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Photos by Dante Fontana
My mission was to complete a 30-day fitness challenge consisting of intense cross training to achieve a stronger, better body. The question was, “Can I really make a difference in my body in 30 days?” The answer is unequivocally yes. Beyond what you see in the photos, the biggest difference is without a doubt the rediscovered feeling of strength, inside and out. I have more energy and I even crave more physical activity. One thing’s for sure, I can carry in more bags of groceries at one time than ever before. And it’s not just the physical changes in my body I noticed, I also gained a little gusto for my self-esteem by accomplishing the feat in itself! Thirty days of three-days-a-week sweat sessions…let’s just say that it took extreme discipline to get to the gym each time, but I took it one workout at a time and conquered my fear of failure.
It all started when I was tired of feeling physically weak after being so fit and active in my past. After not having a consistent exercise regimen for over seven years, you could say that my body was in need of a tune-up. I was in search of a trainer to get me started when I was offered this “30 day fitness challenge” by trainer Celio “Ty” Silva with The Red Pit Cross Training Center in Folsom. Immediately I said, “heck yes!” If there’s anything that will get me motivated, it’s a challenge.
The following week I started the month-long contest. The stipulations of the challenge included the following:
- Complete 60-minute workouts, 3 times a week for 4 weeks.
- Take a brisk walk, 20-minute run, or do some other physical activity over weekends.
- Dramatically cut all sugar and carbohydrates from diet; limit carb intake to mostly vegetables and some fruits
- Eat substantially more protein in the form of lean meats, nuts and cheese, as well as Greek yogurt (my fav!).
- Eliminate soda from diet; add more water.
- Eat as “clean” and whole as possible – foods with little or no preservatives or additives.
At my first session with Silva – who is certified as a cross trainer, a Functional Movement Systems professional, a massage therapist, and professional Active Isolated Stretching therapist – we began with an assessment that he completes with every new client. It’s called Functional Movement Screen (FMS), and it was developed by two renowned physical therapists to screen the human body for movement restrictions that could potentially lead to injury. The seven tests/assessments include the following: Deep Squat, Hurdle Step, In-Line Lunge, Shoulder Mobility, Active Leg Raise, Trunk Stability, and Rotary Stability. Performing a little wobbly on these, it was apparent that I needed a little work!
And work I did. The style of exercise that I performed predominantly included cross training and Silva describes his method as a “‘cross’ of varying styles of fitness training, including calisthenics, plyometrics, resistance training with weights and bands utilizing different types of metabolic training – low, medium, and high intensity cardio.”
In most of my workouts I employed High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), but it was just one of the many ways I trained. The most challenging exercises for me involved the use of the bands (think huge rubber bands that hang from ceiling) to perform specific exercises with weights, all while trying to maintain my balance and not fall over! An example of a regular training session with Silva would be something similar to following:
- Warm-up: full-body joint rotation (wrists, elbows, shoulders, neck, knees and ankles) followed by three minutes of jumping rope and two corrective exercises for hip mobility and stability, done for 20 reps each.
- Strength and conditioning training consisting of glute-hamstring raises (three sets of 15) plus weighted barbell front squats (four sets of 8). Weighted barbell straight leg deadlifts (four sets of 12), weighted shoulder press (4 sets of 8), kettelball swings (three sets of 20), shoulder press and push press combo (4 sets of 7) followed by a combo of Spiderman push-ups and bicycle kicks (3 sets of 15 each) in addition to HIIT on rowing machine (two minutes).
- Cool down with Active Isolated Stretching (AIS) of hamstrings and glutes. This method of stretching is employed by many professional athletes and according to Silva, “AIS restores our muscles’ natural range of motion, which becomes shortened through strength training and particular lifestyles. It helps support the structural integrity of our bodies, which is essential for optimal performance and the prevention of injuries and other chronic pain.”
AFTER —> BEFORE
As you can probably tell, and as Silva says, “In exercising, easy does not do it!” However, exercise alone does not do the trick. I also had to watch my diet and eat whole foods as much as possible, including very few carbohydrates and instead higher amounts of protein. My favorite breakfast now (a secret recipe from Silva) is half of a Greek yogurt mixed with cottage cheese (as much as you want) and fruit of some sort…so good! My lunches and dinners varied from different types of salads loaded with color and some sort of grilled meat or fish, to egg salad with raw veggies, and baked sweet potatoes with a little olive oil and salt and pepper. For snacks, I lived on mixed nuts and seeds, slices of cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese with tomatoes, and fruit here and there, but no bananas.
There are many options for eating healthy, and Silva doesn’t like to advise people to have restrictive diets, instead he says that eating as many whole foods as possible is best, and of course in moderation.
When looking at the results of my 30-day challenge, Silva notes, “You truly improved everywhere, but your area of most improvement was hip mobility and stability, along with trunk stability, as demonstrated by the improvement in your squats, lunges, push-ups and planks.”
For those of you like me, who want to get back into exercising after a dormant period but feel a little overwhelmed as how to start, Silva recommends, “Start slowly, and preferably under professional supervision. Long-time inactivity can really hinder the body’s capacity to perform natural movements, even those movements the person had been used to doing in the past, and that can lead to injury. Don’t try to follow the latest fad in exercising, stick to basic bodyweight exercises such as push-ups, pull-ups, planks, squats, lunges, running or jumping rope, etc…and whatever you do, work safely but work hard!” As Silva also says, “If you’re not uncomfortable, you’re not getting results!”
Pushing myself to go beyond my comfort zone and complete the last rep (even when I physically thought I could go no further and would rather saw off a limb) was really my greatest achievement…and my new abs and lifted derriere aren’t bad either.