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About Johanna: "Johanna Kracke, M.S., is an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer, a Registered Yoga Teacher, and the owner of Vigor Fitness and Wellness. In addition to training private clients, she does corporate wellness programming for Synergy Fitness Group, and teaches hot yoga at The Studio DC. In the summer of 2013, Johanna and her husband took 84 days off from life and rode their bikes from Virginia to Oregon, a journey of 4,482 miles. Check out a mini documentary of their trip on their blog, www.loveandbikes.tumblr.com. Follow Johanna on her website, Facebook, and Twitter."
Share a little about your fitness background. How did you come to be trainer and yoga instructor?
In 2005 I dislocated my shoulder (for the second time, no fun), and I ended up in surgery to repair the damaged labrum. I then spent my whole spring semester while at Loyola College in Baltimore in physical therapy to rehab it. It was painful and I was incredibly weak at the beginning, but by the summer I was stronger than I'd ever been--I'd always been into sports, but never spent that much time lifting weights. I loved it. I spent so much time at the PT office that they ended up hiring me, and eventually helped me to get a training certification. My first clients were referrals from their office, and I've been hooked on helping people ever since! I went on to get a Masters in Exercise Science at GWU, and I became a yoga teacher along the way.
What makes your approach to personal training unique?
I'm in it for the long haul with my clients, and I love the tougher cases. By that I mean the folks for whom a love of fitness and a healthy lifestyle may not come easy. Anyone can put together a killer workout for a super fit client who comes in with tons of energy and is always ready for a new challenge. But there are a lot of people who desperately want to get into shape but may have health issues, stressful jobs, and habits that are hard to kick. It's going to take time, a whole lot of support and a whole lot of patience--but we'll get there together. My master's degree work was in exercise, nutrition, and eating behavior and I'm a certified health coach, so I'm all about the big lifestyle picture.
You list some interesting training specialties on your website. Please share information on these specialties and the people they target.
Being a yoga teacher certainly plays into the way I train my clients, and I've found it to be especially helpful working with runners and cyclists. Yoga stretches the body actively while also teaching body awareness and integration of the core—crucial for injury prevention and success in sport. I'm also trained to work with breast cancer survivors--there are certain exercises that are helpful to regain upper body mobility and strength after mastectomies or lymph node removals. Evidence also shows that women who exercise regularly after treatment are 35 - 40% less likely to have a recurrence--that's huge. I want to help in that process in any way I can.
If you could change one behavior you see in your clients, what would it be?
The behavior I most commonly see that I'd want to change is sitting all day--I've had clients wear pedometers to gauge their activity level, and sometimes they barely crack 2,000 steps by 5 pm. As we know, this is a major side effect of modern conveniences and the 9 - 5 desk job, but our bodies just don't function well without movement. Here's my pipe dream: everyone becomes a bike commuter! My husband and I own 6 bikes, plus we have Capital Bikeshare memberships, so if anyone wants to go on a ride, drop me a line. Really.
What is your favorite place in Washington D.C. to exercise outdoors?
I lead a lunchtime bootcamp for a group of lawyers downtown, and we meet on the ellipse down behind the White House--it's an awesome spot to work out. It never gets old to start the stopwatch and say "go tag the Washington Monument." Also, Glover Park is becoming a new personal favorite of mine--trail running in the city, how great is that.
What is your favorite exercise and why?
Squats! Why, because there are endless variations to work the whole body: jump squats, squat and press, lateral squat, split squat, bosu squat, single leg squat, kettlebell variations...you get the idea. I also have to say running, because that’s my personal go-to stress reliever.
Please share one simple diet tip our readers can incorporate into their daily routine.
Eliminate sweetened beverages, and I include diet drinks or drink additives in that category. We are so good in the US at taking perfectly healthy foods and turning them upside down by adding unhealthy ingredients. Take coffee: packed with antioxidants and proven to help the body metabolize fat and improve insulin sensitivity...until you pump in over 20 grams of pure sugar (equivalent to the 4 pumps of syrup that go into a grande flavored latte at Starbucks). Face palm.
What do you like most (and least) about being a trainer?
Most: Building relationships with all kinds of people! The conversations I have in a day are fantastic: one day last week I was explaining to a lovely client in her 70's what 'twerking' is (she asked), and later in the day another client who speaks 5 languages was giving me some epic travel tips. Sometimes counting reps goes out the window--that's when a stopwatch comes in handy.
Least: Big surprise: getting up at 5 am every day!! I think every trainer would tell you it's worth it though. This is the best job in the world.