road to becoming a personal trainer

“I only go to the gym for the classes, I don’t know how to do anything else.”

“I know I should strength train…but I just don’t.”

“I really only like classes, I don’t like lifting.”

After talking with countless friends and hearing similar comments, I’ve gradually come to the realization that not every woman knows how, or even wants to know how, to do a proper strength training workout. As someone who has been lifting weights since 15 years old (albeit with a slight lapse in college…story for a later day), I think I’ve been taking for granted the ability/desire to venture into the weight room.

Starting from a young age, I was always active in sports. I started early with soccer, softball, and basketball when I was in elementary school then middle school, followed by field hockey, basketball, and softball in high school. Passionate about improving my performance, I also did additional strength training sessions at athletic training facilities that were roughly 90% male dominated. This was almost 15 years ago, and the “strong, not skinny!” mindset had yet to become popular with girls and women. Being surrounded by guys that I trained with and competed against meant that I very quickly developed confidence that allowed me to go into any gym, pick up weights, start working out, and not feel out of place in the slightest.

For a lot of women, the weight room of a gym is a place they avoid like the plague — and for good reason. If you go at a peak time during the day, you’re apt to find the stereotypical grunting, sweating, flexing dudes that give gym culture a bad name. BUT, if you know exactly what exercises you have on tap for the day via a well-thought out training plan, you’ll be able to stake out a spot in the weight room, crush your workout, and feel like a badass bitch! Or, get to the gym bright and early and you pretty much guarantee having the entire place to yourself. I’m in the 5:30AM crew at Crunch…right when they open! This ensures I can get in, warm-up, do work, and not have to wait around for the squat rack, a bench, dumbbells, etc.

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Last November, after giving it some serious thought for over a year, I enrolled in the NASM CPT course and am now deep in the throes of studying to become a Certified Personal Trainer (set my exam date for May 6, eek!). I want to help women feel strong, empowered, and invincible…and I firmly believe that all of that can be achieved through serious strength training — meaning that it’s time to drop the 5 lb weights, and stop worrying that anything heavier than that will bulk you up. You know what lifting will do, though? Give you muscles that will make you feel strong and confident. Make you able to carry your own heavy suitcases. Make you able to lug groceries up your 3-floor walk-up. Make you do real push-ups. Make you look and feel strong, like someone who is not to be messed with (which in our society today is incredibly important). Make you feel like you’re capable of anything that you set your mind to.

For further reading on the power of women lifting weights, I strongly encourage you to check out this post that I absolutely loved: An open letter to everyone who has told women “Don’t get too muscular”.

I’m so excited at the prospect of having the proper credentials to assist people in leading healthier lives, and have so many ideas for the future. In the meantime, I’ll be looking for training guinea pigs, so NYC-based friends, get in touch! I’ll be getting small groups together this spring for freebie bootcamps to try new workouts out, get feedback, and practice training.

Life is too damn short to not feel as abso-freaking-lutely amazing as you possibly can every single day. If you don’t currently incorporate strength training into your workout routine, I cannot stress this enough: please make 2016 the year that you commit to getting strong. Not just what it can do for you physically, but for the immense mental benefit that you’ll enjoy as a result. :)

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raw hippie breakfast bowl

raw hippie breakfast bowl Fruit Salad Life

Sometimes I feel like a fish out of water living in New York, because 99% of the meals I eat are homemade. Every so often, I’ll go out to dinner or breakfast, and extremely rarely, lunch…but my default is to eat at home. And if you know anyone who lives in New York, chances are that they pride themselves on barely using their kitchen, never using their oven, having nothing in the fridge, and subsisting on a steady diet of Seamless delivery meals.

One of my 2016 goals is to get back to studying/reading/speaking Spanish, and I came across an idiom recently that I love — cada loco con su tema — roughly translated to mean “to each his own.” Some people love eating out at restaurants for most meals, and the fact that I don’t doesn’t make me right or others wrong…it’s simply a matter of preference! But since I don’t eat out very frequently, I make sure to savor every last bite when I do. It was at breakfast with a friend recently that I enjoyed an earth cup from Sun In Bloom in Brooklyn, and I’ve been recreating a similar bowl at home for the past few weeks. Sun In Bloom’s version is a mixture of buckwheat, sunflower seed butter, dates, raisins, bananas, and blueberries with homemade “rice mylk”, and it was the perfect mix of sweet, crunchy, and tart. See below for my take on the dish!

RAW HIPPIE BREAKFAST BOWL

Serves: 1

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup buckwheat groats, soaked in 1 cup of water for 1 hour and drained
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk yogurt (I like Anita’s)
  • sprinkle of coconut chips (I used toasted maple coconut chips)
  • fresh or frozen berries, depending on the time of year
  • 3 chopped dates to sweeten

Other toppings to consider: banana chips, chia seeds, hemp seeds, nut butter, maple syrup, ground flax seeds…sky’s the limit, folks! :)

2015 year in review + 2016 goals

Never having been one for New Year’s resolutions, I opt instead to write out a list of goals at end beginning of every year that I want to accomplish. These goals get written in my planner, because I’m old school and despite having everything on my phone, I love the act of sitting and writing out activities to fill up my days, weeks, and months. And because I have my planner with me every day, this means that I either consciously or subconsciously glance at my list of goals daily, which serves to reinforce them in my mind.

So how did I do for 2015?

2015 goals

  • start a new fulfilling job – YES. I started working for Runner’s World magazine in February and enjoy it immensely.
  • spin teacher certification –YES/NO. I’m giving myself a half-accomplished score here, because while I didn’t get spin certified, I did take the plunge and enroll in the NASM CPT course and have been studying to become a personal trainer
  • be better at HTML + CSS – NO. I didn’t make this a SMART goal, so it was sort of nebulous to begin with. Although I learned HTML last year and made a website for myself, I let that website lapse…but I have retained lots of knowledge and feel confident navigating my site’s code.
  • pay off credit card debt 100%- YES. Wahoo! Had a few thousand on there remaining from the wedding and it’s gonezo.
  • pay down 30% of student loan- YES. Redacted exact amount above, but paid down 35% and have a plan to get it to zero by April 2016.
  • reach goal weight –NO. Redacted again, because while I believe the scale number doesn’t matter, I don’t want to put a # out into the universe because that opens the door for unhealthy comparisons. But I am 10 lbs over my wedding weight from last year and want to get back to feeling 1000% kickass amazing!
  • get this blog back up and running –YES. ‘Nuff said.
  • change name legally – YES. All the major documents are done, with my only having a minor identity crisis during the year.
  • read 30 books – YES. Safe to say I crushed this one, and mid-way through the year set that goal to 50. I finished book #51 yesterday.
  • practice regular meditation – YES. This is a priority, and I aim to do this daily…occasionally falling off the wagon when we travel, though.
  • sell wedding dress – YES/NO. Listed it, but haven’t sold it yet. Which reminds me, anyone want to buy a dress?
  • dabble in painting/art – YES/NO. No success on the painting front, but I did acquire my mom’s old sewing machine that I have been using, albeit infrequently. But I did make a pillow case!
  • 20 push-ups in AM + PM- NO. Oops.
  • floss regularly – NO. I feel like this one will always be on my goals list. I do a few times a week, but I knowwwwww it should be daily!
  • bake a 2 layer cake – YES. Yay!
  • run a marathon – NO. This was a lofty goal, seeing as I had a badly sprained ankle last winter that I didn’t properly start rehabbing until May. Lesson learned.
  • weekly yoga  – NO.  Ugh, I feel so good when I do yoga, I need to make this a regular thing.
  • adopt a vegan diet – YES. Probably the thing I am most proud of doing this year. After a stint as a college vegetarian-turned-vegan-turned-meat-eater-again, I made my way back to vegetarianism last year and went fully vegan in early 2015.
  • shift wake-up time to 5:15AM – YES. I’m a creature of habit, and while the holidays have pushed this wake-up time back a bit, I still thrive on a consistent wake-up time every weekday.
  • stop using the word “just”- YES/NO. I proofread all emails and censor myself to avoid actively using it, but it may slip into my conversations.

All in all, I am thrilled with 2015! What a year it was. And now for 2016 goals which I may update in the next few days as I come up with additional goals…I feel like 20 is a good solid number to work with over the course of 12 months:

  1. Write daily in DayOne App 
  2. Use Duolingo daily and become fluent in Spanish
  3. Meditate daily
  4. Get an article published in a vegan magazine
  5. Pay off student loan 100% by April 2016
  6. Read 50 books
  7. No alcohol for all of 2016
  8. Pass personal trainer certification exam in May 2016
  9. Set up LLC for training side hustle
  10. Write 1 blog post every week
  11. Travel to South America again
  12. Work on sewing regularly
  13. Weekly yoga practice

Here’s to a GREAT 2016!

two-layer vegan funfetti cake

I firmly believe that people fall into one of two categories: cooks or bakers. I’ve always considered myself the latter, because I don’t like following precise instructions and prefer to add and remove ingredients as I cook. This tendency has not served me well in past baking endeavors usually. I have a really hard time following a recipe…which as most people know spells disaster for baked goods. They’re more of a science, while cooking is an art.

But I digress.

My husband’s birthday was this past Tuesday, and his favorite cake in the world is funfetti. And like the good wife that I am, I promised him I’d bake him a birthday cake…making this the first birthday cake I’ve baked him in 6 birthdays together, but that’s besides the point. After searching high and low, I could not for the life of me find a decent vegan funfetti cake recipe. I found cupcakes galore, but they all looked a little sad, droopy, and dry. I finally found this recipe that I tweaked (I couldn’t help it!) to produce the finished product:

two layer vegan funfetti cake_fruit salad life

My one mistake with this cake? Not evening out the bottom layer, which was every so slightly rounded, but it was delicious nonetheless.  Feel free to add as many sprinkles as you see fit to this recipe. As you can see, I was heavy-handed while decorating, but that’s what funfetti cake is supposed to look like! The more sprinkles the merrier, I always say.

TWO LAYER-VEGAN FUNFETTI CAKE WITH NON-BUTTERCREAM FROSTING

Servings: I only have a 9-inch cake pan, but if you have 6-inch, I’d recommend using that. Makes one two-layer cake. 

Ingredients

–3 cups all-purpose flour
–1 cup sugar
–2 tsp baking soda
–1 tsp salt
–1/2 tsp cinnamon
–3/4 cup apple sauce
–2 tsp vanilla extract
–2 tsp apple cider vinegar
–1 1/2 cups unsweetened non-dairy milk (I used coconut milk)
–1 cup sprinkles of choice + extra for decorating

Directions

1.Preheat oven to 350° F. Lightly grease cake pans and set aside.
2.In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix together all dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon.
3.Add wet ingredients (apple sauce, vanilla, apple cider vinegar, non-dairy milk) one at a time and mix well until combined. Mix sprinkles in and blend until combined.
4.Pour better into cake pans and bake for 35-40 minutes, testing towards the end with either a cake tester or toothpick to ensure it’s baked all the way through.
5.Remove from oven and flip upside down onto cooling rack to flatten the tops out if a bit rounded.
6.Let cool COMPLETELY before icing. I cannot stress this enough! Then go to town on decorating your perfectly frosted cake. If you’re like me, just Google how to frost a two-layer cake.

NON-BUTTERCREAM FROSTING

Ingredients

–1/2 cup Earth Balance Buttery Spread
–1 stick Earth Balance Buttery Stick
–t tsp vanilla extract
–3 cups powdered sugar
–1/3 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk (again, I used coconut milk here)

Directions

1.Cream both Earth Balance ingredients and vanilla in mixer, and gradually add powdered sugar one half-cup at a time.
2.Add non-dairy milk and mix on high until you have a smooth and whipped consistency.
3.Store in fridge until ready to ice the cake!