Trainer Spotlight - Jacki Ford

 Dawn Hayner and Jacki Ford

Dawn Hayner and Jacki Ford

Another fixture of our Broomall gym is the fit and funny Jacki Ford. She's a top-level CrossFit coach and gifted athlete. Her enthusiasm for personal change and nutrition is INFECTIOUS. Read more about her and why #DontTellJacki is trending: 

Tell us about you. Where did you grow up, family, previous profession, etc?

I’ve lived on the same street my entire life. I moved 3 houses from my parents when I was 22 and have been there ever since. I went to a Catholic grade school and switched to a public school for high school. It proved to be a great decision for me because I completed many of my cosmetology hours during high school and it is now one of my jobs (although I’m sure most think I live at DelVal). 

How did you get started in CrossFit? 

I started CrossFit in November 2010. I had been cutting Rob Miller’s hair for a few years and one day he mentioned that he had just moved the gym he owned. He left some literature and it sparked my curiosity. I went in for a free trial (400m row, squats, box pushups, pull-ups in a band) and nearly died because of how out of shape I was. After the lightheadedness had subsided I sent Rob an email and told him to sign me up! 

What was empowering about CrossFit, for you? 

I came to DelVal knowing no one and totally out of my comfort zone! Something about Rob and the vibe of the gym drew me in. I was athletic while in school, but life threw me a curveball at 16 and I stopped something that I loved and never picked it back up. I could do movements assisted (largest band for pull-ups, 20in box for pushups) and I began to find out just how strong I was. Lifting a barbell was foreign and intimidating to me, but once I learned how to back squat, I figured out I was stronger than I thought. Rob once put 215 on the bar asking me to do one rep, and to his surprise (and mine) I ended up doing 3 (there is video on the FB page somewhere). My attitude started to change. I started to realized that I had been suppressing my true need to be a better version of what I had let myself become.

Many of us who've known you for a while know that you went through an intense physique transformation. Tell us about that. How did you do it? How did changing your body affect your performance?

Rob had asked me to help run the Spring challenge in 2015. I told him I also wanted to participate because I wanted to actually see the muscles I had developed. I was frustrated with myself. I had seen pictures and I didn’t look like I had changed in the 4.5 years I had been doing CrossFit. I was stronger and faster, but not where I wanted to be. I was eating clean, but it was the portions and frequency that were my problem. I wasn’t fueling my body for the energy I was putting out. I was over-fueling! I wanted more out of my fitness than just being strong. It was a switch in my brain, a mindset change, that made the journey possible. I never thought I would be doing bar/ring muscle ups, dips, high-volume sets of pull-ups and pushups, to name a few. This year I ranked 102nd in the Mid Atlantic region in my age group, compared to 892nd in 2016. Changing my body composition has definitely made a huge difference.

You counsel many DelVal members on nutrition and body composition change. What are some of the big 'mistakes' people make with their diets? 

The main “mistakes” I see are:

* Frustration with not seeing results fast enough (it’s not an overnight fix!)

* Rewarding a good performance with unnecessary treats (just because you worked out hard, doesn’t mean the gallon of ice cream is a good idea)

* Allowing themselves to fall into the black hole of having a ‘slip’ turn into a 'downward spiral’ (I ate the cookie, I might as well eat the whole sleeve)

Bad eating habits have been ingrained in us since childhood, and as we get older, we’re surrounded by fad diets and products that promise to help us lose weight. There are no quick fixes! Understanding your body and what it does and doesn’t need is key.

What are the three biggest pieces of nutrition advice that you recommend for a CrossFitter? 

Quality of food: avoid sugar and reduce starches

Quantity of food: consume for the energy you need and the energy you put out

Don’t be an asshole (can I say that?)

Tell us more about your Amplify! program..

Amplify! is a habit breaking, mindset changing program. It is designed to help you understand the unnecessary food you may be fueling your body with and getting you to understand how your body reacts to the fuel you are putting in. It’s understanding that our bodies are like a high end car…you want to fuel it with the highest octane for the best performance!

What's the best Matchbox 20 song and why?

I guess I’d have to say ‘Push’ since that is the song that lead me to liking the band. 'Overjoyed’ has special meaning to me as well. 

You're responsible for bringing Justin Marriott onboard at DelVal.. Not a question.. Just pointing that out. 

I’ve known Justin since he was little. He and my daughter have been friends for their lifetime. I love seeing how much Justin has taken interest in CrossFit and how much he has grown and developed over the last few years.

Team Jason or Team Jordan? 


Um, this can’t even be a question. These two are amazing in their own ways and I could never choose between them. I did however try to be clever and attempted to combine the two names and it can’t be done! DAMN IT!

(For those who are unaware, Scout is Jason and Jordan’s dog)

Greg's Chinup Program

Greg Thomas recently asked me for some help to achieve his first chin-up. He wanted to add some additional training after class that wouldn't take him more than 15 minutes to complete. Here's a short video I made for Greg, explaining the program. This is an adaptation of Pavel Tsatsouline's 'Fighter Pull-Up Program', with nuance provided by the RPE scale and customized for the equipment available at DelVal. 

An important consideration for this program is selecting the right equipment and resistance when starting. Moving from 15 to 30 repetitions should be challenging but the reps should remain CLEAN and should be full range-of-motion. Two details that I left out of the video:

- Additional strength and tension could be provided by accentuating the 'negative' (eccentric) portion of the repetition. I wouldn't over-do this.. Maybe a 2 second descent? Count these reps as an 'upscale' from whatever setup you're currently using.

- In 99% of cases, I recommend that folks do CHIN-UPS (palms facing you) vs. pull-ups. You'll get over the bar quicker with a chin-up. 

Anyway, on to the video:

Here's the progression written out as sets and reps. The color difference indicates an athlete switching from one 'system' to another, eg. ring rows and then to banded chins. 

Athlete of the Month - Jason Senatore

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Working hard and consistently attending class, Jason is our April Athlete of the Month. A recent transplant from Coach Matt's CrossFit Advance, Jason battles a shifting work schedule to make his fitness goals a reality. Congratulations, Jason!

Tell us a little about you.. How old are you? Where did you grow up?
So I'm 30 years old. I grew up in a town called Norwood about 10 minutes outside South Philly. Now I live in Tinicum Township with my wife Dee.

How long have you been CrossFitting? Why were you interested in CrossFit? 
I've been doing CrossFit for just under 3 years. I started out by dropping in here and there while I was doing my own routine at another gym. I was in a sort of fitness lull and Coach Matt and the rest of the folks at Crossfit Advance snapped me out of it. I became hooked to the high intensity workouts, so I quit the other gym I was at and started doing CrossFit full time. 

You work overnight shifts as a nurse and often come straight into the gym when you're done. How do you manage to still deliver an intense workout after being up all night? 
So I'm actually a respiratory therapist at CHOP. Some days my only option to get in a workout is to go straight from work in the morning. I make sure I take a lot of pre-workout! The tiredness usually goes away once the workout begins. 

What advice do you have to other folks with irregular schedules? How would you suggest they approach their fitness? 
For others with irregular schedules, I'd say just find the times that work best for you. It's difficult to be consistent with going the same time every day. 

Do you set goals for yourself? How important is it to set goals?
It's always important to set goals both personal and in the gym. In CrossFit it would be improve on all the Olympic lifts and get above 400 lbs on the deadlift. A personal goal would be to go back for my masters degree some day. 

Tell us about some of your favorite workouts. 
Before the Open I would have said Diane.. It's two movements that work well together for a quick burner (Deadlifts and Handstand Pushups). Other than that I'd say any workout that combines a power movement (clean, STO) with a body weight movement (pull-ups, push-ups). 

You originally trained at CrossFit Advance and now you're at DelVal. Share a good memory from each gym. 
At CrossFit Advance one good memory was performing there for a team competition. It was my first event that I had competed in, was a lot of fun, and something I look forward to doing again. Other than that just coming in each day and working out with a great group of people. CFA was a real tight knit community and was awesome to be a part of. At DelVal I just remember my first few times going in and how welcoming everyone was from all the coaches to all the athletes. It made the transition so smooth and I felt like I didn't miss a beat. 

Any tips on beard grooming? 
As far as the beard goes, I just use shampoo and let nature take its toll. I honestly do minimal grooming, outside of having my barber trim it up occasionally. I'm convinced though it adds a solid 50 pounds to all my lifts, no matter what they are!