Road to Recovery – 1 year later

From day one to now

June 2014 – After training for months, I took part in the ROC race (think of the tv show, Wipeout). I trained like I had for Spartan races, focusing on my upper body above all. The day came and I was ready. I flew through the obstacles and then I got to the monkey bars. Historically, I was never any good at those. I was the little kid who’s parents had to hold her as she went across. But that wasn’t gonna stop me. I trained hard, doing many pull-ups. I could do this! I made it half way without a problem. Then I felt something pop and burn. I grabbed my shoulder and let myself fall. I shook it off and continued the race, finishing all smiles. In the weeks and months that followed, that smile quickly faded. At first I thought maybe I pulled a muscle or something…but it wasn’t getting any better. I continued to workout and work around my injury until one day I realized there was no muscle growth on my bad arm. I couldn’t take it any more. 

October 7, 2016 – I finally went under the knife to repair a nagging shoulder injury. After trying my best for two years to rehab and “fix” it on my own, I realized that my injury only getting worse. I went to the doctor and was immediately sent for a MRI, which revealed that I had a torn labrum and, because I waited so long, a frayed rotator cuff. The doctor was clear that while I didn’t HAVE to get surgery, the longer I wait the worse it will get…and the less likely I would be to get back to full strength. So I begrudgingly scheduled the surgery.

I’ve never had a broken bone much less surgery like this before. I had my tonsils out when I was 11 or 12 but nothing like this. Despite being clumsy my entire life, I somehow managed to escape the ER. Yet here I was – ready to undergo surgery. I wasn’t so much nervous for the actual surgery as I was for the recovery. I wasn’t wrong.

The surgery itself went fairly well, despite a nonsensical hiccup at the hospital the morning of. I was given a nerve block, meaning my entire arm was numb and feeling fantastic post-op. Until around 3am anyway. They say you should stay ahead of the pain and medicate. I didn’t want to overuse the drugs that I was given…so I didn’t listen. Big mistake. I learned good from that though and made sure to keep ahead of things for the next couple of days. I was religated to sleeping on a recliner for that first week…and almost a month in total. I couldn’t lay down without being in terrible pain so I gave up and slept like that. It killed my back but at least I was able to get some rest.

One week later, I went back for my first follow-up. I was given a clunky, yet very sturdy, sling/support device. I was also told that I couldn’t drive for at least another week, meaning I couldn’t go to work. I hate to sit still so this killed me. It’s important to note that I’m right handed…and the surgery was on my right shoulder. So this meant EVERYTHING was a chore. Basic things like showering and eating became a ridiculous task. 2 weeks after surgery I was able to return to work and begin getting back to “normal.” Which…wasn’t much. I couldn’t do many tasks at my job and I had to drive with my left hand (no sling could be worn…which hurt more than one may think). It wasn’t easy at all but I was determined. I also began physical therapy twice a week, which was a godsend. They got me moving again and helped me regain my strength.

Little by little, with the help of PT, I was able to get back to normal. A couple of months later, my insurance decided to stop paying for PT and that was that. I kept at it on my own, best I could. I had the idea of enlisting help from my co-worker, who specializes in massage therapy along with personal training. I knew that I needed help with correcting the bad form that I created and while I may be a trainer myself, it’s much more difficult to correct things on yourself. See, over the two years that I was injured I had to adapt and make changes to compensate for the pain. Some I knew I was doing…but many I didn’t. So I got the help that I needed and was well on my way to pain-free workouts…or so I thought.

March 1, 2017 – just under 5 months post-op and I was cleared for all physical activity. The doctor was really impressed with my progress, saying that I was healing faster than most. I wasn’t given any restrictions!  Sounds great, right? It was…except I know no limits and paid the price for that. I began working out the same as I always had…which produced the same pain it had in the past. As I write this, my eyes are rolling HARD. It was stupid to stop the PT warmups and just jump full speed ahead. People tried to tell me that – I didn’t listen. The following month, I began my 6 week summer shred. I went balls to the wall in my workouts and by the end I looked great…but my arm was killing me. 

I went back to the doctor, fearful that I did serious damage again. Lucky for me, doc didn’t think I did anything to my shoulder but he did think that I was suffering from some bicep tendinitis. I was told to scale back my workouts and to rest more. This completely deflated me.

Since then, I haven’t worked out much. I do weekly workout videos and often feel pain in the days that follow. It’s extremely discouraging but I have decided enough is enough. I was able to get back to full strength in just under 5 months…so I damn sure can get there again. I’m not the most patient person but I’m learning how to be better. I began my PT regimen over the weekend and my plan is to do that 3-4x per week (not counting other workouts). I will also enlist the help of my coworker again- not so much for the corrective stuff but for the magical ART work that he does. 

I want to ease my shoulder back into things this time. Knowing how I get, I’ve decided to work towards a couple of goals to keep me motivated. My first goal is to do pull-ups again…and do them unassisted. After all, they were one of my favorite exercises. I’m pretty sure that’s how I blew my shoulder out but maybe if I don’t overtrain and do it right, I can do them better than before. Another goal of mine is to do another Spartan race. That’s not on the forfront as I’m a little skiddish about hurting myself unnecessarily…but it IS something I’d love to do again. Lastly, and maybe most important, my goal is to have pain-free workouts. That is going to require A LOT of patience but I’m going to do my very best.

This injury has taught me many valuable lessons. I need to be patient and truly trust the process. I don’t do myself any favors rushing things. No one tells you how hard this is mentally. Everyone focuses so much on the physical aspect that the mental is all but forgotten. After going through this myself, I’ll tell you the mental is so much more important. If you can’t will yourself through the pain and will yourself to do the work, you’ll never recover. It’s truly a testimony of your inner strength so much more than physical.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an injury or injury recovery, know that it DOES get better. Take the time you need to rest and really take the time to get to know your body. It’s a long process but you will come out on the other side…stronger than before.

Until next time, stay strong & stay in the fight!

-Gina

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My Fight to be Fit

Anyone who has ever been overweight knows just how hard of a process it actually is. Every single day is a struggle. Like many others, those struggles began for me as a child. I played sports and was fairly active during the summer but not all year round. As a result, my weight reached 180lbs by the time I entered high school. High school can be rough on any kid…but when you struggle with weight it’s that much worse. By senior year, I developed significant problems with my eating. I didn’t know that I had a “real” problem because I was never underweight and I was never formally diagnosed with any type of eating disorder. I’d go from eating one meal a day to, at my worst, one piece of candy or cracker per day. I made myself sick, which ultimately got me to eat again but not nearly enough. As the years have gone on, I’ve come to realize I suffered from what is known as Atypical Anorexia. That disorder continued to plague throughout college and ultimately ended with my spending upwards of 2 hours a day in the gym, barely eating, and drinking (heavily) every weekend. I got down to 130lbs and while I looked great…I didn’t feel it. Looking back on it, I had worked really hard in the gym but done nothing about my diet…or my mental state.

What many people in the fitness industry don’t truly understand is how much of this process is actually mental. You could do all of the right exercises and have the best diet…but if your head isn’t in the game…you won’t be either and that will almost ALWAYS catch up with you. It did for me.

Over the course of my entire life, I probably did almost every fad diet there was. At the time where I was living at the gym, I was also on the South Beach Diet. Like most other fads, once I stopped living in the gym and doing that diet, I gained a lot of the weight back. Over the course of the next 5 years, between health issues, medication and a lack of exercise, my weight climbed to an all-time high of 210lbs. I was miserable and completely clueless as to how I could change it. I needed help but I didn’t know where to turn. Enter the Biggest Loser and Jillian Michaels. The show has gotten a lot of criticism over the last few years for people gaining the weight back. Anyone who drops a crazy amount of weight without changing their mindset and, subsequently, their lifestyle, will fail. That’s just a given. Those who used the show as a method to change their life have stuck with it and their results have lasted. Those who used the show as a game and a chance to win money and fame…have not succeeded. It’s not easy. You have to work at this every single day. But that show, that woman…completely changed my life. If it wasn’t for the one night I turned on that show…I may not be where I am today. I began going to the gym the very next day and I never looked back. To date, I’ve lost and kept off about 80lbs & gone from squeezing into a size 14 to comfortably wearing a size 2/4.

It hasn’t all been roses & sunshine. I didn’t know much when I started. It took me a long time to lose weight and figure out what worked for my body. I began, like many others, by doing a ton of cardio. Slowly, with the help of online videos and Jillian DVDs, I began to incorporate weights into my routine. Without the proper guidance though, I ended up overtraining and doing many exercises incorrectly. This gave way to a serious shoulder injury, which landed me in surgery last October. I became a trainer and nutritionist so I could help others see that they weren’t alone in this fight and give them the guidance that I never had.

Since starting at The Arena, I’ve gone from a personal trainer to a professional. I will still argue that while you may lose some muscle, fasted cardio is the key to my fat loss. After all, every person’s body is different. However, I’m learning more and more everyday just how bad some of the most common exercises are and how they’ve created pain & made my pre-existing injuries that much worse.

Despite negative feedback and research, the Biggest Loser is the reason I got off the couch and did something about my weight. Was it the best, most credible source? Maybe not but it sure was the driving force behind my motivation and what kept me going every single day. I watched season 14 and I connected with the cast and trainers. I used Jillian’s voice as my motivation…and I made a change because of it. I may not have known the proper form or done the safest exercises but I got off my butt and got to the gym. I toned down the partying and eating out. I made small changes and learned how to implement a healthier lifestyle. I did the best that I could with the limited resources available to me. I also did it the smart way – making sure to not restrict myself or start some crazy exercise regimen. I made it work for ME…and it’s stuck 4 ½ years later. Along the way I’ve learned how to exercise safer and what proper form actually is. I’ve learned that I don’t need a TON of cardio to shed fat…but that for my terrible metabolism, I definitely need some. Most importantly, I found balance. Something I strived for my entire life. Now I want to help others do the same.

If you’re in the NYC or Westchester Area & are looking for personal training, nutrition coaching, or a kick-ass class, contact me! I hold weekly bootcamp classes every Tuesday & Thursday and am available for small group & individual training. Email me at gina@thearena.fit for more information.

See more of my videos and articles here: Fight to Be Fit

Stay strong & stay in the fight!

-Gina

Sleep Your Troubles Away

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If you’re like me, you probably spend most of your day exhausted and chugging coffee just to function. One bad night of sleep turns into two…and before you know it you’ve barely slept all week. You think to yourself, I’ll catch up on sleep this weekend – but when the weekend comes, family obligations and household errands take the lead and all of a sudden it’s Monday again. Sound familiar? Well, turns out we aren’t alone…but this is a much bigger problem than we all realize.

Studies show that over 40% of Americans get less than the recommended minimum of 7 hours of sleep per night. Sleep is a basic human need, much like eating and drinking, and is crucial to our overall health and well-being. It’s important to every aspect of our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being to get enough sleep.

Getting enough sleep won’t just invigorate you; it could also help control how much you eat. A lack of sleep is linked to overeating—especially the overconsumption of junk food—which can lead to weight gain. It also has an impact on hormonal balance. Two hormones that help regulate hunger—ghrelin and leptin—are affected by sleep. Ghrelin stimulates appetite, while leptin decreases it. When the body is sleep-deprived the level of ghrelin spikes, while the level of leptin falls. This leads to an increase in hunger. Not only does a lack of sleep interfere with hunger signals, but there’s also the problem that less time in bed simply gives you more hours of the day to eat.

In addition to weight/metabolic issues, a lack of sleep also will cause more long-term and serious health problems. Some of the most serious potential problems associated with chronic sleep deprivation are high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, heart failure or stroke. Some research has linked a lack of sleep to an increase of the stress hormone, cortisol in the body and it’s now believed that people who experience short-term sleep deprivation are not able to process glucose as efficiently as those who get eight hours of sleep. This means that they have an increased likelihood of developing Type 2 Diabetes.

If a person is lacking rest but has continuous muscular activity, other issues such as cramping arise. Muscle fascia tears, hernias, and other problems usually associated with physical overexertion have also been reported in extreme cases of sleep deprivation.

Besides the many physical consequences of insufficient sleep, perhaps the most important consequences of sleep deprivation are deficits in working memory and attention. Lapses in ordinary day-to-day tasks can cause worrying results; from missing words or sentences while taking notes to omitting important ingredients while cooking. It appears that carrying out these tasks which require attention is in direct correlation to the number of hours the person sleeps each night.

As hard as it may seem, we need to make time for ourselves and for sleep. Doing this will ensure that you lead a much more productive and healthier life.

Adventures in YouTube Land


Well, folks…the day has finally come. I’ve teamed up with the gym that I manage to create workout videos! It’s something that people have been asking about for a while so when my boss suggested it…I ran with the idea. As great of an opportunity as it is, the venture itself into videoland hasn’t been all roses & sunshine.

I love taking pictures and posing for them. Anyone who knows me knows that I’ve had a camera in my hand basically everyday since I was 5 or 6 years old…and I was a ham for the camera long before then. BUT there’s a very big difference between a still photo and a video. That may seem like an obvious statement but let me elaborate.

Despite being heavy on and off my entire life, I still loved taking pictures. I learned how to pose to avoid double chins and look as small as possible. Let’s just say Tyra (and ANTM) taught me very well. I also love taking pictures and capturing memories of pretty much everything and everyone I’m around. It’s always been a big hobby of mine. This new venture…on the internet no less…is an entirely different animal.

I try to be honest about my struggles and this video business has definitely been one. Mentally, that is. Every week we film and as I sit down to edit…I cringe. I love being in front of a camera but when I watch the action shots back, I die a little. I work very hard to be where I am. So when I see rolls on my stomach or a double chin or some sort of flashbacks to fatness staring back at me…it’s like none of that hard work matters. Now, the rolls and whatnot are likely due to my bad posture and discomfort shooting in front of certain people…but it’s still really hard to watch. When you are in a video, you can’t pose. You’re doing some sort of motion, in this case exercising. It’s great when it’s just you talking – you can stand a certain way, get a good angle….but when you are moving around it’s about the action not so much how you look. When I shoot my talking pieces, I have someone behind the camera who I’m very comfortable with and who seemingly calms my nerves, while helping me sort out what to say. It adds more work and more time to the project but it definitely turns out much better this way.

I’m no fitness model. I work really hard to maintain my size 2/4 and keep my weight in the 130s. I found balance with food, where I can enjoy beer & various treat meals without a ton of guilt afterwards. However, I still struggle with body image issues. I have loose skin and suffer from mystery stomach problems…which together can sometimes mean my body doesn’t look like it should. Still, I manage to push all of these internal conflicts aside and I post my videos weekly anyway. I’m not perfect but I know my story is one that many people can relate to…and hopefully my workouts can help someone get started on their journey…just like certain videos helped me. The people watching likely aren’t nitpicking like I am. They are watching the workout and seeing a girl who has struggled her entire life DO IT. So while I may nitpick over some stomach rolls or weird faces., I find comfort in knowing that there may be a girl out there just like me who will watch my video and get motivated to jumpstart their own journey.

I may still struggle mentally…especially with this nagging shoulder rehab…but deep down I know that I’m not the same 210lb girl I used to be. Mentally or physically. While I can’t do many of the things that I want to do or that I used to do, I’m learning to adapt. The old Gina would’ve given up the minute she got hurt…and probably gained all of the weight back. This Gina has finally figured it out. It’s not easy. Every single day is a struggle but I try my best to put one foot in front of the other to keep going. I’m not the girl I used to be – and I’m so much better for it.

If you want to check out my Fight to be Fit video playlist, you can find it here. I welcome any & all feedback!

Stay strong & stay in the fight!

-Gina

Summer Shred – Day 2

Another day in the books!! I won’t lie – last night got pretty ugly. I didn’t drink enough water and I was under my calorie goal for the day. That resulted in being my STARVING. No bueno. Today was much better. This is how the day shaped out:

Breakfast:

  • Egg white scramble (made with  3 medium egg whites, 4 pieces of asparagus chopped, 2 balsamic mushrooms chopped, and a sprinkle of cheese)
  • Medium dark roast iced coffee with almond milk (no sugar or flavor) from Dunkin

Post-Workout: Phormula-1 Chocolate shake (made with ice water)

Snack:

  • 100 Calorie Almonds

Lunch:

  • 3 oz ground turkey
  • 2 oz. kale
  • 2 mushrooms chopped
  • approx. 3 tbsp quinoa

Snack:

  • Coconut RX Bar
  • 4 shots of espresso on ice with splash of soy & 1 splenda (Starbucks)

Dinner:

  • 4 oz tilapia
  • 2 oz butternut squash
  • 10 Brussel sprouts
  • Salad (with shredded cheese & chick peas)

My calories were still on the low side but I drank a ton of water which kept me satisfied and full all day. That being said, my macros were once again spot on! 

Tuesdays are usually hell day for me. My day begins at 5:30am and doesn’t end until around 8 pm 😣 but that wasn’t gonna stop me. I hit the gym HARD and got a really good leg day workout in:

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Let’s keep this momentum going into day 3 tomorrow!! 

Stay strong & stay in the fight!

-Gina

Mission Hot Body version 2.0 – Day 1

Here we go!! Day 1 of this 6-week summer shred…aka Mission Hot Body version 2.0 is here! My workout didn’t happen today…because myself a new car! Being stuck at the dealership way longer than anticipated didn’t leave me any time to workout as I initially planned. Oh well…life happens sometimes. This is how my week will shape out, to adjust for not working out today:

  • Tuesday – legs
  • Wednesday – PT
  • Thursday – cardio
  • Friday – PT
  • Saturday – legs
  • Sunday – cardio

There is some wiggle room with my weekend but that’s my plan as of right now. Despite having tons of junk in the house – I stuck to my guns and was very strict with my diet today. Here’s what day 1 looked like:

Breakfast:

  • 1/4 cup of oats with cinnamon & flax
  • Caramel latte protein coffee (made with almond milk)

Snack: 100 calorie almonds

Lunch:

  • tuna with avocado (4oz)
  • carrots

Snack: RX bar

Dinner:

  • Two turkey cutlets (4 oz)
  • 2 oz butternut squash
  • 2 oz string beans
  • Salad with chick peas and a sprinkle of cheese tossed very lightly with balsamic vinegar and a drop of olive oil
  • Raspberry like seltzer (2 cups)

Water – 6 glasses 

Macros on point 👌🏻


Looking forward to another day of delicious food…and a hardcore workout. Have a good night everyone 🤘🏻

-Gina

Control Your Mind & Conquer Your Body


You’ve been working hard and seeing some serious results. You start allowing yourself a few more treats…you skip a few days at the gym…you tell yourself you earned it. You still work out and eat fairly well, but as time goes by, you start noticing that your clothes get a little tighter or that some of the pudge around the middle came back. All of a sudden it seems that while you’re still living a somewhat healthy lifestyle the weight is coming back. Now what? How can you avoid this seemingly inevitable slip backwards? Read on!

Research has shown that over 80% of those who lose weight actually gain it back (and then some) within two years. This doesn’t just take a toll mentally, but it also causes our body physical harm. Not only is the extra weight a health risk, but recent studies have linked the gain-lose-gain cycle to potentially life-threatening conditions, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, depression, heart disease, and cancer. Let’s discuss some ways in which you can prevent this from happening.

Get your mind right…and everything else will follow. That’s my number one key to success. That’s my big secret. There are no quick fixes to losing weight. You need to get your head in the game…and keep it there…if you want to maintain weight loss. It’s not easy. We work so hard to take the weight off, so that once a few pounds creep back on, we feel like we just undid everything. That’s not true. Life happens. Maybe we missed a few workouts or deviated from our diet a little, but as long as you keep your mind on the end goal, it won’t matter. Get right back to the gym and to your regular workouts when you can. Be stricter with your diet after those events pass. Everything will eventually fall back into place.

If I’ve learned anything over a lifetime of yo-yo dieting and weight struggles, it’s that deprivation is almost always the root of all evil with weight loss. Taking out the foods that you love will only lead to you binging on them later. I always use this rule of thumb: wait a half hour (or the length of one TV show). If you still want that snack/food, have a little. It will be better than eating twice as much later on. Also, consider having your favorite “unhealthy” snack as a treat rather than a cheat. People will often feel guilty when they think of themselves “cheating” on their new healthier lifestyle. If you look at is as a treat, you will look forward to it and there will be less guilt afterwards. Be sure to control your portions; just because it’s a treat meal doesn’t mean you should go nuts. Indulge a little, but still practice moderation. When in doubt, opt for a healthier version of your favorite “unhealthy” food. Almost everything has a healthy alternative. For example, choose guacamole or salsa rather than queso or another dip. Select frozen yogurt or protein based ice creams instead of the more fattening brands. Try to cook or bake your favorite foods so you can control what goes into it. You can create healthy options which may not be the actual food you are craving, but they are satisfying enough to have the same effect. Get creative! If you genuinely enjoy what you eat, it will make sticking with your plan that much easier.

In addition to diet, you MUST continue working out. It will keep your metabolism moving and keep those extra pounds/inches from creeping back on. Switch up your routine often to avoid plateaus…and boredom. Continue to set goals for yourself, even if you’ve already lost weight and/or accomplished the original goal(s) set for yourself. Setting small goals and switching your routine will keep you motivated and keep you moving.

An often overlooked key to success is the importance of surrounding yourself with positive, supportive people – people who will lift you up and keep you motivated. Not everyone will understand your journey and that’s ok – after all, it’s YOUR journey not theirs. However, it’s important to your success to have at least one person standing by your side to provide encouragement, especially on those hard days. This will not only keep you accountable, but it will keep your head in the game.

Besides getting your mind right, it’s also important to get your body right too. Schedule an appointment with your doctor and have him/her check your hormone levels. Your hormones control every aspect of weight loss, including your metabolism, where you store your fat, your appetite, and even your cravings. Your stubborn belly fat may actually be caused by a hormonal imbalance, such as high estrogen, low testosterone, low DHEA (a hormone of the adrenal glands), high insulin and high cortisol. It’s also important to check on your thyroid. Monitoring these levels will help keep you on track.

Anyone who has lost a significant amount of weight will tell you that the journey never really ends. It will take time and a lot of work, but eventually you will get to a place where you have never felt freer in your whole life. It really is an amazing thing. Keep in mind it took you more than one day to gain the weight so it certainly will take more than one to lose it! As hard as it is, and as bad as it may seem, know that it really WILL be worth it in the end.

Stay strong & stay in the fight 💕

Gina