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

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HIIT it Up!

High Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT, workouts are a phenomenon sweeping the nation. What is it, and is it safe? Read on!

HIIT is a cardio session that consists of short, high intensity bursts. HIIT can be an incredibly effective way to work out to see the body composition and fitness results that you want, but you need to do it right. Numerous studies have shown that working your hardest is key when it comes to boosting endurance, increasing metabolism, regulating insulin levels, and losing body fat. HIIT routines that involve bodyweight work (e.g. push-ups) or added weight, such as kettlebells, medicine balls, or dumbbells, will tone your muscles while spiking your heart rate. All types of exercise will ultimately help you burn fat by burning calories, but the more intense the exercise, the more fat you will burn. As a result, it is a very effective way of helping people get the “shredded” look.

A true HIIT workout will involve pushing yourself to the max during each set, which should never exceed 90 seconds. These workouts are typically quick and convenient since they are such high intensity; they usually are 30 minutes or less. They can also be done virtually anywhere, with little to no equipment. The only stipulation is that you should rest in between sets. This may not be the first thing that comes to mind with such an intense workout, however, it is imperative. Recovery is essential so that the body works to adapt from the anaerobic (high-intensity) period to the low-intensity recovery period in HIIT. This workload results in high caloric expenditure, which can lead to fat loss.

That fat loss also comes from an increase in metabolism, which is a benefit to any high intensity workout. Research shows that this is due to an increase in post-exercise exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC. EPOC speeds up your metabolic rate and can result in a metabolic boost for up to 48 hours after a complete HIIT routine! The high intensity cardio raises your metabolic rate to the point where you continue to burn calories even after the session ends—in some cases 15% more.

If weight loss is your ultimate goal, the old saying that you can’t out-train a bad diet is true…even if your workouts are super demanding. HIIT isn’t an excuse to neglect your diet, so keep it clean! By incorporating HIIT training into your exercise regimen and keep your diet in check, you’ll start to see some amazing results!

If you’re looking for a safe, yet awesome HIIT workout to try…subscribe to my weekly series on YouTube! https://youtu.be/1l6TamfSeko?list=PLcrZ2KJHxs8xBs1F3sT3jpUNjFVGGXjjG

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

This is 34

Another year older…another year wiser. This was a trying year for me but I did my best to push through all of the struggles…and come out stronger from it all.

I started a new career in a brand new field. It’s been quite the journey but I’ve never been happier going to work everyday. I finally understand what it means when people say it doesn’t feel like work. I may have had some financial struggles as a result, forcing some parts of my life to go backwards…but it’s all been worth it.

My shoulder finally gave out and I had no choice but to confront the issue that had been plaguing me for a long time. Being told you need surgery is tough on anyone but when you need your muscles to make a living…it’s that much worse. Combine that with the inability to properly workout…causing some weight gain and A LOT of muscle loss…and it can be mentally debilitating.

No one really tells you how hard it is mentally to get through injury recovery. Everyone talks about the physical element….but no one discussing how truly horrible it is to an otherwise healthy mindset. I’ve touched on this quite a bit on my Instagram and in past blog posts but it can’t be said enough. Despite my daily struggles and how I’ve seemingly gone backwards in how I view my own body…I’ve managed to make a pretty decent comeback. I am wrapping up a 6-week shred where I lost weight and regained my muscle & strength. I’m not at 100% but I’m damn close to where I left off a few years ago. I’ve also been working with a trainer/co-worker on corrective exercises. I’ll be writing a full blog post on this soon but suffice to say that if you are going through PT post-op, you should hire a personal trainer as soon as you are cleared. When you suffer an injury, you compensate for that pain and injury by using other muscles and seemingly doing exercises incorrectly. This will ultimately lead to even worse problems down the line. It’s well worth the time and money to invest in someone who can redirect you back to proper form & help get your strength back safely.

As I enter a new year of life, I’ve also come to some level of acceptance. For my entire life all I ever dreamed of was being married and having babies. While I still want those things, I’ve come to accept that when it’s meant to happen it will…and hopefully with the perfect person (for me). I may not be getting younger but I’m done making myself miserable over things I can’t control. I’m choosing to focus on something I can control – my own happiness. Other people can’t dictate that – only I can. That’s been my focus since New Year’s and will continue to be throughout this year. After all, eventually everything that’s meant to be falls into place.

So it goes, another year older & another year wiser. Here’s hoping this year is filled with lots of laughter, good health, and great memories.


Thanks for taking this journey with me!

xoxo

Gina

Summer Shred – Push Yourself!

Tuesday. Despite it being my hell day…I kicked some serious ass on this second day of week 3!

It’s been a solid 3 weeks and while it hasn’t been perfect…I’m already seeing crazy results! This is my transformation from this past fall…a month or so after my surgery…versus yesterday morning:


Truly amazing how much my body has changed in such a short time! It’s definitely given me more motivation for the second leg of this shred.

My workout today was a short but intense leg day. The numbers next to the exercise indicate the weight I used. I didn’t have time for a long cardio session but I made sure to at least do a cool down.


Despite being so busy that I forgot to eat a normal breakfast (who does that?!), I managed to hit my macros & calories spot on! Here’s how the day looked:

Breakfast:

  • Caramel latte protein coffee
  • Rice cake, plain
  • Iced quad with 2 pumps SF cinnamon dolce and splash of almond milk (starbucks)

Post-workout– Phormula1 chocolate shake

Lunch:

  • 4 oz ground turkey
  • 2 oz butternut squash
  • 2 oz string beans

Snacks:

  • Oh yeah! Chocolate chip cookie dough bar
  • Chocolate RX bar
  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries with crystal light

Dinner:

  • Turkey burger with a sprinkle of cheese
  • 2 tsp chopped mushrooms
  • 2 oz string beans
  • 5 brussel sprouts


Looking forward to a bad ass PT session tomorrow 😎 Have a good night everyone!

-Gina

Summer Shred – Fighting to be Fit….Through the Chaos

What a week! The second week of my Summer Shred definitely didn’t go as I intended…but it wasn’t all lost. I stuck to my meal plan and my macros were almost perfect everyday. I lost a pound despite not working out as hard as I wanted to and I’m noticing my waist get smaller and smaller everyday!

While a stressful, busy work week kept me away from my own workouts most days…my diet was great. Here’s how the last few days looked:

Breakfast:

  • Wednesday, 4/26: 2 eggs with a sprinkle of cheese & caramel latte protein coffee
  • Thursday, 4/27: rice cake with tsp of PB & caramel latte protein coffee
  • Friday, 4/28: rice cake with tsp of PB & caramel latte protein coffee
  • Saturday, 4/29: mini bagel with cream cheese, caramel latte protein coffee, large iced coffee with almond milk & 1 splenda
  • Sunday, 4/30: (brunch at the diner) omelette with goat cheese, mushrooms, and tomatoes, caramel latte protein coffee, 3 iced coffees with a splash of milk & splenda

Lunch: 

  • Wednesday, 4/26 4 oz of ground turkey with 1 oz of quinoa and mushrooms
  • Thursday, 4/27 – 4 oz of ground turkey with 2 oz of sweet potato and mushrooms along with that had just lettuce and a sprinkle of cheese.
  • Friday, 4/28 – I had run out of meal prepped food…so I had a salad with lettuce, mushrooms, and cheese along with the remaining 2 oz of sweet potato
  • Saturday, 4/29 – I went to lunch with a co-worker after a very long but successful event for work. I had a HUGE Greek salad with grilled chicken and a few slices of grilled pita
  • Sunday, 4/30 – No lunch, since my breakfast was brunch…at 1 pm

Snacks: Pretty much the same everyday – RX Bars, Oh Yeah bars, frozen blueberries with crystal light, carrots or rice cake with PB, and cottage cheese. I also had Phormula1 shakes or BCAAs in my water.

Dinner: I had cauliflower almost everyday….which has destroyed my stomach. Laying off that and all other super gassy veggies this week.

  • Wednesday, 4/26 – 10 grilled calamari rings with cauliflower & string beans
  • Thursday, 4/27 – Palm Beach salad from Chopt
  • Friday, 4/28 – 2 turkey burgers with mushrooms and cauliflower
  • Saturday, 4/29 – 2 turkey burgers with a salad and 1/2 small avocado
  • Sunday, 4/30 – 1 turkey burger with mushrooms & 2 plain rice cakes

My macros were pretty good, all things considered. My fats were a little high the last two days but otherwise they were spot on:

Beginning tomorrow, I will be incorporating cardio into every workout…everyday. It’s gonna suck but I have to make up for lost time. Friday is Cinco de Mayo and anyone who knows me knows how much I die for Mexican food…& margaritas. I may allow myself a taco or two but I won’t go crazy. This girl has a goal and once I reach it, I can celebrate with as many margaritas and/or tequila shots my heart desires!

I plan on keeping my diet mostly the same but maybe incorporating other protein bars into the mix. Seems the coffee RX bars I love so much are discontinued and while I do enjoy other flavors, it’s just not the same. So I’ll mix it up a bit. My workouts will be as follows:

  • Monday – upper body + cardio
  • Tuesday – lower body + cardio
  • Wednesday – upper body (PT)
  • Thursday – lower body + cardio
  • Friday – total body (PT)
  • Saturday – cardio (1 hour)

Since Sunday is the annual fitness expo at MetLife, I doubt I’ll do a workout. I’ll make that an active rest day, as there will be plenty of walking and whatever else I can get myself into.

Here’s hoping for a less stressful and more active week 3!

-Gina

No Excuses: Summer Shred – Week 2, Day 2

Oh Tuesday 😩 This was such a long, crazy day…I legit thought it was a different day. With so many errands and so much work to do today, I only managed a 15 minute cardio session (on the stair master, of course). I could’ve done nothing and had plenty of excuses for it. But what good would that have done? I figured doing a little bit of something is always better than doing nothing at all. Besides, tomorrow is my PT session so I’ll surely make up for it then!

Despite the chaotic day, I kept my diet in check. Calories and macros were pretty much perfect! Here’s how the day looked:

Breakfast

  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1 tsp PB
  • Sprinkle of flax & cinnamon
  • Caramel latte protein coffee (with almond milk)

Lunch:

  • 4 oz solid white tuna
  • 1 small avocado
  • Salad with approx 1 cup of chopped romaine, sprinkle of cheese, 1 tsp balsamic dressing

Snacks:

  • 2 phormula1 chocolate shakes (with water)
  • RX blueberry bar (definitely not as good as the coffee…but not nearly as bad as the PB)
  • Chili lime protein chips
  • 100 calorie almonds
  • Dark roast iced coffee with almond milk (Dunkin)

Dinner:

  • 4 oz ground turkey
  • 2 oz string beans & mushrooms
  • 1 oz quinoa


Here’s hoping for a less crazy day tomorrow…along with a kickass workout 🤞🏻

Have a good night everyone!

-Gina