I'm probably not alone in thinking that walking into a new gym sometimes makes me feel like it's the first day of kindergarten. I wonder what the other students are like, and if I might have trouble keeping up, or getting my ass totally kicked by the trainer. Because one look at them and seeing their amazing body, I seriously think I might not survive the class.
So, in an effort to dispel the fear that trainers are a scary breed, I took on the task of getting to know each trainer at Bionic Body. It just so happens that the first person I interviewed also happens to be my good friend, Dara Mazzie.
I've known Dara for several years from playing beach volleyball, having even partnered up with her in a couple tournaments. When I first met her, she was at the top of her game, but career changes and injury derailed her:
"Just two years ago I was forty pounds overweight, out of shape, depressed, had horrible insomnia, and had severe pain all over my body. I was also having anxiety attacks pretty regularly. Now, after two years of eating real food, meditating, sleeping enough, hydrating properly, exercising, and proper recovery (massage, foam roll, stretch), I am off all medications, in best shape of my life, and happy as a clam!"
Dara is proof that it's not how hard you fall...it's the getting back up and trying that counts!
Dara grew up in New York and was a self-described tomboy. Although she played many sports, soccer was her one true love, earning a scholarship at Hofstra University where she played Division I. But the sun and surf called to her, and she moved to California where she took up beach volleyball, and has been playing for the last six years.
What made you want to become a personal trainer?
When I started playing beach volleyball, people on the beach kept asking me how I got my six pack. They wanted to know what kind of workouts I was doing and what I was eating. I was a teacher at the time and needed some extra income, so I started doing it on the side just because I liked helping people. When I got laid off from teaching, I realized that I could combine my love of teaching and my love for fitness into a career. I chose to get certified in personal training and nutrition.
What is the biggest satisfaction you get out of training?
Don't get me wrong, I love when my clients lose weight, inches and body fat, but my biggest satisfaction comes from the raw moments I have with them. When they break down and finally admit how they got to be 100 pounds overweight. Then, the real progress starts. Once my clients trust me enough to tell me what the deep-rooted problem is that led to the weight gain, then we can really start making progress towards a happier, healthier and fitter lifestyle. It's that moment when the client realizes that exercising and eating right are not just so you can look good, it's for your health and general well being.
What are your favorite ways to exercise?
I love to play sports, especially volleyball. Me and my girls play 3 to 4 hours a day, and I can't get enough! That being said, I absolutely must train in the gym to keep my body healthy enough to play. I use my love for the sport to guide my workouts in the gym, and it really motivates me to push hard when I am strength and interval training, or doing cardio.
How do you stay motivated to eat healthy and exercise?
Honestly, I was really sick and in horrible pain for a few years. I met a functional therapist named Lenny Parracino, and he saved my life, and cured me through nutrition and some lifestyle changes. He really opened my eyes to what eating healthy truly means, and it changed my whole life. I had seen the best doctors in LA, and they couldn't figure out what was wrong with me. Lenny used proper nutrition to heal my body pain, depression, anxiety, and insomnia.
I have been eating clean, whole foods ever since. As far as exercise is concerned, I always wanted to stay fit because I love playing sports, and I was always very aware of the fact that if I did sports specific training, ate right, and recovered properly, I performed better on the field/court. So I always use my sports to motivate me to get through tough workouts.
What are some of your food "weaknesses," and how do you avoid or substitute them?
I have a horrible sweet tooth! I have found some really great dark chocolate from Trader Joe's that only has 6 grams of sugar per serving. I eat it with berries or peanut butter, and it totally satisfies my cravings. Also, I allow myself cheat meals. If I worked out 6 to 10 hours per week, I'll eat two cheat meals. If I worked out 4 to 5 hours per week, I get one. Anything less and I don't get my cheat meal, so it really keeps me motivated and on track.
What exercise do you hate doing the most?
CARDIO!!! I frickin hate it! Especially running on a treadmill...I would rather go to the dentist for a root canal than run on a treadmill for an hour. I ran a marathon a few years ago and the training was torture on my body. Now, I run for thirty minutes on the beach 1 to 2 times per week. It's much easier on my joints, and I love the beach so much that it doesn't feel like torture anymore.
If you could only do one form of exercise the rest of your life, what would it be?
Tough question. I would like to say beach volleyball, but I could very easily injure myself if that were my only workout. The sport requires a lot of torque on your spine and lots of agility training and fast twitch muscle training...all of which I must train for in the gym if I want to keep my body healthy on the court. So, I would probably do High Intensity Interval Training...it's fast paced which I love, and it goes by so quickly. I feel virtuous after doing 56 burpees, tabata style!
What is your favorite healthy meal to make/eat?
My favorite healthy meal is Alaskan King Salmon with lemon and capers! I sauté spinach in bone broth (made from pasture-raised chickens) and lemon for a side dish. YUM! I also love the Kale Caesar Salad from The Source, a little cafe in Hermosa Beach.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with me, Dara.
Be sure to stop by one of Dara's classes!
by Tonya Stumphauzer