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How to Prioritize Fitness, According to Hudson Valley Pros

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Railroad CrossFit owner Shawn McQueen (far left and below) with clients before and during the pandemic.
Photos courtesy of Railroad CrossFit

Two fitness experts in the Hudson Valley share their advice on prioritizing health and getting into a workout routine in the new year.

Railroad CrossFit’s Shawn McQueen

One look at Railroad CrossFit’s owner and head coach, Shawn McQueen, and you’d never guess that he was once a skinny, unfit kid. But in 2006, it was this 19-year-old who joined the U.S. Air Force. During the obligatory, intense, eight-week boot camp, he realized the enormity of what he’d signed up for. But he persevered and went on to enjoy four active years in the Air Force, carrying out high-profile missions that included guarding Air Force One at Kuwait airport.

Despite such thrills, McQueen had a growing passion for fitness and a genuine desire to help people overcome their demons and self-imposed limitations. Inspired by his mom’s advice to “follow your heart, no matter how difficult,” he left the military and pursued a career in health, fitness, and psychology.

In 2012, he was hired by the founder of Railroad CrossFit (named for its former location at Hudson’s Amtrak station) to be the head coach; and later that year bought the business. 

McQueen’s professional, judgement-free approach to mind and body well-being is enjoyed by a diverse community from across the region. The gym’s youngest member is 10; its oldest is 83. Some members are training to compete, some just want to get fit, but all are seeing the benefits of fun, safe, and effective workouts.

McQueen explains: “I can’t comprehend what goes on in each member’s daily life, but I can make sure that when they come to Railroad, it’s the best hour of their day.”

The other 23 hours of their day are also on his radar: He constantly educates members about the importance of sleep, nutrition, and a healthy, positive mindset.

McQueen’s Tips for 2021

Instead of “goals,” which tend to become “wishes,” define an outcome that you plan to achieve.

Be specific, not general, about that outcome. For example: “I want to lose 15 lbs in three months” versus “I want to lose weight.”

Don’t ask HOW you’re going to achieve it. Ask WHY. Reasons are what drive you. Reasons come first; answers come second.

Take massive action. You don’t go to the gym once and suddenly get fit. Results come from action.

Notice what you’re getting or not getting. So, if your current approach isn’t achieving your desired outcome, change that approach and simply try something else.

Don’t give up. Mastery and skill take repetition.

Remember: 80 percent of success is due to mindset; 20

percent is due to strategy.


Steve Farris. Photos courtesy of FITSOCIAL

FITSOCIAL’s Steve Farris

When Steve Farris — owner and founder of FITSOCIAL in Poughkeepsie — started his group fitness studio, his focus was not actually on fitness. “It was fostering a really cool spot where individuals could connect to their goals through the social side of life,” says the Saugerties native who began his studies at Dutchess Community College. “We are social first, which creates an emotional connection to fitness,” Farris explains.

And although the pandemic has created a challenge on the social part of things, the studio — located at in Queen City Lofts building — has adapted by “creating a more structured and user-friendly environment for our members,” says Farris.

A peek inside FITSOCIAL after hours.

Farris’ Tips for 2021

1. Start small, keep it realistic, and progress at a real pace!
Instead of counting calories, which is in depth to the core, focus on a simpler point to begin. Then you can slowly and consistently find your way. For instance, if you drink two bottles of soda or juice per day cut down to 13⁄4 bottles for your first week, then 11⁄2 bottle your second week.

2. Hydrate
Half your body weight in water should be the absolute minimum for water consumption each and every day. For example, if a person weighs 200lbs, they should drink 100oz of water per day, minimum!

3. Exercise: Keep things real with yourself and just be honest and open.
I believe that, in order to keep goals realistic and achievable, one must connect emotionally to the process, and not the outcome. The process can be fun — if you allow yourself the opportunity to actually be in it with others. Otherwise it can seem daunting and farfetched to reach the desired outcome. Then what’s left? Disappointment, despair, and miscommunication with yourself, which will always lead to what feels like failure.

4. Have a SMART mindset
What is your attitude towards your goal? Is it SMART? It must be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and specific to a certain Time frame in order to create success. Just get moving. Sometimes we think too long and too hard about choices and can never pull that trigger.

Focusing on wellness this New Year should not be looked at as a resolution. It should be viewed as value or self-worth because you deserve the best! The only thing standing between you and the “new you” is a realistic talk with yourself. So, remember to always keep it real and you will always be SMART.