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5 Tips to Stick to Fitness Goals When You’re Stressed, Busy and Tired

It happens to all busy working parents. You have a great workout routine and you’re firing on all cylinders, getting the gym on the regular and making gains. You’re meal prepping like it’s your part-time job and sticking to your established diet plan. You even make time to ensure you’re getting enough sleep. And then it happens. Work gets crazy. The kids go back to school with even more activities than they had last year. Maybe you even get sick. What inevitably follows is the train wreck that was your health and fitness progress. And while sometimes, you just have to let it go for a few days, it’s best not to let those few days turn into a few weeks or a few months!

It is possible to stay on track or get back on track quickly. It just takes focus and a positive mindset, as well as attention to what needs to be done. If you are committed to it, you will do it! Here are a few tips from my own experiences and that of others that might work for you, too.

  1. Try not to miss more than a week at the gym. If you have a regular exercise program, you know that it’s hard to get into a groove – a groove that is easy to fall out of, if you’re not careful. In my experience, a week is about the maximum I can skip before it starts to become a new routine. In fact, I usually take a week off for summer vacation with my family and find that I’m ready to go back after that full week away. But, if I take even a day longer, my motivation declines significantly. If I’m sick, typically I’m not down and out more than a few days and I take an extra day or two after that just to be certain before heading back. Don’t get me wrong. If your body and mind is telling you that you need a break, by all means take one. But have a re-entry plan in place so you don’t lose your workout mojo.
  2. Choose healthy foods even when you can’t meal prep. Meal prepping is probably the hardest part of sticking to a diet plan. It takes a ton of time and is usually the first thing to go when time is tight. I mean, it takes foresight, planning, money, time to prep and you need to have time to eat all the food even on the busiest days at work. I’m the first to admit I don’t always successfully plan. Or I’m famous for bringing my lunch and then not wanting it when noon comes around! It’s OK! But, try to make sure your replacement meals are as healthy as they can be. Avoid the fast food trap where you’re going out for fast food every day at lunch or ordering pizza for dinner. Try to hit the healthier establishments instead! And tell yourself next week will be better!
  3. Keep healthy snacks on hand that you love to eat. This will help you keep your calories up when you don’t feel like eating, as well as maintain your goals if you feel like eating all the junk. Items, such as protein bars, nuts, fruit bars and meal replacement shakes are perfect to keep on hand at the office. At home, always make sure there are more healthy snacks in the house than junk food. I try to have a 70/30 split in our home although sometimes it varies. We always have fruit, nuts, protein bars and cheese sticks. The kids will eat all those things and they’re healthy for us, too!
  4. Don’t stop documenting. Whatever system you have in place to keep track of your health and fitness goals, don’t stop writing them down and recording progress. Even if you fall off, mark that down. It will help you later when you’re goal setting. If you know where you tend to lapse and or the triggers that attack your goals, you can create mitigation plans for the future. It also helps keep you honest. If you have to write down that you didn’t drink enough water on a certain day, it holds you accountable to try harder the next day. Bullet journals or planners are my choice because the act of writing something down seems to make a stronger impression than a digital diary. Plus, I love crossing things off! And color helps me, too.
  5. Stick to your plan. If you can still get the gym and squeeze in even a shorter workout, do it. It’s better to show up and continue that habit than it is to just skip it altogether. You will feel better about yourself that you made that attempt even though you wanted to skip it! Same goes for meal prep. If you truly do have the time to do it, do it. Turn on the tunes, get your kids to help – anything to stick to that goal. If you still feel like you really just can’t, then do at least one thing. Sometimes all I can do is plan dinners for the week and grocery shop. Other weeks I can get through all the prep, hard boiling eggs, cutting up fruit, whatever it is that we’re planning. But, I try to do something. You never know. That one thing might turn into your normal meal prep session before you know it!

These are just some ways that I try to stick to a routine. It’s so easy to quit a routine cold turkey but it’s a bit harder, if you’re still trying to do something. The reward and accountability you’ll feel will motivate you to get right back on top of things. Also, don’t underestimate the power of friends and family to help you keep your eyes on the prize. Use that network and support as much as you can. It might just be the kick in the pants you need to get back on the health and fitness journey!

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Hard Gainers Need Support, Too

Too often we read the headlines about how to lose weight quickly or the latest diet that will trim inches from your waist. But, what about those who are actually trying to gain weight and/or muscle? We do exist and we may not always be in the minority. A quick scan of Instagram profiles will show you countless women who are motivated to put on muscle and make gains rather than try to lose weight. In fact, I would posit that it’s much harder for a small-framed woman to put on pounds than it is for the average woman to lose pounds.

It’s long been a taboo subject to talk of trying to gain weight. Personally, as a petite, 5′ woman who just recently hit 102 pounds after years of barely making it out of the low 90s, I’ve heard so many say, “I wish I had your problem!” “You are so lucky!” and “Do you ever eat?” Trouble is, I haven’t felt lucky. It took literally years for me to figure out the formula for how to build mass on my small frame. It’s a challenge!

I’m here to support the hard gainers — the ones who want to feel curvy rather than slim. And it’s not just self esteem that could be at stake for hard gainers. Sometimes women need to gain weight to help alleviate fertility issues or simply fit into their clothing better. A healthy body mass index is essential to all and some of us naturally track below that average of 18.5.

It’s just as important to support those who want to gain as it is to support those who want to lose. And, while I don’t think we’ll see a reality show for hard gainers on Netflix anytime soon, I do applaud those influencers who are chronicling their gains on social media, normalizing it in a big way.

And, now that I have figured out the formula for gaining muscle and mass, I’m please to offer my secret to others. Soon, I will be offering nutrition coaching services both to hard gainers and those trying to lose weight. It all starts with a baseline and careful tracking, paying attention to energy in/energy out. Yes, nutrition is vitally important and it’s not all about eating a ton of carbs or going on a high-fat diet either. It’s about a balance that’s right for you and it includes movement. Resistance training and cardio are necessary to complement the meal plan. Adequate sleep and limited alcoholic intake are also key. It’s a strategic plan for your body that will help it either lose or gain the weight, while maintaining or building muscle.

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not about the latest diet. It’s back to basics. It’s developing good habits that you can stick with long after the masses have moved on from the fad diet. And, it’s a head game – a lesson in persistence, motivation and commitment. Often, that’s the biggest challenge of all and that’s where a certified nutrition coach can help.

I want to help others discover the secret to success as I have. I’m thrilled to be able to pay it forward and can’t wait to get started. The New Year is a great time to reset. I am happy to play a role in a bunch of 2020 resolutions!

Wine for Changing Focus

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know I’m a goal-setter and a planner. My New Year’s resolutions for this year are actually coming to fruition and this past weekend, one of my largest goals — to become a certified personal trainer.

I passed the National Academy of Science Medicine’s Certified Personal Training exam Aug. 24, officially launching me into a new side hustle — fitness. For the past three years, I’ve been working out regularly and learning all I can about fitness and nutrition to meet my personal goals. I’ve come to realize that all this learning could also help others. While I historically didn’t have the bandwidth to study with NASM, a few months ago, I serendipitously found myself with the time after learning I wouldn’t be on the adjunct teaching schedule this fall at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. With time freeing up and a need for me to find another source of income to replace the teaching, I realized there was no good reason not to pursue the NASM-CPT.

From the end of May through this past weekend, I studied during every free minute I had — during cheer practice, on the couch at night, lunch hour at work and more. A lot of the material was a challenge for me since I never was great at science! All the hard work paid off in a pass on the exam. Now that I have the CPT designation, I am working on the certification as a nutrition coach, also through NASM. It was important to me to not only have personal training but also nutrition, because in my view, you can’t have one without the other. Plus, the coaching will help extend my CPT for a few more years before renewal.

Now that I am achieving these goals, you might wonder, what’s next? Well, for now, I’m going to build my reputation online as an expert, particularly in “hard gainers” and women over 40, both of whom struggle to put on muscle. I also plan to address the issue of lack of time for fitness and nutrition, the number one reason cited for why people are unable to stick to an exercise and meal planning regimen.

In fact, this blog will likely take on a different feel in the weeks and months to come. This focus on health has me drinking less for one thing, but also this gives me a venue to share my expertise on the subject of training and nutrition. As such, I’m brainstorming a new name for my blog that encompasses what I’ll be writing more about in the future. I hope you’ll continue to join me on this journey, which will include the topic of wine every once in a while! Cheers!

Wine for Indoor Rock Climbing

I did a thing over the weekend. A crazy thing. I tried indoor rock climbing! And, not just the beginner level rock climbing — I tried bouldering! For months now a fitness friend of mine has been trying to convince me to join her for climbing and I’ve been busy. In fact I was happy to be busy because truth be told I was terrified to even try this. I no longer have the calloused hands of my childhood when I just about lived on the monkey bars on all the playgrounds. I worried I wouldn’t have the grip strength. What’s more, I wasn’t sure I would be strong enough to climb. Lifting weights in the gym is one thing but actually being able to do something functional with your body could be an entirely different story!

Well, I’m here to tell the tale. I tried it. I conquered it! It completely surprised me. For one thing, the crowd was a completely different crowd than I’m used to. As I waited for my friend to arrive I was taking it all in wondering if I really was going to be able to do this thing. People had their own climbing gear and seemed really outdoorsy to me. I’m not a huge fan of the outdoors, by the way. I hate camping. Hiking is OK, though! Anyway, I observed carefully for about 10 minutes or so.

When she arrived, she quickly got us ready to go, explaining the various levels of bouldering and giving us a way to tackle the first wall. We, of course, started with 0, the lowest level, and we made quick work of the first route up. The walls go about 15 feet in height and the highest level I saw was a 9. I was able to do up through level 2 with ease and I think I tried a level 3 but I don’t think I made it to the top. One of the things that surprised me about climbing was the mental aspect of it. The idea that you have to kind of map it out before you climb on, as well as stick to it all the way to the top and then about halfway down is a mental exercise in itself.

hand with callous on it
I grabbed this shot of my “souvenir” just after washing my hands of the chalk I used for climbing!

My grip strength got the best of me about 90 minutes in and we stopped for the day, but not before trying a campus ladder (too fun – I felt like I was on American Ninja Warrior!) and making sure to stretch as much as possible. I wasn’t too sore until about 36 hours after climbing. Then, the forearms, lats and shoulders were on fire! But, two days later, I’m just fine! Will I go again? I’m not sure it will be a regular thing but I definitely recommend it for those who are in shape and would like to test the limits of their minds and bodies.

One of the routes in particular was hard for me. I had trouble even jumping on the first “rung” and couldn’t see how I could grab on and start the climb. After nearly 7 or 8 tries and observations of others, I finally got it. But as I reached the top, I really got into my head too much. It was high! And I had to stay very close the wall and in balance. Terrifying but exhilarating all at the same time! That was the most fun for me. Conquering something I didn’t think I could do and pushing through the scariness. It was empowering and I found myself wanting to brag to everyone!

The gym itself, Central Rock, was clean and well-organized. The staff was welcoming and friendly. I even received a follow-up email a few days later with options for participating again! There are several locations across the United States and members have access to all the gyms, which is a nice bonus for those who like to road trip or who find themselves in different cities for whatever reason.

The wine I chose to celebrate my indoor bouldering success? Well, it was nearly 95 degrees the day I went so we had subs for dinner (no cooking in that heat) along with a crisp Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc. A refreshing way to unwind after a tough rock climbing adventure!

Here’s one of my earlier attempts at a level one wall. You basically map it out in your head and then follow the same color all the way to the top!

Wine for Mid-Year Reset

It’s approximately six months into the year and while we are inundated with talk of New Year’s Resolutions around the first of the year, one rarely hears about the six-month checkpoint! As I reset myself for the second half of 2019, I want to share with you some of the reasons why I love the “second New Year.”

  1. Summertime and the livin’ is easy. It’s far easier to get back into a routine when some of the busyness of life is out of the way. For example, I no longer need to make school lunches for my three kids so I can spend more time on my own lunch and snacks, allowing me to reset my meal planning and nutrition plan and refocus on my health goals.
  2. Summertime = wider access to healthy foods. Between farmers’ markets and our own gardens, plus most of our country in its prime growing season, we can access a whole lot more healthy foods than other times of the year. What’s more, the grills are out again, allowing us to cook up all that high quality protein. Our herbs are growing strong, too, adding that much more flavor and nutrition to our food.
  3. Gym time uniform changes. Now that it’s hot outside, we wear less, which allows us to see the fruits of our hard labor in the gym. And, I don’t know about you, but I work harder when I see my reflection and can actually look at my muscles I’ve built!
  4. It’s daylight longer. This means our days are inherently longer. For me, it allows me to read more, which is accomplishing my goal of reading the Bible cover to cover, as well as my total books read goal for 2019. Plus, I have more time to work on my cross stitch projects.
  5. Work is a slower pace, at least for me, since the students and faculty are gone. This means, I can catch up and be more productive but it also means bringing less work home. This frees my evenings and weekends up to work on my goal of becoming a certified personal trainer.

So, how am I doing on my goals? Here’s a quick progress check:

  1. Become a certified personal trainer. I’m working on this one; my exam is July 30!
  2. Finish Jon’s Christmas stocking. Still chugging away. I have plenty of time but thought I would be done by now. Refocusing my energy on this one.
  3. Read 30 books. I’ve read 23, 24 if you count my personal training textbook. So, I’ll definitely reach this goal!
  4. Read the Bible. Read through 12 books so far through a Lenten Bible Study at my parish. Honing in on the rest of it with a guided journal aid to help me along the way.
  5. Post 24 blog posts. I’ve published 16 so I’m ahead of goal on this one.
  6. De-stress with a bath and/or massage twice a month. Not doing so great. Maybe did this two months out of the six so far. Have to do better!
  7. Gain five pounds. I reached 101 pounds last week, blasting past my 100-pound goal. Boom!

I highly encourage you to take a few minutes, sit on your sunny deck with a nice glass of wine and review your own personal goals. See how far you’ve come since setting your New Year’s Resolution and reset yourself for the back half of the year. I would choose an almost icy cold white or rose for this activity, mostly because it’s my jam in the summer months. Chablis or a light pinot noir rose would be gorgeous for sipping, dreaming and goal-setting. Cheers!

Wine for a Toronto Trip

Last week, my husband and I spent a couple of days in Toronto, Ontario, Canada — a quick getaway that took more planning than anything else! It all started last Christmas with a gift he gave me — four class passes to the Hourglass Studio in downtown Toronto. Faithful readers will recognize this gym as it is the flagship of Lyzabeth Lopez, the online trainer with whom I’ve worked for the past nearly three years. Lopez got me into training. She was the first to guide me to a formula that is working for me, a hard-gainer who has long struggled to maintain and put on weight.

It was a thoughtful gift but we waited until last week for me to use the passes since Lopez recently had a baby boy and was not working for a few months. Although, she is back she’s not teaching classes every day so I wasn’t able to workout with her but I still had the opportunity to meet her and her family! She was, of course, genuine and kind. I don’t know what people expect someone with more than two million followers on Instagram to be like but we are all human. She was warm and friendly and we joked about back fat and crazy babies like old girlfriends.

The two classes I took with Elizabeth were Upper Body Madness and Booty Builder, a metabolic conditioning and muscle workout respectively. While I was a bit out of shape for the cardio in the metcon, it was still super fun and a departure from my normal lifting routine. Booty Builder was a bit more my jam! Both had elements I am used to from the traditional Train with Lyzabeth online program, as well as her most recently developed TWL App. I can see how those two products derive from her in-person gym classes. It was also really fun to workout in a group setting again, something I don’t usually do at home.

I got the workouts out of the way early in the trip so we could enjoy Toronto for the remainder. We logged over a dozen miles walking around the city’s neighborhoods, trying the food, wine, beer and visiting the markets and shops, including Curiosa, where one can purchase all things Harry Potter! One night we went the tourist route and visited the CN Tower for a sunset dinner; the views were incredible! Our final of the three nights featured a wine bar crawl through the Little Italy and Portugal neighborhoods, which was super fun. It’s not every day we try different, expensive wines!

Here are the trip details:

Who? My husband and I

What? Our somewhat annual getaway trip without the kids

When? June 26 – 29, 2019

Where? Toronto, Ontario, Canada (We stayed in an AirBnB a few blocks from the CN Tower. Billed as the “apartment in the sky,” it was a corner apartment on the 45th floor of the building.)

Why? To meet Lyzabeth Lopez, do a few workouts and see the sights of the city

How? We drove the three-and-a-half-hour trip passing into Canada at Lewiston, New York.

There were too many wines to list here and because I was relaxing too much I did a terrible job keeping track of them. We visited Pellar Estate’s tasting room at the St. Lawrence Market, where we tried their wines for the second time, purchasing our favorite Icewine, Vidal Blanc. The one we enjoyed at the Sotto Voce Wine Bar was a lovely 2014 Montepulciano Tombacco. We also had a few interesting Portugese white wines at the Salt Wine Bar, and a couple more European wines at Sapori.

Getting away for a few days was a wonderful way to reset, but it was not nearly long enough! I’m looking forward to a longer time away from work and responsibilities hopefully in a few weeks, this time with the kids in tow. Special thanks go to Papa for taking care of them while we were away, driving them to field hockey, cheer and honor band rehearsals. While they had a great time vacationing with him, they deserve a family trip, too! Cheers!

Wine for Christmas Father’s Day

This past weekend was Father’s Day, a day to celebrate the dads in our lives. For us here in Syracuse, New York, the spring has been rainy and cool and not at all like our normal June hot weather. Sunday, for example was around 60 degrees and steady, soaking rain. So, instead of our usual clambake on the deck, I decided to make meatballs and sauce!

It smelled heavenly by around 10:30 a.m. when my husband returned home from Mass. In fact, as he opened his gift – lovingly wrapped in red plaid paper – my daughter said, “It smells like Christmas in here!” I had to agree. It felt cozy and warm in the kitchen and the smell of garlic and tomatoes was reminiscent of a Christmas Day rather than a Father’s Day.

This year, I found a couple of unique gift items for my husband. One was from an Etsy merchant who creates framed art from sound waves. You choose the song and the color for the wave and he does the rest. Very cool. We picked Riders on the Storm by the Doors since it’s a favorite of Christopher and his dad’s. I also purchased two pairs of socks from Rock ‘Em Socks, which will put a photo of your choice on a pair of socks. We chose one pair with Daisy the dog and one with Grace the cat. My husband wore one of each to church!

As for wine, I braved the wet day to head to Harbor View Wine and Liquors. I headed for their cellar in search of a Barolo, which I found, but ended up grabbing a Super Tuscan off the rack, too, and that’s the one we chose for dinner. The 2015 Crognolo from Toscana is a blend of Sangiovese and Merlot grapes. Yummy! We decanted it for about 45 minutes before enjoying it with dinner. Perfect choice for pasta. Dessert was a chocolate cake.

Toward the end of dinner, we decided to play Song Quiz with Alexa. What a fun party game that is! Although, you have to be careful not to speak too loudly during or in between Alexa’s songs or she’ll get you! We all took turns winning.

It may not have been the best weather and we may have preferred to be outside in the sunshine, but for what it was, Father’s Day was a quiet, delicious affair.

Wine for a Macro Epiphany

Those who have been reading for a while know that I’m a workout fanatic. In fact, I’m loving it so much that I’m in the midst of obtaining my Certification in Personal Training from the National Academy of Sports Medicine. But, that is a story for another post. Today, I want to talk macros (again!).

In January, I entered a fitness challenge at Athletic Apex in Syracuse, New York, which came with it three personal training sessions, as well as a couple of assessments designed to optimize my training and determine the best workout and nutrition plan for me. One of the assessments was the RMR, which determined my resting metabolic rate and, in turn, was used to help devise my ideal daily caloric intake and macronutrient breakdown – in other words, how many grams of protein, carbohydrates and fats I should consume each day.

I started with the goal of building muscle and gaining weight, something that I’ve struggled with for years. I was excited to get a real formula based on science and not just gut (no pun intended!). My total calories were set at 2,100, which was lower than I had been at on my own. I averaged 2,200 to 2,400 and was struggling to gain anything. I was a bit skeptical about going down but then wondered if maybe I was eating too much of the wrong foods or something. So, I gave it shot.

Initially, it was great for me. I gained muscle in a way I never had before, while reducing body fat. I put on two pounds. But, then, the progress stopped. I increased my calories by 200 to see what would happen. Nothing. Then, I decided to move the macros around. Still nothing. The whole time I was progressively lifting heavy, following the BUILD 1.0 program. Now, I realize I had two variables going on – the new fitness program and playing around with the macro ratios but still!

Fast forward to earlier this week when I saw a mention of the Cronometer app in a workout group of which I’m a part. The person said they felt it was more accurate than MyFitnessPal for tracking nutrition. So, I figured I’d give it a shot. My first impression was that it was a pretty basic app and it wasn’t pretty or organized well at all. It was an endless list of what I was eating and it wasn’t grouped together and there wasn’t a lot of white space with the design. BUT, once you get passed all that? There is one key difference that is completely changing my life. MyFitnessPal never truly synced to my Apple Watch. But Cronometer does. So much, in fact, that my daily calorie needs adjust as the day goes on and I burn more calories. I am realizing just how many more I need based on my activity. I consumed nearly 2,500 calories the other day, for example, and yesterday just more than 2,400. Today, 2,234 is my current goal, but I imagine it will go up as the day goes on, especially if I go for a walk at lunch.

So, there you go. Science can only take you so far. While my RMR may have been accurate, the data was not enough to account for my energy usage all day long, particularly since my metabolism may run a bit faster than average. I weighed myself last night and was at 100.3 pounds for the first time since I was pregnant! Now, a female’s weight fluctuates daily, for better or worse, so I’m going to check again in a week, but my scale indicates body fat and muscle mass percentages, too. The trend is going up for muscle mass and body fat is about the same. So, those are all good signs.

The whole time I’ve been experimenting with all this, I’ve cut way down on my alcohol consumption. A couple glasses a week is now my new normal. So, that also could be helping as alcohol is not the greatest when it comes to getting good sleep and it can interfere with metabolization of key nutrients, too. This past weekend was the exception. I celebrated the first full gorgeous weekend in Central New York with a $5 Sauvignon Blanc from Frontera in Chile, as well as Clean Slate Riesling, an old standby. Life was good in the sun all weekend! Cheers to many more as we dive into summer!

Wine for a Wine Bar: A Review

Last night, my husband and I went out to dinner at a newish wine bar in the Westcott Neighborhood near Syracuse University. Saint Urban Wine Bar and Restaurant has only been open a few weeks from what I understand but colleagues at work were raving and since we love wine and food, we decided to check it out pronto!

We made a reservation easily from the website and chose dining but there also was an option for communal dining at a long table down the middle of the restaurant. We had a nice two-top near the corner which allowed us to chat pretty easily and wasn’t too close to people on either side of us. The entire space is quite small so I can see why reservations are a must! But, we didn’t notice too many people at the bar, though.

The menu is more wine than food however Saint Urban offers three-course specials on a weekly basis — appetizer, main dish and dessert. There were three choices in each category. While wines are not suggested for each course, our server assured us that the chef designed the dishes with the wines in mind and there would not be a poor pairing!

Using what we knew about wine and food pairings, we came up with a good collection of wines and small plates and shared/tasted each other’s to give us even more depth to our overall experience. My husband had Carpaccio with vegetables and duck; I ended up on the seafood side of things, trying a chilled pea soup with crab, sea scallops. For dessert, he chose Burrato with strawberry-rhubarb; I went for the chocolate and cherries plate.

My appetizer and dinner wines:

Laroche Chablis, 2014
Burgundy, France

Stephano Mancinelli Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Superiore
Cru Santa Maria 2017
Marche, Italy

My husband’s appetizer and dinner wines:

Dauvergne-Ranvier Luberon Vin Gourmond 2017
Rhone, France

Pike Road Pinot Noir 2015
Willamette Valley, OR

Now for dessert, my husband grabbed the dessert wine I really wanted so I decided to try a Hungarian wine for the first time. We ended up realizing our mistake after one bite/taste! We shared our dessert wines but I mostly drank his — Broadbent Colheita Maderia 1999, Madeira, Portugal; while he sipped more on mine — Royal Tokaji Late Harvest Tokaji 2016, North Hungary, Hungary Furmint.

The menu offers wines by the taste, half glass or full glass, allowing you to freely taste and enjoy many different wines without breaking the bank or drinking to excess! I overheard our server explaining that the owner really wanted to create a fine dining and wine experience for people who ordinarily couldn’t afford a high end establishment. I think he succeeded. The three-course meals are $39 each plus the wines are various prices, depending on the wine and serving size. All together, our bill came to $150, which was reasonable considering we each had three courses and three different wines.

Service was excellent, competent and friendly. I think we’ll definitely be back! 10/10!

Wine for Choosing an All-Star Cheer Gym

Last year at this time, my now 9-year-old daughter came home and declared that she wanted to be a cheerleader. She had never cheered in her life. None of her friends cheered. She just decided it was something she wanted to do. So, I did what all Type A moms do. I went on social media and started asking my network about cheerleading. Did anyone’s kids do it? Does anyone know anyone? Where do I begin? Surprisingly, it was challenging to get any information about cheer. Google searches turned up lackluster results. One website kept coming up time and again and it turned out to be the place we landed, CNY Storm.

We signed her up for a six-week program called FUNdamentals designed to give her a taste of cheerleading. I figured it was a good way to try it out and see if she really wanted to do it. She was a natural. Flying high and smiling her heart out, she convinced me to let her join a mini-prep level team. I had no idea what mini-prep was or what was to come. I just blindly did it, carried away by my daughter’s enthusiasm.

After a year spent experiencing and learning all there is to know about All-Star Cheer, I’ve learned several valuable lessons. This information is not readily available online from what I could find. For me, it was just something I had to figure out. But, I believe in paying it forward. Here are my 7 lessons learned from the first season of All-Star Cheer.

  1. Get everything in writing. If you don’t understand the fee schedule or what you are required to purchase or do, ask and ask again. Preferably get the answers in writing so you have them to refer to later. So often I didn’t understand something and I felt embarrassed to ask since everyone else seemed to know what they were doing. Fees are most important. There are a lot of incidentals that are not discussed up front, such as the cost of sneakers, practice wear, makeup, even travel.
  2. Make an appointment with the owner or manager of the gym and interview them. This is something I failed to do the first time. You need to make sure the gym is a place where you can envision your child and yourself for that matter. You spend a lot of time there and with these people. If you are not comfortable with the staff, or they are not welcoming to you, seriously consider that before joining. Make sure their values align with yours and the vibe is your jam. Plus, the one on one time helps you get answers to all the questions you have without the activity and noise of the gym.
  3. Ask for references. It’s helpful to ask for references so you can chat with other parents about their experiences at the gym. It helps you gain perspective and avoid any pitfalls later. Parents can tell you what questions to ask and what to look out for, plus they can give you a sense of their own journeys and why they chose the gym for their own children.
  4. Get a sense of the travel schedule. All-Star Cheer involves some level of travel to the different competitions. Some gyms even have international teams that travel to Canada. Travel is a HUGE expense in terms of not only money but also time. Make sure you know up front how many competitions there will be and where they will be. Also, book those hotels early. If you’re not sure where to book or how, ask. I didn’t ask, thinking I’d figure it out and ended up in different hotels from other families, as well as booking and un-booking when competitions ended up not being “stay to play.” The whole thing confused me and instead of asking someone, I just went along with it.
  5. Ask how communication will take place. This is key. I can’t stress enough how important communication is in an All-Star Cheer facility. There is a lot that happens between your child’s team and growth as an athlete, fundraisers, competition information, weather closings and more. Make sure you are comfortable with how you will receive information and provide feedback to the staff. Facebook groups are not enough. You need other options, too. Make sure you ask other parents how they feel the communication is. The freer the information flow is, the fewer rumors and issues there are.
  6. Find out about the training plan for your child. Cheerleading is hard work and involves developing skills that take tremendous time and practice to perfect. Make sure there is a plan for your child to train, not just learn a routine for competition. Find out about classes and other opportunities for your child to learn new skills and make sure they are affordable for you, as well.
  7. Find a buddy. This is the best advice I have. Find another cheer parent who is willing to help you learn the ropes. I had a few here and there but no one solid to count on. I think it would have helped a lot if I had someone to ask all the questions. I had a lot to learn! It’s always helpful to find someone else who’s been there to help you through it!

Now that I know more about this sport and how things work, I have come to realize that CNY Storm is not the right fit for my daughter and me. We’ve decided to make a move to Core Athletix for the 2019-20 season, a facility headquartered in Rochester, New York, with a satellite gym in North Syracuse. It’s larger overall, but a smaller environment here, which was appealing! Plus, the overall expense is lower, saving us money, which always helps.

So far, we’re thrilled. We started with a personal interview with the manager of the Syracuse facility and tried a few open gyms to make sure it felt right. After only two visits to open gym, a time when you can work on whatever skills you want with the support of a few coaches roaming around, my daughter has perfected her back walkover, learned the front walkover and completed a back handspring with a spot — skills she failed to develop after an entire year at the other gym.

CNY Storm doesn’t include tumbling classes with your mini-prep registration payment; they are extra and it adds up. What’s more, the classes are often disorganized and kids are just doing cartwheels and not truly working on skills. If your child is missing a skill, they end up in a different role for the routine and they never really have the opportunity to learn it. This was disappointing for me to find out. Core Athletix values the skill development and includes tumbling classes with registration. If your child is a flyer, they are required to attend tumbling AND flyer classes. This makes so much sense! That’s why the kids are in cheer — to learn how to cheer! When they learn skills, they do better in competition, too.

What kind of wine goes with learning the hard lessons and paying it forward? One that is reminiscent of education, of course! Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon is an easy drinking red for pondering these great questions.

All-Star Cheer is a huge time and money investment. It’s one I’m willing to make, given the right facility and management. I’m thrilled to be a part of the Core family and excited to feel nothing but welcomed! Team placements are this weekend. Lucia can’t wait to meet her new tribe! Cheers!