“I just... I just can’t. I just can’t focus. My brain can’t...” The words failed as my eyes welled up with tears. My husband and only pacer tripped just five miles into the 25 he was planning on running with me, and while avoiding a faceplant, he severely aggravated a persistent back injury. I felt bad for him and knew he didn’t want to tell me here, at mile 86-point-something, that he was afraid to run anymore. The problem was, without someone to push me (or clap their hands two inches from my face) and keep me awake, I was afraid to keep going, too.
My time goals were slipping away as the night stole confidence from my stride. My headlamp was fading along with my brain. My feet burned from blisters thanks to multiple water crossings and kicking a few rocks myself. Really, everything between my knees and my neck was fine... just the bottom and top were coming undone. And the top part - my mind, so desperate to curl up in the dirt and close my eyes - this was the beast I wasn’t expecting to battle.
Since I spent a decent chunk of time preparing this flyer for a fitness presentation, I thought I would share this with you here! When you call or email to take advantage of your free assessment and intro session, mention something new you learned from this post.
Not in Atlanta? No problem! I can offer a phone assessment and free virtual training trial. Having a few workouts that require minimal equipment at your fingertips is a sure-fire way to jump-start your new fitness routine.
And as always, if you have any fitness questions but don't want to commit to hiring a personal trainer just yet, I am here to help. Before studying health sciences and developing a passion for training and running, I used to worry all the time about what time of day I should eat what kinds of foods, or whether I needed to do weights or cardio first at the gym. Comment below with anything that has confused you on your own fitness journey!
An important role as a personal trainer is to not only correct my clients' training mistakes, but to share the information I know about how the body moves and what the body is capable of.
Sometimes, a client keeps asking me to add more, and more, and more weight to an exercise before we have established proper form. Other times, a client is convinced once they feel the weight in their hands that I'm asking them to lift too much. It's my job to help clients identify the difference between what is hard and what is harmful.
The guy who's jerking heavy dumbbells up to his shoulders, arching his back and then swinging the weights back down by his side is not only exhibiting terrible form, but he's not adequately targeting the bicep muscles, and is at serious risk of injuring his back or shoulders. I coach this person to properly isolate the bicep muscle through controlled movement that focuses on the eccentric (unloading) phase of the bicep curl to create optimal muscle recruitment so that when he does his bicep curls, he's not relying on momentum generated elsewhere in his body to complete the exercise.
Conversely, when someone lifts the weight properly but quits after five repetitions because the muscles are starting to ache, they are missing out on challenging the muscles enough to see any notable improvement in strength or fitness. I must encourage this person that when the body works to repair itself after a challenging workout, the muscle fibers thicken and strengthen as the body heals. This is what creates more muscle mass, which will boost metabolism and help change body composition. But only when enough weight is lifted that the client feels challenged between 8-20 reps.
My goal for my clients is to make sure they leave every workout feeling capable and confident. Having a sound understanding of the mechanics of movement and a good eye for proper form are how I make sure my clients both feel and see improvements to their fitness!
When I implement a training plan for my clients, I do so with a sound understanding of their physiological needs and how certain exercises will help them. So when I find that there are additional benefits to my training methods, I am thrilled!
Recently I had the chance to sit down with Dr. Eldred Taylor, who along with his wife Dr. Ava Bell Taylor authored "The Stress Connection" and "Are Your Hormones Making You Sick?". Dr. Taylor practices functional medicine, which emphasizes maintaining wellness over just curing illness - something that I feel our current medical system often fails to address. The information he shared with me is available in an in-depth interview he did with the EliteHRV podcast, an informational podcast that focuses on the importance of understanding heart rate variability (HRV). I will link to that podcast at the end of this post.
In 2016 we have seen a number of food trends in the spotlight. There has been a big jump in veganism as more people become aware of the harm of industrial farming. And for those who can't part ways with their beloved steak, it is far easier than it was even a few years ago to find and order from organic, humane, sustainable farms. Clean eating continues to be a popular buzz phrase, and goes beyond eating organic as it eliminates all processed foods and refined sugars.
Pinhoti was my "A" race for the year, the culmination of nearly two years of physical and mental preparation. Following is my incredibly lengthy and boring race report, if you so wish to read it. To current and prospective clients, a couple takeaways I'd like you to consider:
What is or was your "A" training goal? What doubts have you overcome to get there, or what do you know you need to conquer to achieve it?
Do you have any tricks when your thinking takes a turn for the negative? How do you get out of that funk?
What physical feat might make you say "I have surpassed everything I thought I could ever do"?
Now - on to the story....
“WHAT?! We’re how far from the start?!”
This was the panicked cry I sent out into the dim early morning air as my husband informed me that we were 4.5 miles from the starting line of the Pinhoti 100 mile race.
That started at 7:00AM.
It was 6:50.
Grace wants to gain muscle but not gain weight. Gloria wants to trim down specifically in her midsection. George wants to bulk up but not change his diet. Gina wants to lose weight without sweating or getting sore.
From a customer service standpoint, I, as the hired professional, should deliver on my clients’ wishes. But what if their wishes are misguided? What if they heard they could achieve a result doing something that is actually counterproductive- or worse, completely unsafe?
When a client first comes to me, it’s not their current weight or state of physical health that creates the biggest challenge for me as a trainer- it’s the plethora of misinformation they have absorbed and held to be true before finally realizing that maybe they need a new approach or additional support. And I don’t blame them for soaking up everything the internet spews out! All it takes is one catchy headline to make us second guess the food we eat, the fabric softener we use, whether to get the flu shot this year, or if we’ve been breathing properly our whole lives.
Editor's Note: Here at Jen Raby Fitness dot com I like to maintain an air of professionalism. That being said, the story as follows is a personal account from yours truly, the certifiably insane ultra-runner, and not necessarily Jen Raby the personal trainer. There will be colorful words and rude gestures because trail runners are nothing if not brutally honest. Enjoy!
Before I’d had a chance to absent-mindedly peel off all my scabs while sitting in Atlanta traffic, before my right big toe had stopped yelling at me with every hill or stair case, before I had even had a chance to sit down and start writing this race report --
-- I found myself in front of a computer, clicking “Register” for the 2017 Barkley Fall Classic.
Last week I introduced the areas of fitness I feel are vital to any comprehensive cross-training program: Stamina, stability, and flexibility.
Today, I want to talk about stamina. Staying Power. Grit. Fortitude. Perseverance.
Whatever you call it, one's stamina will dictate the upper limits of one's physical and mental abilities. I want to talk in a little more detail about what happens when we reach those limits, and the tricks I use to help clients - and myself - break through those walls to accomplish more with every workout.
As you know, I am no stranger to physical or mental challenges. Recently, I completed an eight-hour endurance run. The purpose of this run, other than the sheer enjoyment of tasting my own sweat and basking in my stench all day, was to "tune up" for other, longer events I will be participating in this fall. The primary focus was time on my feet, but to even get to the point where I'd consider this kind of run, I had to get on a training plan that would address every challenge I'd encounter.
While it is true that to perfect a sport-specific skill, it must be practiced repeatedly and with precision - "perfect practice makes perfect" as the saying goes - it is also important that all areas of fitness are challenged. Simply put, you can be an athlete just by participating in a sport. But to improve your game, you must do more than ONLY that one sport.
Whether you're getting active for the first time by joining your company's kickball league, looking to move from the middle of the pack to winning an age group award at the next race, or trying to make it to the regional tennis competition, you will need three things:
Through high-intensity intervals, I help my clients improve stamina by gradually working them towards longer periods of work and shorter periods of rest. For highly dynamic sports that require explosive movements, such as sprinting or tennis, we do shorter intervals at "threshold". That's trainer geek-speak for going from aerobic to anaerobic exercise, where 10-30 seconds of an activity will cause lactic acid to accumulate, creating that fun deep burn that we love and know so well. This burning goes away after a few moments of rest. By working through this burn we can train the body to withstand higher levels of lactic acid. This level of activity typically involves "fast-twitch" muscle fibers, which are exactly what we use when we sprint, jump, or do explosive lifts. Improving stamina helps my weight-loss clients optimize their burn for their buck, and helps my athletes outlast their opponents in a game.
Stability is a concern for athletes who must move quickly in multiple directions. It is also a concern for clients prone to joint issues or rolling their ankles. By having clients perform resistance exercises that require balance, we work the "big mover" muscles (such as glutes, quads, chest and back) while also challenging the smaller stabilizer muscles. Exercises on the BOSU ball activate all the little muscles on the lower half of the leg, like the Tibialis anterior and Fibularis, two of the muscles with tendons that cross the knee and the ankle. A strong Tibialis anterior can help prevent "shin splints" while a strong Fibularis can help prevent ankle rolls.
For flexibility training, I address the client's needs by first determining if they are stretching, what stretches they perform and how often. There are conflicting studies on the effectiveness of stretching, but in my experience with running, rock climbing, lifting, dog-walking, child-bearing... you get the idea... stretching usually helps me feel as though I am recovering quicker from strenuous effort versus when I forget to stretch. It is important to note here that stretching won't prevent soreness. However, what flexibility training can do is help improve and maintain posture by relieving the tension of the muscles we just worked. Through that release of tension, we help the muscle return to it's normal length and take pressure off of its point of origin. By teaching my clients a variety of stretching techniques, we can also prevent future injury. The tighter a muscle is, the shorter it is, causing it to be more prone to injury the next time it must be exerted against a force. Lastly, it's just a really nice way to wrap up our workouts. My clients know I love to stretch with them, and it gives us an opportunity to talk about the workout and plan for the next one.
So whether you or someone you know is starting a brand new activity, or looking to take that competitive edge to the next level, consider how a personal trainer can help you reach your goals. I take the guesswork out of getting fit, and assign workouts that will compliment a variety of sport-specific training programs. Stamina, stability and flexibility are key components of nearly every sport and activity, and I have the tools and education to help those interested in improving these crucial components of fitness.
Contact me today to get started!