What happens when you tell a fitness instructor she can’t exercise?

What happens when you’re told in no uncertain terms you need to stop exercising for weeks, maybe months?

My first reaction was total panic. Normally, I’m in a constant state of motion. A great white shark will die from lack of oxygen if it stops swimming. I feel like that. Stop me from moving and I won’t be able to breathe. I won’t be able to live. At least, not in the way I want to live.

I own a fitness studio and I love to teach. What would happen to me professionally if my clients saw me unable to demonstrate a lunge or plank series? How would I justify pushing them beyond their limits when I was suddenly so limited myself?

And what about all that hard work I’d done to get strong? Would my muscles atrophy into little piles of mashed potatoes? I envisioned myself blowing up like somebody attached a bicycle pump to my mouth, a Macy Day Parade balloon in the shape of me.

Then there’s the mental side of exercise—the endorphin rush, the sense of accomplishment, the stress release. Where would that come from now?

My pity party was short, but intense, playing out mostly in the parking lot of my orthopedic surgeon’s office. I cried shamelessly while I walked around in circles, looking for my car in a sea of other dark-colored Subarus. I had lost my car. My mind. My fitness. My sense of self. This was a disaster.

But of course, it wasn’t a disaster. If I wanted to see a real disaster, I could turn on CNN. Or go back to the surgeon’s waiting room where people had injuries that would keep them from ever being able to walk again or locked in chronic pain for the rest of their lives.

No, this was an opportunity.

When I confided in a client that I might need surgery, she didn’t say: But what if you no longer have well-defined deltoids? She said: “If you’re on crutches, will you still teach?” Yes, I told her. Nothing would stop me. I could still use my imagination to plan new routines. Finally I had more time to focus on marketing and the kind of day-dreaming that helped me move us forward as a company.

And in the interim, I had just found about ten extra hours a week. I could eke out some time for those projects that have been on hold since I opened CoreMotion. My over-stuffed closets. A novel I’ve been trying to finish writing for three years. The books stacked up on my bedside table. Movies!

Instead of wasting time worrying about blowing up, I could really focus on nutrition. I could read up on the latest research and conduct my own little experiment on just how important eating is to overall health and wellness. (My hypothesis: Very!)

We have many clients at CoreMotion who have undergone major surgeries or faced life-threatening illnesses. Every day I see them fighting to regain their strength, balance, and power. I have such respect for them. They will inspire me when I start to regain my own strength. In the meantime, I have new empathy for anyone who has an injury or illness.

And I’ve discovered that endorphins and happiness are everywhere, like Easter eggs waiting to be found. I’ve come to appreciate my time with the kids in a new way. I can’t play baseball with them or jump on the trampoline, but I can bake muffins with the 8-year-old when we’re the first ones awake in the morning. Or finally attack the crystal-making kit the 6-year-old begged for (and is seriously more science than I ever thought I could handle.) I can grab those increasingly rare moments when the teenager wants to just hang out with us and laugh.

I can even sit still long enough to marvel at this gift I’ve been given, all wrapped up in the form of an injury.



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A Food Diary Is Pretty Much What It Sounds Like

My diary history began in about 1978. I treasured my little lined book with the Mork and Mindy cover, the delicate lock and tiny silver key. I hid the key under my pillow. Turns out my younger brother could pick the lock with his pinky nail. So most of my diary was in all caps: “KEEP OUT OR DIE PIG FART! IF YOU ARE READING THIS YOUR EYES WILL BLEED JUST LIKE IN THE MOVIE CARRIE!”

Being in Catholic School at the time, there were also little prayers. Things like, “Dear God, if you have to make a whale eat someone again, maybe it should be Sister Jordan? And maybe that could happen before my piano lesson on Thursday?”

But there were secrets, too: “Jessie gave me a pecan. What does that mean? I am keeping it in my desk forever.”

By college I was a budding writer. When I skipped off to Paris in 1989, I poured my heart out. In French. Song lyrics, mostly. In my defense, I was madly in love with a singer, the winner of the French version of Star Search. And if you speak any French at all, you know pretty much every word rhymes with every other.

I hadn’t kept a diary again until our head of CoreNutrition Barbara Lincoln asked me to keep a food journal. All I had to do was download an app and type in everything I ate or drank for five days. No problem. It gave me something to do when the other mothers at pick-up were tapping importantly on their phones. I imagined them typing: “Tell Hil I’ve got Iowa covered,” while I banged out “2 T cold saag paneer, 1 apple, and a Dunkin Donuts flatbread.”

Five days straight of food journaling. And then Barbara asked for the password to my account. Insert vivid flashbacks here of my brother and his tiny pink fingernail, of the French musician who cheated on me with a Swedish flight attendant and then made fun of my songs. None of that matched the horror of allowing Barbara to see what I ate every day. While I was running a fitness studio.

And yet, somehow I swallowed my pride (and then journaled swallowing my pride – No saturated fat! No calories!) and gave Barbara the password. We are planning a meeting to go over my food choices in detail. But Barbara’s initial reactions already have made a big difference in my energy level. Bottom line is, I need to ask myself: “Am I eating healthy food that nourishes my body, or processed food filled with sodium and junk?”

In our first meeting, I discovered:

1. I was eating about half of what’s necessary to sustain life. Whaaaa? Yay! I get to eat more food! But wait. There’s more…
2. Barbara doesn’t want me to add just any calories. They have to be healthy. I’m not eating enough vegetables and fruit. “How can I wash, prepare, cut and bag a bunch of fruits and veggies when I feel like I’m shot out of a cannon every morning?” I ask. “Make time,” Barbara gently insists. “Five to seven servings a day.”
3. I eat too much saturated fat and not enough healthy fat. Sausage pizza and saag paneer are not great choices. Walnuts, salmon, olive oil and avocado get the green light.
4. My diet is high in sodium from processed foods. And I’m not drinking enough water. Add the Megaformer sweat factor. Hello, H2O!
5. I should trade some carbs for high-quality protein, about 75-90 mg a day. Bye-bye flatbreads.
6. No more half-n-half with my coffee. That one really hurt. But with whole or 2% milk I’ll get some protein and less saturated fat.
7. I need to nix the granola and go for 2% Greek yogurt with fresh fruit and raw nuts. Guess what? It’s delicious.

I’m not focused on losing weight, but I’m truly desperate to have more energy, sleep better at night and just feel better. I’ll keep you posted after we do a deep dive into my food choices. But just the process of keeping a food diary has been insightful. Saag paneer is not a food group. And I need to get chopping.
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The Mind-bending Process of Accepting Change

When I was about 8 years old, I watched a live television broadcast of a yogi bending a spoon using nothing but his powers of concentration. This was prime-time television in the 70s and if you missed out on it, I feel sorry for you.

Tuning out my obscenely annoying little brothers, I tried to bend a spoon using nothing but my mind. I was certain it would work. When the spoon stayed rigid, I focused instead on making the overhead light in my bedroom dance. The fact that I was not successful did nothing to dim my absolute belief that if I concentrated hard enough, I could bend anything to my will.

Years passed and life brought many joys and hardships. Still, there were times I would find myself staring into the belly of a spoon, bend, bend, bend. On bad first dates, while bankers and lawyers regaled me with tales of skiing heroics or the deal they just closed, I would turn my eyes to my coffee spoon and tune them out. Bend. You know you want to.

Thirty-eight years after I first began my quest to bend a spoon with my powers of concentration, it dawned on me: If I really wanted to bend a spoon, I could probably do it with my hands.

It’s human to get stuck in a notion and one place where lots of us seem to do it is with exercise. This is the time of year when we scoot to the gym like a line of lemmings to do more of the same thing that is no longer working for us. Why do we persist in believing that somehow, this January 1 will be different? Why did I spend four decades trying to bend a spoon with my brain?

Your body will respond to the training you give it, something fitness folks call Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand. This is why, after some period of time spent in any unchanged workout, you will come to a plateau. That’s when it’s time to mix it up. Try something new and challenge your body in a new way to see continued progress and change.

It sounds simple, but old habits are hard to break. Instead of a resolution to do more of what’s no longer working, add variation to your routine. Think about your long-term goals. I’m not saying that you want to hopscotch from one work-out to the next or blindly follow the latest trend. Instead, set goals. Be consistent. And when you feel like you’ve hit a wall with your workout, add a new element. If you’re a devoted Pilates fan, add swimming or cycling. If you’re a runner, cross-train and watch your body change.

Our first-time clients are always shocked at CoreMotion’s intensity. It doesn’t matter whether they are Ironman triathletes or returning to exercise after recovering from surgery or childbirth, they always leave shaking, sweating, cursing under their breath and humbled. And then, about four classes later, we are pushing that same client to change up their spring load, slow down their pace, perfect their form. Because the body quickly adapts to what we demand from it.

In January, we are going to be rolling out our HardCore classes. These ultra-efficient workouts are forty minutes long, with every move keyed to firing up almost 600 muscles in your body at once. Are they actually more difficult than a CoreMotion class? That’s hard to quantify. But certainly they will be different. And that’s what our clients need to keep improving and challenging themselves.

Take it from a woman who still, every once in awhile, looks at a spoon and thinks maybe, just maybe, this time will be different.

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It’s a #resolutionrevolution!

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I was never one to make a New Year’s resolution. Why wait until the New Year to feel guilty about my affinity for champagne and cupcakes? I have a long list of shortcomings and they pop up in my internal calendar regularly.

But I can also see the appeal of a resolution because it’s the grown-up version of a hall pass. The media loves to trumpet the myth of a 7-pound weight gain over the holidays. Imagine, it’s like we’re all strapping a Yorkshire terrier to our midsection and wearing it like a belt over the holidays.

Studies show this is false. For most Americans, average holiday weight gain is one pound. A lousy pound. So what’s the big deal?

The problem is, that pound represents half of what most Americans gain every year through adulthood. Two pounds a year, starting in college, and more if you are obese to begin with. And this is weight most of us never lose.

By our forties, most of us are at least twenty pounds heavier. By our sixties, we’ve gained at least forty pounds. Simple math, but scary. I’m not one to fixate on weight as a number, but steady weight gain in correlation with the constant of aging spells health problems: diabetes, high blood pressure, joint pain, cardiovascular disease, fatty liver disease, stroke, sleep apnea, and some cancers, just to name a few. It’s also a vicious cycle. It’s much easier to avoid weight gain in the first place than to lose the weight. And the more we weigh, the less we feel like doing the very things that can keep our weight in check, like exercising and eating healthily.

Which is why we’re calling for a resolution revolution!

To combat steady weight gain, we need to be conscious of our lifestyle choices. Believe me, I love a treat, whether it’s served in a champagne flute or a fluted muffin cup. But a treat is just that … a treat. A special little celebration. Not dinner.

So this holiday season, we are challenging you to commit to getting healthy now. Exercise regularly and be conscious of the food you put in your mouth. Have a strategy before you go to that cocktail party so that you aren’t mindlessly allowing your glass to be refilled and your hors d’oeuvre intake to reach the dizzying caloric heights to which those pigs-in-a-blanket and mini spanakopita can take you.

We’re here for you over the holidays. Our on-site nutritionist Barbara Lincoln can help you navigate the season in a balanced way that leaves plenty of room for celebration. Our CoreMotion classes not only offer a complete workout in fifty minutes to help you get the fittest, healthiest body of your life, but we’re a great stress reducer. Trust us, your family will survive without you for an hour, and you’ll return to them a happier, better parent, sibling, aunt, uncle or grandparent.

Look for our #resolutionrevolution deals. We’re committed to you. Now it’s your turn.

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From the Core

As we’re heading into the final weeks before CoreMotion Studio’s Grand Opening, I’m struck by the similarities between how I feel now and how I felt when I was about to give birth. Back then, my emotions swung wildly between heedless optimism, dread that life as I knew it would never be the same, fear of the physical challenge ahead, and, above everything else, an aching desire to finally set eyes on the creature that had sucked all the nutrients, life and energy from me for the past nine months.

Ditto CoreMotion.

Our studio is still raw around the edges, but improvements are moving at warp speed. Just as a baby starts to lose that red, wrinkled appearance in the last few weeks of development and plump out into something so cute you’ll want to suck its toes and keep it safe forever, so too is our studio turning into something beautiful and inviting. And like any new mother, I can’t wait to show our friends, family and neighbors what we’ve created!

Starting Columbus Day, October 12, my team and I will be offering free community classes. Check our website for available times and to sign up! Free classes will extend through Thursday, October 15. That afternoon, come by for a ribbon cutting ceremony and Opening Celebration! The festivities will kick off at 5 p.m. We’ll have nibbles, bubbly and demonstrations of our cutting-edge workout.

Starting Friday, October 16 we’ll be offering initial classes for just $18. We also have in-house nutrition services. See our website for great deals and packages to get you on your way to your healthiest, best body ever!

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