Hey everyone! I’m so excited to bring you this month’s Finding Fitness interview! Di is so open and honest, and with over 20 years in the fitness industry, she has a lot of knowledge to share! Enjoy!
Background: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
Oh boy this could be a blog post in of itself.. in a nutshell: I’m a 45 year old woman living in California, though I was born and raised in England. I moved to the USA in 2001 with my husband and we became citizens 3 years ago. We have been married 18 years, no kids (more on that one later), and have one dalmatian. Fun fact: we got married in a hot air balloon! That already tells you we’re non-traditional, and have a quirky sense of humor right?
How did your fitness journey start? What motivated the change? Along with that, what has kept you interested?
I guess it started with school. I wasn’t on any sports teams but I grew up in the 80’s in the era of Jane Fonda and fondly remember doing her workout videos in my living room with my leotard, tights and legwarmers. We had a weekly aerobics class after school and I grew to love group fitness classes. Post-school me and my BFF would go to weekly classes at the local fitness center. Just once or twice a week if it fit into our work schedule (we worked shifts).
For me it wasn’t so much a change in fitness journey but life in general. When I was 23 I got a callback after my annual well woman check. I had some ‘abnormal cells’ on my pap results. After a whirlwind of more tests, biopsies, and laser surgery I was declared “clear” but it was a ‘wake-up call’. I was in a job I hated (retail management) and they say if you find something you love to do you’ll never work another day in your life… so what did I LOVE to do? The only thing I could think of was the group fitness classes! In 1996 at 24 years old I switched careers and earned my group fitness certification and I’ve worked in fitness since.
What has been your biggest challenge in your fitness journey and how have you dealt with it?
When we moved to the USA in 2001 I wasn’t able to work as I didn’t have a work visa. That year was the year of the terror attacks and understandably all visa/green-card applications came to a screeching halt so it took us 7 years to get our green-cards. During that time I gained 25lbs. To say we fully embraced the standard American diet would be an understatement. That combined with moving less (I was playing World of Warcraft with friends), and being so far from family. I wasn’t sure I wanted to return to a fitness career but that possibility was there, so I set about cleaning up my diet, I started running and working out again, and dropped the 25lbs. In 2009 I started working in the fitness industry again.
Have you had any setbacks since starting your fitness journey? If so, how did you deal with them?
I mentioned we don’t have children. One reason for that is that I have a hereditary condition called Polycystic Kidney Disease [PKD]. Cysts grow in and on your kidneys, reducing function. The chances of passing that to my children is 50% and as the condition has no cure, and the treatment is basically eventually dialysis/transplant. That’s a big risk that we weren’t prepared to take so we simply opted out of parenthood.
With the help of diet and exercise I’d been pretty healthy since my cancer scare but 3 years ago I had my first bout of symptoms due to PKD. I was actually teaching a Les Mills CXworx class and the last exercise was prone back extensions. An exercise that was so simple right? I felt “something” pushing into the floor from my abdomen. I came home and slept the rest of the day. I made an appointment with my nephrologist we ran tests. My left kidney was “growing”, as I now had more cysts, and cysts on my liver too. The enlarged kidney has continued to cause me issues and I’ve had to make significant changes. I stopped teaching CXworx, and BodyCombat. As much as I loved the classes they continued to aggravated my left kidney due to movement speed, rotation, and compression. Honestly it was all a “wake-up” call for me. I’ve seen my family members on dialysis, my mum and uncle both have transplants, and I still have an aunt and cousin needing transplants. I could continue to stress my body and cause more damage to my body… or choose to listen to it. I chose the latter. That’s when I began moving into the current era of my fitness journey.
What achievement are you the most proud of?
I started my career in fitness in 1996 and during the last 20 years I’ve done so many forms of fitness. Spinning, running, cycling, weights, pilates, step, aqua, Zumba, Les Mills… but none bring me to the same space as Yoga. I started teaching yoga at a gym in 2010 but in 2014 I took the plunge and did my RYT200. I took my first yoga class at 13 and 30 years later I was teaching it!
Goals are progressive though, when I achieve one I take a break then start looking for others. I’ve run multiple 5k races including two dressed as Santa and the color run was fun! I’ve also run a couple of 10ks, a 1/2 marathon, all of which lead to a few duathlons, a cycling event and and in 2016 I did my first triathlon. As someone who hates swimming that was a task. I’m always the most proud of my last goal, and for me that was the triathlon. Ask me again in 5 years!
Outside of the physical, what have been some significant changes brought on by your fitness journey?
While I did lose 25lbs the fact that I have PKD makes this a health journey not just fitness. Health care providers always ask what blood pressure medications I take as high BP is a symptom of PKD. At 45 most people my age with PKD are on at least one medication. Usually for high blood pressure. Thanks to diet and exercise I’m still at stage 2 of the disease and I want to stay here as long as I can.
What are you working towards now? What are your goals and dreams, fitness-wise?
Right now I’m working towards my RYT500 for my own practice and teaching, and my e-RYT200 to become a yoga educator. I’ve been helping with the current yoga teacher trainees this year and it’s something I’ve found I have a passion for.
What does a typical training week look like?
This has changed a LOT over the last 5 years. I used to actively instruct classes (Les Mills etc) but now since switching class formats I coach more, which leaves me more time and energy for my own workouts. I now only teach 7-10 classes a week, have private clients 4 days a week, and coach a couple of clients online.
Honestly I don’t have a “typical week”, it’s an ongoing schedule I tweak depending on my goals (last year I did a lot of cardio for the triathlon) but this is the current training week for my current goals.
Monday – Weights: Legs & Glutes,
Tuesday -Weights: Shoulders & triceps;
Wednesday -Weights: Glutes, Biceps
Thursday -Weights: Legs, glutes, back,
Friday – Weights: Shoulders & triceps Cardio: Spin Class
Saturday – Weights: Legs, glutes & chest
Sunday – Rest day, usually just walking and yoga.
Everyday – I walk my dog 3 miles in the morning, then 30 mins in the afternoon and 20 in the evening. So I get about 2 hours of walking per day. I also try to get 30 mins of yoga and meditation daily. Plus I move a fair amount in my daily life teaching and interacting with clients. I usually try and get in 2 other HIIT cardio sessions in during the week beside my weekly spin class. Due to my schedule though, this changes. Right now it’s Tuesday and Sunday as I work early Wednesdays and Thursdays. My goal is to start running with my dog again a couple of mornings a week.
What does an average day of eating look like for you?
Again due to my schedule my work days don’t have any consistency. I find meal prepping to be so important for staying on track and would encourage anyone with shift work or lack of time to do the same. Busy days are:
Breakfast is usually a smoothie with spinach, berries, bananas, almond milk, flaxseed meal and protein powder
Lunch is something I usually made ahead of time. Usually a burritto bowl with tons of veggies, beans, salsa, guacamole
Dinner in the week we eat late. Typically we sit down to eat around 7.30-8pm. Typical meals for us include tacos, burger’n’fries, meatloaf, or our favorite: curry.
Snacks: Tofu icecream, pancakes, or dateballs are things I snack on. Depends on the day and activity level.
In case I didn’t mention it already I’m vegan. I’ve been vegan since June 2013 and I was vegetarian for 20 years prior to that. My husband is vegetarian. One of our current favorite things is a sandwich with Benevolent Bacon, tofurky roast slices, and melted daiya cheddar slice on Eureka seeds the day bread. So good and 38g protein!
Do you take any supplements? If so, could you tell us a little about what ones and why? If not, why not?
If you’d asked me this 5 years ago I’d have said no. However since my PKD progressed I’m not processing some vitamins efficiently.
Currently I take: Vitamin D3 as that showed up on a nephrology bloodwork done 2 years ago (it’s processed by the kidneys); B12 (as I am vegan), and protein powders (I love plantfusion, SunWarrior and Nuzest).
For hot days, long runs, or intense cardio I also use electrolyte replacement drinks, I like Nuun, Emergen-C or as a push just regular gatorade. Dehydration is not good for my kidneys so this is something I pay close attention to!
What is your favorite exercise? Your least favorite?
Favorite: deadlifts, seriously I love deadlifts. I just think there is something about bad ass about deadlifts, and cleans, clean and jerk/press. Deadlifts are my favorite though.
Least: swimming. I did my first triathlon in 2016 and I did learn to like it a little more, but I’ve never once in my life just thought “you know what? let’s go swimming!”. Plus the triathlon was ocean swim, double ugh!
What do you do if you find your motivation lacking?
For me the toughest times are those times when I am low energy due to hormones. But that’s when you make results, on the bad workouts, not the everyday or the good ones. On the ones that suck. I tell myself I just have to do it for 10 minutes. If I still don’t want to after 10 minutes then I can stop. After 10 minutes I’m usually really into the workout. If I’m not, then I listen to my body and see if it’s body or mind. If the body is willing I’ll hold out for 30 minutes. If it’s the body telling me to stop, then I listen.
How do you balance fitness with work/life/social/etc? How do you “find the time” to workout?
I’m not gonna lie, this has been a struggle for me in the past. When I first began teaching group fitness classes I was actively teaching 20-25 classes a week! It doesn’t leave a lot for your own workouts. Now I focus more on being active in the day walking the dog, gardening, etc, and when I see friends we often opt for walking/hiking to catch up. As I work in both a gym and yoga studio I get free membership at both but don’t use it nearly as much as I should. Really though it’s about making an appointment and scheduling it into your day, then making a decision to do it. You wouldn’t cancel on the dentist or doctor unless you were sick, workouts should be the same!
What are your top 3 tips for someone just starting their fitness journey?
- Just start! Now. Not on Monday, not on the first, not when the stars align and everything is “perfect” conditions but now!
- Start slow and find something you enjoy doing. For me it’s yoga, hiking, walking, running, and weights. For others it’s Zumba or CrossFit.
- Make a smart goal. So you want to “get fit”. What does that mean to you? Is it weight loss, cholesterol numbers, lowering your blood pressure, dropping body fat, or losing a dress size? You can’t shoot an arrow without a target.
Anything else you want to share?
The biggest excuses I hear all the time as a trainer are “I don’t have time” and “I can’t afford it”. Fitness doesn’t have to take a chunk out of your day or cost anything. Yes it can be 100% free. I have a free health & fitness planner on my website, and a free 31 day bootcamp (with workout videos) and I have a lot more at-home workouts you can do anywhere on my YouTube Channel.
Sara here: Di, thank you so much for joining me this week! Everyone, I hope you enjoyed this month’s Finding Fitness and getting to know Di a little better! You should definitely go check out her blog and social media!