Support Eating Disorder Awareness and the Boston NEDA Walk

You may have seen my post yesterday reviewing the book The Perfection Myth as part of National Eating Disorders Awareness week, which is February 22-28.

As I mentioned then, and in the past, I struggled with bulimia and disordered eating beginning in high school and extending in various iterations in college. My disordered eating did not look the way you might expect based on TV shows, movies, and what we are taught in health class.

For that reason raising awareness about disordered eating is very important to me. This year I decided to take that passion a step further and joined the Boston National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) Walk with my friend and fellow blogger Caitlin.

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The walk is on April 26th and in the meantime I am fundraising for the organization. With 60 days until the walk I have raised $123 toward my goal of $300. I would love your support in reaching (and hopefully surpassing) that goal!

Check out my personal page to read my story, learn more about NEDA, and support me in the walk if you’re able. No donation is too small.

Thank you in advance and please feel free to reach out if you have questions about the organization. If you are struggling with an eating disorder, there are many resources on NEDA’s website to find help.

xoxo,
Becki

The Perfection Myth {Review}

You may have already seen on another blog or website that this week is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. As someone with a history of disordered eating, bringing awareness to the many different ways it can look is very important to me.

Just as important as identifying disordered eating is to recognize that it can come about in a lot of different ways. For many, disordered eating stems from a need for perfection, even if perfection is ill-undefined.

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to read an advance copy of The Perfection Myth: How to Break Free From the Dogmatic Chains of Health and Dietingby Madelyn Moon, which is available on Amazon (today the Kindle version is just 99 cents).

I was particularly interested in reading this book from the perspective of both a fitness professional with a master’s degree in mental health counseling and as someone who has dealt with these issues herself.

This book is a quick read at less than 100 pages, making it great for a commute. It’s direct, honest, and utilizes a lot of the author’s own experiences to highlight why a pursuit of perfection can be a detrimental one.

Much of what I read could apply to several of my clients. It was great to read what helped the author break free from her own pursuit of perfection because different things work for different people.

That said, I did feel like there was a bit of generalization that might not apply to every person who is dealing with disordered eating or a strict pursuit of the perfect body. In fact, much of what the author discussed didn’t apply to me, despite my own history.

Even still I found great value in what the book had to say about the media, rules we place on our eating, and generally allowing other people’s experiences to shape ours. She encourages readers to stop the comparison game and stop putting so much emphasis on obtaining self-confidence from how we look, instead allowing our inner confidence to reveal the sexiness and beauty we all possess.

My only real complaint with the book, if it can even be called that, is that despite encouraging readers to cast off the dogmatic chains of health and dieting, there are a lot of expectations and dos and don’ts for readers.

One of my favorite sayings is “Don’t should yourself.” Essentially it means that when we qualify an experience or behavior as something we should do, we are accepting someone else’s notions of what is best for us. Yes, I realize that the saying in itself is someone else’s notions, but you get the idea.

Often in the book readers are told to do this or don’t do that. I agree that there are aspects of society and the pursuit of perfection that are detrimental and that we would perhaps be better off casting away, but by making that decision for readers rather than allowing them to make it for themselves, I’m afraid some of the message is lost. Does the book instead just provide yet another expectation for a different type of perfection?

What is absolutely clear is that the book made me think about my own rules and expectations for myself and clients. It challenged some of my beliefs and strengthened others.

Overall I enjoyed the book and can envision recommending it to clients who are struggling with disordered eating, trying to lose weight, or who are otherwise caught up in others’ expectations of them.

Check it out on Amazon and decide for yourself. I’d love to hear what you think!

xoxo,
Becki

Winter Workout: Shoveling Snow

If you’ve had a month like Boston, you’ve done your fair share of snow shoveling. With Boston’s latest storm we’ve had something like 6 feet or so of snow in just 17 days. We’ve far exceeded our average for the season and there are more storms on the way.

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With all this snow, several of my clients have had to reschedule their training sessions. Understandable given the state of public transportation in Boston these past few weeks, but still unfortunate. What a lot of them have said though is that they’re getting their exercise by shoveling their driveways and digging out their cars.

So I decided to see just how many calories I would burn shoveling myself out after this most recent storm.

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Keep in mind that everyone’s calorie burn is a little different based on your weight, how hard you’re working, and your base metabolism, but this will give you an idea of whether shoveling snow really serves as a workout replacement this winter. I used my Garmin heart rate monitor to track my calorie burn.

Over the course of an hour and a half yesterday, I helped Joe shovel the sidewalk before moving to digging out my car.

This was no small feat given I couldn’t even see the car when I started. In fact, about 10 minutes in I started to doubt that I was working on my car at all until I got enough snow removed to verify the color.

With each shovel full of snow, I had to find a place to put it. When your city has received this much snow, there isn’t exactly much you can do with the excess. That meant that each shovel full had to be walked to the nearest snow bank and heaved to the top. We’re talking somewhere between 7-8 feet high.

Let’s just say my legs got a workout from assisting my arms with those heaves (score 1 for push presses).

So after an hour and a half, how many calories had I burned?

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In 96 minutes I burned 623 calories!

That’s admittedly fewer calories than if I’d gone for a run for 96 minutes, but certainly not too shabby at almost 6.5 calories per minute.

So don’t beat yourself up too much if you miss a workout or two this winter. Just don’t use shoveling as an excuse to eat and drink whatever you’d like. After all, the sun will come back out eventually. We can’t hide under puffy jackets forever. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

xoxo,
Becki

The Importance of Rest Days

As we move closer and closer toward warm weather (at least I hope), a lot of people start to think about their beach bodies and wanting to look fit and trim in their swimsuits. I’ve noticed that a lot of times this leads to intense exercise regimens that are unsustainable long-term. Today I want to talk about an important part of sustaining an exercise routine: rest days.

It’s pretty indisputable at this point that regular exercise is important for both mental and physical health. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio respiratory exercise per week (either through 30-60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five days per week or 20-60 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise three days per week) and train each major muscle group with resistance training two to three times per week.

If that’s the baseline recommendation then more is better, right? Not always.

Think about the way that exercise impacts our bodies – how it makes us stronger, faster, and more physically fit. As strong as we may feel during our workouts, that’s not the point at which the workout is actually paying off. The increase in strength, endurance, and physical fitness comes afterward during the recovery time.

When we engage in exercise, whether it is cardiovascular or strength training, we put strain on our muscles, tendons, and joints. We push these body parts to their limits, actually breaking them down with each workout. During rest and recovery time, our bodies release the appropriate enzymes to rebuild and strengthen these body parts. This is how we improve.

If we continually work out without taking time off, the body is never able to repair itself so our muscles are never able to rebuild what we have broken down during our workout. Instead of getting stronger over time, this can actually make us weaker.

This is why high level athletes have rest time built in to their routines, either in the form of taking time off completely for a bit in the off-season or switching to low impact cross training like pilates or yoga.

You may be thinking that this only applies to hard sessions of strength training and not to cardiovascular exercise such as running and cycling. With the increasing popularity of run streaks (running every day without fail for a period of time) it’s easy to think rest days for cardiovascular training are not necessary. For those I would remind you that your heart is a muscle too and intense training can affect it the same way intense strength training affects your major muscle groups. Taking time off enables your heart to recover and rebuild, getting stronger over time.

Rest days are also key in injury and illness prevention. Although regular exercise can boost our immune systems in the long-term, not taking time for rest and recovery can have the opposite effect. Similar to the way we gain our strength and endurance in the recovery period after exercise, that is also when our immune systems get stronger. Our bodies take a beating when we exercise and our immune system kicks in to help repair our bodies. By exercising at a high intensity for a long period of time, our immune systems can run out of steam leaving us vulnerable to illness.

All this isn’t to say that you should sit on the couch and do nothing on your rest days. Taking a walk or doing yoga on your rest day is a great option for many people. The less fit you are, the more time your body will generally need to recover. Think low intensity and low stress on your body to help your muscles, joints, and tendons repair themselves. After all, the last thing you want to do is undermine all your hard work.

How often do you take rest days?

xoxo,
Becki

Game Changing Snacks: Chicken Two Ways with Blue Diamond Almonds

I was provided with two flavors of Blue Diamond almonds for the purposes of creating the recipes for this post. I was not compensated in any other way. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

It’s almost time for the Big Game, you guys! As a New England transplant of almost 10 years, you know I’m excited (I’m banning any talk of deflate-gate here and now, haha).

If you’re like me, you’ll probably be cooking something for the Big Game, whether you’re watching it at home or going to someone else’s party. That means if you haven’t done it yet, you’ll need to choose a recipe and get your shopping done in the next couple of days.

As someone with dietary restrictions, parties can be tough. Sometimes people don’t even know what your dietary restriction means (no, potatoes don’t have gluten — yes, I’m sure) and sometimes you don’t even want to bring it up. Whatever the case, bringing your own food can be the safest bet even if your only restriction (even though I hate using that word here) is that you’re trying to eat healthier than your friends.

So when Blue Diamond offered to send me two flavors of almonds to use in the creation of some Game Changing Snacks, I was excited by the challenge. I was even more excited when I opened my package and found two bold, amazing flavors: Smokehouse and Wasabi & Soy Sauce.

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I knew right away based on the flavor profiles alone that I wanted to do something with beer and the Smokehouse almonds and something with other Asian flavors to accompany the Wasabi & Soy Sauce almonds. After some fruitful time in the kitchen, I present to you Gluten-Free Beer Battered Smokehouse Chicken Tenders and Wasabi Soy Pulled Chicken with Greek Yogurt & Sriracha Sauce. The recipes below are intentionally vague on the amount of ingredients. The directions will indicate ratios of ingredients to allow you to size up or down depending on the size of your party.

Gluten-Free Beer Battered Smokehouse Chicken Tenders

That’s a mouthful, huh? Let me assure you, it’s worth it. These chicken tenders come out moist on the inside and crispy on the outside and the flavors of both the beer and smokehouse almonds really come through. Plus they’re baked so you’re left with the healthy fats from the almonds without all the added grease from frying.

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Ingredients:

Boneless, skinless chicken breast (cut into strips)
Blue Diamond Smokehouse almonds
Gluten free beer of choice
Plain cornmeal
Egg

That’s it! Easy, right?

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and spray lightly with cooking spray. Place almonds into a blender or food processor (I used my Ninja) and pulse until powdery. You’ll need approximately 4 oz of almonds for every 10 tenders you plan to make. Avoid blending too long, or you may end up with Smokehouse almond butter, which admittedly wouldn’t be terrible just not best for this recipe.

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In a small bowl, combine egg and beer (about 1/2c. of beer for each egg used) and beat briefly. Add just enough cornmeal to thicken slightly.

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Place ground almonds in a separate bowl and assemble chicken tenders by soaking in beer and egg wash, then coating with almonds.

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Repeat until all tenders are coated and placed on prepared cookie sheet.

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Bake for 15-20 minutes until crispy. Remove from oven and allow to rest so the coating crisps up nicely and adheres to the chicken.

What you’re left with are deliciously smoky chicken tenders that are perfectly moist on the inside. They’re great on their own or you can serve them with a side of your favorite barbecue sauce.

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Wasabi Soy Pulled Chicken with Greek Yogurt & Sriracha Sauce

If Asian flavors are more your thing on game day, you’ll love this pulled chicken that can be served in lettuce wraps, on tacos or on top of your favorite salad. The chicken itself gets a nice kick fro the Wasabi & Soy almonds while the optional sauce kicks up the flavors and heat to rival your buddy’s greasy, fried buffalo wings.

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Ingredients:

Boneless, skinless chicken breast
Blue Diamond Wasabi & Soy almonds
Fresh lemon
Ground ginger
Plain Greek yogurt
Sriracha sauce

Directions:

In a medium saucepan, add enough water to cover chicken. To the water add chicken, a large handful of almonds for every 2 chicken breasts, the juice of half a lemon per chicken breast, and approximately 1 Tbsp. of ground ginger per chicken breast.

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Bring water to a boil and poach chicken for 10-15 minutes or until done (more time may be necessary for more chicken). Remove from heat and allow chicken to cool on a plate before shredding. You can use two forks to shred the chicken, but I prefer using my hands to pull it apart.

Grind another small handful of almonds in your blender or food processor, leaving some larger pieces. Top chicken with these almonds and another squeeze of fresh lemon juice and allow flavors to continue to marry as you make your sauce.

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For the sauce (which is the easiest in the world): combine plain Greek yogurt with sriracha and ground ginger to taste. The chicken will already have the kick of wasabi from the almonds, so use your best judgment with the amount of sriracha and ginger you add to your sauce.

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Serve with tacos or over a salad for a heartier snack or on bite-sized pieces of lettuce for quick finger food.

That’s it! Two recipes, healthy and delicious, easy peasy. With minimal ingredients and no frying, these snacks are certainly a Game Changer!

What are your favorite game day snacks? 

xoxo,
Becki

This post is sponsored by Blue Diamond Almonds. For more Game Changing Snacks, visit Blue Diamond Almonds on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Blizzard Workout 2015

Good morning, everyone! How many of you are being impacted by the blizzard that is pummeling the East Coast?

Here in Boston we’ve had a travel ban since midnight and it’s like a ghost town out there. It’s hard to tell just how much snow we have so far because the wind is doing such a great job of redistribution.

What I can tell is that I won’t be going anywhere today except to shovel. That means I need an at-home workout to get me through.

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If you don’t have a bike at home, substitute another type of cardio (either on another piece of equipment or by mixing up different kinds of bodyweight exercises such as mountain climbers and jumping jacks). The important thing here is getting your heart rate up while doing full body strength training.

What’s your favorite way to work out when you can’t go outside?

xoxo,
Becki

A Birthday Gift to Myself

Today at 8:10pm I will officially turn 28 years old. Being in my hometown with my family on my birthday for the first time in 10 years has been an amazing experience. Let’s be honest, a Pats win to send them to the Super Bowl was quite the icing on the birthday cake even though it happened the day before my birthday.

Each year as my birthday nears, I think about what I’ve accomplished in the previous year and what I want to accomplish moving forward. This year I took a slightly different approach. Sure, I have goals I want to accomplish in the coming year, but this birthday was about something different. This birthday was about going back and accomplishing something I could never do before.

When I was in middle school there was a trail that we had to run during P.E. (gym class). This trail, dubbed the Nature Trail, was longer than the track. In fact, it’s about a mile around and as its name suggests is more like trail running. Most of us despised the Nature Trail. Each day as we headed into P.E. I hoped to myself that it wasn’t a Nature Trail day.

In case you’re a new reader, you should know that I haven’t always loved fitness and running. In fact, I was overweight my entire life and didn’t run my first mile until 2010. Yes, that means that in all the time I had to “run” the Nature Trail, I never actually accomplished it. This also meant that my first ever “B” (I was always an A student) was in middle school P.E. because I couldn’t complete the Nature Trail.

While I’ve now completed two marathons and several shorter races, I still felt like I had something to prove. In some ways there was more of a mental block on the Nature Trail than a physical block. Still, when I returned to my hometown this week and realized the weather was going to be absolutely beautiful, I knew there was something I just had to do.

 

Yesterday Joe and I drove out to my old middle school so that I could conquer the Nature Trail once and for all.

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When we pulled into the middle school and I looked out at the Nature Trail, which extends up and around the track, then around both the softball and baseball fields before circling back to the basketball courts and parking lot, I was a little intimidated. It sounds silly with all my running accomplishments, but all those experiences of stopping after just getting partway up the first hill came flashing back.

Still, I resolved to finish it, one way or another.

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Joe took my photo beforehand and agreed to run along with me, taking photos on my phone to capture the experience. As we started up that first hill, I was a little ambitious in my speed and found myself a little out of breath. Of course this got in my head a little bit and made me consider, if just for a split second, abandoning the run. I snapped out of that quickly as I thought of all the times I had given up and how sweet it would feel to finally beat that path.

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As we came over the hill and started our descent toward the baseball and softball fields, I picked up the speed again.

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As we rounded the fence of the baseball field I thought back to a specific memory in which I was with a friend and we were walking the last part of the trail because we couldn’t even try to run anymore. I remember how embarrassed I felt that it had taken us so long to get that far around the trail and that we wouldn’t have much time left in the class period once we met with our teacher and he recorded our times.

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I kicked it up for the final run across the basketball courts and toward the gate that led to the parking lot.

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As I passed through it I came to a walk then a stop before turning to face Joe. Without saying a word I threw my hands up in the air, he took a photo, and we got in the car and drove away.

Just like that I conquered the Nature Trail and there was nothing more to say. Joe already knew how much it meant to me and how much of an accomplishment it was for me.

In middle school I was someone who hated exercise unless I was playing some sort of sport that involved some element of standing still (I played softball for years and only ran when I needed to get on base). I hated that I couldn’t run for more than a few seconds and that first B haunted me for years.

Now I’m someone who truly enjoys exercise because of the way it makes me feel when I’m finished. Yesterday when I finished that run around the Nature Trail, I felt strong despite the fact that my lungs were burning and that all I wanted was a drink of water.

I changed my story. I made edits to the person I was and in the end have come out more like myself than I ever thought possible. I conquered the Nature Trail and have decided that the experience represents everything that this year is to me.

This year I am determined to do the things I never though possible. I am determined to live my best lift, to push my limits, to see beyond the boundaries and barriers and into the possibilities and dreams. That is the birthday gift I give myself this year. That is who I choose to be.

xoxo,
Becki

Surprise!

I can finally talk about the secret I’ve been keeping. It’s not that big of a deal to most of you, but to my family it was a pleasant shock. As I typed this, I was sitting at the Rathskeller Coffee Haus & Pub in my hometown in North Carolina. We drove in late Wednesday night and surprised my parents with a visit for my birthday, which is in two days.

Not being able to visit my family over the holidays (for the first time ever) was tough. Thanks to Skype I was at least able to see my niece and nephew open their gifts from Joe and me, but I was sad to not get to see them in person.

Before we even made the decision that we weren’t going to come to town for the holidays, we made a plan to come in January for my birthday. The kicker was that I wanted it to be a surprise, which meant that I couldn’t tell my mother.

This may not seem like a massive undertaking, but my mother and I speak on the phone multiple times per day. She’s my closest friend and since she doesn’t have texting that means we have many phone conversations. You know that little thing that you would normally text your best friend? We call each other.  Even if it’s something small and inconsequential, we chat about it. It probably drives Joe crazy, but I’m quite often on the phone with my mother.

This meant that for the past month and a half to two months, I’ve been struggling to keep this a secret. I almost slipped up a few times, but managed to keep it under wraps.

Although I had planned to just drive up and surprise them, we hit a little bit of traffic and bad weather last night that delayed our arrival by over an hour. I called around 10:30, when I would normally be getting off work, and found out they were planning to go to bed soon. I decided after getting off the phone with my mom and talking to Joe that we needed to spill the beans. That conversation went a little something like this.

Mom answers the phone.

Becki: So…well, this was supposed to be a surprise, but I’m afraid you’ll be asleep.
Mom: (after a beat, waiting for me to continue) Yeah?
Becki: Joe, the guinea pigs, and I aren’t in Boston.
Mom: (waits another beat) Well, where are you?
Becki: We just came across Balsam (mountain).
Mom: Came across Balsam?!
Becki: (laughing) Yeah.
Mom: You’re driving?!
Becki: (still laughing) Yeah.
Mom: You came all the way from Boston?!
Becki: (almost crying, laughing so hard) Yeah. Well today just from Philadelphia, we stayed with a friend last night. We were going to just pull up, but you sounded like you were getting ready for bed.
Mom: Wow!

Half an hour later we pulled up into my parents’ driveway, guinea pigs in tow. Even though we had to reveal the surprise a little sooner than expected, they were still very much surprised and happy to see us.

Huge thanks to my brother for keeping the secret, my boss for being understanding about my taking this trip after just two weeks at my new position, and to our friend Jay for hosting us in Philadelphia. We couldn’t have pulled this off without all your help.

Now it’s time to sit back, relax, and enjoy some family time.

xoxo,
Becki

2015 Health and Fitness Goals

Have I mentioned I’m bad at keeping secrets? It’s not a great excuse for why I haven’t been blogging regularly, but it’s at least part of it. I’ll have more about that soon, I promise. It isn’t going to be very interesting to most of you, but it’s important enough to me that I’m keeping it quiet for now.

I’ve also been busy adjusting to my new work schedule and getting in the groove of being in a new place.  Let me just say that I love it! My new job is amazing; I love the team and the members I’ve worked with so far. I’m very happy with the decision I made to transfer clubs and I foresee a lot of good things on the horizon because of it.

A few of my goals for the New Year are really benefiting from my new job as well. I don’t like doing resolutions because so many of them fail, but goals are definitely reachable so long as they’re SMART.  More about this in a future post.

One of my goals is to be more active on a regular basis. For me this means walking to work at least 3 days per week. I’ve only walked to work a couple of times so far because it’s been so cold, but those few times have been great. I’ve also had more time to get in my workouts now that I have a set schedule again, including some new workout DVDs Joe got me for Christmas. I just have to keep it up once everything at the club is in full swing and I start setting my own schedule again.

Another goal that is helped by my job transition is to start planning my meals and prepping food again, at least four of my meals each week. I started on a great foot last week with some salads in a jar so I was able to eat healthy during lunch. I also tried making my breakfast protein shakes the night before and that has saved so much time in the morning!

Finally, I’ve once again decided to run the Vermont City Marathon held over Memorial Day in Burlington, VT. I’ve run it for the past two years, but my training has been lacking. My only goal for the marathon isn’t even for the race itself, but for the preparation. This year I want to be more consistent with my training and my work schedule is lending itself well to 3 runs per week and one on the weekend.

A few of my goals aren’t being impacted by my new job (at least directly). One of them is to get my boxing certification this year. I love boxing and I want to be able to use it as a tool with my clients. It’s so great for overall fitness (and stress relief) that I think it would be a perfect addition to my mind/body repertoire.

Do you set annual goals or are you a resolution setter? What are your health and fitness goals/resolutions for 2015? 

xoxo,
Becki

Happy New Year: 2015 News

Good morning and Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you all spent New Year’s Eve doing whatever it is you wanted to do.

What is everyone’s plan for today? Are you getting started on your New Year’s resolutions?

I’m starting off 2015 with a bang! If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook you may have already seen this news, but I’m starting a new job today!

For the past year I’ve been working as a personal trainer at Healthworks, a women’s gym with four locations in the Boston area (I’ve been working in Chestnut Hill). Healthworks is also the group behind GymIt, a group of lower cost, co-ed gyms, and now Republic Fitness, a co-ed luxury gym in the Financial District of Boston.

Today I begin the next chapter of my career as a personal trainer at Republic Fitness!

This all happened very quickly and I couldn’t share widely until all of my Healthworks clients had been notified so the blog went dark for a while (I’m not very good at keeping secrets).

Even though I’m going to miss my clients, this move is a positive one for me, personally and professionally.

Republic is just two miles from my apartment, rather than the 10 miles I’ve been driving to Healthworks. This means not only will I be able to go home for my longer breaks, I’ll be able to walk or run to work most days.

The shortened commute as well as more time and opportunity to get my own workouts in is a huge bonus. Another bonus personally is that I’ll be working on the same street as Joe, meaning that in theory I’ll get to see him a little more often now, even if that just means coffee once per week.

On a professional level, the transition to Republic will provide my first opportunity to train men. This is going to be a completely new challenge and I’m very excited to test and push myself.

As we close the book on 2014 and begin 2015, I’m grateful to work for a company that provides so many opportunities for growth and development.

Come check out Republic if you live or work in Boston and don’t forget to say hi!

xoxo,
Becki

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