An Ambitious All-Star is someone who self defines Ambitious Athletics. This person demonstrates dedication, perseverance, community, and the willingness to get better.

Below, each All-Star answered a series of questions related to their lifestyle, check em out.

 

Tara Lamond

Why do you workout, what got you started, when did you get started?

According to family folklore, I was born with unnatural amounts of energy.  Most babies nap for about 4-5 hours per day. Apparently, I napped for zero hours, ever.  I was a true tomboy as a child and spent my days playing football with the neighborhood boys, skateboarding, and crawling through the underground sewer system like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.  In elementary school, I was always the fastest runner in my grade.  Well, it was an even match between me and a boy/nemesis named Cameron S.  Our PE teacher was an ex-Marine named Mr. Valentine and he made sure to pit us against each other every chance he got.

I played, and enjoyed, just about every sport growing up.  I even tried Fencing for a couple of semesters in high school (because who wouldn’t want to sword fight?!).  Nothing ever held my interest for that long, though.  When I was twelve, my dad started taking me to the gym with him.  He was into “pumping iron” way before most.  I fell in love with working out and pretty much have not stopped since.

 

What does your training look like?

I started training with Carmen about six years ago, after I had my second child.  Prior to that, you could most often find me on a Stairmaster or elliptical machine (two thumbs down).  I also did some form of strength training beginning in college, but never followed any sort of program.  And, when I say “strength training”, I mean exercises like bicep curls, shoulder raises, and lat pull downs.  Basically, I just made it all up.

When I started training with Carmen, I had never touched a barbell, done a proper squat, and may not have known what a deadlift was.  Now, I train at Ambitious Athletics at least three days a week.  The rumors that I sometimes do two workouts in one session are true (see unnatural energy levels referenced above).  My love for the sled is probably at the Stage 5 Clinger level.  I also will try to do two additional conditioning workouts on my own each week.

 

What about your nutrition. What works best for you? What’s a typical meal look like? Do you have a favorite shake or your go to muscle building meal. What is your kryptonite?

Carmen told me I have to answer this question honestly, so here goes: I eat whatever I want to eat, whenever I want.  If you held a gun to my head, I would not even be able to guesstimate how many calories I eat in a day.  I never, and I mean NEVER, weigh myself.  I don’t know what a macro is, nor do I know what a serving size of any food looks like.  I have never had a shake (unless it contained ice cream) or tried protein powder.  Look, I have not always been this way.  I have had periods in my life when I restricted my eating and made certain foods off limits.  It took me a long time to get to the place I am at today, and I feel better and happier than I ever have.  I recently had my annual physical and my doctor could not believe how perfect every single test and blood count came back.  If I really dialed into my nutrition could I look better?  I’m sure I could.  Do I care, or want to worry about it?  I do not. 

In terms of day-to-day eating, I tend to eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, meats and…chocolate.  I generally eat some form of dessert(s) after almost every meal.  I don’t eat breakfast. And I like to drink vodka.

 

Talk about your results or biggest gains over the last year?

I am a very hands-on girl and LOVE a challenge.  If I see someone doing something physically challenging, I can’t help but try to do it myself (and have a fair number of failures under my belt!).  Before I started training with Carmen, I had never been able to do an unassisted pull-up.  A couple of years ago, I was finally able to do my first one ever!  My current record of hanging, unassisted pull-ups is five in a row.  A couple of months ago, I deadlifted 225 lbs, for 5 reps. I also found one of those huge tires (at a gym I joined on my summer vacation last year) and flipped it up and down the parking lot every day that I could.  I can do the monkey bars at Ambitious Athletics, a feat I have not attempted in at least 30 years.  Basically, I am constantly changing and evolving because I love changing and evolving.

 

What inspires you and what does your healthy human future look like?

For me, it’s not about any particular skill, or how much weight you can lift.  If you get after it, never give up, don’t complain or make excuses, and like to keep it fun, you inspire me.  And also, if you are an American Ninja Warrior, you inspire me (or really, just any type of ninja).

As for my healthy, human self, I am going to be 40 next January and I am a mom of two.  I am probably a good bit slower and less nimble than I used to be.  But, in many ways, I feel better than I ever have!  I feel balanced, happy, and strong.  I plan to continue to challenge myself, yet remain injury free.  I will always try to have as much fun as I possibly can.  And finally, I would not-so-secretly like to be able to dance as well as one of Britney Spears’ back-up dancers.  I’m not sure if my healthy, human self is up to this challenge, but stay tuned…

 

Rina Kitazawa

Why do you workout, what got you started, when did you get started?

I started running and working out in college in order to lose the weight I gained my freshman year from eating too many Wendy’s Biggie fries and late night pizzas.  I was successful in losing the weight, but did not exercise consistently until after college, when I entered a graduate degree program in public health. While learning about ways to improve the health of communities, I realized I needed to make changes in my own personal life and adopt a healthier lifestyle; I started to exercise more regularly, taking spin and total body conditioning classes at the gym, and eventually started training for long distance runs with Team in Training in New York City.  It felt great to be physically active, but my focus was strictly cardio, definitely not weights.

I started working out with Ambitious Athletics in August of 2014, a few months after moving to DC from New York. A good friend of mine from my running group, Shelton (an Ambitious All Star!), had told me how much strength training had improved his running, so I decided to give Ambitious Athletics a try.  Although I initially joined the program strictly to become a better, stronger runner, my reasons for working out now go beyond just improving my running performance. I work out to be healthy and physically strong, particularly since I am at risk for osteoporosis. I also work out for my mental and emotional well-being and to be part of a very close-knit community in DC.

 

What does your training look like?

Strength training M, W, F at Ambitious Athletics

Conditioning T, Th at Ambitious Athletics

4 to 5 mile runs on T and Th, roughly 8:30 pace

8 to 11 mile runs on the weekend, generally at a 9:00 pace

 

What about your nutrition. What works best for you? What’s a typical meal look like? Do you have a favorite shake or your go to muscle building meal. What is your kryptonite?

As a runner I have always had a pretty carb heavy diet, but since I started working out with Ambitious Athletics, I have incorporated more protein in my diet and replaced processed carbs with things like sweet potatoes. I also started eating more meals throughout the day and generally feel a lot better.  A typical meal at home: mixed greens with baked chicken, goat cheese, walnuts, dried cranberries, and balsamic vinaigrette and a couple of slices of multi-grain bread.  I also love making different soups, like Italian sausage and tortellini or chicken tortilla soup. I try to have a protein shake or chocolate milk after every workout to assist with recovery.  My favorite shake contains almond milk, chocolate protein powder, a banana, and frozen blueberries (yum).

Kryptonite (I have quite a few): salty things, like French fries and chips; any kind of cheese; warm bread and butter; cronuts; strawberry shortcake.

 

Talk about your results or biggest gains over the last year?

I have definitely noticed a huge improvement in my strength and fitness level over the last year.

I can do standard push-ups, which is a big deal for me, since I could barely do push-ups on my knees when I started the program.
I can push more than 300 pounds on a sled for 40 yards (three times body weight).
I can now put my own carry-on luggage in the overhead bin on airplanes (no easy task for a short person). This is one of my proudest accomplishments since I no longer have to scout out a tall person to help me with my luggage.
In a matter of months I went from running a 2:08 half marathon in New Orleans pre-Ambitious to a 1:49 half in Richmond, VA (thank you, Carmen, for all the lunges, squats, and helping me run a faster half).
I notice more tone and definition in my body and my jeans fit a lot better.

 

What inspires you and what does your healthy human future look like?

My friends at Ambitious Athletics inspire me every day…Sarah W’s positive attitude and enthusiasm, Pixie’s generosity and kindness, Joe’s sense of humor, and the determination and will of my powerlifting friends, Mimi and Nora.  I am particularly inspired when friends at Ambitious Athletics meet their fitness goals…. watching Shelton push 500 pounds on the sled, Jenn do unassisted pull ups, and Jenny master the monkey bars.  It is truly amazing what folks have accomplished at Ambitious Athletics; it inspires me to work harder to meet my own fitness goals.

Outside of Ambitious Athletics, I am also inspired by the girls whom I coach in the Girls on the Run Program. Earlier this year I was a Girls on the Run coach at an elementary school in DC, where I helped train a group of eight to ten year old girls to run a 5K.  I loved being a part of these girls’ lives.  I hope to be a coach again for the Girls on the Run Program in the spring and help raise money for this elementary school.

In terms of my future, I would like to continue with strength training and conditioning, working on unassisted pull ups and conquering the monkey bars.  My goal is also to run a race in every state. By the end of this year I will have run a race in a little more than 20 states, so I still have quite a few races to do (anyone want to do a race with me in Hawaii or Alaska??).

In general I am striving to be a kinder, better person and bring positivity to people’s lives. I would like to work with Carmen and Lori to further build the Ambitious Athletic community; encouraging new folks at Orientation to give the program a try, and organizing runs and social events to bring Ambitious Athletes together.

 

Carmen Harris

Why do you work out, what got you started, when did you get started?

I work out because it’s fun to me.  One of my friends, Carlie, use to call our time in the gym “social hour” because we had so much fun working out together. I couldn’t agree more. When you find an activity you love and people you love to do it with—it becomes more fun than work.  

I got started in youth sports. My parents put me in recreation soccer at age 5 and I played until age 19. Although I was relatively active throughout my time at Spelman College and my late twenties, I ate meals out often and thought frozen, low calorie lunches were ‘healthy choices’ for lunch. On July 4, 2012, I saw picture of myself on Instagram, and I saw a women who was 15 pounds overweight. Over the next 6 months, I lost the weight doing kickboxing classes and counting calories using my fitness pal app. But I had no lean muscle and I was still eating several processed meals a week.

In August of 2013, my friend, Brandi, invited me to her gym.  It was at that gym that I integrated bodyweight exercises, barbells, and kettle bells into my workouts.  I also started cooking and preparing most of meals at home. By March 2014, I had put on 10lbs of lean muscle mass and dropped an additional 6% body fat.

What I didn’t account for and what no scale can measure is the mental, spiritual, and physical confidence gained from strength training. It has provided me with a new lens for which to interpret my physical health and wellbeing.  I’m happier in my day-to-day life, I’m more self-assured of my ability to meet goals and take on new challenges, my spirit is more resilient, and I appreciate the sense of community and accountability gained from training with others. Needless to say, I haven’t gotten bored with strength training yet. Plus, I’ve got so much more to learn and improve upon!

I wish more women, particularly black young women, would consider finding a small group strength training program that uses barbells to improve their strength and overall wellness.  There is so much more to gain from an efficient, strength training workout than one could ever imagine.

 

What does your training look like?

I usually walk everywhere. It’s the easiest and most primal form of physical activity known to man.   I didn’t realize it, but my iPhone told me, on average, I walk 5 miles a day which is approximately 3500 calories per week or 1 pound a week I keep off just by choosing to walk. I also like to hike the Billy Goat Trail and go to cycle and solidcore classes on occasion.

Prior to moving to DC a year ago, my typical training week included:  4 barbell/kettle bell complex workouts, 3 kickboxing/running workouts, 1 flexiblity/mobility/yoga class over 7 days.

I would like to get back to that volume of workouts again and be more consistent with a yoga practice this winter. I’m not the fastest girl in the gym, but I’m consistent and usually look for ways to challenge myself.  I currently do ambitious’ 3 days of strength and 2 days of conditioning program. And I’m always down for “overtime” or a good finisher! On some days I’ll ask Lori to make up an extra 2nd workout and word to the wise—Lori’s extra workouts sound relatively doable before you begin them but are hard as hell once started!

 

What about your nutrition. What works best for you? What’s a typical meal look like? Do you have a favorite shake or your go to muscle building meal. What is your kryptonite?

What works best for me is making every meal count: whether I’m eating an additional meal to meet protein goals or simply enjoying an amazing meal with good friends, I’m going to enjoy what I eating, who I’m eating with, or both!

I eat often, every 2-3 hours, and I never leave home without raw almonds and my water bottle. I saw my biggest ‘gains’ when I began making most of my meals and everything that goes in or on them (like sauces, toppings, etc) at home. I often get asked what’s a typical day of eating look like...so here it is:

Typical Breakfast: 1 Serving gluten-free Oat Bran, 2 Tablespoons of flaxseed, 1 tablespoon Hemp protein, ½ tablespoon of chia seeds, lots of cinnamon and coriander. I make my oats with unsweetened almond milk that’s fortified with additional protein and water and top it with ¼ cup of seasonal fresh fruit.  I take my coffee how I take my men—strong and black J (Just kidding—I mean, I only require my coffee to be black not my strong men! Hahaha)

Typical Midmorning Meal: 3 egg whites w/ tomatoes and ¼ avocado, or think thin protein bar

Typical Lunch: Raw collard green salad topped with grilled chickenand ½ apple, sprinkle of chia seeds, black pepper, Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute (salt-free seasoning), pinch of coarse sea salt, juice of ½ lime, and toasted sesame seed oil. As a side, I’ll have a ½ plain sweet potato

Typical Midday Meal: Raw Green Beans, Carrots, and Kalamata Olive Hummus. 

Typical Dinner: I like to play around and try new meals and have folks over for dinner. For myself, I usually make some sort of Asian-inspired protein and veggie meal and recently, I’ve enjoyed east-African inspired stews.  Szechwan Asian eggplant stir-fry with shrimp and lamb tagine with chickpeas and apricots are two of my favorite recipes I found this year.  I always modify recipes to make them ‘healthier’ or fit my dairy intolerance.  I eat So Delicious Coconut Milk Sugar Free Mini Fudge Bar (a plus they have 9g of Fiber per serving) or Navita’s SuperFood Snacks in Lemongolden berry for dessert. I often consult my friends and fit accountability partners, Carlie and Brandi, skinnytaste.com, NYT cooking app, Epicurus, Bon Appetit, for dinner meal inspiration.

Other favorite small meals: Thin Brown Rice Cakes with Sugar- and Salt-Free almond butter, cinnamon and raisins or honey. Black-Pepper Skinny Pop

Kryptonite:  I love Atlanta’s favorite taco stop--Tacqueria del Sol.  So, TEQUILA & TACOS are definitely my kryptonite! I’m a sucker for a good margarita and pulled-pork taco with hot, salty chips. I prefer my margarita with  blanco tequila fresh-squeezed lime and red grapefruit juice and a touch of agave, no-salt, please.  I also love a full-bodied red wine on any given day of the week.

 

Talk about your results or biggest gains over the last year?

My biggest gain was finding Ambitious Athletics.  Upon relocating to DC in October 2014, I had a very hard time finding a boutique training facility that offered group barbell and kettle bell strength training in DC proper.

Since joining in May 2015, I’ve seen the biggest improvements in my upper body strength, proper hand placement on the bar, and form for some exercises. 

 

What inspires you and what does your healthy human future look like?

My favorite book of the bible is Joshua.  And I find inspiration, both in life and for my healthy human future, in Joshua 1:9 which states, “This is my command- be strong and be courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” I hope my healthy, human future finds me always strong in mind, body, and spirit….unafraid to live a life true to who I am and full of God-sized, courageous choices that encourages others to do the same!  

 

Sarah Weiner

Why do you workout, what got you started, when did you get started? 

I workout to feel good! I find that I am not really myself when I don’t get some sort of exercise in most days.  Working out gives me energy, boosts my attitude, and often gives me a chance to hangout with some pretty fantastic people! Also, going to the gym helps make me stronger and a better athlete which enables me to be more competitive in rugby, and less prone to injury when doing high mileage running or just having fun with other athletic endeavors! I have been involved with sports since I was young, swimming and soccer were first, then softball and basketball. In high school I ran cross country, swam, played softball and also did some rock climbing.  In college I did a lot of intramural sports and ran several long distance races, then after college I started playing rugby and have done a few triathlons. Always game to try something new!

 

What does your training look like?

You can find me at Ambitious 5 days a week, most weeks. Usually I am with the awesome 6am crew, but sometimes that 4:50AM alarm is too early and I will choose to workout with ambitious family members who come at other times of the day! Depending on the season, I have rugby practice twice a week in the evenings, I also join several of my rugby teammates for a crossfit workout once or twice a week, and I like to try-out random fitness classes with friends on occasion (e.g. spin, barre, HIIT).  I used to get several runs in a week, but there just aren’t enough hours in the day!

 

What about your nutrition. What works best for you? What’s a typical meal look like? Do you have a favorite shake or your go to muscle building meal. What is your kryptonite?

Since I have always been super active, I have had the luxury of eating pretty much what I want within reason…unfortunately, things change as you get older!  I generally eat a pretty healthy diet, without being too pre-occupied with it. I don’t deny myself treats or my favorite, pizza (!!), but I don’t eat those things every day either. Thankfully, I tend to like healthy options, but struggle to keep my hands off carbs when I find them in front of me! I am not a very picky eater, which is good when it comes to being creative with healthy options (namely veggies and protein). I am not a huge fan of protein shakes, but I see their benefits and have a few each week. I do have a bit of a rough time getting as much protein in my daily diet as I should…work in progress!

 

Talk about your results or biggest gains over the last year?

Over the last year my biggest gains have come in the area of knowledge attainment. I have learned a ton more about weightlifting in general, as well as about my strengths and weaknesses. I have had to navigate through a few injuries that have resulted in having to do modified exercises, and I have had to learn to deal with the emotional stressors of adapting my routine...let’s just say some days are better than others!  I have also taken a bigger interest in my nutrition and have done a lot of thinking about the future with regard to my health and wellness goals for both the immediate future and long term. 

 

What inspires you and what does your healthy human future look like?

My inspiration comes from many different people on a daily basis. I am always inspired by my teammates and friends who show me what hard work and dedication look like while maintaining a healthy life/work balance. My mom and grandmother are two of the strongest people I know, and I hope at least some of their toughness and resilience has rubbed off on me.

Also, always inspired in those moments when your faith in humanity is restored.

My “healthy human future” includes health and happiness for myself as well as my family and friends. It is important that I stay active and engaged.