Behind the Chair: Paluna Santamaria

Hello friends! It's the start of a new month, and the beginning of the weekend! That means I'll be doing a long run this weekend and a month from today I'll be at the Mississauga Marathon pacing my good friend through her first Half Marathon!!  (more on that next week)

When I first moved to Toronto, I was so excited about having a new route for running, but I didn't know how hilly Toronto really was! I found out the hard way, I remember going for a run that should've been 15k, but it turned into a 5k! I was not prepared for ALL the hills, or the death hills in High Park that felt like mountains. I knew that I needed to change something in my training, so I looked for gyms close to my new neighbourhood, in my search I came across NTC (Nike Training Club) classes being offered downtown. I got there and thought I was going to die in after my first class, I told myself I wasn't going back...but that was a lie! I talked to the trainer afterwards, and I ended up going back to NTC and have been hooked ever since. I have met some really lovely people who are now a big part of my fitness journey. Paluna, a Nike Trainer, was one of the first trainers I met at NTC. I still remember that first class, and I was scared for my life, I do not like working out, I prefer to just do some stretching before or after my run and call it a day, but Paluna was someone that changed my mind and has taught me the importance of strength training. I also remember not being able to do 3 pushups! I was so embarrassed of myself, she was so encouraging and would always correct my positions for different moves, it's helped so much with all my injuries and training! I'm so grateful for the running and fitness community and for Paluna being patient with me! 

If you haven't met Paluna, today is your lucky day! We got together earlier this year to work on a couple of projects together. She has beautiful, long hair, I could play with her hair all day long!

Tell us a bit about yourself:

I'm a mixture of an introvert and extrovert all at once. I love crowds as much as I love being alone. My life could be described as a musical, full of terrible yet entertaining singing, dancing and sound effects, mostly because I'm the producer, director and star of the show. When I don't know the lyrics to a song, I make them up just so I can sing along. I'm extremely loyal and I will do anything for you, but when I'm done with something/someone I will never go back. I only skip on sleep and food in emergency situations. Singing shows with amazing singers make me cry. I either care too much, or I don't care at all. I choose to be calm and happy everyday but there's always a little melancholy in my heart from all the people I miss. I like helping people. I think everyone should have their favourite dessert on their birthday, EVERY YEAR

What inspired you to become a personal trainer? Anyone or anything in particular that made you want to maintain an active lifestyle? 

My dad was a yoga teacher, so I grew up practicing yoga and meditation. Later in life I took part in a variety of sports including swimming and basketball. I competed in both but I'd say my true love for sports grew while playing basketball. The WNBA didn't exist so naturally my hero was/is Michael Jordan. I have a degree in Arts in Humanities with a minor in Dance. I always knew I didn't want to be a professional dancer, but I knew I'd be in a physical field for sure. After graduating, I continued performing for a couple of years until I enrolled in my first Pilates certification. Ten years later, the rest is history :)

How do you balance work, training clients, and training for yourself?

Movement is my life. I train at the gym for work and I'm active outside the gym for fun. I basically turned a hobby into a job and I love it. Enjoying being in the gym makes my life easy, as I spend pretty much every day in some type of fitness setting. I consider training and educating myself, part of the job. I have my own coaches to take care of different areas of my programming. This takes a huge weight off my shoulders, and I can dedicate more time to program for my own clients. 
I train 6-7 days/week 2-5 hrs/day depending on the cycle of training I'm in. I schedule everything else in my life around training. This works for me. It makes me feel grounded and accomplished which in consequence makes me happier and more excited to train other people. 

What are some of your lifting goals you've accomplished? Any competitions coming up for you? Side note from Paluna: Powerlifting, Bodybuilding, Olympic lifting (also known as weightlifting) and lifting weights are not the same thing.

I had been lifting weights for few years, before I fell in love with the sport, of weightlifting which is what I currently compete in. My journey in weightlifting has been a rocky one. I was wrongly treated by an RMT who caused nerve damage in one of my shoulders, I had only been lifting for 3 months at the time. It's been almost 4 years and even though I've recovered my range of motion and strength, at times I still suffer the consequences of that treatment. I only started talking about it publicly last year, as I prefer to put my focus on the positive. All of this to say, I've worked hard, I've done well but I know it can always be better. I have qualified for Provincials in the 63kg weight class as well as the 58kg (my current competition weight) and made huge improvements in all my lifts technically and strength wise. I'm consistently lifting weights I never thought possible and keep getting better.
This year I decided to give myself a mental break from weightlifting by attempting a powerlifting competition; since the movements are not very technically demanding and the style of training compliments my weightlifting program it feels like a good step to take. Competition date is March 19th 2016! 

What is your favorite or go to hairstyle? 

My hairstyle changes a minimum of two times within each training session. I love a side ponytail, or braid for bench pressing, but it gets in the way for front squatting or it whacks me in the face when olympic lifting. A ponytail is usually ok, I don't like anything lying flat on my back.

Favorite quote? 

This is a tough one. I actually collect quotes in notebooks or screenshots but I have the following Nietsche's tattooed on my back so let's go with that one: 
"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music"

Any words of advice for anyone trying to reach goals for their active lifestyle. (whether it has to do with running, lifting, gymnastics, etc any sport)

Oh I could write an entire post about this topic but here are few points:
1. Set realistic goals and realistic time frames to reach them. Start small and choose wisely.
2. Make a plan and get help from a qualified coach when needed. Most people tend to over do the wrong things in the beginning, especially with running. This will always lead to disappointment and/or injury.
3. Be patient. Depending on the goal and your current abilities/lifestyle, some goals can take years to achieve.  
4. Don't compare yourself to others. Even though we can get inspired and motivated by others, we are all different and should always honour that. What works for someone may not work for you and vice versa.
5. Be careful who you listen to. We are in a time were people run one a marathon and calls themselves a running coach; another has six pack abs and call themselves a nutritionist. If you are hiring someone, ask all the questions you need.
Running injured is not ok, there is no pride in that, it only shows you haven't learned how to take care of yourself. Same goes for nutrition, if your "detox" or whatever diet you are following is making you feel run down, hungry or angry there is something off balance. Your body is not "detoxing" your body is asking for help.
This is your life, your body, your wellbeing. Make sure you and whoever you work with understands that.

Hope you've been inspired by Paluna and her journey. Follow her blog here, and on Instagram. If you'd like to get in touch with her, go here. You might also feel inspired to go to an NTC class next week and you'll be able to meet her there too! If you don't have time to go or live too far make sure you check out the app, I do the workouts from home and if you're like me with technology, it's very easy to use ;)

A special shout out and thank you to Laura for the photography, and Veronica for the makeup! One last thing, here's a few shots from our last shoot together!


Have a good hair day friends! xo