Saturday, December 29, 2007

A short update on my recovery: It's going well, slow but well. I doing 10 slow pushups a day...that's big! I still have a good amount of pain and tightness which keeps me up at night. Over the last week I started to do some very light TGU's with my left arm. Everyday for about 30 mins I do stretching and modified yoga. It's been emotional for me. Realizing how long this is going to take to recover from. So I'm glad to have these guest here to not only encourage you be me as well. Keep moving and eating as well as you can!

The next guest at Jen's Gym is Pamela MacElree. Pamela is one of the owners and coaches of Crossfit Philly. You'll find her blog in my links.Although I have not met her I feel like when we do meet we will fast be friends! Welcome Pamela!

Training To Be Strong Because We Can!

When girls are growing up, most of us are encouraged to believe in skirts and makeup, giggling and marriage, and we learn all the qualities that are considered lady-like as well as those that aren’t. Last I recall, no one ever taught me that I should be training to be strong, not my parents, not my coaches, not my teachers, and certainly not my friends. But I’m not mad, I just didn’t listen to them.

In high school, we played in the weight room, no real strength training came from our time spent there. We challenged each other on who could leg press and bench press the most. Sounds safe doesn’t it? We had no strength and conditioning program, we had no strength and conditioning coach, we just had 2-3 hours a week in the spring to use the weight room. If I only knew then what I know now, I’m sure we could have had some of the best female athletes and girl’s teams in the state. That time is gone, but my desire to prove my strength in training to myself and to anyone that will listen is still going equally as strong.

I believe that women can be strong so they should train to be that way. It ceases to amaze me that women are comfortable with the fact that it’s an effort to get a 40lb bag of dog food off the shelf, into a cart, through the checkout, into the car, out of the car, and finally into the closet at home. The irony is that most purses weigh 20lbs if not more, but as soon as you hand most women a 20lb dumbbell to press overhead they cry that it’s too heavy before they even make an attempt. I’m not saying the female gender needs to become masculine, in fact that’s the farthest idea I’m striving for, but rather develop the strength and conditioning that improves every day living and still cause heads to turn.

There’s a point in strength training when all of a sudden she realizes she can do it. It’s at that point, usually during a heavy press, her first pull up, or 25 plus consecutive push-ups where her nose touches the ground, that she gets that look in her eye and her entire expression changes. She knows she can do it, and I don’t have to tell her anymore. It’s similar to watching a child open the one gift they wanted all year on Christmas morning. The realization that she can do anything she puts her mind to, physical and beyond. At that same exact point, I know I’ve done my job, and know I’m the kid on Christmas morning.

Strength doesn’t happen overnight, and there are of course more benefits to strength training other than being able to move 40lbs of dog food, but being strong is an accomplishment, one to never stop working toward, but most of all one to be proud of. I know I am.
Pamela MacElree

Monday, December 24, 2007

Happy Holidays! My next Holiday guest is Emmie Woody. She is a true athlete and awesome women! Enjoy here story. You can find her working and working out at Primal Fitness in DC.

Hi, my name is Emmie Woody, I'm a wife and mother of two, I live in Silver Spring, Maryland, and I have been crossfit training for about 2 years. I have a fairly active background, from eleven years of dance, to basketball, rock climbing, hiking, and kayaking. In addition to what I consider play, I have tried to incorporate daily workouts into my routine, naturally in an effort to stay fit. Most of these workouts were simple fitness magazine suggestions, or messing around at the local Y, I was lucking if I broke a sweat. My husband Jesse Woody, (head trainer of Primal Fitness) had been telling me about this thing called crossfit, well after watching him workout, and checking out some of the videos, intimidating became a mere understatement. So after much convincing I tried my first WOD, needless to say I was panting, sweating, and grinning from ear to ear, and that was just after the warm-up. Upon completing the WOD, I felt absolutely amazing, I did it, I wasn't worried about my time or the amount of weight I used, I just relished in the simple fact that I was able to make it through, I didn't give up, even though I wanted to, but I didn't. The next day and the day after that I experienced a muscle pain and soreness like I had never felt before, but I didn't let that stop me from diving back into the squats again and again and again.

Since then I have continued training, recording and documenting my progress. My times have improved, the weights keep going up and huge accomplishments have been achieved. For example I started out having to do all my push ups on my knees and it took me about nine months before I was able to the them straight, now I wear a 20lb weight vest and knock out five at a time. But what I'm finding is yes, I'm physically capable of making it through a workout, what I didn't except, and find to be the most powerful, is the mental aspect, having my mind tell my body not to quit, to push through, harder, faster, stronger. And it is this mind power that I have carried over into other areas of my life, I push myself as a mother, wife, and with my day job. Constantly taking it to the next level, never settling less, keeping it, life, exciting new and adventurous, and I have crossfit to thank for that.

Today I'm an assistant trainer and event planner at Primal Fitness in DC. I have a 2008 goal of a 200lb deadlift, a muscle up, and 10 kipping pull-ups in a row. Can I do it, yes, with out a doubt I know I will accomplish these challenges and any others I set in front of me, because it's all about making it happen. So find your starting point and strive beyond the finish line, and most importantly, keep life exciting and fun, it's the only one you've got.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

My next guest is Fred, who has become a good friend over the last year or so. Sometimes he's more like a brother who you love but he drives you nuts!
Fred, this is a great post, I'm thankful you took the time to write your thoughts down.

When Jen mentioned to me that she was going to be featuring guest entries on her blog, I had a sneaking suspicion that she was using this as a ploy to lessen the demands on her to provide fresh, updated content on the site. When she said she’d allow me to put up a post, I knew that was the case! But, to help her out, I’ve decided to submit a post. So, with some trepidation, below is my contribution to Jen’s blog – which I thank her for tirelessly maintaining. It is a source of information, amusement and inspiration, which I have enjoyed viewing since I’ve known her.

I didn’t set foot in a gym until after I graduated from college and began working in an office setting. I can’t remember how long it took me to get into the gym, maybe a few years after I started working, but I’d peg the age somewhere in my mid-twenties. Up until that point, the idea of lifting weights or using cardio machines was anathema. Being engaged in sports and activities – a fairly wide variety over the years – had always taken me outside and enabled me to use my body as it was designed to be used – for varied, dynamic movements. But, once I began spending more hours of the day seated than active, it all changed. I sought out the gym as an easily obtainable source of activity in the limited time I had outside of work, social commitments, and routine errands. My goal was to move around, challenge my musculature/lungs/heart, maintain flexibility, break a sweat, and tire myself out by the time I was done. I entered through the popularized gateway of “lifting”, with no formal coaching or training, and supplemented with some yoga, running and biking. However, I tired of the gym scene quickly and became bored with the limited exercises and routines that I knew – pushing around more weight was not enough to keep it interesting. The only saving grace of the endeavor was that it kept my body moving, which, was the primary goal.

Then, a few years ago, at the suggestion of a friend, I decided to sub in something new that I had never tried before, kickboxing. This was an entirely new challenge for me, with lots of technique to learn - not to mention a conditioning fest. This was also my introduction to Tom Brose, who taught the class. Slowly, through Tom, I began to learn about functional, multi-joint, multi-muscle group movements and lifts, and slowly, my exercise regimen and philosophy began to change (I’d like to consider it an evolution, but I’m biased). This process (which has been years in the making) ultimately has led me towards Crossfit style workouts and Olympic weightlifting. I’ll also credit Tom for introducing me to both of these endeavors (don’t worry, no more Tom references).

But, I never wanted, and still never want to be a “gym rat”, limiting my activity to the confines of a gym or structured “workout” setting – indoors or out. For all of the passion I have for Crossfit workouts and Olympic lifting, these are merely a means to an end. The end being, the ability to continue to do things (work, sport, movement), perhaps even to broaden the realm of what’s possible to do, as my body inevitably moves on down the road of aging. So, while I have goals for my structured workouts (be it a sub 3 Fran, 400lb deadlift, 75kg snatch, 100kg clean and jerk, etc.), these are not the motivations for training and training hard. Rather, I’m training for the unscripted moments and movements that I may encounter in the course of living. Whether it be sport or not, indoors or out, using body weight or other objects, requiring flexibility, strength, coordination, balance, speed, endurance, or control. In fact, some of my more satisfying moments resulting from training and exercise have come from challenges outside of the gym, when it’s random and unscripted – like squatting down on flat feet to grab something off the low shelf at the store and popping back up, running up the Metro stairs in winter boots with a backpack on, muscling-up and over a fence (no, I wasn’t being chased by cops – but that would have been cool), lifting various objects for someone who was moving, etc. Things that I knew if I hadn’t worked hard to prepare for, without even knowing what it specifically was that I was preparing for, wouldn’t have been possible. That has emerged for me as the real reward of fitness, strength, conditioning, health, and training. For anyone who this concept may resonate with, I’d encourage you to seek functional uses or outlets for the gains you make while in the gym or in structured settings (chances are, if any of this does resonate with you, you already are). Prescribed workouts and benchmarks are helpful as training tools, but not the end all be all. The true test is “out there” – train for it, find it or allow it to find you, and be successful. Good luck.

Friday, December 14, 2007

My next guest blogger is Tracy. Her story is awesome, she's awesome. I don't know how I found her blog but I did. She's a Kettlebelling queen! I find inspiration both for workouts and cooking on her blog. When I get done reading her blog I'm swinging a KB and cooking veggies! Thanks so much Tracy, you've really influenced my workouts and eating. Enjoy her post! You can find her blog link in my list to the Right.

Health and Fitness...It's a Lifestyle

"Are you doing "low carbs?". That sentence started a conversation I recently overheard at work. The conversation was between two overweight co-workers starting a diet (one of them about 50 lbs. and the other at least 100 lbs. overweight), comparing notes. There I sat, literally 10 ft away from them, and instead of asking me my opinion, there they were giving each other advice!

Now, you might wonder why I would think my opinion could make a difference? Because not only have I lost over 120 lbs in less than a year, without drugs or surgery, but I've maintained the weight loss AND continued to improve my fitness level for 2 years after the fact.. My level of conditioning and fitness is higher than most women my age and younger AND have never had to lose over 100lbs.

But it was this particular conversation that I realized the answer to the question, "How do you lose weight, maintain a healthy weight, and stay "fit"?". (because "fitness" is part of health) the answer have to discover a way to make it your lifestyle. And what I mean is, that you have to eat in a way that becomes how you eat everyday....for the rest of your life! You have to find a way to move your body....progressively looking for improvement....for the rest of your life! You HAVE to, if you don't move forward, toward health and fitness, you move backwards. Diet and "working out" isn't a 12 week program, it's a lifetime program!

I found my answers, this is how I did it,

I cook and prepare 99% of all of the food I consume. I use fresh ingredients, natural and organic when possible.

I exercise. I started out by walking....alot. My husband Mark introduced me to Russian Kettlebells and I developed a style of training that produced an amazing effect of fat loss and conditioning, like nothing else I had ever experienced. I added yoga for flexibility and balance.

These things, the way I eat, and the way I train, are my lifestyle....everyday! You need to find out what works for you. You know what you need to change. But the changes have to be maintainable.

I could go on and on and on, (that's why I have my own blog!), but since I'm writing this specifically for Jen's Gym, I'll focus on my Kettlebell training. My food is #1 responsible for my health and weight, and I have to eat, we all have to...but, my style of kettlebell training is #1 responsible for the composition of my body, truly transformative, and my level of conditioning. Kettlebells have given me a neverending variety of workout possiblities, combining strength training and cario all at the same time. My kettlebell training is the most important part of my physical lifestyle....I will never, never choose to skip a kettlebell workout....never. I like being fit, I like looking's a priority.

My style of kettlebell training combined with my obsessive personality, produces workouts with consistent, progressive intensity. I'm always looking for improvement, and I expect to improve. I look to see what other athletes are doing, men and women, for ideas to base my workouts, without limitations. Kettlebells have "trained" me to be fit in a way that gives me the confidence to be able to, walk / jog / run / hike / lift / jump / swim / stretch / bike / or try any other physical activities, if I want to. And all this after being so overweight for so long is nothing short of amazing.

I realized that this has to be a permanent part of my life, I got my RKC (Russian Kettlebell Certification) to teach and train others how reach their athletic potential, like I feel I have. And although I don't have to work for a living, I chosen to make this part of my lifestyle. I want to be around health and fitness as much as possible. I teach cooking classes, I also talk with people, sort of as a "diet coach" and I've even considered getting certified to teach yoga. This is my life.

Health and fitness....there is no magic pill, no magic surgery, no shortcuts, no secrets, and you can't buy it. You don't think about it, you do it, you live's a lifestyle.

~Tracy Reifkind~

Monday, December 10, 2007

Hey Friends! Next up as a guest blogger here at Jen's Gym we have Zack Even-esh. I asked Zack to tell us about his gym and his Training. If you find yourself in a rut with you motivation you should go to his blog...Zack does not hold back! He tells it like it is! I love it. His blog is in my links.
Thanks Zack for taking the time to do this for me.

I opened The Underground Strength Gymnasium in June of 2007.

I already had a base of approximately 15 - 20 high school wrestlers and football players.

I was training for about 3 years out of my current home. I converted my 2 car garage into a bad ass gym. The only downfall was low ceilings, so overhead barbell work was not happening, but overhead kettlebells and dumbbells training was in.

I used my back yard as well as the field down the street for log carries, rope climbing, stone training, sled training, hill sprints, truck pushing and playground training.

I wanted to get my training out more to the public, not just the few in the know. I now have about 30 athletes training here, middle school and adults, all are athletes.

I wanted to add group training via CrossFit and I was always a big fan of CrossFit. I loved the bonding and the intensity of all the training.

Unfortunately, I had a lot of people "say" they would join but VERY few followed through. My athletes kept growing in numbers and soon we were out of room to justify the small groups of CrossFit.

Right now we have a small group of guys who train and are non athletes. They train with very much the methods of cross fit, but my personal style of program design.

With CrossFit I was not screening and interviewing prospects as I used to, and it was making it too easy for people to try out. Our athletes must prove themselves and they commit to 3 month membership. This eliminates half assers immediately.

Now, every single one of our clients is highly committed and intense with their training. I love it this way.

I am located next door to a gym and many of the law enforcement guys were stopping by, saying they would train with us, instead, they stayed next door, sitting on machines, doing preacher curls and other garbage. I started realizing that this style of training is perhaps TOO hard for the majority of people, and I did NOT want to give up my values and train people like p***ies (parden my language). I decided to stick to my guns and emotionally as well as from a business standpoint, this has been the best decision ever.

My time at the CF cert was amazing, The crew of people and Coach Glassman were awesome, it was really a throw back to the Golden Era where a lot of bonding happened amongst the strength community.

My own training follows a style that is a mix of powerlifting - old school bodybuilding - strongman training and lots of calisthenics.

I fit in training by resting very little and utilizing only the most basic and effective movements, no time wasters for me.

Lots of squats, deadlifts, benching, military pressing, barbell rowing, pull ups, push ups, tire flipping and sled work.

I work during the day, after work, I get to the gym and train for 30 - 40 minutes before clients arrive. If I'm too busy, I might get in 10 - 15 minutes before clients, then another 15 minutes or so at the end of the night.

It's not odd for me to hit pull ups almost every day as my work is a 30 second walk from a playground.

On breaks I hit push ups and pull ups regularly.

I refuse to be the typical weak, fat man after marriage and fatherhood - it's not in me, as I believe that man is supposed to be strong and rugged, regardless of the circumstances.

My plans are to keep growing my gym, and I will be holding a certification in the late winter - early spring. I am psyched for that.

For those who can't make it, they can always access me via my membership site at

Thanks for having me Jennifer, keep kicking ass!


Thursday, December 06, 2007

Up as my first Guest blogger and very good friend we have Tom Brose. Tom is the owner and head coach of Crossfit DC. He is also the manager of City Fitness here in DC. I can't begin to tell you all that I've gleaned from Tom. I asked him to write about what was on his mind. Thanks so much Tom. I for one hear what your saying!

Strength is a Right

In our fitness community, where PRs, CFT Scores and Fran times are lingo de rigueur, we have lost touch with reality. Sometimes we get so caught up in specific modalities of training or technique that we have no understanding of “normal” people. The sad fact is, most people feel that strength is at best a luxury, and in reality unattainable. There are amazing benefits to health, lifestyle and attitude that come with strength, but a majority of Americans have placed this lower on the list of priorities than cleaning their gutters.

When we talk about strength, we need to discuss what that means. A double bodyweight deadlift is great, but in reality not a viable goal for everyone, or a necessity. Being able to pick up a heavy object safely and efficiently is. Olympic weightlifting competitions may not be in your future, but that does not diminish the need to be able to go from standing over an object, to holding it, to putting it overhead. Strength means being able to go through life unencumbered by weakness, not limited by the inability or fear of relatively normal activities. It also builds confidence, not just in its inherent ability, but also in ones discipline and perseverance. Become strong takes hard work, and the accomplishment resonates within.

There are always roadblocks. Several factors come into play stopping even those inclined to put in the work. The absolute worst comes hidden, from those entrusted to help. I’ll let my rage build up and save that for last.

I have to admit, I can be oblivious to peoples situations myself. Browsing the blog of a CFDC regular, I came across an entry talking about her experiences, about a year into CrossFit. She was unsure what to expect when she first contacted me, but was happy to find that I took her desire to get strong seriously. Turns out, she had always wanted to lift. Family, friends and coworkers told her she was crazy, she was too small and it was unrealistic. It never occurred to me that she couldn’t. Our first session she worked with 5 lb. dumbbells. After one year, lots of effort, and a little coaching, she has pull-ups and a deadlift approaching 200 lbs. Take her seriously!

Worse than people who don’t know any better are the “health professionals” who fail to deliver when entrusted. Nothing is worse (at least in this realm) than the personal trainer or physical therapist that hold back the clients success. In fairness, a large chunk of my income comes from personal training, and I have a lot of respect for some therapists. But the standard seems to be stringing people along, with little progress and an endless string of gimmicks. Honestly, I think most trainers don’t have the confidence to teach the squat, deadlift, clean etc. Lacking in integrity, they quickly chalk up basic compound movements as “unsafe”, and continue with 3lb partial ROM side raises standing on one foot. Eventually, the client will pick up an object significantly more than 3 lbs (possibly with both feet on the floor) and be woefully unprepared. I already hinted that this is a pet peeve, so here it is: trainers who fail to get their clients actually strong are not only a waste; they are sabotaging the client’s best intentions. Be ashamed!

Physical therapists fall in the same realm. Their success should be judged by how quickly they get the client out of therapy, not how long they can keep the insurance going. I know, I am bitter about this, but here is why. Its common for me to meet gym members who are in the process of physical therapy, usually from someone eminently qualified because “ he works with the Redskins/ Wizards/ blah blah local sports team”.

Almost always, their specially designed one of a kind program (which any variance from may cause death) looks like this: leg extension, hamstring curl, dead bug, and maybe a resistance tube thrown in. Back, knees, shoulders, whatever the injury, the program is all the same. And the therapists have made sure to warn them not to do anything else, often advising to cancel their gym memberships. Signs of osteoporosis? Stop doing weights and come in to the PT clinic for 15 minutes on the treadmill, billing what, $80-100?

Where are the biomechanically savvy, work out themselves therapists? I went to Kaiser PT, and the therapist had to tip herself sideways to get up from a chair. I want Iron Maven, not a couch potato working on me. Please, therapists, take the time to care!

Strength is not an extravagance, or luxury. It is part of living an active healthy life. It is not something you have to be born with, and it is not a just young persons game. Strength comes from effort, knowledge and dedication. Strength is a fundamental right for everyone.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Iceland´s Skyr!Skyr (pronounced skeer)

This has to be the best food find of the year. Thanks to Fred!

If you like your yogurt thick and smooth this is the stuff. Look at all that Protein. I add a little honey and Cinnamon to it. You can only get it at Whole foods right now. It's worth the trip! We cook Greek food allot and I used this instead of the Greek yogurt for the garlic and cucumber sauce. It worked well, it just needed to be thinned out with some lemon juice.