Autumn Calabrese knows a thing or two about being obsessed with workouts. We interviewed the top trainer on the set of her new Beachbody on Demand fitness program 80 Day Obsession as part of LIVESTRONG's Stronger Women series.
What Does Being Stronger Mean?
As a single mom to son Dominic, Calabrese has a busy schedule: She wakes up at 5 a.m., packs Dominic's lunch for school, makes breakfast for the two of them, gets her stuff ready to go and heads out the door to the set where she films her workout videos.
"Life is really hard," Calabrese said. "And there are days when you just want to break down, and you need to be emotionally strong ‚ for your family, your friends, the people around you, for work."
"I take what I learn in my workouts and I take the strength that I get both physically, mentally and emotionally," she said. "And I can apply that to my life, so that when I'm up against something hard I have that inner strength to battle and work through it."
According to Calabrese, working on fitness teaches inner and outer strength.
"So often the focus on fitness is about the way you look — and that's lovely, and we all want to look great and feel great in our clothes — but I love what fitness teaches us about being a strong person on the inside," she said. "When you're in these hard workouts and it's getting tough and you want to give up and your muscles are on fire and you find the strength to push through, that teaches you how to be strong in life when life gets hard."
How Does She Find Balance?
Calabrese told us there's no such thing as real balance day-to-day.
"What you try to do is find the balance throughout life," she said. "So that you know sometimes the scale tips this way and sometimes the scale tips that way, and overall you hope that maybe they even out throughout life."
For Calabrese, that means sometimes work simply has to take the focus.
"When I'm filming for 80 days, it has to be a priority," she said. "This is not only my job, but I'm hoping to help make a difference in the world, so it has to be a priority, and unfortunately other things suffer a little bit."
Calabrese explained that being on set by 7 a.m. each day meant she didn't have much of a social life during the three months she filmed for 80 Day Obsession. And she wasn't able to take her son to school during that time either. However, when the program was done filming, she was able to shift the balance back over to her family life.
"It's impossible to always make them level out and have complete balance. Something like spending 8 hours with my family, spending eight hours on work and getting eight hours of sleep," said Calabrese. "It just doesn't happen that way. And if you find that you shifted too far in one direction for too long, you sit down and you re-prioritize and you shift it back in the other direction."
Four Favorite Self-Care Rituals?
Calabrese is adamant that practicing self-care is essential. "We are a fast-paced society that likes to beat ourselves down, but not build ourselves back up," she said. So here's what she does to prioritize her mental and physical health:
1. Water. Staying hydrated is the first piece of self-care Calabrese mentioned. "The biggest thing for me is getting enough water," she said. "I always have water with me. I never leave the house without it. I never get in the car without it."
2. Sleep. "I'm very big on 8 hours of sleep," said Calabrese. "Sleep is where all the beauty happens. Everybody thinks that the magic of exercise happens in the workout. It doesn't! In the workout you break your body down. You tear your muscles on microscopic levels. It needs a chance to repair. The repair process happens when you're asleep. So, if you don't go to sleep and give your body a time to shut down so that it can do the repair work, the results aren't going to be what you need them to be."
3. Massage and foam rolling. "Soreness happens, so getting massages is important," said Calabrese. She told us she gets a massage each week, but she understands that for many people that's not possible. She recommended we aim to get a massage at least once monthly. If the expense is too much, she told us to focus on foam rolling. "A tight knotted muscle is not a strong muscle," she said.
4. Epsom salt baths. Calabrese told us she takes an epsom salt bath every night. "They help with soreness and they're just relaxing — it's a chance to decompress," she said. "I'll use essential oils like lavender in there."
Her Favorite Healthy Foods?
While eggs used to be her go-to breakfast, Calabrese found out she was allergic, so now she's all about oatmeal.
In fact, one of her favorite recipes is oatmeal inside an acorn squash, sprinkled with cinnamon and a little maple syrup.
"I love breakfast — it's my favorite meal of the day, and it doesn't have to be hard if you meal prep," Calabrese said. "If you cook your oatmeal ahead of time or you bake your acorn squash ahead of time. You just throw it all together, warm it up and you're good to go."
Calabrese does her meal prepping on Sundays, and she said she loves to cook. "Anybody who says there's not enough time, I promise you, if you saw my schedule you would realize if it's really important to you, you will make the time to cook what you need to cook," she said.
Her Go-To Snacks?
"I sometimes make blueberry almond muffins with almond meal instead of white flour. Or I will pack a chewy granola bar that I make," Calabrese said.
She mentioned that she's a fan of fruits and veggies, but she doesn't chop up her veggies and instead packs them whole.
"Vegetables are super easy," said Calabrese. "I don't cut my vegetables up ahead of time, because once you start cutting them the air and the oxygen will start to deplete them of their nutrients."
Calabrese said that people laugh at her because she eats whole bell peppers by biting into them like an apple. "What's the difference if I slice it up or bite into it?"
She also loves seaweed snacks. "Instead of potato chips, I'll do the seaweed snacks that just have a little bit salt on them," she said.
"There's a million healthy choices out there if you're just willing to take time," Calabrese said. "A lot of times we don't want to give up our junk food, so we use the excuse that we're too busy, so that we can have it."
What Advice Does She Have?
"Don't compare yourself to anybody else and where they're at in their journey," Calabrese said. "It is about progress — it's not about perfection."
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