A:I'm originally from NY, (my mom is from Brooklyn and my dad is from Queens). I grew up on Long Island, which is where most of my relatives still reside, but my family relocated upstate to Albany when I was in the 3rd grade so I finished up my schooling there, which was a little bit of a change of pace! Upstate NY was nice, but once I graduated high school I knew I wanted to live by the beach, so I moved to Myrtle Beach, SC to pursue my undergraduate degree (I received an academic scholarship to Coastal Carolina University) and then I moved out to San Diego in January 2006. I'm still here today, loving every minute of it :)
Q:Describe the moment when you knew you would have a career in health and physical education?
A:I started working in a privately owned female-only gym when I was 15. What started as a job working the front desk, cleaning bathrooms and folding towels quickly turned into much, much more! By age 16 I was teaching group fitness classes at multiple gyms in the area (name a class and I taught it- step, hi/lo, kickboxing, group strength, core conditioning, aquatic fitness, indoor cycling, etc...each one with a cassette tape in hand), and by age 18 I was training clients. From the moment I taught my first group fitness class I knew that I would have a career in health and fitness- teaching came very naturally to me and I absolutely loved it! It was such an incredible feeling to be able to make people smile and to guide them on their health and fitness journey- I'll always remember the time when a student told me that my classes had helped change her life, and how amazing that made me feel. Because of that, it seemed like a natural fit for me to pursue degrees in physical education (both undergraduate and graduate), as it combined my love of health and fitness with my passion for teaching and inspiring others...plus I always felt there was so much more that could be done to really enhance the physical education programs in schools. I thought for a while about getting into broadcasting (my dream job was to be a reporter for ESPN because I loved sports and always thought it would be fun to be on TV), but ultimately I knew that my future was in education, as I wanted to one day teach at the collegiate level (something which I was fortunate to start doing part time about 2 years ago).
Q:You worked at the Conway Medical Wellness and Fitness Center, a hospital-based wellness center. Describe how that impacted your career...
A:My time spent at Conway Medical Wellness and Fitness Center was great. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet some amazingly passionate people doing some great things in health and fitness, and being in a hospital-based wellness center was a new experience for me and a great change of pace from working in traditional gyms and health clubs (which is where I had spent most of my time as a fitness professional), so it really helped me to become more well-rounded in my career. My position as Aquatics Director afforded me the opportunity to learn about an entirely different sector in health and fitness, an area which I really loved as I have been swimming for about as long as I can remember, and always loved being in the water (from swimming competitively and lifeguarding, to teaching aquatic fitness classes and swimming lessons to people of all ages). Overseeing the aquatics department, which included a staff of 5 people, was my first opportunity managing people, something which I really enjoyed doing and seemed to thrive at (I'd definitely consider myself a people person). In addition to supervising my staff and overseeing the operations of the pool and creating various programs, I also taught a slew of group fitness classes including yoga, (which is another great passion of mine), which was something that had not been taught at that facility before, so it was a great for me to be able to introduce the members to the many great benefits that yoga can provide.
Q:How did you become an Exercise Physiologist for the American Council on Exercise?
A:I was offered a position with ACE in January 2006, which is what brought me out to San Diego (SoCal was a placed that I always wanted to live). My first position with ACE was within what was at the time called the Academy Department as Continuing Education Coordinator, and shortly thereafter my role expanded to Academy Exercise Scientist and then on to Certification Director before moving into my current role as an Exercise Physiologist. Let's just say I've worn quite a few hats during my 6 1/2 years with the organization...and still do! All of the positions I've held however have been great, and the opportunities I've been fortunate enough to have because of my diverse skill set are things that I am thankful for everyday. Educating and inspiring others is something which brings me great joy and fulfillment, and to be able to do that day in and day out is truly incredible, and it is honestly what fuels me to work so hard and to continually look for ways to be involved in changing people lives. That probably explains why in addition to working full-time at ACE I also teach part-time at Mirmar College, inspiring future fitness professionals as part of their Fitness Specialist program. In addition to teaching yoga classes and other fitness classes at various locations throughout San Diego, which include donation and free community-based classes, (something which I feel very strongly about), as I think it's important to give back as much as possible.
Q:You have been quoted in various publications including Shape, Self, and Oxygen. Do you ever stand back and just say "wow"?
A:It is always very humbling for me to have the opportunity to contribute to such amazing publications and to share with readers quality health and fitness information to help empower them to reach their goals and to lead more active, healthy lifestyles. I've had the pleasure of working with and contributing to so many online and print publications over the years (some of which I've built great relationships with, as the editors and writers are always so awesome to work with!), and even though it has become a regular part of my job, I still always find it to be such an honor to be interviewed, (this interview included) and to be able to share my passion and expertise. It's definitely a part of my day that I greatly look forward to :)
Q:What would be the highlight of your career so far?
A:One highlight of my career would have to be filming a Health Minute segment with CNN out in Atlanta about a year and a half ago about the importance of strength training. That shoot was alot of fun. Another highlight would probably be working with Nancy O'Dell as part of the Moderation Nation campaign, which included a media tour in NYC. Nancy and her team were awesome to work with and it was fun doing a few of the morning shows in NYC, (it was cool for my family and friends that live in NYC and Long Island to be able to see me live on TV since the morning show I'm often a part of is here in San Diego....plus staying at the Ritz wasn't too bad either!). I also think back to my first live television segment I did on San Diego Living, a morning show here in San Diego about 4 years ago (one that I'm still regularly a part of), and how exciting it was to be on TV sharing my passion for health and fitness. It was then that I discovered on-camera work to be one of my talents, as well as one of my passions.
While those are some of my "wow" kind of moments, there are honestly so many other things I would consider to be great highlights in my career- teaching a 72 year old client how to swim; inspiring one of my yoga students who was new to yoga at the time to eventually go on to become a yoga teacher; teaching at a career fair at a middle school in rural South Carolina and receiving a letter from one of the students afterwards who told me that because of our talk she had decided she wanted to go on to eventually pursue a college degree; introducing yoga to a class of high school freshman and having them really enjoy it (after a few giggles of course); having one of my students tell me I helped to change her life after she lost a significant amount of weight- these are all things which remind me every day why I got into the field that I did. It's because of this that I continue to challenge myself to work harder and to seek new ways to make an even greater impact on the lives of others.
Q:Describe your typical 24 hour diet...
A:For breakfast it's typically one of three things- either plain non-fat greek yogurt with berries (or sometimes a flavored Chobani yogurt), 4 egg whites with some sort of veggies (I've been on a big spinach and sun dried tomato kick lately) or kefir (blueberry and cherry are my favorite flavors), along with a cup of tea or a coffee with a little bit of almond milk. I'll usually have a piece of fruit as a mid-morning snack and for lunch it's usually a salad with tuna or some other fish on top (or sometimes tofu or beans or egg whites or cottage cheese- I'm a pescetarian so I opt for either a seafood, veggie or dairy option for my protein needs). If it's going to be a longer work day or a longer workout session, I'll opt for a PB&J for lunch (all natural peanut butter and all natural fruit spread on 100% whole wheat bread) for something a little more filling. For an afternoon snack I like to have some veggies (cherry tomatoes or cucumber slices are my usual picks) and if it's following an afternoon workout I'll dip the veggies in a dip that I'll make out of plain non-fat greek yogurt (my latest concoction consists of mustard, lime juice and fresh cilantro- it sounds a little weird, but it makes a great, low cal, protein packed dip that tastes really good with cucumbers- promise!). Dinner varies quite a bit, but often it's either fish or shrimp with veggies (I love any kind of leafy greens- mustard greens, kale, swiss chard) with couscous or a sweet potato, or a veggie bowl of some sort, which usually consists of some type of beans (usually red kidney beans or black beans), a little bit of brown rice, salsa, avocado and whatever veggies we've got in the house. I do have to say, I have a weakness for pho, and there's this awesome Vietnamese restaurant nearby that makes the most delicious pho, so that's often my splurge dinner choice.
Q:What does your weekly workout routine look like?
A:This definitely varies from week to week (the great thing about being in San Diego is the weather is nice pretty much all year round, so the opportunities for being physically active are endless), but typically it'll include practicing yoga (I practice and teach mostly heated vinyasa classes), strength training (usually 3 days per week- I've been focusing my strength workouts around a foundation of core work and a focus on the 5 primary movement patterns (squat, lunge/single leg movements, push, pull and rotation, following a daily undulating periodization approach), a mix of HIIT and some longer, steady state cardio sessions (l love to mix up my cardio sessions...lately I've been liking the 30-20-10 approach), and when possible I like to take a group fitness class or two, especially if one of my friends, students or colleagues is teaching (I always love supporting others who are doing great things in our industry), or if it's a class format I haven't tried before (I just went to my first pole fitness class recently and it was a ton of fun and actually a really good workout). I also look for other ways to add more activity to my day, like riding my bike around town, sprinting with my two dogs at the park, walking with a co-worker during our breaks, hiking on the weekends with my fiancee, etc.
Q:What trends do you see in the health and fitness industry going forward?
A:I think the trend of what I often refer to as "getting back to the basics" will continue to be seen moving forward, as understanding how the body is truly designed to move makes alot of sense, since at the end of the day exercise is designed to enhance our movements and activities both inside the gym and outside of the gym in everyday life. The focus on first establishing a solid foundation for movement by ensuring proper joint stability and mobility as well as core function, and then progressing on to what for most of us is a bit of re-learning of the proper mechanics of the 5 primary movement patterns before then adding load as well as more explosive, powerful movements (if that's where your training program may take you) ensures not only safety and reduced risk of injury, but it also helps to maximize the results of your training efforts. This focus on more of the foundational aspects and functional components of fitness can be seen in many of the equipment options which are currently popular, as well as some new emerging items.
Q:Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
A:That's a tough question! Anyone who knows me knows that I have a tough time knowing where I'll be in the next 10 days let alone the next 10 years! I absolutely love to travel (as does my fiancee), and I've been doing quite a bit of international traveling over the last 3 years. That will definitely be something I'll continue to do in my personal life, as I love going to new places, meeting new people, and exploring different cultures. Plus, I always make it a point to have some great fitness-related adventures while abroad! In my professional life, I hope to see myself doing more of the things that I am doing today- writing blog posts and articles for various health and fitness websites, creating YouTube videos, conducting interviews with different publications about fitness trends, benefits of exercise and workout ideas, presenting at conferences and inspiring people to be active and have fun while doing so, teaching yoga and other fitness classes, collaborating more with some of my amazing peers in this industry, teaching at the collegiate level, etc.
I'd love to one day host my own show (or have a regularly weekly spot on an existing show talking about health and fitness), write a book, produce some fitness DVDs, do more public speaking to raise awareness for various causes (like I mentioned previously, I'm a strong believer in giving back and working to make a difference) and perhaps one day start a yoga retreat or a yoga studio in another country. My goal in life is to live simply, love deeply and to truly be happy, so I remain confident that no matter what life throws at me, good, bad or otherwise, ultimately I'll be where I'm meant to be, doing whatever it is that I'm meant to do :)
Q:I have to ask...how hard is it being a Jets fan?
A:Haha, how did I know you were going to ask that? Typical Giants fan. For me being a Jets fan is a part of who I am- it's seriously ingrained in my DNA. My grandfather and my father were both huge Jets fans, so I was born with a love for football. My grandfather actually had season tickets for many, many years (he had tickets from way back when the Jets used to play at Shea) so I had the opportunity growing up to attend games, and as the years progressed our seats seemed to get better and better which was really cool! I absolutely love football and while the Jets have certainly had their ups and downs over the years, a true fan sticks with their team no matter what, and that's exactly what I'm doing and I'm going to continue to represent for my team....I'm telling you though, the Jets are gonna make things happen soon- just you watch!! Plus, I've got to carry on the Jets legacy for my family, especially since my dad and grandpa are no longer here. I always joke with people that you know being a Jets fan means that I'm not a front runner (people always seem to get a laugh out of that). The truth is true fans are fans for life...no matter how great or how bad the team does, or how many ulcers, minor heart attacks or moments of pure sadness may come along with that. J-E-T-S, JETS, JETS, JETS!!! :)
Q:Lol...Big Blue! Do you have any website, Facebook, Twitter or blog links for the people to get in contact with you or just learn more about you?
A:Absolutely! I always love connecting with new people :)