Category Archives: Staying fit

Welcome Back Jen

I promised I would get more consistent on the blog, so here I am.  I am still working on updating the subsequent tabs of the site, but the main thing is – I AM POSTING.  I thought it would be good to reintroduce myself.  What I have been doing over the past two years and what people are reading a lot of on my blog.

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This is me Jen D.  Jenny D.  Jen Duf.  In my former life, I was a college pole vaulter at Virginia Tech.  I moved to Charlotte after getting a graduate degree in Accounting.  I passed my CPA exam and went to work for a large accounting firm before I realized for me to have babies, I physically had to be around my husband.  I traveled for work most weeks Monday through Thursday.  While on the road, maintaining my fitness was extremely difficult.

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As good as corporate America thinks they are at maintaining “wellness” programs for their employees, they are failing.  There is no such thing as work life balance.  I have learned it is all a counter balance.  You simply cannot balance it all.  I left public accounting the week before my wedding.  I started my new job in industry (a 40 hour a week in town job) the Monday after my honeymoon.  I also started my career in fitness a few months later when I joined the Flywheel team.

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My second pregnancy at 23 Weeks.

Long story short, I found out once I was physically in town, getting pregnant wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be.  I have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).  I began hormones to get a normal period before taking Clomid to conceive my first child.  I started my blog in private while I was pregnant with my first child.  I shared with close friends and family once a week.  Each week, someone else wanted to be added to the list. Eventually, I made it public.

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During my second pregnancy, you really got to see the full story.  My first trimester, I suffered a subchorionic hematoma and didn’t leave my couch much for 2 weeks.  We slowly watched the hematoma disappear as the burden of miscarriage passed.  My daughter Morgan is a blessing. To this day her infectious smile shows the joy that she has for life.

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I left full time work to be a mom.  I passed my personal trainer certification.  I started a new hustle. To get started in personal training, I did a few things to learn:

  • I worked at the YMCA for an hourly wage.
  • I taught bootcamps at SmartCore Fitness.
  • I visited everything.
  • I started training myself for various events. Played around with methodologies.
  • I formed Cross Conditioning.
  • I continued to seek out the people that are the best at what they do (and people did’t know them yet).
  • I ALWAYS ask for feedback.  Trust me, you can always get better.

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Through documenting it all, I learned a bunch of cool things, which I will share, but before I do, let me share where I am at now.

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  1. I have three little girls – My angels.  If I can teach these girls anything, it’s how to love themselves.  Be proud.  Work hard.  Treat everyone the same.  If you train with me, you have likely seen them, met them or been entertained by them.
  2. Cross Conditioning is still going strong – I guess I should start posting again on the Instagram site.  You see, what happened is, after I had my third daughter, I decided that my core group would stay my core group with less workouts per month.  No longer would this be an obstacle race training group, but rather a group centered around intentional planned workouts each week both in person and on your own.  I will now admit that running plays a big part in that.   We still meet regularly.  We still compete.  I simply haven’t had a need to market it.

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3.  My personal training business has significantly grown. Both in person and through programming.  Most people need guidance when it comes to exercise.  It isn’t natural to them.  The thought of getting to a gym, figuring out what to do and executing is overwhelming.  I literally spend hours a month doing that for people.  When will you be out of town? Where do you like to workout?  What are your goals?  There is a way to do it.  Most importantly, I hold you accountable through human interaction.

4.  I co-founded a pop up fitness company called EMERGE – Let’s face it, exercise is not in a great place to the mass.  Some trainers are fueled by the appearance of big numbers over the quality of instruction and execution.  Through EMERGE, five fitness gurus in Charlotte look to come together to bridge that gap.  How do you execute effectively, giving participants a safe workout, while also feeling the energy of a big group?  In a few pop up events a month, we give that to you.  Check it out.

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5. I’m still teaching Flywheel. If you know me, I would do any workout that I would give a client.  I am still a hardcore believer in the Flywheel ride in regards to cross training and low impact exercise.  If fulfills a gap that other brands cannot hit.  I also feel the value in being able to provide my clients with that service when I am in the studio. I’m pretty limited to early mornings, but you can catch me subbing in the evening windows once every other month or so.

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6. I am still running a lot.  I love competing.  I don’t chase people.  I know what I want to do and I try to execute it. I don’t make excuses.  I can only learn from each experience.   I want my people to do the same thing.  The next two races on my calendar are the Orthhcarolina 10K and Around the Crown 10K.  Join me for one or both.  I will also be competing in Beers and Burpees in September.

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Grand scheme of things, I’m present.  I love what I do.  Sometimes I’m too much of a people pleaser.  I want everyone to be happy.  I am learning though. I am getting tougher.  what are people reading on my blog these days:

  • A lot about pregnancy – specifically, pregnancy on a bachelorette, my hematoma, postpartum and my weekly logs.
  • ARUBA – my husband and I went on this amazing vacation to Aruba after the birth of my first daughter.  I posted a lot of good tips on Aruba.  Eats, drinks, activities. I also posted a workout on the beach!
  • Race Recaps – obstacle racing, run racing, you name it.  People want to hear about the course and how tos on hydration, obstacles and time.

What have I learned from all of this:

  • Small groups are the best groups.  I love a big crowd.  It looks cool right?  I build long term clients in intimate situations though.  Small groups.  I like talking to people.  I like helping people.  I want to see people feel good about themselves and feel acknowledged.
  • Everything is not what it appears.  Don’t read too much into someone’s social. I know a ton of fitness professionals that are killing the game and never get on Instagram.
  • The fitness hustle is real.  I talk about this a lot.  Most fitness professionals are not set up for retirement.  Hi millennials.  When you decide to pursue your passion understand this, do you want to be teaching cycle classes when you are 60 because you didn’t save money when you were younger?  While all of your friends are retired what will be cool then?  Take a good hard look at that when deciding to go into a profession that doesn’t have insurance, benefits, retirement.  This is my CPA side talking.  Did I tell you I like to help people?

I hope this was an easy to read version of what’s good for my new peeps.  Sorry to reiterate if you already know me.  Like something you read?  Contact me!

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Love, love, love.  Jen

 

 

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The Importance of Integrating “Body work” and Personal Training

Ever been injured?  Or in pain?  You proceed to make an appointment with your chiropractor or physical therapist, maybe get a massage, get some temporary relief before you head right back to your high intensity exercise class to repeat the same process?  Fitness is in a weird spot.  I train a lot of different types of clients (some performance driven, some for fitness longevity).  The growing trend?  When in pain, they are self prescribing, and not actually prioritizing the root cause.

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I have been lucky not to have experienced any significant injuries in my athletic career (no surgeries or broken bones). That said, I have dislocated a shoulder in a Spartan Race and twisted my ankle in a fluke fall when I stepped on a pile of leaves while running.  In both cases, my range of motion was tested through force, and my body failed.  Recovery time was minimal as was physical therapy.  Here’s the thing, in my own experience, I realized it wasn’t the fall that caused the injury, so much as it was the lack of specific training in those areas.  My ankle mobility is bad.  I often turn my foot out to compensate in my squat.  At the time of my shoulder injury, I had an anterior tilt going on from postpartum pelvic floor issues that had not been resolved. Long story short, I had strength issues in mobility I was neglecting. It was only a matter of time before they were tested.

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I’m a trainer.  When I realized my problems, I talked through my rehab with my physical therapist and I modified my training.  I adapted the way I train personally for specific events and overall quality of life.  It’s not always go hard or go home. You can’t always “modify” a group exercise class. Also, let’s face it, I have to use my body to do my number one job – mom.  Being laid up on the couch is not an option.

So what’s my point?  When you get hurt, ALWAYS figure out the underlying issue.  If you have constant low back issues, have a physical therapist check your alignment, test your range of motion through your hips, find out where you are weak.  Don’t just jump to dry needling, cupping or whatever the newest trend is. These are the areas you will compensate.  Your physical therapist is going to give you a plethora of knowledge and exercises that you might not understand.

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Here is the key that most people miss.  If available, have your trainer understand your weakness and communicate with the person making the assessment. Take that information to them. In the grand scheme of things, your trainer will see you more than your body work therapist, your physical therapist or your chiropractor.  Your trainer should be helping you strengthen your body to correct areas that might be causing pain and ultimately resolving that pain. If your trainer or the person working on your body are unwilling to connect, this should be a RED flag.  Direct communication from these two modalities will save you time, money and make you feel better.  That I can guarantee.

When “body work” and training are merged, big things happen. I have an amazing group of physical therapists, chiropractors and body work therapists that I refer people to and I can’t tell you much I appreciate directly knowing a client’s limitations. And let me preface all of this by saying this doesn’t mean you can’t do high intensity interval training and still work towards a performance goal.  My clients know my seemingly easy workouts sneak up on them. Being on offense is always better than being on defense. Taking care of things before they escalate is better than trying to fix them after they do.

Being Inclusive

I recently read a blog post on SweatNet by Tom Gallagher that really pulled at me. A post about the word “inclusive”. It seems to be a standard word thrown around in the Charlotte fitness industry these days. How can you appeal to the mass? Be inclusive. As a former college athlete and now personal trainer, I would say feeling included at a workout is easier for me than the average person. I am good at most things that someone will ask me to do even if I haven’t done it in awhile. When it isn’t easy, my natural competitive nature drives me to engage and figure out how to at least fake that I can keep up with people.

I train a wide variety of people that come to me individually or in small groups because feeling included isn’t easy for them. When I first started to hear that people didn’t feel included at these self described “inclusive” workouts, I didn’t pay much attention to it. Maybe they were overexaggerating? Maybe they were just having a bad day? Maybe if they went back again it would be better? I like to give things the benefit of the doubt.

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I decided to go with some of my athletes individually to workouts. Something we both agreed we wanted to try. We both would go in with an open mind and a friend. No solo anxiety going on here. I saw it first hand. I saw the feeling like “Charlotte fitness is SO inclusive, yet so exclusive.” My heart dropped. I’m a mom. I feel such empathy for everyone. Every adult was once a child. Every human should be treated with the same respect.

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So, what are some examples of what I saw?

  • “We welcome all pace levels” on a group run. In my mind that means the person organizing the event should be in the back. No one but the person that asked people to be there should be in last. How inclusive is it to say we welcome all pace levels? Yet, how exclusive is it for you to run off and leave the slowest person behind?

 

  • “All exercises can be modified”. But does anyone in the upper tier of fitness ever stop to do the easiest modification? I’m a victim of this when I participate in class. I tend to push pace to keep up only to watch my form deteriorate. When someone new comes to a workout, why don’t I ever consider slowing down to work out at their pace to make them feel included? Again, how exclusive is it for us all to be doing the hardest version of an exercise while the new person struggles with the easiest modification.

 

  • “Let’s stick around and socialize after a workout” or “Let’s meet this week to go to XYZ workout”. Sticking around to socialize is a great idea as long as you make a conscience effort to engage with said new person. Invite them to sit down with you. Ask questions about them. Follow through with your promise to meet up at another workout. How can you feel included when there is a private group text/WhatsApp message/email chain that you haven’t been added to?

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These examples are not things you have to do. Some gyms/trainers want to be exclusive. They have no problem saying that. I commend them for that. At least they are honest. However, as we evolve, we must consider our actions as it relates to our words. Thank you Tom and various clients of mine for opening my eyes to this. It has been way too easy for me to coast along with a blind eye, not even paying attention to this. I know I’m not perfect, but I am aware. The first step to change is awareness.

Why Doing An Obstacle Course Race Might Jumpstart Your Fitness

If you are on social media, you have probably scrolled past an ad or post from someone telling you to sign up for the next closest Tough Mudder, Spartan Race or Warrior Dash.  The ads might show people covered in mud attempting to run over fire, crawl through barb wire or carry heavy objects.  While those photos can either appeal to you or not, there is something to be said about the consistency and variety of training that does into preparing for an obstacle course race.

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If you have heard my story, humor me by allowing me to introduce it to those who have not.  I finished my first obstacle course race in 2012.  It was a Warrior Dash.  While I loved it, I didn’t put much thought into it again until after the birth of my second daughter.  I was in a rut.  Two kids in seventeen months had left my body feeling broken, tired, soft.  Something I had never experienced.  After much complaining to my husband about plateauing and not seeing any changes, he suggested that I sign up to do a competitive Spartan Race that he planned to participate in.  The thought of trying something new and very much out of my comfort zone left me feeling anxious.

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Upon researching various obstacles I might encounter and what type of terrain that I would be running on, I changed my entire outlook on training.  Long gone were the days of way too much cardio and low weight/high rep lifting.  I began to be intentional about my workouts.  You see, the ideal obstacle course racer can run efficiently, climb (when terrain gets very steep), hang for long periods of time, while also being able to carry heavy objects up and down significant inclines and declines.  It’s really a fine line of balancing not being too strong, yet not being too skinny.  You can’t sacrifice one thing or it will slow you down somewhere else.

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You can’t just practice upper body and strength, you also must practice running, mobility, and time OFF your feet.  What does a typical obstacle race training program that I would build look like?

  • One long run a week.  Depending on the distance you are training for, you are working for time on feet (not necessarily mileage).  I want you to build endurance for the duration of time that you think your race might last.
  • One interval running workout per week.  Let’s get some mileage in by pushing our paces to threshold then recovering.  Let’s practice hill training, running speed on grass and perform running form drills.
  • Two Strength Days per week.  Strength days are solid.  Not much running at all.  This is not the workout you can expect to build mileage.  I want you working grip strength, picking up heavier things than you are used to and building that tight core that makes everything easier.
  • One Easy Run/Ride per week.  The purpose of that easy run/ride is to build muscle endurance without wearing you out.  That’s it.  Enjoy it.
  • One Strength/Run workout per week.  Let’s drop our weight a little bit and focus on running in between strength exercises.  How do you keep your heart rate controlled moving from a run/row to a strength exercise and not lose bad form?
  • One rest day.  That’s right.  Take a day OFF!

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The constant variation of not knowing what is coming next keeps your mind and body challenged.  Engaged. Right where it needs to be to continue to see results.  Not to mention, allowing yourself to set a goal will also give you a benchmark in which you can celebrate success.  Success is what drives us to be better versions of ourselves.  Through this simple programming, I have watched people change their perception in themselves and exercise by challenging themselves in ways they never thought possible.

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I find so many people have so many options they need direction of which way to go to get the most benefit out of everything they could be doing.  There is absolutely no reason for people to be plateauing and bored in our current fitness environment.  I am currently working with people specifically building out calendars of what to do on what day of the week to make the most out of their training, social life and work balance.  If you are stuck in a rut, you may just need to do something way out of your comfort zone!