Hey people! Thank you for taking time to visit my site. As you can see from my rather revealing childhood photos, I really want you to get to know me. I am not an actress or model. I’m just a normal person who discovered a more-empowered version of herself through health and fitness. I want to be real with you so hopefully you can get something out of my experience to help you on your own fitness journey. So in the interest of being real, wanted to give you some backstory on the photos in the gallery, the most recent taken at the MORE FITNESS WOMEN’S HALF MARATHON April 15th, and how taking the photos ties into me adjusting my diet to burn more fat.
If you don’t have time to read the full article and the zany adventures of Jen Turner, below are the takeaways. I will dig into the below topics in subsequent posts. Here’s the upshot:
1) Abs are made in the kitchen – they are mostly a function of diet; not exercise
2) To burn fat, I continued to do my regular workouts in the morning and tried working out on an empty stomach. For endurance training (half marathon training runs) I made adjustments and ate something light 2 hours before the workout because I needed fuel to support the activity. After my workouts, I let my body continue to burn and ate an hour to an hour and half after the workout was completed.
3) I made my own protein shakes with fruit, hemp seed for protein, chia seeds for fiber and Omega-3s, water or almond milk. I ate every couple hours, 5-6 times a day.
4) I devoted part of my daily workouts to ab exercises and core work. Even 5 mins consistently, made a difference.
Ok, so if you’ve got the time, read the full article:
A couple months ago, I went to a fitness modeling agent to investigate the possibility of modeling. People (meaning friends who could have very well been lying to me) have said to me for years I should try modeling. Given I’ve started a business (MAD COOL FITNESS) and I want to take what I’ve been doing privately with wellness coaching of friends and family, public, and help more people through my personal brand, I thought fitness modeling might lead to some interesting marketing opportunities.
So I met with an agent.
His feedback was cordial and generally positive, but direct, which I appreciated. With a once-over of some photos I’d taken the assessment was: arms –good, legs- good, abs…the feedback was…: “Need to see your abs. I need you to lean out right in here. Heee-er. ” He said as he did deft double swirls of his mouse over my mid-section in the photos on his computer screen. “Like hee-er”, one more computer circle. To be more specific and give examples, he then showed me photos of other models that were really cut, “in heee-er”. And these chicks were BAD. Rut-roh.
My stomach was pretty flat but the issue was he needed more “definition”. In some photos, at certain angles, with certain light, standing on one foot and touching my nose, yada, yada, yada, you could see these elusive muscles better. In others, honestly, not so much.
I have never been a big ab person. My stomach is the first place I gain weight and the last place to lose it. When I was overweight and even at a size 4 before I started working out, I always had a little pooch going on, which I had accepted as my little friend Herbie, not really bothering anybody, but just sorta hangin’ out –literally.
When I became active, Herbie did shrink, but with respect to body areas to focus on, I’ve always kinda been like, let’s just hit the highlights – legs/arms- I mean who’s really looking at the middle anyway?? Whatevs. I didn’t really care. It’s only in the last year, finally, really getting the concept that your strength really does come for your core, and core work could make me a better, faster runner, something I actually did care about, that I’ve been working on my abs. They were flat and strong, just not that defined. And honestly, I was fine with it. Until the agent conversation.
Re: when I took the photos, I also hadn’t done myself any favors. In typical Jennifer fashion I was over-committed, had led an 8 mile training run that morning and then immediately after crammed in taking the photos. Your skin is always a little loose after cardio so this did not help my situation. Being competitive and because it was a legitimate comment delivered in a professional matter-of-fact way, and the fact that I simply could not take one more “heee-er”, I took the note and transitioned to thinking about how I was going to make this ab thing happen.
I was doing plenty of exercising, in fact probably too much (rest is key to any fitness program and quite honestly, like most people, I wasn’t getting enough). Which meant there was really only one other lever to pull: diet. I needed re-enforcements. I called my nutritionist, Orvel.
Now Orvel is SUPER cut, I mean no body fat whatsoever, and vegan but he definitely is not trying to get his clients to be vegan. He really works with your lifestyle and tastes to tailor a program to you. That said, if you wanted to torture him, you could tie him up, throw chicken wings at him, and he’d probably go into anaphylactic shock.
“Hey Orvel, I’ve got an ab situation. The situation is I need them and um… I don’t have them so, ah, like what can I do?”
He asked what I was eating at the time. Here it is:
Pre-morning workout: Thomas’s English muffin, multi-grain light. Recently I had started eating this before my work outs . My workouts had gotten longer and more frequent because I was training/working out and I was also training/teaching other people.
Breakfast: 1 Pure Protein branded protein shake; cup of whole grain oatmeal. I usually added Bare Naked high protein granola to this, with low-fat milk.
Midmorning snack- pack of nuts (walnuts, cashews, or almonds). I noticed my body responded better to almonds than cashews and would see a difference in terms of building lean muscle. I would also have an apple as a snack.
Lunch: a salad with chicken, light parmesan with croutons and vinaigrette dressing or chicken breast and greens; fruit cup of melons, berries, pineapple.
Snack: popcorn with sea salt; honey & oats granola bar or fiber one bar
Dinner: salad with croutons; almonds, balsamic vinaigrette; olive oil. Salt and pepper. Ground turkey patty. Blueberries.
Here’s what he told me to do:
Breakfast: Make your own protein shake with fruits (blackberries, blueberries). Adding shelled Hempseed as a protein source. Try working out on an empty stomach in the morning. This gives your body the ability to burn fat, instead of burning what you ate prior to your workout. Your body is in a fasting state when you wake up, so the only energy the body will turn to is fat for fuel. Once you eat breakfast that opportunity as gone.
Mid-morning: handful full of raw almonds with about 3 dates (so sweet and gooey BTW. LOVE them).
Lunch Chicken Salad, get rid of the parmesan and croutons. Vinaigrette or squeeze a lemon or orange for dressing. Get rid of the fruit cup and have an apple or pear
Snack: Bell pepper with hummus. Deep six the popcorn and sea salt
Dinner: Raw salad with sweet peppers onions, tomato add any other veggies you want.
He told me this and I found myself doing what my students do to me when I give them guidance on diet and exercise – BUT-ING. “But I work out so much Orvel, I need food before I work out”. “But I need carbs. How will I keep from bonking during my long runs”. “But I’ve been drinking the same protein shakes for years. How will I get enough protein?” I went on and on. He listened to me patiently until I was but-ed out and then he said ,”Just try it”.
So I did. I went home and looked in my kitchen cabinets. I collected all of my croutons (I had literally just bought like a 40 pound bag of croutons from Costco and was super-bummed I couldn’t eat them), all of my Thomas’s English muffins, these really tasty multi-grain high protein tortillas. Put all of that stuff in a bag, walked down the hall, and rang my neighbor’s doorbell.
“Hey, do you want my croutons?” I said when her nanny opened the door. I must say I did tear up a little bit as I handed over what had become in one brief phone conversation oh-so-good-and-tasty contraband. I then went Costco and bought tons of fruits and vegetables, then went to the health food store and got the Hempseed and chia seeds. I was ready.
I also carved out 5-10 mins from my workouts to work on these pesky little muscles. And guess what? It totally worked! I started to see results within 2ish weeks. In 4 weeks the abs were there.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still not six pack Sally. There’s a woman in my gym who is amazing and has an 8 pack, and she’ll tell you the first place she gains weight is in her hips (we all have our issues). I’m definitely not in her league but I’m a lot better than I was. I’m still probably half a crouton away from disaster so I better stick to the program, but this is the most definition I’ve ever had, even when I was going through my eating disorder and at a lower weight. Also in terms of energy and athletic performance, also all great. I’ve never had more energy and I’m running the fastest I’ve ever run. The dates have taken away my cravings for sugar and bread.
So to wrap this up, first, you can change your body. Don’t accept certain “problem areas” like I did and just let it be there. Second, exercise is really important, and diet is really, really important if you want to lean out and get more muscle definition. Third, if you want different results, try different things, don’t “but “ yourself out of the game and keep hangin’ out with Herbie. He’s annoying.
Sunday April 15th was a special day. Not because it was Tax Day (we did get a 2 day reprieve thank goodness). It was special because it was the day of the More/Fitness All Women’s Half Marathon and it was the birthday of female heroes.
I’m happy to say that all of the women in my Athleta running group finished, and finished strong. When we started Jan. 1st 2012, most were newbies, having never run any distance, let alone a half marathon. Sunday April 15th, 2012 they officially became runners, and in the process heroes to themselves and to so many others.
I had a great race in spite of having been overcome with the flu the prior week. I finished 1hr 38mins and 8th in my age group. A good time for me in general, but especially considering I was a little phlegmy (unsexy but true) that morning due to my seemingly never-ending flu symptoms. I was determined to get a good time and really hauled the last 2 miles, laying it all out there the last few yards. Needless to say, I was happy and super done when I crossed the finish line, but that finish would be a mere footnote to the true upcoming highlights of the day.
After I finished, and before I could cramp up and/or pass out on the grass, I went to the Athleta tent, scooped up my video recorder, and headed to mile 12 to wait for my peeps. I would have gone back farther in the course but my legs simply didn’t have it. I waited and waited, and then… there was Teresa.
This was a woman whose longest run had only been 4 miles prior to training for this half marathon. She was excited but a little hesitant about this distance. The first time she ran seven miles, she surprised herself. I recalled it had been a major milestone.
And there she was…CRUISING at mile 12! I jumped in and ran with her. It was so fantastic to see how far she had literally come in this race and in becoming a runner overall. Since she was doing great and my legs were still a little wobbly, I ran a bit with her, then doubled back to see who else of my girls would be coming round the way.
I waited and I didn’t see any more of my Athleta crew. I later realized I had missed them in my zigzagging back and forth. Then, there in the crowd was a woman, Danielle, who I teach in my fitness classes in Harlem. We had only discovered serendipitously in the last week we were both running this race.
I screamed her name. Her stride looked good but her face was showing the mental fatigue of starting yet a third loop of Central Park. As an aside, I must say the course was TOUGH. Not just because of the endless hills, mentally it’s a killer – 2 full loops of the park, and then you start a third loop before you are finally done. You’re like, “Haven’t I seen that tree before?!” The answer is YES. LIKE TWO OTHER TIMES!
By the time you get to the third loop… seriously?! You’re over it. And that’s what I saw in Danielle’s face. “Come on girl, let’s run! Follow me!” I said. And together we bobbed and weaved through the traffic. I said polite “excuse mes” to get us through the crowd. We didn’t want to be rude but we had a finish line to cross! I was only going to take her a few yards, because remember, I was super done, but the universe sent me energy and we ran that last mile together and finished together! We hugged and cried. It was MAD COOL. Just as so many people had helped me finish over the years, I could not have been more thrilled to have the opportunity to pay it forward and help somebody else. AWESOME. But wait! There’s more.
I met up with my girls at the Athleta tent. Jennifer, who showed up to the first training run in a wind-breaker, the equivalent of Keds, and a Charlie Brown scarf, stood before me a Half Marathon finisher! She looked amazing and was brimming with energy. She also had a secret. She shared that 10 years ago this very day she had undergone major surgery. To run this race, on this day, was incredibly special, emotional, and personal.
Then there was Liz, today a half marathon finisher, who had been the queen of short runs on the treadmill prior to training, and had become the queen of the bridle path in CP (my personal training philosophy ingrained in my crew to always run on the dirt J). Also energized and talking about the next race.
And Tasneem, who was a runner before, but became and even better, faster runner and had a great race. I’m convinced there’s a cross-country runner in there just raging to come-out. Come-on out, girl! You’re faster than you think Tasneem J
Katie, Susan, Christy, Teresa, Jennifer, Tasneem, Liz, Ivy, Danielle…to all the ladies I had the pleasure of running with, to all the women who ran the race, to all the women who accomplished the perceived impossible April 15th 2012, CONGRATULATIONS! You are heroes. You inspire me and most importantly, you inspire yourselves and others.
Some of you have the running bug and are already planning your next races. This is not the end but the beginning of a whole new life for you. In your journey, if you have the chance to run with someone, run. If you have the chance to help someone, help. If you have the chance to lead by example, do it. It all comes back around and makes you and everyone around you, stronger.
Power to the She.
I am so thrilled to be an Athleta Sponsored Athlete this year! My delight at receiving this improbable honor and being included among such amazing women is only surpassed by my excitement for training women from my Upper East Side New York store to participate in the More Half Marathon this April. I could not be more thrilled to have the opportunity to share my knowledge and play a small role in helping these women participate in an event that will not only be social, positive, and fun, but for many it will be, in a word: transformative. For me, getting to the place of becoming a teacher, truly has been a long road.
Let me rewind to address why I use the term “improbable” to describe becoming an Athleta Sponsored Athlete and why training women for a half marathon is so important and specific an honor for me. If you read my bio, you will know that I struggled with asthma and being overweight as a child. I then developed an eating disorder that plagued me in some form until my mid-twenties. It was then that I decided to change. I wanted to be healthy and free of the mental prison to which an eating disorder can confine the human spirit. This cage is demoralizing, isolating, and depressing. In my mid-twenties I started going to the gym consistently and focusing on eating to live – I wanted to live! Through fitness I gained control of my body, my mind, and my life.
After a year of being consistently, physically active, a friend convinced me to sign up for the Dublin Ireland Marathon with Team in Training. Initially, I looked at her with a “What choo talkin’ ‘bout Willis?!” face and was absolutely NOT going to do it. I thought she was INSANE. Although I had been going to the gym every day, running on the treadmill, and using the rickety old Stairmaster in my business school dorm, I had never run outside. I was literally still running in my 1986 L.A. Gear cross-trainers from the 7th grade (seriously, I hadn’t grown much since then). I didn’t even know people ran outside on purpose until I saw them in 1998, like weird alien creatures, feverishly running around The Farm (Stanford’s campus). Growing up, people certainly weren’t doing loops of my block on the South Side of Chicago, going for “the burn”. After telling my family about the race and having them laugh at me and saying I could quote “mess around and die” (sounds worse than it was; family means well but sometimes…ya know) I got ticked off and promptly signed up for the race.
I was TERRIFIED. What if my family was right? I really could die! Most people attempting this feat had run track, run cross country, heck run to the grocery store, but I hadn’t; I had grown up an orchestra geek. I showed up to the first practice with Team in Training wearing those same L.A. Gear cross trainers. Team in Training was critical to preparing me for my first marathon and that training laid an excellent foundation for the athlete I would ultimately become.
First, they helped me to get the right shoes. Buh-bye cross-trainers. Those suckers were about 15 years old anyway. Second, they provided a very detailed schedule of what to do every day. Third, I had a mentor. I followed that training schedule to the letter, cross-trained, and constantly asked training questions of my mentor and other teammates. To go from nothing to running a marathon in 4 and half months was going to require a lot of work and I wanted to prevent injury. After long runs my body was like, “What CHOO talkin’ ‘bout Willis?!”.
The road to race day was long, tiring, and exciting. It was bumpy, but I could feel myself changing physically and emotionally with every mile and every milestone I hit along the way.
I will never forget the night before race day in Dublin, Ireland. We had a Team in Training dinner with the other chapters. I had the fortune of sitting at a table with a black woman who later told me she was in her mid-fifties (she looked 10 years younger) and had run over 100 marathons. 100 marathons?!! She wasn’t like any other black woman I had ever met. She asked me how I was feeling about the race. I told her I was scared out of my mind. The weather was horrible- raining, windy, and cold. I had to buy running tights at the Expo because it was so friggin’ cold, breaking the rule about “wear nothing new” on race day. I had agita about this and other questions: would my right I.T. band hold up? What if my asthma came back? What if I cramped? What if I stepped in a puddle? What if, what if, what if??? I was more than a little bit of a spaz. She listened to all of this craziness and calmly asked me, “Did you train? Did you do the work?”. To which I replied, “Yes”. She said “Then you’re ready. Don’t worry about all of that other stuff. You run your own race. Start out nice and easy, and if you’re feeling good, when you get to mile 20, you take off girl! But you must run your own race.” It was a weird Yoda meets Oprah moment but I listened to her. And I did. I ran my own race got to mile 20, heard her voice and took off.
It had been a long, windy, cold road, but by the time I reached mile 20, the sun was shining. When I finished by basically hurling my body across the finish line, falling on top of the little Irishman official in the process, I knew, in that specific moment, that my life had changed. I had broken down all of the barriers of self-perception, my family’s perceptions, all of that sweated away on the road I had just traveled, and with the traversing of that finish line: I had changed. I would go on to do 5 more marathons, countless halfs, and almost a dozen triathlons. I’m currently signed up for my 7th marathon by returning to my hometown to do the Chicago Marathon with my sister this Fall!
The above story is why I say “improbable”. It is also why I am so incredibly thrilled to now have the opportunity to help women from my Upper East Side Athleta store train for a race, which for many, will be their first endurance race. Their reasons for wanting to do the race inspire me – wanting to be healthier, celebrating overcoming health challenges, training to inspire their friends and families. I take training these women very seriously. Had it not been for the great training and support I got, I would not be the “me” I am today, now given the opportunity to inspire and help others. I want them to feel what I felt during training and feel the way I felt when I finished and accomplished something I thought impossible.
As I stood before my group the first training practice, some more experienced than others but for almost all this would be a new exciting, and slightly scary challenge, I thought to myself, “I am you, I’m just a little further down the road.” You will see from video their electric, positive energy, something that only comes from self-satisfaction compounded by the energy of the collective.
The road. Literally there are going to be ups and downs, cracks and potholes along the way as we train together. My road certainly has had its ups and downs and potholes (even sidestepped a little dog poop along the way J). Staying the course no matter what by having vision, inspiration, and support, and traveling with friends will make the journey as amazing as reaching the ultimate destination. We kick asphalt. Power to the She.