4 huge fitness changes I’ve made

Hi friends! How’s the week going? We’re back in town after an AMAZING weekend in Vegas! We got to hang out with our friends Betsy and Jeremy, catch some basketball games (Bear Down!) and enjoy the typical adult Disneyland shenanigans. Thank you again to those of you who shared your Vegas recommendations! I’ll be back in the morning with a recap of all of the fun from our trip.

For today on the blog, let’s talk about fitness. (In my mind lately, I say “fitness” like Bruno Mars says “finesse” and then it gets stuck in my head.) Over the past couple of years, I’ve made some pretty significant changes to my personal training routine. When I first started lifting weights (omg…15 years ago), I did a pretty solid strength split. Over time, I got more into circuit training and whole-body workouts and stuck with a combo of the two over time. Since I like taking and teaching group fitness classes, it meant that I was training my entire body more often instead of isolating specific muscle groups. When I discovered BODYPUMP and barre, I started to fall in love with endurance training instead of traditional hypertrophy training. I think there are huge benefits to all of these types (especially depending on your personal goals + what you enjoy), but am now back to more of traditional strength split with 1 day reserved for Orangetheory, barre, or a BODYPUMP full-body workout.

Barre o'clock

I feel like as I get older (wiser?) and learn more about my body and how it responds to various types of training, it’s easier for me to plan out my workouts for the week.

Here are some of the changes I’ve made over the past couple of years:

-Training legs twice a week. I started working out with a personal trainer while we were in San Diego and worked with her for a few months. I got some comments like, “Why would you work out with a personal trainer if you ARE a personal trainer?” and it’s because it’s a great way to keep growing and evolving. You can share ideas with each other and see how an outsider can view and change your training plan. It keeps you from getting stale, especially when you’re constantly developing training programs for other people. Sometimes when I finally get the chance to hit the gym, the last thing I want to do is come up with my own workout. I’ll use the SWEAT App on my phone or try an online workout (like Peloton, barre3, Physique57 or today’s Orangetheory workout) just so I don’t have to think about it. 😉 

Lifting heavy things then putting them down

One of the things the trainer told me was that I needed to work out my legs more often. Because I was teaching so many cardio classes, I was burning the muscles off my legs, which took away definition and muscular strength. She suggested training my legs twice a week with heavy weights and doing less cardio if I could help it. Which brings me to the next one:

-Doing less cardio. I LOVE CARDIO. I love to have sweat down my wrists and around my eyeballs, and there’s nothing more invigorating than teaching a packed, sweaty spin class, or leaving from Orangetheory completely drenched. While I still do a decent amount of cardio, I’m not going full speed ahead every single day. I’ve incorporated more days of LISS (Low Intensity Steady State) activities (which can help the body burn fat more effectively) and taking some easy days each week. I’ve found that it’s helped remarkably with adrenal fatigue. I was doing a lot of intense workouts that were wearing down my body, so I found that by doing less, I feel so much better.

Figure 4 hip raise

-Eating more strategically. I don’t like to think too much about what I eat, besides the “eat like a PRO” (lots of protein and produce) mentality. I have done a couple of things that I really like: carb cycling (loosely; I don’t like to turn food into a math project) and nutrition timing. I wait to eat breakfast until I’m awake and actually hungry (usually around 9am, sometimes later) and have protein before my strength workout, protein + carbs after. 

Some of my fave pre-workout snacks:

eggs + egg whites (I’ll saute some spinach or have a salad with Primal Kitchen dressing to go with it)

Lorissa’s Kitchen meat snacks

A small smoothie with ice and Garden of Life protein powder + collagen (I order everything from Thrive Market)

Coconut milk yogurt with protein powder mixed in

An amazeball 


Almost always a smoothie (using this combo!) or

Protein baked oatmeal or

Protein oatmeal (with egg whites)

-Focusing on smart core work. When I birthed our “little” almost-11-lb turkey, I had no idea how bad my abdominal separation would be. Working with a Physical Therapist and doing a ton of research helped me to learn the safest core exercises for me. Even though I had my abs put back together again, I still focus on this training strategy. I will likely never do a sit-up again, and that’s ok with me. I’m focused on bringing function and full range of motion back to my core in the safest way possible. You can check out all of my favorite exercises for Diastasis Recti (abnormal abdominal separation) here!

So, tell me friends: what have you learned over time about your personal fitness routines? What changes have brought the most impact?

Is there something you used to do that feels totally silly now? For me, it was the fact that I used to train arms and abs every.single.day because I wanted to “tone” them. *shakes head*

Have a wonderful day, and I’ll see ya soon with some Vegas adventures.


Post Navigation:


  1. Emily @ Pizza & Pull-Ups on March 12, 2018 at 10:55 am

    I love hearing how a persons workouts have evolved. I used to do a lot more cardio and a lot less weights. I still love a good spin class, but in general do less cardio these days.

  2. Megan @ Skinny Fitalicious on March 12, 2018 at 11:29 am

    Years ago I spent 40-60 minutes on the elliptical thinking it was doing my body good when it was really breaking down muscle. So many people, myself included, don’t realize that muscle is what boosts metabolism allowing you to eat more.

  3. Stephanie Bergeron on March 12, 2018 at 11:47 am

    Hi Gina!
    I would love if you did a post on your best tips and tricks for group fitness instructors. I recently became one (yay!) and would love any advice as you have been in the game for a while now!

    • Fitnessista on March 13, 2018 at 11:13 pm

      yes- absolutely! congrats on your certification 🙂

  4. Kelli @ Hungry Hobby on March 12, 2018 at 11:53 am

    It’s so hard to give up all those ENDORPHINS! But I will say you get better result from consistent focused strength training.

    • Fitnessista on March 13, 2018 at 11:12 pm

      so so true! if you keep moving while you strength train, you can still get your heart rate up and sweat a lot. that’s what i try to do because i love the endorphins, too 🙂

  5. Morgan on March 12, 2018 at 12:39 pm

    The heavy leg day situation resonates with me – if I do OTF 2x a week (typicall W/S) when would you suggest heavy leg days? Thanks!

    • Fitnessista on March 13, 2018 at 11:12 pm

      i would do leg day on wednesday and OTF mon and fri. let me know which days you usually go and i’ll see if i can help!

      • Morgan on March 14, 2018 at 9:51 am

        Thanks Gina! I typically go to OTF on Wednesday and Saturday. Maybe Monday would be a good leg day?

        • Fitnessista on March 14, 2018 at 10:54 pm

          yes, i think that’s a great idea! then take tues off so you’re fresh for OTF

          • Morgan on March 15, 2018 at 5:42 am

            Perfect – thank you!

  6. Laura @FitMamaLove on March 12, 2018 at 12:47 pm

    Since I’ve started my circuit training ways (thanks to you!) it seems crazy that I ever worked through a set on a machine, then rested for a couple minutes, then did another set, etc.

    • Fitnessista on March 13, 2018 at 11:11 pm

      right?! it seems so boring now haha

  7. TAryn on March 12, 2018 at 12:54 pm

    I used to be a long-distance runner (I use the term “used to” loosely – as I really hope to regain my passion for that at some point). I now get my cardio from intense boot-camp style weight lifting sessions. The shorter your rest between sets, the higher your heart rate gets. Lifting heavy can make me sweat MORE than a long distance run, which I never thought was possible.

    • Fitnessista on March 13, 2018 at 11:11 pm

      yes! sometimes i burn more calories lifting weights than i do on the treadmill.

  8. Jacki on March 12, 2018 at 1:04 pm

    After being a Body Pump devotee since it came to my gym in Flagstaff three years ago, I’ve recently had to break up with it 🙁 My back is no bueno, and I think it has a lot to do with the speed / lack of form in Body Pump (my PT said that she’s currently working at least five Body Pump injuries!). Even though I only had a five-pound baby (a year before you had Liv), she thinks that my transverse abdominus never really healed and that my body has been compensating. It’s ridiculous and humbling when she has me do exercises that target those muscles and I can’t do them to save my life! So, I’m working on that and trying to figure out what can replace my beloved Body Pump 🙁

    • Fitnessista on March 13, 2018 at 11:10 pm

      i definitely noticed some tennis elbow type symptoms when i did a lot of bodypump. i could see how the repetitive movement could cause problems and injury, especially if you have altered movement patterns and muscle imbalances (which so many of us do)
      it’s so crazy how much PT exercises can burn when they’re so small! the tiny movements really get you where you need it
      i hope you continue to heal well!

  9. Ashley @ A Lady Goes West on March 12, 2018 at 4:54 pm

    Great post, Gina! I think training legs twice a week is such an awesome idea, because when you strengthen and work those bigger muscles, the rest of your body is bound to follow suit. My workouts aren’t quite what I want right now because they are mostly at home with the babe, but I think doing less cardio has always been helpful for me. Oh and adding in yoga to help my range of motion too! And as far as nutrient timing — I totally need to focus on this, but just haven’t had the motivation to do so yet post-baby. Would LOVE more posts on this!

    • Fitnessista on March 13, 2018 at 11:08 pm

      yes, i need to team up with an RD friend to write some more about it 🙂

  10. LizF on March 12, 2018 at 6:07 pm

    I’ve never been a fan of loads and loads of cardio bc I’ve seen the results from lifting weights! I do circuit training 3/4 times a week, mixing sets, rounds and rest time (minimal for cardiovascular pump). On the other days I do LISS, walking briskly on the treadmill or outside when the weather warms up. One big, recent change I’ve made is to incorporate mobility work into every day. Stretching, rolling, and just moving with intention for joint health. I’m 48 and it’s already helped immensely to offset weight training and avoid injury.

    • Fitnessista on March 13, 2018 at 11:07 pm

      i love the reminder to pay attention to mobility! so important <3

  11. Janice O'Kane on March 12, 2018 at 8:18 pm

    Adding in mobility work as a daily practice has really helped me so much! I was always pretty meh on stretching but it makes such a huge difference!

    Question, I know you are not vegetarian anymore but I’m lately getting the urge to eat less animal protein. Will you consider a post on ways to take in enough protein through alternative non-meat forms?

    • Fitnessista on March 13, 2018 at 10:02 pm

      love the idea to add in more mobility work! i forgot to mention that i think frequent pt-based exercises have been beneficial
      yes, i can totally do a post on that!

  12. Milania Dela cruz on March 12, 2018 at 8:24 pm

    My fitnesss has evolved as well
    I used to be so hardcore with CrossFit and running I was in amazing shape but was too much on my body , now I mixed it up with HIIT or Zumba or running also weights, I always love yoga so that’s always there! But I do like walking by the beach as well

    Can you give me examples of LISS? I wonder if I do some of it already

    • Fitnessista on March 13, 2018 at 11:07 pm

      walking is a perfect example of LISS. super easy steady state

  13. Jessie on March 12, 2018 at 8:39 pm

    Oh girl, I feel this! I started very much like you did, lots to classes and cardio, but have been doing more of a traditional split with only two days of cardio ( an Inanity and Turbo Kick class) for the last year. I’m seeing better results with less cardio … But I do get a lot of passive cardio during the day (average 13k plus steps) Which I am sure helps. Keep Up The Good Work!!

    • Fitnessista on March 13, 2018 at 11:07 pm

      yes, i agree that just being active throughout the day makes up for it

  14. LeeAnn Benesh on March 12, 2018 at 10:58 pm

    I’m a cardio fan. I run or ride (or cross country ski) 6-7 days a week. This is typically because I am training for something (not just trying to get or stay in shape). I typically incorporate light weights 2-3 times a week, but cardio is where it is at for me right now! I am happy with my fitness and muscular definition, plus cardio is how I burn off the crazy. I also live 45 minutes from a gym and have a 4 year old, so it is the most convenient 😉 I do live on 5 acres, heat the house 100% with wood (Read: constantly moving loads of firewood) and have to plow and use the snow blower regularly. I have a TON of “real life cross-fit” happening over here 🙂

    • Fitnessista on March 13, 2018 at 10:01 pm

      it sounds like you do the best type of possible movement! functional and frequent 🙂

  15. Nicole on March 13, 2018 at 12:09 am

    Loved reading about how your training has changed over time. Just today during my workout today I was thinking about the same thing so your timing couldn’t have been better!
    Your post mentioned online OrangeTheory classes. Where do you find those or get the app? I think I would love the workouts but my schedule doesn’t work for actually attending classes right now. I think I have everything at home that I would need so it would be awesome to log in and do it from home! Thanks for the ideal:)

  16. Tim Johnston on March 13, 2018 at 6:37 am

    you have done amazing work, and keep doing it!!

  17. Alexandra on March 13, 2018 at 6:39 am

    Great post! Would love a post on nutrition timing/carb cycling! I’ve been hearing so much about both and am truly unclear how to safely implement them 🙂

    • Fitnessista on March 13, 2018 at 10:00 pm

      yes i can definitely see if an RD friend would help me with one!

    • hilary on March 29, 2018 at 10:11 pm

      Agree! I’d love to hear more about this. I’ve heard it referred to a lot in podcasts in blogs but no real details.

  18. Elizabeth at Reserved for Running on March 13, 2018 at 10:09 am

    The biggest mistake I made before was in my early-mid twenties, my diet was filled with all of that “low fat” and “fat free” junk. Ugh. I eat so much better now and it shows. I really learned how to eat properly to fuel my runs or work-outs.
    PS – thanks for the reminder about working legs. I often neglect leg work during strength training and I know how important it is!

    • Fitnessista on March 13, 2018 at 9:51 pm

      i used to do the same thing. and SO MUCH SPLENDA. ewwww
      and yes! it makes a huge difference when you focus on legs

  19. Julie on March 13, 2018 at 10:50 am

    What timing, I was just talking about this same idea, I need to get more weights and less cardio into my routine. My trouble is that I am helping others with a routine for my work but hate having to think about my workout, I love following a class or a workout made by someone else!! Where do you find orange theory classes online? Thanks!!

  20. Nikki C on March 13, 2018 at 10:56 am

    This is really helpful, thanks!

    • Fitnessista on March 13, 2018 at 9:49 pm

      thank you!! happy to hear you enjoyed it 🙂

  21. Juliana on March 13, 2018 at 12:12 pm

    I love this post! One of the biggest changes I have made is being flexible about experimenting and not just sticking with one thing. For a long time I got into a rut of only identifying with one thing (i.e. “i do yoga” or “i run”… and then that’s it. there was no room for anything else) and that left out all kinds of other workouts that are really enjoyable! I feel like I’m happier and my body feels better when I just go with what I feel that day.

    Speaking of that, I have a random question – how much upper body/shoulder impact does a spin class have? I recently had surgery on my shoulder and was cleared for all activities but told to “take it easy” on that shoulder for the next 6ish weeks. But I really want to try the beach spin class at the Del! I have never done one before.

    • Fitnessista on March 13, 2018 at 9:47 pm

      i was guilty of doing the same thing! i felt attached to certain studios at once until i realized u can mix them up 😉
      i think that spin would be a good idea for cardio, as long as you avoid putting weight on that arm. (so avoid any jumping or standing on the spin bike. check with your doc just to make sure! if he says no, walking at the del is beautiful, too!)

  22. Rhonda @ Change In Seconds on March 13, 2018 at 2:48 pm

    I have been making changes in my fitness routine so boredom does not set in! Lately I have been mixing it up with kettlebell training 3 days a week with a variation of outdoor training.

    • Fitnessista on March 13, 2018 at 9:42 pm

      that’s super smart to keep switching things up!

  23. Julie on March 13, 2018 at 9:59 pm

    Hi! What’s your favorite post workout smoothie recipe?

  24. Nmoris on March 15, 2018 at 8:20 pm

    Do you do weight lifting 2 days a week and orangetheory one time? Could you share your breakdown?

    • Fitnessista on March 16, 2018 at 2:33 pm

      usually try to do 4x a week; 1 upper, 1 lower, 1 total body, 1 orangetheory barre or bodypump (if i’m lucky to take a class or i’ll stream an online workout)

  25. Liz S. on March 16, 2018 at 2:26 pm

    I’ve finally learned to stop overexercising and underfueling – feeling a lot better these days.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.