One of my fondest memories of my childhood is my mom getting home from a long day of work followed by an aerobics class at the local YMCA, making the family dinner while still wearing her sweaty exercise clothes.  Her example showed me that it was possible to be a great mother while still taking care of yourself – something that so many of her peers felt unable to do.  From a young age, I learned that exercise is not just about vanity, or even health – it’s about doing something that makes you feel good.

Never having been one for sports, it wasn’t until college that I discovered the joy of exercise for myself.  It began freshman year at the Jesse Owens South recreation center on campus, with a modest 25 minutes (the time limit) on the elliptical machine, followed by some half-hearted attempt at abs and arm exercises.   Twelve years later, my workouts look different, but my love affair with exercise is still going strong.


Just like most girls, I’ve always been more into cardio than weights (I’ll save society’s influence on women for another post). In college, I regularly lifted, but I did so begrudgingly.  I understood the importance of it; a couple of stress fractures and a diagnosis of osteopenia (one step away from osteoporosis), along with my mother’s influence, taught me that.   But I viewed lifting as something that I had to do, something that wasn’t enjoyable and simply made my workouts even longer than they already were.  Needless to say, when I started grad school, something had to give – and I wasn’t about to give up my beloved spinning classes and running.  To be fair, I took up yoga around the same time, so I didn’t entirely give up strength training – but it definitely was not a priority.

Fast forward to February 2014.  A newly minted MBA, I found myself with a lot more free time – and a strong desire to get serious about strength training.  But after taking a 2.5 year long break, I knew I needed something new and challenging to really get me back in the groove.  Enter Sweat Box.  More specifically, enter Dustin Kelch at Sweat Box.  I started seeing Dustin upon recommendation from my friend Andy.  Andy had long been singing the praises of his personal trainer, and after just one complimentary assessment I could see why.  I immediately signed up for 8 sessions, and six months later I’m finding myself singing those same praises – this time, in blog form!


Dustin Kelch @ Sweat Box, aka Slave Driver

To be fair, Dustin is the first personal trainer I’ve ever seen.  But I think he’s pretty darn awesome!  One of the first things I noticed about Dustin is his attention to my weaknesses – mainly, my back problems.  He’s always been very cognizant of the muscular back pain that plagues me, and is quick to modify workouts that aggravate it.  He also suggested the back stretch that has by far and away been the most helpful of any I’ve ever tried, even after many years of physical therapy, massages, and the like.  Instead of rolling back and forth on my foam roller, I hold it in one position for 30-60 seconds, with my arms stretched above my head.  This allows the muscles to relax and begin to let go.  It’ s been a real life saver – thanks, Dustin!

Another thing I liked about Dustin right away was his calm, quiet demeanor, atypical for a trainer.  Dustin doesn’t yell, he doesn’t overuse phrases like, “three more Sarah, you can do it!”  He doesn’t tell me to “speed it up” when speeding it up it might compromise form.  Instead, he encourages with a gentle “three more” and “take a break when you need to”.   But you’d be mistaken if you thought Dustin was a pushover or not challenging enough.  Dustin pushes me 1000 times harder than I would push myself.  He challenges me to try the exercise a few times before I decide I “can’t do it” – and guess what?  I almost always can.  He keeps things interesting, making my brain work almost as hard as my arms and legs.  I still do bicep curls like in my college days, but now those bicep curls are accompanied with a step-over or walking lunges – working multiple muscles at the same time.  He knows my real limits, and makes sure I get there each and every workout.  In short – I get my money’s worth.

In case you don’t believe me, I thought it would be fun to share my workout from this past Saturday!

Step-up @ 15 x 8 (that means 15 lb in each hand, 8 on each side)


Inverted Push-Up x 15


Squat Jump @ 15 x 20


Whip Smash x 20



Bosu Chest Press @ 25 x 20


BOSU Power Over with Rotation @ 10 x 10



Leg Press @ 185 (+ weight of sled ~ 50lb) x 20


Pull Down @ 70 x 20



And last, but definitely not least:

Cart Drag!  (it was a drag)


Dustin doesn’t skimp on time – the above workout takes a full 45 minutes (and I’m not big on breaks – again, gotta get my money’s worth!).  All the circuit repeats add up!  Gone are the days when I thought lifting wasn’t a cardio workout – I’m always amazed at how quickly my heart starts racing.

I see Dustin 1-2 times per week, on Wednesday evenings and/or Saturday mornings (before I teach spin!).  It’s definitely not cheap, but at this stage in my life (no kids, cheap rent) it’s an investment I’m willing to make.  I try to do a workout (or half of one) on my own a day or two a week, but it’s not nearly as enjoyable!  I love not having to think – I just show up and do what he says.

If you’re thinking about seeing a personal trainer, I highly recommend it (and for you cbus readers – Dustin and the Sweat Box!).  It builds bone density, revs your metabolism, and prevents injury.  But most importantly, it makes you feel like a badass!  I think it’s especially beneficial for women, who tend to be cardio junkies in pursuit of burning just a few more calories.  But ladies, I have news for you – I’ve never felt better about my body as I do right now, at age 30!  Strength training makes me feel lean and strong and sexy in a way that running and spinning never have.  And just like my mother did for me, I hope to pass on the love of exercise – and strength training – to my own daughter one day.

The question remains – have you sweat today?


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