Fhit Life


Mother’s Day 2017 – Featuring FHITpro Amanda Butler

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Mother’s Day is May 14th (reminder to celebrate the moms in your life!), and this year, we are beyond excited to add our very own mama-to-be and FHITpro Amanda Butler to the celebration! Amanda is not only one of our four original FHITpros, now she is also our first ever pregnant FHITpro, and we are loving this journey! We caught up with Amanda to hear what’s changed for her now that she’s expecting as well as some tips on how to stay healthy and FHIT during pregnancy.

What does it mean to be the first pregnant trainer at Fhitting Room?

It’s exciting! I love sharing this experience with all our FHIXers, but especially our pregnant FHIXers that come to class. I love chatting with them before and after class about how they’re feeling and their experiences. I find it inspiring that pregnant mamas still make coming to class a priority even if they need to modify some of the workout. Getting up and making it to class is a feat in itself; I now know how hard it can be sometimes. I also love being in the position to show that yes, you can still workout, and helping women to modify as they progress in their pregnancies!

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How has your own training changed?

Not much has changed for me, and I think this is due to the fact that I had a strong workout regimen before I was pregnant. The obvious changes are I can no longer do a burpee (or anything on my stomach), crunches/sit ups, and nothing on my back anymore. Being 7 months pregnant now, I stick to strength training, cardio (running the stairs in the park) and prenatal yoga classes. Each day is different. Some days I feel really great and others I don’t, but staying consistent with workouts and just getting up and moving my body definitely helps! I’ve had a lot of fun sharing my own workouts on my Instagram @amandabutlernyc and explaining how I modify movements based on where I am in my pregnancy. It’s been great to interact and connect with people on there who are on the same journey as me.

What are you most excited about for your first Mother’s Day as a pregnant mom-to-be?

I am so excited about taking on a new role in my life…as MOM!

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Among your other certifications, you have an AFAA Pre and Post Natal Certification and you are Nutritious Life Certified. What are three pieces of nutritious or FHIT advice you’d give our Pre or Post Natal FHIXers?

1. Keep coming to class! (Of course, as long as you are cleared by your doctor to do so). We have several Pre and Post Natal certified trainers here at Fhitting Room to make sure you will have a safe and effective workout. (For instance, no exercises on your back after 20 weeks). And then post-FHIX you and I get to talk about all things babies! :)

2. Don’t be too hard on yourself if the only thing you want in your first trimester is carbs! The thought of a salad during my first trimester (and chicken) made me gag. Before I was pregnant I had all these ideas of how I would eat so healthy, but the funny thing about pregnancy is that you truly don’t know how your body will respond until you are in it. It wasn’t until about week 11 or 12 that I was able to stomach the idea of salad again. It has been easier for me to make healthier choices during the second and third trimesters. Some of my favorites are: fresh fruit (strawberries, pineapple, blueberries), low fat cottage cheese with mandarin oranges, homemade pita pizza (rather than a slice from the pizza shop) and veggies with hummus.

3. Stay hydrated! I drink water like it’s my job! I actually gave up my morning cup of joe (although you are allowed 200mg of caffeine per day) and stick mostly to just water. When I need to jazz it up I add lemon or lime to my water. I am looking forward to my first post-baby delivery margarita :)

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Mother’s Day is May 14th (reminder to celebrate the moms in your life!), and this year, we are beyond excited to add our very own mama-to-be and FHITpro Amanda Butler to the celebration! Amanda is not only one of our four original FHITpros, now she is also our first ever pregnant FHITpro, and we are loving this journey! We caught up with Amanda to hear what’s changed for her now that she’s expecting as well as some tips on how to stay healthy and FHIT during pregnancy.

What does it mean to be the first pregnant trainer at Fhitting Room?

It’s exciting! I love sharing this experience with all our FHIXers, but especially our pregnant FHIXers that come to class. I love chatting with them before and after class about how they’re feeling and their experiences. I find it inspiring that pregnant mamas still make coming to class a priority even if they need to modify some of the workout. Getting up and making it to class is a feat in itself; I now know how hard it can be sometimes. I also love being in the position to show that yes, you can still workout, and helping women to modify as they progress in their pregnancies!

mothers-day-blog-feat-amanda_img2

How has your own training changed?

Not much has changed for me, and I think this is due to the fact that I had a strong workout regimen before I was pregnant. The obvious changes are I can no longer do a burpee (or anything on my stomach), crunches/sit ups, and nothing on my back anymore. Being 7 months pregnant now, I stick to strength training, cardio (running the stairs in the park) and prenatal yoga classes. Each day is different. Some days I feel really great and others I don’t, but staying consistent with workouts and just getting up and moving my body definitely helps! I’ve had a lot of fun sharing my own workouts on my Instagram @amandabutlernyc and explaining how I modify movements based on where I am in my pregnancy. It’s been great to interact and connect with people on there who are on the same journey as me.

What are you most excited about for your first Mother’s Day as a pregnant mom-to-be?

I am so excited about taking on a new role in my life…as MOM!

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Among your other certifications, you have an AFAA Pre and Post Natal Certification and you are Nutritious Life Certified. What are three pieces of nutritious or FHIT advice you’d give our Pre or Post Natal FHIXers?

1. Keep coming to class! (Of course, as long as you are cleared by your doctor to do so). We have several Pre and Post Natal certified trainers here at Fhitting Room to make sure you will have a safe and effective workout. (For instance, no exercises on your back after 20 weeks). And then post-FHIX you and I get to talk about all things babies! :)

2. Don’t be too hard on yourself if the only thing you want in your first trimester is carbs! The thought of a salad during my first trimester (and chicken) made me gag. Before I was pregnant I had all these ideas of how I would eat so healthy, but the funny thing about pregnancy is that you truly don’t know how your body will respond until you are in it. It wasn’t until about week 11 or 12 that I was able to stomach the idea of salad again. It has been easier for me to make healthier choices during the second and third trimesters. Some of my favorites are: fresh fruit (strawberries, pineapple, blueberries), low fat cottage cheese with mandarin oranges, homemade pita pizza (rather than a slice from the pizza shop) and veggies with hummus.

3. Stay hydrated! I drink water like it’s my job! I actually gave up my morning cup of joe (although you are allowed 200mg of caffeine per day) and stick mostly to just water. When I need to jazz it up I add lemon or lime to my water. I am looking forward to my first post-baby delivery margarita :)

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FHITSPIRATION: KIRA HERSCH

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At first glance, Kira Hersch is a normal NYC (superFHIT) mom. Upon closer examination, however, a few things stand out: her waist length hair (that she wears in two long braids that resemble battle ropes), her love for gangster rap and sneakers, and the fact that her pregnancy with her son Clark caused her to go into heart failure.

Kira was a total spin addict before she got pregnant. She knew she wanted to continue her fitness regimen throughout her pregnancy, so she didn’t slow down once she got the good news. As she got further along things started to get difficult. She found herself out of breath earlier on in class and she started to have trouble taking full, complete breaths.  Soon, her morning commute to Grand Central was extremely difficult and she struggled to walk even a single subway block. At first, doctors assured her that some changes were expected during pregnancy; but eventually, they realized that someone in such great shape shouldn’t be having such difficulty breathing.

A few weeks prior to her son’s due date and after several tests, Kira was diagnosed with Peripartum Cardiomyopathy.  Peripartum Cardiomyopathy, or PPCM, is a rare form of heart failure that can happen to pregnant women between the last month of their pregnancy and several months after delivery. Essentially, the heart cannot contract forcefully enough to adequately pump blood to vital organs. Often PPCM goes undetected as the common signs and symptoms mimic those typical of late stage pregnancy.

After the birth of her son and understanding the severity of her condition, Kira was determined to exercise not only to get back in shape after having a child, but to strengthen her heart. In those first days of exercise, she felt like there was an elephant sitting on her chest when she was simply pushing a stroller around the city. But Kira was determined not to let the diagnosis of PPCM stop her from achieving her goals, so she took her son for a walk in his stroller every day… right past Fhitting Room.

Eventually, Kira walked into a class and her life changed forever.

We caught up with Kira (after class, of course, because we definitely couldn’t keep up with her during the FHIX) and asked her about how she dealt with everything that was thrown her way.

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Peripartum Cardiomyopathy (PPCM) is so rarely spoken about. How were you finally able to arrive at the diagnosis, and what helped you through the process afterwards?

I am very fortunate to have had a fantastic team of Cardiologists who ultimately discovered the weakening of my heart. Had it not been for their comprehensive testing, I can’t even imagine what the potential outcome could have been.  Many people have asked me if I was scared after receiving the diagnosis, and of course, I was terrified.  Becoming a new mother with a serious diagnosis was overwhelming, I never expected my recovery after delivery to be in the Cardiac Critical Unit.  I can’t help but laugh, as I had this elaborate “birth plan” and I can assure you, it didn’t come anywhere close to what I experienced.  What significantly helped me after my diagnosis was to take life day by day.  I didn’t let the fear of the future unknowns overwhelm me.  I simply set tiny goals for each day and every day that I had a good day and felt ok was a huge victory for me.  I had a little mantra in my mind that I would just keep telling myself which was, “I can and I will get through this, getting better is the only way.”  I wouldn’t let any negative thoughts enter my mind, and I simply focused on what I needed to do to get better.  I was on multiple medications after my delivery for my heart, and there were a lot of less than favorable side effects. While I could not control that, I knew I could control exercising to make my heart stronger.  So each day I set a little goal, just to be able to walk a little longer, or a little faster.  I remember barely being able to push my son in his stroller without being out of breath. So eventually when I was able to take a Fhitting Room class and really push myself, it was a huge personal victory for me.

Who instructed the first class you took at Fhitting Room, and what inspired you to keep coming back?

Simon was my first instructor at the old location on Lexington.  I’ll never forget those first classes. Simon was friendly, welcoming and I never felt intimidated by the class or the program. As he always said: “everything is scalable!”.  I think Simon has probably seen the most of my progress over the years, he’s the reason why I completed my first box jump a couple years ago, and the reason why now I can jump on those 26’ boxes without fear.  I’ve been inspired to come back to Fhitting Room because I absolutely love the class, the FHITpros, the music, and the FHITfriends I have met along the way.  I love the community feel, and I’ve met so many wonderful people from the instructors to other FHIXers in class. Fhitting Room has offered me a class where I can really see my strength progress over the years. I remember when I used to swing kettlebells from the top rack, and now it gives me such a feeling of accomplishment to pull those kettlebells from the bottom rack!

What makes the biggest impression on you during a class? (music, programming, etc.?)

The FHITpros by far make the biggest impression on me during a class.  For the longest time I have been a part of the “Sunday Funday” 4pm class at 67th with Daury and Simon.  I love the energy that Daury and Simon have and I find myself laughing so much through class, and I love that.  Not only am I getting a great workout, but I am having fun while doing it and it doesn’t get much better than that.  I love the encouragement too. Simon, Daury, and Troy have all been known to see right when I am losing steam and to offer me some words that keep me going stronger.  And of course the music, Daury knows my love for Kanye, so there have been many times where I am fading and then he puts that Yeezy fire on for me and somehow I find some energy left in the tank.

How has Fhitting Room helped you in your post-partum transformation?

The Fhitting Room has honestly been such a happy place for me.  In my post-partum transformation and of course in my recovery from PPCM, I can confidently say that the fantastic programming of Fhitting Room has helped me to become the strongest that I have ever been in my life at 36 years old!  I am able to lift things I never thought possible and my great cardiovascular health was just confirmed at my recent Stress Echo test!  So while dropping the baby weight fast was a nice little bonus, I am mostly proud of my physical strength, and especially my heart’s strength.  My transformation is one of the most significant things in my life that I am proud of and I hope that my story can continue to inspire others.  I often speak to other women who are pregnant or post- partum and I take great pride in sharing the importance of healthy and safe exercise as I strongly believe that exercise played a major role in why I am here today to share my story.  My story and transformation has ignited this passion of mine to reach more women to inspire them to begin their fitness journeys and I am working on turning this into something even greater.

One of the benchmarks for people who have experienced heart problems is the stress echo. Can you tell us about your experience with yours?

The stress echocardiogram is a test that I have just about yearly to monitor how my heart is pumping under stress and recovery.  One of the most important features of the test is measuring my Left Ventricle ejection fraction, which sees how well my heart is pumping out blood with each contraction. To give you an idea, when I was diagnosed with PPCM my Ejection Fraction was in the low 20%, and now I am fully recovered to a low normal of 55% where normal is anywhere from 55-70%.   The test involves a treadmill and then the sonogram of my heart.  Among my Cardiologists it has now become a joke, each time I take a test I see how long I can stay on the treadmill before reaching my maximum heart rate.  I can say that this time I lasted over 12 minutes, putting me in the 95% percentile for the test!

What you went through with your first pregnancy was scary, are you considering having more children after your experience?

After my diagnosis there were a lot of unknowns.  My husband Rory and I are very grateful for the child that we have and that I had survived the diagnosis and we are comfortable with that.  Initially we were told that future children might not be a possibility and it would depend on my outcomes.  Of course, no one wants to have that possible choice taken away from them and it was certainly something we struggled with.  We are very fortunate to say that because of my faster than expected complete recovery from PPCM, my medicines being discontinued so fast, and the continual showing of improvement in my heart strength and function, that we have been cleared by my doctors to have more children.  So stay tuned, maybe there will be another future little FHIXer, so send us all of the good strong heart vibes :)

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Upper West Side Neighborhood Guide

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It’s been nearly 6 months since we set up shop on Columbus Avenue and changed the FHITness scene on the Upper West Side! Now that we have settled into our new digs, we thought it was time to share our favorite local restaurants, bakeries, and shops. The next time you plan on HITing it on the UWS, check out this guide to know where to fuel up before class and indulge after.

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FHIT Meals

The Upper West Side is full of top-notch dining options. FHIXers looking to get their greens on the fly can hit up Sweetgreen (there are 2 locations within walking distance of Fhitting Room!), Just Salad, or Blossom Du Jour. If you’re searching for solid sit-down options, Simon recommends the Chicken Salad at our neighbor, Bella Luna. Other UWS regulars including Ben are partial to Playa Betty’s California-inspired menu and beach-y vibes. Our Location Leader, Elspeth, prefers the Italian options and friendly service at Bellini. For those looking to carbo-load, H&H Bagels is a frequent between-class stop for Mat and Eric.

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FHIT Fuel

Sometimes, even our highest-energy FHIXers need a little pick me up. Luckily, Columbus Avenue is home to plenty of coffee shops, including Birdbath, Joe’s Coffee, and Birch Coffee. If you’re looking to get your juice FHIX, major chains like Juice Generation and Juice Press have outposts on the Upper West Side

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FHIT Treats

Looking to indulge a little after an extra-grueling FHIX? There are many decadent dessert options in our new ‘hood! Levain has two neighborhood locations for those looking to sample their drool-worthy cookies. For a healthier treat, Lacee recommends picking up a Klossie from Milk Bar, while Troy opts for the occasional cookie from the Macaron Parlour

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FHIT Clothes 

If you are searching for some fitness gear, Lululemon and Athleta are both within walking distance of our newest location. If you’re in the market for something to wear when you’re not in spandex or lycra, check out neighborhood boutiques including Olive and Bette’s, Intermix, CPW, and Variazioni.

FHIT Fun

Not sure what to do post-FHIX? For a little culture fix, consider stopping by The Natural History Museum, The American Folk Art Museum, The New York Historical Society, or The Museum of Biblical Art. There’s also a weekly farmer’s market every Sunday on 79th Street and Columbus, and of course, Central Park is just one block away for those looking to add some nature into their day.

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FHITspiration: Priya Seshan

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6 days. 120 miles. 20,000 feet of elevation gain. The Transrockies Race is a grueling course for which it takes months to prepare. Priya Seshan, a FHIXer since 2015, credits getting her FHIX with helping her embark on this once-in-a-life time challenge. Keep reading to learn more about her journey.

What inspired you to participate in the TransRockies Run? What exactly does the run entail?

In 2009, my longtime friend told me about the TransRockies Run, a 120 mile, 6 day point-to-point trail race in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. My friend tried to convince me to run it, but I was too intimidated by both the extreme distance and altitude. A city girl at heart, I am not an “outdoors” kind of person, and the race involved camping and being outside.

However the challenge of the race intrigued me. How did runners run so far and how could they take on such a challenge, I wondered. It wasn’t until after I ran and finished my first ultramarathon in November 2014 that I started to consider entering the TransRockies Run. I remained tentative about diving in for quite some time, until I decided to sign up for the August 2016 run. I wanted to test myself with a huge challenge and see the world in a unique way. Unfortunately, in 2016, I had a stress reaction in my tibia, so I had to defer to August 2017.

The TransRockies Run is a 120-mile course in Colorado. There are approximately 20,000 feet of elevation gain over the 120-mile course, which traverses rocky terrain, including the infamously steep Hope Pass near Leadville. The altitude, climbing of mountainous terrain, and back-to-back long mileage make this race a challenge for any athlete!

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How is this race different than other races you have done in the past?

I’ve been a runner since I was 14. I ran in high school and have run marathons, a 50-mile ultramarathon, and an endless number of half marathons as an adult. However, I had never entered a multistage race, where I would be completing long back-to-back runs for almost a week straight. The altitude was also something to contend with.  I had only run one half marathon race at altitude in the past, and I was sick the entire race! It is a challenge to run long distance at altitude, but to add camping to that makes the experience even more demanding.

How did getting your FHIX help you train for the race? What other training did you do to prepare?

Fhitting Room helped me gain lower body strength. I can run for hours, but I have a variety of running injuries and imbalances. Strength work is a weakness of mine. Fhitting Room helped me rev up my glutes and quads, as well as work on my core strength. I took a class each week to prepare and I was challenged each time.

Often during Fhitting Room classes, I had difficulty with an exercise, while the rest of the class appeared to do it with ease. I felt out of my element, but the FHITpros came over and encouraged me to do more reps or showed me how to modify. The trainers made me feel comfortable embracing something I struggle with. These FHIXes reminded me that I was going to be out of my element during the race, but I could successfully push forward and get comfortable being uncomfortable.

Most importantly, with time I noticed that some exercises were getting easier and that I was getting stronger. I really feel like step ups (modified box jumps) were invaluable as they increased my quad and glute strength, and prepared me mentally to tough it out when I was doing long climbs in Colorado. I don’t think I’ll ever look at step ups the same and will push myself more now in class even when my legs are screaming from them—they were that valuable.

In addition to getting my FHIX, I did yin yoga, ran easy twice a week, and completed a long run and a long hike each week. My mileage was not at all optimal because of an old hip injury flaring up, but I strongly believe that cross training at Fhitting Room was integral in helping me run the race.

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Who are your favorite FHIT pros and why?

All of the FHIT pros are wonderful. However, I do have my favorites! My favorite FHITpros are Eric, Dennys, Daury, and Carlos. All of them meet me where I am at and modify the exercises so that I can do them successfully. They help me with modifications and they recognize that there is not a “one size fits all” approach to the classes.

In addition, all of them have great playlists! This helps me unwind after a long, intense day. I work as a social worker in a public school GED program with young men and women in East Harlem, many of whom are returning to the community post-incarceration.

I would definitely recommend trying a FHIX, even if it seems intimidating—while some individuals may fly through a class, they too had to start somewhere.

Do you have a favorite exercise you’ve learned at Fhitting Room? What about a least favorite?

My favorite exercise is the kettlebell swing, or anything with kettlebells!! I really enjoy the swings and it is an exercise that I can see progress in from week to week. It’s also nice to swing a weight and get out some stress after a long day! My least favorite are—you guessed it—burpees and squat thrusts! I am still working on perfecting my squat thrusts.

I am not flexible at all, and have yet to be able to swoop my legs up in one graceful move as the FHITpros do so easily! Squat thrusts and burpees also raise my heartrate and leave me breathless, even though I run so much! It’s my goal to master the squat thrust and then move on to perfecting a burpee! I know it is going to take time, but one has to start somewhere!

What do you remember about your first FHIX?

My first FHIX was in 2015 at Penthouse with Eric and Dennys. I remember feeling intimidated by all the fit people in the room and worrying about being able to keep up with them. During the workout both Eric and Dennys came over to me multiple times and gave me modifications and form corrections. At the end of the class, I felt tired, but also inspired to get stronger.

I may not ever have six pack abs or look buff, but that’s not why I get my FHIX. I take classes at Fhitting Room to stay strong as I age into my 40s and to supplement my running. The vibe at Fhitting Room has been so encouraging that I have since introduced the classes to my friends.

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What was the most challenging part of the race? What was the most rewarding?

There were so many moments when I questioned what I had gotten myself into! I had a prior injury that was acting up and then I fell right before the race so my ankle was swollen. Camping outside and being very cold made the race more challenging.

Two of the hardest days were day 4, which had a 40 percent incline grade, and day 6. On that last day, I woke up vomiting from altitude sickness and had to run 22.5 miles. At mile 7, my legs locked up due to dehydration. I had a tough stretch but was able to get back on track from miles 13-16.

Unfortunately, I got cut off at the 16.5 mile mark and wasn’t able to finish the race in it’s entirety. For about 5 minutes, I was devastated, but then I realized that it was okay—I had tried hard to accomplish my goal, but fell short. I really do believe that had I not been sick, I would have finished. Sometimes it is the journey that counts, not the destination.

I had two extremely rewarding moments that stand out in my mind. The first was on day 2, when I got to the top of Hope Pass, which is on the Leadville 100 course. This was the highest climb of the week and the scenery was absolutely beautiful. The climb was tough, but when I got to the top, I was able to appreciate it so much because my own legs had gotten me there!

The other rewarding moment was seeing my older sister at the finish. She had flown out from NYC to support me in the last stage of the race. Although I got cut with six miles to go, having her there meant so much. I had tried my hand at something so completely out of my comfort zone and put it all on the line when running the race.

How did you celebrate post-finish line?

I attended a banquet with my sister and other runners, which was a great time! I then stayed in Beaver Creek, CO for a few more days to relax. Once I reunited with the rest of my family, we went out to eat at my favorite Mexican place and had margaritas. I guess you could say that I had a celebration for each day I ran.

What will your workout schedule look like post-race? Are you training for any more races coming up?

I took a well-deserved week off after the race. My plan for the next two months is to attend Fhitting Room for strength work and do yin yoga to increase my flexibility. I am slowly building back my mileage with easy running, and will resume long runs in preparation for some fall marathons. In six weeks I will tackle the Chicago Marathon, which will be my 13th marathon. I also plan on running the NYC Marathon for fun.   After that, I’ll focus more on Fhitting Room so that I can correct my imbalances and come back stronger for races in 2018.

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August 2017 FHIT10

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Forget the dog days of summer; August has been nonstop here at Fhitting Room! From footage of one of our classes in action to a podcast with our FHIT Founder, Kari Saitowitz, keep reading to catch up on the workout news we’ve been buzzing about this month.

 1) If you’ve been HITing it hard, you know proper recovery is key to killing it in your next FHIX. Read this Mindbodygreen article to learn more about what you should eat to make sure you bounce back from your next killer workout.

2) There are some workout moves that even trainers think you shouldn’t be doing! Well + Good caught up with four top fitness pros (including our own Jess Sims) to read what exercises you can skip and which highly effective alternate moves you should do instead.

3) If you’re looking for a change of pace from your standard swim-bike-run triathlon, you’re in luck. Check out these unconventional multi-sport races on Shape.com to learn more about other one-of-a-kind events that will challenge your body in new ways.

4) Nobody wants to worry about unFHIT smells during their last set of burpees. Keep your Muscles and Margaritas crop smelling fresh with these tips from The Observer on how to wash your gym clothes for maximum odor protection.

5) Forget Instagram models, this basketball team of women who are all 80+ years old is true FHITspo. SELF has all the details about the badass women on the San Diego Splash as well as videos of the team in action.

6) While we usually endorse going all out, there are a couple of red flags even die-hard exercisers should not ignore. If you experience any of the warning signs broken down in this Greatist article, it may be time to take a rest day before you continue getting your FHIX.

7) Curious how Fhitting Room came to be? Check out HaloTalks to learn how our own FHIT Founder, Kari Saitowitz, became an ‘accidental entrepreneur’ and found her career renaissance with Fhitting Room.

8) You know regular FHIXes do wonders for your body, but what about your mind? This New York Times article explains how exercise can help you learn a new language thanks to gains in both vocabulary and comprehension.

9) Bad news for guac lovers: Avocado prices are expected to surge in the near future. Well + Good explains the cause of this unfortunate price hike and when you can expect increases to go into effect.

10) This month we welcomed CNBC into our Flatiron location as part of their tour of popular boutique fitness studios. Click here to learn more about their FHIXperience and why so many people flock to specialty classes like ours.

 

 

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14,410 Feet: FHITspiration Ben M.

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When we first met Ben Milakofsky, we were wondering why a former West Wing staffer from the Obama administration would be interested in working at Fhitting Room. Needless to say, we were intrigued and wanted to meet him. Now that Ben has been a part of our FHITfam for over 6 months, we are excited to share in his own words his most FHITspirational achievement – climbing Mt. Rainier. Read on to hear how Ben first found Fhitting Room and how getting his FHIX prepared him for one of the biggest physical challenges of his life.

The height of the fiercest mountain in the lower 48. An episodically active composite volcano.

14,410 feet.

The peak of Mt. Rainier. Columbia Crest to be specific.

14,410 feet.

Out of my reach during my first summit attempt in May 2016, I knew I would go back the following year.

14,410 feet.

And I don’t get there without Fhitting Room and their lunges, squats, thrusters, box jumps, rowers, assault bikes, and yes – burpees!

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In August of 2016, I reached out to a friend living in NYC. I was traveling from DC to NYC for a wedding and I asked her for a running route as we were both training for the Chicago marathon. The humidity was in full effect and temperatures were expected to reach 97 degrees. Not exactly ideal conditions for an 18-mile run when you don’t know the water fountain locations or which bridges, highways, and parks to visit.

My friend is a long time Fhixer, a Boston marathon qualifier, and a stellar athlete. She countered my running plan, suggesting a challenging HIIT workout at Fhitting Room. My weekly routine included HIIT classes, Yasso 800’s, a few intermediate runs, a local spinning studio, and one long run each week. HIIT is my favorite I thought – why not give Fhitting Room a try?

I was nursing a headache and searching for a good sweat. Although, I wasn’t feeling my best, I naively felt ready for this. Within 15 minutes I was panting on the floor wondering how I was supposed to do banded pull-ups for 60 seconds straight as part of a circuit.

“WHAT IS THIS?!” I thought.

Of course, I was hooked and took my second intro class a few weeks later during a follow up trip at the end of the month.

Fast forward a few months.

14,410 feet.

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My position in DC was coming to an end and I found myself emailing info@fhittingroom.com. After an incredible adventure that included stops in the White House and the U.S. Department of the Interior (and a quick trip to Baghdad), I was relocating to NYC to be closer to family. That much was certain. Everything else felt up in the air. But I was going back to Rainier in July.

14,410 feet.

Facing an extended break, I was hoping Fhitting Room would allow me to work a few shifts a week in exchange for the ability to take classes. I didn’t know who would read the note but I honestly told them: “I can’t think of a better fitness studio to support given how much I loved the classes I took.”  They were curious, the timing was great as they prepared to open a third location, and invited me to visit for a conversation. They wanted to know why I was interested in them. In my mind, it was simple.

14,410 feet.

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Training at sea level isn’t ideal training conditions for mountaineering. There are vertical inside stairwells, but you can’t really use your ice axe and crampons on NYC stairs. How else was I going to prepare my core, quads, hamstrings, and calves for this? Hiking in Shenandoah last time wasn’t enough. Climbing a mountain is technical and it is not hiking. Running stairs with a 44lb vest for short sprints wasn’t going to be enough either. Spinning and running – nope. My workout plan needed to adjust if I was going to summit. I remembered my time on the floor last August and thought I found my anchor.

14,410 feet.

Unfortunately, I had an unexpected surgery in mid-April and I would only have two months to truly train for the climb. Again, it is NOT a hike. People die annually on this mountain and I would need to give it my all. Over the next two months, I would take 25 Fhitting Room classes and have now taken over 40 classes since I moved to NYC at the end of winter. I could feel myself getting stronger and mountain ready throughout training. With each set of lunges and squats, I could set my sights on Rainier’s upper mountain. Over time, I could feel my body composition changing. As the FHITpros suggested a distance on the rower and calories on the assault bike, I saw those numbers as a minimum instead of a goal. With May rolling into June and then July, I found myself adding extensions to my box jumps to make the height more challenging. My body was evolving and the incredible trainers at Fhitting Room were helping me prepare to achieve my goal. The FHITpros corrected my form, encouraged my push, and motivated me throughout each class.

14,410 feet.

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Often, I would double and triple my workout by adding in other studio classes. My Sunday routine became a quadruple workout for endurance. But I would always go to Fhitting Room first as it was the most challenging and most rewarding. There were days where I would walk stairs with a 44lb vest for hours, but only after Fhitting Room. I needed to build endurance but the right kind of endurance.

14,410 feet.

I was finally going back. A few days in Seattle including my first hike at Mt. Si, I was heading back to the mountain. Following gear check, we had our safety training day. You learn how to climb the mountain including proper breathing and walking techniques. They also teach you how to correctly use your ax and crampons. This includes the self-arrest technique should you or someone on your rope team fall. Finally, on Wednesday, July 26 we set off to climb the mountain.

14,410 feet.

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We spent the morning climbing and gaining 4700 vertical feet before arriving at Camp Muir – the half way point – and an elevation of approximately 10,188 feet. Our group of 18 arrived in early afternoon, mostly smiling and some nursing some wicked mountaineering boot blisters. I went with preventative medicine and wrapped duct tape around my heels. A quick 3:30pm dinner was followed by a short rest. The guides woke us up for breakfast at 10 p.m. and we would depart by 11.

14,410 feet.

Unlike last time when I never saw the mountain until I drove to the airport, the views were spectacular and the weather was largely cooperative. You could see Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens, and even Mt. Hood in Oregon during the day. At night, the sky was stunningly beautiful. I wanted to gaze at the stars for hours, but the task at hand would require my full attention.

14,410 feet.

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We climbed through Cathedral Gap which is largely rockfall and traversed over to Ingraham Flats. After a short break for food and water, we headed to a brutal and vertical section of the upper mountain that is aptly named Disappointment Clever. It is largely exposed rock and they pull your rope team in close. We would scramble in silence with our feet and legs pounding. There are very narrow sections and I forgot to walk the proper way. A few times, I pulled on the person in front of me making their climb a little harder.   Finally, we reached the top of the cleaver which is approximately 12,300 feet. Half way to the summit and it was now about 2 a.m.

14,410 feet.

A few team members decided to head back down. We were told to make a final decision. We had several hours left but if we continued we had to go all the way to the summit. Get food and water and decide quickly. I faced this decision last year at high break which is approximately 13,500 feet and the final resting location before the summit. Choosing to head down 90 minutes before reaching the summit in 2016 remains one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made. Going up is optional but coming down is mandatory. It sounds obvious but it’s a nearly impossible decision to make while you are sucking wind on the mountain. Breathing gets particularly difficult on the upper mountain above 10,000 feet.

Admonished by our lead guide for pulling on the rope, I had doubts of whether I should continue. I felt great but then again I was pulling. That wasn’t good and I asked what I should do. His response, “You got this, Ben. You should keep going.” Relieved but a little unsure, I thought for another minute. I wasn’t ready to come down. I felt good. My legs and core were fresh from training. Let’s do this!

14,410 feet.

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The guides are constantly evaluating the conditions on the mountain. You climb at night to minimize risk. This time of year, large crevasse’ open and sometimes you can’t safely cross with a ladder. These deep fractures in the ice field are dangerous. The decision had been made to traverse half way across the mountain, switch to a different glacier and climb up the Emmons Glacier route. This would mean losing 300 vertical feet which we would have to regain (and also have to address on the way down). We added another 45 minutes to our ascent climb but we eventually made it to the final break for water and food. Throughout the night climb and its most solitary moments, I focused on what I had accomplished these past 8 weeks. I had graduated to new weights of kettlebells for dead lifts, swings, and lunges. Finally, I could handle a modified wall stand and my distance on the rower had achieved new heights.

14,410 feet.

It was about an hour away and I was utterly exhausted. Climbing can be lonely and quiet for long stretches other than important instructions from the guide. Given the conditions on the mountain, we were roped in near each other, which was different than last time, and we casually talked to pass the time. But I couldn’t talk any more. 3 seconds of breathing in followed by 1 second of pushing out really hard. 3 seconds of breathing in and PUSH. At this altitude, you need to discharge the CO2 and get oxygen to your body. It’s now frigid and the wind is picking up to 25-30mph.

14,410 feet.

We departed for the final part of our summit ascent and it was extremely vertical. I muttered curse words and took big, deep breaths. We finally reached the base of the summit at 5:30am just as the sun was up. It is cold and windy up there! “Congratulations – you officially summited,” they said. Technically it wasn’t the final peak but it was optional to go the final stretch. I tried to move and fell back down. I contemplated staying there when someone correctly said, “you are 50 vertical feet (about ten minutes) from the summit. Get your ass up there.”

Ok. OK. I listened. Slowly I clawed my way to Columbia Crest by 5:45am. I just summited but I was only half way…coming down is mandatory.

14,410 feet.

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I honestly wouldn’t have gotten there this year without Fhitting Room. I will always appreciate the opportunity they gave me while knowing I wouldn’t stay forever. I may have another full time job now working as the Chief of Staff at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, but I love this team (and FHITfam!). You can find me at the front desk on Saturdays. I will probably be complaining about the awful walk down that mountain for months.

 

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Songs of Summer 2017

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Every year, there are a handful of songs destined to be played on repeat throughout summer at barbeques, pool parties, and workouts around the country. If you have not found your go-to summer tune yet, you’re in luck! In addition to being experts in all things FHITness, our FHITpros are basically DJs in disguise. Check out their picks for the best songs of 2017 and the workout moves they love to do with them. Love the round up? Get it here on our Spotify.

Eric Salvador
Favorite Song of 2017: A Lie by French Montana featuring The Weekend and Max B
Workout Moves: Something high energy, like a FHIX!

Daury Dross
Favorite Song of 2017: Wins and Losses by Meek Mill
Workout Moves: Great for a nice strength portion of your workout

artworks-000219057531-lgid5k-t500x500(Photo via Soundcloud)

Amanda Butler
Favorite Song of 2017: Despacito by Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee featuring Justin Bieber
Workout Moves: This song is great for strength work, and just dancing and having a good time

Jason Tran
Favorite Song of 2017: Bring Dem Things by French Montana
Workout Moves: I like to chest press (to the beat obvi)

1b36e0(Photo via The Arts Union)

Dara Theodore
Favorite Song of 2017: Stay by Zedd featuring Alessia Cara
Workout Moves: It’s not a FHIX song per se but stick me on the bike or the rower and I could get some work done to that chorus!

Simon Lawson
Favorite Song of 2017: Cake by Flo Rida and 99 Percent, East and Young Remix
Workout Moves: High energy song great for the strength section of class and HIIT training

Mark Ribeiro
Favorite Song: Party on the West Coast by Matoma, Faith Evans, and The Notorious B.I.G.
Workout Move: Long AMRAP, because it’s happy and fun

d553a8d7a211e806999f1835848355cd-500x500x1(Photo via Genius.com)

Carlos Davila
Favorite Song of 2017: $lay by Meek Mill featuring ASAP Ferg
Workout Move: I like that it slows the beat down at various points so if you’re doing a bunch of burpees for example, it affords you a consistent pace and a place to pause based on the beat

Melody Scharff
Favorite Song of 2017: Praying by Kesha
Workout Move: I am OBSESSED with the new Kesha song Praying. I play it for cool downs and I listen to it all the time alone

Mat Forzaglia
Favorite Song of 2017: First Time by Ellie Goulding and Kygo
Workout Move: Dim lights. Music low. Mobility training!

Lacee Lazoff
Favorite Song of 2017: Bounce Back by Big Sean
Workout Move: I love to warm up to it, or play it for the first part of my workout

2bf35c026190ce48465b1e93bd3c8b35(Photo via Hulkshare)

Jess Sims
Favorite Song: Mi Gente by J Balvin and Willy William
Workout Move: It’s a great song for a lot of things, especially lifting heavy during our strength sections or to find the motivation for the FHIX!

Troy Brooks
Favorite Song: Mask Off by Future, Marshmello Remix
Workout Move:  This is the perfect song for a warm up to get the FHIXers in the zone for what’s to come. It’s also great during the circuit once that beat drops it’s on fire. My favorite move to any dope track is the kettlbell figure 8, it’s such a rhythm based move it’s easy to kill it on beat with the right track!

 

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