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19 aug 2016

Story of Glory: Ali Solomon

Broadway Dancer, Choreographer and Ninja Extraordinaire Ali Solomon has an inspiring story of what it means stay the course. No matter what the road holds, Ali is in for the ride full out!

Every so often a person or an experience comes into your life, and you know that he/she/it will remain a part of you for a very long time. Beyond that, there is a feeling you get that cannot be explained and a sense of limitless gratitude for which no words seem adequate to express. For me, this is MFF and the incredible team of trainers who have been by my side for the last 4 years.

I am a dancer and former gymnast, and though I’ve probably never been “overweight,” I’ve struggled with body image issues for as long as I can remember. I’ve always been active and athletic, but when I quit gymnastics and eventually went through puberty (at 17!), my body went through changes that affected me for many years to come. One of the many things I love about MFF is that they’ve helped me learn to appreciate my strength and my body, rather than trying to hide it. It is an ever evolving journey and a constant cycle of growth, but I’m leaps and bounds ahead of my eating disorder days!

I’ve known Mark for many years - we first met doing a show at the Fulton Theatre - and I remember many a social gathering where a group of us would sit talking health and fitness. I drifted in and out of the conversation circles, but was always listening. Shortly thereafter, Mark started the very first Snatched program with workouts in the park and at Roy Arias. I watched from the sidelines as many friends joined and saw amazing results. While I loved the idea of the program and everything Mark was doing, I couldn’t quite see myself fitting in with the ridiculousness or committing to investing in MYSELF financially. First off, I’m an introvert. Though I love and support the craziness that is MFF, I typically watch quietly from the sidelines. Second, I would have spent the money willingly on showering loved ones with gifts, but never on myself. Eventually though, my BFF and I joined hands as accountability partners and walked through the Clubhouse doors to sign up for a trial month. I dove in and never looked back.

My journey over the last 4 years has been quite the roller coaster, but the positive constant throughout it all has been MFF. In my first year of training at MFF I got cast in the tour of Billy Elliot. It was a dream come true but it was also really hard to leave the Clubhouse! I left in the best shape of my adult life and was really worried about falling off the wagon. However, I took some programs with me on the road, checked in with my trainers periodically, and returned to the Clubhouse on every single layoff. Things were good. Then after about 6 months on the road I got injured. We thought it was a minor ankle sprain so I continued to perform, but the pain kept getting worse. After another 6 months and many efforts to treat and diagnose the pain, I decided to take a medical leave and came home to NYC for treatment and a minor procedure. The next 2-3 years consisted of multiple procedures, injections, many diagnoses (including torn FHL, torn posterior tib, plantar fasciitis, stress fracture, etc.), and lots of pain. I was getting numbness, tingling, burning, shooting pain… all the things... in my foot. Walking was hard, let alone dancing. Serendipitously, the week I left tour my associate choreographer career blossomed. I wasn’t healthy enough to dance in 8 shows per week, but I could get through the pain being on the creative side, and I made my Broadway debut as the Associate Choreographer of Beautiful - the Carole King Musical. It was amazing and strange and weird! I was in and out of a boot and still seeing doctors and physical therapists weekly. I even put a new cast member into the show while I was in a walking boot. Throughout it all, I was still going to MFF. My trainers were amazing at adapting my programs to wherever I was on that particular day. I did pull-ups in a boot and most of my workouts were spent figuring out ways to build and maintain my strength without standing on two feet. I often felt broken, but the team at MFF never let me go down that rabbit hole.

I could probably fill an entire book on just this injury and my journey to healing, so I’ll try to keep it concise. Basically, the pain continued to worsen, I lost my worker’s comp benefits, and my doctors still struggled to find out what was wrong. I wasn’t dancing at all, but my career as an associate choreographer was flourishing. I was mostly happy, but my heart missed dancing and I was scared that I might never return to the stage. There were nights where I’d finish tech and couldn’t walk from the theater to the subway station. I was plastering a smile on my face and pretending the pain wasn’t that bad. I was spending tons of money on doctors and physical therapists, but committed to keeping up with my semi-privates at MFF. No matter how much I struggled financially and emotionally, the Clubhouse was my safe place. It was my one hour a week where I could escape and let someone else take care of me. Beyond the physical things I was dealing with, the Clubhouse gave me a place where I let go of responsibility, while someone was guiding and coaching ME.

In July of 2015 I finally had exploratory foot surgery. My surgeon found a major nerve impingement and a ligament that was completely shattered. None of this ever showed up on MRIs and ultrasounds. It was a relief to finally figure out what was wrong, but I still feared not being able to dance again. I continued to train and maintain my strength and I am thrilled to say that after 3 YEARS of “not dancing” I recently went to an audition on a whim. It was more about asking myself, “Am I still a dancer?” than getting a job. In a crazy turn of events, I got the job and am now making my Broadway debut as a performer! I am far from pain free, but I’m better than I was pre-surgery, and I’m doing it. That’s become one of my new mantras: I’m doing it! It works when I have to adapt my program because I’m having a rough foot day, when I’m tired from doing double duty and working 14 hours straight, or when I’m pinching myself because this all feels like a dream. I’m doing it. And I’m doing it because of the amazing team that has been with me on this roller coaster ride as my trainers, cheerleaders, and support system.

I’m honestly not sure what the future holds for my foot and if I will ever reach a day where I can dance and workout 100% pain free. Almost every day I wonder if this is the new normal. There’s a lot of uncertainty, but luckily my commitment to health and strength will forever be my constant, thanks to MFF. I was lucky enough to be invited to film a video for My Broadway Body with Mark last summer. It was literally the very last workout I did before surgery. I probably shouldn’t have done it, but I wanted to go out with a bang. It was empowering. I’ve now come full circle a bit and added MBB to my arsenal of tools for getting better. My goal with that final workout was to get back to that place once I was back on my feet. My schedule can be crazy and unpredictable and currently I’m only at MFF one day a week for semi-privates. With MBB, I can squeeze in extra workouts at home as a pre-rehearsal or pre-show warmup. It’s just one more piece of the puzzle on my road to healing. I’m forever searching for the words to describe the significance of MFF in my life. I think it’s just one of those things you have to experience for yourself. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the guidance, encouragement, and love of this magical place.

Are you a Ninja who has a kick-ass MFF journey to share? We are literally wet with anticipation to hear your story. Tell us here!

Categories: Ninja Stories, Story of Glory

6 aug 2016

Can Halo Top Give You A Muffin Top?

By Stella Kaufman, Super Ninja

Summer is here, y'all. There is no better combination than ice cream and summer, amiright?

But, as a treat, ice cream is high in fat and calories, and when you're watching those calories, that can present a problem. So, yet another company has come up with a lower fat, lower calorie, not-quite-ice cream-but-will-do-in-a-pinch frozen treat. So much lower in fat and calories, in fact, that the amount of calories in the entire pint of Halo Top is proudly displayed in large numbers on the front of each pint.

That all sounds like good news, right? In terms of having a lower calorie, lower fat substitute for ice cream, yes.

But if you are using it to help you change your body long term, then it's a mixed pint.

When the news of Halo Top hit the market, people posted all over social media that they ran out and immediately ate a pint. Some didn't wait until they got home. It's definitely the pint be seen with this summer.

But just like with its predecessor, Arctic Zero, I am left to ask:

Does this pint make my ass look big?

When we diet, we are looking to make changes to our body. And while science tells us that reaching our goal is really a question of calories in, calories out, we may need to dive a little deeper to maintain lasting change. In order to keep those results, we are going to have to change our behavior.  For many of us who have deep emotional issues with food, this is definitely the hard part.

Halo Top is simply a low calorie (and fairly tasty) substitute for a high calorie treat. Is that such a bad thing?

No. If you are a diabetic, and want to enjoy a low calorie substitute, then maybe Halo Top is a good choice over ice cream for those times you want an ice cream treat. If you are watching your calories/macros and enjoy a little something sweet after dinner, having a scoop of Halo Top isn't a bad idea. If you are on a temporary cutting program to change body composition, and you just can't swing the calories, then this could be for you.

So what's the problem?

The problem is for those of us who desperately need to change our behavior surrounding food, low calorie low fat substitutes are a slippery slope. And I'll venture a guess that a majority of us who are looking for long-term results need to change our behavior.

So why don't we just change our behavior?

If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. In fact, changing a behavior has got to be one of the most difficult things we humans can endeavor to achieve. If you've ever tried to quit/create a new habit (of any kind), you know exactly what I am talking about. It takes time. It takes patience. It takes going to a place where you are uncomfortable. Even worse, it takes wallowing around in that discomfort, really addressing it in all its miserable glory.

Glory?

Yes, because once we do that work, we get to find our way out of the mire and into the glory that is real change. The glory of no longer being a prisoner. And while we may still experience a tinge of that discomfort from time to time, it's a whole lot different once we're on the other side of the prison wall. We've done the work, and the habit no longer owns us. Bliss.

That sounds hard. No, I mean really hard.

No question! But it depends what you're going for. If you are in it for the long haul, you are going to have to make some behavioral changes. It's admittedly easier to throw a pint at the problem, but I'm willing to bet that it won't be the last time you have to do it.

Leave 'em wanting more

Low calorie, low fat food is an industry. It's a business. And it's a business that knows how hard it is to change behaviors, especially around food. I'm sorry to say, the food business is not on your side. Food companies actually employ food scientists to analyze the best way to construct a food to leave you wanting more. Physically craving more.

(Don't believe me? Watch this. It will blow your mind.)

The food industry is a business relying on the fact that you will not tackle your behavior. They know it's hard. They know easy is better than uncomfortable. They are well aware that we avoid difficult, and we don't like to be uncomfortable.

Halo Top is no exception. There are marketing to our weaknesses. They are counting on our not changing our behavior, except to stock up on substitute ice cream.

Don't be angry. They are a business. A business who is good at marketing. And they are marketing to you. You who feels a prisoner of habit.

Mostly, they know once you change your behavior, you won't need them anymore. Because once you change your behavior around food, you can have Haagen Dazs when you feel like ice cream. Because you will no longer be a prisoner to your behavior. Your indulgence will be just that. An occasional treat that doesn't carry with it the fear of the food or the need to have it every day.

Take the Muffin Top Test

Sometimes we are so desperate to lose weight that we have lost sight of where we stand in our relationship with food. How can you tell if you're falling down the rabbit hole with a particular food? Take this simple test.

Answer the following questions:

Why am I eating this food?

  1. I am in the mood for some ice cream, and I happen to really like Halo Top!
  2. I know I like ice cream. And now I can have a pint every night after dinner.
  3. I am bored, tired and frustrated.
  4. One pint is less than 300 calories!

If your answer was anything other than 1, scoop carefully.

Does the thought of this food cause me FORO (Fear Of Running Out)?

  1. What will happen when I don't have any left in my freezer? Does that make me anxious?
  2. Am I already worried about what I will do if I can't find any at the store?
  3. Am I afraid of running out because I just know I will have to eat something else "bad" instead if I don't have this food?

Funny thing is, this can happen with any food. That's because food is not inherently "bad." Sure, some foods are there to sustain us, and some are there to tantalize us. Swapping out a low fat low calorie food also has the added danger of luring us into a false sense of security, by having us believe we can eat larger quantities without consequence, making these foods even more of a threat to finding the permanent results we seek.

I've heard people say they got into a habit of eating too many protein bars in one day.

I am not a low fat hater

To be clear, I am not anti Halo Top. Low fat low calorie foods have their place. And, as substitutes go, Halo Top does pretty well on the taste side of things.

I do, however, take issue with marketing that plays on our weaknesses--oftentimes weaknesses that perpetuate an unhappy lifestyle. Marketing designed to enable continued societal obesity and self-image issues, by simply slapping something else in front of us instead of encouraging us to do the most difficult work it takes to make lasting change. By having us invest in stocking up on pints instead of investing in taking stock in ourselves.

Whatever choice is right for you, think before you scoop.

Categories: Nutrition, Reviews

1 aug 2016

Stick It In Our Box: Ninja Suggestions

It's that time again! The sexy Siren here to give voice to all your suggestions and questions. Yaaaaaas!

“Wait, I got an email about membership changes. What's going on again?”

  • We're in the process of migrating all members to the same rates. If you haven't done so already, you will need to choose a new membership by December 31, 2016. Please chat with us in person, give us a call, email membership@markfisherfitness.com, or check out our Summer of New Beginnings website. We're here to help you and discuss all your options!

    New Membership benefits include...

    • An Extended Early Cancellation Window for Classes!

    • Unlimited Upgrades & Downgrades for 12-Month Members!

    • Easy Cheesy, Hassle-Free, No-Questions-Asked Freeze Policy!

    • Flexible Membership Options Between Clubhouse Locations!

“Can you recommend a physical therapist / massage therapist / hair stylist?”

  • Yes! Don't forget about the Ninja Marketplace! The purpose of the Marketplace is to provide Ninjas with access to a network of bad-ass professionals to support them in living their best lives! Ninjas can access these services with exclusive discounts as a perk of their MFF Membership.

Categories: Suggestions

23 jul 2016

Story of Glory: Laura Heywood

At MFF, many Ninjas learn that getting the most out of running their race means taking risks and stepping outside of their comfort zones. This featured Ninja reaped the rewards of stepping into the arena and realizing her full-fledged unicorn glory! Ninja Army, meet Laura Heywood!

Down the Rabbit Hole

What if, when Alice fell down the rabbit hole to Wonderland, she suddenly knew that’s where she had always belonged? What if, instead of seeming uncomfortable and awry, this strange world with its extraordinary creatures and customs felt like home?

Mark Fisher Fitness is my Wonderland. It is my one place to truly let go of pretension, surrender to my weirdness, celebrate the hugeness of my potential, and grow in unimaginable ways.

My outward transformation — dropping from a size 12 to a 6, losing a total of 25 pounds — is the most tangible example of how significantly MFF has changed my life, but it’s hardly the only one — or even the most important.

What I Learned

I’ve learned to take risks. I’ve learned that I can be vulnerable while still feeling safe. I’ve learned that it’s okay not to be good at everything the first time I try it. I’ve learned that failure can be a gift. I’ve learned that beautiful people come in all shapes and sizes. I’ve learned that my own body is beautiful no matter what size I wear, how much makeup I have on, or how heavy the weights are when I lift. I’ve learned that kindness and generosity surround me. I’ve learned not to apologize for my joy. Most significantly, I’ve learned the crucial importance of showing up consistently for my community and myself.

I’ve also learned that I can change at my own pace.

I had heard for years about Snatched in Six Weeks, the intensive fitness and nutrition program upon which Mark Fisher built his reputation. I kept it in the back of my head, but knew it would be a long time before I had the money, time, and discipline to dive into something so intense. “Maybe someday,” I told myself. I didn’t know that MFF also offered ongoing classes I could sign up for based on my own schedule, budget and needs.

I had seen incredible before-and-after photos from Snatched. I never imagined that I’d be able to undergo just as dramatic a transformation on my own terms.

But that’s exactly what I did! Initially I thought I’d take classes as a “warm up” while I saved for Snatched. As it turned out, the clubhouse atmosphere, and the commitment it inspired in me, were exactly what I needed to make the changes my body & soul so craved.

Community

In seeking a place to work out, I found a community that has inspired me show up for so much more than my health & hotness. After over a decade in New York, I finally found my family. I found my tribe.

At the end of every class at Mark Fisher Fitness, we take three deep breaths as a group. Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale — in unison. But I have a confession to make: I do the group breaths backwards. When the rest of the class exhales, I breathe in deep. Taking in my classmates’ air reminds me that I carry their energy with me long after class has ended, and that I am made stronger by every aspect and member of this community.

Thank you, Mark Fisher Fitness. As I continue my personal growth & journey, I am forever changed.

Are you a Ninja who has a kick-ass MFF journey to share? We are literally wet with anticipation to hear your story. Tell us here!

Categories: Ninja Stories, Story of Glory

10 jul 2016

The ROI: JOY Experiment

By Amanda "Wheelz" Wheeler, CSCS and original Scissor Sister of Strength at MFF

During the month of June, I conducted a little experiment with one hundred of my friends and acquaintances to see what would happen if we invested a very small amount of time in our own personal joy every single day.

The idea was completely selfish to start. I have found myself kind of unhappy in my adult life, even though I know I have privilege that others could not dream of having.

I recently stumbled upon the documentary, India’s Daughter. It’s about an Indian woman who was brutally gang raped because she was out after 6pm. Everyone blamed her because she knew she wasn’t supposed to be out in the evening because she is a woman. It is an unfathomable reality for women all over the world.

When I look at my life, there is absolutely zero reason to not be happy. I have every freedom and opportunity available to me. I live in, arguably, the greatest city in the world, with one of the coolest jobs in the world. I have deep, meaningful friendships, a family who loves me, and I’m healthy as fuck.

How can this be?

I started examining what I spend my time thinking about and where I was investing time in general.

I realized that I lived in the mentality of “I’ll be happy when.” I was investing time in mindless activities like Facebook. I spent time beating myself up for choosing food I didn’t think was healthy. I spent time thinking about how life would be different if I had more money or visible abs.

I spent a lot of time thinking about the past, and what I could have done differently. I spent time having anxiety about the future and trying to figure out how I could be happy.

I decided it was time for a mental shift.

If I get to choose what I’m investing my time in, what if I choose joy for a short amount of time? Would that change things? What would be the Return On Investment (ROI) in Joy?

Enter: ROI JOY

The Mission: Take at least 5 minutes everyday, and do something that brings you complete joy.

Pick something you already know brings you joy. If you have no idea, set aside time to think about what has brought you joy in the past, or think about what joy means to you. Create space to explore joy.

The Goal: Find out if investing in personal joy, daily, will affect every area of life.

The Timeframe: 30 days

I put out a blast to see if there might be others interested in taking this on. I wanted folks who were already happy, self proclaimed curmudgeons, people who could use a little boost, any and all people wanting to explore what investing in joy could do.  As it turned out, 100 other people thought it might be a valuable experiment to play with in their own lives.

I created a private Facebook group, and for 30 days gave daily topics or questions to think about pertaining to joy. I honestly had no real plan or idea of where the 30 days would lead us, but we discovered, as a group and individually, what investing in joy daily did in our lives.

It was super interesting to have a group that large because so many different things came up for people. While some had no problem knowing exactly what brought them joy and easily spent time doing it everyday, others had absolutely no idea what brought them joy because it had been so long since they felt it.

Some got frustrated or had difficulty making time, and some felt like it was a chore or a check off the “to-do” list. Some spent time in their art and being creative (see below!). Others spent time with their families or spent more time outside daily. It was a great mix.

One of the jokes of the group was,“Fuck! I guess I have to try to find time to invest in my own personal joy and happiness.”

Insights

Here are some wonderful insights discovered over the 30 days:

  • “It's funny how being open to joy opens you up to other emotions.”
     
  • “My first question to myself was, “Why have I denied myself this joy for so long?"
     
  • “My joy, lately? Bucking up, and choosing joy.  JOY IS NOT GOING TO COME TO ME. It's not the job of the universe, or God, or joy itself to deliver to me. I MUST CREATE IT!”
     
  • “It begs the question - was the joy always there and I just less aware of it? Or has thinking about joy manifested it more in my life?”
     
  • “Anything can be a moment of joy by simply deciding it so.”
     
  • ”It became less about having to build that time in and more about recognizing how much of my life is already filled with things that make me happy and excited and joyful about my life; the things I am lucky enough to get to do on a regular basis; the people I am blessed to have surrounding me; the places I am fortunate enough to visit; and the small and large adventures I have made regular parts of my life.”

My ROI

As for me, I found that I already had so much joy in my life, but my thoughts and ideas of what things should look like stood in the way of experiencing joy.

I had the opportunity to work at a super cool event early in June, with some of my great friends, right after we started ROI JOY. The green room for the event was in a corner suite at The Standard Hotel in the Meatpacking District. The views are almost 360 degrees of the NYC and New Jersey skyline.

My first thought when I walked in was, “Holy crap, maybe someday I’ll be able to afford to stay in a place like this with somebody.”

“Maybe someday….”

It hit me in that moment that I was already there, enjoying the beautiful views with people I love, getting paid to be there.

What if my someday was right now? Why did an experience have to look a specific way for me to think it was valid or worthy or to feel joy from it?

As I looked back over certain times in my life, I realized that I didn’t allow joy in. Even though I got exactly what I wanted or cool things happened, if they didn’t look exactly how I thought they should look, I wrote them off and didn’t recognize them for what they were.

This 30-day experiment has allowed me to recognize the joys in my life on a daily basis. It has taught me to be present and appreciate experiences in the moment for what they are. That has absolutely affected every single area of my life.

I can say, honestly, I have never been happier. Partly for making space and time for joy in my day, but mostly for being present in each moment and being able to recognize the joy that is already there.

If you are up for the challenge in your own life, give it a try! Set aside 5 minutes (or more) and invest in joy every day for 30 days. See what comes up.  It doesn’t need to replace any other feelings. Just include it. What would be the return on investment if you invested in joy everyday?

Categories: Human Interest, Ninja Challenges, Ninja Stories, Personal Development