Hi friends! I’ve been at Lifehacker long enough that I’ve covered the usual "How I Work" questions several times over. So instead of the usual phone/computer/to-do list hacks, I’ll give you a glimpse of my habits and routines in the area of health and fitness.
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Current gig: Health Editor at Lifehacker
What’s in your gym bag?
A lot of things. I bring this bag to my Olympic weightlifting gym and to my normal-person gym where I do powerlifting stuff, so it has items for both types of workouts. Neither has showers, so I don’t need to carry clothes or towels.
A 10mm, 3" Pioneer lifting belt. Single prong with half-inch holes
Nike Romaleo lifting shoes
Straps to save my grip on high volume sets of Romanian deadlifts and such
Wrist wraps for bench and overhead press
A pair of 600g micro-plates because my regular gym doesn’t have any
Fat gripz, because I’m training for an event that involves a thick bar but neither of my gyms have one
A phone tripod so I can video my lifts from a decent angle
What fitness apps can’t you live without?
I could technically be fine without any of them, since my training journal is an actual hardback notebook. But I like Strong to keep track of lifting workouts, Nike Run Club when I’m running, Cronometer for tracking nutrition (which I don’t do all the time, but I am now), and SleepWatch if I want to check that I’m getting enough sleep.
What are your fitness goals right now?
They keep changing, but for the past year or so my main focus has been powerlifting (that’s squat, bench, and deadlift). This spring I ran a half marathon, and I thought I was going to continue running, but then something happened.
Specifically, I learned about the obscure sport of all-round lifting. I learned some weird new lifts, set records in them, and now I’m headed to the world championships where I’ll get to compete in seven different lifts. Most of them I never tried or even heard of before this year.
There’s a one-hand clean and jerk, for example. And a floor press where you get to hip-thrust the weight into the air. And a deadlift that’s completely normal except you have to grip the bar without your thumbs. That kind of stuff.
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As part of my preparation for that, I started training at an Olympic weightlifting gym. I’m enjoying that so much that I may focus on the O lifts more going forward — but that’s a question I’ll consider after Worlds. Oh, and I finally have a powerlifting meet on my schedule, in November. It will be my first.
What’s your workout routine like?
I try to do a workout every weekday, and reserve at least one of the weekend days for rest. I love getting my workout done first thing in the morning, but I also hate waking up early, so the exact time of my workout depends on which side wins.
What’s your approach to nutrition? Do you take any supplements?
I eat high protein (100 - 130 grams a day, which I consider to be on the high side of reasonable) and as many fruits and vegetables as I can manage. I don’t follow any particular dietary pattern.
I’ll use whey powder as a source of protein sometimes, but I prefer to meet my goals with actual food, just because eating food is tastier and more filling than chugging a shake. I’ve also experimented with creatine, but I’m not sure if it really does much for me. Otherwise, no supplements.
What was your biggest mistake and how did you learn from it?
I remember running a 5K race years ago where I knew, from past performance and from the then-brand-new GPS watch on my wrist, exactly what my pace and my finish time should be. I was very, very wrong, and pushed myself too hard, and hated every minute. My finish time was actually ok, but I was disappointed in myself anyway.
From that I learned never to trust what I “should” be able to do. There’s only one way to find out what you’re capable of on competition day, and it’s often influenced by factors beyond your control.
Favourite/least favourite exercise?
Favourite: whatever I’ve recently PR’d. Also bench press.
Least favourite: plank, or anything with kettlebells.
What’s your favourite shortcut or hack?
I wash my hands immediately after working out. I’m no germaphobe, but I’m not gonna eat my breakfast with gym hands.
Who are the people who help you get things done, and how do you rely on them?
I have a lot of coaches and mentors without whom I wouldn’t be able to do half the things I do now. Tom and Maggie Duer at PFP Barbell are teaching me the Olympic lifts. John McKean convinced me to give all-round lifting a try. James Heathers has given me so much invaluable advice on the all-round lifts and on training in general. And I owe a lot of my improvement in the power lifts to Barbell Medicine’s online coaching.
How do you recharge or take a break?
If I’m feeling really run-down, I’ll take an extra rest day. If things are going well, I just make sure to get plenty of sleep and good food. I also like to take baths, both for relaxation and to do a little callus maintenance.
What are you currently reading, or what do you recommend?
Can you share a music playlist you’ve made?
I’ve got a high-energy workout playlist that’s especially good for running. It’s full of cheesy guilty pleasure songs.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
To stop worrying so much about short term goals and to think about what you’re setting yourself up for a year or ten years from now. I’ve gotten this advice in a few different forms over the years, and I’m finally starting to believe it.
What’s a problem you’re still trying to solve?
Approaching a competition with confidence. I’m getting ready for my second ever lifting meet now, but I’ve also done a bunch of races and roller derby bouts in the past. It’s always a challenge to show up perfectly prepared, physically and mentally, but able to roll with whatever setbacks or surprises might occur.