Pre and Post Workout Nutrition: What do you eat???

“Average people: Focus on food quality & quantity

if you’re exercising for general health and fitness;
if your goals are more modest; and/or
you don’t have unique physiological needs…

…then you probably don’t need any particular workout nutrition strategies.”

From a new article by Brian St. Pierre – Precision Nutrition

Today, I came across a great article from the smart people over at Precision Nutrition. You can read the entire article here.  In the article, they really do a great job explaining the who, what, when, where, why behind pre and post workout nutrition. And in a nutshell, for most of us, it really doesn’t matter.

At Fivex3 Training, I get asked this question a lot: “What should I eat before/after I exercise?” And it’s a great question. And it’s also pretty simple to answer for 99% of the people asking this question. Why? Because as stated in the above quote, if you are exercising for general health and fitness, you do not need a complicated pre or post workout nutrition strategy. For the majority of people out there looking to lose weight, lose fat and feel more comfortable in and out of their clothes, instead of stressing about when, why, what, how they should eat before exercising, they should instead focus on eating some combination of protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats, and some fruit and vegetables before and/or after working out as well as keeping their portion sizes in check – for a man, more and for a woman, less.

So what does that mean for YOU?

  • If you train early in the morning and exercise on an empty stomach, fine. Many of us can do this. If you do, then you should aim to eat a good breakfast afterwards containing some good protein, good fats and veggies/fruit, like an veggie omlette and a cup of strawberries. If you need something before you train, try eating something with a little protein/carbs like oatmeal.
  • If you exercise in the early afternoon, before lunch, you will already have had a meal at least 2-3 hours before, if you ate a good breakfast. Maybe you had a snack too before you exercise (it’s okay if you don’t have a snack either, but some fuel in your stomach 2-3 hours before is good.) After exercise, since you won’t be eating dinner just yet, a protein shake/smoothie is a great idea. You don’t need this immediately after your session, but within 1-2 hours is a good idea. Then make a nice meal for dinner.
  • If you train in the evening, anytime after 5pm on, then having a snack about 2 hours before is good or even just your lunch will help fuel your session. After you have trained, go home and eat a good dinner with protein, veggies, whole grains. You don’t need a post workout shake if you are going home right afterwards. Take time to make your dinner. Relax and eat. If you are not going home immediately and you won’t get a chance to eat for another 2 hours, then having a protein shake or smoothie after your training is a good idea, but not necessary if you are going home to eat. Remember, extra calories are extra calories and  if weight loss is your goal, skip the shake and eat a good meal instead.

Here is an idea of a typical day for me. I always train in the late afternoon, between 4:30 and 6:00, then train my clients from 6 – 8:30. I get home around 9pm and have dinner with Diego.

Important Note: (We have always eaten this late, even before I started the gym. Diego is Argentinian and restaurants there do not even open for dinner until 8:00pm. So eating at 11pm is not uncommon. The myth that eating after 6 will make you fat…..whoever came up with that, well, you know what they can do with that. Eating after 6 will not make you gain weight. EATING A LOT OF CRAP AND EATING MORE THAN YOU NEED TO EAT after 6pm will make you gain weight. There. I have said my peace. Moving on.)

Typical Day

Breakfast: 8:30 – 2 egg Omelet with tons of vegetables, ham and cheese and a cup of fruit (1/2 orange and 1/2 cup of strawberries

Snack: 12:30pm – Protein shake w/water, maybe a banana too

Lunch: 2:30pm – 5.5 ounces of turkey burger, salad w/olive oil/vinegar


Train 4:30 – 6:00

Snack: 6:00pm – After my training, while I am coaching, I will have a protein shake w/almond milk, blueberries or banana or both that I prepped at home.


Dinner – 9:00pm Protein (fish or chicken sausage or steak – it varies from night to night) and a large garden salad w/cashew nuts.

Dinner and lunch salads

Snack – Fruit

I typically end up getting around 140-160 grams of protein a day. I keep it heavy on the vegetables, my big source of carbs. This doesn’t mean I don’t eat rice or bread or potatoes. I do, typically on the weekend, when I my eating schedule is a little less “scheduled” as it is during the week. Eating the same way each day keeps me in a nice routine and allows me to be mindful of how I eat and what I eat,  letting me relax a my eating a little on the weekends. This took time to work on but it certainly has helped me stay on track and I look forward to my huge salads at night all day. ;)

I don’t go crazy trying to time meals or think about what I need to eat. I keep it simple like my training. Meal timing is a word that has been thrown around out there for awhile but really, it doesn’t matter at all for the vast majority of people. Eat mindfully, eat nutrient dense foods, watch how much you eat and exercise. This takes time and patience but if you slowly begin to put these things into practice, it will pay off in the long run.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

It’s only a number.

The scale. Let it be your tool.

“It can be an effective tool,” said Jennifer Linde, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, in Minneapolis. “It gives you feedback every day, and you can coach people to look at the number as a neutral thing. It doesn’t have to be a value judgment.” NY Times article – “Me Versus the Scale.

The above quote is from an article that came out the end of January. You can read the entire article here.   In the past two months, I have seen more blog posts, more rantings about the subject of the scale, and my thoughts really do follow the comment above. Unfortunately, many women view the scale as “evil,” as one of my clients said the other day. The scale has been demonized. Women everywhere are throwing away their scales and refusing to succumb to the wrath that ensues once it is stepped upon. The scale has been found to take a woman from the highest point of her day to the lowest point in all of 5 seconds. For some reason, that number becomes that woman’s entire life once she steps on the cold piece of plastic.  Who cares that her husband told her she looked beautiful that morning. Who cares that a stranger passed her on the street and commented on what a lovely dress she was wearing. Who cares that her best friend told her she would DIE to be able to wear those jeans. Who cares that she deadlifted over 100lbs just yesterday when just a month ago she could barely pick up 65 lbs. She steps on the scale. It shows her a number. And her life falls apart. Now, let me ask you. Has this woman ever been YOU?

Because that woman used to be me. USED to be me. Just up until a few years ago. I have written about my issues with eating and body disorders before for those of you who have read my blog. One of my ladies just thanked me again today for being so candid and open about my past. I think it is important for my clients to know my history and my past and know that they are not alone, that I have struggled with accepting my body and my relationship with food. You can read about my struggles here and here. For many women, this is an ongoing issue in their lives. For many others, it has never affected them. My sister has never had a disordered relationship with eating or with her body. Never. I envy her for that. She has never gone through the pain of hating what you look like, hating that you like to eat, hating that you do eat, crying for hours about the fat on your thighs, sobbing in bathrooms because you hate the way you look so much and have no idea how to make the pain go away. I have gone through this. I have cried too many times over the past 20 years of my life. 20 years. That is a fucking long time to hate your body.  And I did. But NOT anymore.

So what happened? Well, after many years of tears, of binging, not eating, taking laxatives, exercising for hours and hours on end, I started to strength train. As I got stronger, I slowly stopped seeing myself as just a body and started to see myself as a woman. A strong woman. A sister. A daughter. A wife. A friend. A coach. A mentor. Opening my gym was the BEST thing I could have done for myself, my body and mind. You might think it could have been my downfall. Far from it. Everyday, I fall more and more in love with who I am as a person. And that is just it. I am not a body. I am a person. I help people feel better, move better. I help people get stronger. I help people better themselves, inside and out. I help women understand that they are not just bodies, that they are more than that. They are powerful, strong, and able to do more than they thought they could. I help them focus on performance, not looks. I help them focus on being a better THEM. And at they same time, they are helping me become a better ME.

I am not quiet about my weight. In the past four years, I have gained 20 pounds, about 14 of which is muscle. Hot damn. In May of 2010, after  my back episode left me weak and sick and sad, I weighed 129lbs. I was small…but I was weak. And I was in pain.

A year later, I weighed around 135lbs. Two years later, I weighed in around 140-145lbs. At this time last year, I was around 145-148 lbs. Today, I weigh in around 155lbs. How do I know? I went to my doctor on Monday and she weighed me because that is what they do at the doctor’s office. ;)   That’s how I know. I also stepped on the scale about two weeks before and it said 155 too. That number is 10 lbs MORE than what I am “used” to seeing. 10lbs. And yeah, things fit me differently, that’s for sure, so I knew that I must be up in weight. Took my measurements and sure enough, I have gained two inches on my thighs, an inch on my calves and about 2 inches on my hips. All that squatting, glute bridging, hip thrusting, back extensions, Bulgarian split squats that I have been doing these past months are really starting to pay off!! ;) Oh, yeah, and don’t forget the eating. ;-)

How different do I REALLY look in each picture?

Oh and by the way, this was me last August at 140lbs and 18% body fat. How different do I look from today? Well, I am leaner in this photo but honestly, not that different. Do you get the point? Don't let the scale be the only thing you measure.

Same photo shoot.









All I could think was when I stepped on that scale was, “Wow! The lifting is paying off.” You see, I am trying to put muscle on and this requires eating and lifting weights. So I am doing just that. And when I look in the mirror, I think, “Damn, 155 never looked so good.” ;) And just recently, I had someone, a man, tell me that I looked great at this weight. He watched a video of me from almost 4 years ago and when I told him how much I weighed then (130 pounds), he asked me how much I weighed now. “155?” he asked. When I said yes, he said,  “A much healthier weight for you Emily.” And he is right. I AM healthier. And I AM happier.

The last time I had seen 155lbs, I was 22 years old living in NYC. With roughly 30% body fat. Today, I am at 155lbs much lower bodyfat. Same weight. Different shape. Fuck load stronger and leaner. At 5′ 7 1/2″, this is a great bodyweight for me. There is no “magic” number. There is only a number. And it doesn’t define you. So don’t let it.

Me in NYC. 1997

And in about a month, I am going to have to step on the scale a little more frequently if I want to get down to the weight class I put myself in for the Push/Pull  meet I am doing in June. Right now, I am about 70kg. I am  looking to get down to 67kg for the 148lb weight class. In October, I weighed in at 66kg on the dot. Then I started eating and lifting and eating and lifting and now I am up weight and muscle….and yes, fat too. ;) So the scale will soon become a tool to use for my training.

And that is just what the scale is to me and should be to YOU. It is a tool and it should be treated as just one of many tools one can and should use if their goal is to lose weight….or gain weight. You can weigh yourself, take your measurements, your body fat, put on a pair of jeans….there are many ways to gauge whether or not you may need to lose or GAIN weight. ONE number does not tell the whole story, but it does tell part of the story.

If you know that you need to lose weight, let the scale help you. Use it appropriately and it will be a friend. Abuse the scale and it will be your sworn enemy. Remember, it is just ONE method for helping you on your journey, whatever your journey may be.

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Second Personal Defense Readiness™ Seminar with Steve Wakefoose

We are very excited to announce our second Personal Defense Readiness™ with Steve Wakefoose of CrossFit West Chester in Pennsylvania on Sunday, April 6, 2014. This  self-defense seminar is based on Tony Blauer’s S.P.E.A.R System and Personal Defense Readiness program. Instructor Steve Wakefoose will lead the workshop. Steve is the founder of Providence Combatives and is a certified Level 1 Personal Defense Readiness coach and S.P.E.A.R. System Fundamentals coach with advanced certifications in the Blauer Tactical Systems Weapons Protection and Ground Fighting curriculum, serving Pennsylvania. With over 20 years of studying and teaching Martial Arts and Defensive Tactics in the private and public sectors, he has the experience and knowledge to fulfill your personal safety training needs. Steve currently serves in Law Enforcement as Defensive Tactics and Firearms Instructor. You can read a more about Steve’s program here.

The Personal Defense Readiness™ Seminar is based on the S.P.E.A.R. SYSTEM™, which is the first genetically, and behaviorally inspired self-defense course. It is the only self-defense method that fully integrates the body’s reflexive responses and instinctive survival mechanisms making S.P.E.A.R. the easiest, most natural way to protect yourself. This 1-day seminar is open to the public and will challenge, and enlighten everyone who attends. PDR seminars are dual track (learn at your own pace) classes for both experienced and new attendees. New participants will receive an introduction into Tony Blauer’s renowned mind-set & fear management strategies that include important components from the Cerebral Self-Defense™, Cycle of Behavior™ and Be Your Own Bodyguard™ programs. Understanding F.E.A.R. is the key to overcoming any obstacles in life. To learn more about Tony Blauer and the S.P.E.A.R System, check out his website and blog.

The clinic will run from 10am until 2pm, with breaks naturally built in.  Participants should bring a light snack and water and dress in comfortable clothes and clean sneakers. The workshop is appropriate for anyone ages 13 and up. Public safety officers and officials are welcomed and encouraged to attend.

This seminar is limited to 20 participants.  We expect the workshop to fill quickly, so send in your registration soon.  Cost for the four-hour clinic is $60 per person.  All checks should be made payable to Fivex3 Training, LLC. You may mail in all checks with the registration form, or come by the gym to register in person.  You can also register right now and pay online by using the “Buy Now” button below.  If you have any questions, please contact us at or call 410-205-9254.

Click here to download the informational flier.

Click here to download the registration form.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A New Year means New Beginnings

“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.”- Edith Lovejoy Pierce

Jack at the walk.

New beginnings. Isn’t that what the New Year is all about? A new beginning? A chance to try something new this year, set new goals, meet new people. 2014 is almost here and I am more ready than ever. Last year, I wrote these words: “By tomorrow, 2012 will be just a distant memory. But I will not forget this past year that quickly. It was the year my sister fought her battle with colon cancer. And won. Boom!”

2012 was a hellish beginning to the New Year. Charlotte had just begun her chemo treatments for colon cancer. We were running around, picking Jack up from pre-school, watching Eleanor, cooking for Charlotte, driving her to chemo. It was a tough beginning to 2012 for all of us. By July of 2012, she was done with chemo. She had won. She started coming back to the gym. She started to gain weight again. She started smiling again. Really smiling. ;)

She participated in the Susan Cohan Colon Cancer walk….we all did. Jack wore a sign that read “My mom is a cancer survivor.” The nightmare was over. “Next year,” she told me, “I am running it.”

2012 made us aware of who we really were as a family. We pulled together. We spent real quality time together. We remembered that the only things that really matter in life is family.

Charlotte at her Cancer to 5K run.

2013 started off on a great note. Charlotte and I registered for the Ulman Fund Triathlon, a 0.9 mile swim, 25 mile bike and 6.5 mile run.  Why the hell we thought this was a good idea is beyond me….neither one of us could swim and I had not run in almost 5 years. Charlotte had never been a runner either. But she had volunteered at the last one and was determined to do it this year. “Oh, I’m doing it,” she said. And that was that.

She joined the Cancer to 5K Ulman Fund Running Group and discovered that not only did she love to run, but she was good at it. Really good. She ran circles around me. ;)

My business continued to grow in 2012. I made the tough decision to resign from the dance company after my concert in April and concentrate solely on the gym. I had a good two seasons with the company and had proven to myself that strength training really was the cure for my back issues. ;)

The Baltimore's Women Classic 2013

Charlotte and I ran the Baltimore’s Women Classic in June and she ended up sprinting to the finish line yelling for me to “Punch it!” as she darted ahead of me. Damn, I thought, she is fast. This triathlon is going to be a breeze.

A week later, I had a mole removed from my neck that my dermatologist thought looked suspicious. The following week, I went in for a check up with the plastic surgeon who had removed the mole and was told all was well. It had been a basal cell carcinoma but all was well, they had removed it so there was nothing to worry about. Until I got a phone call the next day from the plastic surgeon and was told that there had been a mix up in the lab and it had NOT been a basal cell carcinoma. It had been melanoma. “I don’t think it has spread,” he said to me. I am sitting down while he is talking and all I can think about is my mother. Just what she needs to hear. “By the way, Mrs. Giza, your other daughter now has cancer.” The next thing I know, I am scheduling a second surgery to make sure everything had been removed. Surgery goes well and I am in the clear. Check. However, a week later, Charlotte goes in for a scan. And it’s not good news. Prior to the scan, she was already starting to feel sick again. Nothing too bad, but not the usual symptoms. Her PET scan lights up. She is diagnosed with Stage IV Colon Cancer. It’s back. After a year of clean scans, it’s back. Uncheck.

First day of treatment.

July 2013 might as well have been the start of our New Year because I honestly do not remember anything prior to my surgery and Charlotte’s re-diagnosis.

She started chemo treatments again in August and she will be done the end of January. The only “good” thing about this diagnosis this time is that we all know what to expect from the treatments. We quickly pulled together and created our schedules in regards to the kids – pick ups, drop offs, weekends at Emmy’s. Charlotte’s neighbor set up a meal train website so people could make meals for Charlotte and Rick and the kids each week. We had gone through this once before. We could do it again.

Charm City Strongwoman 2013

During this time, I am quickly gearing up for the 2nd Annual Charm City Strongwoman Contests, one of the biggest Strongwoman Contests ever. The contest is to benefit the Susan Cohan Colon Cancer Foundation. Last year, we had 20 women compete, and we thought that was awesome. This year, we had 43 women compete. 43.

We raised over $6000 for the Susan Cohan Colon Cancer Foundation through donations, registrations and sponsorships. It was one of the greatest days of 2013. Charlotte was there to see it all. A day to be remembered by everyone.

Finish line.

In October, Charlotte and I ran the Ulman Fund Triathlon. We had already decided back in June, before her diagnosis, that we would do the tri as a relay. Charlotte realized she just did not have the time to train for the full race so we opted for the the relay. We asked one of my members who was a swimmer in college to to do the swim portion. I would bike and Charlotte would run.

Then her diagnosis happened. Enter Plan B. Ricky wanted to now participate so we shuffled things around and decided that I would either A. Run the race with Charlotte  B.Walk/Run the race with Charlotte or C. Run the race myself. Choice C was never really going to happen because  really, any way you looked at it, Charlotte was doing that damn triathlon.


And run she did. Five days after her long chemo treatment (a six hour day that leaves her wiped out for four days), she and I were out there on the 6.5 mile course, running. In the hot October sun. Not walking. Running. I believed in the power of will that day.

At the meet with one of my members, Susan Clayton.

A week after the race, I competed in my first push/pull Powerlifting meet. Although my numbers may not be dramatic by any means (I finished with a 115# bench), for someone who danced her whole life and never, ever thought this would become such an important part of her life, it was a damn good day. ;) It felt wonderful to be nervous in front of people in a different way other than on a stage dancing. I loved performing. Even at a powerlifting meet, you are still performing for an audience.

You have trained. You have practiced your lifts. You have thought about the cues. You have prepared to do your best. Then you get three chances to prove yourself. And everyone is right behind you, cheering you on.  The strength world is extremely generous and giving. Everyone wants everyone else to do a good job. I truly love what I do.

This year, I turned 39 years old. I kept wishing it was the year I turned 40 but I have to wait a whole other year for that big day. ;) And I hope to celebrate this one with my sister, healthy and chemo free. I am looking forward to moving into a new decade. Another chance for a new beginning.

Flippin' tires at Mike's.

Now the holidays are here. Christmas has come and gone and the New Year is right around the corner. So what am looking forward to this year? What are my goals? Well, I still want to get that bodyweight bench so I’ll keep working on that.  ;) We are expanding the gym which means more work, more members and more chances to make a difference in people’s lives.

My munchkins.

                                 I plan on spending even more time with El and Jack.

Me and my Diego.

Diego and I will have been together 10 years this coming June, married for 9 years. He is the love of my life, my biggest fan and at times, the biggest pain in my butt. ;) But I would not be where I am today without his support and love and encouragement. I am a better woman for having met him and falling in love with him. Together, we make a pretty damn good team.

It will be a new year to grow and develop as a coach, business owner, wife, sister, aunt and daughter. It will be a year to continue to see the glass as half full, not half empty. Life did throw us a curve ball this past year. But we caught it. And we are throwing it back.

Happy New Year. This year, be the best person you can be. Be kind. Be nice. Be generous with your smiles, your hugs, your words. Be sincere. Be honest. Be forgiving. Be compassionate. Be a friend. Be your best.

2014!!!! Happy New Year!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Think you are too old to start getting strong? Think again.

   You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.  George Burns

About two weeks ago, on a calm Sunday morning, we held our 3rd Strength Training Workshop for Women at Fivex3 Training. In three hours, we covered the four main lifts – squat, press, deadlift and bench. That’s a lot of information  for a three hour workshop and once again, it was absolutely one of the best three hours of my life. Teaching women how to properly squat with a barbell? To depth? Priceless.

Of the 16 women who attended our workshop, three were over the age of 60. Two were clients of mine and the third was the mother of another woman at the workshop who had some experience with this type of training. Her mother had none so she decided to come because she was interested. Learn how to squat with a barbell? Hey, why not?

Coaching Joyce on the press.

For Joyce, she just wanted to try something different. Right away, I could tell she was going to be fun to work with because she had no problem laughing at herself. She had no problem trying the lifts. She surprised herself and she definitely impressed herself. And I coached her the same way I coached all the other women. I made her get her hips through when she deadlifted. I made her hold the bar overhead when she wanted to bring it down.  “Keep your back tight!” I barked during the bench. 65 years or not. She was still my trainee for those three hours. ;) And throughout the workshop, her smile never left her face.

With Diane, getting stronger has become an addiction. She started with us about four months ago, straight from physical therapy where she had been since the spring after she injured herself in a bootcamp class at another gym. Worst part? She injured herself on the first day of the class. ;(  (I don’t know about the trainers at that gym, but if someone came to me and then injured herself so badly the first day she trained with me and then immediately started PT, I would re-think my programming and my coaching.)

Diane making it look easy.

Since she has been with us, Diane has not only gotten stronger, but she has improved her mobility in her hips and her shoulders so much that she was able to come to our workshop and get into a great low-bar back position and squat. Pressing was a different ball game and we already knew that this lift might give her trouble but coaching her through the  deadlift and the bench was easy and she learned to get into a great position for both lifts.

Diane was in heaven. “This is so much fun!” she said as she racked the bar after her set of five squats. To hear a 62 year old woman say that squatting was fun brought me almost to tears. I cannot tell you how many younger people (women and men) would never say this type of training was fun. There are many women who would never even dream of trying to learn how to squat with a barbell. Many people simply have no interest, which is absolutely fine. No one says you HAVE to squat with a barbell. Others are just not open minded enough to stick with it or even try this type of training for fear of getting too big.



But Diane came because she wanted to come. She would watch my women train before her class. She understands and acknowledges the benefits of barbell training. Most importantly, she WANTS to do this kind of work. And she also knows how bad ass it is too. ;) Diane is passionate about getting stronger and feeling better. Her new goal is to work her back and shoulders more so she can overhead press properly. And knowing her, it will only be a matter of time before she is not just pressing the bar, but snatching it too. ;)



And then we have Jan. Ahhhhh. Jan. To say this woman is remarkable would be doing a disservice to her and everything she stands for. At 68 years old, while she is not my oldest client, (I have a 73 year old woman who is amazing in her own right), she is certainly older than most of my clients…..and getting stronger and stronger every day.

Jan deadlifting.

For Jan, this whole “getting strong thing” happened just this past July when she decided to try us out after meeting one of my other bad ass clients, Lauren. Jan started with our Basic Training Class and really struggled in the beginning. Learning how to squat, pull, even how to hinge, were difficult movements for her. She would get a little frustrated at times but she stuck with it and started to see improvements in her movement patterns in no time.

She started coming to class 3 times each week and each week, we tackled these movements and each time, she got better and better at them until finally, she started coaching others on the exercises. ;) July passed and she signed up for the month. Now she is up to 3-4 times a week.  The only logically thing to do next was to tackle the bar.

When we announced our strength workshop, she was the first one to sign up. Jan was like a kid in a candy shop. She tackled the squat which was a little difficult but not impossible. Pressing, however, was  totally different story. She pressed the women’s bar like it weighed nothing. She deadlifted 100lbs (which is just about her bodyweight), conventional, no less. And she benched, acting like it was the most natural thing in the world for her to be doing. ;)

Jan pressing 38# for sets of 5.

Just the other day, she pressed 38# for 3 sets of 5 with waaaaay more in her. And she pressed it like a boss. There are women 40 years younger than she is who struggle with just the empty bar.

The woman is unstoppable.




What is most fascinating is to watch my older clients train because they train with such intensity. They really focus on positions and posture, and they practice the movement over and over  and over again. They are so easy to coach because they really want to learn to move better, and they want to make sure they are doing everything right. Their motto, to quote Yoda, is “Do or Do Not. There is no Try.”

So to all of those who may say that they are too old to train, I have only three words for you: Joyce, Diane and Jan.


Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Lifting weights is only for boys…..NOT!!!!

About two months ago, I received an email from a strength coach I know who was doing a presentation at his gym in Boston (okay, his name is Tony Gentilcore and it’s Cressey Performance, okay?) He had a “quick” question.

Here was his question:

Quick question: My presentation at the CP seminar this weekend is on female training, and more specifically, the mental component, ie: women have been programmed to think that they can’t (and shouldn’t) lift heavy weights. From a woman’s perspective, and as someone who in fact trains a lot of women, can you give me a list of “goals” that many of them come to you with? One of my main points as far as differences between men and women is that men want to get jacked, and women, well, not so much.  Any bullet points or insights or tidbits you feel I should hit on? Anything would be much appreciated…. There’s no doubt that I want to convey the message that lifting heavy things is good for women, but I also want to note that there are SOME subtle differences. For instance, with women, I tend to limit a lot of quad dominant work and focus more on hip dominant stuff. I’ll also place a slight emphasis on shoulders to give the “illusion” of a smaller waist. Anything you’d like to share that you do differently with your ladies? Okay, this time I mean it. I’m done…..;O)

I responded with this dissertation (cause I don’t understand quick either): ;-)


Hi Tony,

I have soo many thoughts running through my head right now but I will pair it down….

Okay, here goes:

The press.

1. Confidence. I cannot tell you how many women come to me because they want to feel more confident and they want to be strong. They want a stronger upper body. They want to be able to do a push up. They want to be able to do more in their own lives outside the gym without help.





2. Shape. The women who come to me also have done their research and they know that lifting weights will help them change their body composition. They also understand the important role that nutrition plays in this too…and after just a month or so, they always start to tell me how differently their clothes are fitting them, how they need to shop for new clothes, that people are noticing a difference. Remember Michele, my “this is what bulky looks like” star? The one in the blue shirt? Yes, that Michele. I pull a picture out of my back pocket every time someone says I don’t want to look bulky.



Look ma! I got guns!

Side note: NOT part of the original message. So what if someone wants to look “bulky?” Maybe they want to have some nice looking, meaty arms? I am totally down with that. But that is for another post.




3. Empowerment. You get what I mean.


3rd Strength Training Workshop for Women

4. To get STRONG.

Honestly Tony, the women who come to me really come with one goal in mind: To get STRONG. I really have not had one woman come to me and say “I want to look like the women in such and such magazine.” None of them want to look like anyone else. They want to be a stronger version of themselves. Then they start to notice differences in how they look, how their clothes fit, what people are saying to them and all of a sudden they realize that they have changed themselves physically, inside and out, by focusing on strength.


We just held the 2nd Annual Charm City Strongwoman Contest at my gym to benefit the Susan Cohan Colon Cancer Foundation. We raised $6000. I had 41 women compete. 41. Of all shapes, sizes and ages. This is why my women train. I had 6 of my ladies compete and in the Fun Class, they came in 4th, 6th, 7th, 10th, 11th and 12th out of 21 women in their group.

Pressing the sandbag at the contest.


They deadlifted. They pressed. They pulled a truck. They threw medicine balls over a 10ft poll. They carried 70lb sandbags in a loading race. They are strong, confident, powerful women who make strength look really, really good.



All of the other women who came to compete came from various Crossfit gyms and were as NICE and supportive as they could be….and all shapes and sizes. And they all had one goal: To have fun. To lift weights. To be badass.

Susan deadlifting.

I train my women the same way I train my guys. They squat. They press. They bench. They deadlift.

Mariza gets her squat on.

They do glute bridges and hip thrusts, split squats and push ups, chin ups and single leg deadlifts.

Honestly, I really don’t think about the quad dominant work vs. hip dominant work or rather I should say, I don’t limit the amount of work I do for my men or my women.



EVERYONE needs more hip dominant work so pull throughs, deadlifts, glute bridges, swings, rdls, etc. are part of everyone’s program. I think I keep it pretty balanced. For those women who are more quad dominant, I definitely tend to do more work for their backsides.

But I really make sure that everyone is getting a lot of the same work because, hey, my guys tend to have weak glutes too. ;)


In regards to my ladies, we really do inspire each other. It’s not unheard of to  overhear them say, “Did you see Lauren’s push ups? Wow! I can’t wait until I can do push ups like that!” or “Wow. If only I could deadlift the way Susan does. She is awesome.” I, too, work very hard on my own training and they recognize that and I believe that it inspires them to keep pushing themselves.

Log presses.

I will be honest. I have worked very hard to create the body I have today at 39, and I am proud of this. I have put a lot more muscle on my frame in the past 4 years, dropped body fat, built a ton of strength. My clients see a woman who not just looks strong but who is strong. I like that. I want that.

My back.




There is nothing small about me…..but I may look smaller than I am because of the muscle and strong, defined shoulders (that yes, make my waist look smaller!) I strongly believe in “looking” a specific way to help motivate women to want to lift weights. I have thighs. I have a butt. I have big shoulders and a strong back and I tell stories about busting out of my dresses, dresses I used to be able to wear, but that are now too small because of my stronger, bigger back. I am proud of this.


A woman should not be afraid of getting strong. We should always want to be stronger.

Wow. Okay, so I wrote a novel. I think you can tell how strongly I feel about this.

Thanks for asking Tony. Please let me know if there is anything else you need from me.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Now you see me. Now you don’t.

Remember how you mother always told you never judge a book by its cover? Well, she was right. And never, ever, EVER judge a fitness magazine by its cover, let alone a fashion magazine. If you have not seen this video yet, check out now.

So, if that could be done with that model, what would I look like photo shopped? My husband, Diego, decided to give it a try and take one of my recent photo shoot pictures  and photoshop me so I would be fitness magazine ready.

Can you tell which picture is the real picture and which is the photo shopped picture?


Photo A

Photo B


Is it this one?






Or this one? (The answer is below so don’t cheat.) ;)






If you guessed photo A, then you are correct. Picture B is the untouched picture. That’s who I am. Can you tell what he photo shopped? My teeth are whiter. My breasts are bigger. He tightened up my abs, smoothed out my skin – no freckles, moles or sweat. He lengthened my waist and made me proportional. He took a couple inches off my hips. Cool, right? But…. that’s not ME.  And you know something, I really like me. I liked me then in August for the photo shoot. I like me now in November, with a little softer look since it is the season to start layering…and baking. ;)

Honestly, I have a hard time looking at the photo shopped picture of me because, well, it’s not me. ;) It’s a fake Emily. It’s not the real Emily who has freckles and no waist and has a few extra inches on her hips and likes them.

So, the next time you decide to pick up one of those fitness magazines, don’t let the model on the front fool you. It’s her…but it’s not her. You dig?

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Baby’s Got Back! And you can too.


As many of my clients know, I am a HUGE fan of training the posterior chain. And thanks to Bret Contreras, also known as “The Glute Guy,” I am never without new ways of thinking about the glutes. There is a running joke at my gym that EVERYTHING is about the glutes. As I tell my clients, “Just so you know, you will never hear me tell you to “Keep your weight on your toes,” or “Let your knees cave,” or “Whatever you do, DON’T squeeze your ass.” Instead, you will always, nay, constantly hear “Weight back!” “Knees out!” “Crack the walnut! Squeeze the crap out of your butt! Hips through! Squeeze!”

Needless to say, we laugh. A lot. ;)

Bret loves glutes. So do I. My mission this coming New Year is to build the strongest, most powerful backside imaginable, for me, and of course, for my clients. When I try something new, guess what? They do it too. If I post a new video of me doing barbell glute bridges, I am almost sure to get a message from one of my ladies saying “Guess I know what we’re doing tomorrow in class!” Hey, what’s good for me is also good for them. And while some of  my clients may not  be ready for barbell glute bridges, it doesn’t mean we cannot load them with a dumbbell or sandbag or even simply wrap a mini-band around the legs for resistance. Oh, glute bridges, how much do I love thee!

Kellie Davis in all her glory. ;)

Your glutes are your biggest muscle.  Without them, your pants sag, your back hurts….it’s just not pretty.  People train what they see….but don’t forget that while you may not see your backside, uh, I do. We all do. And I want  you to train it. Why??? Well, for starters, you will FEEL better. You will walk faster. You will stand taller. You will move better. Your back will thank you. Your pants will thank you. Your pants will definitely thank you.

Look ma! I fill out my pants!

I hit my glutes every time I train, even on my bench day. Oh, how I love my bench day. And I have two of them in my program. Lucky me!! But I digress. Even on my bench day, I get some glute work in. It takes all of about 5 minutes, if that. After every session, I do two exercises, with or without a band, depending on the exercise. I try to mix it up each time. My glute finishers could be banded clams, seated band abductors, band hip rotations, feet elevated hip thrust, monster walks, etc.

Right now, my program looks like this:

Monday: Back squat, Bulgarian split squats, single leg deadlifts, rows. Two glute finishers.

Tuesday: Bench (volume), press (single arm, barbell, swiss bar), rows, push ups. Two glute finishers.

Wednesday: 30 minute glute program (band hip thrusts, goblet squats or skater squats, single leg deadlifts or superman or RDL’s. Two glute finishers.)

Thursday: Back squat, Bulgarian split squats, deadlift (trap bar, conventional). Two glute finishers.

Friday: Bench (heavy), press (Log or dumbbell), close grip bench, rows, CURLS!! And two glute finishers.

Saturday: If I get a chance, another 30 minute glute only workout. Last week, I worked up to a heavy single a 400lbs with my barbell glute bridge. ;)

And you know what? I feel AWESOME. I started the extra glute work at the beginning of October, and I am reaping the benefits. Not only have gained some inches, I am stronger, my lifts are more powerful, and to top it off, I am really enjoying my new shape. ;) I have also increased my food intake which is definitely helping with the size of my butt and the ability to move more weight. ;) But that is for another blog post.

I have put together a short video of one of my glute sessions. If you are curious about what a 30 minute glute only program looks like, check it out. Thanks to Bret and Strong Curves as well as Bret’s online site Get Glutes, my glutes will never be forgotten. ;)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The 2013 2nd Annual Charm City Strongwoman Contest: There is always Strength in Numbers

2013 Charm City Strongwoman Contest

“We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.”
J.K. Rowling

And united we were. On Sunday, September 15, 2013, Fivex3 Training of Baltimore, MD and McKenna’s Gym of Red Lion, PA,  hosted the 2nd Annual Charm City Strongwoman Contest in Baltimore, MD to benefit the Susan Cohan Colon Cancer Foundation, Susie’s Cause, a non-profit organization founded by David Rodman Cohan and his daughter, Susan Cohan, before her tragic death in 2004. Susie’s Cause, named in honor of Susan, has raised $15 million since 2004 and has successfully worked to be an international leader in colon cancer prevention, screening and treatment. My sister Charlotte was diagnosed with Stage III Colon Cancer in September of 2011 at the age of 35 and thanks to the organization’s outreach programs and support, Charlotte has always stood strong, knowing that she is not alone in her battle. Unfortunately, her battle continues. She was re-diagnosed in July of 2013 with Stage IV Colon Cancer after a year of living cancer free and is currently in chemotherapy treatments again. But….she is doing fantastic and is looking forward to kicking cancer’s ass. And while she had hoped to have competed in this year’s contest, she definitely has her eyes set on next year. ;) Strength is not just physical. It is mental, emotional, even spiritual. When you are strong, you are unstoppable. And you never know when your strength will be called upon.

Charlotte and I

Last year, we were only able to donate $200 (out of pocket) to the foundation. This year, between First Giving pages, donations from sponsors and registrations and donations taken in the day of the contest, we raised over $6,000 for the Susan Cohan Colon Cancer Foundation and Fivex3 Training wrote a check for $1543.77. I think we did pretty well this year. ;) A huge shout out to our sponsors who helped make this contest a success. They included Teavolve, 180′s, Athleta, City Sports, Baltimore’s Child, Baltimore Tattoo Museum, Bertha’s, Cafe Latte Da, Fleet Street Market, Charm City Massage, Clark-Morley Salon and Dance Happens Inc.

Fivex3 Training's Donation


The 2nd Annual Charm City Strongwoman Contest

With 41 women registered for the event, we knew we were going to see some really awesome lifting. Our competitors included women from Crossfit Retribution, Push 511, South Baltimore Crossfit, Arenal Fitness, Activate Body, Crossfit Frederick, Odin Crossfit, McKenna’s Gym, and of course, the awesome ladies of Fivex3 Training.  This year, we had three groups competing: The Fun Class (beginner group), the Advanced Class and a Pro-Amateur group. All the groups rocked the house and there was some pretty impressive lifting going on throughout the day.

After introductions were made by Mike and I and the rules were reviewed, we got right to our first events: Weight for height for the Fun Group, the Truck Pull for the Pro-Am Group and the Press Medley for the Advanced Group. Because of the number of competitors this year, events ran simultaneously. This allowed for the contest to run more smoothly and more quickly and also gave the spectators a lot to watch! And let me tell you…there was never a dull moment!

The events broke down like this for each group:

Fun Group

Weigh for Height

Weight for Height – Throw 6 balls over the 10ft pole in 75 seconds. Two 10lb, two 15 lb and two 20 lb balls.

Truck Pull – Pull a truck 50ft in 75 seconds.

Press Medley- Press one weight one time in 75 seconds. Weights: 40lb dumbbell, 20kg kettlebell, 75lb barbell, 70lb sandbag.

Deadlift for Max reps- Deadlift a 155lb barbell as many times in 75 seconds.

Sandbag Loading Race – Carry and load four 70lb sandbags onto a 42″ platform in 75 seconds.

Advanced Group

The truck pull.

Weight for Height – Throw 6 balls over the 12ft pole in 75 seconds. Two 10lb, two 15 lb and two 20 lb balls.

Truck Pull – Pull a heavier truck 50ft in 75 seconds.

Press Medley – Press one weight one time in 75 seconds. Weights: 50lb dumbbell, 24kg kettlebell, 110lb barbell, 90lb sandbag.

Deadlift for Max reps – Deadlift a 225lb barbell as many times in 75 seconds.

Sandbag Loading Race – Carry and load two 70lb sandbags and two 90lb sandbags onto a 42″ platform in 75 seconds.

Pro-Amateur Group

The dumbbell press.

Weight for Height – Throw 7 balls over the 12ft pole in 75 seconds. Two 10lb, two 15 lb, two 20 lb balls and one 30lb ball.

Truck Pull – Pull a heavier truck 75ft in 75 seconds.

Press Medley – Press one weight one time in 75 seconds. Weights: 65lb dumbbell, 28kg kettlebell, 135lb barbell, 100lb sandbag.

Deadlift for Max reps – Deadlift a 275lb barbell as many times in 75 seconds.

The deadlift

Sandbag Loading Race – Carry and load four 100lb sandbags onto a 46″ platform in 75 seconds.

We were ahead of schedule the entire day and everyone had a blast. Our awesome Fivex3 Training volunteers re-positioned weights and balls for the lifters, picked up and carried sandbags over and over again and most importantly, they made sure that Ricky, our truck driver, did not run over anyone’s foot with the PBI truck. ;)

After all the points were added up (next year, we are inputting all of our numbers into a spread sheet right then and there!), it was time to announce the winners. Thanks to our incredible sponsors, we were able to give out first, second and third place awards this year! First place in the Fun Class went to Christine Roche of Arenal Fitness. Second and third places went to Keri Haldeman and Kat Strauss/Emma Arthur.  First place in the Advanced Class went to Megan Burdick of Crossfit Frederick, with second and third place going to Marcy Kopp of Crossfit Frederick and Kristen Colyer of Crossfit Retribution.  And in the Pro-Amateur class, first place went to  Courtney Lynch of McKenna’s Gym with 2nd and 3rd place going to Patsy Shaffer and Jackie Englebrake of Crossfit Retribution. Congratulations ladies! Well deserved!

High fives from the ladies of CFR.

And just like last year, the women were amazing. Everyone cheered for each other. Everyone clapped and screamed “You can do it!” to every single lady, whether they knew her or not. There was a lot of hugging. A lot of high-fiving.

There were a lot of cheers, whistles, screaming, shouting…and not just by the competitors. By the spectators too. ;) It was not just a day to watch women lift weights. It was a day to celebrate strength.

It was a day to celebrate women, of all ages and backgrounds. It was a day to celebrate life.

High five from the women of Activate Body.


Together, we made a difference in the lives of so many people. Most importantly, we made a difference in my life and my sister’s life. We helped raise money for a great, great cause. We sent a message to my sister and to all of those women and men afflicted with cancer that they are not alone in this fight. We are with them, and we will help them. We will fight for them. We will  honor them. One deadlift at a time. ;)

For more information about the Charm City Strongwoman Contest, please click here: Charm City Strongwoman.


Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Training for Life: Charlotte’s Story

A sister can be seen as someone who is both ourselves and very much not ourselves – a special kind of double.  ~Toni Morrison

“Ha! how many times can this change??? Although, I think we have it now. I really hope that I will be running/ walking with you for that 6.5 miles so that we can be together- but if not, I know you will kill it!!!!”  Charlotte’s email to me about a month before the race.

Congratulations kiss!

Well, we did it. We completed the 2013 Ulman Fund Half Full Triathlon. What started out as Charlotte and I competing individually turned into a team relay, with my client Michele swimming 0.9 miles, my brother-in-law Ricky biking 25 miles and my sister Charlotte and I running 6.5 miles. Yes, I said running. Not walking. Not intervals (walk/run). Running….about a 10:00 minute mile pace or so the whole time. Seriously. If you don’t know Charlotte’s story, you can read about it here, here and here. One word to describe my sister.  Determined.

Team Semi-Colon!


Our race was on Sunday, October 6. Four days prior, Charlotte was at Kaiser for her long chemo treatment. 9:30am to about 2:00pm. The day before the race, she was lying on my parent’s couch, too tired to talk, to move, to eat. This morning, at 6am, we are all at Centennial Park about to complete a triathlon.

Paparazzi in the house!





By 6:45 am, we were walking to the start of the race. At 7:00 am, we are listening to the National Anthem. At 7:15, the first waves enter the lake for the swim. We are laughing with Michele, excited to see her off. Around 7:50am, she enters the water and is off like a flash! We shoot some video, take a few pictures and then we hurry up to the transition area. 20 minutes later, Michele is running into the transition area and Ricky is off! Charlotte and I congratulate Michele and start warming up. We have no idea when Rick will make it in but we are thinking between 9:30-9:45.

Ricky and Charlotte before the start of the bike portion.


Sure enough, around 9:45, Ricky bikes in to the transition area. We are nowhere near him because I have now noticed that my driver’s license is missing and most likely I have dropped it near the porta potties. ;( Michele goes in search of my license and right then, Rick comes in. Charlotte and I dash over to him. He shoves the timing chip into my hand. I strap it around my ankle and Charlotte and I head out of the transition area, through the banner and down the hill to the lake. As we begin our run, I know that this is definitely not the same Charlotte who ran with me in the Baltimore Women’s Classic. I can hear her breathing, trying to keep her breath steady. She is slower, pacing herself. But…she is running. She is really running.

And she doesn’t stop. Up Gatorade hill. Around the lake. On to Font Hill Road. On to Centennial Lane. We pass mile 3. We pass mile 4. “I have never run more than 4 miles,” Charlotte says to me as we approach mile 5. “Well, today you will run over 6 miles,” I say. I start to cry, quietly. I work to catch my breath because I am starting to get choked up. Charlotte is breathing heavily beside me but she keeps on running. “Go Charlotte!” people scream from the sidelines. “Way to go Charlotte!” Everyone is cheering. Everyone is celebrating. I am running with a true champion.

Finish line!!

As we turn into the park, I can hear the announcer and the music at the finish line. “Come on Shoo-shoo,” I say. “Let’s finish this.” I start to cry again (thankfully I am wearing sunglasses) and quickly calm myself down. As we come up to the finish line, my mom is there to cheer us on. Jack, my nephew and Charlotte’s son is there as is my husband, Diego, Ricky and Michele.

Almost there!








We hear other people shouting our names as we cross the finish line, in just over one hour. We did it. Charlotte did it. I don’t know too  many people who could run 6.5 miles in an hour and are NOT going through chemotherapy. I truly believe that if Charlotte had run this race the way she ran the BWC in June, before her Stage IV diagnosis, before her chemo treatments, we would have finished in 50 minutes. Easy.

Charlotte shows me what it means to live your life every single day. Because of her, I can do anything. Because of her, I am a better person. Because of her, I cherish every single day of  my life now. I take nothing for granted. I don’t worry about stupid things. I surround myself with good, honest, hard working people. I smile and laugh – ALOT. I get angry sometimes, but I let things go more easily than before. I know who I am because of my sister. And each day she gets stronger, I get stronger. Her fight is my fight. And we are in this together until the end.

My strong and courageous sister.


Together. Forever.


Team Semi-Colon. Well done.











Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments