New year, new you. We’ve heard the expression at levels nauseating enough to put a first-time Barry’s Bootcamp class to shame. In fact, if I hear another person talk about breaking a resolution or not eating a carb, I’m going to break all the resolutions and house an entire Milk Bar Birthday Cake in one sitting. (As a symbol of protest, of course. The things I’m willing to do!)
Committing to fitness and diet goals isn’t easy, especially when we are bombarded with conflicting information about what to eat, what not to eat, whether too much cardio is bad, or how many times we should be throwing dumbbells over our head. To remedy this chaos and confusion, I pooled, streamlined, and simplified the office’s 11 most burning health questions to be answered by four of ClassPass’s newly-crowned “Best Instructors of 2019.” (ClassPass provides members with access to hundreds of different fitness studios, spas, and gyms in their city. These instructors do not work for ClassPass. Instead, they are representatives of their respective gyms and studios that participate in ClassPass’s online booking service.)
Meet Dallas’s Ella Leupold (Class Studios), Miami’s Brandon Brennan (Get Fit Academy), and N.Y.C.’s Troy Brooks (Liftonic) and Meliza Fernandez (Killer Bodies). I’d like to think that their words are genuine, approachable, and inspiring enough to incorporate into your current routine or your soon-to-be-routine after reading this article. Check out all their tips and guidance below, and for a full list of ClassPass’s ‘Best of’ award winners, click here.
Editor’s note: I tested ClassPass myself and it’s an awesome way to try every single type of workout class you can imagine, and then some. Booking is worldwide and easily customizable to accommodate your fitness and financial goals. It also offers spa and physical therapy treatments for the athlete who deserves some extra T.L.C. Looking to try ClassPass for yourself? Sign up here for one month free.
Healthy meal planning can be so boring and time-consuming. What are your best meal-planning tips?
EL: Find something that works for you and stick with it. We get bombarded by new recipes and trends on Instagram, but if you have a meal that is easy and makes you feel great, stick with that! My diet is pretty boring as I rotate the same three to five meals, but when I’m consistently eating things that digest well in my body, I feel high on life.
MF: I get bored very easily, so I only prep for two to three days. I use plenty of olive oil, garlic, and onions to keep my taste buds excited and make sure I’m stocked at home with items that are tasty and fill me up like Greek yogurt, peanut butter, and fruit.
BB: Make a shopping list of healthy fats, carbs, and proteins. Pick one day out of the week to prep your meals and plan to spend one and a half hours to do prep for the week. You can save time by cooking most of the food in the oven. If you have a busy schedule and meal prep is not for you, there are tons of healthy meal prep delivery services you can try.
Intermittent fasting has quickly become a diet trend. What are your thoughts on this? Is it sustainable?
EL: Listen to your body! I don’t think it’s for everyone and I don’t think it should feel restrictive, but I love to work out in the morning on a fasted stomach and hold off on eating lunch until around 12:30 p.m. to 1 p.m. However, if I’m starving and feeling depleted, I eat. It’s as simple as that. Diets and eating structures generally tend to feel restrictive for me, so I opt for intuitive eating by taking it one day at a time and checking in with myself.
MF: I think any “diet” with too many restrictions is not sustainable. I don’t necessarily disagree with any of the ones popular or trending; I’ve tried them all and saw results on each one. It’s so important to know your body and to connect to how you feel internally and mentally. Personally, if I have too many rules to abide by off the bat, it’s a negative start for me. I try not to categorize “bad” or “good” foods or times when I can eat. In the end, I tell clients that food is fuel and the more nutrient-rich they are, the better performance we will have.
BB: I am not a registered dietitian or nutritionist and I recommend that you start by seeing one for a consultation. What works best for someone else might not work for you!
What are your favorite at-home exercises to take full advantage of time and effort?
EL: I truthfully never “work out” at home because I absolutely love taking classes, but when I am moving on my mat at home, I love to move intuitively. A stretch that I believe everyone needs more of is pigeon pose. We tend to store emotions in our hips and although it can be painful to open your hips (especially if you cycle often), it is so imperative to the health of your body. Turn on some relaxing music, light some candles, and get creative when taking time to reconnect with yourself.
TB: Kettlebells are a great way to combine strength and conditioning at home. I love ballistic moves like Kettlebell swings and snatches, and compound strength moves like deadlifts and squats. These moves are all doable with minimal room and equipment. When I’m short on time, I’m doing “AMRAPS,” which stands for “as many rounds as possible” of a specific exercise, or “EMOM,” which stands for every minute on the minute.” For example, five swings and 10 jumping lunges every minute on the minute for 10 minutes. This activity forces you to move quicker, as your only rest time is whatever is leftover in that minute.
MF: I’m a huge fan of HIIT (high-intensity interval training) and dance. Both can be quick, effective, done anywhere, and with no equipment needed. Therefore, no excuses. Nothing beats completing sets of burpees with some twerking in between!
BB: My favorite at-home exercises are sets of pushups, burpees, squat jumps, v-ups, Russian twists, supermans, donkey kicks, plank tricep extensions, pull-ups, and lunges.
So many protein bars are loaded with unnecessary sugars and artificial ingredients. What are the best post-workout snacks?
EL: I am a huge fan of the Fab Four smoothies by Kelly Leveque. Her book, “Body Love,” breaks down how all smoothies should have protein, fat, fiber, and greens in order to make sure you feel satiated. When I drink these after teaching in the morning, I’m full until the afternoon. My favorite trick is putting avocado in my smoothie for all the creamy goodness.
TB: I aim for whole foods, protein, healthy fats, and a complex carb like sweet potatoes. Post-working is one of the best times to consume carbs—your body will use them as an energy source and not attack your muscle.
MF: I am so simple with snacks. I stick to bananas and apples to hold me over to my next meal. There are so many delicious and nutritious bars out right now, but I’d rather eat actual meals than load up on shakes and bars.
BB: Skip protein bars! I recommend sticking with a plant-based protein shake, almonds, eggs, chicken, and fish.
Do you have any favorite apps to track your health?
EL: WHOOP! I am absolutely obsessed with this wearable fitness tracker. Every morning it gives me a recovery score (one to 100 percent) and lets me know how well my body is recovering. It factors in heart-rate variability and the quality of your sleep to communicate how lifestyle and training behaviors affect your body. It has turned me into a complete sleep geek and I am constantly striving to find ways to deepen my sleep.
MF: I use MyFitnessPal. It’s straightforward and easy to use.
BB: I highly recommend MyFitnessPal!
What is the one basic exercise that everyone does incorrectly and how do they fix it?
EL: I would say the biggest incorrect exercise I see is people moving with their rib cage open. When the rib cage is splayed open, the back is typically arched, making it difficult to fully engage your abdominals. Growing up as a dancer, I always received the feedback of closing my rib cage and using my core, but it wasn’t until I trained in pilates where I finally felt the difference between truly using my abdominals rather than just going through the motions. When the rib cage is closed and the midline is engaged, it’s easier to move with proper alignment in the body.
TB: Many people have issues squatting. The way I fix it is by helping people understand that they don’t have to marry any exercise—everyone’s hips and femur bones are different and not all squats will work equally for all people. I take an equitable approach and give each individual what they need personally to achieve the same outcome.
BB: People regularly get injured doing the deadlift—they use their lower back to pick up the weight. Instead, place your feet outside the hips with your neck and chin up, and keep your hands on the bar wider than your shoulders. Bend at the knees, drive at the heels, then hips, and arch your back.
What are the biggest exercise trends we’ll be seeing in 2020?
EL: I’m forecasting that there will be a shift towards meditation and mindful movement. I see so many people working, giving 110 percent every single day, but they aren’t achieving what they are working for. A lot of the time this is because we are living in a chronic state of “fight or flight.” We ask for so much strength from our bodies without focusing on how we are replenishing ourselves. Once more people recognize the importance of slowing down and nurturing the mind-body connection, I think there will be a shift towards meditation classes and any class that asks you to open up the dialogue between the mind and the body.
MF: I see virtual workouts and streaming getting bigger and bigger. People want what they want now and at their fingertips, so I can definitely see that growing into something more than I ever imagined.
BB: 2020 is the year that people are going to be wanting to add something new and fresh to their same-old gym routine and test out different styles of classes. I think Yoga HIIT will also be huge.
What is the first major change someone should make to improve their overall health?
EL: Drink more water! I start every day by drinking one liter of water and it is such a perfect flush of the digestive system to start your day. Water before coffee, always!
TB: Start today! Literally stop overthinking and start. One glass of water a day is better than none; walking one mile a day is better than not walking at all. Oh, and speak a bit kinder to yourself daily. This was my approach to wellness, and it helped me lose 100 pounds. Start, stay consistent, and, like anything else, eventually you’ll get better at it. Do know you may need to have a real-talk moment with yourself—you have to be ready to change.
MF: Get your body moving! We overthink and want to do this huge health overhaul when that’s not needed. Start small. Set a realistic goal such as moving for 20 minutes a day, and choose something you actually enjoy. Every week, add five minutes to that activity and once you notice the changes in your spirit and energy, you’ll be hooked.
BB: You need to get out of your comfort zone and know that you are ready for change. Know that you will need to eat clean and workout to reach your goals.
Are there any specific superfoods that people don’t eat enough of? If so, what are they and why do you recommend them?
EL: I’m a huge fan of turmeric because of how it helps with inflammation.
BB: I recommend adding kale, berries, chia seeds, sweet potatoes, chickpeas, turmeric, and salmon to your diet.
Who are some people in this industry that you admire most? Any specific fitness trainers or influencers?
MF: I’m absolutely obsessed with Massy Arias. Pure work, effort, and sweat has gone into her growth. She’s authentic and doesn’t sell “trends,” and as a fellow Dominican, I love seeing a Latina make such a powerful impact.
Are there any countries or cities that are really getting it right when it comes to incorporating health and fitness into their daily lives?
EL: I may be biased, but Dallas is an extremely active city and I feel lucky to be a part of a culture where working out is something people do for fun. Having a platform like ClassPass in our city allows people to take cycling, pilates, yoga, HIIT, meditation, etc. all under one membership. I’m such an advocate of people moving their body in different ways, and I’m grateful to be surrounded by so many incredible boutique fitness studios here.
TB: Italy—they see the importance of breaking bread. The family and community aspect is beautiful and is great for the mind and heart. In Italy, they take siestas—entire towns shut down during the day for a much-needed break. There’s a natural balance to the country. A lot of the work people do is still manual, people are always moving, and, hey, the wine is amazing. I love wine!
BB: Spain keeps a very healthy “Mediterranean diet.” The quality of good food, weather, and relaxed lifestyle helps people to stay fit and active all year. Personally, as a resident of South Florida, the local community is also doing a great job at providing those same essential things.
Header image courtesy of ClassPass.