Published July 3, 2016

FHITspiration: Two-a-Days with Shira Burstein

Regular FHIXer and psychotherapist, Shira, shares how getting her FHIX makes her not only physically stronger but also mentally stronger. Read on to see how she mentally prepares for each class.


Many of us know of the expression 'two-a-days,' a term commonly used to describe when a team or individual trains athletically on two separate occasions during the same day. As New Yorkers we are used to doing things quickly and efficiently and expect the world around us to follow suit. So what would you say if I told you there is a way to make 'two-a-days' happen in a matter of one 50-minute experience? It occurred to me as I was waiting for my TFR class to start that I was actualizing this very concept. "This is your first class too?" a woman said to me as my 5:30 FHIX came closer. My interpretation: you look scared. " 10th, I'm just in my head, anticipating the challenge coming up." As a psychotherapist, being cerebral is a comfortable mental land I live in quite often...but this was different.

7.6.16 Shira's Quote (1)

There are many studies that discuss the links between exercise and mood, but what I encounter and see as the benefits of The Fhitting Room extend far beyond, to a longer-term impact. A deeper impact that exceeds just plain "improved mood" with a side of badass biceps. According to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, (CBT) the object is to solve problems by changing unhelpful thinking and behavior. This approach is problem focused and action oriented. AKA: determining personal challenges and discovering specific, tangible and applicable environmental and mental strategies to overcome them so that you can in turn behave (and feel) more productive and satisfied. In my terms: defying my automatic perceived fears and imagined failures ("I'll never make it through this class") and implementing the encouraging narratives and concrete proofs I tell myself ("I know I'm getting stronger. I was successful last time") before I get sweat-deep into my sets of snatches, renegade rows, upside down wall planks, battle ropes and kettlebells, kettlebells, kettlebells! It's what CBT aims to eradicate which includes errors in our thinking such as catastrophizing, minimizing positives and maximizing negatives as well as over-generalizing.

Even after six months of being a regular FHIXer I noticed myself saying recently, "I definitely can't do that" when FHITpro (and El Capitán), Eric Salvador, told us that one of our circuit drills would be banded push-ups, and to add a clap if we can! I went from "no" to "go" as I came closer and closer to that station. I rapidly processed my CBT techniques and tools that are indicated below and allowed my mind and then body to engage fully in completing the push-ups all while clapping my way through!

Shira Box Jump

So how does this translate to TFR and how does this covert two-a-days work you ask? CBT has four basic assessment steps:

1. Identify critical behaviors
2. Determine their severity
3. Evaluate the behaviors for frequency, duration or intensity (know your baseline)
4. Determine whether your goal is to maximize or minimize a certain behavior

In FHIT terms: it's what you are doing, mentally during the few minutes before class when you come in to foam roll and see your specific road map on the gigantic white board. It's the CBT blueprint of your 50-minute warm-up, interval and FHIX. It's identifying that you'll need to engage in a set of booty-band squats, jacks, deadlifts and rowing for certain time periods and intensities with the goal of becoming stronger and more efficient in your practice. For me, it's the moment I start noticing my cognitive distortions of what I'm capable of and start my mental workout to revamp the story I'm telling myself of what I can achieve. This is the point where I get trapped in what I call my 'misery mix-tape.' The negative narratives about myself "I'm not as good as the person next to me," the time I heard a trainer in a class (not at TFR) shout, "guys pick up a 15 pound set, ladies pick up a 7.5 pound set" an ex-boyfriend who would mock my 'J.LO ass' and tell me that the most beautiful women were not strong, but rather delicate 'ballerina types'...quiet....who should be seen and not heard. The emotional chopping down of my ego raining down on me while I walk over to the kettlebell wall and proudly and deliberately pick up the 20KG grey weight for my Romanian Deadlifts, just to prove not only to all of them that they are wrong about me, but to finally convince myself that I'm wrong too...for believing them.

Shira TRX

In this, The Fhitting Room becomes a vehicle to train your body, but also to train your mind at the exact same instant. Both CBT and TFR become an opportunity in tandem for the individual to have a more positive, mindful and undefended approach to themselves and to difficult environmental circumstances. This two-fold encounter starts with seeing the challenge up ahead and it continues as you push through your 50 minutes of insurmountable exercise. With every breath and increase in heart rate, your brain is also reaffirming that if you think you can, then you can, and if you complete this, then certainly you can achieve most anything you set your mind to. One major aspect of CBT is reconceptualizing our realities. What I see, is that TFR becomes my first hand exposure to reconceptualizing a life circumstance that could seem fear inducing and possibly defeating and instead becomes a chance to convert my thoughts into a sense of accomplishment, determination, strength and coping. The long-term impact is that this skill can then be universalized and applied to other areas outside of the cozy black and green room I come to each week for my FHIX. We not only become masters at burpees but become the ruler of buff brains, feeling secure in our own skin, managing difficult jobs, complicated relationships and general anxiety. This two-a-day comes neatly wrapped in a bow in that way...and that my friend, is the secret to a New York express line to your double dose of working out.

Shira is a New York based psychotherapist with a masters in Advanced Clinical Therapy from Columbia University. In her private practice, Shira provides individual, family and couples sessions for various issues, some of which include: anxiety, depression, self-esteem issues, communication problems, life transitions, issues with interpersonal relationships, trauma, work stress and other stress related issues. Shira sees clients in Park Slope: 

Shira Eric Jason

Shira gets her FHIX every Tuesday night at the Flatiron studio with FHITpros Eric and Jason.