Melissa Farley’s exercise moves might be familiar to magazine junkies.
INTERVIEW BY Martha Thomas PORTRAIT BY Mary C. Gardella
Melissa Farley, founder of Fitrition, a company that emphasizes the connection between fitness and nutrition, began her career as a dancer with the Joffrey Ballet at the Kennedy Center when she was in her teens. After an injury, she studied theater and dance at the University of Maryland and then moved to New York, where she appeared on film, television and off- Broadway. She went on to become a personal trainer, working with private clients, and studied at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York. She has appeared as a model demonstrating fitness routines in such publications as “Yoga Journal,” “Men’s Health” and “Runner’s World.” A board certified holistic health coach, she currently lives in Fulton. The bulk of Fitrition’s business is one-on-one training.
Q How did you get started?
I was a dancer with the Joffrey Ballet when I was, like, 16. I tore my knee and thought I’d never be a ballerina. I did modern dance at the University of Maryland and when I lived in New York, I danced with Doug Parsons and did music videos and TV. I also worked as a trainer. People always wanted to know what I ate. At that time there was no nutritionist in the gym. I went back to school so I could counsel people on food. I’m considered a holistic nutrition coach. You can’t have one without the other. The number on the scale comes with what you are eating or not eating. The way you look at that number comes from your exercise.
Q Who are your clients?
I work mostly with people aged 40-80. They have established their careers, done their family time. A lot of women come in and say ‘it’s time to focus on me.’ I have a lot of lawyers, people with high stress jobs. I work with four areas: cardio, core, strength and flexibility. All of those need to be in balance, and when they aren’t, you see problems. I’m helping clients prevent injury, stay strong and flexible, so they don’t end up in chronic pain as they age.
Q I guess that target market can also afford your services.
I am in my early 30s; I’m a young mom. I also offer classes geared to people like me, and I offer child care at the same time. It’s a different price point.
Q Do you train men?
Yes, I work with a lot of men. Men need to train like women once they are in their 40s. Men over 45 are lacking core strength and need to work on core and increase flexibility. I get so many men who can’t touch their feet, who have chronic back and hip pain.
Q Can you sum up your philosophy when it comes to nutrition?
In the simplest terms it’s eat real food. So many people are so far away from real food it’s mind-boggling. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store: fruits, vegetables, fish and meats, dairy. In the middle is where everyone gets lost in this pretend-to-be-healthy stuff. Like, Oh Granola bars! “Natural” – doesn’t mean it’s good for you. The marketing and food labels are crazy. You need to eat real food number one. Also, the majority of people eat way too many carbs, which leads you to just crave more carbs and it becomes an endless cycle. The missing link in most people’s diets is healthy fats.
Q Such as?
Avocados, fish, salmon, sardines, olive oil, olives, nuts, flax seeds. They keep you full. They’re not full of sugar. A lot of people have heard about that diet where you eat every three hours to keep your metabolism going. That was a body builder diet, and they were talking about chicken breast or protein to help keep you lean. People have turned that into ‘I’m going to have gluten-free crackers every three hours,’ along with their sandwich and everything else. They’re basically eating carbs all day. If you have healthy fats at all three meals you won’t need snacks. Have a high fiber carb, a lean protein and a healthy fat at every meal. Instead of eating mindlessly all day, start with a healthy breakfast and then you don’t have to eat again until lunch.
Q What kind of workout habits should women strive for? How often and how much?
People should exercise 3 days a week, for at least 30 minutes. That’s minimum. The problem is, you need cardio, core, strength and flexibility. For cardio, if you’re 60 years old, maybe cardio is walking. If you’re 40, it might be running. For core, you may need to make sure you can identify that core. Strength for 60-year-olds might be supporting their own weight by doing a plank. For flexibility, there’s a broad range from slower hatha yoga to the 40-year-old going to her hot yoga class. My runners need to stretch, so they should do yoga. My yogis could stretch all day, but they need the cardio.
Q What kind of acting work did you do in New York?
I was on “The Sopranos” and “Gossip Girl.” On “The Sopranos” I was Jamie Lynn Sigler’s double –actors have a double, a stand-in to go through the scene for lighting and camera angles, so when the real actors step in, everything’s set for them. I was also a bartender at the Ba Da Bing (strip club). It was very fun. In “Gossip Girl” I was a double for a lead actress and was one of the high school girls in the first episode. I also modeled for “Yoga Journal,” “Runners World,” “GQ” and “Shape” magazines. Where you see someone demonstrating exercises, that’s me.
Q We’re three months into a new year – at this point people will be either succeeding or failing at New Year’s resolutions. Do you have any advice?
I’d encourage people to check in with a trainer, to check their alignment and see what’s going on. I just did a workshop in Maple Lawn. We spent an hour releasing tight necks so students could feel their core. If you’re 45 and you’ve never felt your core really work, that has to happen. Then we can get you on a program so you can feel your core strengthening and lengthening.
Q And how to stay motivated?
Some people can do it on their own; some need encouragement. Get a friend. A running buddy. Accountability is huge. Be accountable to a trainer or to a friend. For some reason we won’t let our friend down, but we’ll let ourselves down. Spring is a great time to start fresh with motivation. Then set little goals. I encourage people to start with a weekly goal, then a monthly goal. If you work in an office, set a weekly goal of taking a walk at lunch. A goal might be to drink more water. You should drink half your body weight in ounces of water a day. You can’t lose weight if you’re dehydrated. Or stretch for 10 minutes a day. Establish small goals and check them off. People like to check things off the list. Then have one monthly goal you can change every month. Slow and steady always wins the race. *