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My motto has always been that you can’t say, ‘Oh, it won’t happen to me.’ You have to say, ‘That can happen to me.’
Always be aware that things can happen.

—Venus Williams, champion women's tennis player with seven Grand Slam singles titles, 16 Grand Slam doubles titles and four Olympic gold medals
In the newsletter this week, we’ve got an NYC video producer's fitness story, joyful African dance, and how you can build a better butt. Read on...

We can’t imagine how tough it is to have your body critiqued and commented on as a public figure, but sometimes celebrities use the glare of the spotlight to be positive role models. An example is actor Rebel Wilson, who posted on Instagram that 2020 would be her “year of health”, and set a realistic goal weight. 

To get there, Wilson followed the Mayr Diet, which prescribes reducing gluten and dairy, consuming unprocessed foods, and eliminating distractions while eating. According to this interview with her personal trainer, she also worked out five days a week, with routines that included HIIT standards like stair sprints and battle ropes.

The Mayr Method is based on the regimen at Viva Mayr, a posh Austrian spa. Apparently, the spa prescribes some kooky pseudo-scientific practices, such as drinking epsom salts as a laxative and putting crystals in carafes of drinking-water. But other aspects are sensible, such as avoiding sweets, white flour, and alcohol during the weight-loss phase. 

Whatever the exact method, having the time and money to stick to a regimen obviously makes it easier, but there are no easy shortcuts to fitness.

Wishing you your own “year of health” in 2021,  Katherine & Linda
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Gabrielle Williott

Gabrielle Williot is a producer, video editor and on-camera talent at Thrillist. She tweets jokes online and writes/performs comedy with Only Sketches About.

We talked with Gabrielle to find out how she does it—to learn more about her fitness journey past and present and some of her favorite things. 
What has been your history with working out and wellness?
In high school I was a dancer and a cheerleader, but I didn’t consider myself an athlete. It’s not that I never worked out, but athleticism was foreign to me. Once I started working out post college I realized that I was good at it — I was an athlete — I just hadn’t tapped into that part of me. 

Fitness for me started out in college as a weight loss tool. I went to college, gained the classic Freshman 15 and said, “something needs to change”. I wasn’t at home anymore, I wasn’t eating my mom’s cooking, and I didn’t look or feel good. 

I started out with running. I got good really fast. A lot of runners will attest to this, it becomes addicting—how far you can run, how fast, how hard you can go. 
"I’m the most athletic person of any of my friends now, and growing up that couldn’t have been further from the truth."

When you’re a dancer, you’re always fighting with people:  ‘Dance is a sport! Cheerleading is a sport!’ but in your head you think “Oh, I guess I’m not athletic. I guess I’m not an athlete. I’m just a cheerleader or whatever”. You start to believe it. I never considered myself athletic or an athlete whatsoever—and now I’m completely on the opposite side of things. I’m the most athletic person of any of my friends now, and growing up that couldn’t have been further from the truth. 

But when I realized I WAS an athlete, it made me wonder what other sports I could unlock. What else am I good at? I tried classic stuff, like barre and yoga, and that was great. Kickboxing, those kinds of things. 

A few years later I tried CrossFit and really loved it. There was a financial issue where I couldn’t justify keeping it up. When I started CrossFit, I felt like, “I’m good at this” IMMEDIATELY. It was totally a money issue, New York CrossFit gyms are so expensive. It’s really a shame, because for some people it’s really not affordable. I lived in Manhattan and all the Manhattan gyms were just insane. I couldn’t justify it at the time.

Fast forward a few years, and a lot of things in my life changed. I went through a divorce at 28, I moved to Brooklyn, and I knew that I needed something to focus on completely. I needed a community and a hobby. I had comedy, I had work, but I needed a hobby. 

There was a CrossFit gym a couple of blocks away from my apartment, and it was so affordable compared to Manhattan gyms. I thought ‘this is my chance to dive into CrossFit in a way that I haven’t before”. It added a completely different element to my workouts. 
"If you want to get hot, lifting is part of it."

People in my life have always said, “You don’t want to bulk up. You don’t want to lift. You should just do cardio” and that was always a big thing in the back of my head, too. There was a fear of lifting. 

This is the best body of my life. I have completely shaken the notion that lifting weights makes you bulk up. It couldn’t be less true and I think the people who say that..they just don’t understand and they don’t know. They are simply ignorant to the facts.  

I’ve even said that in the gym before. It’s still stuck in my head so much, even though I know if you want to get hot, lifting is part of it. 

In-person vs at home. Would you rather have a free Peleton for a year or a free gym membership for a year, if there was no pandemic? 
Definitely CrossFit. In-person, there’s nothing that compares. There’s something about having the motivation, the leadership and guidance, the group of people there with you.

The friendships there—I look forward to seeing my friends at class all the time. Getting my ass on a Peleton, it takes a lot to do that. You have accountability there that isn’t at home. 

Do you use any wellness tech, apps, etc?
I have an Apple Watch. I’ve been using Strava. I don’t really use any technology. I just use it to track how far I’m running. 

I track my food on WW, which honestly I probably don’t need to do. It’s a habit I have had since college and I’m so used to it. It works for me and I’m set with that. 

What music do you listen to when you work out? 
I used to listen to a lot of musicals when I ran. I need to be able to sing along to it. Then I started listening to metal—but I have to be able to sing to it. There’s a lot of great metal songs you can sing to.

I will run to an album or a playlist and run to it so obsessively that it makes me sick to hear it. Then I will take a little bit from each playlist, what I can still stand, and recycle it into a new playlist. 

My new playlist has Phoebe Bridgers, Mitski, Mastodon, some punk-pop, some Lana del Rey, It’s depressing, but things that you can scream to when you’re running. 

What are your fitness goals? 
My fitness goal for 2021 is glute gains. That’s definitely an area of focus for me: my ass.

I came very close yesterday to buying a hip thruster machine— it’s for your form. Bret Contreras’ Hip Thruster Lite.  It was $200, and it was like… I could buy this right now. I think if i had that bench, I would do it all the time. I already have Bret Contreras’ glute loops, I’ve been using them on my couch, that’s been fine.

Do I need another thing in my life? Because another goal is to have less stuff.

Follow Gabrielle on Twitter and listen to her be funny on Only Sketches About.
Kukuwa African Dance

Born in Ghana, Kukuwa Kyereboah-Nuamah combined her cultural dance background with her aerobics experience to develop an African dance-based workout that has been featured by Oprah, Essence, and People Magazine. Besides founding an African dance company, she’s a professor of dance, and wrote a book on African dances from across the continent.

Her dance style is flowing, joyful, and grounding. Want to learn more about African dance? This dance-illustrated TED talk by award-winning choreographer Camille Brown demonstrates how African styles influence modern social dances. 

Try this: To experience “good energy and positive vibes”, check out Kyereboah-Nuamah’s 15-minute Mood Boost workout. Then enjoy more African dance moves and authentic Afro beats while getting a crazy effective cardio workout, via this 19-minute African Dance Workout.
 Move your body, lift your spirits. 
Explainer: How to wake up (and build up) glutes
Glutes are the largest muscle in the body, and are probably the single most popular body part that women hit the gym to build. When we sit for many hours a day, our glutes become dormant, so we need to start with activation, which can be done through body weight exercises such as donkey kicks and fire hydrants. (Check out this video by IFBB bikini competitor Marcia Goncalves for a demonstration on some of these top glute-activating moves.)

Once the glutes are activated, the next step is building muscle with weighted exercises such as barbell hip thrust, kneeling squat, and barbell deadlift. “Women seem to still think that lifting heavy is going to make you big and bulky. This is simply not the case,” says Certified Personal Trainer Danny Matranga in his YouTube tutorial with tips on glute growth

Matranga recommends progressing via load—working on getting stronger in the key movements of barbell hip thrust, deadlift variations, and lunges. More volume contributes to more hypertrophy, a.k.a. muscle growth. Also recommended: booty bands for low-intensity stimulation on non-heavy training days, using moves such as lateral band walks.
 These thoughtful tips on how to recharge when you’re burned out from sitting at a desk for eight hours include tai chi, creative visualization, and gratitude journaling (Greatist)

 What’s the most weight you can lose in a week safely, without losing muscle or overstressing your metabolism? The answer may be more than you think (Legion Athletics)

 The secret to perfect baked tofu is squeezing the moisture out before cooking—learn how and make this easy recipe to get your tofu crispy & golden (YouTube)

 Digestion issues? An elimination diet can help you figure out what foods are causing bloating or inflammation—here’s when and how to try it (Dr. Frank Lipman)

 A cilantro jalapeno green sauce that can be used on everything from steak to chicken to salads spices up your healthy meals (LowCarbingAsian)
Thanks for reading, Fit Girls! We’ll return to your inbox next week with more inspiration and knowledge. Got a tip for us or opinion to share? Email us—we love your feedback. Enjoyed this issue? Please forward to a friend—your referrals help us grow!
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