heard me write my concerns, based on reading legitimate fitness source material (i.e. textbooks in my field, not supermarket tabloids) that quick weight loss diets can even be defeating in the long run because (a) the weight you lose is muscle, not fat, and (b) when you lose muscle, it screws up your metabolism making it even harder to keep weight off and (c) super-low-calorie diets don't teach you how to live real life.

Wow, I summarized in just a few sentences what I've been preaching for years!

So, now I'm eating pre-packaged, low-calorie meals on a "5 and 1" plan.  Am I crazy?  I must be crazy.  Or at the very least, inconsistent.  Bear with me a bit as I try to explain why I'm doing something I vowed never to do.  It took a huge leap for me to get here and I'm still mid-air, but this is what got me to jump.

There are three different places where I work, and I enjoy them all for different reasons.  The underlying common factor of them, however, is that I believe in my management teams.  Who I work with / for matters.  I have worked for management teams I don't respect and shall never do so again.

Last January, I started working for a company called Tri-D Fitness.  It's a high-end personal training and therapy facility with state of the art functional training equipment and amazing trainers.  I'd admired them from afar for several years, but never had the guts to apply there until Bally went out of business and I wanted to find a home for my classes and clients.  When I met the owners, Brad and Scott (brothers), we clicked in many ways.  They're both passionate about their business, about helping people, and people I'm proud to know.  They trusted me very shortly after hiring me with an equipment investment and a training investment that's been beneficial to all of us and to their staff.

In late 2012, Tri-D merged with another of its businesses, Bootcamp RDFT, a business specializing in large group bootcamp fitness.  The united team is now RDFT, Results Driven Fitness Training.  The business model is to have a smooth-flowing team of professionals providing client service.  It's an elegant business model; I won't bore you with more details except to say that I trust the individuals behind the model and I believe in the model itself.

Wasn't I going to talk about TSFL at some point?  

Part of the new business model of RDFT is to bring in some of the successful facets of both Tri-D and Bootcamp RDFT.  That's where Take Shape For Life comes in.  The folks up at bootcamp have been using TSFL to help their clients for a couple of years.  I was isolated from that part of the business.

Now that we're all RDFT, we will be offering TSFL as an option to clients for whom it may benefit.  It's a tool in the toolbox.  It doesn't suit every client's needs, and it won't be on every client's roadmap.  But for this who it could help, RDFT will be offering it.  We aren't all required to be coaches.  No one's making me eat it.  But all of our trainers are required to have the same base product knowledge about the program so we can refer clients to trainers who are coaches.  That's it.  That's all I was required to do.  Attend a training to learn about the program.

There's a lot I didn't know about TSFL

Yes, they're low calorie, pre-packaged meals.  You eat 5 of their "meals" (bars, shakes, soups, oatmeals, pancakes, eggs) a day and one of your own "lean and green" meals.  That much, I already knew.  Super-low-calorie diet, ends up being about 1,200 calories a day, depending on what you eat for your lean and green meal.  And what happens when you stop eating 1,200 calories a day?!?  Poof, you gain it all back.  That's why I have been against these plans.

BUT, they're also a coaching program.  This is what I didn't know.  The meals are a "catalyst," a way to get people started on a program that will lead to their overall health.  Sometimes you have to give people what they want first (a jump-start at weight loss) so they'll trust you enough to teach them what they really need.  So as I'm munching away at the decent-tasting bars and choking down the horrible tasting faux-pamesan puffs, I've also got a health coach.  The purpose of the health coach is to guide the individual through their lifestyle change, gradually transitioning from the pre-packaged meals to normal foods, by adopting small lifestyle changes one at a time.  Healthy habits.

Coaching healthy habits, that I can possibly get behind.  But what kind of healthy habits?  How much coaching and support?  Does it really work?  Will what I learn make a long term difference in my eating habits?  And am I losing fat like I intend, of will it be just muscle and mess me up further?

The only way I can answer these questions is to try it for myself.  The only way I can stand behind a product is to try it.  I'm not going to sell or support something I don't believe in.  So, here I am eating  bars, shakes and parmesan puffs.  Note to self: omit parmesan puffs from next order.

The kicker

I didn't become a believer in this overnight.  Quite the contrary.  I almost left a job I loved.  Two things kept me from quitting.  (1) Learning that there is a habit coaching piece behind the food and (2) Scott's telling me that his mother has lost over 100 pounds on the program.  If you recall a while earlier, I wrote that who I work for matters, and that I trust my management teams or I don't work for them.

Scott and Brad took a leap with me in January 2012.  I'm taking a leap with them in 2013.  I hope to lose 20-25 pounds through the coaching process.  I may, or may not, become a coach myself.  But I have to at least give TSFL enough of a chance to learn about it and get some experience with it.

Whether it works or not, you can bet I'll be blogging about it.  I've got my first week's results in, but that's a subject of another post.

Monday, January 14, 2013

When I dance, no one gives a damn what I weigh

It's the time of year where many people make resolutions for change.  This year, the only resolution that I wanted to make for myself was increased self appreciation.  Sometimes the shortest way to a happy life is wanting what you have instead of having what you want.  Self acceptance, inside and out, imperfections and all, is part of overall wellness.  We are all, intrinsically, OK.  Sure, we have unique talents, interests, weakness and imperfections, but that's part of the beauty of humanity.

It's my ability to assume goodness in others, regardless of size, shape, or fitness level that makes me a compassionate and capable personal trainer.  I meet clients where they're at, respectfully.  I listen to their goals and provide feedback on how to make them measurable / accountable, and how they will map the road to success.  My mission in fitness is to make everyone feel welcome in my class.  And that's what I've been doing for 22 years.

I teach a fantastic group exercise class.  Don't take my word for it.  Look at my attendance record at every club where I teach, and look at the retention of my group-ex members and personal training clients.  Or look at my endorsements on professional fitness sites...  When you're good, you tell others; when you're great, others speak for you; others speak for me.

Here's the kicker, the elephant in the room, the dirty little secret.  I'm 20-25 pounds overweight.

Let me tell you this....

When I dance, nobody gives a damn about how much I weigh!

No matter what's been going on in my life, I've been able to carve out a place of joy for my fitness classes and clients and put my heart into them.  People have told me that the joy I express when I teach is palpable, contagious.

Back to my weight....

My battle with my weight is tied to depression and stress, and they started in late 2003 and early 2004 when my mom was dying.  Working 60+ hour weeks, very little gym time, running up and down I-5 corridor to the hospital and back, screaming toddler in tow, stopping at the Centralia Burgerville more often than not.  While I would change what I ate, I wouldn't change the time I spent with my mom, may she rest in peace.  The bad habits I gained during her demise added 25 pounds to my weight.  I'll highlight my other scars, but I won't detail them.  Let's just say that between 2004 and 2011, there were 5 family deaths, a boatload of issues with secondary infertility (not to mention weight gain with every round of IVF), major job turmoil, and a dramatic and stressful birth.  Everyone has crosses to bear, and I'm not saying mine are more or less than anyone else's.  But I survived mine by making poor food choices.  Grief, depression, stress, food.

No matter what has gone on in my personal life, I've kept teaching fitness.  It's an oasis to dance, to sing, to feel shared rhythm with others.  Sometimes, it was my sanity, the very best part of my day.  And as I said before, when I dance, nobody gives a damn how much I weigh.  I teach from my eyes, from my smile, from my hands.  My weight hasn't affected my ability to teach, to dance, to train.  I've created and earned more amazing opportunities for myself while weighing in excess of 150 pounds than under.

That's not to say it's been all roses and unicorns...

1)  Three people in the last 8 years have declined to hire me, and though they didn't say it, I'm sure the issue was that it was weight, age, or both.  If you look at the demographics of who got hired, they were all young, attractive-looking, thin, and most of them had less experience than me.

2)  There was that gorgeous physical specimen who looked at me like rotting meat when we were partnered together at a convention last year for a Rip Training seminar.  He sized me up and he judged me wrongly.  I won a medal in that session of over 100 people, and the presenter said, "This girl, now this girl kicks ass!"  Triumph, but still the sting of being the last girl picked, and looked at like a person of little worth.

3)  FYI, if you don't see legs sticking out from her crotch, do not ask a woman if she is pregnant.  Period.  Enough said.

Defensiveness, rationale, excuses...

So here's this instructor who's good at what she does, but she's chunky.  Does this make her a bad instructor?  No.  Does this make her a bad example to her clients?  Yes and no.  You could argue that I'm a poor example because I'm not within a healthy weight range (I'm overweight, but not obese).  You could judge me on appearance alone and say that I shouldn't be in front of people acting like I know fitness.  You could say that there's a standard of fitness that professionals ought to uphold and anything less is hypocrisy.  There are lots of appearance and example-based reasons why you could argue that I don't have a place in the fitness industry, and I've probably heard most of them.  Here are a few reasons, excuses, defensive utterings about why I think I offer a good example to my clients.

1)  I understand where they're coming from.  My struggles are the same as many of their struggles.  While I don't advertise my issues to my clients, my weight is visible and I can't hide it; sometimes it spurs discussions that are teachable moments for them.  There is no contempt or judgment from me towards my clients, and people can feel that.  There are people who have told me they came to me because they were intimidated by uber-fit trainers and they liked how I treated my clients.

2)  Struggles aside, I'm a great example of someone who doesn't give up.  Not quitting the gym or the job that I love.  Fighting depression instead of sinking under it.  Going to the gym as an imperfect person, yet standing in front of the room with an earnest smile.

3)  And, always, if someone doesn't like me, I was taught to accept that.  I probably wouldn't like them, either!  So to the people who didn't hire me, so what?  To the rotten meat guy, so what?  My strengths exceed my weaknesses.

Whether they're excuses, rationale, defensiveness, or self-protective armor, I've worn my reasons for years.

And now it's time to get rid of some of them, not so I'm easier to hire, to avoid being last pick at fitness conventions, or to look better in a staff shirt.  For my own health.

My.  Own.  Health.

Losing the weight is a very small part of what I'm doing.  There's a bigger picture that includes healing some scars and shedding some old beliefs.  But in the short term, this chunky little instructor is trying to lose 20 to 25 pounds, and keep it off.  I believe the only way to truly be successful at the latter is to deal with the issues that made me overweight in the first place.  Nutritious low calorie meal replacements are just one piece of it all.