Fit Chic NYC’s Blog

Tale of the hot spin instructor and his loyal minions

What: Tight, short, black workout shorts that emphasize my muscular legs

Function: To grab the attention of the hot spin instructor at 6:30 in the morning

Form: Suffered immensely in position 2 and 3 due to constant readjustments to avoid creeping hemlines

Mission: Failed, with chaffed thighs

I walked into the new spin class on the first week wearing my usual attire, capris and an old college shirt – heck I rolled out of bed about 20 minutes before it started and I may still have had pillow marks on my face.

Then I saw him in his toned, muscular, already sweaty from his pre-class workout glory.

For teaching at 6:30am on Mondays he had quite a large group (mainly women of course). He led a hard workout and I sweat a lot, but to my dismay I wasn’t overly thrilled with his class or teaching method – he allowed no recovery and constantly instructed to increase the resistance to the point where I was lucky if I could push 10rpm. But that didn’t matter. Oh, I should have known better.

The second week is when I showed up in my boy shorts, and I’ll admit, my legs looked good! Too bad I was constantly pulling the shorts down when in the standing positions to prevent them from riding up entirely. Lesson learned.

The third week I reverted to my capris but decided to ditch my normal T-Shirt for a sexier scoop neck long tank that just-so-happened to show a little décolletage. Again, bad idea, I felt uncomfortable and over-exposed when we moved into position 3. Sadly on week four I slept in and missed spinning. Considering I wasn’t even a fan of the actual class I was a lot angrier than I should have been. And then my gifted month to Equniox (thanks to an innocent Tweet) was over as was my romance-from-afar with my spin instructor.

You don’t even need to live here to know that New York City’s dating scene can be rough (thank you Sex and the City), and I can see the appeal of meeting someone at the gym, at least you know you have at least one (healthy) common interest, but there are boundaries… right? (No meeting someone at a bar doesn’t mean you should endorse the fact that you both share a pastime of drinking!) Now I’m not saying I’d necessarily go there, but in a Jan. 2009 Time Out New York survey of personal trainers around the big apple, 16 percent admitted they’ve had sex with a client, 37 percent said no and 47 percent said “no comment.” Hmmmm no comment about sex? Sounds like someone didn’t want to fess up… but I won’t entirely jump the gun by drawing my own conclusion!

While I’ve never crossed a line with my trainers, nor have I crossed any lines with my clients when I worked as a trainer, I can see where one can fall down a slippery slope. So trainers, clients here’s your chance to come clean!


My Workout With Celeb Trainer Gunnar Peterson

He’s responsible for making some of Hollywood’s sexiest celebs like J-Lo, Matthew McConaughey and Kim Kardashian hot and sweaty – and into red carpet ready shape! And for one steamy NYC morning I had him all to myself… well almost. As one of the lucky few who won an invitation to FITNESS magazine and Silk soy milk’s tweet-up workout with trainer Gunnar Peterson, I (and about 12 other fitness enthusiasts) was put through a 10-exercise workout with one of Hollywood’s most sought after trainers.

Gunnar’s philosophy is to create an exercise program that keeps your heart rate elevated, your body guessing and builds strength. So what did we learn? Well some of the moves can be viewed HERE but the 10-exercise workout program was designed for busy people who can’t spend hours training, but want to have the body that looks like they do! Best way to do that – incorporate total body moves like a plank/push up or my favorite, the advancing side lunge with wood chop, so that you can make the most out of limited time.

Looking for some moves to include in your workout routine? Try the dumbbell squat that goes into an upright row. Always remember proper form when squatting – keep your chest up and don’t lean over your knees. Imagine that there is a string attached at your chest bone and someone is tugging it up as you squat down. Incorporate other upper body moves into the exercise by switching out the upright row for a push press or lateral shoulder raise.

While celebs may fear Gunnar’s workouts (expect to sweat!) I see why they love him! His tongue-in-cheek personality shined during the Q&A session that followed the workout. One girl who is trying to shed a few pounds asked if she should hold off on strength training (and focus on cardio) until she drops the weight? Gunnar’s response, “I see a lot of fat people on the treadmill.” Harsh? Maybe. Honest? Completely! But for those looking to lose weight, the reason why Gunnar stresses that workouts must include resistance/strength training is that it builds lean tissue which is active, and active muscles burn calories faster.

So what does Gunnar keep in his workout toolbox – the rowing machine and stairs! Simple but effective workouts. I like to use the rowing machine on Monday nights when I get to the gym after work and it’s so packed that there is a wait for any cardio machine because more often than not, the row machine is open. Gunnar suggests mixing it up when rowing by including an overhead row or underhand grip.

His other favorite – stairs! He claims they are another underused component in an exercise program, especially considering you don’t even need a gym to use them … and I agree, check out the earlier post I wrote about stair climbing as a great budget workout! Keep your heart rate up and your body challenged by speed intervals, climbing two stairs at a time or even climbing climb sideways.

And his advice if you’re in the market to hire a trainer – the best workout program is one that keeps you challenged and makes you want to come back. Being pushed to the point you want to throw up, not being able to walk the next day or hating yourself and your trainer isn’t motivation to come back for another session.

The only piece of equipment we used during our morning workout with Gunnar was a set of light dumbbells (I used 8lbs.) and a yoga mat. So even if you can’t afford a gym or trainer, Gunnar proves you can still get a body like Hollywood’s hottest celebs!

Embarrassed At The Gym

I’m almost two weeks into my burpee challenge and while I’m not in the lead, I’m proud to say that I’m the most improved and already increased my rpm! But my biggest challenge in participating – overcoming my fear of performing.

What?! Yep, it’s not the thought of being completely and utterly winded in a minute flat, it’s my self-consciousness in performing the exercise. Next time you go to the gym, look around; you don’t really see people throwing themselves onto the ground, doing a push-up and jumping back up again very often; let alone a female breaking a sweat. Hence my dilemma. While I’m proud of my strength I find myself wandering around the gym for a reclusive area, out most gym-goers’ view to perform my burpees. Why? I’m embarrassed.

When I’m at a CrossFit box (CrossFit lingo alert “box” is what you typically call their place of operation/studio) I have no problem dropping chest to deck and whipping out a minute of burpees. No stares, no questions. Rather when I get winded I’ll hear cheers of encouragement to push harder, better, faster stronger! But throw down burpees at a globo gym (CrossFit lingo, any chain/luxury gym) all you get is weird stares and maybe an off-hand comment or two.

And perform a burpee in my apartment?! Out of the question! Besides the limited space that comes in living in a New York apartment with three other girls, I’d prefer not to have their looks of bewilderment or complaints from the downstairs apartment about constant thudding.

This isn’t an isolated occurrence either. I find myself thanking the gym G*Ds that I didn’t join the Equinox in my building when I was looking for a new gym membership because now half of my office belongs. When I workout, I workout – I use weights and I do dead lifts, dips and attempted pull-ups. I get sweaty. And I don’t want my coworkers who use the dumbbells without breaking a sweat see me in such a vulnerable state. Geez, when I picked up a kettlebell at a globo gym, a trainer came over to me to tell me how impressed he was with the weight I was using and my form… thanks, but please let me workout in peace!

In a great article on Gubernatrix, the author said, “When going all-out in an intense circuit you know you are going to look a bit crazy. This is all very well if you are surrounded by people doing the same thing. But if you are the only one, it can feel very exposed.

This also applies to any women who regularly find that they are the only female in the gym. Guys will look, they can’t help it. But it can be hard to block this out and just get on with your workout. It’s not as if we are bouncing along at 5 miles an hour on the treadmill with not a hair out of place. We’re under the bar pushing bodyweight or more and it doesn’t always look pretty!”

Amen sister!

Are You Intimidated by the Gym?

Last night I was at a wine tasting event with a bunch of my girlfriends and everyone seemed to be talking about three things – wine (duh!), summer beach house shares and FITNESS! It was my ideal night!

But a lot of the girls talked about being scared of the gym. Well, not scared, but timid to weight train because of the their lack of knowledge of exercises, proper form and how to set up and use the machine. And apparently this is a common fear: Check out this post from Fit Sugar about intimidating gym equipment.

Trust me, I understand how the weight and circuit room can be intimidating if you don’t know what you’re doing. Not only do you need to know which exercises target which muscles, but you need to understand form, proper settings and alignment (if you’re on a machine), how many repetitions, how heavy of weight etc.. But women of the world take control of your workouts!

First, understand that proper training incorporates cardiovascular, flexibility and strength training. And ‘unfamiliarity with’ is a lame excuse to ignore any of the components. While I would love to take all my friends to the gym and explain everything myself (I can’t help it, it’s the trainer in me), with everyone’s hectic schedules and different gym memberships, matters become a bit complicated. So what’s a girl to do – get educated!

No one is born with the knowledge of how to use the machines, everyone had to start somewhere. Maybe you can’t afford to hire a personal trainer these days, but if you’re unfamiliar with how to work a certain machine, ask the trainers for help. Catch them between sessions and ask them to explain an exercise or how to set up a machine. Use them as your resource.

Other options?  Watch others. This can be risky since not everyone knows what they are doing, but look at exercisers who seem competent, it will at least give you a starting point. Also, try to peak a glimpse at someone’s training session and try to emulate their position, posture and form on your own. Read up. There are plenty of weight training resources out there in both print and online. Just as you learn follow a recipe when you cook, follow instructions for equipment when you train. I see plenty of people (girls and guys!) bring books, manuals and logs to the gym. But remember safety first, when you’re first starting out, use lighter weights until you nail down the technique.

I’d love to know, are there machines that you shy away from? Or what have you done to overcome your fear?

Is your personal trainer good enough?
March 2, 2009, 9:22 AM
Filed under: Personal trainer, Workout tips | Tags: , , , ,

There are a lot of different reasons why people hire trainers. Some fitness newbies don’t know where to begin or what proper form is, other clients want to learn to incorporate new fitness pieces such as the stability ball or kettlebell into their workout and others want to train for a sport. But whatever your reason, have you ever had a session with a personal trainer and left thinking why did you even bother?  There’s a big difference between paying someone to show you what you already know and having someone really work with you to help accomplish your fitness goals; and that distinction begins with proper accrediation and certification.

Nothing bothers me more then when I’m at the gym and I see a personal trainer instructing their client improperly or not paying close enough attention to their form – it makes me cringe; not to mention the fact it gives personal trainers a bad reputation! And as much as it pains me to say this, a lot of trainers just aren’t qualified. Being toned and muscular does not make you qualified! Nor does attending weekend course suddenly make you an expert.

To be a personal trainer, the job qualifications SHOULD begin with certification. Sadly, a lot of personal trainers that are currently working with clients are only in the process of studying for certification or are certified by a company who isn’t accredited! So, note to readers, when hiring a personal trainer, ask them about their credentials – when they became certified and most importantly, through which program? The International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) has recently recommended that club owners only hire personal trainers with certifications from programs who have been accredited through third party agencies such as the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). IHRSA also notes that sometimes a pertinent education and degree may act as a substitute for certification. For a list of accredited personal training certifications, click here.

Why is it important for a trainer to have proper certification? When instructed through these programs, trainers will gain an understanding of kinesiology and body mechanics including the proper way to train for specific goals. Realize that there are also separate certifications for trainers who work with special populations (children, elderly, disabled). I, for example, am a certified personal trainer through the American College of Sports Medicine, one of the top recognized programs in the fitness and medicial community. (However, I’m currently concentrating on my career in the magazine publishing industry and have put personal training on the back burner. But I still make fitness a priority in my life and am constantly at the gym or trying other fitness adventures.)

So proper certification is the foundation, but what makes a personal trainer great? Well they obviously need to have a foundation of the muscular and skeletal system, understand how the body moves, how muscle is built etc. – they need to be fitness experts. They also need to have strong communication and interpersonal skills – they need to be motivators. And finally, at large chain gyms, personal trainers need to be able to work the floor and bring in clients – they need to be sales persons.

Bottom line, when hiring personal trainer, ask about their background, look for the right experience and credentials. And during training, feel free to challenge them. If they are showing you an exercise or form that doesn’t make sense to you, always ASK why! Even a properly certified trainer isn’t an all-seeing, all-knowing fitness guru. YOU know your body best.


Update: I just found this great article on Women’s Health magazine online that talks about the dangers of hiring unqualified trainers!