Jul 252016

How did treadmills and weight machines become the gold standard of fitness? Why have some of us turned our backs on the mirrors and gleaming devices of the traditional gym? What is the appeal of the stripped-down, functional approach to fitness that ís currently on the rise? In this captivating narrative, Daniel Kunitz sets out on a journey through history to answer these questions and more.

Lift cover

I was asked to read and review the book LIFT by Daniel Kunitz. The book sounded really interesting to me because I was curious about the changing culture of fitness.

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I remember growing up in the 1980s, my mom was really into jazzercise and aerobics. She was even a teacher for a long time. I used to go to the classes with her (not to participate but to go to the daycare) and I’d watch all these moms doing step aerobics in their leotards with their big hair and your typical 80’s music. 🙂 I think a lot of my readers probably remember that time!

The author goes through the history of exercise–Roman times, event ancient Chinese history. He also discussed his own transformation through exercise.

One morning the author was sick and hungover after a rough night of partying when he had a realization. “It dawned on me that the state of your body isn’t something you either choose to care about or leave be, for your body never just is–it is always either decaying or getting stronger. Not choosing is still a choice. [pg 7]”

Daniel Kunitz AP

The 70’s happened and “people began to shake off the smoking-drinking-drugging hangover of the previous era in unprecedented numbers by joining in the new fad for jogging. Twenty years later I did the same. Of course, by that time some things had changed. The terminology, for: what was once a mellow jog became running. [pg 8]”

The author then realized that smoking and running didn’t really go well together and he quit smoking.

“Running is monostructural: it improves your endurance but not your strength, balance, explosiveness, or flexibility. It might make you skinny, but it won’t produce muscles. [pg 10]”

I found that interesting and very true. In my own experience I was very much a cardio-junkie. I ran, I did the elliptical, I biked, I swam and did the stairmaster. I LOATHED weight lifting. It was slow, it was boring, I didn’t see the calorie burn I saw while doing cardio. Then I started getting injuries and I realized that what I was doing wasn’t working.

“Over time, as I noticed that even those who showed up each day to the gym didn’t make any visible improvements. I had to wonder if this was due to their perfunctory attitudes or the cause of them. [pg 12]”

How true is that statement?? It is very true for me! Being a gym rat I see the same people at the gym when I go and they all look pretty much the same. There is one guy that I saw on a regular basis and then I took a break from the gym a few weeks before my baby was born, then about 6 weeks off postpartum–I came back to the gym and saw that guy and did a double take. He was HUGE. His muscles had quadrupled! I was shocked. I don’t know what he did but he is the only one that comes to mind that made a very real difference in his body.

It’s easy to go to the gym and get into ruts and do the same thing every time, and your body doesn’t change or improve. The author talks a lot about the “new” crossfit phenomenon and the concept of FUNCTIONAL fitness–which I wholeheartedly agree is the better way to work out.

“I’d never seen anybody make a bicep-curling motion outside of the gym. [pg 13]”

Re-thinking the way we do fitness, the way we lift weights is making changes. I learned that going to the Warrior Room. I became SO much stronger MUCH faster doing functional things like flipping tires, carrying sandbags, swinging kettlebells, etc, than I EVER did lifting weights at the gym.

“So why did weight machines continue to flourish in gyms? Aside from the gleam of technological novelty, they offer the untaught user a way to lift. Properly training with free weights requires some skill, while the Olympic lifts–the snatch and clean and jerk–are highly technical, demanding extensive, long-term coaching to master. It wasn’t until quite recently, with CrossFit, that significant numbers of people came to grasp the importance of skill-based work. [pg 248]”

I admit, I often use the weight machines at gym. When I first started getting into weight lifting I did the machines because I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t have the skill set yet. Then having some training sessions with a personal trainer and eventually joining The Warrior Room, I learned those skills and got better at free weights and realized it was more FUN using kettlebells and free weights. No wonder I thought weight lifting was boring–sitting in a machine and going through the motions IS boring!

“By removing skill, machines essentially turn strength training into a low intensity activity: you might look better by using them but you’re not challenging who you are today to become a better version tomorrow. [pg 248]”

I never thought of the weight machines like that, but it makes perfect sense to me. You sure don’t get your heart pumping sitting in a weight machine and passively pushing, not like you do with dramatic movements like kettlebell swings!

“But what’s the point? To what end do we train and eat right and get enough sleep and learn new physical techniques and then relax by watching other people doing these things? [pg 39]”

It was really interesting reading about the history of exercise and weight lifting.

“Weightlifting refers specifically to the sport of shifting loads from the ground to overhead. Although it was included in the first Olympics in 1896 as a field event, it was excluded from the 1900, 1908, and 1912 games. It returned as its own event at the 1920 Olympics and over the course of that decade evolved into something like the sport we know today. Weightlifting was codified in 1928 as three lifts: the snatch (pulling the bar in a single motion from the ground to overheard), the clean and press, and the clean and jerk (cleaning means hoisting the bar to the shoulders, where the athlete can either press it overheard or jerk it, using the leg to provide momentum). [pg 163]”

This book is perfect for the reader that likes history and is interested in reading about the evolution of fitness. It was fascinating reading about the different trends and how things changed–and how ideas and values changed.

I personally would have liked more personal anecdotes from the author’s journey from unhealthy to fit, because what he did share was interesting and I could relate to a lot of it. The book felt more history-heavy than personal. I think there could have been more of a balance between the two. If you’d like to read this book, check it out here:

HarperCollins | Amazon Barnes & Noble

Happy reading!

May 042016

I recently read an article that I wanted to share with you guys. Here is the link: I Stopped Exercising For One Year: Here’s What Happened. I read the article and found myself nodding and saying “yes!” to a lot of stuff in the article. It was well-written and I think a lot of people can relate to it. I know I could.

When I first started losing weight I had to be super diligent–like almost obsessive. I was counting my calories and I had to be strict. I had over 100 pounds to lose and I felt weak–I didn’t think it would work or “stick” and so I was diligent about staying within my calorie range each day. That meant denying myself a lot of stuff.

During my exercise mania days, I ate “clean” most of the time, which means, I stripped every bit of fun out of the experience of eating. Every day I ate grilled whatchamadingle with a side of steamed doojawockey. I removed sugar, alcohol and complex carbs out of my diet, along with the will to live.

Yes yes and yes. I stopped drinking all alcohol for the year and a half it took to lose the weight. I just didn’t need the calories. I stopped drinking all of my calories, which was a smart move on my part. But did that mean I stopped doing fun things like going out with friends to happy hour? Yep, it sure did. I didn’t trust myself in the beginning to make good choices — with food or alcohol. In those early days of trying to lose weight I didn’t think I could have just one drink and I knew I wouldn’t be able to order a salad or something and skip the happy hour treats like deep fried foods and fatty treats. You know how it goes…having fun out with friends, have a cocktail, someone orders some fatty food for the table and you vow to have just one bite but then…things get away from you and suddenly you’ve completely tanked your calories for the day. So I just didn’t go out. It sucked.


Eventually I felt more confident and trusted myself and I started going out again. I found that I could make better choices and I COULD limit myself to one drink and one happy hour treat instead of completely derailing my weight loss goals.

Once I reached my goal weight I was able to loosen the reigns a little bit. I didn’t stop doing what worked but I did allow myself to have treats here and there. Doing things in MODERATION worked so much better for me. Instead of the early days of weight loss where I was afraid of the slippery slope one treat or one drink could do to my diet, I enjoyed more things and enjoyed life. Instead of feeling restricted, I ate whatever I wanted in moderation and it worked for a really long time–years in fact.

After all, life is supposed to be fun–good food enjoyed with people you love.

Something that disappointed me about the article was that the author quit the gym and then proceeded to just eat junk food. As she said–the dam burst. She gained weight and gave in to all the junk. On some level I can understand that but I was hoping that she’d say she quit the gym and quit being obsessed with food and … somehow found a balance.

The article went on to talk about exercising a lot:

I lifted weights. I trained with kettle bells. I climbed a zillion steps to nowhere on the stairmaster. I yoga’d and spun and kick boxed. I set impractical and ludicrous fitness goals, like being able to do 20 unassisted pull ups.

There were other downsides to being an exercise devotee. Going to the gym was time-consuming. Aside from exercising, there’s also getting changed, traveling to and from the gym, showering afterwards – it took up hours of my day. I put more energy into my relationship with exercise than I did with a living human being.

Again, I could relate 100%. Like with food, I went through phases of being obsessed with it. In the early days I did overexercise. I didn’t take rest days like I should and that lead to burnout, overuse injuries and exhaustion. I learned my lesson and incorporated mandatory 2 rest days a week. I’m glad I learned that lesson early on in my “career” as a gym rat because it’s necessary. Rest days are good. For the mind and the body.

Even with rest days incorporated in my schedule, working out 5 days a week would take it’s toll once in awhile. It made it hard to do fun things after work because I “had to go to the gym.” It really limited my schedule. I wish it didn’t. It was frustrating how much effort it took. Like the author of the article said, it wasn’t just the workout, it was the travel time, changing clothes, showering afterward. For me that was about 90 minutes total of my day and that meant less time for other things.

Things that helped alleviate that in my life? When I used to run during my lunch hour at work. I loved that. It gave me so much freedom. I was able to break up the work day, get out of the office, burn off stress, get my workout done and out of the way and then I had my evenings free! To do STUFF! To have fun! See friends! Go on dates with Michael. The other thing that helped was biking to work. Again, that freed up my evenings immensely.


Then the author said she woke up from the fog of not working out, eating junk and gaining weight and she DID find a balance that worked. Instead of hardcore everything, she found moderation.

I’ve had to reframe my whole idea of myself. My identity was wrapped around being very skinny, and I’ve had to give that up.

Now that I’m a mom I’m reevaluating my life. I think that’s why this article spoke to me so strongly. Priorities have changed in my life, obviously.


When I was pregnant, that last month or two I started reducing my workout schedule. Instead of five days a week I went down to four. Then it was three. I was just tired, my body was starting to hurt, and I needed a break. I thought it would be a slippery slope for me–that I’d just stop exercising, that I’d fall off the horse–but I didn’t. I just took a little bit of time for myself. The world DID NOT END. It was ok.

Now that I’m easing back into the fit life postpartum, I’m thinking about the future and what I want it to look like. I know once I go back to work full time and Logan is in daycare, the last thing I’m going to want to do is drop him off at home every night and then go to the gym for an hour. I don’t want to miss these moments with my son. I don’t want to waste what tiny time I have in the evenings with Logan by leaving. I just don’t.

At the same time, I know I want to keep active, stay fit and healthy and have some ME time, too. So it’s about finding balance.

I’m already thinking about what the future might look like.

Biking to work after dropping him off at daycare once or twice a week will be a good option when the weather is nice. It means I can get my workout done and then have the whole evening at home with my family.

Running at lunch is something I’ve missed a lot! I would love to get back to that.

The gym at work is also an option. Is it ideal? No, but it’s something I can do during my lunch hour in a pinch, especially if the weather is crappy.

Working out on the weekends is still ok because Michael can be with Logan and honestly if we can find things to do together as a family that would be even better — like hiking as a family! That’s something I am really looking forward to.

Running with Logan once he’s old enough will be great.

The Warrior Room is another option, too, because they have childcare options if I need it. We also have kettlebells at home, so I can always do that if I can’t make it to the gym (or if there are childcare issues).

And maybe it’s ok to drop my schedule down to 3 or 4 days a week instead of going back to 5.

Basically what I’m saying is that my workout routine/schedule will look different in the future, but I think it is still doable. I don’t think I have to sacrifice me time, fitness and time with family as much as I thought. I just think it will take more planning and will definitely take ME to learn how to be more flexible and let somethings go if necessary. Maybe it’s doing quick sprints in the neighborhood instead of long runs on the weekend, for example.

Finding balance in life is hard, even without kids. You want to be able to enjoy the things you love to do (even if that includes sleeping in on a Saturday morning instead of getting up early for a run!) but still be fit, right? There’s GOT to be a way!

So what about you? Especially if you have small kids/babies, how did you find that balance and what worked for you? What did you think of this article?