I’m Alive….

I love that song by Sia, “I’m Alive”. I belt it out at the top of my lungs in the car. I used to belt it out during a killer spin class climb when it was on the set list. Powerful vocals plus adrenaline = euphoria on a whole other level. There are a few songs that do that for me.

I haven’t written much about fitness in the last 1.5-2 years, basically because I’ve been walking dogs and that is pretty much all I’ve been doing. Getting sober, getting through a low period, revamping my nutrition, physical therapy/shoulder rehab, nursing an ankle, an 11-month deployment and just getting through the days were the focus. Fitness was not. I didn’t give a rip about miles or squat form. Burn out seems a little harsh, but it was somewhere in the mix. I LOVED working at the gym. I loved working with clients one on one. I love teaching. It’s in my DNA. What I did not have at the time was balance. When I was at home, I was thinking about work, and vice versa. It wasn’t tenable at that level for me long term. My body was also telling me in not so subtle ways to go slower. I tend to the all or nothing – slug-sloth-fest on the couch or running marathons and working out 6 days a week. No in-between. (Some life lessons I seem to be determined to learn only after being clobbered with it more than once!)

It is not sustainable long term to go balls to the wall all the time.

I knew I would come back to it. I’ve been itchy for some good endorphins for a while now. I was good with my hiatus. I needed it. My body needed it.

But now I need to get me back.

Chatting with a friend we both expressed a need to get back to ourselves, to feeling amazing and strong and….alive. What I did in 2012 and since is awesome, and in large part why I started a blog in the first place. This fitness stuff is such a great ride – but it’s for the long term, not just for a reunion, a 6 week-program, a year, whatever. There is no expiration date.

It’s for life, for my life. 

Today started with a brief walk/run warm up with the dogs for a whopping 1.25 miles. I came home and had to get the space organized. Adios cardboard!

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My new space

It’s smaller than what I have had in the past – but is so doable. I also have access to a small gym within walking distance. YES! I also had to dig out the ankle brace because it was talking to me. (*See above “balls to the wall” comment above. Insert eye roll here.) Sure! Take a year and a half off and then go run a 5k. That won’t hurt at all!

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Make it work

After getting it all set up and running up and down 2 flights of stairs about a bazillion times, (so sorry ankle!) I was ready to rock. (Some of my gear was in the garage, some was on the 3rd floor.) Yay stairs!

I popped on the playlist and got to work:

Warm up: Bear crawl 30sec, 12 reps inverted hamstring each side, 10lb ball hip hinges, bodyweight lie down and get up 60sec, shoulder mobility work, cobra presses, bodyweight glute bridges and full body stretches.

Kettle Bell Swings: Sets – 5 30sec duration Rest 30 sec

Set 1:  3x, 60 sec rest

KB Goblet Lateral Lunges -10 reps, BW Push up- 5 reps, full body stretch – 5 reps

Set 2: 3x 30s rest

KB Goblet Squat to step forward lunge – 30sec, BW Power Push ups – 5 reps

Set 3: 3x, 30 sec rest

Plank stir the pot on stability ball – 30 sec, Stability ball dead bugs 30 sec.

Finisher: Banded Squat walks – 20 paces out and back x3

The cheerleading squad
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Sweaty and hot after my workout

It was hard. It was uncomfortable. I’m not as strong as I have been in the past, but I was able to do more than I anticipated. I was able to do pushups without shoulder pain which is a GINORMOUS win. I won’t be surprised if I have leg cramps later. The foam roller will be my best friend. I have a new start line. The nutrition piece is working. The house is basically unpacked. Time to get back at it, again.

I’m here.

I’m alive.

And it’s a great place to be.

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I See You

The gym is such a weird, wonderful place. It is a prime location for spectacular people watching opportunities. Working in the gym affords me more time than most to observe, and of course work with, all types of people.

I want you to know I see you.

I see you putting in the time. I see you watching, picking up new things, learning how to do this exercise thing. You’ve been really working. Stick with it. Your consistency will pay off.

Even when it’s hard and it would be easier to just skip it. When you can easily just get lost in the day-to-day busy, or the phone, the family, the computer, or your work. Don’t quit.

Do. Not. Quit.

While you may not see it now, you are making progress. You are starting to realize that those negative voices are not speaking the truth. Keep fighting back. That voice that whispers, “It’s too hard…” and “What’s the use?” will be proven wrong. It’s not too hard. You can do hard things. You’ve done hard before. You’ve survived.

And you will again.

Ask yourself, do you ever regret moving your body? Have you ever gone home and thought, “Well, that was a waste of time. I don’t think I’ll do that again.” No, you haven’t. While not every workout has been Earth shattering, you always feel better when you get moving. You know this. Keep going forward. Progress. Not perfection.

I see you.

I see you contemplating. You have a fork in the road. Don’t opt for the easy way. In the long run, it’s not easy at all. It’s not easy to not have mobility. It’s not easy feeling uncomfortable in your own body. It isn’t easy to have zero energy to get through the day. Easy isn’t easy.

Do the work. You have the tools. Seek out information. Trust your intuition. Learn. Keep moving forward. Don’t quit. Do. Not. Quit.

I see you.

And you are worth it.

Trainer Essentials: Hiring a Quality Trainer

I’m in the process of transition as my minions will be out of school for summer and I will be dialing down my workload. I’m having daily conversations with clients about their programs and where they go from here. The question that keeps coming up is, “What should I be looking for when hiring a personal trainer?” I get asked this often and feel it applies to all kinds of instructors – not just fitness. By no means is this list exhaustive, but I feel these are some essentials to hiring a great personal trainer.

*A trainer should welcome questions. If they don’t know the answer to something, they should be willing to find out or refer. Ask, ask, ask. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. There really aren’t any dumb questions considering the amount of misinformation that’s available around health and fitness. If your trainer makes you feel dumb for asking or not already knowing something – it’s time to find a new one.

*A good trainer shouldn’t warm you up on the treadmill or a bike. A warm up should be dynamic and be a lower level of the same movements you will be doing in your workout. If you are going to lift that session, warming up on a bike isn’t preparing you optimally for that movement. 

*Ultimately a trainer should care about their craft, but their clients as well. As the saying goes – “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”.  A good trainer should genuinely like people and care about your success.

*Most people would not seek nutrition advice from someone who eats fast food every day. Look for a trainer who can practice what they preach. A trainer should be in reasonably good health themselves, but that doesn’t mean a trainer who doesn’t look like a fitness model isn’t great at what they do. Not all trainers are stage ready 24/7 (nor should they be.) Remember that trainers are human, too. A perfect body doesn’t necessarily translate to a quality program. 

*Ask what continuing education they are perusing? Do they read industry materials? Do they attend conferences? Fitness and health are ever changing. We don’t workout the same way we did 20 years ago. That’s a good thing!

*Look for someone you can connect with. Interview a few different trainers. Ask about their own fitness routines. Do they have kids? Does the trainer understand what giving birth does to a body? How much life experience do they have? I don’t know about you, but as a mom of 2 and a military spouse who is pushing 40, I’m not sure I’m going to be super motivated by an 18 year old trainer just entering college. Not that this person can’t be a great trainer, but there are many life differences that can make connection difficult.

*A good trainer should have the heart of a teacher. They should not only tell you what to do, but the how and why. Are they giving you modifications (a harder and an easier version) for exercises? Are they explaining the purpose of the exercise you are performing? The goal should never be to just make you tired and breathe heavy. 

I really like this image from LeanMinded:  
It sums up quite nicely what quality trainers should “look” like. Is there a time where a trainer needs to tell you something you may not want to hear? Certainly. But that can be done without screaming or belittling. You cannot push a rope. You lead with it.

What about you? What qualities would you be looking for when hiring a fitness (or otherwise) professional? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Teaching Gumption

“Pull the dumbbell up like this,” I told her, “as if you are pulling the cord on a lawn mower.” I had borrowed this phrase from my trainer, because it accurately illustrates the movement I wanted her to perform. To this day I cannot start my lawnmower and not think of this move, and my trainer.

“My mom told me never to learn how to start a lawn mower so I would never have to mow a lawn,” she replied. “My husband takes care of that.”

Whaaa?!

Years ago I remember working in the bank and a recent widow came in, understandably bewildered by the many decisions and paperwork that comes with the death of a spouse. “My husband took care of our finances and gave me cash to spend for household items. I don’t know how to balance a checkbook…”

Jamie Oliver’s experiment with some U.S. schools a few years ago was shocking. He presented grade school children with a whole potato. Not one child could tell him what the object in his hand was. He did this with many fruits and vegetables, and other than just a couple of things (apples, I think) these kids didn’t recognize most produce in it’s whole form!

Why the rant today? Well, let me tell you.

I trained a 12 year old girl the other day who broke my heart. I was able to decipher through our conversation that she is a very young 12 and doesn’t know how to do much, simply because not much is expected of her. She is obese. She is no doubt made fun of by her peers. She was self conscious and insecure (more so than the average tween). When I asked her (and her mother) about the kinds of foods they eat, the mother laughed and said, “I don’t cook.” She said this as if it were beneath her, as well as something of which to be proud.

While training another client, I discovered that she hadn’t eaten anything all day, just her morning cup of coffee. It was 2:30pm! She doesn’t like to cook, doesn’t know what to do to make things quick in the morning, but yet cannot figure out why she has no energy, feels sluggish and cannot resist the afternoon treats her customers bring in to the office! For her, the thought of breakfast was an all or nothing proposition. It had to be a huge undertaking – bacon, pancakes, eggs, etc. We had a great conversation about how to not only eat breakfast everyday, make things quick (hello my favorite: hard boiled eggs!) but also to do what I call “easy prep” so things are grab and go through the week when time is more limited.

As a military spouse, being independent and having some gumption to even attempt to do things on my own is essential. Granted, I grew up with a mother who worked right along side my father building houses. She hammered just as many nails, installed can lights, laid tile flooring and everything in between.  Even now, my parents are building a structure on their property and my mother literally raises the walls with my father. I get that not everyone has that example to follow, and it’s hard for me to wrap my mind around the some of the mindsets I’ve described.

Here’s the thing; regardless of what we’ve been exposed to, if we neglect to teach our children how to perform basic tasks, essential life skills, how are they ever going to learn? School?! Not likely. It’s unrealistic to think that school should, or even could, cover everything. That’s our job as parents. We do our kids a great disservice by doing everything for them. Feeding ourselves and taking care of our bodies is a basic skill. We teach our kids how to use a fork and spoon as toddlers, why wouldn’t we teach them how to prepare food when they are older?

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Give a child a fish, and you’ll feed her for a day. Teach a child to fish, and you’ve fed her for a lifetime.”