My Personal Fitness Journey

I’ve been writing this blog for about two years and as my time at WAC is coming to an end, (I’m moving on to a new job) I decided to write a post about my fitness journey since I’ve worked here.

When I started working at WAC I was fresh out of college and was still in that college mode. So naturally I ate terribly, didn’t workout a lot and was carrying a lot of extra weight that I put on in those four years.

I thought when I got the job at a gym it would be sooo easy to get into shape and drop those pounds I added. Well I was wrong, very wrong. I actually gained weight the first couple of months because I had no idea what I was doing, I wasn’t doing enough and I still kinda went out and drank like a college kid. I knew that I had to make a change some how though because I wasn’t happy with myself.

I ‘tried out’ all of the personal trainers in the beginning to understand their styles and to help members choose the trainer for them. Here I was telling members and readers of this blog how to be fit and eat healthy and I wasn’t living that lifestyle at all. So I started working out with our trainer Lou in the winter of 2011 and haven’t looked back since.

But this is me before I started my journey, my last semester of college in Sping of 2010. Also this is soo hard for me to post! Eek!

Last semester of college at a fraturnity banquet I attended. Yes that is an adult beverage in my hand, one of the reasons I gained so much weight.

Phew okay now on to what I did to change my life!

Let’s just say that in the beginning it wasn’t easy. I thought I was relativily fit, I played tennis (in high school) and I went to the gym during college (mostly the first two years and then I was too ‘busy’ my last two years to make it regular.) Well I was very wrong, my first workout with Lou I got sick, then got yelled at for not eating properly before my session. I thought that a criossont and an iced coffee was an okay pre-workout meal. I was very very wrong. I got the riot act on what to eat and what not to eat. (I still get repremanded about this because sometimes I still love those bad foods! Here’s a little recap on what you should eat before!) After that first workout I realized that I can’t keep eating what I usually eat and doing what I normally do if I wanted to change.

Slowly as time went on things that were super hard the beginning got a little easier, so the weights went up and the time or speed at which I did things was longer and I started to notice small changes. I wasn’t breathing as heavy when I ran up the steps and I could do pushups with out being on my knees. I realized that maybe I could do this and reach my goals. It did take a while but the number on the scale started to drop as well!

Fall came and I had dropped a good amount of weight and I was feeling great! Then the ‘you should run the half marathon in May’ discussion came up. I always told myself I didn’t want to do it, mostly because I was scared that I couldn’t. I ran the Turkey Trot though and after that I was like ‘I can run forever I’m doing the half!!’ Well that is much easier said then done and even after I committed to the half I still thought I could do more. I talked it over with Lou and we went back and forth on what I should do and I then decided that if I’m training for 5 months then I’m not running the half I’m running the full Pittsburgh Marathon.

Fast forward to May of 2012 where I did finish that marathon and I was so happy that I did it and can’t wait to run it again this coming year. Was the training hard and were there times that I thought I couldn’t do it? Absolulty. I had to run 16 miles one day and I was by myself, but it was a beautiful day and I thought its so perfect out my run will be fantastic! That run was the worst run in my life. I was alone, running on a trail, bored and I didn’t want to do it. I texted the trainer who told me to do it anyway and to keep going, ‘it’s only 16 miles’ he said. I cried, I walked, I texted the trainer again, I told myself that I wasn’t running the full 16 that day. In the end I did push through and I did run the 16 because running that with all of the issues I was having would make me a better runner mentally. Because they do say that running a long distance or even losing weight is mostly mental.

Oh hi there it’s just Jess, finishing her first freaking full marathon!!

Sometimes it’s hard to see how far you have come and a couple months ago Lou had me put on a weighted vest for my workout. It happened to weight 40lbs which I just found out was the amount that I had lost thus far. If you ever want to realize how much you have accomplished carry around what you have lost. It was hard to believe that I had weighed as much as I had and didn’t realize how much of a mess I was. It was a real eye opening experience to do that.

I was dying at this point!

After running the marathon and losng 40lbs I still had more that I wanted to accomplish. Losing more weight, toning more, doing better on my next marathon and I will. Because of the support of my friends, family, my trainer Lou and the people at WAC/Galaxy I know that I’ll be able to meet my goals and most likely move past them.

So if you’re someone who has fitness or health goals and you’re scared you’ll never meet them. Don’t worry, you will. It just takes some time, some determination and the support of those you love to reach them.

There’s me now! 40lbs lighter!

I’ve had a great time writing for you all and sharing with you ways to improve to make your life healthier and more fit! I’m not sure who will be writing after me but I hope you enjoy what they write about as well and continue reading to find out information that will help you!

If you ever have questions for me or want to get in touch don’t hesitate! Friend me on Facebook, or visit my personal website!

Great Guest Article on Warming Up and Cooling Down

Today we have a guest article from Char Engelhardt, a personal trainer here at Westmoreland Athletic Club! She talks about the importance of warming up and cooling down during your workout!

How to Do an Effective Warm-up

Most people have a small amount of time for a workout because of work and home responsibilities.  But for a very small portion of that workout, an effective workout is essential to prep muscles for the workout, reducing the possibility of injury.

A warm-up preps the muscles for your workout.  Exercising “cold” can strain muscles and tendons.  In just 5 minutes, simple walking or slow movement mimicking your exercises brings blood to the muscles, causing a little heat to build up in those muscles.  Your heart is a muscles that works too, so that 5 minutes helps your heart prepare to meet the demands of your cardio and/or strength routine.

Your warm-up is just as much of your exercise routine as the cardio and strength training that you plan to do.  Some things that you can do to make your valuable time effective for your cardio would be to walk on the treadmill or elliptical at no grade and no resistance.  This may feel super simple, but as you begin to feel warmer, bump up the pace and begin your challenges for your workout.  The programs on the equipment have a warm-up programmed in and is based on the amount of time you will spend working out.  For a weight routine, try walking at a brisk pace into the gym.  Move your arms as you walk to help work blood into the upper extremities.  Before packing weight onto your squats, trot up and down the steps. You can then enjoy your weight workout.  If you are working with a personal trainer, your trainer has designed a warm-up into your program if you don’t already plan to do cardio before your appointment.  Your workout will go much smoother with little to no soreness afterwards.

If you need help figuring out how to do your warm-up based on the workouts you do, please feel free to ask one of our available trainers for help.

Why Bothering with a Cool-Down is So Important

Just as important as the warm-up that was discussed earlier, the cool-down is a very essential part of every workout routine. It only takes 5 minutes at most and it will help in reducing or eliminating muscle soreness, preventing passing out and helping to prevent blood pooling in the legs.

The gradual decrease in your activity or doing light walking for 5 minutes draws lactic acid out of the muscles to reduce or eliminate muscle soreness.  This is especially important for anyone doing weight training.  Dealing with muscle soreness is a nuisance and can be avoided or reduced with just a little bit of work.  If you save part of your cardio work for after the weights, you will already be set for your cool-down.

Your cool-down is very much like a warm-up, but in the reverse.  If you are doing cardio, gradually slow down your pace, bring the grade of the incline down and carefully lower the resistance.  Many of the cardio programs on our machines have a cool-down programmed in just like the warm-up. If not or you are building your own, you can do this very easily by changing the settings every 30 to 60 seconds until you are at a comfortable walking pace.  Dizziness and passing out is avoidable after a cardio routine. After stopping the machine, make sure to stand still for a few seconds before stepping off, especially if you take blood pressure medications.

As the pace slows, your heart rate will return to a pre-exercise rate.  The blood redistributes through the body so that mild swelling and heat in your legs and feet returns to a normal state.  Your breathing returns to normal and you are ready for the rest of your day!

If you have a personal trainer, he or she will program that into your routine or make recommendations on how to do so after your session.  Should you have questions about how to do a cool-down in your own workout routine, please feel free to ask any of our available trainers for assistance.

Next week is all about pre and post workout nutrition! Get ready for some recipes and ideas!!