Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Mom in the Spotlight: Personal Trainer, Liz Davis

How many children do you have?  Boys? Girls?

I have a son named Kolton. He is 22 months old. Turn on some music and he’ll show you how to Zumba!

What was your relationship to fitness before motherhood?  How did it change after?

Prior to motherhood, I was always pretty fit and involved in all kinds of competitive sports.  I was a gymnast and dancer until I went to college. I had a scholarship to run sprints/long jump in college (NCAA Division 2 school—Adelphi University, Garden City, NY) and I decided to major in Exercise Physiology and earned my Masters.

Here’s the clincher though…

After college, even though I competed in local endurance events—5ks, half marathons, sprint triathlons etc.— and even though I had a fair amount of success, I was eating whatever I wanted, paying no mind to nutritional value.

I was partying all the time and drinking large amounts of alcohol. So sure, while I may have looked  fit, I wasn’t. I wasn’t even toned. I was extremely insecure about how I looked.  I mean I hated my body, my big “thunder thighs”—or so I believed at the time—and this prevented me from reaching a higher level of success in fitness.  

On top of that, I openly admit that from ages 16-25 I battled with bulimia. I had such an unhealthy view of myself.

When I got pregnant I was TERRIFIED of gaining weight. One minute I was so excited about my baby. And then I would find myself crying, weighing myself daily. I even had “friends” tell me my clothes would never fit the same and I’d never have the same body because losing weight was nearly impossible after having kids.

Well, I proved that wrong, that’s for sure. I hope any woman who has ever had those negative thoughts enter her mind is reading this.  

Anyhow, I had always had an interest in competing in figure competitions since my senior year of high school. So, I decided what better way to ensure that my baby weight would come off than to commit to a structured nutrition and exercise regimen in preparation for the figure competition. This was a guaranteed way for me to hold myself accountable.

It was SO hard, and there were days when I wanted to give up. But I didn’t. I kept going. Here is a picture of me, not even a year after having my baby.

Ten months post pregnancy, I stepped on that stage at 133lbs and a size 0/2—a size I’d actually never been in my life!

That day, I realized what I was truly capable of if I did the work  and believed in myself. I decided that I loved my body, appreciated the miracle of giving life to my son, and I even happily embrace my stretch marks.  

Many women shy away from muscle development.  Why do you think they should embrace it instead of shy away from it?

I am so glad you asked this question because it is an important one and a hot topic amongst women. I hear women say all the time that they are afraid of bulk or that they think muscle will make them look too masculine.

Well, first, there are numerous health benefits for women who work to increase their lean muscle tissue. One: Strength training with moderate-heavy weights -- especially when it comes to the spine and upper body/torso of a woman, helps prevent osteoporosis.

The National Osteoporosis Foundation reports that over 12 million people over the age of 50 are expected to get osteoporosis. By 2020, that number will exceed 14 million. Most of these cases will be women.  

The good news is that it can be prevented with increased muscle tissue.  

When a bone is put under stress, such as while lifting weights, the bone actually bends just like the muscle and stimulates additional bone growth—thus can prevent and help manage osteoporosis.  

Besides that good news, did you know that stronger muscles can help increase mobility, flexibility and balance? And that doing so prevents falls and increases the ease of daily activities? 

As if that weren’t enough, muscular weight is more dense than fat weight which means it takes up less space. 

So, a 140lb woman with more lean muscle may wear a size 2 dress, whereas another 140lb woman with less lean muscle tissue, may wear a size 8, 10 or even 12 depending on their body structure.  It’s fascinating. 

The other thing I want you to understand is that women who appear to have the same amount of muscle tissue as a man are likely using supplemental androgens, or what is called anabolic steroids (such as Human Growth Hormone (HGH) and Testosterone). 

So ladies, trust me, as women we do not have enough of the hormones it would naturally take to develop that “manly” look you fear just from lifting heavy weights. That would require some sort of steroid.     

So how and what do you eat to stay so lean?  Will you ever eat a cookie?

That’s funny!

Sure, I’ll eat a cookie. But, it’s all about balance.

With my history with bulimia, I found that my initial attempts to only eat “clean” and only eat natural food that we cooked at home, I was starting to fall back into binge behaviors and I would allow myself some of these “bad” foods.  Things got a little out of hand.

So now, I am much wiser. I no longer label foods as “good” or “bad”. Are you kidding me? They are all just foods! And we have a choice what to eat and how much.

Every day I choose to try to select a majority of nutritious and naturally occurring foods. And I make every effort, every day, to make cooking at home a priority. This equals out to about 80-85% of the time. Or, if I’m nearing a competition, it goes up to about like 90% of the time.

And that remaining 10-20% of the time?  If I have a craving for something, I eat it. But, I choose to have self-control and enjoy a single serving. Or, sometimes, even a single bite is enough.

I’ve found that this way, I am not tempted to binge.

I allow myself the foods that my body needs—which I actually enjoy eating—and occasionally something that lacks much nutritional value.

Of course cleaner, more natural foods are preferable for overall health, but when it comes to maintaining a lean physique the secret is simple.

It’s all about calories in versus calories out. It’s that simple.

And that simple rule is what helps me to maintain a healthy, balanced and non-restrictive lifestyle.

Also, I do cardiovascular exercises such as running, walking on an incline, or the stair master. I do this for 30-45 minutes about 5-6 days per week. Also, I lift weights 4 days per week and I try to remain relatively active throughout the rest of every day. This includes teaching numerous group fitness classes per week.

And, I’m sure you and the “Mom’s New Stage” readers will appreciate this… I also burn a lot of extra calories just seeing after my toddler! 

So many women seem to be at war with their bodies, trapped in a cycle of self-loathing that would continue if the last five pounds were lost or not.  How do we as women get past this?

I’m so glad you asked this question. I’ve been there. I’ve been through that. I was that woman.

Every day I make a choice to work hard and re-commit myself  to being a better me.  That’s part of what being a woman is all about.

Honestly, the key is to surround yourself with positivity. Every woman needs to find a support group, if not several. Find people, other women if  you can, who will lift you up and not knock you down due to their own insecurities.

Learning positive self-talk is extremely important and makes all the difference.

And that is why I started leading online virtual support groups.

Every week I lead a discussion group for groups of women who are either trying to reach or maintain their fitness and nutrition goals. Check my website to sign up for future groups! It helps them, but it helps me, too. It’s always good to be connected with supportive women.   

Also, I happen to have a very supportive husband who also makes fitness a priority in his life. So I’m blessed in that way. But, I don’t depend on him completely for support.  Not all women can depend on a significant other to understand their personal journey with fitness and nutrition. You’re blessed if you do, but whether you have that or not… Women need women.

The other things, being meditative and reflecting on what is truly important in life helps me on a daily basis.

It used to be that even if I lost my goal, that “last 5lbs”, I would still want to lose 5 more.

The unhealthy pursuit of perfection only leads to more disappointment and self-loathing because none of us or can be perfect.

The images we see from the fitness magazines sometimes look perfect, but are sometimes airbrushed. The models rely on makeup to help project a certain look. Not to mention, strategic lighting and posing helps.

My point is not to criticize fitness models. I am one of them. And I am inspired by them. My point is to encourage other women to look at fitness magazines and models as a source of inspiration to be a better them, not a perfect them. 

A perfect you is a pointless goal. That's just not happening. 

As a fitness and lifestyle brand whats a dream opportunity for you?

This interview is one of them!

I mean, honestly, I just love any opportunity to talk to other women, especially those who are like minded and believe in supporting other women, like yourself—so this has been a dream. And I thank you for having me and for your wonderful blog, “Mom’s New Stage.”

Any opportunity to inspire other women and spread the word about MOMaletics, my lifestyle brand to inspire and empower other women—especially aspiring or current moms—to read and maintain total physical, mental, and spiritual wellness…  

I’m ready to travel the country inspiring women’s groups so I’m actively accepting opportunities to do so as I gear up to release my eBook!

My goal is to continue to dispel the many myths and misconceptions about what it means to be a healthy and fit woman. As I continue to do this, through my virtual support groups, the classes that I teach, my social media, and of course fun interviews like this, I will feel like I am living my purpose.

And, then, what’s my dream big goal? I want to create a MOMaletics apparel line for fit moms. Just because you have a baby doesn’t mean you can’t still be a sexy babe. I can’t believe some of the myths I used to believe.

As I expand the brand of apparel and grow MOMaletics,  I want it to be thought of in the likes of Nike, Under Armor and Reebok!

For now, as a step in that direction, I recently launched the sale of my official t-shirts.

I grew up in New York as well!  Whats your favorite NYC TV show?

So cool! A fellow New Yorker…

I grew up on Long Island, but have been living in Ohio since I was 23.  

I absolutely love Live with Kelly and Michael. She’s definitely a hot mom and the woman comes to mind when I think of fellow MOMaletics women. (You too, Keesha, by the way! Love your story!)

I also really enjoy Law and Order SVU and Third Watch. Not many people remember it, but it was about NYC firefighters, police officers and EMTS. I really loved that show.

Your best this would only happen to meMommy moment?

Kolton likes to call out people who “toot toot” even in public. Even if he’s passed gas himself. It’s hilarious. He keeps me laughing and is a constant reminder not to take life too seriously and to just enjoy the day sometimes.  

How does fitness/wellness play into your sons life?

My husband and I take Kolton with us to the gym or YMCA all the time when we go there to work out. He gets so happy when we get there! He loves running around with the other kids in the child watch.

He also is constantly asking to go outside to play and likes to “go running,” where we run while pushing him in the stroller, or he runs up and down the hill at the park with us.

He’d choose the park over the iPad anyway because he sees Mommy and Daddy doing those kinds of things.

He also balances his treats and goodies such as pizza with asking for “chicken and tatoe” or “chicken and broccoli”.

We aren’t pushy. We don’t ban foods. We don’t force activity. We just lead by example with our son. We let him choose, but are always trying to teach him along the way!

How do you keep moms who are often so busy taking care of everyone that they forget themselves on track?  

With MOMaletics and the different activities that I mentioned above, I make it a point to be honest with women, especially when it comes to being realistic with goals. It can take a while to reach them and can be even harder to maintain once you do. That’s the reality.

Thank you so much, Keesha, for having me. You are such a great example of a MOMaletics woman—a total babe after babies and doing an awesome job of inspiring others to greatness.

Liz Davis

Friday, September 12, 2014

Mom in The Spotlight: Lucy Vurusic Riner

"I feel very passionate about teaching girls to be empowered, resilient and fierce.  We talk a lot about what brings us to dance and how we can use dance as a tool to strengthen our voices as women."

Tell me about the little people living in your house.
I have an eight-year-old girl and a five-and-a-half year old boy. 

What's the secret to balancing an artistic life and motherhood?
Yikes!  Learn how to sleep six hours a day would be my first response.  

My kids and my husband are pretty awesome, and I include them in my artistic life.  They know what I’m doing and where I’m going.  They come to rehearsals and shows when they can.  I think this has kept them invested in my artistic life.  This summer Margie took it upon herself to steal a stack of postcards from our RE|Dance Group office and take them to camp to pass out all her camp counselors.  

My kids have also been the inspiration for some of my work.  I did a project called “The Moving Vessel” where I explored pregnancy and post-partum dancing with my dance mom friends.  I have also made several works about the preciousness of making someone and then having them in your life.  My newest work is called, “My Nearest Thought” and the premise of the whole work is that I’m spread so thin I can barely remember where I’m going most days.

Do you watch "So You Think You Can Dance?" 
I only voluntarily watched one of the first episodes in the first season and stopped after that….mostly because I don’t watch TV of any kind very much.  Students have shared YouTube clips with me, so I’ve seen some of those too.  I’m not really a fan.  As much as I appreciate that it has drawn more attention to dance and the athleticism it requires, I’m not sure it’s done much to advance concert dance in America.  I feel like lots of mom and pop studios are mass producing cookie cutter dancers that can do tricks and win competitions (and eventually compete for the ultimate prize on SYTYCD).  

I am more interested in the artistry of making dance and teaching my students how to use their facility wisely so they can dance more strongly and for longer.  I’m not interested in being part of trends that may not be sustainable in the long run.

You teach, and have taught, all levels of students.  How do you reach the student who is new and somewhat resistant to dance?
This is the best part of my job!  I love beginners and students who have never had modern dance.  I'm a funny person and I infuse a lot of humor in my classes.  I also believe that making things fun is a huge part of fighting resistance.  Many people think fun teachers are less disciplined and a bit too easy on their students.  I think you can have the perfect balance.  Students respect you when you challenge them, and they like you when you are fun.  There’s no problem in being both, and I draw most of my beginner modern dancers in this way.  Once they trust me, they believe in what I’m doing, and then they are a blank canvas -- willing to try anything I put in front of them.

How do you bring diversity and cultural awareness into your classroom?
This is the second best part of my job!  I’ve been fortunate enough to teach in a very diverse school where we spoke daily about diversity, stereotypes, prejudices and racism.  Now I’m teaching at a school where these topics rarely come up unless we are having meetings about it in particular.  I incorporate awareness in my classes in a number of ways. 

First, I truly believe in giving my high school dancers a holistic experience.  I want them to experience all types of dance.  Setting them on a track to just study modern or jazz or ballet isn’t my style.  I think they are still finding themselves at this age and they need to have dance experiences that will help them understand who they want to be.  I grew up taking mostly jazz and when I had the opportunity to see and take a modern dance class (because of my high school teacher) I was hooked; it’s how I chose to major in dance in college.  Had I not been given that exposure I’m not sure I’d be doing anything that I’m doing now. 

I teach African, Bollywood and last year I even added a short Croatian dance unit to my beginning level classes!  We talk about the communities where these dances are performed, the history behind them and how the movement we do today is influenced by different cultural forms.  My job goes beyond teaching dance appreciation.  I want my students to appreciate what different cultures and races have contributed to their education.  I also feel very passionate about teaching girls to be empowered, resilient and fierce.  We talk a lot about what brings us to dance and how we can use dance as a tool to strengthen our voices as women.

Jose Lucy Map duet

Your company RE Dance is celebrating its 5 year anniversary this year?  How do you keep a company vibrant and relevant in a dance landscape as populated as Chicago's?  
Yes!!!  This year RE|Dance Group hit the five year anniversary mark!  I love it!  I’m so fortunate to have RE|Dance Group and I think we’re successful for several different reasons: 
First off, I have an amazing artistic partner in Michael Estanich who is one of my dearest friends.  We have an unusual long distance partnership but it works primarily because we trust, respect and love each other.  I also have, as I mentioned above, a ridiculously supportive husband and kids. 

The Chicago dance scene is incredibly populated with tons of artists trying to make their mark.  I feel fortunate that I’ve been around the block several times.  I’m born and raised in this community.  My first ballet teacher at 14 was Natalie Rast, my first jazz teacher was Kirby Reed and I vividly remember Nana Shineflug grabbing my crotch and telling me to wake up the tiger in me when I would come from college each summer and take her class.  I feel blessed to know so many wonderful dancers, teachers and artistic directors in this city.  I think it’s enabled me to want to build my company here and work alongside my mentors and friends.

"I hate those damn booty shorts everyone wants to dance in, and I don’t need to see your belly all day either."

Go-to teaching outfit? Are teaching clothes different from dancer clothes? Or rehearsal clothes?  
Ha!  This is a topic of discussion that can get me fired up.  I’m 40.  At this stage in the game I believe I have earned the right to wear whatever I want in dance class!  This year marks 20 years of teaching in high schools.  When I started I wore what I expected my students to wear; a leotard and tights or leggings.  Then I started teaching more beginners and boys who were taking my class for PE credit and I sometimes offset the leo with a tank top and yoga pants.  Now, I literally show up in what I feel good in.  Some days that’s leggings and a cute tunic top; other days that’s a tank or camisole top with jazz pants.  You’ll never see me in shorts, that's for sure. 

As for my students, I expect them to be in whatever dress code we’ve developed at the school I’m at.  At OPRFHS they could wear their PE uniforms if they didn’t feel comfortable in their dance clothes but at New Trier we want all of our students to have a leotard with tights or leggings.  I expect my students to follow the rules we put in place for them and pay their dues.  I will tell you one thing that I know is unpopular with my students:  I hate those damn booty shorts everyone wants to dance in and I don’t need to see your belly all day either.  I’m not a fan of the black booty short and black sports bra trend these days; not to mention how it makes girls feel about themselves.

Would you rather be a young professional dancer now or twenty years ago? (Or) In your opinion, what's the biggest difference in dance now and 20 years ago?
Gurrllllll.  Twenty years ago for sure!  I thought the competition was fierce then but now it’s worse.  I think that’s because of dance on television.  Everyone is trying to make their kid a star in some way.  I get it.  My kid wants to be a star, too.  I just think it’s so much harder to find authentic dancers and performers these days.  Everyone can do a middle split and everyone can fouetté the crap out the person next to them but I’m more interested in the dancer that can break away from all the technique and classroom vocabulary and make some really interesting connections.  

I don’t go to see dance so I can see whose leg is highest or who can do the most turns. That sort of competitive dancing doesn’t interest me.  I go to be MOVED by something.  I want to leave a show feeling sad that I can’t be that person I just watched or dance with them.  I used to feel that far more deeply in the past.  The pendulum will swing and RE|Dance Group will try to take advantage of that!

What do your kids think about your being a dancer/choreographer/dance teacher?
I hope they love it.  My Oak Park students were pretty involved in my life.  They were around when I started RE|Dance Group, we rehearsed at the high school a lot and involved them in some of the processes so they could see what sort of path we were trying to forge as a new dance company.  It clearly made me cool.  We also employ many of my former students that have come back to Chicago after college and have come to me for guidance on where to go and what to do.  I feel so blessed to have had my teaching job during those formative years.

At New Trier, I’ve been able to use RE|Dance Group as a teaching tool that I think is very meaningful for them to see.  If I miss school for a tour I always connect what RE|Dance Group is doing to lessons I’m teaching them.  If Michael and I are off to perform our signature duet, “Abbot & Viv,” my will make sure I’ve started a unit on partnering, duets, or forming relationships in dance before I leave so that students can see the work I’m doing and begin work on their own creative process.  I want them to know that having a teacher who is out there working in the field can only benefit them.

Abbot & Viv

* I realize I just answered this question with the assumption that by “kids” you meant my students and not my biological children.  My ACTUAL kids don’t’ care that much.  Margie isn’t interested in being a dancer because she doesn’t want to share the limelight with her mother.  But she does want to be a performer of some kind.  Luka loves it but only if I allow him to come to rehearsals and shows with me.  Both of my kids take pride in what I do and that makes me so grateful for them.  We are definitely dancing in the family room more often than not.  One thing I appreciate is that they are both go getters and I hope that’s because they see some of that in me!

"I’ve gone a lot further than some of my most talented dance friends because I simply wanted it more.  The people who told me I couldn’t do it were NOT going to stop me."

Advice to those just starting out on their dance career?
Do it.  Do it.  Do it.  If you really want it, you don’t give up.  I started late (in high school) and I have always had to work twice as hard as many of my dancer friends.  If they went to class once a week, I went three times, because I always felt like I was catching up.  True, some of these people can still dance circles around me in regards to technique.  But I learned there's more than that -- artistic directors are willing to compromise, especially if they know that the person dancing for them is committed, determined and will bring every part of herself to the process.  What I lack in technique I have always made up for in drive and ambition. I’ve gone a lot further than some of my most talented dance friends because I simply wanted it more.  The people who told me I couldn’t do it were NOT going to stop me.

A form of dance you wish you were better at?
Ballet.  Always ballet.  But I truly believe you can’t be better at it if you can’t invest at least three days a week to it and that has rarely been the case for me.  Now, at 40, I’m still working on my turn-out and my pirouettes.  Some days are better than others but I still wish I had those damn ballerina lines.

Best FML mommy moment?  
Best one?  Maybe that one time I had to bring Margie to rehearsal when we were videotaping and she kept running into the shot and you see me on the video screaming while dancing, “get out of here before I kick you!”  

Lucy Vurusic Riner Lucy is a native Chicagoan who has been dancing, choreographing and teaching in the Midwest for over twenty years. She received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Dance Education from Illinois State University in 1996. Since 1997, she has produced, choreographed and danced in a variety of shows in Chicago and nationally. Lucy has been a member of Molly Shanahan/Mad Shak, RTG Dance and Matthew Hollis’ “The Power of Cheer.” Lucy has been part of the community casts of White Oak Dance Project and David Dorfman Dance and continues to enjoy finding work that allows her to meet new people and experience different processes.  She was the Director of Dance at Oak Park and River Forest High School from 1998 to 2012. Lucy left OPRFHS in 2012 to join the dance faculty at New Trier High School. In 2005, Lucy completed her Masters Degree in Education from National Louis University and also received the Midwest Dance Teacher of the Year award. She was honored to be the youngest of four finalists in the running for the National Dance Teacher of the Year award. Lucy started RE|Dance Group in 2009 with her artistic partner Michael Estanich.  RE|Dance Group celebrated it's five year anniversary this August and Lucy is proud to be the co-founder and executive director of this organization. 

For additional information, including upcoming performances, visit RE|Dance Group on Facebook!  You can also follow Lucy on Twitter.  

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