Merritt Clubs Blog


I Get by With a Little Help from My Friends

Posted by Lori O'Donnell

May 8, 2019

There was a discussion this morning in one of my Facebook groups about asking for help. A new member had taken a class and was reluctant to tell the instructor that she was having difficulty with some of the moves. The discussion made me think about asking for help in general. Why is it so hard for us as humans to reach out when we need help? Is it fear of embarrassment, of not seeming competent, being perceived as “less than”? Do we think asking for help makes others think we are weak? Or, do we simply not want to burden anyone else with our problems?

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Topics: help, health fitness tips

Nutrition and Strength Training Goals: A Woman's Perspective

Posted by Joanna Meade

Feb 12, 2015

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Topics: Personal Training, health fitness tips, women strength training, Merritt blog, Weight Loss, women and weights, women only, weight loss and exercise, Fitness Tips, best way to lose weight, fitness, women nutrition, Personal trainer, Baltimore fitness, diet lifestyle change, nutrition

Broccoli Parmesan Fritters

Posted by Joanna Meade

Feb 12, 2015

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Topics: recipes to get more vegetables, Healthy Recipes, Personal Training, health fitness tips, Merritt blog, Weight Loss, healthy lifestyle, Fitness Tips, best way to lose weight, recipes for healthy snacks, Broccoli, Personal trainer, Baltimore fitness, diet lifestyle change, healthy weight loss, healthy diets

Women and Weights Week 2: Upper Body

Posted by Joanna Meade

Jan 20, 2015

Week one of Women and Weights is in the books. Last week we discussed the core, it’s importance in injury prevention and exactly what it feels like to engage your core. Then we went over several different exercises that test one’s ability to engage and maintain their core. This week we are discussing upper body movements. This is where we start seeing some major differences in the sexes. In general, men and women respond to resistance training in similar ways. However, differences exist between the sexes in overall muscle mass, strength and hormone levels. The upper body movements are where this becomes most obvious. Upper body movements are much more difficult for women. Why is that, you ask?

Men tend to be larger, have more muscle, they are leaner and have higher levels of the sex hormone, testosterone. These sex hormone related strength differences are mostly found in the upper body. Women possess lower body strength levels similar to men relative to their body weight, but men have greater upper body strength relative to their body weight when compared to women. According to top trainer and researcher Brett Contreras, women possess 40-60% of a man’s upper body strength. That being said, when comparing strength per-pound of fat free mass (i.e. bones and muscle) the differences become less apparent. Women’s muscles are capable of producing the same amount of force as men’s muscles.

In our women and weights seminar this week we will be discussing proper form and will practice a few movements to help ladies increase their upper body strength. Here are a few women specific strength training tips to get you excited:

  • Learn how to engage your core and maintain it while exercising. Many women starting a strength training program initially posses poor levels of core stability; they utilize an array of lumbar-pelvic strategies when lifting and often end up overarching (excessive hyperextension) the spine during planks, push ups, pull ups and deadlift movements. If you lose your stable core during an exercise, stop the movement and re-engage before continuing.

  • Work your weaknesses. If you are already really flexible, focus less on stretching and more on building strength and stability. Women tend to have greater mobility in the shoulders, hips, upper back and pelvis and are more likely than men to possess hypermobility.This hypermobility results in less stability and a greater risk of injury. Women are also more likely to over-prioritize cardio. If your cardio is already sufficient, work on building some strength.

  • Utilize eccentric movements in your training. Women have good reactive or elastic strength, but poor starting strength compared to men. This means it is easier for a woman to lower herself down from the pull up bar (i.e. muscles are lengthening, eccentric movement), than it is to pull herself up (i.e. muscles are contracting, concentric movement). Use caution with eccentric training, as this can cause greater microtrauma to tissues, resulting in greater muscle soreness. Additionally, don’t short movements. Keep working throughout the entire range of motion; don’t just drop off the pull up bar, or drop the bar on a deadlift. Concentrate on lowering all the way down.

  • Do several total body workouts each week. Women have an advantage in recovery time. They tend to fatigue less and recover faster, meaning they can train the same muscles frequently throughout the week. There is no need to spend one day each week on a specific body part (i.e. chest on Monday, back on Tuesday, glutes on Wednesday, quads on Thursday, etc.) like many of the men in your life may be doing. One day each week on certain body parts might not be enough to produce the changes you desire. However, please remember, there is no such thing as spot reduction. There is no amount of tricep extensions that will get rid of ‘granny arms’ if you aren’t fueling yourself properly and engaging in other strengthening movements.

For more training tips and some hands on advice come to Women and Weights Wednesday nights at 6pm at the Downtown Athletic Club. Even better, schedule a one-on-one appointment with me, or email me to join my newsletter. Women and weights will only last until February 11th. Also, much of the information here can be found in Strong Curves: A Woman’s Guide to Building a Better Butt and Body by Brett Contreras.

Joanna Meade (view bio) is an NSCA Certified Personal Trainer and CrossFit Level 1 Trainer at the Downtown Athletic Club. She can be reached at Merritt Athletic Clubs Downtown Club at 410-332-0906.

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Topics: Personal Training, health fitness tips, women strength training, Merritt blog, Weight Loss, women, Fitness Tips, Personal trainer, Baltimore fitness


Posted by Joanna Meade

Jun 27, 2014

A little over a week ago, another addict lost the battle with his disease. This addict was my friend, Matt. I met Matt through a small non-profit triathlon club for recovering addicts, Tri-harder Triathlon Club. Like many other members, when I joined the team I was broken both physically and emotionally. I was spiraling down the drain of depression.

Immediately, I felt at home with this ragtag team of lovable misfits. We use the term 'triathlete' liberally with this crew. We have triathletes from all walks of life, all ages, and abilities. Some of us haven't sat on a bicycle since we were children, some of us can't swim or even run. Originally, I joined the team to share my experience training for triathlons, as well as to fill a hole in my life that was left behind after completing my first half-ironman and getting injured. What I got out of the experience can scarcely be put into words. It was more than I ever anticipated. It became evident after a short time that the term 'recovery' can be applied just as liberally as the word 'triathlete' in our group.

Matt was a part of the team before I joined and had moved on by the time I started attending practices. However, I knew of him through stories, photos and because he was, quite literally, our poster child. That's him in the photo above. Tri-Harder uses this photo of him triumphantly crossing the finish line in almost all of our marketing materials. I have no doubt that during his time with the team he experience the same acceptance and sense of accomplishment that I did. He would say so himself if anyone asked. Some time after I joined the team we got word that Matt was not doing well, and had landed in jail. The team sent him letters, and he wrote back to us. When he got out he resumed practices with us, and that's when I got to know this remarkable young man.

The last time I saw Matt was during the MCVET's Memorial Day 5k and 10k race. Matt was a combat veteran. After graduating from high school he enlisted in the Marines. He served overseas for three tours of duty. At the time of his death he was taking advantage of the services offered to veterans at the Maryland Center for Veterans Education and Training (MCVET). In honor of Matt, Tri-Harder participated in the 5k and 10k race that benefited the organization. However, in our usual fashion, we were a tad unorganized and running late. We set off minutes after the starting gun was fired. We had not found Matt before the race and so, he started alone.

It was hot. I hadn't been running regularly, and oh, yeah, the finish was uphill. Barf. As I started climbing my way up Charles St. in the last quarter-mile, I spotted Matt in front of me. I was willing him to slow down, and my lead-filled legs to speed up so that I could catch him. After what seemed like forever, but was probably only a few seconds, I was close enough to call his name.

He turned and looked almost as relieved as I felt to see a friendly face and to be distracted from the agony one feels in the final quarter-mile of a 5k. We chatted through gasps of air and then fell silent as the hill steepened. The course leveled off and we turned the corner toward the finish line. I told him he better beat me and began to sprint with all the energy I could muster. A few seconds later he roared past me and we crossed the finish line laughing.

I'm so thankful for that moment we were able to spend together. My memories of him will always involve triumphantly crossing a finish line. Addiction and recovery are difficult topics to discuss, and generally people know very little about them. When an addict overdoses, the shock and anger make it difficult to comprehend. This is a great post that can give you a clearer picture of the struggle addicts face. It states, as an addict...

"...he suffered from a deep sadness, a deep loneliness and a deep disconnect between himself and the world around him. He felt, for lack of a better description, not quite right. Regardless of his undeniable talent, he felt uneasy. He felt just not “good enough”. He felt apart from the world, from other people, from a spiritual connection to others and from himself...He did not “choose” to get high again. Someone that is drowning does not “choose” to gasp for air. It just comes natural. His choice was which path to choose. Immediately relief from something he knew could kill him. Or a healthy alternative, slower but more sustainable. And not a deadly path. He chose one of two paths. The unhealthy one, but the one he knew would guarantee an immediate relief from his pain, from his loneliness, from his suffocation. He overdosed and died seeking relief, because for a drug addict without a healthy solution, that’s what happens."

I would argue that these feelings are not unique to individuals that abuse drugs and alcohol. Many individuals that do not abuse drugs or alcohol can relate, perhaps to a lesser extent. At some point or another most of us have sought out a means of relief that wasn't particularly healthy, whether it was in the form of overtraining, a decadent desert, a one night stand or a few too many drinks. At one point or another we have all looked for a distraction, an escape or solution to shelter us from the difficult realities of life.

When I joined Tri-Harder I realized that I had been running from myself for a long time. None of the goals I was chasing brought me the satisfaction I was seeking. At first I used graduate school to keep me busy. When I graduated, I replaced school with triathlon training to find fulfillment. By the time I completed the race and was injured, I finally ran out of the "healthy" ways I'd learned to cope with my own feelings of inadequacy. It was a difficult time, but with Tri-Harder I realized I was not alone.

After every practice we would have a 'recovery moment' where we shared things that were on our mind. At first I hated this moment. I was terrified of being called on to share. I remained silent, eyes downcast, so as not to draw attention. Isolated. When I finally stopped being so afraid of being seen and started listening to what everyone was saying I was blown away by the honesty and bravery of the people around me. I was inspired and eventually found the confidence to share my own thoughts.

I found that to be in recovery means you must first take a good long look at yourself, you have to see your flaws as well as your strengths, and you have to make peace with them. For an addict, their life depends on it. I want to take it one step further though. For anyone that is avoiding that long hard look in the mirror and the feelings of inadequacy that often come with it, you may be fighting for your life too. You are just like me during the recovery moment, eyes downcast, praying not to be called on, trying to avoid saying something that might give away your secrets, and all the while missing out on the amazing people and events going on around you. You are not living. You will not experience the joy you are seeking through your distractions. You will be unable to make the healthy lifestyle changes you so desire. You will not feel the connection you seek with those around you.

We end all of our Tri-Harder practices and meetings with the Serenity Prayer; a prayer that epitomizes the process of recovery. "Grant me serenity, to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things that I can, and wisdom to know the difference." Followed by a final "Keep trying harder!" We are all waging our own private war against the ugliness we see in ourselves; against the things that we think make us unlovable. Matt's battle is finally over. He has crossed his final earthly finish line. Recovery is the ability to stop running and fighting; to take a good look at yourself; to know that you are imperfect yet capable and deserving of love. And it never ends. You have to keep trying harder.

Tri-Harder at the MCVET 5k 2014


Joanna Meade (view bio) is a NSCA Certified Personal Trainer at the Downtown Athletic Club. She is a Level OneCrossFit instructor and competitor. She can be reached at Merritt Athletic Clubs Downtown Club at 410-332-0906 or click here for a Free Session.

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Topics: recovery, Personal Training, health fitness tips, Merritt blog, Weight Loss, Personal trainer, Baltimore fitness, Addiction

One decade, ten lessons

Posted by Joanna Meade

May 7, 2014


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Topics: Personal Training, health fitness tips, Merritt blog, Weight Loss, weight loss and exercise, healthy lifestyle, Fitness Tips, best way to lose weight, fitness, Personal trainer, Baltimore fitness, diet lifestyle change, the best way to lose weight, being present

3 Reasons to drink the CrossFit KoolAid

Posted by Joanna Meade

Apr 11, 2014

Looking at these pictures, I am reminded of why I love CrossFit. I can see the agony and determination on our faces. What’s more difficult to see is the the elation. This was one of the most fun and challenging competitions I’ve ever experienced. The pictures are from the Mid-Atlantic Affiliate Challenge, a team competition for CrossFitters from the entire Mid-Atlantic region. This weekend I’ll be competing for a second time. A lot has happened in the last year, including a shoulder injury, a lot of time off and rehab. Leading up to this point every time I think about it I fight back the urge to toss my cookies. All the old self-doubts surface. Am I ready to compete again? Will I hurt my shoulder? What if I let my teammates down? And so, on. What's worse is after last year I know just how bad it hurts physically. Why on Earth then, would I voluntarily put myself through the agony once again?

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Topics: Personal Training, health fitness tips, Merritt blog, Weight Loss, baltimore gyms, help with weight loss, workout routine to lose weight, fitness, Mid-Atlantic Affiliate Challenge, Fitness workout, Personal trainer, merritt charm city crossfit, Baltimore fitness, get healthy, diet lifestyle change, group fitness

Your own worst enemy

Posted by Joanna Meade

Feb 25, 2014

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Topics: CrossFit, Personal Training, health fitness tips, Merritt blog, Weight Loss, baltimore gyms, healthy lifestyle, Fitness Tips, fitness, mindful, Personal trainer, mental health, merritt charm city crossfit, Baltimore fitness, diet lifestyle change, being present, best gyms, yoga

Looking for fitness in all the wrong places

Posted by Joanna Meade

Feb 3, 2014

Recently I asked a friend what they thought I should blog about. “Sex” was the answer. I laughed. All I could think was fitness is more than looking good naked. If that is your only motivation to get fit, you will most likely never get there. You have to find something that challenges you, inspires you and motivates you to get your lazy behind off the couch every day. Trust me. Looking good naked, isn’t enough.

On second thought, however I remembered that Valentine's Day is coming up and realized that sex is actually a perfect topic.

For a lot of people going to the gym is like unsuccessful online dating. You are trying so hard to get in shape, or find the right mate, but nothing is working. You can’t seem to get what you want no matter how hard you try...and it seems like you’ve tried EVERYTHING. Strangely, we often find someone worth dating in the weirdest places when we aren’t looking for them at all. What gives?

The truth is if you are looking for someone else to fulfill you, then you are doomed to be unhappy. It starts with you. You have to love yourself before you can love anyone else. A welcomed side effect of self-improvement, of loving yourself first, is that others find you more desirable. Fitness is no different; the side effect of being fit, is a rocking body that you worked hard to earn. If you are trying to get the rocking body without being fit - without earning it - you may be that desperate online single looking for love in all the wrong places.

And, to satisfy my friend, the fitter you are, the better your sex life will be. Research shows sexual dysfunction is more likely among women and men with poor physical and emotional health. Moreover, sexual dysfunction is highly associated with overall well-being. In the United States there is a surprisingly high prevalence of sexual dysfunction in both sexes. It is estimated that 31% of men and 43% of women experience some form of sexual dysfunction. That’s right - more women than men experience sexual dysfunction. Your physical and emotional health are the key.

Want to get a date, look better naked, have better sex, and generally improve all aspects of life? Focus on taking care of yourself first; loving yourself and prioritizing your fitness will take care of most of your problems. It’s that simple, and yet so difficult.

Joanna Meade (view bio) is a NSCA Certified Personal Trainer at the Downtown Athletic Club. She is a Level OneCrossFit instructor and competitor. She can be reached at Merritt Athletic Clubs Downtown Club at 410-332-0906 or click here for a Free CrossFit Session.

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Topics: Personal Training, health fitness tips, Merritt blog, Weight Loss, baltimore gyms, healthy lifestyle, Fitness Tips, fitness, Personal trainer, Baltimore fitness, diet lifestyle change

More than looking good naked

Posted by Joanna Meade

Jan 22, 2014

Fitness is more than looking good naked. Granted, looking good naked is a welcomed side effect of being fit, but it shouldn’t be your only motivation to put down that cookie and lace up your sneakers. Weight, or more appropriately body fat, is only one measure of your health. It’s the one everyone obsesses about. However, there is so much more to it. Blood pressure, body fat, bone density, triglycerides, posture, flexibility, muscle mass, good and bad cholesterol, even your mental health are things we can observe to determine your overall health.

You have to think of your health as a continuum. Every night you don’t get enough sleep, every day you don’t drink enough water, every hangover, every skipped workout and extra slice of pizza; they may not look like they are affecting you now, but rest assured they are. Everything we do, or don’t do, gradually pushes us toward greater fitness or toward morbidity. Being fit is the best way to protect yourself against disease. It's not just something you do to look good for bikini season.

Fitness is a way of life. It has to be a habit. Otherwise, you’ll never gain any traction.

The next time you feel intimidated by some hoss deadlifting 500 pounds, or that gazelle of a woman effortlessly bounding along on her treadmill, remember that we are not all starting from the same point on the continuum. Fitness is a journey. Everyone’s is different. Regardless of where you are on your journey, don’t judge a book by it’s cover. Don’t despair that you’ll never look as good as that hoss or gazelle across the gym. Your workout is moving you a step in the right direction on the health continuum. And the next time you tell yourself you’ll make up for that overindulgence at the gym tomorrow, remember that it all adds up. You can't out exercise a bad diet. All your actions outside of the gym need to support your efforts inside the gym to make any progress on the continuum. Keep moving toward fitness and you'll have much more than a beach body. You'll safeguard your life.

There are a host of resources at Merritt Athletic Clubs that can help you continually progress your fitness. We have excellent personal trainers, group fitness instructors, massage therapists, dietitians, a meal service and even physical therapists, all on site. Improve your overall health by taking advantage of these available resources.

Joanna Meade (view bio) is a NSCA Certified Personal Trainer at the Downtown Athletic Club. She is a Level OneCrossFit instructor and competitor. She can be reached at Merritt Athletic Clubs Downtown Club at 410-332-0906 or click here for a Free CrossFit Session.

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Topics: Personal Training, health fitness tips, Merritt blog, Weight Loss, healthy lifestyle, Fitness Tips, fitness, best gyms in baltimore, Personal trainer, New Year's Resolution, Baltimore fitness, get healthy, best fitness tips, diet lifestyle change