Transformation Tuesday: Juan Howard

Read about how Juan Howard lost 19lbs in 6 weeks with Amplify! His tips of the trade, how he started to enjoy cooking his foods and how his improved nutrition has given him the opportunity to be more active with his two kids!

Q: When did you decide to start Amplify! and what truly ignited your desire to become more focused on nutrition? 

A: The “Spring into Summer” nutrition challenge was coming and I’d been toying with the idea of Amplify! for a while, because I felt like my weight loss was starting to stall. Body weight anything was still a real chore for me. 

Q: How much weight or inches have you lost since completing Amplify!? Has it been challenging to maintain your weight loss? 

A: I started the challenge at 245 lbs, and finished it at 226 and some change. So, like 19 lbs over the 6 weeks. Not sure about inches —Jackie has it written down somewhere— but I’ll have to buy all new jeans come fall. As for maintenance, I really don’t know yet, but I can say that I definitely feel like I have the tools and mindset now to stay on track.

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Q: What are a few tips and tricks that Amplify! has taught you that have carried over into your everyday routine? What are some tips you’d suggest to others? 

A:Track. Track everything you eat and drink. Seriously, all of it. Those 100 calorie packs and “healthy” snack bags add up FAST. Buy a food scale. Doesn’t need to be fancy, but actually measuring everything helped me immensely. Experiment with spices and flavors!  You’re already changing the way you eat, find something new to love! Oh, and water, water, water. You feel like you don’t need so much of it until you start drinking enough. 

Q: Do you find that your CrossFit performance has improved since losing weight? Is CrossFit important to your life style as much as nutrition is? 

A:CrossFit is so much better. I don’t think it gets “easier,” but I’m definitely getting much deeper into those longer WODs before I want to die. And my gymnastics feel waaaay better. CrossFit is very important to me. My kids think I’m more fun since I’ve been Crossfitting; I actually have the energy to play with them!

Q: How important is it for you to demonstrate healthy eating habits to your daughter and son? Do they participate in any Amplify! Meals with you? 

A:That’s a real long term goal of mine. I don’t want them to develop the bad habits that I had to break. Unfortunately, I don’t get to eat with them except for breakfast and the weekends, but I present them balanced meals, but kids being kids, they take some things and leave some. 

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Q: What is one or two things you’d suggest to someone who wants to focus on nutrition and/or who’s afraid to start Amplify!?

A: Just start doing it. Download a food tracker  and buy a food scale. Understand that eating right doesn’t have to be hard or scary. Understand yourself and your hang ups. One of my favorite snacks are the protein pancakes on the Amplify! plan, but I have to buzz the mix in the blender or I’d never get past the texture. And don’t worry about being hungry. There were many days where it was a struggle to eat everything I was supposed to because I felt full-like, all the time. And experiment with flavors!! 

Q: Do you have any other goals that you’d like to achieve in relation to CrossFit or nutrition in the near future?
A:I’d like to start getting another couple training sessions in every week. So just getting myself to a point where I can handle a little more volume. And to keep my nutrition on the path. I’d like to feel better about my Open performance this fall.

Swolemate Saturday: Mike Jones & Jen Taylor

Read about how members Mike Jone and Jen Taylor met, how they bond over CrossFit and how they keep each other motivated inside the gym and out with meal prep and accountability!

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Q:(Jen) Did you guys meet at CrossFit? Did you both do Crossfit when you guys first met if it was outside of the gym?

A: Mike and I met through mutual friends/his sister before I attempted to move cross country to California. When I moved back to PA, I needed something new to do, so I joined the gym with my friend, Meg and Mike’s sister, Sue (where Mike was also a member)! We were both always active prior, but not doing CrossFit. He had started before me though and was amazing, so I had a lot of catching up to do!

Q:(Mike)  Do you guys do partner WODs together a lot? Do you do them when they are programmed?  Who do you think would win a workout if you guys went toe-to-toe?

A: We usually partner up but I try not to because I can’t keep up with her most of the time. But, if it came to a toe-to-toe match, I would come out victorious.

(Jen edit): Just adding in here that whatever he says is a lie and I would totally smoke him! Although a few years ago he would have run laps around me!

Q: (Jen) What is one of your favorite things about having Mike in the gym with you? Do you think having someone there keeps you motivated and accountable?

A: When I work nightshift, we often have opposite schedules, so sometimes it may be the only time I get to see him that day! Having him in the gym always makes me laugh and keeps me motivated! It’s awesome to have a shared hobby that makes us healthy and happy!

Q:(Mike) What is one of your favorite things about having Jen in the gym with you? Do you think having someone there keeps you motivated and accountable?

A: I like having Jen there because I like working out with her and doing stuff that we’re both interested in. It’s also a plus that she always brings my gym clothes and shake with her for me to change into and drink. When I have to go in the mornings, she literally drags me out of bed; she’ll even go at 630am on her days off just to make sure I get up! 

Q: (Jen) Do you guys meal prep? If so, who does the cooking? Is it shared responsibility? Who’s the better cook?  

A: we meal prep every week on Sunday! Shared?!! Not so much—I will say that he does try to help, but he often just ends up making a big mess and using every fork, pot, pan we own, so it’s more help if he stays out of the kitchen! Haha.

Q:(Mike) Does living with someone who also has a focus on nutrition help you stay on track? Do you think it helps/hurts your accountability?

A: Yes, because before I met Jen I lived off of a very strict pizza and beer diet. With the occasional wawa sizzle in the mornings. 

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Q: (Jen) what are some things outside of CrossFit that you guys do together?
A: We bought a fixer-upper two years ago, so we have been doing a lot of home projects together lately! If we’re not working out, we’re usually lounging around the house with the dog, binge watching Netflix, hanging out with friends or out to dinner drinking all of the wine! Now that the house is getting closer to being done, we’ve been trying to take more trips and visit new cities!

Q:(Mike) You and Jen recently went on a CrossFit cruise this past winter, any other big travel plans for the summer?

A: No, we don’t have anything planned, besides me going to the Iron Maiden concert! But, we are going away in the fall to visit the Finger Lakes in NY. 

Q: (Jen) If you got a call in the middle of the night from the cops saying that Mike was arrested- what would he be arrested for?

A: Oh boy.... Definitely something stupid after a few cocktails. His family has some pretty wild parties, I could tell stories for days! But if we’re keeping this PG, here’s a little gym member related example(sorry Steve and Casey). One time after a party, we had Kait Kaut pull-over out front of the Kenas household which we pass on our way home. Him and Kait’s boyfriend, Dave, proceeded to take all of the food and toys out of the car and place them all over their yard - including Mac and cheese in the mailbox, ‘feeding’ the reindeer decorations pepperoni on the lawn and filling Santa’s sleigh with PBRs. We also wrote illegible notes and put them all over Casey’s car that she drove all around with the next day! 

Q:(Mike): What is the funniest thing that Jen has done to do -inside the gym or out? 

A: I usually get annoyed when anyone makes fun of me so Jen tries not to mess with me too much, but she’s always doing something weird. For example, If there are any ‘friends’ fans out there, last year at the CHOP run for Kaleo, Jen ran the first half of the race like Phoebe in the woods and had everyone cracking up!

Athlete of the Month: Ed Johnson

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Read about how member Ed Johnson has seen improvements in his fitness by coming to the gym more frequently, how CrossFit has allowed him to lose 50lbs and who got him in the gym to start!

Q: When did you start CrossFit? How did you get hooked up with CrossFit DelVal? Were you active prior to starting CrossFit?

A:I started CrossFit in August of 2018. Mike Jones and I worked together and he saw how fat and out of shape I was and recommended me giving it a try. Jenny Taylor helped me structure a strict diet for that really made me realize how poorly I ate. I had let myself go for quite a while and I wasn’t very active on top of it. 

Q: What made your transition into CrossFit easiest? What do you think was the hardest movement(s) to learn? 

A: The thing that made my transition the easiest here at DelVal, both staff and members. They all are so inviting and non judgmental. There are still movements I can’t do that I’m still working on getting better at. The snatch is still hard for me

Q: When you first started CrossFit did you have any specific fitness goals? What are your goals now either with CrossFit, weight loss, longevity, ect. 

A: My overall goal was to lose weight and get healthier. I have lost 50 lbs over the last year and now I just want to keep getting better at the movements and maybe drop a few more lbs along the way. 

Q: You went from a three times a week membership to unlimited, what made you decide to start coming to the gym more? Do you think you’ve seen an improvement in your fitness since you’ve been attending more frequently? What class can people find you at? 

A: Three times a week wasn’t enough for me. I feel when I miss three days in a row I have to start all over again from scratch. I do feel with the unlimited membership and going more I have improved my mobility. I generally go 5:30pm weekdays and boot camps on Sunday when I can. 

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Q: What are some tips you would give to other athletes that are debating on joining CrossFit? What are some things you’ve found to be helpful in navigating your way around movements?

A: JOIN! The scales have been great for us lesser athletic people. There is always an option if you can’t do a specific movement. 

Q: Do you have a favorite girl workout, if not, any other favorite workouts? What is your least favorite movement to do, if you have one? What is your favorite movement if you have one? A: I’m not sure what a girl workout is, but the chicks in this gym can out work me any day of the week! My least favorite is running. I really enjoy the weightlifting though. 

Q: Tell us something that people might not know about you just by looking at you? 

A: I'm a pretty transparent person! 

Q: Finish this off, “You know you’ve made big when….” 

A: You know you’ve made big strides when you can do wall balls and burpees and still walk the next day! 

Transformation Tuesday: Megan Finan

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Read about how Megan’s weight loss has increased her ability to move better in the gym, move through body weight movements and how Amplify! has given her the opportunity to find balance in her diet!

Q: What made you want to start Amplify!? How many lbs or inches have you lost since doing it?

A: I started Amplify! because my “cheat meal” was turning into a “cheat-3 day-weekend” too often. I wanted more structure as far as nutrition was concerned. I was doing okay on my own, but I knew there was much opportunity for improvement. I knew that Jacki helped so many people and they had wonderful results. I lost 6 pounds of fat and 8 inches. 

I still do a cheat day once a week. Nothing is off limits (though, I probably have not had any alcohol in over 3 months). My cheat day usually doubles the calories of a normal day and includes cheesesteaks, ice cream, Mike and Ike’s, etc.

Q: How has completing Amplify! Helped your performance in the gym? What are some things you’ve seen improvement on specifically? 

A: My strict pull ups have improved. I can definitely do a higher volume since dropping a few pounds. Running also feels better since my nutrition has gotten on track. I did PR my Broomile recently too!

Q: You recently got a (beautiful) bar muscle up, do you think dialing in your nutrition has had an impact on that and other gymnastic movements? 

A: The weight loss helped in getting a BMU, but I also spent LOTS of time practicing. Like- months. I also have to credit Travis and Tom for giving me their time, pointers, and advice. I can’t thank them enough.

I think most bodyweight movements have become easier in general since losing a few pounds which makes sense. I recently did a WOD with a high volume of pistols and they felt great. The exception would be push ups - they somehow never get easier!

Q: What are some tricks of the trade that Amplify! Taught you? Are there any tips you’d give to someone learning to log their food? 

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A: Amplify! gave me a great starting point to determine portion sizes, calories and macros.I definitely played with the numbers and added more as the weeks went by, but I had a good idea of where I should be after the first month. Jacki was really helpful with this process! 

 I was really turned off by the idea of logging food, but it turned out to be the best way for me to stay on track. I. LOVE. MYFITNESSPAL. Moving things around to hit my macros became a fun little game - like playing Tetris. I typically plan out as much as I can the day before - especially if it is a 12 hour work day coming up. There is no guesswork - I know I am getting enough protein and fiber, while staying on track with carbs and fat. It can be a little time consuming in the beginning but once you add in your commonly used recipes, it is easy.

Q: What is something you would tell someone on the fence about doing Amplify!? What are some things you’d tell someone in general looking to dial in their nutrition? 
A: If you want a structured nutrition program that will give you results, Amplify! works. It is not a quick fix - it is a lifestyle change. Since officially ending the program, I have sort of made it my own as far as recipes go. I am constantly looking for fun ways to add nutrient dense foods into my diet. I am a huge Pinterest junkie and am constantly testing out recipes since I hate drinking protein shakes. I eat things like Snickers protein oatmeal and hot chocolate protein donuts. Sticking to a good nutrition plan doesn’t have to be bland or boring! Dialing in my nutrition was a great decision for me in early 2019. What made it even better was that my husband Sean was my biggest supporter. He is not only the president of my fan club, he does the majority of the cooking for our family. Oh and he lost 30 pounds. This way of life is so much more manageable when you are both in the same frame of mind with good nutrition. And when you have someone who appreciates cheat day as much as you!

Pregnancy & CrossFit: Amy Babiak, Jen Balentine and Emily Onofrio

CrossFit can be challenging for many people, but, CrossFit while being pregnant is a whole new beast. Amy, Jen and Emily have all continued to CrossFit during their pregnancy but have approached being in the gym a little differently. Read about how these three ladies continue to workout, how they modify workouts and some tips they do to keep them on track as best as possible.

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Q(Amy): What are some things you have been doing in relation to CrossFit and becoming pregnant? Did you automatically scale workouts or did you listen to your body based on how movements felt? 

A: Navigating my first pregnancy while continuing to do CrossFit has definitely been an interesting adventure that, if I’m being completely honest, can at times be incredibly frustrating. Having been a CrossFitter for 6 years now, I’ve learned to listen to my body but being pregnant has taken it to a whole new level! I had a minor issue early on and was forced to rest for almost 6 weeks until it resolved itself, which of course resulted in losing a lot. However, when I was cleared, I modified, scaled and slowly worked movements back in one at a time based on how I was feeling and eventually felt pretty good! 

Q(Jen): This is your second baby but your first baby while doing CrossFit, how has this pregnancy differed from your first in relation to exercise? 

A: My first pregnancy I went to a globo gym so I just did whatever and by six months in, I stopped working out entirely (I wasn’t motivated at all). This pregnancy I have stayed either lifting or doing CrossFit 5 days/week and I’m 100% driven by our amazing DelVal community!

Q(Emily): How has your pregnancy journey been in the gym? Were there certain movements you stayed away from more so than others? 

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A: Since this is my first pregnancy I had no idea what to expect. No one tells you that your lungs disappear right away amongst other things. I always thought everything was just harder because of weight. Not what’s happening internally. I will say my experience is way better here at DelVal then I think it would be if I belonged to a different type of gym. Having a routine class time and friends that hold you accountable is a very important part of CrossFit for me. I need that, more now than ever!! As soon as I saw the positive on the pregnancy test I retired box jumps. Paranoid! Step ups for this Momma!

Q(Amy): What movements have been more challenging as you progress in your pregnancy? Are there any movements that you miss doing that you are unable to do?

A: Running any distance has become super uncomfortable, so I’ve cut that out completely at this point...not mad about it. Rowing for extended periods of time can be uncomfortable as well so the Echo bike has become my best friend. I can’t believe I’m about to type this but I kinda miss burpees; I can’t explain why, but squat thrusts are annoying. I’ve had to start elevating my push ups, as the abdominal pressure with that specifically doesn’t feel good. Most of all though, I miss deadlifting heavy, which, if you know me you know that’s like a knife to my heart (lol)! I’ve had low back issues in the past and with all the changes my body is going through, it’s not worth taking any risks. In the end though, I’m just happy to move any how, any way I can.

Q(Jen): During this pregnancy did you have any specific fitness goals you wanted to stick to? How has your nutrition been?

A: My goal was to make it until the end of my pregnancy still working out and as close to my previous routine prior to getting pregnant- 6days/week. I wanted to keep working out for as long as I could while keeping up with as much of my strength and endurance as possible. My nutrition has actually been really good and so much better than my first pregnancy. I have allowed myself to have the pizza and cupcakes but in moderation because I know whatever I put on is up to me to take off after the baby!

Q(Emily): You’re an early bird class member, how has becoming pregnant impacted trying to wake up early? Has it impacted the amount of classes you attend weekly? Do you get morning sickness which prevents you from coming? 

A: I LOVE my Earlybird’s!! I was pretty sick my entire first trimester and a small portion of my second. So for a while I felt like I was barely there. That totally sucked! After 16 weeks, I started feeling normal again and since then I try to get to the gym four days a week and I’m okay with that!

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Q(Amy): You, Jen and Emily all completed the Murph workout together this past memorial day, what was that like? How did you break up the workout?

A: I had the best time working out with Em and Jen and was very grateful to have two bad ass ladies working by my side that know exactly how I was feeling. We modified movements and scaled the run, but we kept each other moving at a consistent pace the entire time and got a great workout in. Jen and Em ran a few laps around the building while I biked and then we all ended up doing 10 rds of work! Fun times!

Q(Jen): When you worked with Amy and Emily in completing Murph, was it comforting to work with other ladies who can relate to how you’re feeling/ moving? 

A: Best decision ever! I feel so fortunate to not only have others pregnant at the same time but so many women who have been pregnant at the gym before me. Best motivation ever!

Q(Emily): When you completed Murph, did you plan on partnering with Amy and Jen or was it coincidental? What is it like to workout with other ladies that have a better understanding of how move/ how you might be feeling? 

A: I have never done Murph pre pregnancy. I know, I know, crazy! I have to thank Jen and Amy for letting me join them! I honestly wasn’t going to do it! As soon as Jen asked me to partner up I knew she would be relentless about it. As I said before, I need that and I’m really glad she made me do it! It was great to be able to work at a consistent pace with two other ladies, motivating each other, honor a hero and get that sweat in! 

Q(Amy): Were there any things about your pregnancy that surprised you? (I.e you could still do pull ups, thrusters, ect) and were there things that went away quicker than you expected

A: This kid stole my lungs IMMEDIATELY!!! I was around 8 weeks when I participated in Amatuer Hour in Febuary and it was as if I’d never worked out in my life (lol)! I certainly didn’t expect that being that early on in my pregnancy. All forms of squats still feel great and dubs are still pretty decent. I am most surprised though that I still have some pull ups and even a few toes to bar, but they are starting to fade.

Q(Jen):Coach Justin was doing your programming before you got pregnant, have you stuck to his programming or have you moved toward your own modified workouts? How many times do you still CrossFit weekly? 

A: Coach Justin has been doing my programming since last summer and we just stopped at the end of May. He has been so patient with me and as I got further along in my pregnancy he continued to listen to my concerns, moderate my workouts but always still challenged me. I’m still mimicking a lot of the programming he did for me and can’t wait until I’m cleared to return so we can start up again! I have been doing CrossFit 2-3 days/week and strength training 2-3 days/week. I love having the variety! 

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Q(Emily): What movements have been more challenging as you progress in your pregnancy? Are there any movements that you miss doing that you are unable to do? Is there anything that has surprised you so far during your pregnancy? 

A: I personally think every movement is more challenging, haha! I’m not a super advanced CrossFitter but I do pride myself on being decent at handstand push-ups, burpees and pistols. All of which I can no longer do (wah). I can’t wait to be able to get back to those movements after the baby comes so I can throw some shade at my hubby again!

Q(Amy): What are some tips you would give to other ladies in the gym who might be in your shoes someday? What are some tips you’d give them about the changes they will experience as well as how to balance in their exercise? 

A: LISTEN TO YOUR BODY!!! Accept that there will be many changes and you will have to modify and scale the sh**t out of most workouts, even changing them completely and IT’S OK. I have a conversation with myself almost every day reminding myself to not be so hard on myself, that I’m doing the best I can to stay active and strong for myself and the munchkin. Stay consistent, rest when you need, keep your nutrition dialed in as best you can with treats in moderation. Just like normal, you need to fuel your body properly to feel your best!

Q(Jen): What are some tips you would give to other ladies in the gym who might be in your shoes someday? What are some tips you’d give them about the changes they will experience as well as how to balance in their exercise? 

A: Show up, put in the work, safely challenge yourself still but also give yourself a break when you are tired. Easier said than done personally but rest is just as important as exercise when you are pregnant. Also, don’t let your diet go just because you are pregnant. Definitely treat yourself at times but if I’ve learned one thing from coach Jacki- it’s that you can’t have great outputs if you are giving your body poor inputs and that is even more so true during pregnancy. Also remember pregnancy changes your body and your mind so don’t make plans to come back to your same routine as soon as you are cleared to exercise, just go with the flow. Someone please remind me of that in a month or so! 

Q(Emily): What are some tips you would give to other ladies in the gym who might be in your shoes someday? What are some tips you’d give them about the changes they will experience as well as how to balance in their exercise? 
A: My advice would be to just show up as much as you can. But, that’s my advice for the gym in general. Of course, listen to your body and your doctor. You’re going to have to modify movements and sometimes entirely change your workout that day but you feel so much better knowing you hauled your pregnant ass in there and got in a workout that day!