Choosing a personal trainer

In just five weeks, my one-year membership to Retro Fitness will be over.

And with that ends the twice-weekly visits with my trainer.

It’s hard to believe that it’s already been a year. Time has seriously gone fast.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what’s next for me in terms of fitness, if I should renew my membership to Retro or join a different gym and what I’ve gotten out of my year of training sessions.

I’ve loved having a trainer because working with him has given me confidence in the gym to use different machines or free weights and to know I’m using them correctly.

A year ago, I was one of those people who probably would have said that I wouldn’t like exercising with a trainer, but now I’m definitely going to miss the guided gym sessions.

I think it’s a great experience that everyone should try, and if you’re thinking about signing up for a trainer here are some of the things I’ve learned and tips on how to choose one that will be right for you:

1. Ask about their certifications and background. I feel like I hit the jackpot with my trainer. He is the epitome of someone who talks the talk and walks the walk. The man lives and breathes fitness and nutrition. I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical and resistant to trust him when we first met but he changed my mind in the first five minutes by being able to identify weak areas of my body just by watching me do a few exercises.

If I were to look for another trainer, I would ask what kind of people they have experience working with and what certifications they have. For instance, my trainer is certified to work with a whole range of people from the very elderly to pregnant women, and I know he’s one of the few at Retro who can do that. Along with his training certifications, he holds degrees in fitness and in microbiology.

He also speaks three languages, but that’s just an added bonus :).

2. Ask the trainer what they do to stay healthy. My trainer is a bit at the extreme – he won’t drink alcohol or eat sweets or unhealthy food ever and is very into how his body looks and moves – but I like that about him. While I’m more moderate in my approach to healthy living, it’s very motivating to be around someone who never gives into pressure to take a day off from an active healthy lifestyle.

We talk a lot about food and cooking and he yells at me when I tell him I drink alcohol and he thinks peanut butter is the devil – although I’ve been trying to change his mind on the latter.

Personal training is more than just a job for him, it’s his life and passion, and that absolutely has made a difference.

3. Watch how the trainer acts with other clients. I got a great deal money-wise for my sessions ($20 for a half hour), but affording a personal trainer still created a deep crater in my meager budget. In light of that, I wanted to make sure I made the most of every minute of time I was paying for. I see a lot of trainers at the gym texting on their phone while their client is working out or drinking coffee or engaging in a lot of small talk and I wanted to make sure that the trainer I worked with didn’t do any of that.


My trainer is at my side every second of the half hour pushing me or making sure my form is correct.

I let him know from the very beginning that it was a sacrifice for me to pay for the time and that I took my goals very seriously and expected the same of him.

I told him about the progress I had already made and told him this was not just a phase of me, or part of a resolution, but a total life change.

On my end, I made sure to never, ever show up late to an appointment and never skip an appointment – I think after he saw how dedicated I was it made him work harder too.

4. Have reasonable expectations. This tip is less about choosing a trainer and more about IF you should choose a trainer.

Here’s the reality: if you’re not already devoted to working out, signing up for a personal trainer and even joining a gym is is probably not going to change that.


I know too many people who are paying for gym memberships that they never use. I also can’t tell you how many times I would be working out and the other trainers would be standing around waiting for their clients to show up.

When I joined the gym I was already working out 6 days a week. I signed up because winter was approaching and I didn’t want to let the cold weather be an excuse to not work out.

Before I had the trainer I was also doing things like pilates and yoga vidoes on Netflix.

There are a lot of free resources out there, so make sure you’re already committed to being at the gym or dedicating time to exercise before you sign a contract because they’re hard to break and expensive.

Yes, a trainer is helpful in providing things like meal plans and showing you exercise routines, but at the end of the day it’s going to be up to you to follow through on your goals consistently.

5. Know what you’re doing and why. Obviously there has been physical progress from using a trainer, but I think the number one thing I’ve gotten out of my sessions has been knowledge. This is your time with a professional, don’t waste it talking about a stressful day at work or fight with a friend. Use the time to pick their brains about healthy living. You won’t have a personal trainer forever and you want to be able to work out just as effectively without one so it’s good to know why you are doing the exercises and what they will do for your body.

6. Speak up if something hurts but don’t complain if it’s just hard. As good as trainers are at knowing bodies, they aren’t mind readers. Make sure you always say something if a certain move hurts or if you’re already sore from a previous work out. My trainer starts every session with me by asking how I’m feeling, if anything hurts, etc. Talk honestly about how a move makes you feel so your trainer knows if you are doing it right. Mine constantly checks in with me to see where I’m feeling the burn or feeling the stretch to make sure the exercise is doing what it’s supposed to. Alternatively, if you’re doing strength training and the weight is too light – speak up! You get out of training what you put in so definitely become an active participant in your sessions.


Body movin’, body movin’

A Beastie Boys inspired title to kick off Friday ;)!

AND it’s been a while since I last talked about how I’m moving.

For one, I’ve stopped running. If you’re just catching up, I ran for the last time on May 6 in the Waldwick 5K on a shin that I was pretty sure was fractured (NOT at all over-dramatic). It wasn’t, but the orthopedist told me to rest for two weeks. After two weeks…my shin still hurt. I decided to continue doing everything else at that point except running.

So where am I now? My shin no longer hurts. For a while it was feeling weird, where it didn’t hurt but I was aware of it. Does that make any sense? Anyway, it didn’t feel normal, but now it does.

I’m still not running. There are a couple reasons:

1. My trainer doesn’t think it’s a good idea. He’s told me over and over again that it won’t help me lose weight and it’s probably too hard on my body right now and I finally believe him. While I was running, weight loss felt like a HUGE struggle. It was hard for me to balance what I was eating with what I was burning…because I had no idea (anyone want to buy me a Garmin??). Also, I was WAY hungrier when I ran. Sticking to a calorie limit now feels (dare I say it??) almost easy. 

2. I started to feel like running was getting in the way of other things. If I had a long (for me) run on the weekend, I wouldn’t also want to hike that day with a friend. I felt like I needed a LOT of rest to recover from even 3-mile runs. I love running, but I don’t want to turn down other activities because I have to run.

Source: via Jodi on Pinterest


BUT, let me say this. Actually being able to run and completing FOUR (!!!) 5Ks hands down feels like my biggest accomplishment in my entire life. I could not run a mile in high school. I didn’t care about running a mile after high school. The fact that I was able to follow a running program (COUCH TO 5K – DO IT), stick with it, and LOVE it? AMAZING. I want to run again. I will run again. Just not now.

Source: via Jodi on Pinterest


In place of running, I’m walking a LOT. Walking is my first love and the main exercise I’ve done to get me to where I am now weight-loss wise.

I’m also incorporating a few days at the gym where I use the elliptical (ugh) and strength train with dumbbells and my own body weight.

I finally feel like I’m back to some sort of normal exercise routine after being injured, taking a lot of time to rest and then getting sick.

I’ve even scheduled a session with my trainer for Saturday morning to make sure my weekend starts with a big, healthy push.


 How are you going to sweat this weekend??



Ready, set, health!

Are you as happy as I am that it’s finally Friday?? I’ve had a busy week jam packed with all things health. Here are a few highlights of what I’ve been doing, reading and eating.

1. Learning everything I can about shin splints and how to prevent them. The most common factor? Runner’s World says it’s “too much, too soon.”

Here’s some more advice from No Meat Athlete, Live, Laugh, Eat and Gizmodo.

I’m not sure if any of their advice actually works yet, but I hopefully will be able to say that it does in a few weeks!

2. Foam rolling. HOLY COW does this hurt. I can get through a few minutes on my right leg, but foam rolling on my left leg (the one where I have shin splints, duh) pretty much feels like torture. My strategy has been to apply pressure until the moment right before I feel like I’m going to pass out from the pain.

Don’t know what foam rolling is? I’ve been learning about it from No Meat Athlete, Running Times, and One Twenty Five.

3. Lifting weights…and actually enjoying it! While I do go to a trainer once a week, the goal is to get myself comfortable with performing strength workouts on my own. Strength training is important for about a bajillion reasons. The internet says so.

Currently I’m following (and LOVING) an old series from Carrots ‘n’ Cake….Carrots ‘n’ Weights! She puts together great sets of moves that are super simple and definitely do the job.

4. I can’t stop eating chia seeds this week! I first discovered chia seeds last summer when I tried overnight oats. I have no air condition in my apartment, so having a cool breakfast ready for me in the morning is absolutely necessary.

There are many, many people who explain the benefits of chia seeds way better than I can. But I will give you my favorite way to eat them:

Vegan Banana Breakfast Pudding

In the bowl:

  • 1 banana mashed really well
  • 1 TBSP almond butter
  • 4 oz of almond milk
  • 1 TBSP of chia seeds (that’s 12 g for scale junkies like me)

Mix everything together, store in the fridge overnight and devour the next morning.

I also have grand plans to make these coconut flour chia jam power muffins over the weekend:

Source: via Jodi on Pinterest


5. True Orange. I’ve been struggling to stay hydrated this week. I usually have no problem guzzling down water, but lately I’ve been turned off by how bland it is. Enter True Orange. This stuff is good. It makes your water taste like orange juice and has no sugar or calories or fake sugar or weird chemicals. I’m in love.

Right now I’m headed off to a session with my trainer…and if he doesn’t kill my legs I plan to do a 2 mile run on the treadmill after followed by another painful session of foam rolling and foot flexing.

What have you done for your health this week??

Wednesday Weigh-in

Another Wednesday, another weigh-in!

I know I shouldn’t be amazed, but I can’t help it sometimes when something so simple – counting calories and exercise – works out.

I continued to be consistent in my calorie intake and made it to the gym at least 5 days I think. My workouts were nothing special. There is something bothering me in my left foot/ankle area so I’m taking it easy on the high-impact workouts and stretching a lot! It’s been a problem for weeks, but I think now it’s finally healing. Until it’s completely better, I decided to wear my Converse sneakers to work instead of flats, since that’s what I’m in the majority of the time and the change seems to be helping. Thank god my job has a relaxed dress code. Now I just need to fine some supportive cute shoes….oh boy.

This week I have a fitness goal instead of a nutrition goal: Abs! It’s likely my weakest area, and something I would really like to be stronger. Any recommendations for some good moves?

Onto the weigh-in!

The numbers:

Starting weight: 243

Last week: 178.5

This week: 176.5

Change: -2

Total loss: 66.5

Facing my big, fat fears

A few weeks ago, my gym began offering free spin classes. I go to a cheap, bare bones gym that doesn’t offer any classes, so this was pretty exciting.

Except, I had never tried spin before.

There are two thoughts that go through my head when I think about trying new things:

1. Am I too fat for this? I’m probably too fat for this.

2. It doesn’t matter if I’m too fat for this or not, other people will think I’m too fat for this.

Oh my god. Sometimes I think I got off “easy” compared to trauma other fat people face, then I become aware of my thoughts, and realize being fat has affected me in more ways than I probably realize.

It’s amazing what you hear when you start listening to your thoughts.

Rationally, I know I’ve been working out consistently for about a year, have run two 5Ks and have much more endurance  than I did at 240 pounds. Also, there is that tiny detail of not actually being 240 pounds anymore.

There was nothing standing between me and that spin class except for my big, fat fear.

I was really nervous going into it, but just kept telling myself that I belonged there and I would be able to complete the class.

It helped that the instructor was really nice and because the spin classes are new at the gym, there were other spin newbies like me.

Since that first class, I’ve been back whenever my schedule allows it and have a great time every time. I leave so sweaty and so, so happy.

Source: Uploaded by user via Bobbie on Pinterest

I know that part of the good feeling that follows spin are due to endorphins, but there’s a feeling of accomplishment every time I leave the class that I’m doing something I didn’t think I could do.

Losing 65 pounds has changed my life in so many unimaginable ways, the most important of which have absolutely nothing to do with how I look.

I hate watching TV when I’m on the treadmill or elliptical, so instead I usually stare into my reflection on the dark screen and challenge myself to go when I want to stop and do what I think I cannot do.

Today, let fear be your motivation to action.

Planning for success

I was finishing up stretching at the gym when I received this email from my sister:


Tomorrow, in order to combat the weekend blues I’ve been having, I will get up early and try the new spin class being offered at my gym.

I’ve never taken a spin class before, but there’s a first time for everything, right?

Knowing a plan is in place to keep my motivation high over the weekend just makes me feel so much better.

Off to work!

Happy Friday 🙂


5K running playlist

Music has been a huge part of my journey.

Maybe you saw this tweet the other day?

Having music that’s motivating and enjoyable had truly been something I’ve come to depend on.

When I first started excising, I didn’t set goals on time, distance or speed. My only rule was that I do it consistently.

For motivation, I created music playlists that were exactly a half hour long, so I didn’t have to bring a watch or phone with me on my walks. I would plug in my headphones, tune the world out and go.

This turned out to be a great move in the long run because these walks were such positive experiences. My whole life I’ve always hated working out. It was tiring, painful, and I felt like, a waste of time.

But not having any goals or expectations for my walks allowed me to focus in on the mental benefits of exercise. After an hour strolling through the park, I was always less stressed, happier and more focused.

This experience changed exercise from something I hated to treasured “me time” where I didn’t have to respond to any texts or answer phone calls. I could zero in on just what was going on in my own head.

However, when I began running, time, distance and speed began to matter. For my first 5k I set one goal: Finish under 40 minutes.

Then I made a new running playlist to be exactly 40 minutes long. I knew that if I began to hear the last couple of songs, it would motivate me to run faster.

So here it is, my 5k, 40 minute playlist. Enjoy!

Beverly Hills – Weezer

Moves Like Jagger – Maroon 5 ft. Christina Aguilera

Not the Doctor – Alanis Morissette

Possum Kingdom – The Toadies

Pull up the People – M.I.A.

Pumped Up Kicks – Foster the People

Seven Nation Army – The White Stripes

Silver Lining – Rilo Kiley

Stereo Hearts – Gym Class Heroes ft. Adam Levine

Super Bass – Niki Minaj

What I got – Sublime

A perfect run and weigh-in

Yesterday, even though I had already gone to the gym that morning, I went for a run.

The outdoors were calling my name, with a setting sun and near perfect 55 degree weather conditions.

I needed it.

When I first started exercising, all I would do is walk. Slowly. For hours, around a path that followed a river near my apartment. Almost every day.

And when I began to run, in increments of one minute, than two minutes, and so on, I remember thinking, “One day I would like to run this whole loop.”

It’s just over two miles.

Last night. I did it.

Yes, I’ve run further and faster than that in the past.

But last night, I did something that once seemed like a very, very, very far away dream

Every run for me is emotional.

No matter the time, no matter the distance. It’s emotional because I’m doing something I once feared. Because I’m doing something I seriously thought was never possible for myself.

And last night everything was just on. My pace was comfortable. My breathing was steady. My body was focused and my mind was free to wander.



The numbers:

Starting weight: 243

Last week: 181

This week: 180.5

Change: -.5

Total loss: 62.5

In the now

Today I’m going to the gym because:

Source: via Amber on Pinterest

No more blues-berry smoothie

This morning I woke up with a million doubts and fears.

Would I ever lose anymore weight?

Would I ever be able to run faster and for longer?

I had gone to the gym for the first time after my three week vacation last night, and for lack of a better term, the gym kicked my butt. During a 35 minute stint on the treadmill, I only managed to run for a total of 10 minutes, broken up into two five minute sets with walking between. The runs felt awkward. My body felt stiff and hurt in places I wasn’t used to hurting. My breathing was off and I quickly felt my stomach cramp up.

Last month I was able to run for 30-40 minutes at a time with no walking breaks. I felt defeated. Mad at myself that I hadn’t tried harder to work out in India and overall like I had let all my progress go.

But after throwing a quick pity party today, I knew I had to go back to the gym and try again. I went in with a better attitude and vowed to just let me body do what felt right.

I warmed up with 10 minutes of walking, longer than I warmed up the night before, and at minute 10 turned the speed up to a comfortable pace for running.

And then I began to repeat in my head something I had once heard in yoga.

“Let your body sink into the pose.”

So that’s what I did. I let my body get comfortable with the running. The rhythm. I focused on my breathing. I tuned out the rest of the world. With each step I sunk deeper into my body, and by the time I looked down, 10 minutes had flown by.

I held the pace for another five minutes before taking a walking break, and then finished strong with another five minutes of running for a total of 20 minutes of running and 20 minutes of walking – a little over 2.5 miles.

And now? I feel good. I feel strong. I feel like there is hope. And I’m also drinking the most delicious post workout smoothie.

Ignore how dirty my blender is…

No more blues-berry smoothie

serves one. about 190 calories.

3/4 cup frozen blueberries

1 scoop designer whey chocolate protein (or protein powder of your choice)

1 cup water

Microwave half the blueberries for 20-40 seconds. Add the second half and rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth for a great frothy and satisfying post workout snack. Drink immediately.