Member Spotlight: Ann Glaviano
Company, Position and brief job description:
Self-employed artist with multiple freelance career hustles. Recent fiction/essays at Slate, Tin House, Ninth Letter, Fairy Tale Review; recent dance performances at Marigny Opera House, Art Klub, the Airlift Music Box; I DJ a 1957-1974 vinyl dance jams party twice a month at Twelve Mile Limit in Mid-City and Okay Bar in the Seventh Ward; grant writer for community arts organizations, including the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, New Orleans Ballet Theatre, Big Class; copy editor for clients such as the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities’ quarterly magazine, Louisiana Cultural Vistas, and a creative nonfiction journal called River Teeth.
How long have you been a member of Cypress Fitness?
I joined in July 2015.
What was the experience or motivating factor that compelled you to join Cypress Fitness? Was there someone who influenced you to join?
My sole source of exercise for many years was my classical and contemporary dance training and the usual mat-class support modalities (Pilates and yoga). I had never had a good time at a gym; in the brief interludes where I attempted gym training, I would just do the elliptical while watching America’s Next Top Model and leave feeling like it had been a huge waste of time (…I was probably not wrong).
There is kind of a myth in dance culture that you get what you need to dance—the strength, the flexibility—from the dance classes themselves. In summer 2015 I went to a dance workshop in Nashville and the director of the company hosting us was lean but pretty ripped. I don’t know why I was so taken by this—maybe because I was in my early thirties and I knew she was pretty close to forty. I found it inspiring. I know from experience at this point that you don’t, in fact, get that kind of muscle development from straight-up dance classes. I came home and started looking up gyms where I could cross-train, particularly so that I could lift weights. I had never done it before, so I knew I would need a trainer to at least show me the basics.
What I learned was that most people choose a gym based on (1) price (2) convenient location (3) fancy spa-like amenities. So on Yelp the reviews for gyms were like, “Well, it’s cheap, but the equipment is always broken and there is no one around to show me how to use the weight machines. At least there’s a sauna!” For dancers, though, you just drive as long as is required to find the best training within two hours of your house. No one cares about the cheapest class or the nearest class—you want to find the best class with the smartest teachers where you will make the most progress (and they won’t pressure you into an eating disorder). The broken-dirty-abandoned-weight-machine-with-sauna approach was really not going to work for me.
Then I found reviews for Cypress. They kept talking about the sense of community. One person wrote that they’d moved to California and said, “I wish I could bring this gym with me in my pocket.” I was blown away by this. These people actually loved their gym. I had not known that loving one’s gym was even an option. Then I asked on Facebook for recs and it turned out that a couple pals (Darcy and Emily) were already training here. Then I watched the video on the Cypress website of people using TRX and kettlebells and pushing the sled or whatever, and I grew panic-stricken. Not only had I never done any of that stuff before, but also I have always been a short scrawny person who found P.E. classes absolutely traumatic—weakest, smallest, picked last for every team, etc. I was convinced I couldn’t do any of it. But I emailed the gym anyway and talked to Brandon about a couple of dance injuries I was working with, and I told him I couldn’t do any of the stuff in the video, and he was like, “You totally can.”
Has Cypress Fitness contributed to your fitness progress? In other words, have you reached any of your goals since joining?
My broad goal when I joined was “lift some weights and become stronger in some way.” I was also dealing with some dance injuries (and am now dealing with different injuries), so my approach is always to do things slowly, with control and with clean technique/correct alignment, and to avoid shooting for the moon on weights so I don’t irritate my (easily irritated) back or knees. One thing I learned very quickly was that if my back was hurting, doing kettlebell exercises that engaged my back muscles actually made my back feel better. Also, I could not do a single push-up from plank when I started. Now I can do negative push-ups in plank but I have to put my knees down to push back up, so I’m working on training the return to plank. Push-ups are kind of an abstract indicator of fitness for most people, but for dancers, being able to get down into the floor with control using your arms has real practical applications, so it’s been a nice contribution to my weird dance life. Kinstretch was also a game changer in terms of how I think about mobility (i.e., stretching by training the nervous system) and injury prevention; I’ve incorporated it into my daily stretching to help me achieve greater range of motion for dance.
And these two things are not going to sound like fitness goals, or even like goals for a normal person, but bear in mind that I am a small person and I don’t build muscle easily and I’d never lifted weights before I joined this gym:
1) I didn’t know grip strength was a thing; my grip strength has noticeably improved, and it is now a lot easier to open jars. I know that sounds dumb if you’ve never had a hard time with jars. But when you can’t open jars and then suddenly you can open jars, it’s pretty life-changing.
2) I’ve got a steel three-speed bike and it is heavy and hard for me to wrangle. I store it on a hanging bike rack on a wall in my kitchen. Getting the bike up on and down from the rack has always been so stressful that it makes me dread and avoid riding my bike (it’s a good storage solution but was installed by a now ex-boyfriend who used to help me with it). This past Mardi Gras, I took the bike down to ride it to a parade in my neighborhood and put it back up, and it was not a big deal. Like it had become much easier to lift and wrangle my bike. I almost cried. Like the jars, it might seem like a small thing; like the jars, it feels literally life-changing.
Have you changed your nutrition at all since joining Cypress, and if so, how?
I took the 6-week nutrition course last summer (2016). Brandon and Brian acknowledged that some people might be taking the class to gain weight, but I think the majority of us were trying to lose weight. Before that point, I had only ever managed to lose weight on accident, which I found very frustrating—like it wasn’t up to me. The approach we took in the course was not about calorie counting but about habit building—specifically, how difficult it is to establish new habits, and how to realistically set goals to build new habits. We talked about the habits that support a healthy diet (two that I really noticed make a difference for me are hydration and getting enough sleep; also tracking what I eat, and preparing food at home instead of eating out all the time), as well as macros (my body responds with great joy when I eat a lot of protein and fat, and a medium amount of carbs). I think probably the hardest part of the weight puzzle is figuring out how to maintain, but the information from the course, and the stuff I learned about myself through the course, has carried me through managing weight fluctuations without the usual sense of panic and lack of agency.
What do you think makes a good trainer?
After decades of working with dance teachers and directors, many of whom were frightening, mocking, or who gave us pointlessly hard exercises, I am drawn to trainers who are thoughtful, design the workout with intention, care about technique and make constructive corrections, offer modifications to ensure everyone can participate and get a full workout, give a challenging class that we all trust we can actually get through, and manage time well.
Briefly describe the culture of Cypress Fitness.
Queer-friendly, nerdy, pro-woman. Not ageist, not paternalistic, not machismo. Data-driven (with a heart). (Sorry, Brandon, I’m sure you’re loving this.) It feels important to me that people of different genders and abilities all get to do the same challenging exercises in a room together, even if we’re not lifting the same amount of weight or we’re using modifications. I like the emphasis on competing against your personal best over time, like with the monthly challenges, instead of using competition as a primary driver in the classes; the latter strategy works well for a lot of people as a motivator but often leads to injury or (for me personally) despair. My brief explanation of the gym to friends is always “It’s like CrossFit but for cautious people.”
What do you do in your spare time?
What’s spare time?
What is your guilty pleasure (TV show, sweet treat, etc.)?
Reading outside at N7.
What is your dream vacation spot?
Beach, book. Also maybe studying tango in Argentina.