Ann Krobath: Cancer Exercise Trainer

September 24, 2018 by karen

Master Trainer Ann Krobath is a fitness professional who utilizes a well-rounded understanding of cancer to develop exercise programs specifically suited for cancer survivors.

Club Fit Master Trainer Ann Krobath
Club Fit Master Trainer Ann Krobath

“Over the past few decades, I witnessed friends and families endure, survive and lose their lives to cancer. My mission is to empower cancer survivors to find their inner strength through improved fitness and emotional health. Created in collaboration with the American Cancer Society, American College of Sports Medicine/ACS Certified Cancer Exercise Trainers design and administer fitness assessments and exercise programs specific to a person’s cancer diagnosis, treatment and current recovery status. I am committed to upholding the gold standard as set forth by the ACSM and am passionate about helping cancer survivors attain a quality of life that may have seemed out of reach. It is my greatest joy to be a partner on this journey to hope and good health for people who have suffered through this devastating illness.”

An ACSM/ACS Certified Cancer Exercise Trainer is a fitness professional who utilizes a well-rounded understanding of cancer to develop exercise programs specifically suited for cancer survivors. ACSM/ACS CETs empower cancer survivors to display their significant inner strength by improving their own physical fitness.

Beyond assessing and creating individual exercise programs unique to each individual, ACSM/ACS Certified Cancer Exercise Trainers have working knowledge around cancer-related topics from surgeries to side effects, from diagnoses to survivor stages—specialized knowledge that allows them to better create the ideal fitness experience no matter what a client has been through. ACSM/ACS CETs truly uphold the gold standard by working to adapt fitness best practices that equip cancer survivors to attain a quality of life that may have seemed out of reach.

Ann will consult with the our Briarcliff Cancer Wellness program participants and develop a program to meet their specific needs. Contact her at ext. 2260 or akrobath@clubfit.com for more info.

Club Fit Member Spotlight: Maria Sanchez

May 29, 2018 by jeanne

Club Fit Member Spotlight: Club Fit’s Tennis Community Comes Together for One of Their Own

By Lisa Olney

A lot more than winning records, aggressive net play, and plantar fasciitis are cultivated on the tennis court. So are lifelong friendships with people so special that it can be hard to remember a time when they weren’t in your life. Just ask Club Fit member Maria Sanchez from Yorktown, who met some of her best friends on the Club Fit Jefferson Valley and Briarcliff tennis courts almost 25 years ago. Like family, Maria and her tennis friends have shared the celebrations of each other’s milestones along with the despair of life’s tragedies, such as the loss of one of Maria’s four vibrant, accomplished children, Maribel Sanchez Souther to breast cancer in 2016 at the age of 41.

Maribel was a five-year cross country and track star at Yorktown High School, beginning as an eighth grader. She won multiple Section 1 cross country championships and finished fourth at the indoor National Championships at two miles. Maribel attended Dartmouth from 1992-1996, winning several Ivy League titles in Cross Country, Indoor Track, and Outdoor Track, leading the 1996 cross country team to a fifth-place NCAA finish. The first Dartmouth female runner to be an All-American in Cross Country, Maribel ended her collegiate career as a four-time All American. After college, she ran professionally, coached the Hanover High School track team, and returned to Dartmouth as its head cross country coach and assistant track coach. Maribel’s time as a collegian at Dartmouth is credited as the catalyst in rebuilding the women’s track program.

In March of 2014, the Norris Cotton Cancer Center at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center launched its annual Team Tennis to Smash Cancer fundraising event at Dartmouth’s Boss Tennis Center. Maribel presented her mom with the ultimate of family visits – play in the all-day tennis fundraiser and visit the grandkids – a definite win-win for this 4.0 USTA player. Maria was partnered with an oncologist from the Cancer Center. Little did she know, that just a month later, her new tennis friend would be the oncologist who delivered an unexpected diagnosis to Maribel: Stage 4 breast cancer. Just two and a half short years later, Maribel lost her battle against cancer on December 31, 2016.

The Hanover and Dartmouth community lost an inspiring, joyous, hardworking leader that day, evidenced by her alma mater renaming their invitational, season opening cross country meet to the Maribel Sanchez Souther Invitational. Maria’s closest tennis friends rallied around their dear friend in any way they could. When Maria shared that she was continuing her annual trek to Hanover for the 2017 tennis fundraiser in honor of Maribel just a few months after her passing, Dee Young, Margo Smith, Ginger Canfield, Andrea Oncioiu and Maria Borg packed their tennis bags and joined her in Hanover, forming the team, Maria’s Crew.

Still wondrous that her friends would drive all the way up to Hanover for her, Maria remembers thinking, “It’s too much for them, how can they do it? I was very surprised — not even our family could come up.”

This year, Maria’s crew couldn’t make it to Hanover for the fundraiser so they took the fundraiser to Club Fit, organizing a round robin on Sunday, April 29, from 3pm to 6pm at Club Fit Jefferson Valley that drew 25 women and raised $2,400 for the Norris Cotton Cancer Center. Dee, Margo, and Ginger organized the event and Kelly Thomann created the format for an easy, fun, and non-competitive round-robin format, ensuring a great format for all skill levels. Maria’s son, Silvio Jr., and granddaughter, Camille, were on hand as well to cheer on this outpouring of love and support from the Club Fit tennis community.

When a last-minute venue change was required, Michael Bratt, Club Fit Jefferson Valley’s Tennis Program Director, accommodated the event and donated three courts for three hours, becoming the event’s knight in shining tennis armor. Michael provided a level of support – before, during, and after the event – beyond the call of duty, exemplifying Club Fit’s mission of supporting their members. “Mike is warm and gracious and always willing to lend a helping hand,” Margo says. “I can’t give Mike enough praise,” adds Dee. “He was so helpful and supportive.” Maria couldn’t agree more with the level of commitment Mike shows to the Jefferson Valley tennis family. “I don’t have words to describe Mike or to thank him for all the things he did. I hope he stays here forever,” says Maria. “We need somebody like that. He’s doing great things for the Club and made sure we were taken care of. He was a lifesaver.”

From graduations to grandmother showers, no other recreational sport creates such opportunities for the development of deep-rooted, lifelong friendships. Years of playing as partners, on season courts, or in the competitive USTA and club leagues, builds strong bonds and a family dynamic. “We all try to have each other’s backs,” explains Margo “and given Maria’s circumstances, there is nothing we’d rather do than be there for her in any way we can.”

Perhaps Margaret Mead said it best when she penned “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Maria Sanchez’ tennis family at Club Fit and beyond embodies this philosophy, and it is clear that their show of solidarity will remain with Maria forever. “I feel that I owe my life to them,” Maria explains. “Even if I can’t help my friends, I can and will help someone else.”

To Keep You Inspired… Jason Needle

June 28, 2016 by karen

photo collage, Jason and friends.
A photo collage of Jason Needle with his friends and peers at Club Fit, along with our newly redesigned name tags, inspired by and honoring Jason.

You may have noticed that we changed the design of the name tags that we proudly wear at work.  And it’s all for a very good reason — Jason Needle — our colleague and friend. Jason passed away on December 4, 2015.The new name tags will serve to remember Jason, and to encourage us to be supportive of others.  We have implemented Jason’s “I Can. I Will.” tag line on the new name tags as a reminder of who Jason was; a brave person who inspired others to live with a strong sense of community and commitment to live life to the fullest.

Jason Needle once described himself as an Iraq war veteran, a two-time cancer survivor, and a proud member of the Club Fit family. Beating cancer and defending our country are two things everyone can identify as substantial accomplishments. Although it may pale in comparison, Jay’s association with Club Fit would prove to be of paramount importance in his life story. Jay grew up coming to Club Fit and fell in love with the atmosphere. He enjoyed it so much that he went to college to pursue a degree in exercise sports science with the end goal of working at his favorite place.

Jay began working as a personal trainer in the fitness department in 2005. When he wasn’t working, he could still be found in the building working out, lifting weights, or playing basketball. Jay was outgoing, enthusiastic, friendly, and genuinely interested in other people. Because of this, it wasn’t long before everyone knew who Jay was – both staff and members alike. He was also one of the trainers who spearheaded the Parisi Speed School program when it was introduced. This is the area where Jay really shined. He had a passion for training young athletes; watching kids improve and achieve goals and, more importantly, gain confidence was everything to Jay. “Being able to help a child grow confident through fitness and performance is a beautiful thing to me,” he told the Briarcliff Daily Voice. He knew they looked up to him and never lost sight of that.

Jay was the picture of health and fitness when he was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) in November 2010. He spent over 200 days in the hospital the first year of his treatment and achieved remission only to have the leukemia return less than a year later. He was then diagnosed with a rare gene mutation that made it difficult for treatments to be successful. During his five-year battle, he traveled all over New York City and Boston, spoke to countless doctors, went through over twenty different chemotherapy treatments, most of which were experimental trials, radiation and two bone marrow transplants.

Throughout his fight, Club Fit remained an important support system for him. A Facebook page was created entitled “Jason’s Army” which he posted on frequently to stay in touch with everyone. He used his Parisi clients as motivation for himself: “The excitement they show when they reach a new goal or do something they thought couldn’t be done is what drives me day in and day out. If these kids can do it, then so can I!”

And so Jay’s tagline was born. Jay coined the motto “I Can. I Will.” and believed with all of his heart that he would beat the odds against his disease. Again, Jay’s energy and sense of purpose was infectious. His positive and energetic posts more often than not served as motivation for its readers to work to make the world a caring, supportive place. His “I Can. I Will.” attitude exploded and the support was phenomenal as the page grew to over 1,100 followers.

Jay was able to use this following to help other people fighting against cancer as well. By hosting an annual 5k run/walk in 2013, 2014, and 2015, Jason’s Army raised over $40,000 for local charities that support cancer patients. For someone who was going through so much, all he wanted to do was give back and recognize others. He was so thankful for the support of staff, members, and clients from Club Fit that he wanted to help those who didn’t have the same support.

Jay died on December 4, 2015. As the legendary ESPN anchor Stuart Scott said, “When you die, that does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and the manner in which you live.” He continued by saying, “So live. Live. Fight like hell. And when you get too tired to fight, lay down and rest and let somebody else fight for you.” The best way to honor Jason’s life and to keep his memory alive is to adopt his “I Can. I Will.” attitude and employ it in your own life.

To Keep You Inspired… Club Fit Member John Gillespie

March 28, 2016 by karen

by Lisa Olney, Club Fit guest blogger.

John before & after
Picture 1: Before: May 2014: John, 14 days into his stem cell transplant at 260 pounds from the impact of his treatment.
Picture 2: After: March 2016: John, healthy, fit and cancer-free at 190 pounds.

If you’re part of the 5:00 am exercise crowd, chances are you’ve met Club Fit Briarcliff member John Gillespie, 57, whose natural energy and captive smile is hard to forget. John’s early-morning workout includes cardio and weight lifting and gives him the energy and jump-start he needs to start his day as a health care public relations professional in the City. John, who recently moved to New York from his native St. Louis, had always led an active lifestyle filled with golf, running, and exercise. That is until two years ago on March 27, 2014, when a normal day at the office became anything but routine.

John was working at a St. Louis hospital in the health system that he worked for when excruciating abdominal pain sent him to the emergency room. John’s bloodwork showed a hemoglobin level of 8 (very low) and an iron level of 0 (non-existent). John was bleeding from his intestines, and his body was unable to stop it.

Diagnosed with a rare and advanced form of lymphoma, called peripheral T-cell lymphoma (PTCL), and four tumors in his small intestine, John’s treatment included a dangerously aggressive six-round, high-dose E-CHOP chemotherapy regimen followed by an autologous stem cell harvest. The E-CHOP began destroying the four tumors, however, two of the tumors burst, forcing emergency surgery to clean up the toxic contents spilling into John’s stomach and to sew his small intestine back together. “The good news was that the chemo worked,” said John, “and the bad news was that the chemo worked.”

Because of the damage to his small intestine and the proximity of one of the remaining tumors to his large intestine, an ileostomy was ordered rather than reattaching his small intestine to the large intestine. The ileostomy diverted the end of his small intestine through his lower abdominal wall where it was attached to an external waste bag for 18 months, a painful experience that made it difficult to exercise and get proper nutrition and hydration. Upon completing his chemo, the stem cells were transplanted and successfully grafted which regenerated his bone marrow. After being cancer- and chemo-free for one year, John was given the green light for an ileostomy reversal on November 4, 2015, to reattach his small intestine to his large intestine which would return his body to normal functionality.

John’s two-year battle with PTCL had been the most painful experience of his life, and he credits the love of his family and two children with helping him persevere. After the pain receded from the ileostomy reversal, John was cleared to begin an exercise program. Enter Club Fit’s HelpRx — a three-month, physician-referral, new-member program for $150 that offers support, guidance and motivation to help people successfully and safely integrate the benefits of regular exercise into their routine. For John, who had lost all muscle tone and a level of fitness and health that had always been a part of his identity, HelpRX was the answer, and he started on the Rx program the week before Thanksgiving.

Restricted from exercise involving abdominal strain for eight weeks, John began his routine with cardio and resistance training, transitioning to weight lifting in January. Under the guidance of Club Fit’s training staff, John’s fitness, strength, and energy quickly improved, and at the end of his three-month Rx membership he signed on to a regular membership because he did not want to go backward. “Exercising is not work anymore,” explains John. “It’s become a routine, a commitment.”

In his four months with Club Fit, John has lost 20 pounds, six inches, and his strength has increased dramatically. “I missed being fit,” said John. “The Club Fit staff has always been very supportive of my goals. I’ve never had to pay for training or classes to access their expertise.” John tries to exercise 5-6 days a week with 35-40 minutes of cardio exercise on the StrideClimber elliptical machines and 30 minutes of weight lifting, with bench pressing being a favorite activity. “Weight lifting has become my favorite,” says John. “Reaching new benchmarks is very rewarding.” John’s latest benchmark is seven reps at 190 pounds, and this month he may hit his next benchmark of 200 pounds.

“I’ve gone from not being able to lift a carton of milk to bench pressing 190 pounds,” said John. “So if I can leave anyone with just one thought, it would be that it is possible to feel healthy again — to recover from cancer or severe injury or just to get healthy.”

Staying on track, out of town.

November 23, 2015 by Kendra

Kendra2Earlier this fall, I traveled out of town for a few days on a business trip. I was excited, but also worried about staying aligned with my diet and fitness goals on the road. In the past, I haven’t been great about navigating or recovering from interruptions to my usual routine. This time, I spent some time packing and planning in advance.

Here’s what I did:

I packed multiple changes of workout clothes, and an alarm clock, which allowed me to grab a fresh set of clothes whenever I could squeeze in a few minutes at the hotel gym.

I packed a ton of healthy snacks, and tracked my calorie intake using an iPhone app. (I use MyFitnessPal.) On a business trip, you eat out a lot, and it can be hard to “guesstimate” an accurate entry for meals. By having healthy snacks to munch on during the day, I was able to keep my take-out meals (and the guesswork) to a minimum.

I brought my new MyZone 3 belt to track my workouts. By using the smartphone app to view my heart rate zone during my workout, I was able to make the best use of my limited workout time, just like when I’m at the Club.

I carried a water bottle to refill between work sessions to stay hydrated. This helped keep food cravings to a minimum, and kept me feeling great while I spent most of my day sitting in a seminar.

Sounds perfect, right? I am the queen of planning! I am a superhero and none shall put my forward momentum asunder! Still, the best laid plans can go awry, and I did learn some very important lessons. Here’s what I also could have done to set myself up for success.

Brought a lightweight exercise or yoga mat for my hotel room. I was surprised to find that the hotel gym was even smaller than my super-tiny hotel room. There was one elliptical machine, one recumbent bike, one treadmill, one rack of free weights, and not much room to swing a sweat towel, or even do some simply bodyweight exercises. Having extra cushioning for the floor in my hotel room would have helped me use that space for stretching, yoga, or a little core work.

Packed a bigger variety of healthy snacks, and more than I thought I needed. I brought enough to sustain me during my time out of town, but by the end of the trip, what I missed was choices. On my last day, I just didn’t feel like peanut butter chocolate chip protein bars anymore. I’d rather carry home a few uneaten snacks, but have enjoyed my snacks along the way, than get sick and tired of some of my favorites.

Penciled in workouts on my calendar for the days AFTER I returned. Sometime after I returned home, I was shocked when I realized that three days had passed without exercising. Even though I had kept myself on track pretty well during my trip, somehow that attention just flew out the window when I got back! I should have written a workout into my calendar for the days following, to ensure that making time for exercise was an intentional part of resuming my normal schedule.

Any other tips, Club Fitters? What has worked for you?

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Committing to Big Change.

September 8, 2015 by Kendra

Kendra2croppedI’m making a big commitment to weight loss and setting a huge goal for myself. Over the next two years, I aim to lose 100 pounds.

With a 50 pound weight loss under my belt, I have the confidence and the tools to develop a sustainable plan to lose the rest of my excess body weight, and hopefully for good. This is a huge decision, and an enormous undertaking, but I know that I’m ready.

Setting a goal of losing 100 pounds is not about obsessing over the scale pound by pound, and achieving this specific goal “or else.” Instead, it’s about putting a big stake in the ground to keep my eyes on the horizon of long-term change. With the gratitude that comes from cancer survivorship, I’m ready to do whatever I need to do to minimize health risks in my future.

I’ve carried extra weight all my life. In fact, I have developed a strong sense of identity around being bigger and stronger than average, and in being comfortable and confident taking up space and having a powerful presence. That is a lot of really great work that I have absolutely no intention of undoing. I’m not setting out with the intention of changing the shape of my body to fit into a smaller clothing size. My goals are pinned on good health, longevity, and improving my athletic abilities to have more fun!

To eventually accomplish this Herculean task, here’s what I’m going to do:

  1. Having already gotten the thumbs-up at my annual physical, I’m now going to check in with my doctor periodically, to make sure I’m on the right track.
  2. Do my homework to build a nutrition and exercise plan that I know I can support with the time I have to put in.
  3. Move at a sustainable pace. I’m not going to do anything now that I intend to stop doing when I lose my excess weight. This means, I’m going to exercise several times a week and continue to enjoy the foods I love on occasion, even if it means I move at a less aggressive pace.

Here’s what I’m NOT going to do:

  1. Allow negative self-talk.
  2. Obsess over calories.
  3. Quit.

At this point, I know myself well enough to know that when my mind is right, my body will follow. So, by that logic, if I remain my own number one fan, I can’t lose.

Wish me luck! If any of you have had success with big changes, I’d love to hear about it.

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Recommitting to Fitness Goals

August 21, 2015 by Kendra

Kendra3When I walked back into the gym after several months without exercise, I encountered one really big surprise: even after having lost fifty pounds through diet and exercise, I suddenly felt like the new kid at the gym. I had trouble figuring out where I should start!  

It reminded me of how I felt almost three years ago, walking into the gym for the first time after years of battling illness, and being terrified of putting a toe in the water, for fear of hurting myself, doing too much, doing too little, or doing something ineffective. 

Fighting the urge to turn around and go home, I got on the treadmill for a few minutes and just started walking, slowly. Just so I could get my head together and clear my thoughts. I felt like everyone was staring at me. (They were not.) I felt like I didn’t have everything I needed to accomplish a good workout comfortably. (I did. Headphones, iPhone, armband, water bottle, sweat towel, check. No excuses.) I thought that I didn’t know how to build my own workout. (I did.)

While it was true that I hadn’t exercised in some time, I knew that deep down, I knew what to do. It was just a matter of digging up that knowledge and putting it to good use. In the time since that “first day” almost three years ago, I’ve worked with personal trainers, and enough to know what works to motivate my mind and my body. As I walked, I coached myself silently, in my head: “You love spinning. You still hate running. You like strength training. You hate the track. You like the Woodway Eco-Treadmill. You love stretching, so save time for that. Remember?”

Slowly, I put the pieces back together. Once I got my head on straight and my confidence back, I cranked up the incline on my treadmill, put in my ear buds with my favorite workout playlist, and had a great powerwalk. So great, that I couldn’t stop myself from smiling. (That may have drawn a few stares.) I felt like singing along to my playlist and punching the air in front of me. (I resisted. You know, you don’t want to be THAT person.) In the end, I was surprised by a new feeling: freedom and joy.

On my way home after my workout, I remembered some really helpful advice I had gotten from a trainer: slow and steady wins the race. When you’re recommitting to fitness after an absence, it’s hard to resist temptation to overcompensate for your “time away.” What a recipe for injury and setbacks! Writers don’t write novels in a day, and likewise, we don’t build our healthiest, strongest bodies overnight, or even in a few weeks of hard effort and the best of intentions. In the past, I have been guilty of having fierce fitness energy for about a month, and then crashing when I felt like I was spending “all my time” at the gym. Working with a sustainable pace, and on a healthy schedule, is truly the best way to minimize setbacks. I’m so grateful for everything that I have learned that has brought me to this healthy place of mind and body. It makes the difference between starting over and starting anew.

If you’re struggling with getting to the gym for the first time, or getting back there after some time away, remember this: don’t bring yesterday with you. If you’re struggling with frustration or guilt, you need to leave those things at home. They are not tall enough to ride this ride.

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“Tough Cookie” Julianna Vano Fights Lymphoma

April 27, 2015 by karen

— written by Club Fit Member and Guest Blogger Lisa Skelton

 

Young Club Fit Member Juliana Vano battles lymphoma with attitude and energy to spare. She is “One Tough Cookie!”

"Tough Cookie" Julianna Vano Fights Lymphoma
Club Fit Member Julianna Vano is “One Tough Cookie.”

“One Tough Cookie”! That is how Julianna Vano’s family and friends describe the energetic, nonstop 10-year-old. And she has proven this to be true since her diagnosis in December of Diffuse Large B-cell Lymphoma, the most common form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, accounting for up to 30 percent of newly diagnosed cases in the United States. It is an aggressive cancer, but the Vanos, members of Club Fit Jefferson Valley, reacted quickly, and Julianna is well on her way back to good health.

Mom Joann noticed something was wrong back in November, when Julianna became lethargic and was experiencing abdominal pain. “She’s my Energizer bunny!” she said of Julianna, an avid dancer, and soccer and basketball player. “I knew something was wrong when her energy dipped.” The initial bloodwork at their doctor’s office hinted at Hepatitis A, but when it didn’t improve over two weeks, they went to Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital and scans revealed masses on all of Julianna’s organs. Treatment was started immediately.

Julianna was on a 20-day chemotherapy cycle, checking in to the hospital every 20 days for 5 to 7 days, then taking a week or two off. But she remained active while she was home, continuing her dance classes 3 to 4 days a week (hip-hop, jazz, ballet…you name it, she does it!) and actually competing this past March! She also recently performed at the halftime show during a Westchester Knicks game. Because of the risk of infection, Julianna was taken out of school and her tumbling classes, but is being tutored at home. Does she miss school? “I think she misses her friends,” laughs Joann.

It was supposed to be a three-month process, but the treatment schedule became longer when a follow-up scan showed a small mass remained on Julianna’s kidney, but the hope is that the additional treatments she is receiving now will take care of that. Going forward, they expect her to have four rounds of “maintenance” treatments, then be free and clear by August. “Through most of this experience, if Julianna didn’t lose her hair or wear a face mask, you’d never know she was sick!” says Joann.

The whole Vano family is active, with Julianna and her two siblings, Bella and Tommy, frequenting Club Fit’s Energy Center, and Mom and Dad spending time in the Fitness Center. As mentioned earlier, Julianna plays travel soccer and travel basketball, and is also a Girl Scout, and plans to return to her activities once treatment is completed. Club Fit is showing their support by hosting two fundraisers for the family at both Club Fit locations, a Spin Class and Kids’ Zumba class. May 20th at Briarcliff and May 27th at Jefferson Valley. All proceeds are going back to the Vano family.

The Vanos are also starting a team for Yorktown’s Relay for Life, aptly named “Team Tough Cookie” (which at this writing is the top fundraising team so far)! Look for their tent on Friday, June 12 at Jack DeVito Field in Yorktown Heights. But you can also get in on the action early by joining us at Club Fit for the Spin and Zumba events, and showing your support for our Tough Cookie Julianna and her family!

Jimmy McDonough Cancer Foundation

January 28, 2015 by karen

[written by Club Fit blogger Lisa Skelton]

Jimmy McDonough Foundation founder Suzi McDonough
Jimmy McDonough Foundation founder Suzi McDonough

It takes a special person to take a family tragedy and turn it into a positive, but that’s just what Suzi McDonough did. When her husband, Jimmy, a longtime member of Club Fit Jefferson Valley, was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2004 and passed away less than a year later, Suzi and her family didn’t turn inward. They founded the Jimmy McDonough Foundation, a nonprofit that supports cancer patients and their families in the local community, and makes a big impact despite keeping a low profile.

“Our goal is to relieve as much stress as possible for families going through a cancer diagnosis and treatment,” says Suzi. “My family and I know firsthand the importance of a good support system, and want to provide that to those who don’t have the support they need.”

Her husband’s diagnosis was a surprise to everyone. Father of five, Jimmy never smoked and was focused on his fitness routine, working out at Club Fit almost every day. He was an involved and enthusiastic supporter of his community and kids’ sports in Mahopac, continuing to coach even after his diagnosis. He was being treated for pneumonia when a CT scan and subsequent biopsy revealed Stage 3 lung cancer. He passed away in February 2005, after seven months of chemotherapy and alternative treatments, but he and his family remained optimistic and positive throughout.

Since its inception, the Jimmy McDonough Foundation has helped countless people in our community. From rides to appointments to financial assistance to family outings, the Foundation supports families through their cancer journey. Family members serve on the Foundation’s board, and their single fundraiser is a golf outing held every May at Mahopac Golf Club. “One hundred percent of our fundraising proceeds go to funding our services,” says Suzi.

An additional fundraiser was held last year at FDR Park in Yorktown, a 5K Run that involved Club Fit’s Jason Needle, who is also battling cancer. “Jason is so like Jimmy with his positive attitude, and he is such an inspiration,” says Suzi. “His enthusiasm during the 5K event reminded me of Jimmy’s optimism throughout our family’s ordeal.”

Suzi has kept herself busy in the years since Jimmy’s passing, not only with the Foundation, but as Town Councilwoman in Carmel. She also works for the State Senate, and enjoys spending time with her five now-grown children. “I have a choice,” says Suzi. “I can wilt away or look ahead.”

But the Jimmy McDonough Foundation is clearly her priority. “Through the work we do, Jimmy’s legacy will live on,” says Suzi. And Club Fit Jefferson Valley is jumping on the bandwagon, donating all proceeds raised at the club’s Open House on January 31 to the Foundation. With a $50 donation, attendees received raffle tickets for prizes including massages, tennis lessons, a week of summer camp, a big screen TV, etc. A win-win for everyone! If you couldn’t make it and would like to help Suzi and her family make a difference in the lives of cancer patients in your community, you can mail your donation to The Jimmy McDonough Foundation, 72 Lockwood Lane, Mahopac, NY 10541, and know that you helped brighten someone’s day!

Are you living a healthy lifestyle?

December 15, 2014 by Liz

Don’t laugh! It’s a good question to ask yourself! Some of us are super motivated when it comes to health and fitness, some people may even go a little too far with their workouts, some of us need a little push, some of us would really rather not workout, but we do for health reasons and some of us just simply don’t do it.

Here is a little factoid: There is no “too late” for anyone. Do you have a friend, relative or even a neighbor that needs to get active? It begins with encouraging them. Our society puts a great deal of pressure on us and sometimes we do not even notice it. It doesn’t automatically register in our minds that all the models we see in magazines and on TV are all photoshopped and airbrushed to the nines. We are fed unrealistic images of how people look and feel, and we assume that these “beautiful people” are all also healthy. This is not always so, but it sure does a number on our self esteem to be inundated with these images. Sometimes all it takes is a little push from a loved one or friend to get us to do something that is good for ourselves. Even when we are in the habit of working out, we still need that encouragement to stay motivated.

There is more to health than just working out. We need to consider our diet (including consumption of alcohol), our sleep habits, and our daily behaviors. It doesn’t always occur to us to check how many calories are in that Latte or what the side-effects of a particular medication are. Many times we don’t look behind the curtain. It’s time to start. Start by asking questions. Take a more active role in understanding health as whole and not just a piece of a puzzle. Where are we without our health? Probably not where we would like to be.

If you need some guidance and are ready to make a change, we are here to help you on your journey. We have registered dietitians, personal trainers and many programs that were designed specifically for your needs no matter where you are with your health. Whether you have been instructed by a doctor to start working out or are an avid fitness enthusiast, we want you to be a part of our community. We also have a Cancer Wellness Program that is open to anyone actively undergoing cancer treatments.

Get started today at our Jefferson Valley or Briarcliff location! Visit the Club Fit website for more information!

Breast Cancer Wellness

November 26, 2014 by karen

— written by Club Fit Member and Guest Blogger Lisa Skelton

 

Memorial Sloan-Kettering’s Dr. Sandra Brennan supports utilizing physical activity to help combat breast cancer.

Dr. Sandra Brennan, radiologist & breast cancer specialist
Club Fit member Dr. Sandra Brennan, Director of Breast Imaging and Interim Director of Radiology at the West Harrison outpost of New York’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

Dr. Sandra Brennan may be new to Club Fit, but the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, for both her patients and herself, is not new at all. Dr. Brennan is Director of Breast Imaging and Interim Director of Radiology at the new West Harrison outpost of New York’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, a long-anticipated and welcomed resource for Westchester County’s cancer patients.

Hailing from Ireland, where she attended University College Dublin and completed her residency at Mater Misericordiae Hospital, also in Dublin, Dr. Brennan came to the United States in 2005 to complete a fellowship at Sloan-Kettering’s Breast and Body Imaging Center, and the rest was history. During the fellowship, she sharpened her expertise in imaging of tumors in the chest, abdomen and pelvis, as well as in breast imaging and intervention, and upon completion of the fellowship she was invited to join the faculty in Sloan-Kettering’s Department of Radiology.

Currently, her focus is on breast imaging, which involves interpretation of screening and diagnostic mammograms, ultrasound examinations and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Her clinical work includes state-of-the-art procedures such as image-guided biopsy under stereotactic, ultrasound and MRI guidance, and breast localization procedures with both radioactive seed and wire localizations. Radioactive seed localizations are a relatively new approach that she says will be put into practice in MSK West Harrison in the new year. “The field is constantly evolving, and the number of options available to our patients continues to grow,” she says.

The opening of the West Harrison facility was a great opportunity for Dr. Brennan, who is also mom to six-year-old Samuel and four-year-old Leah, to get out of the city and into the more family-friendly suburbs. The family recently moved to Chappaqua and joined Club Fit Briarcliff, where they enjoy the Aquatics Center on weekends, and Samuel has been playing basketball. Dr. Brennan is no stranger to health clubs, and staying fit has been a lifelong practice. “I run, cycle, hike, swim…I’ve even completed some half-marathons!” she said. Since joining Club Fit, she gets in two to three visits per week, and has been spending her time in the Fitness Center. She’s looking forward to exploring other areas of the club with her children in the coming months.

One program that piqued her interest was the Cancer Wellness Program, which has been a part of Club Fit’s programming for a number of years. Free to cancer patients, both members and non-members, this strength and cardio conditioning program is designed to meet the special needs of people undergoing and recovering from cancer treatment. “There is growing evidence to suggest that maintaining a healthy weight and being physically active may reduce your risk of getting certain types of cancer such as breast, colon, endometrial and prostate,” says Dr. Brennan. “Patients who exercise and pay attention to their overall wellness tolerate treatment better, and in many cases experience a faster recovery.”

With the opening of the West Harrison facility, Sloan-Kettering has expanded its presence in Westchester County, which it has served since 1995 through its facility at Phelps Memorial Hospital in Sleepy Hollow. The facility’s staff includes more than 100 professionals, including cancer surgeons, medical and radiation oncologists and radiologists. “What we’ve done is bring all the services of the main campus in Manhattan to Westchester, allowing patients access to the same high-quality services without the commute into the city,” says Dr. Brennan. Add that to the plethora of support groups and other resources available to cancer patients in our area, and a cancer diagnosis becomes a much easier burden to bear, for both patient and caregiver.

Click here for more information on Sloan-Kettering’s West Harrison facility, as well as Dr. Brennan and her colleagues. You can also click here to find out more about Club Fit’s Cancer Wellness Program, a valuable resource to anyone fighting the battle against cancer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Superhero Update: 50 pounds gone and STILL cancer-free!

September 22, 2014 by Kendra

Whoo-hoo!
Whoo-hoo!

I am thrilled to be able to celebrate a special milestone today. So far, on my journey of health and recovery, I have lost a total of FIFTY pounds, and after two and a half years, I am STILL cancer-free!!

When I started out on my fitness journey, weight loss was not my primary goal. I didn’t even buy a scale until a year ago (check out this post from last year about my scale-buying experience.) I just wanted to be healthy, and to be able to do some of the physical activities that I did before I fell ill. More than anything, I wanted to be in fighting shape, so if cancer came knocking again, I could knock it down with one punch. At the time, I certainly didn’t feel like a fighter – but now I do.

Being plagued by health problems for so long led me to have serious doubts that I could ever become a “healthy person” again. I thought I was stuck being a “sick person”, because I really didn’t believe that my body could recover from everything it had been through. It breaks my heart, even as I type these words, that I could ever think or feel that way about myself – but I did. I do not exaggerate when I tell you that Club Fit saved me.

In addition to the incredible support of my family and friends, I am so grateful to have had the support of Club Fit and its stellar staff. Every group fitness instructor who shouted a motivating phrase, every trainer I have worked with who helped me get a little bit better every day, and every staff member who flashes me a thumbs-up when I’m sunk down on a bench, totally exhausted, has helped me on my way to being a healthier, happier me! I still have a long way to go, but now I know that it’s possible.

Celebrating this milestone gives me the opportunity to look back and see how far I’ve come. It reminds me that fitness and good health are within my grasp, and that I am empowered with the tools to obtain them! Taking the first step towards better health and fitness is the greatest gift I have ever given myself, and I’m so glad I did it.

superhero

 

 

Support Connection Director Kathy Quinn

August 28, 2014 by karen

 

Support Connection Executive Director and Club Fit Member Kathy Quinn
Support Connection Executive Director and Club Fit Member Kathy Quinn

In this day and age, turning a negative into a positive is definitely a reason to celebrate. This October, local nonprofit Support Connection is celebrating the 20th anniversary of its first Support-A-Walk for Breast & Ovarian Cancer. This grassroots event today draws close to 10,000 participants, and laid the foundation for the organization itself, which opened its doors in the Roma Building in Yorktown Heights in September of 1996.

One of the driving forces behind Support Connection is Executive Director and Club Fit member Kathy Quinn, who was inspired to get involved after attending that first walk in 1995 in support of a close friend who was undergoing treatment for breast cancer. She found out about the walk while researching support services for her friend, and was moved by the turnout, which quadrupled the expected numbers from 200 to 800. She reached out to walk organizers Nancy Heller and Rich Adamski, and together with other supporters came up with the idea to use the funds raised to start up Support Connection as an educational and emotional resource for breast and ovarian cancer patients. The rest is history. “The unique thing about our organization’s model is that all of our professional Peer Counselors are cancer survivors,” says Kathy. “When we began, our idea was to give patients access to others who had gone through the same experience, and could truly understand their situation.” Support Connection has stayed true to that model to this day.

“Because we work very hard to operate within a very modest budget and use volunteers to assist with fundraising and outreach, nearly 90 percent of all funds raised goes directly to funding our free, confidential programs and services. I am blessed every day to see what a difference is being made, how a difficult situation can be helped by offering an anchor to someone in need.” Today, the number of support groups has grown to twelve, and services are offered nationwide. What started as a local resource is now an educational and emotional support system for thousands, with well over 5,000 people benefitting from the services offered to date. In our area, many take advantage of the one-on-one and group counseling, wellness seminars, toll-free educational teleconferences, and social workshops offered, including a yoga class held on Saturdays at Club Fit Jefferson Valley, for which Club Fit donates space.

“Club Fit has been a staunch supporter for many years, also sponsoring our golf outing,” says Kathy. “It’s really wonderful how they promote good overall health throughout our community, to all populations and age groups. Our survival is based on the support we get from local individuals and businesses like Club Fit.” Kathy, a Shrub Oak resident, is passionate about Support Connection’s mission, often working nights and weekends. “It’s so rewarding to see the end product of the work we do,” she says. “I come back every day for that reason.” She also devotes time to her husband, four children and two grandchildren, and tries to take time to take care of herself, using the Fitness Center and Aquatics Center at Club Fit. “I now understand the value of places like Club Fit, not just for the cancer patient, but also for the entire family,” she says. “Going to the gym is a step in the right direction for anyone physically, but it’s also a great stress reliever for those either going through or supporting a family member or friend going through cancer treatments.”

As successful as Support Connection has been, there is still much work to be done. “Our ongoing challenge is that while people value the support we provide, they don’t put a dollar amount on it,” says Kathy. “So much of the money that is raised in other nonprofits is used to fund research, but the emotional support our programs provide is also so critical in a cancer patient’s journey.” Kathy’s friend Isabel, who was the reason for Kathy attending that first walk, passed away not long after Support Connection was established, but Kathy considers her the inspiration that keeps her going. “Every day I work in loving memory of Isabel,” she says. And at every walk, the thousands of participants and volunteers are working and walking to honor those who have won as well as those who have lost the battle against breast and ovarian cancer.

For more information on how you can get involved or how you can access the services offered by Support Connection, visit www.supportconnection.org, or call the Support and Information Hotline at 1-800-532-4290. You can also register for or make a donation to this year’s Support-A-Walk, to be held at FDR State Park in Yorktown Heights on Sunday, October 5th, on the website. If you have never attended, Kathy highly recommends that you come, if just to experience the camaraderie. “As big as our event has become, the wonderful thing about it is that we are all there as one big family, celebrating and paying tribute to loved ones and letting people dealing with cancer know we are walking right beside them.”

Superhero Transformation: Busting through a weight loss plateau!

July 28, 2014 by Kendra

Boxing helped me break through my weight loss plateau... I think?
Boxing helped me break through my weight loss plateau… I think?

I’d heard about it: the dreaded “weight-loss plateau.” The so-called dead zone where, despite your best efforts, your weight loss slowly rolls to a dead stop – like a car running out of gas. I have to admit, I didn’t really consider that it might happen to me, despite hearing lots of other well-intentioned gym-goers complain about hitting this wall. I figured, a plateau must be what happens when you get busy and have trouble making time for the gym, or when you’re not paying proper attention to your diet. I learned that isn’t necessarily the case! You can be doing everything right: exercising regularly, eating and sleeping well, hydrating properly, and still the scale won’t budge.

I got frustrated (no surprise there) and started researching weight-loss plateaus: why they happen, and what you can do to get yourself un-stuck. Celeb trainer Jillian Michaels calls it a myth, and thinks poor habits are to blame. Some other sources say it’s real, and recommend eating less, while others recommend eating more, while at the same time others recommend exercising more, while others still suggest taking a break from exercising all together to allow your system to “reset.” Argh! Clearly, there isn’t much information out there that is concrete and helpful (and these “tips” even come from medical-oriented websites.)

For a while, I followed bad internet advice. I took a self-imposed one-week “break” from the gym to try and reset my system, which only succeeded in throwing a wrench in my previously-established good habits. Before I knew it, three whole weeks had gone by, and I had to work harder to make time for the gym again. I tried eating more, I tried eating less; nothing seemed to do the trick. Instead of spinning, I strapped on some boxing gloves and went after the punching bag. If nothing else, it used different muscles, gave me a new kind of cardio stimulation, and was incredibly satisfying and fun!  Not too long afterward, the scale started to move again, and I can’t say what it was that did it. It wasn’t one trick or one food item, or one routine – maybe it was just time and persistence, but it happened.

I didn’t learn the secret to breaking through a plateau, but I did learn three really important things:

  1. Don’t take bad internet advice.
  2. Plateaus are a real thing, and there’s no guaranteed formula to see you through. Everyone’s body responds differently to routines and to changes. Try changing things up a bit (gently, please!) and see what works for you. At the very least, hitting a plateau reminds us to assess where we are and where we want to be, and if we’re doing the right things to get there.
  3. No amount of exercise will do you wrong. Don’t focus on the calories you burned, or whether or not the time and energy you spent was “worth it” for your goals – any kind of exercise is worth your time. It’s good for your heart, good for your mood, and makes your body happy. THAT is worth it, and is far more important than a number on your scale.

superhero

Diana Pernicano — Cancer Warrior and Club Fit Member

May 20, 2014 by karen

Diana Pernicano, Cancer Warrior and Club Fit Member
Cancer Warrior and Club Fit Member Diana Pernicano and her father, Club Fit Member Ted Pernicano

When you are a nineteen-year-old college student, the last thing you expect to hear are the words, “You have cancer.” But that’s exactly what happened to Diana Pernicano this past November, when she was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma. Luckily, Diana had a happy ending. On February 28, after three months of intense chemotherapy at Sloan-Kettering, Diana was declared cancer-free.

She decided to make a positive out of a negative by learning as much as she could about the disease, and devoting herself to educating others, kids in particular, about cancer. “Kids in middle school and high school need to understand that it’s important to go to the doctor and to stay healthy, that cancer doesn’t just happen to adults,” she said. But people of all ages also need to understand that cancer doesn’t always have to end badly. She said she was surprised by how many of her classmates assumed she would not survive. She’s happy to say, “Today, two out of three cancer patients will become a survivor.”

Diana has also devoted herself to fundraising, and is currently working with the American Cancer Society to raise awareness and funds. She had already been participating in the Yorktown Relay for Life event before her diagnosis, partly because her father also suffered through a cancer scare nine years ago. He was diagnosed with a cancer of the spine that was also treated successfully.  (Their cancers are not related.)

After her diagnosis and treatment, Diana was invited to speak at the Relay for Life kickoff event in February, and did so well that she was invited to help with the speakers in the New York City office. “Survivors who I heard speak would talk about the experiences they had, but not about specific programs that helped them get through the experience.”

She impressed enough people with her story and attitude to be featured in an ACS video distributed to colleges across the country educating college students about the disease, as well as the importance of sharing stories about experiences with cancer and reaching out to others. Visit YouTube to see it for yourself! “It’s such a different perspective when you go through this at my age,” she says. “It’s also so hard, no matter what your age, to really understand what a patient goes through, unless you have cancer yourself.” Diana also invites everyone to read more about her experience on her blog, at dianapernicano.wordpress.com.

Diana will continue her studies in nursing at Mount St. Mary College in the Fall, where she was attending school when she was diagnosed. Her focus will be on oncology nursing, which she was already pursuing because of her father’s experience with cancer. But now she feels she can contribute so much more to cancer patients, because she has the unique perspective of knowing exactly how they feel.

Diana has a good role model in her father, a Club Fit member who was a runner before his diagnosis and used Club Fit to help him get back on track. He is still at Club Fit almost every day. Diana became a full member three years ago. She uses the Fitness Center, plays racquetball, shoots hoops in the gym and enjoys Zumba — an all-around member! She also attended a Cancer Wellness session or two, and although she was too sick to participate more, she thinks it’s a great resource for others going through what she did. Diana is on the cross-country team at Mount St. Mary, and intends to return to the team in the fall.

Diana will have her own team for the first time at this year’s Relay for Life, “Diana’s Lymphomaniacs,” and has already raised more than $10,000. Part of that number includes funds raised on May 18 with a foul-shooting competition for Mildred E. Strang Middle School teachers and students at Club Fit Jefferson Valley. Forty students and 17 MESMS teachers participated! The actual Relay for Life event will take place on June 13th at Jack DeVito Memorial Field in Yorktown, and the Lymphomaniacs are happy to accept donations at her Relay for Life page! For more information on how you can join the fight against cancer, visit www.cancer.org.

I finally picked up a MyZone belt, and here’s what happened.

February 26, 2014 by Kendra

Signing up at the service desk for my MyZone activity belt.

This past week, I celebrated my birthday, which I have a very different perspective on in my cancer-remission world. Before I started out seriously on a path to health and wellness, I would celebrate my birthday in less healthy ways, but now, I see my birthday as an opportunity to reward myself with a gift that will help me on my new path. Last year on my birthday, I celebrated with an early morning workout and a massage. This year, I gifted myself with Club Fit’s newest toy, the MyZone belt. (If you haven’t heard of MyZone, check out this video to learn more.)

The MyZone belt is an ingenious little device that tracks your heart rate during your workout, and emails you a summary of your results after you’re finished! (What a world we live in, huh?) If you’re working out in the gym, you’ll be able to see your current heart rate, calories burned, and more, right on the nearest screen. I can keep one eye on it to see if I’m working too hard, or if I need to put more effort in, to get the most out of the time I’m putting into my workout. You can also take it with you outside the gym – it will store 16 hours of workout data, and then sync up again next time you get to the gym.

When I first started using my belt, I was really surprised to find that I wasn’t working as hard as I thought, and I needed step up my game a little bit. It also helped me identify the fastest activities to get my heart rate up, so I can use cardio intervals more effectively. It’s super comfortable to wear, easy to put on, easy to clean, and it’s just a really cool piece of technology that is so gosh darn fun to use! I mean, who doesn’t feel like a superhero with a bright red band around their chest?! (Secret superhero handshake, anyone?)

I’m SO, SO glad I made this investment. It has helped me immensely, and I’d recommend it for anyone who is serious about results from their training (or just wants to feel like a superhero.)

 

 

Buddy Up for 2014!

January 7, 2014 by Kendra

Bryan and I working out with Jenn!

Over lunch last week, my husband Bryan asked me if I’d made any New Year’s resolutions.  I hadn’t thought about it yet, but it made me think of this post last year where I shifted my perspective on New Year’s resolutions, and I’m so glad that I did.  Now that I can look back on 2013, this year was so much healthier than any year I’ve ever had – and I hadn’t made a single resolution.

It’s good to check in with yourself once a year, to see where you’ve been, where you are, and where you want to be – but making hard and fast rules to live by just seems such an unkind thing to do to yourself.  Where is the room for growth, or forgiveness?  Instead, I set goals.  Goals have nothing to do with the calendar year, so they aren’t as easily forgotten, and they aren’t erased for new ones on December 31st.  Also, achieving those goals gives you an excuse to celebrate, and doesn’t that feel good?  (New gym sneakers? Yes, please!)

Our discussion about resolutions led to lots of things we’d like to do this year.  Lose weight, volunteer more, stress less, more book time, less screen time, etc., but in the end all we resolved to do was support one another in our individual goals – and it has already made a huge difference in how I feel about my journey toward optimal health.  My wish for all of you in 2014 is to find a workout partner that supports you in your health journey, through good and bad.  If you don’t have that person in your life already, they are worth finding.

As for Bryan and me, we are taking the first step by continuing with my trainer Jenn… together!

How I Learned to Run (Again)

September 10, 2013 by Kendra

Here's me, running on a treadmill. Words I thought I'd never say!

So… remember that time I said I hated running?  I never, ever thought this photo (left) would happen.  It’s still true that I do not enjoy extended running as general cardio exercise, but my trainer introduced me to interval workouts called Tabata training.  They let me run for only four minutes, with frequent rests, and still gets my heart rate up to where it needs to be.

Jenn explained to me that the varying intervals of activity and rest make your heart work harder, and boost your heart rate faster.  I run for twenty seconds, then rest for ten seconds, and repeat these cycles until I’ve finished four minutes – and by then, I am wiped out!  This is perfect for me, because twenty seconds seems to be my exact tolerance for running on a treadmill.  I can even use these Tabata intervals during strength training workouts to keep my heart rate up, and accomplish cardio and strength work at the same time.  Intervals also create “afterburn”, which boosts your metabolic rate for a period of time after you finish working out.  Talk about efficiency!

The best part about these workouts is that I really can feel a measurable increase in my cardiovascular endurance.  I can tell that they’re working, because each week, it gets a little easier (or should I say, I get better?)  It’s a great reminder that my body is totally capable of performing whatever I train it to do – I just need to put the work in.

My Superhero Diet: Plant Power!

September 3, 2013 by Kendra

Homemade salad pizza. This is my life now - and it's delicious!

Like many of us, I have experimented with fad diets.  When you get swept up in large promises based on “new research”, it’s hard to remember that the one thing they all have in common is that they don’t work, or are only a temporary solution, and in some cases – dangerously unhealthy.  The disclaimer to “consult your physician” before beginning any diet or exercise program is serious business – but like many people, I never bothered.  Ten years ago, I fell for the fat-free fad, and ended up with some serious adverse health effects.  That was a wake-up call for me, and I knew that to start any weight-loss journey off on the right foot, I had to follow directions, and make an appointment with my doctor.

When I met with my physician, I laid it all out on the table.  I told her that my goal was to slowly and sustainably lose all of the extra weight I’m carrying, to prevent disease, and to be an active participant in my health, which meant I was looking for a manageable long-term eating plan.  She did a lot of research on my goals, my past conditions, and delivered a plan: no animal fats, no soy, no processed food, and no sugar.

Wow!  Four little “no”s that wiped out a lot of items.  Even the frozen veggie burger patties that I considered healthy alternatives were full of soy, and the ones that were soy-free are still heavily processed.  Most people are shocked when I tell them my diet, and ask me what on earth is possibly left to eat.  I tell them, lots!  Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts – it doesn’t sound like much, but the possibilities are endless when you are informed and prepared.

Like any other major lifestyle changes, this diet requires a lot of planning to adhere to, and it really took me a number of months to find my groove.  Since I’m highly active, I have to count my protein intake carefully to make sure I’m getting what my body needs without packing in too many calories that might deter my weight loss efforts.  I have to have a well-stocked pantry, and shop frequently for fresh produce (which is a joy at this time of year), in order to be able to throw a meal together on the fly.  Sitting down once a week, browsing vegan recipes for inspiration, and making a specific shopping list help me keep from feeling lost for inspiration, and there are still some delicious and easy meals that are fast to make – like my homemade salad pizza pictured above.  It’s my favorite quick meal.

One thing is for certain – this diet is not for everyone.  I hope that you will learn from my past mistakes and speak with a doctor you trust (who knows your health history), if you are considering making any major changes to your diet.  That being said, it’s definitely healthy to indulge in a plant-based meal once in a while, and now that vegan diets are increasing in popularity, it’s easy to find inspiration.  Here is my favorite veggie burger recipe (homemade, not processed) from the Candle Cafe in NYC.  It’s fast, delicious, and family-friendly – I hope you enjoy it!

Do you have a favorite plant-based meal to share?

 

How I Became a Morning Exerciser

August 28, 2013 by Kendra

Werkin' it with my awesome trainer, Jenn.

I didn’t think it would happen. Ever.  I knew they existed: the gym-goers who arrive bright and early, work themselves into a sweaty mess, and then clean up and make their way to work.  It seemed like torture to me!  I just could not fathom that I would ever become a Morning Person, let alone a Morning Exerciser.  I had always exercised after work, so that afterward I could shower up and deservedly collapse on the couch for the evening when I got home.  That worked for a while, but eventually I got frustrated at having a smaller amount of time to myself in the evenings, and having to cook/clean/etc. when I was exhausted from a day of work AND a gym session.  So a couple of weeks ago, I decided to make a change, and try working out in the morning.

I started my morning workouts during a week when my evenings were totally occupied, because I knew I would be committed to fitting my workout in, and therefore less likely to hit the snooze button.  It was an intense week, but I didn’t burn out like I thought I would.  In fact, I had MORE energy to accomplish everything on my agenda beyond my regular workday.  Here’s what I learned:

  1. After a morning workout, the improved quality of the rest of my day was enough motivation to get myself out of bed early again the next day- and that cycle just kept repeating itself.
  2. I never hit an afternoon slump that tempted me to over-snack or over-caffeinate.  After a morning workout, the day passed by without even thinking about it.
  3. Changing your schedule, like any other big changes, requires planning.  Now, when I sit down over the weekend to plan meals and groceries, I also plan my workouts.  I write down which days I’ll do cardio, which days I’ll do strength training, and exactly what exercises to do.  I keep this note in my smartphone, so that I know exactly what to do when I get there.
  4. Being specific helps.  Telling myself “I’ll workout at 8am” worked much better at getting me there than simply thinking “I’ll stop at the gym on my way to work.”
  5. It’s best to set yourself up to grab-and-go.  At night, when I pack my lunch for work the next day, I pack my gym back with work clothes, a water bottle, and anything else I need.  I even put everything near the front door – so that no matter how tired I am in the morning, I can throw on my workout clothes, and drag everything out the door behind me while I’m still in a zombie-like state.
  6. When in doubt, just get dressed.  Every time I thought about skipping the morning workout, I put my workout clothes on anyway, and it gave me the motivation I needed.  Something about my bouncy workout sneakers perked me right up.  Another benefit of this trick is that if it doesn’t work, it’s a good indication that maybe it really is the right day to take a break.

Are you a Morning Exerciser?  How does it work for you?