I hadn't realized how many of my friends have committed their lives to healthy living, but I guess birds of a feather really do flock together. Except this "bird" flew away to another coast.
This week's fit chica is a friend of mine living on the West Coast. Claudia, and I met in New York. Salsa dancing brought us together. For a year, the "salsa crew" was inseparable. The West Coast has given her a renewed understanding of her health and has allowed her to reach fitness goals, that wouldn't have been a priority in New York.
FFC: First off, tell us about yourself. Claudia: As an only child growing up, my parents would get me involved in a lot of things. I realize now they were attempting to tire me out, since I was a super active child. I drove my parents nuts because I was "bored" all the time. Looking back on those interests much of it involved the performing arts. Whether it was dance, music or theatre, I thoroughly enjoyed performing and entertaining people around me. I was often the class clown, inserting wise crack comments, generally a lot of them were inappropriate, LOL. Despite that, I was a diligent student, often surprising people at how smart I really was and I enjoyed learning. I was the 1990s version of "Glee". Performing was not only my creative outlet, but it was a physical experience for me. When I was 19, I went with a couple of girlfriends who were a few years older than me to Latin Quarters on a Thursday night. That was way back when it was located on 96th & Broadway. The good old days, LOL. I had no business being there since it was 21 and over, but one of the girls I went with was dating the bouncer, and well... you know the rest. So it was my first time going to a Latin Club and it was an eye opening experience for me. I grew up watching my family dancing cumbia and "living room" salsa, but nothing like what I saw that night. This couple was incredible on the dance floor and I just sat at the bar with my 'Sex on the Beach' in hand and thought, "I WANT TO DO THAT!" I've had a love affair with salsa dancing on and off ever since.
FFC:What gave you the motivation to take working out and fitness seriously? Claudia: Growing up I was told I was "too skinny". I did sports throughout high school and would dance every day for hours in my living room when my parents weren't home. I ate anything and everything and would finish your plate, too. I thought for years I was naturally slim and athletic. In reality I was simply moving all the time. I NEVER wanted to sit still. However, (violins playing) that all changed after college, working a sedentary office job and eating the same way, of course. I didn't even realize how heavy I got! I was 28 by the time I decided that working out would be good because I needed to 'tone up'. My best friend, Aimet, and I hired a trainer together and in our first session he asked me to step on a scale. When he read my weight back to me, I had gained 30 lbs. I said, "SHUT UP! No way!" I was in such denial. Aimet and I went diligently to that trainer and I never lost a pound. He would yell at me to get on the treadmill and follow the diet plan or else his efforts were meaningless. Shortly after that I had a life changing break up. I simply stopped eating. I was in so much shock that I could not eat anything at all. I didn't have a scale back then so I can only estimate that I lost 20 lbs in a matter of a few weeks. I threw myself into salsa dancing and went dancing pretty much every night for hours. Those workouts with the personal trainer came into full effect because my unhealthy weight loss revealed a kickass body with scuplted muscles that I had not seen since high school. I wanted to maintain what I lost, but it all came back, courtesy of my unhealthy eating habits. That was around the time that you and I met, Melissa! You remember how I would hit the McDonald's dollar menu! I would order 2 cheeseburgers and a small coke, but no fries because "fries were not healthy". Ridiculous, I know.
FFC: Have you changed your eating habits? If so, what's different? Was there a catalyst?
Claudia:Four and a half years ago I relocated from NY to the San Francisco Bay Area. In California I was surrounded by fresh produce, half of which I never heard of or tasted before. I remember ordering at a sandwich shop, and thought this is not your ordinary NYC deli. The sandwhich was served on whole wheat bread, came in a reasonable size, and had a salad on the side. Did I mention that my sandwhich had bean sprouts in it?!?! I mean, really, who does that? Californians do, apparently, LOL. So much of my move was a cultural shift from the way I lived in NYC. I bought a mountain bike and started to ride every day to explore my new area and enjoy the fantastic weather. I started to drop a few pounds without even noticing. I began to teach myself to eat reasonably. I bought cook books and enjoyed Cooking Light magazine for healthier recipes. For me, I really pay attention to my calorie intake. It keeps it very simple for me. Anything difficult would require forethought and planning, and I lack the time for both. Between working full time and grad school, I am running all the time and I can easily reach for the foods that are easy, yet unhealthy. So for me it's all about making sure I eat a salad and incorporating vegetables with all of my meals so it keeps me full. I am diligent about the portions of my meals, and eat off of small plates at home. Ultimately food is my biggest battle. I want to eat anything I want and not pay the consequences. BUT I HAVE to continue to make good choices and limit the occurrences of me going overboard.
FFC: How do you feel fitness has changed your life?
Claudia: I thoroughly love being fit. Yes, there is a vanity factor, I admit. Nothing beats having abs you love to show off. But there's another element for me that is a lot more crucial. Working out and eating well has really become important now that I'm approaching my mid thirties. I had a knee injury from running that was humbling and I didn't snap back as fast as I would've in the past. For that reason, I have to limit how much I run now. If I don't maintain a healthy weight, my knees hurt. You only get one body and for it to go the distance you need to take care of it! I want to defy the aging process and be a hot mama at 50! Being fit and working out also helps me to process the stress of balancing work and school. Working out also keeps me from driving my husband crazy. He knows me so well. He'll just look at me pout in the corner and know that I'm simply miserable, frustrated and "bored". His response is always the same. "Did you work out? Go for a run or something, you know you'll feel better." I fight him every time, but love his "amazing" suggestion when I'm done. Working out simply keeps me centered.
FFC: I know you workout with your husband often, how has it affected your relationship?
Claudia: LOL. I laugh because I don't think Matt could be married to someone who was not active at all. (I just asked him that question and he said he could, but it would drive him crazy. Oh wait, he just changed his mind. "No, I guess not. Dating them would drive me crazy so I don't think it would last at all.") Matt works out regularly with friends and also golfs with them. He enjoys moving as much as I do. We take our road bikes and go for rides together on the weekends, we go on long walks after dinner during the week, and we hike alot when we go sightseeing on vacations and weekend getaways. Those are all things we do together and we talk, catch up and simply connect during that time. Lots of couples schedule date nights, and we do that on occasion so that we don't have to cook and we can go out. But we really value the time we spend together doing something active. It keeps us fit, connected, and we're better to each other knowing that we have done something good for ourselves. We both watch what we eat. Its great to have someone that shares the same values as you do when it comes to eating and staying fit. I can't imagine how difficult it would be for me personally not having him share that mindset with me. I view food as fuel, but throw in a chewy chocolate chip cookie in my face, and I HAVE to have it. Matt knows there are certain foods that I simply have no restraint for and he knows I work hard to stay fit. For that reason, we don't keep that stuff in our house since I'm a big snacker. We always have fruit on hand, and that's what I reach for. Thank God!
FFC: Any tips for someone who may feel overwhelmed by the idea of changing one's lifestyle?
Claudia: Change one thing or do one thing differently until it becomes a habit. Then incorporate one more thing until that becomes a habit. Next thing you know, you've changed you life. This may sound stupid, but right now I'm working on how I prepare my coffee. Not eliminating it, that's just crazy talk! I've always enjoyed my coffee, light & sweet. The last couple of months, I've been putting less milk and sugar. I just started drinking it black this week, with a little bit of sugar. At some point my coffee will have no sugar. It's the little changes that reap huge differences over time. Too much change at once sets you up for defeat because it becomes difficult to maintain everything all together. It's all about baby steps. Small victories.
FFC: Currently, what's your favorite workout? Why?
Claudia: I joined a gym recently because I wanted to incorporate it as a habit in preparation for the winter months. Right now, I'm loving their "Body Pump" class. It's a total body strength training class set to music. You do your bicep curls to the lyrics of Pink and your squats to the beats of Pitbull. The class works your muscles to the point of failure. I think I've moaned and grunted in that class really loud in pain. Good thing the music is loud enough that the class doesn't really hear me, LOL. The workout shapes my body and I love how strong I feel when I'm done.
FFC: How do you incorporate fitness in your everyday life?
Claudia: I HAVE to incorporate it into my life. I run my life though my Outlook calendar so I have my workouts scheduled during the week along with my work meetings, study times and my get togethers with friends. If it's not on Outlook, it doesn't happen. On the weekend it's whatever Matt & I are in the mood for. It's part of our routine so it's not a question of if. It's a question of what and when. We pretty much talk about it when we're having breakfast that morning or during dinner the night before.
FFC: Anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Claudia:I'm training for my second organized bike ride on October 1st, 36 miles. Matt is doing a metric century, 62 miles. It's a family affair, as I'll be riding with Matt's mom, and he's riding with his dad. We did it last year as a family so it's a bit of a tradition for us. :-)
I love reading everyone's personal stories and journeys. It helps me stay motivated and I hope they help you as well. Doesn't matter where you are in your journey to a healthier you, there's always someone else who has had or is having similar experiences. Yay to that! Thank you Claudia for sharing! I miss you.
- A fit chica tells her story v. 5 (funfitchic.net)