TSC: Who are you? Name? Age? Where do you live? Married/kids? Occupation?
DH: My name is Dana, I’m a 28 year-old nutritionist, educator, and spin instructor in Central Massachusetts and Greater Boston area. I have a passion for all things health and wellness related, but if I had to pick one area of focus, it’s food. Food has my heart (we all eat), and I love teaching others about nutrition and its impact on our health with a minimalist and balanced approach. In addition, my nutrition niche is designing nutrition education programs for fire departments. Last but not least, I’m over @eats2know documenting all of the behind scenes, like what I eat, how I move, who I hang with (not so much), etc; all while providing nutrition, health, and wellness tips to a broader community on Instagram.
TSC: When did fitness first become a part of your life? Have you always been an athlete? Did you start working out as an adult? Did you workout earlier in life and start up again? If so, what and why?
DH: I love this question because even though I participated in sports in high school I wouldn’t call myself an athlete until a few years ago. In high school I played sports just to do it and was awful (hey prep school), but my thought process about fitness changed drastically when I went to college and realized the mind and body benefits that came along with movement. I also was also determined not to gain the highly discussed “freshman 15” so that was another motivator. Then in graduate school, I started to notice how my fitness was mostly cardio-focused and wanted to cross train. Grad school, scoliosis issues, and someone pointing out that I wasn’t strong/ had no arm and core strength were turning points. I realized, “time to get strong” and ever since then my focus for working out has been about testing myself mentally and physically to become strong in and outside of the gym. My career choices also encourage being physically active—I can’t imagine being able to keep up teaching spin if I didn’t cross train or promoting health and wellness without working out myself in some way.
TSC: What is your current workout routine? How many days a week/hours a day do you workout? What types of workouts do you do? All one type or switch it up?
DH: I’m a dedicated gym-goer, and I have to switch it up every now and then. You can typically find me there 6 times a week. I currently teach spin three times a week; take two bootcamp classes; and take a TRX class. All of these classes change each week for an added challenge. I also try to incorporate hot hatha yoga once a week, which I recently started in the fall because I’m a practice what I preach type of person. There are so many documented evidence-based benefits of yoga (stretching, recovery, and lowered cortistol levels to name a few) that I decided it was time for me to get on the yoga train. I’m on it, and I’m staying on it while working on my form.
TSC: How do your prioritize fitness and wellness in your (busy) life?
DH: Now, fitness is such a big part of my life, I can’t picture it not being a priority. For my spin classes, they’re part of my work, so I have to go! That’s a big reason as to why I became a spin instructor because then I would be forced to attend and workout. Plus I have to keep up with other exercises, to build aerobic capacity (remember that when I’m teaching, I’m talking and moving at the same time, which is hard—try it)! Other than that, I plan around my schedule or just try to stick with a gym schedule like it’s a work schedule. One of my favorite bootcamp classes serves as group therapy in the sense that it’s my hour to workout and hang with some of my closest friends—what happens in that room stays in that room! Although I am dedicated to making fitness a priority, I don’t stress if I miss a day or two if my schedule doesn’t allow for it. Gone are those days; I remember why I workout and associate balance with overall health and wellness.
TSC: Why is working out/fitness important to you and your lifestyle?
DH: Fitness is important to my lifestyle because I value my health, and I believe fitness is part of that equation. The mental and physical health benefits associated with working out are the main reasons for me to keep up with it. If you were to ask me in high school and college why I worked out, I was more interested in aesthetics rather than my health. Not anymore.
Fitness is absolutely part of my lifestyle because of the positive impact it has in my life. It’s my time to focus on me. Work on me. Challenge myself in ways I didn’t think was possible.
TSC: What other aspects of healthy living do your incorporate in your life? Wellness? Sleep routines? Meal prep? Favorite healthy places to eat out/recipes readers should try?
DH: I’m all about balance in everything that I do and am a big believer in the “practice what you preach” approach. When I’m out of balance, I take a step back, reflect, and figure out what the next steps are. A sleep routine (8 hours please) is step one—sleep is associated with health, especially weight and mood, so I need my zzz’s if I’m going to set myself up for success. Next is always food—meal prep and mindful eating (listening to your internal cues rather than external cues). Going to the supermarket is like a fun field trip each week! I typically create a few meals for the week and then have a list of ideas of meals and snacks for those days I’m in need of something fast (read: so that I don’t eat the whole fridge). I’m also big with repurposing meal prep foods (ex: make a large batch of protein and use it in a few dishes, instead of just one).
I used to love eating out, now I still enjoy it, but I’m more attached to my own cooking because I know what ingredients are in it. Restaurant portions tend to be high in sodium and calories (portion distortion), even at some “healthy” restaurants. When I go out to eat I enjoy myself and practice mindful / intuitive eating. Other tips include asking what’s in your food and/or asking for “light on the salt and/ or sauce”—makes a big difference.
TSC: If you could share one thing with readers of The Sweat Chronicles what would it be?
DH: I struggled finding balance within my health and wellness routine for a while, and I’m still working on it because I feel confident that there is always room to grow. There are so many variables associated with food, fitness, body, and mind, and they’re all interconnected. My advice is to work on finding what works for you, knowing that it might not be easy and it could be time consuming at first. Find reasons why healthy living (which includes eating well and exercising) are important to you. Connect with these benefits so much that they become greater than the barriers to these healthy behaviors. Work on it all while doing you.