People love to read and hear about what others are doing for exercise-Lets face it. You see a hot body and the first thing you want to say is “what do you do for your workouts?! You must workout likeee everyday, right? ughh tell me what you do!!” The truth is that every single human is built differently. Its a beautiful thing when you think about. You are unique and there is not one person on this entire planet that is built like you. We all can handle different amounts of stress, need different types and amounts of food and types of exercise effect all of us differently. When I hear this question (which is more often than not) I really don’t know what to say. Over the past 4 years, my workouts have changed within themselves tremendously (as has my body for the good and bad) I have gone through ups and downs with my own body image and transformation as well as find things that I enjoy rather than do just because I think thats what I need to do.
The Cardio Queen Phase
Working out is something I could never do without, however, I definitely have taken a step back from being the obsessive, crazy lady I used to be. Years ago, I felt unstoppable, no matter what. I would workout 2x a day (at a high intensity) and watch what I ate WAY more. I would constantly be thinking about my next workout, and also plan out the next workout during my current workout. If something got in the way, I would get anxiety. I HAD to exercise. You would think I looked like a fitness model, right?
Meh, not so much. I am in NO way ‘overweight’ here. I am normal, little softer than I would have liked but the craziest thing is that at this time in my life (late 2010) I was doing about 6 days of cardio for 45-55 minutes at a time. That was the bulk of my workouts. I didn’t do any yoga, pilates, classes and lifted weights about 1-2 times a week AFTER my crazy cardio sessions. I was eating healthy food–really really healthy food but I was eating quite a bit because I was always hungry (which is a side effect of too much cardio) My body was storing fat and I was very uncomfortable in my own skin. You can even see in my expression that I truly felt uncomfortable. I am sure some of you are reading this and can 100% relate to what I am saying. You are one of those people who grab a magazine and their ipod and grab that elliptical or treadmill for your extended cardio session yet your body does not budge. I know that some exercise is better than none but in the long run, I realized that stepping away from so much cardio was one of the hardest but best decisions I have made.
I also realized that I was fatigued. A lot. I was tired, irritable, moody–classic signs of over training but beyond that–Too much cardio will actually cause your body to store fat because it increases cortisol which is your stress hormone. Too much aerobic exercise will increase oxidative stress which causes the breakdown of muscle tissue and in the long run can cause cancer. Excess cardio can also increase appetite 10 fold and could cause some binging eating patterns. Along those same lines, cardio burns a small amount of calories compared to the time spent. The calories you burn are the calories you burn. Thats it. When you add strength training in the mix–THIS is what will sky rocket your metabolism and help you to burn fat all day long!
I won’t say I quit the cardio because I still to this day have a time and place for it BUT when I knew that I needed a change and I wasn’t at peace with my body, mentally and physically, I did know I had to cut WAY back. It was mentally very challenging for me, I am not going to lie. When I first joined Cathy Savage Fitness and was put on 3 days of cardio for 30 minutes…I was like “whhhatttttt” I actually remember emailing my coach back asking if I can do more and why is that low? It was explained that to that cardio was and I still believe is used as a tool. It shouldn’t be the ‘focus’ of any workout program. When I was training for a physique competition, the bulk of the time in the gym was spent in the weight room. Although hard to swallow, I listened. To this day, when I hear “oh I’m taking a rest day–I’m just going to run” this is NOT a rest day, folks. This is running. I actually had this ingrained in my head at one point as well.
There was also a time when I figured that I needed to do all of my cardio first before lifting weights in order to ‘tone up’ Losing weight is pure science really. Stop eating so much and you will lose weight, but when it comes to fat loss this is a whole different story and many of us out there have this as our goal. Cardio and strength work hand in hand in any balanced workout program but when fat loss is the goal, I have to say that cardio takes second place which I found out post cardio queen phase. Weight training increases the metabolism’s after-burn, so that your metabolism burns more calories after the workout is long over. You can read all about some myths that I bust in my post on FITNESS RANTS!
The second I started lifting weight and focusing my energy elsewhere, this is when I truly saw my body and mind change!
The Weight Room Warrior
Besides getting my nutrition a little bit more in check, this phase I will call the “weight room warrior” I started following a strict strength training program that was a 4-5 day split bodypart workout. My workouts would be split up more or less like this. They would change every 4 weeks to keep the body making gains and split up which body parts were working together but this is just an example.
Now, the second I saw what my workouts would entail, I had to take some deep breaths and realize this was going to take me WAY out of my comfort zone which terrified me but excited me all at the same time. What would my body look like? Would I be able to do this? Will I really really miss my cardio sessions? I had a plan and I had a goal and I was sticking to it. I started following these workouts to a “T” I would bring my workout sheet with me and write down everything I did. There were and still are some pros and cons about a strength training split that is set up this way
- For a physique or fitness competitor this old school style of lifting is great for muscle growth and asthetic/visual purposes
- You can mentally focus on 1-2 body parts so you are spending all of your time and energy for instance JUST on your shoulders and Abs. You don’t even have to think about the chest or triceps until the following day
- You can allow for more volume on the bodypart that you are lifting. You can hit the muscle from different angles with various sets and reps
- At this time in my life, I also had the benefit of being able to have time for this style of workout. I could fit in my strength and cardio (If I had cardio on that day) I know it can be very challenging for some to get to the gym this often for this split routine which is why 3 day or full body workouts may be more beneficial.
- Not the best for beginners. It can be hard to follow and also hard to build muscle when you don’t have a solid foundation to work with first. Now, I want to make sure my clients are moving and feeling better before splitting body parts and getting very specific.
- I also realize this is not the smartest workout regimen to balance the body. It is set up for a fitness competitor who gets looked at from all angles on stage and meant for muscle growth, not necessarily to function better.
So, I was taking the old school path and thats what got my lifting! I liked it and certainly saw major changes in my body! I was shocked at how my body could transform the way it did with a drastic cut back on the cardio. This style of training took me into my very first show. After I began getting more in tune with my body, what worked, what didn’t, what body parts were stubborn and which ones packed on size fast, I began tweaking my workouts to my liking. After about a year (2011-2012) of following this sort of workout regimen, I not only got a little bored, but I realized that I didn’t have a balanced routine. I LOVED lifting, but wanted more variety. I had accomplished 2 or 3 shows at this point and now I wanted to play around and not be so tied to a piece of paper with a workout regimen on it. I also had begun personal training, writing programs for clients and educating myself on the benefits of the FMS (functional movement screen) and saw the importance of functional exercise and training muscles not movements.
Following these set workouts day after day, week after week was great for a while, especially when I began competing and getting into lifting. It gave me something to look forward to, my workouts were already set for me, all I had to do was show up. THe important piece of the puzzle that was missing for me was that after a while, I realized these workouts may have not been serving me the best. I started feeling tired and overtrained. Working out with such intensity (lifting) back to back days was very taxing on my body. I realize that some people can do this with no problem at all, but that is the thing–all bodies are built different and for me, I was feeling very over trained and began to see a decrease in muscle mass and strength. I was losing that initial vigor that I had when I began. I also noticed parts of my body weren’t recovering due to the lack of mobility and flexibility I had. I was doing yoga about once a month and like most people “stretching was a waste of time” when in fact, it is the MOST IMPORTANT part of any exercise program. If you want to see increases in strength, move through wider range of motion thus burn more calories and overall feel better–flexbility and mobility should be superior to anything else. I was noticing pain in my body (shoulders especially) because I may have not been warming up properly and also had some muscular imbalances that I kept throwing to the wayside.
All in all-my body was slowly breaking down and I knew it was time to incorporate some different forms of physical activity into my routine to get myself more balanced.
Training for a purpose where everyone is looking at you on stage was the only goal in my mind-I didn’t care how I got there-meaning that if I felt pain in my body, I pushed through it because it was shoulder day and I HAD to get through it. There was no place in my schedule for yoga let alone spend 10 precious minutes foam rolling or stretching. When I started listening to my body more, I realized I was no superwoman and had to scale way back.
I began to learn the importance of working out with the goal of feeling better, moving better and injury prevention, not to mention the importance of rest and recovery
Bodyweight Training + Kettlebells + TRX
When I look back at how long I used to spend in the gym, I actually cannot believe I had a life outside of that place. The idea of going to the gym twice a day can scare most people, let alone go once a day consistency, but somehow when I first started competing I thought I HAD to go twice a day, everyday to achieve what I wanted. As I began getting more in tune with my body and listening to the cues it would send, not to mention incorporating more functional style workouts, I learned the importance of being effective and efficient. Then get the hell out of the gym! Lifting weights will always have a place in my workout program and I believe that keeping the body strong through strength training. After my first two shows, I felt unbalanced and I needed to take control. I want to inspire you, help you take control of your health and realize that the world is a bigger place than the gym. You can achieve exactly what you want in way less time than you think. Enter the Bodyweight training, kettlebell and TRX phase.
As many of you know, fitness trends can literally change overnight from the newest piece of equipment that you HAVE to try to the newest class that is “OMG so amazing!!” After a few shows and getting way bored of the ‘bodybuilding style’ workouts, I found myself utterly infatuated with kettlebells the moment that I started playing around with them. It wasn’t until 2011 that I really got turned onto them when I first started at Fitcorp in Boston.
The benefits to kettlebell training are endless but what initially got me interested in them was the fact it is functional training with the goal of increased strength and power throughout the whole body not to mention complete and utter focus and engagement of every single muscle in your entire body. When I found myself starting to working well past considered ‘full time’ as a personal trainer, I was in need of efficient, effective and challenging workouts that I could incorporate so I wouldn’t be (nor did I have an interest) spending more than 60 minutes in a gym. So long are the days of seated biceps curls and leg extensions. As I began incorporating them into my own workouts and my clients workouts alike, I traveled to NJ to get my HKC certification which was incredible!!
Kettlebell exercises such as the Turkish get-up, Bent Press, and Windmill will develop a rock-hard midsection and increase shoulder flexibility and stability. Whether you are a guy who wants to increase size and strength or a woman that wants to lose weight and tighten up your glutes, quads, abs, and arms, get kettlebell training into your weekly routine!
Body weight training also helps to increase fat loss and simultaneously build muscle. The biggest misconception is that you MUST throw around heavy weights in order to achieve strength. Yes, strength training should be a part of anyone’s exercise program but I strongly believe the same should be said for body weight training.
Body weight training allows for full range of motion and also require complete and utter body awareness meaning you are more likely to be properly engaging all muscles while performing exercises like the walking lunge, plank, pull up (to name a few)
The combination of weights AND body weight training is truly unstoppable and will provide a wide range of benefits including improved speed, power, strength as well as extremely effective to develop beautifully sculpted muscles AND provide you with a complete metabolic, fat burning workout
Here are two body weight workouts that I have posted before, but for ease…I figured I would post them again for you all!
I have also posted a link that you can check out for some added info!
I swear I have been living under a rock due to the fact that I never really really immersed myself in yoga until last year. When I was in High School, I took a few classes with my mom here and there but I never truly ‘loved it’ because I don’t think I was in the right mindset. I never felt that it was a ‘workout’ and I got bored and antsy. Stretching? and mobility? pshhh ain’t nobody got time for that! (that was my attitude) Years and years later, after going head first into strength training, I realized I needed a huge balance in my routine. Yoga is not only an amazing addition for the body, but for the mind and soul as well. After my health scare in 2012, I needed to find outlets to let loose of my anxiety and stress. I began incorporating yoga as a form of stress relief. I think my issue with yoga is that I always looked at it as a ‘workout’ and didn’t take advantage of the other amazing properties that come from this form of exercise. Yoga is a complete mind, body, spiritual, holistic experience that will not only challenge your body but it will challenge your soul.
We are a society who thrives of moving fast, staring at our cell phone screens, responding to emails, always go go go go go. We never take the time to…just…be. I know that for myself, I have suffered from extreme anxiety in the past and have found outlets to deal with this. We all carry some amount of anxiety and the way to relieve that can be different. If I hear someone that says “oh the way I deal with stress is go to the gym–I truly believe that CAN work for them, but for me? I have to stay AWAY from the gym. I work there, and am surrounding all day long by this place. I love what I do, but when I am trying to deal with extreme anxiety or stress I need to remove myself from a gym and do something for my soul.
When I began to incorporate yoga, not only did I get more in tune with my body and its responses to stress, but it made life more enjoyable because I literally leave every single class with a clear heart and mind. I know that when I go into that yoga studio, I just focus on me and that 90 minutes I have. I am so grateful to be able to take that time to give something to myself. The breathing, the meditation, the time to not think about anything but practice is the best form of stress relief I have found for myself.
On a physical side, yoga is incredible if you performing other acts of physical activity such as endurance training, weight lifting, barre classes, tabata, pilates, crossfit etc. Yoga will help to increase mobility and flexibility which in turn will help you become a stronger, more efficient and better lifter in the gym. You will be able to move through a wider range of motion, thus recruiting more muscle fibers and getting the most bang for your buck with 100% proper form. You will feel challenged like no other!
Taking a yoga class is not a ‘rest day’ however I love to perform yoga for active recovery days. It is extremely effective and low impact work that will still get you to move without the stress of lifting weights when your body needs recovery .
No matter what your goal may be in that studio, you will leave yoga feeling better, clearer, level headed and 10 times better than when you entered.
So What Now?
As you can see, I have been through a whirlwind of working out, still am and will continue to be. Right now, for my cardio, I am loving Spin classes and HIIT sprints outdoors or on the treadmill such as this HIIT SPRINTS workout or THIS WORKOUT I love incorporating all aspects of fitness into my weekly routine and am absolutely not rigid and set in stone about anything. I am a HUGE believer in balance and when it comes to exercise there is no better way to stay sane than having variety. The reason the fitness industry changes so often is because there is always something new different to spark our interests. New research is put out daily that we must keep up with and when new ‘gadget’ comes on the market-we have to try it! It’s not a bad thing! I think as much as we are creatures of habit, when it comes to physical activity, people do love to try new things! The take away message here is that is is so important to get out of your comfort zone and stay open to trying new things! It is key in building a healthy, happy relationship with exercise!
I used to have ‘planned’ rest days which looking back, I cannot believe I actually followed. What if I felt 100% on a ‘rest day’ and wanted to workout? On the other end of the spectrum, what if I felt like crap on a day that I was ‘supposed’ to be doing HIIT sprints and a chest workout? I pushed through-and I shouldn’t have. Listening to your body is superior to anything that is written down on a piece of paper.
My week may look like this:
- Monday: Upper body lift with Kettlebells, DB, Cables etc
- Tuesday: Yoga
- Wednesday: HIIT sprints
- Thurs: Lower body lift+ core/mobility
- Friday: REST
- Sat: Spin
- Sunday: Rest or Metabolic/bodyweight circuit work