Strength + Flexibility Through Gymnastics

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Chris Garay is the owner of Physicality GST in Washington, DC. He is currently one of the only GymnasticBodies Certified Athletes, Trainers, and Affiliates on the East Coast, having spent countless hours attending workshops and studying under former Junior National Coach Christopher Sommer. Chris is interested in helping change people’s lives for the better, and he is always striving to learn and improve.

How does GST differ from some of the more common fitness programming you see on the market today (e.g. Crossfit, yoga, etc.)?
GST stands for Gymnastics Strength Training, and as such it focuses on developing bodyweight strength and flexibility movements. We primarily emphasize core strength, joint mobility, and calisthenic exercises in a controlled, quality-first environment.

How did you get started with fitness?
I grew up playing sports like basketball, soccer, wrestling, karate, and more. In high school I got into marching percussion and ended up spending the next 10 years performing in drumlines all over the country. Once that ended, I decided to try triathlon to get outside and keep me in shape. That led to CrossFit in 2009, and eventually GST a few years later!

Where does your motivation come from?
Motivation can come from lots of places if you are open to receiving it. Music, film, art, athletics, etc. can all be "motivating" depending on the person. I am constantly motivated by my clients, my colleagues doing GST all over the world online, and by myself! Sometimes you just simply choose to act without motivation... and that itself can be all that is needed to get you moving.

What workout routine has worked best for you?
Gymnastics Strength Training. I supplement my bodyweight strength and flexibility routine with some old school basic lifting movements as well, such as squats, deadlifts, presses, rows, etc. I train 4-5 days per week for 1-2 hours a day, depending on which training phase and goals I have at the time.

If you had to pick only 3 exercises, what would they be and why?
Handstands, muscle-ups, and single-leg squats. These three cover straight-arm, bent-arm, and lower body strength, plus they all require joint mobility and core strength. Not bad "party tricks" either!

What is your training philosophy?
I'm not sure that I consciously have a singular training philosophy! However, here are some principles that I tend to prioritize:

  • Quality over quantity

  • Full range of motion

  • Progressive overload

  • Specific adaptation to imposed demands

What do your morning and evening routines look like?
Morning: Wake up at 5:30 am, water, coffee, protein shake or eggs, then out the door by 6:15 am. Typically walk or bike to the gym, just not when it's incredibly cold outside.

Evening: Home anywhere between 6-8 pm, dinner (home-cooked most days), Netflix, then hot shower. Dim lights, lavender essential oil, and light reading before 9:30 pm lights out.

Here's my pour-over coffee recipe (double the numbers if making a Chemex for two):

What you'll need: 20 g coffee beans (single-origin, freshly roasted from Maketto, Smallplanes, Commonwealth Joe, etc.) and 300 g water (boil then let cool 1 min)

  1. Grind coffee to medium-fine (use a burr grinder if possible, not blade)

  2. Pour 60 g of water, stir the slurry lightly, then let coffee bloom 30 sec.

  3. Pour remaining water slowly, stir lightly at the end, then let all water filter through beans.

  4. Once all water is filtered, pour into mug, and you're good to go!

What is your diet like?
Paleo-ish? Fairly balanced in terms of macro-nutrients. Breakfast is high protein and moderately high fat. Lunch is balanced with veggies. Dinner is high protein and high carb from a starch source. Tons of water throughout the day. I mostly minimize gluten, dairy, and alcohol, but not entirely!

What’s one food you couldn’t live without?
Eggs. Or dark chocolate. Is coffee considered a food? Maybe bacon.

How do you handle unhealthy food cravings?
I eat the g*d d*mn food! Then I move on with my life. Ha seriously though, I eat a lot of very healthy food, so by that point if I have a craving, I can satisfy it by just having a little bit.

Here is a better answer: I don't keep any unhealthy foods in my house. It's hard to eat ice cream at 10 pm on a Friday when you don't have any and no one delivers ice cream!

What is your approach to nutrition?
Depends on your goals. For me, I'm fortunate to train quite a bit and have pretty lean genetics. So, I eat a ton of healthy food to support my athletic lifestyle. Over time I have found certain foods that work well for me, and others that I choice to avoid so that I feel better.

What are 3 tips for someone looking to change their fitness and nutrition habits?

  1. Train more, or harder, or both. Strength train 3-4 days per week with challenging movements that actually get you stronger.

  2. Eat more, or better, or both. Eat 3-4 meals per day with minimally processed foods that actually nourish your body.

  3. Sleep more, or better, or both. Sleep 7-9 hours per night in a cool, dark, silent room so your body can actually rest.

What are your hobbies and interests outside of the gym?
2018 will be the first full year that I am not teaching or performing music, so I guess drumming is now considered a hobby! I am also very interested in coffee, mostly just as a home-brewing geek. I have an AeroPress, French Press, Chemex, Hario V60 pour-over, American press, Rok Espresso Maker, Bialetti Espresso Maker, and three different grinders.

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