3rd Annual Charm City StrongWoman Contest 2014


Janine and the log.

Strength doesn’t come from what you can do. It comes from overcoming the things you once thought you couldn’t. Rikki Rogers


The Susan Cohan Colon Cancer Foundation


My beautiful and strong sister Charlotte.

On Sunday, September 14, 2014, Fivex3 Training hosted the 3rd Annual Charm City Strongwoman Contest in Baltimore 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. Last year, Charlotte was in treatment during the 2013 contest. Fast forward one year later and despite the fact that she is still living with her cancer, she is doing fantastic thanks to her incredible positive outlook on her life. She is running, strength training, biking with her husband and children…..living her LIFE. ;) 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.

Our first year, we were only able to donate $200 (out of pocket) to Susie’s Cause. Last 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. Fivex3 Training wrote a check for $1543.77. I thought we did pretty well LAST year and hoped to raise at least $8000 this year.


Minerva, Sally and Mary proudly displaying our sponsors.

However, I truly had NO idea how successful THIS year would be. Last year, we had 10 sponsors. This year. we had 19 sponsors. Five Platinum Sponsors ($500): Stevenson University, East Coast Gold Weightlifting, PBI Restorations and Baltimore’s Child. Three Gold Sponsors ($300): Cafe Latte Da, Totten Training Systems and Clark-Morley Salon. Two Silver Sponsors ($200): Baltimore Tattoo Museum and Athleta. Three Bronze Sponsors ($100): Simas Salon and Spa, Charm City Massage, and Dance Happens Inc. We had gift card donations from Bertha’s, Teavolve, City Sports and Whole Foods, yoga mats for our winners from Lululemon, discounted wheelbarrows for our wheelbarrow medley from Canton Ace Hardware and lots of swag from 180’s and our other sponsors. Sponsorship money total: $3400.   On top of this, each and every day, I eagerly watched as our numbers continued to go up on our First Giving Pages. $3000. $4000. $5000. $6000. By the time we hit $6000, I knew we had already surpassed last year’s numbers. Then we hit $7000, then $8000 and just like that…..$9000. This still did NOT include Five3’s donation nor the donations we received the day of the event or even the day AFTER the event. The grand total once everything settled down and I had done the math was: $13,253.86


If you had told me last year that the following year we would over DOUBLE the amount raised, I would have laughed out loud. At the contest, I announced that next year, we would shoot for $15,000. Little did I realize at the time that we almost hit that number THIS year. ;) This was truly a year to remember. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

The 3rd Annual Charm City Strongwoman Contest


The lovely and strong ladies of Fivex3 Training.

With over 50 women registered for the event, we knew we were going to see some really awesome lifting. Our competitors included women from Crossfit RetributionCrossfit Arenal Fitness, Activate Body, Odin Crossfit,  Iron Sport, Crossfit Thunderstorm, Crossfit King of Prussia, Crossfit Chambersburg  and of course, the awesome ladies of Fivex3 Training.


Hangin’ with Erica Smith, Maya Winters and Jen Sinkler.

We also had the honor of watching Maya Winters compete in the Pro-Am Division. Maya is a 2012 NAS Strongman MW National Champion, 2013 Arnold Strongman Fitness Runner-up, a member of Team Juggernaut and sponsored by Heavy Athletics Nutrition. She came down from Philly that day with Erica Smith, our second place winner in our very first Charm City Strongwoman Contest! ;) It was awesome to meet Maya and see Erica again! Another big treat was meeting Jen Sinkler of Thrive as the Fittest and her husband, Dave Dellanave of The Movement Minneapolis. These two also joined us this day to watch Maya compete and cheer on all of our competitors! Geoff Pritchard from Charm City Massage, one of our sponsors, came for the morning to give the competitors and spectators a taste of his magic hands. ;) And Amanda Kulik from Ladies Lift Here came down from PA to sell some fantastic t-shirts and tanks and talk more about her awesome website, a resource guide for women who are interested in strength training.

Once again, we had three groups competing this year: 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.


Sally Van DeWater, our emcee extraordinaire.

After introductions were made by our awesome emcee, Sally Van DeWater  of McKenna’s Gym and the rules were reviewed by my  husband, Diego, we got right to our first events: Weight for Distance for the Fun Group, the Log Press for max weight  for the Pro-Am Group and the Yoke Zercher Carry for the Advanced Group. Because of the number of competitors this year, events ran simultaneously. This allowed for the contest to once again, run  smoothly and quickly and also gave the spectators a lot to watch! Let me tell you…there was never a dull moment!

The events broke down like this:


Weight for Distance

Weight for Distance -Each competitor stood behind the line and threw three medicine balls for distance within 60 seconds. Each ball was thrown with two hands. The maximum distance was recorded and competitors were ranked in order of descending maximum distance. Medicine balls were three 10lb balls for all groups.


Zercher Yoke Carry


Zercher Yoke Carry -Each competitor stood behind the line and Zercher carried the yoke 50 feet, put it down and then carried it back to the start within 60 seconds. Competitors were ranked in ascending order of time and descending order of distance for those who do not complete the course. 


                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Max Weight Log Press -Each competitor cleaned the log from the floor to her shoulders and pressed it to full lockout overhead. There were no mandatory attempts. Only the maximum successful attempts counted and competitors were ranked in descending order of their maximum successful attempt. Each competitor had three attempts. Each competitor had 60 seconds to complete each attempt.


Log Press

Power Stairs -Each competitor picked up the weight and loaded it onto a 14 inch platform for maximum repetitions. The weight had to be stable on the platform and hands had to be off the weight after each lift. Time limit was 60 seconds. Competitor was  ranked in descending order of repetitions.

Power Stairs

Power Stairs

Wheelbarrow Loading Race -Each competitor  carried and loaded all objects in order onto a wheelbarrow 50 feet away. They brought the loaded wheelbarrow back to the starting line within a maximum of 90 seconds. Plates were carried one per hand, gripped by the rim. Sandbags and kettlebells were carried any way. For the pro-am group, kettlebells had to be carried one per hand simultaneously. Chains had to be picked up and could not be dragged. Competitors were ranked in ascending order of completion time. Those not completing the medley in the allowed time were ranked in descending order by total distance traveled with wheelbarrow, followed by number of objects loaded and distance carried for each object.


Wheelbarrow Medley

The weights for each group were as follows:

Fun Group

Weight for Distance: Three 10lb balls



Zercher Yoke Carry: 175lbs

Max Weight Log Press: Starting weight was 70lbs.

Power Stairs: 150lbs

Wheelbarrow Medley: One 70lb sandbag, two 35lb plates, one 32kg (72lb) kettlebell and a 70lb chain

Advanced Group


Max weight attempts

Zercher Yoke Carry – 235 lbs

Weight for Distance – Three 10lb balls

Power Stairs – 185lbs

Max Weight Log Press – Starting weight was 85lbs

Wheelbarrow Loading Race – One 100lb sandbag, two 45lb plates, one 40kg (88lbs) kettlebell, one 70lb chain



Pro-Amateur Group

Max Weight Log Press – Starting weight was 105lbs

Power Stairs - 245lbs

Weight for Distance – Three 10lb balls

Zercher Yoke Carry – 275lbs

Wheelbarrow Loading Race – One 150lb sandbag, two 45lb plates, two 40kg kettlebells (176lbs), one 90lb chain


Our awesome Fivex3 volunteers!!

We were ahead of schedule the entire day which made everyone very, very happy, including the host. ;) Everyone had a blast. Our incredibly agile and strong Fivex3 Training volunteers re-positioned the yoke and balls for the lifters, loaded weights for the log and power stairs and unloaded kettlebells, chains, plates and sandbags over and over again. They worked non-stop the entire morning and afternoon.

And I know they were just as tired as the competitors were at the end of the day!!!


Tracy wheeling the wheelbarrow back to the starting line. Again. ;)


Jan, Meghann, Yvonne and Ricky measure the distance of the balls.

After all the points were added up, it was time to announce the winners. It was a really close contest!!! We had trophies for all first place winners and yoga mats from Lululemon and gift cards from Berthas, Teavolve, City Sports and Whole foods for all first, second and third place winners!!

First place in the Fun Group went to Tracy Pafel of Arenal Fitness. Second place went to Kerry King-Rahn of Fivex3 Training and Jennifer Killius of Iron Sport came in third.


Our winners of our Fun Group!!

In the Advanced Group, first place went to Paula Butler. We had a minor mishap with the scoring in the Advanced Group due to a spreadsheet error. At the contest, Tia Rodwell was awarded second place and Keri Halderman was awarded third place. Once we reviewed the spreadsheets more carefully, we noticed an error in the formula.


Our winners of our Advanced Group!

The second place winner was actually Kate Feeley of Iron Sport and Diane Pino of Crossfit King of Prussia was our third place winner. All of the ladies were very understanding of the mix up and we will  make sure to triple check our spreadsheet numbers next year!!!! Congratulations to all of the ladies!!


2nd Place winner in Advanced!


3rd Place winner in Advanced!

In the Pro-Amateur class, first place went to Ada Herbert of Art and Strength with 2nd place going to Patsy Shaffer of Crossfit Retribution and 3rd place going to Christine Roche of Crossfit Arenal Fitness. Congratulations ladies! Well deserved!


The winners of our Pro-Amateur Group!


Stephanie, Christine, Ada, Patsy and Maya – Our Pro-Am Group

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. There was an incredible amount of of high-fiving. And there was a lot of cheering, whistling, screaming, shouting…by ALL the spectators.


Congratulating Em on her log press!

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.


Stephanie gets a high-five from her coach. ;)

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 a lot of money (A LOT of 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. We will stand STRONG beside them.


Thank you for all of your support and generosity and strength. Emily and Diego

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Charm City Strongwoman 2014 Results

IMG_0088We will be putting together a full review post and video for the contest, but for now we wanted to get the final score sheets out.  We had a small spreadsheet error with the Advanced group which resulted in awarding second and third places to the wrong  competitors.  The top three per group are as follows:

Fun Group

  1. Tracy Pafel
  2. Kerry King-Rahn
  3. Jennifer Killius

IMG_0129Advanced Group:

  1. Paula Butler
  2. Katie Feeley
  3. Diane Pino

Pro-Am Group:

  1. Ada Herbert
  2. Patsy Shaffer
  3. Christine Roche

IMG_0005 2You can download the complete score sheets right here:

Fun group score sheet

Advanced group score sheet

Pro-Am group score sheet

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Got Protein?


 “The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook”~ Julia Child

“So if I can’t eat this and I can’t eat that, what the HELL am I supposed to eat???”

This USED to be my reaction to food and eating. I always felt like I was at a loss when it came to eating and eating “right.” I like food. I like to eat. I like to chew. I like salt, fat and sugar. And over the years, I have learned to have all of those things…without going overboard. HOW? I learned to create better habits with my eating. I learned to see food as my friend, not my enemy. I have learned to EAT. When I have a beer, I drink a good one. And I enjoy it. When I eat those barbeque chicken bacon nachos from Annabel Lee Tavern, I eat them ALL. And I enjoy them. I enjoy my beer and my nachos because I can. Because 95% of the time, I am eating vegetables, fruit, lean meats, eggs, making protein shakes, drinking water, tea and yes, diet soda. (I LOVE my diet Mountain Dew so please, do not go hatin’ on my diet Mountain Dew. I drink it. I like it. And I will continue to drink it.

In fact, a study just came out about diet soda and weight loss.Do I bathe in diet soda? No, I don’t. But I like it. So I drink it. If you don’t like it, don’t drink it. I don’t like wine. So I don’t drink it. Glad we got that out of the way.)

But I digress. This post is about food, more importantly, about protein. I know many people who are very strong, active individuals, strength train on a regular basis and have considerable discipline when it comes to their training. However, when it comes to their eating, they don’t have a clue about what to eat, how much or how often.  This happen less so with mwn than with the women, most of whom are also eating considerably less than they should for their activity level. When they do eat, they are eating too little protein and wondering why their having difficulty with their lifts and/or struggling with their weight. For women who are trying to build muscle and/or lose fat, protein is a must. Protein feeds muscle and for women who strength train regularly, this is a necessity. In order to build muscle and then protect that muscle, protein is needed…and a lot more than you think. Protein helps you recover from your workouts, helps you digest your food better and helps keep you satiated longer.

Dr. John Berardi of Precision Nutrition put out a great video about protein and how much you should be getting. Watch it here:

What is great about this video is 1. It was short. Win. 2. It was to the point.  However, after watching the video, do people really know how much protein they should be eating each day? Berardi does not necessarily believe in measuring or counting calories. And true, calorie counting is a little bit like guessing. But measurements are measurements. And honestly, if you are not measuring your protein, you really do not know how much you are actually getting. Once you have measured enough, then you will have a better idea of how much you are getting each day. You can try “guessing” but I really don’t believe in this. I believe in measuring cups, scales, tablespoons. I believe in looking at the package and reading labels. If you are guessing, I guarantee that you are getting too little protein and then over eating other foods because you are still hungry.

So how much protein do you need? For a very in depth article about this subject, you can check out Eirik Garnas’s post How Much Protein Do You Really Need? over on Bret Contreras’s site. Another great article just came out on T-Nation about the 10 mistakes that many women make when eating and wouldn’t you know, number 7 is not getting enough protein. ;-) You can read the article here.

For very active individuals, like those of us who strength training regularly, should aim for at least 1 gram of protein for every 1 pound of bodyweight. So if you weigh 135 pounds, you should aim for 135 grams of protein. Weigh 155 pounds? 155 grams of protein. One of my lifters who trains regularly is struggling with this right now. When asked about her protein intake, she said “Oh, I eat like a pound and half of meat every day!” We asked if she wanted to take a bet on that. She said no and a few days later came back and said “Okay, so I said this but it was nowhere near that much.” I asked how much she really was getting and she said, “I am lucky if I get 50 grams.” That is not nearly enough for someone who is squatting, benching and deadlifting heavy. She should be consuming more to help her with her weight and her workouts. She should be getting at least to 140-150 grams. “I get 40 grams just in my breakfast,” I told her. “We have some work to do.” And she’s not alone.

Okay, Emily, so if I am supposed to get X amount of protein a day, then tell me what does 150 grams of protein look like???

Great question. I have broken down my day here for you so you can see what a typical day of eating looks like for ME. Everyone is different but this works for me and my needs and I am a creature of habit so I pretty much eat the same thing EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. It makes it easy to keep me on track with my food. Generally, my Monday – Friday eating pretty much looks like this:

Breakfast #1: Egg scramble (2 eggs) w/ham, cottage cheese, vegetables, fruit and two Wasa crackers.

2 eggs – 12 grams

2 ounces of ham – 9 grams

1/2 cup of cottage cheese – 13 grams

Vegetables: handful of spinach, sliced cherry tomatoes, handful of red/green peppers, red onion – (a little protein)

1 cup of strawberries – 1.1 gram

1/2 cup of melon – 0.7 grams

Grand total: 38.6 grams


Breakfast #2: Strawberry/Banana Omelet (1 egg, egg whites, cottage cheese, Siggis skyr (yogurt with tons of protein), strawberries, banana)

1 egg – 6 grams

3/4 cup egg whites – 18 grams

1/2 cup of 2% cottage cheese – 13 grams

Siggis Plain skry (1 serving) – 15 grams

1 cup strawberries – 1.1 gram

1/4 banana – 0.3 grams

Grand total: 53.4 grams

This is just breakfast.

Egg scramble – Wasa crackers not shown

Strawberry/Banana Omelet

Strawberry/Banana Omelet


Lunch: Turkey burger w/large salad and rice

5 ounces of turkey burger – 30 grams

Large salad – 3.3 grams

1/2 cup of rice – 2.3 grams

Grand total:  34.5 grams

Lunch. Mmmm….

Now I am up between 73 grams and 87.9 grams, depending on which breakfast I have eaten.

I still have a protein shake, dinner and another snack to go as needed.

I train in the afternoon, right before my classes. After my session, I need food because I am running classes up until 8:30 at night. I typically drink a protein shake or eat a protein bar, usually around 6-6:30 or so and this will get me through until dinner at about 9pm. I eat late, but we have always eaten late, every since we have been together (10 years). ;-)

Snack: Protein shake or protein bar (Quest protein bar has 20 grams of protein)

1 scoop of Casein protein powder – 24 grams

1 tablespoon of peanut butter

1/2 cup of almond milk (with protein)

Grand Total: 32.5 grams

After training shake

105 – 120.4 grams of protein and dinner still to come.

Dinner: On Monday and Tuesday night,  it’s chicken sausages. Wednesday, we eat at the diner and I’ll get a large salad with grilled chicken. Thursday is salmon and large salad and Friday is typically chicken kebob night. ;)

Dinner: Wednesday: Large Greek salad w/grilled chicken

8 ounces of grilled chicken – 50.7 grams

Large salad – 3.3 grams

Pita bread (May or may not eat this…depends on if I need the extra starch. The salads are HUGE at our diner.)

Grilled chicken and salad

Grand total: 54 grams

Target hit. 159 – 174.4 grams of protein. Boom.

During the week, I average between 150 to 170 grams of protein. And as you can see, just breakfast and lunch alone provided me with more than half of my protein intake.

But remember, with everything in life, you have to experiment. You have to start off slowly. If you can’t stomach whey or casein protein powder, don’t use it. Try a soy or rice protein powder. Or skip the protein powders altogether and instead of a protein shake for a snack, have Greek yogurt w/fruit or nuts or two hardboiled eggs w/vegetable slices, hummus with carrot sticks or an apple with cheese. All of these snacks are protein packed snacks. Protein shakes are quick and easy for me and I love them. They work for ME. Find a good protein filled snack that works for you. The key is to start of SLOWLY. It’s taken me a long time to learn to eat more protein. The goal is to shoot for 20-30 grams per meal. If you are not getting that right now, don’t stress. Start with one meal a day and then slowly build up to two meals a day. Your best bets are lean meats, beans, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, eggs, fortified Almond milk, whey or other protein supplements (as needed). Cheese and nut butters are more fat than protein so go easy here. Nuts too.

Keep in mind, I did not always eat like this. You can read about my food history here. Seriously. I never even ate a real breakfast until the summer of 2008 when I had had enough and sought out help from a trainer at my gym. While her workouts were complete bullshit, her nutrition advice was somewhat sound. Yes, she did put me on a typical body builder diet – the whole chicken and broccoli and rice deal – BUT what she really did was wake me up the the fact that 1. I was not eating enough 2. I was not eating enough protein 3. I was eating low fat and eating too much of that junk. I stopped eating my little sugary yogurt for breakfast, my frozen burrito for lunch and my soy cheese for a snack and I started eating eggs and spinach and brie and oatmeal and lean meats and Greek yogurt and over the past 6 years, I adjusted this and adjusted that until I found the right combinations of food that fueled me, helped me build muscle, lose fat and feel great. And I am STILL adjusting my meals. It’s a work in progress. I keep things simple. I eat mindfully, watch how much I eat and I stop when I am full (although there are times when I eat more than I should and I pay for it later. Oh well!)  Finding what works for you takes time and it takes patience. The only “diet” philosophy I subscribe to is EATING REAL FOOD. Although sometimes Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal calls my name and well, hey, I buy it. ;) And I enjoy it.

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Client Profile of the Month: Meet Tom

As a female coach and gym owner, I attract a lot of women to my place and I put a great deal of emphasis on getting stronger, feeling better and most importantly, building self-confidence. I spend a great deal of my writing focusing on the importance of strength training for women and trying to dispel the many myths that are associated with lifting weights. But strength training is NOT just for women. ;) Over the past couple of years, more men have joined us and have also benefited greatly from this training. One of our male members, Tom,  came to us in August of 2012 after noticing the changes in his wife. She was getting stronger and standing taller. As Karla told me, “He has noticed that I carry myself differently when I walk – he calls it strutting.” Tom decided that he wanted to “strut” too and decided to give us a try. That was almost two years ago. A lot of guys start working out to lose a few pounds. Tom came to us to do the opposite. When he began his training, he was very thin and not very strong. So what did we do? We put him on a basic barbell program focusing on the big lifts – squat, bench, press, deadlift and power cleans. And we made him eat….a lot. His transformation is outstanding. Here’s Tom’s story.


I had always been a really thin guy and despite various phases of lifting weights early in life had never gained real strength. The story I typically tell to paint the picture of just how thin I really was is a story from my first job as an engineer in a manufacturing plant. My nickname in the plant became “6’4″ 125lbs” and someone had etched that on to my hard hat. Granted, I weighed more than 125 lbs (not by a whole lot), but clearly I looked thin. And I wasn’t too strong either. The story I typically tell right after that one is that I wrestled (or really tried to wrestle) a weight class in high school that was under 110 lbs (I don’t remember the exact weight class). So I’ve always been a tall thin guy without big strength and even right up to the time I started training at Fivex3 Training, I was thin.

Here are a couple of pictures of me from Facebook about a year before coming to Fivex3. I remember someone commented on Facebook on the photo of me in the middle.

Summer of 2012

"Get that guy in the middle a sandwich...quick!









Since finishing college (about 15 years ago), I’ve tried to workout regularly and there’s always been a strength part to my training. I caught the P90x bug a few years ago and really hoped I would get strong and cut. I wanted to get “cut’” because somehow I had turned into a skinny fat guy over the years. I was starting to tip the scales at 190lbs. (Now I realize that at 215 pounds, I could actually be even bigger, especially for a guy my height, but at the time, 190 seemed “fat.” And in reality, I was fat. I had very little muscle and a lot of body fat.) So the P90x program was appealing to me. First, it seemed scientific with its “muscle confusion” premise and the engineer in me thought that sounded cool. Second, it was quite convenient. I could pack the DVDs, and the elastic bands in my suitcase and work out in my hotel room when I was on the road. I went through the P90x program 7+ times, followed the diet, and ended up getting all of the DVD’s and running through the P90x sequel programs, P90x+, and P90x2 quickly.

P90X Days- 2011

There were results. I lost weight and I regained definition. But I was sick all the time. I don’t know if it was due to the program or not, but I was constantly tired, drained, and sick. On top of that, I never really got that much stronger, at least not in a big way.

Somehow P90x turned into long distance running. I had gotten to the point with P90X where I could remember all of Tony Horton’s cheesy jokes and do the routine in each DVD without even playing the DVD. I eventually faded P90x and its derivatives out of the picture and only ran.

However, long distance running was catastrophic for me. I was constantly injured – knee pain, hip pain, foot pain. My knees would hurt so badly that I couldn’t run for weeks at a time. I couldn’t even drive my car without excruciating knee pain while I was injured. I went to my doctor, also a runner. He could find no major issues.

June 2012 - Running days

He would recommend I recover and try again slowly. I’d recover, run again, then get injured again and again. My guess is that I really wasn’t strong enough. And I know running sure wasn’t helping. And I think I was wasting away. I was super thin again. I got faster sure, but I don’t know if it was worth it. Once again, I was back down to 170 again and looked really thin.

My wife had actually started training at Fivex3 Training before me. She, too, had been a runner. And like me, she wanted to lose weight and thought that running was the answer. But just like me, all she ended up doing was injuring herself more and more. She stopped the running and started strength training. I quickly noticed that she was getting stronger, stronger than me in fact. I couldn’t let that happen. ;) So I started adding weight training to the running and worked out by myself at home. My wife said I looked ridiculous when lifting and that my form was wrong. I told her she was wrong, so for the sake of our marriage, I had to go to Fivex3 to get a second opinion. Turns out, she was right and I was wrong. And I haven’t looked back since. ;) That was almost two years ago.

When I walked into the Fivex3 Training on August 1, 2012, I weighed 170 lbs. Today, I weigh 215 lbs with almost 45 lbs of the increase in weight coming from lean muscle mass. Over just that short period of time, I’ve gone through two sets of suits just trying to keep up with the gain in mass and a whole bunch of other clothes. I am much bigger than I was a year and half ago, and more importantly, I am much stronger and so much of my life and my health is better.

Tom - April 2012

November 2012 - 3 months in









May 2013

September 2013









December 2013

March 2014






May 2014

Over the years, I’ve tracked my weight and body fat % using a fat analyzer I picked up from Amazon. In writing this, I pulled up the data and plotted the average weight, lean mass and muscle mass. Sure, it’s not scientific or exactly accurate, but it tells a story, and one I found very interesting.

Tom's Graph - 2012 - 2014 - Strength Training

Here’s what I saw in the graph. P90x had made me lean, but the weight loss came from both lost muscle mass and lost fat mass. And long distance running essentially only made me lose muscle mass. Once I started strength training, the whole story changes. First, I now have the same amount of lean muscle mass as a did total body weight at my heaviest in my life before and second, the amount of fat mass did not really increase since running.

Here’s an email I sent to Emily on July 24, 2013, about one year after I started training:

“I’ve outgrown my suits, which is a great thing, and had to get sized for some new suits. I knew I had gotten bigger and stronger, but since I hadn’t taken measurements I didn’t know exactly. The tailor had my measurements from a year ago (which was about a week before I started coming to five x 3 and getting coaching from you and Diego.). I enjoyed the comparison of the measurements and thought i would share …

Seat – 3 inch increase! (thanks to squat) Go glutes!

Overarm – 4 inch increase  (thanks to overhead press)

Chest – 3 inches (thanks to bench)

And based on the scale and body-fat percentage analyzer… that’s 27 pounds of muscle that I’ve added! So thank you Fivex3!”

So what I did different to get big strength gains and mass? I ate, lifted big, rested and did the same lifts over and over and over again. And actually I spent half the time working out in a week versus the amount of time I spent with P90x or running. Clearly it’s simple – eat, lift, rest. It’s ironic that I expected to get big results from quick fix fitness programs like P90x, only to find the answer in time tested strength training.

Tom in October 2012, one month into his training at Fivex3. 95 lb press

There’s a principle in business strategy about the value of experience and the learning curve. The more experience a business has, the more competitive it is – in terms of price, cost, etc. I think the same thing happens with training. Getting under the bar and eating to help muscle growth has been around for a long time. There’s lots of collective experience built up in the these strength training methods.

Tom in March 2014. 135lb press.

It just works, and it’s just that simple. As simple as the solution was, I figured none of this out on my own. Fivex3, Emily and Diego, are entirely responsible for guiding my transformation. And there’s been some important lessons for me in this journey.

I learned the first lesson about eating at Fivex 3 in one of my early training sessions with Emily and Diego. Diego observed how hard it is to squat with my long frame – the physics of leverage. Being taller, I have to work hard to push the weight up during a squat and other lifts. His comment was simple. “You should weigh 240lbs for 6’4”. You need to eat more.”



Whether 240lbs is the right number or not, is not really the point. What he was saying was that I needed mass to be strong, and I needed to eat to get mass. So I learned to eat. It was hard. I never realized how little I was eating before. I always said that I ate a ton, at least, I felt like I was eating a lot, but clearly I must have been starving myself. Clearly.


The second lesson I learned was I needed to lift big and to make the most progress with the big lifts, I needed a coach. I believe that no one can really do these lifts properly without a coach. I travel for work every week and while I am on the road, I now seek out gyms that have what I need: a squat rack, barbells and plates. I get my workouts in and each week, when I am back in town, I go to Fivex3 for coaching. I’ve needed Emily and Diego every week to watch my form, give new cues to help me keep improving. I imagine there’s some of you that have the image of a trainer in a gym when you read this. It’s nothing like that.


That type of trainer just puts you on a machine, counts your reps, and gives you a variety of exercise programs. I can do all of that on my own. Emily and Diego are true coaches. They taught me the lifts, told me books to read, and more importantly worked on my weaknesses and pushed me to my limits. While it may be the same basic lifts – squat, deadlift, bench, press, power clean, etc., as I get stronger, there are new points about the form and programming that I keep needing help and coaching on. This is what it means to train. The journey is never ending.

Farmer's walks. For good measure. ;)

What’s life like now that I’m bigger and stronger? There’s no more knee pain or foot pain. Sure I may overdo it sometimes and have to reduce the amount of weight I lift, but generally there’s progress. I am getting stronger each and every time I lift. It really is that simple.



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It’s finally here!!!! The 3rd Annual Charm City Strongwoman Contest!


It’s here ladies!  The 3rd Annual Charm City Strongwoman Contest! Whoo-hoo! We had such a blast last year, and we know that this year’s contest will be bigger and better than last year’s!!!

Truck Pull 2013

The contest will take place on Sunday, September 14 from 9am  to 5pm. There will be three competition classes: Fun Group (beginner level), Advanced Group (strength train regularly) and Pr0-Amateur Group.

(Please note: The meet directors reserve the right to move you from class to class based on their discretion the day of the event.)

The events for the 2014 contest are as follows:


(Weights subject to change)

1. Weight for Distance: Triple medicine ball overhead toss. Each competitor will stand behind the line and throw three medicine balls for distance within 60 seconds. Each ball will be thrown with two hands. The distances reached by each ball will be added and competitors will be ranked in order of descending total distance. Medicine balls will be three 10lb balls for all groups.

2. Zercher yoke carry: Each competitor will stand behind the line and Zercher carry the yoke 50 feet, put it down and then carry it back to the start within 60 seconds. Competitors will be ranked in ascending order of time and descending order of distance for those who do not complete the course. Fun Group: 175 pounds; Advanced Group: 235 pounds; Pro-Amateur Group: 275 pounds

3. Log clean and press for max weight. Each competitor will clean the log from the floor to her shoulders and press it to full lockout overhead. There are no mandatory attempts. Only the maximum successful attempt counts and competitors will be ranked in descending order of their maximum successful attempt. Each competitor will have three attempts. Each competitor will have 60 seconds to complete each attempt. Minimum starting weight is 70 pounds for Fun Group, 85 pounds for Advanced group and 105 pounds for Pro-Amateur. Each group will pick attempts in 5 pound increments.

4. Power stairs. Each competitor will pick up the weight and load it onto each of four successively higher platforms at 14, 16, 20 and 24 inches.The weight must be fully on the platform and hands must be off the weight after each lift. Following a successful lift, the competitor will lower the weight to the ground and carry it to the next platform. Time limit is 75 seconds. Competitor will be ranked in ascending order of the time taken to finish all four attempts or in descending order of repetitions for those not completing all four. The final weight does not have to be returned to the ground. Fun Group: 150 pounds; Advanced Group: 185 pounds; Pro-Amateur Group: 220 pounds

5. Wheelbarrow load and carry medley. Each competitor will carry and load all objects in order onto a wheelbarrow 50 feet away. They will bring the loaded wheelbarrow back to the starting line within a maximum of 90 seconds. Plates will be carried one per hand, gripped by the rim. Sandbags and kettlebells may be carried any way. For pro-am group, kettlebells must be carried one per hand simultaneously. Chain may be picked up or dragged. Competitors will be ranked in ascending order of completion time. Those not completing the medley in the allowed time will be ranked in descending order by total distance traveled with wheelbarrow, followed by number of objects loaded and distance carried for each object. Fun Group: One 25 pound plate per hand (50lbs total), a 70lb sandbag, one 32kg kettlebell, a chain.  Advanced Group: One 45 pound plate per hand (90lbs total), a 100 pound sandbag, one 40kg kettlebell, a chain.  Pro-Amateur Group: One 45 pound plate per hand (90lbs total), a 150 pound sandbag, two 40kg kettlebells, a chain

Chalk is allowed for all events but tacky is not allowed for any event.

All entrants will receive a meet T-Shirt. Awards will be given to the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winner of each division.

Applications will be accepted up until September 5, 2014. In order to receive a t-shirt, all applications must be in by August 15, 2014.

Space is limited to 25 women for the Fun and Advanced division. Space limited to 6 women in Pro-Amateur Group.

My sister Charlotte and I

The entry fee is $50 for all mail in registrations and $53 for all online registrations through PayPal. All profit will benefit the Susan Cohan Colon Cancer Foundation for prevention and research. This registration fee is non-refundable.

All contestants will have the option to create a First Giving Page to help raise money for the organization. A link to creating your page can be found here.

Please contact Emily Socolinsky at emily@fivex3.com for details. Make all checks payable to Fivex3 Training LLC.

Please download the registration form by clicking here.

You can register right now and pay online below.  Note that there is a $3 fee for online registration added automatically.

2014 Charm City Strongwoman Registration – $50 plus $3 online registration fee

The FUN group and ADVANCED group are both FULL.  Contact emily@fivex3.com if you want to be placed in a waiting list.


Competitor Information:

First Name:
Last Name:
Phone Number:
Date of Birth:
Shirt Size:




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Ladies, What is YOUR Goal?

8. Look at your goals. Look at your behavior. Does your behavior match your goals? – See more at: http://www.tonygentilcore.com/blog/dan-john-quoteable-quotes/#sthash.RsH9Zjbd.dp

“Look at your goals. Look at your behavior. Does your behavior match your goals?”

Dan John

Dan John is a man with great wisdom to share. His words ring in the ears of many strength coaches and lifters. Dan talks about goals a lot. And he should. Why are goals so important for us? Do we need goals? Yes, I think so. Setting your mind on something and going after it full force gives you some guidance in your life, whether it is going back to school for your Master’s in Education, squatting 225 for sets of 10, benching your bodyweight, completing a marathon…you get the picture.  All of  us have set goals for ourselves in some way or another over the years:  “By April 1, I will run my first 5K” or “I have enrolled at my local university and will be going back to school to get my degree in accounting” or “I will lose 15 pounds by June 1.” Whatever your goal is, you write it down or say it out loud and then you go about taking the necessary steps to complete your goal. YOUR goal.  Not your mother’s goal or your best friend’s goal or the woman on the internet who is-showing-off-her-slim-stomach goal. YOUR goal. Which leads me to my big question for women. What is YOUR goal? What inspires YOU to want to achieve YOUR goal?? What motivates YOU? What makes you go after what YOU want? Is it a picture of someone squatting her bodyweight? Is it a picture of an 80 year old woman deadlifting? Is it a picture of a woman in a bikini? What inspires YOU? What is YOUR goal? (Are you getting the theme here??)

Before I go any further, let me start off by talking about the  woman with the slim tummy or “abs” as people like to say which really kills me because that woman with “abs” isn’t really showing off her abs. She is displaying a flat stomach which is different than showing off her abs. If you cannot count the 4 pack or six pack, it’s simply a flat stomach. But I digress…..

Anyway, getting back to the woman with the flat stomach.  Yes, THE woman. She really got a lot of women fired up awhile ago over a picture of her in her tank top and bootie shorts and the words “What’s your excuse?” at the top of the picture and her three little boys next to her.  Oh MAN, did women have a shit storm over her. It was unreal. And it went on and on and on. Like forever. I loved it. All I have to say about Maria is GOOD.FOR.HER.  ;-)

Yeah Maria! Love YOUR goal! But it's not mine.... ;)

Really. Really. Really. And I truly mean this with all the love in the world. I am not being sarcastic. I am not being funny. I am being honest. Good for her. ;-) Because I wanted to look like THAT too last summer. And you know what?  I did.  I And I had to work my ass off for it. Just like she did. Because that was my GOAL, just like this was her goal. Good for her.  Obviously, she decided that her GOAL was to look a certain way….the way she looks. Her GOAL was to have a flat stomach. Her GOAL was to have a slim waist, firm glutes and defined arms. And guess what? That is OKAY. That was her GOAL. And she worked damn hard to achieve her goal. Then she put her picture out there and  said “What’s your excuse?” and women got all riled up. I mean, really riled up. It was ridiculous what they put this woman through. So bloody what. Let her say it. She has a right to show off her hard work. Every fitness and bikini competitor does it too. Why not her? They have a goal and they work damn hard at their goal. Their GOAL.  And if YOUR GOAL is Maria’s GOAL, if your goal is a bikini competitor’s goal, well…..WHAT IS YOUR EXCUSE? Why DON’T you have a flat belly and firm glutes? Is your GOAL really the same as her GOAL? If it is, well, then maybe you DO need to do more. Have you ever thought of that??? Have you ever stopped to think, hmmm, maybe she is talking to “her” (some other random person who wants to look like her) NOT YOU because, well, that person’s goal may not be YOUR GOAL. Have you ever thought of that? Have you ever thought that maybe the “What’s your excuse?” does not really relate to YOU or your GOALS????? I don’t want to be the one to spell it out to you, but seriously, come on. If you look at that picture and read “What’s your excuse?” and go ape shit, then perhaps she really did strike a nerve because she is simply stating the obvious. What is your excuse for not looking that way?

Does this picture inspire you? Or does it make you angry?

Now before you decide to go ape shit on ME and decide that I must be burned at the stake for speaking  blasphemy, stop and take a good, hard look at yourself. Really. And I don’t mean  physically. I mean mentally. Look at who you are, where you are in your life, what you want to do with your life. Who is the the woman YOU want to be? How do you want to define yourself as a woman? Please don’t give me crap about the “media” and how horrible they are and how they put women down and how women can’t do anything right now. “She’s too fat. She’s too skinny.” I’m tired of it.  I am a woman too, and I read the same shit you do. But I don’t let it define me as a woman. And I DO NOT put other women down because they want to look a certain way. I also don’t put myself out there as some people do. I don’t look for pity or praise. I try to share useful information with my readers, not useless.  I try to be as honest as I can with my female members. I don’t allow them to complain about how they look, and I certainly don’t complain about how I look. So again, I ask you to take a real hard look at yourself. Do you really want to be the woman always complaining about the size of her thighs or how you have no upper body strength but won’t do anything about it OR do you want to be the woman who OWNS her body, really owns her body and decides how she is going to make the most of the wonderful body you have. Sure, you can complain and complain and complain.  I won’t listen.  You can make smart ass remarks about other women who are working hard to look good (or whom you perceive as looking good.) They don’t give a shit about what you say either because they own themselves.

Do I inspire you? Or do I make you mad? By the way, I don't "look" like this today...I had to work my butt off to look like this last summer. This was MY goal.

You can bitch and complain that these women are bad women for wanting to look this way.  No one is going to listen.  You can sit in front of your computer for hours on end making comment after comment on various forums or blog sites or Facebook and post nasty remarks about this woman or that woman OR, and this is a big one, YOU could actually do something productive like, oh, I don’t know, go for a walk, make a delicious meal or hit the gym and get your squat on. If you have the time to sit and bitch about a picture or quote or comment or post or whatever, then you have more time on your hands than you know what to do with and that is really fucking sad.

You could also, wait for it…….YOU could IGNORE the picture or quote or comment that you don’t like and actually get off your ass and get to work. You can IGNORE that picture because HER GOAL is not YOUR GOAL. I doubt that Maria’s goal is to deadlift 2x her bodyweight. Her GOAL is to look like a hot momma. Well done Maria. You did it. ;) If your goal is look like a hot momma, well, what is your excuse for NOT looking like one? And who the fuck says that a hot momma HAS to look like that? I know some very hot mommas who don’t look like Maria and are kick ass, strong, beautiful women. It pisses me off that we as women feel the need to shut other women down for wanting to look a certain way. Knock that shit off. NOW. If you need to get up at 5:30 am to get to the gym because you really have NO other time during the day, then make the time to do it. You know those fitness and figure competitors with children? Some of them are up at 4:30am to get their cardio or strength training in because they are busy the rest of the day and they want to spend time with their children in the evening.

Does she inspire you? Yes or No?

Do you want to condemn them too for looking a certain way???? I am sure each and every one of them has some sort of “What’s your excuse?” out there….for all those women who WANT to look like them and don’t. It’s a way to get those women with that goal motivated and off their butts. And it may work for those women. These figure competitors have a specific goal and they make sacrifices to meet their goals.  Nothing comes easy. There is no easy way to get stronger or lose weight or run a marathon. It takes work. It takes patience. It takes consistency. It takes commitment. If you want to lose fat, you have to decide to make the effort to re-learn how to eat, learn to make better food choices, establish better eating habits and yes, maybe eliminate negative food from your plan. Sometimes this may mean seeking out a professional. If so, then do it. If you want to run a marathon, do your research on training for one. Buy a good pair of running shoes. And if you are unsure about your running skills, seek out a professional to help you with your running, especially if you are concerned about injury. Turning to someone else for help will help you hold yourself accountable and will help you keep YOUR goal YOUR goal. There is no easy way to run your first marathon. You just have to do it. Same with losing fat. It takes time. It takes experimenting to find what works best for you. Three meals? Five meals? More protein? Less fat? We are all different and we all have different needs. Find what works the best for you.

This awesome lifter has one leg. Does she inspire you or does she make you feel bad about yourself?

It saddens me that so many women get so irritated by what other woman want to look like. As a woman, I am very often disappointed in my sex. This past year, the tweets that went out during the Victoria’s Secret Fashion show were just shameful. And while some of these tweets may have been in “jest,” they really were not funny. I was not laughing and I thought they were pretty messed up.  Here are a few samples:

Shameful. Really shameful. And disturbing. If you have that much of an issue with a supermodel and looks the way she looks because she was born with those legs and arms and is, well, a supermodel, then you seriously need a reality check because those women are few and far between.  Reality check: YOU WILL NEVER BE ONE OF THEM UNLESS YOU ARE BORN WITH THIS BODY TO START WITH. PERIOD. THE END. GET OVER IT. NOW.

Do you see guys bemoaning the fact that they are not built like Michael Jordan or Shaquille O’Neal or Michael Phelps or any football player or the top World’s Strongest Man???? Do you really think they are saying “Oh, if I only looked like him, I could dunk a basketball or swim faster or lift more weight???” Do you think they are sitting around, crying, eating lettuce and posting stupid comments about guys on the internet? NO. No, because they are too busy eating real food and getting their asses on the basketball court and practicing dunking the ball. No because they are in the water swimming laps. No because they are at the gym, squatting and deadlifting and working on being the best they can be. Why can’t we as women seem to think the same way? Why do these images of other women make us cry and bad mouth other women and turn us into sniveling little bitches? Are you kidding me??? It makes me ashamed of my own sex. When I watched one of the videos of the Victoria Secret show, all I thought was “Damn, I wish that I could walk on a run way with Fall Out Boy playing my theme song.” Cause you see, I want to strut my stuff too. All of it. ;)

8. Look at your goals. Look at your behavior. Does your behavior match your goals? – See more at: http://www.tonygentilcore.com/blog/dan-john-quoteable-quotes/#sthash.RsH9Zjbd.dpuf
8. Look at your goals. Look at your behavior. Does your behavior match your goals? – See more at: http://www.tonygentilcore.com/blog/dan-john-quoteable-quotes/#sthash.RsH9Zjbd.dpuf
8. Look at your goals. Look at your behavior. Does your behavior match your goals? – See more at: http://www.tonygentilcore.com/blog/dan-john-quoteable-quotes/#sthash.RsH9Zjbd.dpuf

My ONLY blessing is that I don’t hear any of this negative talk in my gym. SOMETIMES I hear someone tell me they can’t do something, and I immediately shut that shit down. “Can’t” has never been in my vocabulary and it never will be. Other than that, there is always a lot of laughter and a lot of talk about food and restaurants and nails and how much someone squatted or deadlifted and how badass someone looked dragging a sled. You know, girl talk. If I ever do hear negative talk about bodies, I shut that shit down too. But it really doesn’t happen that often, if ever. And that’s because we OWN who we are. Sure, we all have specific goals and sure, we all would like to look and feel the best we can but we don’t freak about shit. Every woman I work with wants to be stronger – physically and mentally. They all want stronger backsides. They all want muscle. They all want to feel good about themselves. And they do. It’s taken me 26 years (started when I was 13) to overcome a lot of negative bullshit in my life about my body. And I can honestly say, that because of the women I work with and have the pleasure to train day in and day out, I am happier today with who I am and how I look than I have ever been in the past 20 years. Seriously. No shit. Because when you surround yourself with strong minded women who accept who they are and are proud of who they are and are working to become even BETTER versions of themselves, one can only feel good about oneself. If I have helped them, they have certainly helped me. It’s a two way street here at Fivex3.

Does SHE motivate you? Does she inspire you?

My only hope is that one day, women will learn to accept themselves for who they are and also learn to accept other women for who they are and not judge other women who may have different goals. We judge too much and too often without really thinking about whom we may be hurting by doing so. Ladies, believe in yourself. Have confidence in yourself as a woman. As a person. And love yourself for the woman you are today and the woman you want to be tomorrow. Please. As Dan John always says, “Keep the goal the goal.”

Does SHE inspire you?

And so I ask you, what is YOUR goal? ;-)

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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.

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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.

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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 info@fivex3.com or call 410-205-9254.

Click here to download the informational flier.

Click here to download the registration form.


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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!

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