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FITT Q&A: NATALIE HIGBY – FUNCTIONAL ATHLETE AND ALL-AROUND BALLER

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RYAN DEER

JUL 14, 2020

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IMAGE VIA @NAT.TRILL.FIT | INSTAGRAM

In a recurring series, we’re talking to inspirational people doing amazing things in ATX’s fitness scene. Today, we’re connecting with Natalie Higby — personal trainer, The Durable Athlete co-creator, and breathwork master.

Natalie’s a familiar face from South Austin’s Onnit Gym, but this proud Texan is making serious moves. We caught up with her about longevity, her work with the Jr. NBA, and how being dairy-free doesn’t rule out queso or lasagna.

WHERE DOES THIS JOURNEY BEGIN?

I grew up in Dallas, Texas. I spent a lot of time outdoors as a kid—hockey in the front yard, basketball, soccer, swimming—all day, every day. And I stuck with basketball through my first year of college at University of Texas at Dallas.

From a young age, I said I wanted to be a teacher — I figured I would just teach and coach at a local junior high. But I had this epiphany that if I didn’t leave Dallas, I never would. So, I left sports and transferred to Texas State in San Marcos at the end of the year to continue studying education.

That’s when I found CrossFit. It was amazing because it gave me a familiar community where I had a coach and teammates to go through the workout with.

SO YOU COMBINED YOUR PASSIONS?

It opened my eyes to how strong women can be. And my friend in San Marcos asked if I’d help run a gym while I was student-teaching at a local school. So, I got just about every certification I could find, started a women’s lifting class and personal training, and did all of the group training. After about two years, I moved to Austin.

I began taking courses at Onnit—asking tons of questions and training alongside the instructors—when the manager approached me to coach. I’ve been full-time for two years now, and it’s a dream job for me.

THAT’S WHY YOUR TRAINING RESUME IS LIKE 10 PAGES?

I consider myself a lifelong learner. With experts coming through the doors at Onnit, giving their certifications and seminars, I pretty much jumped at every opportunity to learn from anyone. There’s something I love about their “total human optimization” mindset.

THAT LED TO THE DURABLE ATHLETE.

I’ve always wanted to incorporate more to my training sessions. For most people, there's a lot more going on you can’t see, and they need a coach for all of it. How are you sleeping? How is your stress? How is your nutrition? It's the whole lifestyle.

So, my partner and I started The Durable Athlete in the past year to provide an online complement to face-to-face training.

WHAT KIND OF GUIDANCE DO YOU GIVE?

Basically, we try to keep it as simple as possible for people — from professional athletes to desk jockeys. It’s all about giving low-hanging fruit that can make a big difference on a daily basis, like waking up and drinking water before you drink coffee.

It’s built on four pillars: movement, breath, sleep, and nutrition. And they’re all related. Maybe get a little bit of sunlight and go for a morning walk — it'll help with sleep drastically. And the more and better we sleep, the better our mood and hunger is. And so that feeds into nutrition... In short, it's helping people feel optimized, energized, and performing at their highest level.

@nat.trill.fit | Instagram

HOW HUGE HAS THAT BEEN FOR PEOPLE DURING SOCIAL DISTANCING?

It’s not always easy, but I try to put out content on a regular basis. My partner, Cristian, and I have done donation-based Zoom and Instagram workouts from the get go; I do bodyweight and he does kettlebell. And we just released a free, four-week bodyweight training program for everyone, as well as a free seven-day mobility routine.

I can’t go without mentioning we’re launching The Durable Athlete app in the next month or two as well. Fortunately, this has been in the works since before COVID; we’ve been filming since September.

AND NOW YOU’RE WORKING WITH THE NBA, TOO?

On the day Onnit closed, we got word from the NBA that they wanted to partner with us to do all of the Jr. NBA’s at-home bodyweight workouts. It’s a lot of the mobility training that we do, and we finish every day with journaling assignments and some breathing exercises.

It’s really cool to see this full-circle. Cristian is a huge basketball fan and former player — it's kind of how we met. And our dog's name is Mamba, named after Kobe Bryant.

HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH BEING SO BUSY?

I’ve worked really hard on not getting stuck on whether or not I do my routine. I have a certain way I like to do things, and in the past, I would get frustrated or feel rushed if I missed something. Now, I understand that if I miss a day or two of something, that’s okay — I can just pick it back up.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO KICK THE DAY OFF RIGHT?

First, I cuddle with my dog for about 15 minutes. I drink water, I’ll do my mobility and breathwork, and I’ll wake up the house and light some incense. Then, I’ll take a walk to get some sunshine — that’s when I usually set intentions and think about things I’m grateful for.

Before COVID, I would head to Barton Springs to swim pretty much every morning, really early.

IS THAT YOUR GO-TO SELF-CARE?

Yeah, quiet time. Doing some meditation and some movement out there after a swim.

@nat.trill.fit | Instagram

SO THAT’S YOUR SECRET SAUCE TO FEELING GOOD. ANYTHING ELSE, EVEN IF YOU CAN’T PROVE IT?

I’m still thinking something with Barton Springs: cold water exposure. There’s something about it that wakes you up and has you feeling energized. Even when I can't do that, I'll try to take a cold shower. I feel like it helps with stress, too.

WHAT ABOUT WORKING OUT EVERY DAY?

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t work out every day, and part of that is just because we’re filming so much — we do all the Zoom workouts with you.

And I really do love doing bodyweight exercises in my backyard, without any weight. A lot of people view strength as how much weight you can pick up, but I like to view it as how well you can control yourself. So, throughout all of this, I’ve taken advantage of that for myself.

EVERY DAY IN FRONT OF THE CAMERA... WHERE DOES THAT CONFIDENCE COME FROM?

My mantra is “stay authentic because the world needs you as you are”. I truly want to share how this mobility, which is not sexy, can help you. It wasn’t always comfortable for me. Maybe I don't think I look the best today or I don't like my outfit or my hair. But I’ve realized we don't all need to be what we think is perfect.

WHAT ARE YOU EATING?

There’s no name for the diet that I’m following. But I love cooking with fresh ingredients, as much whole and real food as possible. I cut out dairy just because my body feels better that way, so I love making my own cashew or potato queso, basically any dairy-free version of cheesy topping I can.

AND WHEN YOU’RE NOT AT HOME, WHAT DOES A PERFECT DAY LOOK LIKE?

Waking up and going to Barton Springs — it’s really my favorite place in Austin. After a swim, going to the Picnik trailer on South Lamar. Then, a bike ride around Town Lake, chill time at Zilker Park, and Koriente downtown for dinner.

Afterward, maybe Peter Pan Mini Golf—where you can bring your own drinks—and going out to dance for a little bit.

THERE’S A LOT TO LOVE ABOUT AUSTIN, HUH?

It’s the best of both worlds. There are so many opportunities to just get out in the city and feel good. I love health and fitness, and there are a lot of places to go out to eat healthy.

But there are also places like the Greenbelt where you can feel like you’re in the middle of the woods, somewhere far, far away. To me, that’s really important.

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Get in tune with your body with Natalie’s Insta feed of bodyweight workouts, catch a 30-minute mobility session with her at Onnit, or get the full experience with The Durable Athlete. And stay tuned for more stories like this on Fitt ATX's Insta.

FLEX IN THE KITCHEN

As a bonus, try out Natalie’s dairy-free eggplant lasagna — you WILL be getting seconds.

Ingredients:

2 large eggplants • 1/2 pound elk chorizo or ground meat of choice • Miyoko's Creamery Vegan Mozzarella • 3 1/2 tbsp olive oil • 1 1/2 tsp salt • 1/2 tsp black pepper • 3 cloves garlic (chopped) • 1/2 tsp dried oregano • 8 small fresh basil leaves (chopped) • 1/2 jar Primal Kitchen Roasted Garlic Marinara Sauce • 1 cup Paleo Powder Seasoned Coating Mix (Cassava + Paleo Powder AIP)

Directions:

- Trim eggplant. Slice lengthwise to 1/4" thick slices.

- Place eggplant on baking sheet and sprinkle both sides with salt. Leave to “sweat” 45min.

- Pat dry and brush both sides with 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil.

- Heat oven to 400℉. Bake eggplant 20min.

- Meanwhile, heat remaining EVOO and sauté garlic until golden.

- Add in ground meat, salt, pepper, dried oregano, and basil. Cook until brown.

- Add tomato sauce. Cook a few mins. Set aside.

Assembly:

- Preheat oven to 375℉ and coat baking dish with cooking spray.

- Spread thin layer of meat sauce at bottom.

- Top with roasted eggplant, add more meat sauce, and finish with thin layer of cheese.

- Repeat steps until you run out of all of ingredients.

- Bake 40min, until the top gets golden and bubbly.

- Cool 15 to 20min before slicing and enjoy!

✌️

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