Don't be left out!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

5 Tips To Set SMARTER Goals In 2016

The New Year brings optimistic feelings of a fresh start, a clean slate, a new chance to reach our goals. Love them or hate them, it is estimated that almost half of Americans make resolutions every New Year. Step into any gym the first week of January and it is clear that fitness and weight-loss related goals are top picks for most resolution makers.  

Regardless of whether you are a newcomer to exercise or a seasoned triathlete, setting goals can be a great way to reach your goals any time of year. (Read you don’t have to wait for January 1st) 

In fact, according to a study from the University of Scranton, people who make resolutions are ten times more likely to reach their goals than people who do not make any at all.  

Resolutions are a dime a dozen; it is sticking with them that can be difficult. Sadly, the reality is that many of us who vow to make changes in 2016 will drop them before January is even over.  But not you, not this year.  Even when the year is already in action, it is never too late to start or to start over. Here are five tips to help you turn your New Year’s resolutions into lifelong habits.  

Make SMART resolutions:  Vague and ambiguous goals like “I want to start running” usually lack the oomph needed to get us off the couch, let alone hitting the pavement. A large factor in determining the likelihood of success lies in writing a strong, specific goal to begin with.  

The popular acronym SMART can be a great way to nail down exactly what you are after.  Your resolutions should be Specific (answering who, what, when, where, how), Measurable (how will you know when you hit your goal), Action oriented (what steps do you need to take to reach your goal), Realistic (is this goal attainable for you), and Time bound (when will you start and finish).  

What started out as “I want to start running” now looks like “I will follow the nine-week, couch-to-5K program and run at 5 o’clock in the morning on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at the gym.”  It may take you eight rough drafts to produce a clear and specific final copy, but it will be time well spent.

Set goals that leave you feeling like X-tina after a hot performance on the Voice
Protip: Total overhauls of one’s lifestyle may feel super exciting and brag worthy in the short term, but they also require a lot of effort and stamina to maintain in the long term.  Try focusing on changing one habit at time and you’re likely to have more success.  

See it, share it: Now that have your shiny, new goal decided upon, write it down and put it somewhere you will see it every day. Let it serve as a daily visual reminder of your original purpose.  

Whether you want to post your New Year’s resolution on Facebook or not is up to you, but telling at least a few close friends and family members might help you stick to your plan. When you share your goals with others, they can help provide support and accountability. They will inquire about your progress and may even offer to join you in pursuit of your goal.

No matter how many people you tell, build up your tribe of supporters before you really need it. In the likely event that you hit a bump in the road, they will be there to help you back up.

Protip: Find individuals- or better yet a group of people-who have already achieved your goal.  Want to compete in a push/pull event? Rub shoulders with experienced powerlifters. Looking to run your first half marathon?  Befriend some distance runners. Ask to join them for a workout or at the very least, buy them a coffee and pick their brain!      

Have a plan and a backup plan: Regardless of whether you are taking small steps or quantum leaps toward your resolution, map out what it is you need to do on a monthly, weekly, and even daily basis. Include even the nitty-gritty details like what do you need in your gym bag? What are you eating for breakfast? Do you need to buy groceries for your meal plan? If you’re strength training, what will you choose for sets, repetitions, and weight?  Have a plan. Get detailed.             

Even with the best laid plans, meetings will still come up. Kids will get sick. A blizzard will keep you from leaving your house. Whatever it is, life happens. The more you can anticipate these situations the more likely you will see them as an obstacle to jump over instead of an excuse to quit.  

Protip: Need help mapping out your workouts?  Hire a professional.  Because it’s not always what you’re doing but how you’re doing it that can really make a difference, in person training is second to none.  A professional can help you perform movements with proper technique and provide guidance on all the details like sets, reps, and load.  

Be patient: Creating new, sustainable habits or mastering a skill takes time to develop. It can be a bit like learning to ride a bicycle. Most of us needed training wheels to start and experienced plenty of times when we toppled over before it becomes second nature. Even seasoned athletes can find it difficult to improve their craft. Be patient with yourself. When you do make a mistake or progress stalls, don’t throw in the towel. Mistakes are to be expected.  Even the smallest steps in the right direction eventually add up. Focus on progress, not perfection.  

Protip: Training and nutrition can and will ebb and flow.  Few people are 100% committed 100% of the time.  Roadblocks will arise, just do your best when you can with what you have.

Don’t give up: Cavett Robert, one of the world’s first professional speakers, once said, “Character is the ability to carry out a good resolution long after the excitement of the moment has passed.”  Eventually the newness of a New Year’s will wane. Your friends who started out with great intentions may have already dropped off and you may even experience weeks, possibly months where progress seems non-existent. This will happen. Expect it and be ready.  

Protip: There will be days you’re just not up to putting in the effort.  That’s alright.  Feel free to take a day -or even a week- off.  If the feeling hangs around for weeks/months on end, consider reevaluating if your original goal is still something you're passionate about working towards.   

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Lifting For Two

At 16 weeks pregnant with my third baby, I’m no stranger to the ever present I-could-sleep-for-days-exhaustion, strange cravings (more eggs please), mood swings, and crazy dreams. Truth be told, I actually really enjoy being pregnant.   I mean, when I sit down and think about exactly what my body is doing, it’s pretty freaking amazing.  I’m making a baby human.  Unbelievable, isn’t it?

Although this isn’t my first rodeo, this is my first pregnancy as a certified trainer and powerlifter. In the time between my last pregnancy and this one, I’ve also spent time rubbing shoulders with some of the leading pre/postnatal trainers and women’s health physical therapists which has led to gaining a mind blowing amount of information on the importance of proper pre/postnatal movement.  

mind blown gif.gif

After detailed discussions with my go-to-everything-pre/postnatal-fitness-girl, and co-coach at Healthy Habits Happy Moms, Jennifer, together we’ve made some adjustments to my training during pregnancy that most likely will include dropping the weights (even more so than I had done already). 

It’s not the recommendation I wanted to hear.

Not listening.jpeg

To be honest, I was irritated and sad at the thought of reducing the load on the bar. I love Jennifer, but I wanted to give her the big double bird and explain that I’ve survived two pregnancies just fine without her advice thankyouverymuch. I wanted to shove photos of girls A, B, and C moving (what seemed like relatively) heavy weight in Jen’s face and say, “See! SEE! They’re doing it and they’re just fine!”. And finally, what about the age old advice that every pregnant woman seems to know, “If you did it before pregnancy, it’s fine to continue.”?

Gurl, please. I’m too advanced for this stuff.  

Mr. Rodgers.gif

I’ve spent just enough time in the postpartum world to know that re-entry into the fitness world is something that should be handled with care.

I am mentally and emotionally prepared for making modifications as my belly grows and taking steps back after delivery to rebuild core strength and working to ensure the integrity of my pelvic floor, but changes already in the second trimester?  Not so much.  

Hot mess.jpegIn Jennifer’s defense, she just made a few recommendations of how to change up my lifting, not to quit lifting all together.  She’s an advocate for women strength training. I’m just in a fragile, hormonal state right now. So BACK OFF.  *Please see mood swings in first paragraph. More specifically, Jen isn’t crazy about me “setting my air” or holding my breath during lifts. The internal pressure has to go somewhere and more often than not, your core/pelvic floor take the hit putting me at higher risk for diastasis recti and/or pelvic floor issues- types of issues that can lead to back pain, incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, and more. While the jury is still debating about when and how breath holding should be used during pregnancy, for a lifter who often sets her air for most compound lifts, it was a tough pill to swallow.

Since returning to lifting three years ago, I’ve squat, benched, and deadlifted three to four times a week.  Clearly I’m a creature of habit.  I’ve worked really hard to join the 300+ club in the squat and deadlift and pre-pregnancy was nearing the highly sought after by females, body weight bench press. So I’m sure you can understand, as vain as it may sound, watching the weights on the bar go lower and lower hurts my heart.  The gains!  The gains!  

On top of that, it’s not uncommon for media to celebrate pregnant women achieving impressive feats.  Pregnant powerlifting, pregnant marathoners, pregnant crossfitters, pregnant handstanding yogis.  If they can do it, I can too, right?  As much as I’d love to join them and stun people with heavy deadlifts at 30+ weeks pregnant, together with my prenatal health care team, 

I have to make the best decision for my pregnant body.  

Remembering, what’s right for one woman, isn’t right for me.  

You know how sometimes you look back on choices you’ve made and cringe a little?  Stirrup pants and geometrical rugby’s aside, that’s exactly how I feel when I reflect back on my exercise selection during and after my second pregnancy.  

I remember engaging in full on sprints and plyometrics at eight plus months pregnant and despite feeling like my vagina was going to fall out, I pressed on. I remember going for a jog at about 5 weeks postpartum to test the waters and experienced incontinence.  I thought to myself, “It will get better. Just keep going”.      

Did you die.jpegThat was my ego talking:  I’m too fit to take the recommended time off.  I don’t need modifications.  I’ll work through it.  Push past the pain and discomfort, it will get better.  All women experience this, JUST DEAL WITH IT.

At the time I didn’t see any women standing up and saying, “Hey!  I love lifting weights and exercising but I’m making adjustments to my pre/postnatal exercise routine to accommodate the needs of my ever changing body.”  And if I’m really being honest, I’m sure there were those women.  But if I had seen them, I probably rolled my eyes and chalked it up to women looking for an excuse to take it easy.  

(Ugh, that last sentence makes my stomach churn now. Please don’t judge me, I used to be a bit of a fitness jerk.)    

I just didn’t know any different.  But as the old saying goes, I feel as though “what’s been seen cannot be unseen”.  

I have a better understanding of how pelvic floor health, core function, breathing, and alignment all play an integral role in proper pre/post natal programming.  

Fast forward to today, although it’s a little scary (I get it), I’m more than happy to be one of the (what seems like many) girls that stands up and proclaims, “My body has other priorities right now and it’s important to me to honor that in a way that feels good to my body.”  If this resonates with you, I’m here for you girl. No shame in changing up your game.

If I am certain about one thing it’s that every woman and pregnancy is highly unique. Because of this I’m going to leave the specific prenatal recommendations to
professionals like Jennifer Campbell, the Healthy Habits Happy Moms community, and Julie Wiebe.  Mom to be, new mom, or veteran mom, I implore you to give them a follow.  Thanks to their work, and many others, I have more than enough encouragement and knowledge to feel fully supported in any modifications I should chose (or not choose) to make during and after pregnancy. 

So while I'm hanging up the lifting belt and breath holding techniques for now, I will most certainly continue to lift for two...with a few modifications.    

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Powerful lessons: Life Lessons Learned On The Platform

It's been a near a year since I last competed in a powerlifting meet and thanks to pregnancy it will be at least that long before I compete again.  Nonetheless, strength training, powerlifting and trying to stay at strong as *safely* possible is usually at the forefront of my mind.
Ashley giving hell on bench.  Photo by Ted Sandeen.

With just three years of powerlifting training under my belt and only a handful of competitions, I’m still new to the sport But the parallels between life and lifting continue to amaze me.

Spending time watching lifters compete recently reminded me of a few recurring lessons I've picked up through lifting that are completely applicable to everyday life. And since applying these "lessons" to my life outside the gym I've found more contentment and happiness.

It’s you vs. you. I know that sounds like one of those cheesy lines your trainer feeds you but it is absolutely spot on. There is no minimum strength requirement for powerlifting meets. So that “I’m not strong enough” crap won’t cut it. Unless a qualifying total is required, at any given meet you’ll find novices and experienced lifters alike sharing the platform, some lifting 100 pounds, some lifting 600.

Sure, there are talented lifters who enter meets with the intent of winning their weight class and/or best lifter, but the majority of the lifters are simply trying to do their best and break their own personal records, winning is a bonus. 

As counterintuitive as it sounds competing in powerlifting has helped me to let go of the constant competition I was having in my head with other women.  Gone are the days of sizing ladies up to evaluate who's stronger, prettier, leaner, more successful, or happier.  I managed to turn my focus inward and over time, what would have been jealousy for a stronger female has transformed into sincere happiness for their success.  

I have realized there will always be someone stronger, faster, leaner with better technique. That's not an excuse to stop striving for improvement but I did give myself permission to stop comparing. At the end of the day, what others are doing is out of our control. Spend your time focused on progressing your own lifts and not how they stack up against everyone else's.

My amazing teammate, Janis attempted a world record deadlift of 460.  Photography by Ted Sandeen
Effort is respected: While talented and successful lifters get most of the spotlight, effort put in by beginners or weaker lifters (comparatively speaking, of course) does not go unnoticed. At the gym I train at, 22nd Street Barbell, a stay-at-home-mom focused on gaining strength (like me) is supported the same as elite level lifters with over a decade of experience. Of course the outcome of said effort will vary from person to person but ultimately respect can be gained not just by the amount of weight you can lift but also by amount of effort you put in.

It’s not about what your body looks like but what it can do. Short, tall, lean, thick, straight, curvy, broad, narrow, small, and big. While certain bodily portions may bode well for particular lifts, you will find a variety of body types at a powerlifting meet. But more important than how your body looks, is what your body can do. How much power, force and strength can it produce? I have yet to watch someone hit a big deadlift personal record only to bitch about cellulite on their thighs.

22nd Street barbell photo.  Photo by Ted Sandeen
Pass it on. Competing in powerlifting may be (mostly) an individual sport but the preparation to get there takes a village. Hand-offs, spotters, encouragement, and accountability are all ingredients to success. As a whole, powerlifters are some of the most helpful people I’ve ever meet. Regardless if you’ve just met them or known them for years lifters help other lifters. Need a spot? No problem! Have a question? They’ll offer help. Squats aren’t deep enough? They’ll tell you because they want you to succeed. (Even though that last one bites a bit).

See, a lot of the knowledge powerlifters have attained is from years of training, trial and error, and learning from other lifters. That knowledge is worth it's weight in gold! When you get a chance to absorb some of that knowledge, you take it! Months/years down the road when someone else needs it, you pass it on.

Last year, I bombed out of my first full power meet because I didn’t hit depth in any of my squat attempts. (Grab great squat tips here) I was heartbroken but it wasn’t long before not one but two highly respected lifters approached me with words of wisdom I’ll never forget that encouraged me to keep going. Others have done that for them, they did it for me and you bet your bottom dollar if/when I see someone in need of the support, I’ll be there to pass it on.


Speaking of passing it on, before becoming a certified personal trainer, my lifting was a bit of a crap shoot. I didn't know exactly what I was supposed to do- I had some previous lifting experience but how was my form? How much weight? How many reps? How many sets? For how many weeks? I was guessing and hoping for the best.

Above all, I knew I wanted to become powerful and challenge myself in a way I found enjoyable (that last word is KEY, btw)

Thankfully I was introduced to 22nd Street Barbell which opened my eyes to a whole new world (cue Aladdin theme) to women striving to become MORE not LESS. After meeting and watching some women perform on the platform, I knew I had to get in on THAT! 

Finding the resources to help you get stronger in person is great but I realize not everyone has access to such. The next best thing, in my opinion- Unapologetically Powerful. Whether you want to actually compete or not Unapologetically Powerful will help you find answers to all those questions I once had too (and more). Friends, JVB and Jen Sinkler have been in the trenches just like you and me. They've taken all they've learned on the platform and want to pass it on to you because they know strength is a game changer.  Read more here.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Didn't See That Coming: 10 Surprising Things That Change When You Start Lifting

If you know me, you know I’m a fan of the iron.  Heavy, light, fast, slow, kettlebells, barbells, all the reps or just a few, I love any and all forms of strength training.  

I’ve spent the last few years gushing about the numerous benefits of strength training.  Improve strength, confidence, bone mass, body composition overall badassery and so much more.  What’s not to love?

Like many, I started lifting as a way to improve my body composition but little did I know that I would change more than just my appearance.  In addition to the the anticipated benefits, there were a handful of unexpected changes and pleasant surprises that popped up when I started lifting that no one told me about, and after a quick check with my lady lifting friends, I’m not alone.  

Consider this list the inside scoop on what may happen when you start lifting.  You know, the type of stuff only your best girlfriends will tell you.  I got your back, girl.  

Lean, mean, fighting machine? If you don’t have any actual sparring skills, don’t worry.  It seems that having a muscular build is enough alone for people to assume you could kick their butts.  Despite having a pleasant demeanor and never having been in a physical altercation, I’ve heard, “I wouldn’t want to make you angry.” enough to think I’m the next UFC middleweight champion.  

World record holder and teammate, Janis Finkelman, had a similar experience recently in Target.  I feel you Janis, I feel you.

Your waist is small and your curves are kickin’ A decrease in body fat and an increase in muscle mass may cause things to….well, shift.  As my fitpro friend, Amy Dix notes since lifting heavier, “My waist is smaller but my thighs are thicker.  This makes shopping for jeans, literally a pain in the butt.”

(To which I responded with, “Why are you wearing jeans, anyways?” #leggingsAREpants)

But seriously, if this happens, I’d be willing to bet it also means your squat and/or deadlift are also growing, which is a great thing.  Besides, jeans that fit perfectly off the rack are hard to find no matter what your shape is. So don’t fret.  Find yourself a good tailor (or enjoy spandex everyday like I do) and keep it moving.    

I actually took this selfie to show my friends how hard
I was "working" but I think it highlights the black hole nicely.  
It’s the pits  Lifting isn’t the pits but shaving your pits may become more difficult.  Between more pronounced pectorals and a developing lat, I’ve been left with a bit of a black hole in the underarm area when I raise my hands overhead (see photo to the right).

The only workaround I’ve found effective for shaving is to awkwardly push my elbow into the side of the shower while simultaneously protecting my scapula in an effort to expand the surface area.  I’m totally open to suggestions because at this rate, I may dislocate something or go full blown Euro style.  

Can you open this?  Of course most people don’t start lifting with the sole intent to improve grip strength but thanks to deadlifts and pull ups, pickle jars, jams, or screw top beers are no match for your grip.  Toss out those ugly rubber gripper thingies because you’re a do-it-yourselfer now!  

Forearms Speaking of grip strength, you can also add it’s cohort, jacked forearms to the list of unexpected surprises that arose from lifting.  I never thought I could have such a fond admiration for strong….forearms.  But now I find myself clenching my fist and slowly rotating my wrist to highlight the definition.  While others are mirin big biceps and glutes, I’m checking out forearms veins.  I didn’t see that coming….ever.  Who am I?      

Flex appeal Go ahead and just plan on spending an extra five to ten minutes in the morning in front of the mirror because, muscles.  Even just the slightest definition in a bicep, tricep or quad will have you flexing in the mirror all googly eyed like the first time I saw Ian Ziering as Steve Slater on 90210.  

Don’t worry mom  If your mom is anything like my mom, she’s going to worry about your safety while lifting.  After showing my mom some photos of my male teammates at 22nd Street Barbell lifting she asked, “Do you feel safe down there with those men?”  “Those men” of course had beard and tattoos that would rival some of the best at Sturgis which made her a little uneasy.  I assured her, they were cool and I was fine.  

Teammate and fitpro, Bridget Smith’s mom also expressed concern that she might get injured.  Look, you and I both know that safety, injuries (knock on wood) or accidentally getting too big aren’t anything to stress about, but mom’s worry.  It’s in their nature.  I’ve had great success with slowly dropping lifting nuggets in small doses over the course of a few months.  Before you know it, they’ll be asking you to flex for their friends.  (No really, my mom would ask me to do this.  Totally weird, right?)

Wanna wrestle?  Next to fighting (see item #1) it’s also assumed that you’re good at wrestling.  Arm, leg or full contact on the mat style, it doesn’t really matter.  People will want to wrestle you.  I think it’s a compliment and if you can somehow wrangle winning some money out of it, more power to you.  

Just FYI, I am undefeated in leg wrestling so you could say things are getting pretty serious.  

Miss independent  You know all those things you had to wait to do until you had help? Things like carry ice melt, put the jug on the water cooler, or haul luggage downstairs and into the car?  Not anymore. Thanks to increased strength and confidence, those are one woman jobs now. (If you want them to be.  Wink, wink)  

Ride or die chicks  I didn’t start lifting with the intent of meeting new friends but that didn’t stop it from happening.  Some really great connections have sparked from a simple, “Can I work in with you?” and to my pleasant surprise, some of those ladies have become close friends.  They don’t judge you wearing spandex all day, everyday or you constant need for food and water.  They get you.  

Your turn:  What pleasant surprise and unexpected changes have you noticed since you began lifting?

Monday, July 20, 2015

Challenges: Great or Gimmick?

Squat challenge, yoga challenge, push up challenge, core challenge, burpee challenge, running challenge, flossing your teeth challenge.

I'm teasing about the last one, although it's not a bad idea.

Fitness challenges are a series of daily events focusing on improvement a specific movement, typically lasting 30 days and they are H-O-T hot right now.  It doesn't stop at fitness either, popular diet and supplement companies are also jumping on the challenge train.

Social media has provided a wonderful platform for these challenges, utilizing hashtags like #30daysofyoga and #30dayfitnesschallenge to drum up excitement and connect participants for additional support.

Fitness challenges have been a frequent topic of conversation between my colleagues, Jen (Mama Lion Strong) and Lauren (Moms Done Dieting).  Are they just a gimmick or a great way to dip your toe in the fitness waters?  The answer is, just like most things in the fitness world, it depends.

Here are five items to consider before beginning your next challenge.  

Habit forming?  Turns out 21 days to form a habit philosophy is a bit of a myth.  A Study out of London actually concluded that it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days to turn a task into a habit. In other words, jumping into a 30 day challenge may be a great way to get started with a routine but it may not be long enough to form a habit.  The good news is, you always have the authority to adjust any challenge to meet your needs.  If you feel like you need more time practicing a task for it to become a habit, go for it!

Have a plan for day 31: Arm yourself with a post challenge plan of attack to help ensure that your efforts don't go to waste.  Just like we don't brush our teeth for 30 days, take the next month off, and expect continued dental health, movement and health habits are something to practice consistently, challenge or not.  

Perfect bum in 30 days: Can you expect results upon completion of your challenge?  It depends.  It depends on a lot of factors including, but not limited to:
  • The purpose of the challenge
  • Your strength and conditioning when starting the challenge
  • Your previous experience relevant to the challenge 
  • How consistent you are participating in the challenge
Can you expect to see a shapely bum after 30 days of squats?  Probably not.  Change, especially in body composition, takes time, consistency and lots of patience.  So if you don't look any different post challenge, don't throw in the towel.  Do anything for 30(ish) days and I'm confident you will likely experience important improvements elsewhere, weather it be in mobility, strength or conditioning.  

Mindset matters: If your approach to any challenge is, "I've just gotta get through this." you might want to consider dialing back the task to consist more sustainable actions.  Sure, testing your mental and physical strength with more extreme measures can be fun from time to time.  But if long term, sustainable results are what you're after, you might be better off selecting challenges and activities you can maintain beyond the length of three or four weeks.

One size does not fit all:  Instead of approaching challenges with a "comply or die" attitude, think of them as guides.  Find a move too easy or difficult?  Adjust as needed.  Miss a day?  Pick up where you left off.  You won't end up on fitness challenge jail, I promise.

Are fitness challenges a great idea or a or just a gimmick?  When used appropriately, challenges can be a great way to start or spice up a routine.  In addition to the physical benefits, challenges typically also come with built in community support.  Connect with others following the same challenge to stay accountable and find support.  Just don't be misled into thinking they're an easy cure-all to your fitness challenges.    


Lally, Phillippa, Cornelia H. M. Van Jaarsveld, Henry W. W. Potts, and Jane Wardle. "How Are Habits Formed: Modelling Habit Formation in the Real World." Eur. J. Soc. Psychol. European Journal of Social Psychology 40.6 (2009): 998-1009. Web.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Are You Swimsuit Ready?

Summer is here and with a rise in temperature comes weekends on the water, nights at the ball field, and tan lines. A season typically known for its carefree vibe, the warm summer sunshine has a way of lifting spirits even after the gloomiest winters.

The increase in heat also means a decrease in clothing. Shorts, tank-tops, and swimsuits are commonplace come summertime, and while they are a great way to keep cool, baring even modest amounts of skin can leave some feeling overexposed, anxious, and self conscious.

Quickly scan any newsstand and you are sure to read headlines appealing to the readers’ insecurities by promising new diets to get you “ready for summer” and exercises aimed at helping you get a “perfect swimsuit body”. Not only are those headlines often totally bogus but many (although, not all) are also full of intense and restrictive regimes which often yield unsustainable results. Not to mention, if you have a body (you do), and you wish to wear a swimsuit, you are swimsuit ready right now, as is.
Despite what the magazine and retail industries want you to think, approval or permission from the media and/or general public is not needed to wear one. Simply put, if you want to wear one, do. If not, that is cool too. 

Before you drop your next paycheck on a insta-fix claiming to cure your “imperfections”, consider that cure may not be about changing your body but more about changing your mindset.  

I've owned one bikini in my life and can distinctly remember the two times I wore it.  I wore it once on a girls trip to Mexico because of tan lines.  The other time was on my honeymoon because I knew I wouldn't run in to anyone I knew.  

I remember driving in the car years ago with my husband and he inquired about why I wouldn't consider wearing a bikini again.  My list of reasons included reasons like... I was approaching "that age" where a woman probably shouldn't wear one, I have cellulite, varicose veins, stretch marks, and of course, no six pack.  Clearly my body wasn't bikini ready.  

Or was it?

That was eight years ago.  

Fast forward to today.  At 32, I'm still approaching "that age" where a woman shouldn't wear a bikini (whatever the f*** that means?), I still have cellulite, varicose veins, stretch marks and no six pack. 

But I today I also have something else.........

A two piece.  

That's right.  I'm giving a big 'ole double bird to my so-called imperfections feels fantastic!  

 Ross' "secret language"
If I had chosen to wait until I had a body that met my former expectations, I'd still be waiting...possibly forever.  At almost a quarter of my life, eight years is just way too long to spend feeling limited by my expectations.  
Yea, all the stuff I'm not crazy about is still there but I've chosen to shine the spot light on what I love about my body and, maybe more importantly, what my body can do. Today, all those "flaws" don't ruffle my feathers anymore than a chipped nail or curls that fall flat.  It's just  

This mindset shift didn't exactly happen over night but I've realized that sometimes it's necessary to change how we see before we can change how we look.  


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Exercise Is About More Than A Pretty Body

My husband was out for the night and I always have trouble sleeping when he’s gone.  It was approaching 12am, well past my regular bedtime of 10pm,  when I caught myself mesmerized by an infomercial for a fitness program.  

With highly energetic speakers, flashy graphics, and enticing claims, I could totally see why one would be interested in their product.  I was interested too, but a recurring message really turned me off.  That message was that exercises’ primary intended purpose is to change the way you look.

Phrases like, “...fat-burning exercises help carve out a leaner, stronger physique.” and “Do it during the last 3 days of (enter product name here) for mind-blowing "after" pictures.” plagued the infomercial.  Never mind the other million benefits of exercise.

Wouldn't it be great to read headlines like these too?
This appearance focused marketing approach is all over the fitness industry.  A quick online search of popular women’s health and fitness magazines article titles rendered results like, “The Surfer Body Workout” and “This Move Will Make Your Legs Look Sexier In Skirts”.  The actual content of each article had great share worthy information but the underlying message, similar to the infomercial, suggested yet again that the primary intended purpose of exercise is to change the way you look.    

Even a group exercise class I used to teach had a name that implied this same message. “Body Sculpt”.  Where members come to sculpt their body, yea?  I suppose “Resistance training for people who want to prevent osteoporosis and improve mood” doesn’t roll off the tongue as nicely, although that’s what it was.  Nonetheless, it was a great class.  (Of course it was, I taught it. Wink, wink.)    

Aspiring to change your appearance is what often drives many individuals to partake in a routine in the first place. In fact, that’s exactly what drove me back into the gym after a year long hiatus.   I have absolutely no problem whatsoever with using exercise to chase sculpted shoulders, or drop weight so you can fit into a favorite pair of jeans as I too once wanted to lose weight and improve my body composition.  But the hugely disproportionate manner in which the fitness industry and media values exercises’ ability to change our appearance as opposed to our health, leaves me unsettled.    

The message seems to be that exercise, is intended to make you look like (enter preferred body type here). Whether you’re an aspiring bodybuilder or someone who just wants thinner thighs, there is an exercise program out there promising they can change your body.  In fact, you might be hard pressed to find an exercise program that doesn’t use an idealized body type as a cornerstone of their marketing.  After all, fit looking, toned bodies seem to be what sells.  

I can't help but feel that where we place value is out of balance.
What happens if you take up exercising and don’t see any physical changes? Or if an individual never reaches similar proportions of the idealized body? That’s typically when disappointment sets in, as many individuals often feel like their efforts in the gym have been for nothing thus leaving them feeling like a failure.  

But it’s not for nothing as change and progress aren’t always visible to the eye.  

When we only value exercises’ ability to change how we look and use appearance as the measuring stick we do a huge disservice to the other numerous health benefits exercise offers. The benefits of exercise shouldn't play second fiddle to appearance, especially in a country where diseases like Type II diabetes, depression and high blood pressure are commonplace.

Regular exercise helps improves the quality and quantity of life, decreases likelihood of developing various diseases, and aids in supporting mental health.  Chances are if you’ve been participating in regular activity, of any kind, for awhile you’ve likely experienced one or more of the many benefits of exercise listed below.  (Note NONE of these have anything to do with physical appearance)  

  • Improves your chances of living longer and living healthier
  • Helps protect you from developing heart disease and stroke or its precursors, high blood pressure and undesirable blood lipid patterns
  • Helps protect you from developing certain cancers, including colon and breast cancer, and possibly lung and endometrial (uterine lining) cancer
  • Helps prevent type 2 diabetes
  • Helps prevent osteoporosis
  • Reduces the risk of falling among older adults
  • improves cognitive function among older adults
  • Relieves symptoms of depression and
  • Relieves symptoms of anxiety
  • Improves mood
  • Improves heart-lung and muscle fitness
  • Improves sleep

Bragging about improved sleep and lowered blood pressure may not be perceived as sexy of a tag line as a photo of someone who dropped 10% body fat, but it should be.  Before and after photos highlighting defined muscles and lean limbs is fine but I would be more impressed with a before and after of improved blood lab results or photo showing how increased activity has elevated their quality of life.  That’s the stuff that really matters.  Isn’t it?

Wouldn’t it be great to live in a culture where improvements in health were celebrated as much, if not more than improvements in appearance?

Regardless if it's a six pack, better sleep (or both) that's motivating you to move, remember there is more to health than what meets the eye.    

I don’t expect to see magazine headlines and infomercials ceasing all mention of appearances completely, although that would be totally awesome.  But, I would love to hear about how you have benefited from exercise in ways that have nothing to do with your looks.    Leave a comment below!


  1. "The Benefits of Physical Activity." The Nutrition Source. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 May 2015. <>.