I admit that I often have an inner conflict. I preach the benefits of moderation as well as simple habits and how they can lead to big results. However sometimes I want to say fuck it and go all in on SOMETHING. I want to drop the moderation and attack a goal with everything I have.
Is there a right time to go all in or is moderation always the answer?
I went through a divorce 3 years ago. I remember telling my therapist that I was often disappointed that I wasn't doing more to challenge myself in my business and in my personal life. She pointed out that I was in fact tackling one big challenge (healing from the divorce) and maybe I should cut myself some slack. And that has been my life for 3 years. I've given myself space, time and compassion to work through the pain and discomfort. I didn't have time or energy to throw myself in to any major protect so I marched through those years steadily. I continued to exercise (of course), I slowly improved my business, I ate my veggies and protein as well as indulging in mac and cheese, wine and pizza when I wanted it. I set no ambitious goals for myself, just the simple goal of consistency.
The the holidays came around this year and although I approached them with apprehension having struggled the previous 2 years, something was different. There was no undercurrent of sadness. I didn't mind that I was heading to visit friends and family without a partner, in fact I truly appreciated the freedom of being single for the first time! I realized that things were not so much of a struggle as they used to be. All those people that told me "It will get better with time", as much as I wanted to punch them in the face while I was in the thick of it, I realized they were right.
I'm feeling the itch to challenge myself and turn up the intensity. Sometimes life is hard and we don't need to create extra challenges. We only have energy for the bare minimum. In this case, moderation and small goals make perfect sense. Other times we're cruising along, maybe a little too comfortably and we have the time/energy to create some self imposed challenges.
For me, this year is going to be a year of productivity. I started in mid December with a 30 Day No Alcohol Challenge. I had been trying to drink moderately but it just wasn't working. I wanted to know what it would feel like to have no alcohol in my system. I wanted better sleep, a clearer mind and more productive days. I'm about halfway through and so far I'm really loving the results, especially better sleep.
In fact, when I finish I'm going to roll right in to another 30 Day Challenge: No TV/Netflix. The thought of it scares me, which makes me think I definitely need to do it!
The 30 Day No TV/Netflix starts January 21st.
Are you in?
Send me an email or dm and we can encourage each other along! I'll post progress updates on my Iron Bunny Fitness Facebook page. Also, you can join me for the last 2 weeks of my No Alcohol Challenge if you want to take a short break to start off 2019.
This post was initially an email I sent out to my subscribers. Did you find this post helpful? If you sign up for my email list you'll get motivational bites like this one delivered to your inbox every week! Sign up below.
If you've been lifting for a while, you know that to get stronger and/or gain muscle you'll need to increase the weight of your lifts. Your body will adapt to a weight/rep range and in order to make progress something has to change.
This is all well and good however sometimes you can get "stuck" at certain weight. In particular many of my female clients struggle to increase their weight with the dumbbell chest press. They'll initially make some progress and then get stuck somewhere 25lbs-35lbs and the next weight up can feel IMPOSSIBLE. Also, some people work out at home and don't have a wide variety of weights to choose from. Never fear! I have a few ways to make that lighter weight feel a little heavier and help get you stronger in the process.
Option 1: Alternating Chest Press (w/ opposite arm extended)
Set up w/ both arms extended, lower your right arm into a chest press while keeping the left straight. Switch sides. This lift is a little more challenging for a few reasons. The whole set will take longer and there will be more time under tension for your muscles. You'll also notice you'll need to stabilize yourself with your core as one arm drops so there's a bonus!
Option 2: Alternating Chest Press (w/ opposite arm flexed)
Bring both arms to the bottom of the chest press, extend your right arm and lower it back down before extending the left. This version is significantly harder than the extended arm version because you'll be pausing at the hardest part of the lift, really firing the chest/shoulder and triceps muscles.
Option 3: Paused and/or Slow Negative Reps
Slow down the negative part of the movement taking 2-3 secs to get to the bottom position, then pause another 2-3 seconds at the bottom. These are BRUTAL. Don't feel bad if you have to lower the weight you use significantly. The time under tension will increase the challenge of this lift without very much weight.
Option 4: Kettlebell Press (1 arm or 2)
Hold the handle of the kettlebell making sure your wrist is straight and perform a chest press. The weight is to the side creating a great challenge for the shoulders to stabilize it. You may want to get a wrist band to because sometimes these can be uncomfortable.
If you've been stuck with your flat or incline chest press give a few of these a try. Or maybe you're just a little bored and want to change things up. I see many folks at the gym lifting the same weight for the same number of reps/sets for weeks, months even years. First of all, it's great that they've established a solid habit of coming to the gym but they're not going to make many changes in their physique or strength without changing their workouts.
Have you been "stuck" for a while? Need a little motivation to change things up? Subscribe to my weekly email list for more workouts, recipes and tips to get "unstuck".
Earlier this week I sent an email out to my subscribers discussing the topic of consistency. I posited that often we say we're struggling with consistency because of time constraints, when in reality we're letting perfectionism and our idea of what is "enough" limit us. If we lower our expectations we may find we actually do have time to do a little and that is way better than doing nothing.
My workout today took about 15 minutes. It was challenging, got my heart rate up and some endorphins flowing. I left feeling energized (not exhausted) and ready to power through the rest of my day.
Reverse Lunge w/ Bicep Curl x 8
Slider Knee Tucks to Push-Up x 8 (you can do the push-ups from your knees)
KB Swing x 15 (you can use a dumbbell if you don't have a kettlebell)
Alt KB Snatches x 8 each side (you can use a dumbbell if you don't have a kettlebell or do a dumbbell clean and press)
I did 4 rounds but you could add another round or two to make the workout a little longer. It would also make a great finisher to your strength workout.
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I've been a privately contracted personal trainer for almost 10 years, but this is the first year that I've called myself an entrepreneur. What changed? Words. I simply changed the words I used to describe myself. I did this in my head, I did it with my friends, family and clients. Initially nothing else was different. I started calling myself an entrepreneur.
But then a funny thing started happening. I began to do entrepreneurial type things like invest in my business. I'd been talking about becoming an online trainer for AT LEAST 5 years but I had done nothing to move toward getting online clients. As a personal trainer I wasn't taking any action. As a business owner I hired a business coach and all of a sudden shit was getting done!
I had wanted to be an online coach but I never actually asked anyone if they'd like to train with me. It's not the greatest business model "If you whisper about it they will come". I finally let the world know what I did and guess what? I got my first online clients!
It's been less than a year since I made this change and I wish I'd made it years ago. This past weekend I attended a women's online business summit and it was empowering, scary, and overwhelming. I am also certain that it will inspire me to continue to take action and develop as an entrepreneur.
If you're thinking "Good for you Jen, but what does this have to do with me and my fitness journey?" Actually, it has everything to do with your fitness journey.
Have you ever called yourself fat or out of shape? Do you look at your friend/acquaintance who seems to have her shit together and think that'll never be you? You know the person. She walks in to a party wearing her clothes with confidence, eating slowly and purposely as she chats up the rest of the guests. She prioritizes her workouts but she doesn't stress if she misses one. She's a fit, healthy confident person. You may secretly (or not so secretly) despise her because she reminds you of what you are not.
I'll let you in on a secret. You're that woman too. She's in there but if you keep referring yourself as fat and out of shape that's how you'll continue to feel. How do you get fit? Act like you already are!
Do you run? You're no longer run, you are a runner.
Do you lift weights? You don't just lift weights, you now train.
Do you do Zumba? You're now a dancer.
It doesn't matter if you're a beginner or if you only do it once a week. Start thinking like someone who does these things all the time. Start practicing some of the habits they might practice. Get the clothes, read the books, hire a trainer or go to a class. It's a classic case of "fake it until you make it" and it works. The transformation might go slowly and there could be times when you don't feel like you belong in this new group that you've decided to identify with. That's okay. Take a look back at where you started.
Have you taken more action since you changed your mindset?
Have you gotten a few extra workouts in?
Have you learned something about nutrition?
Have you made a new friend?
You probably have so let's call that a win!
Not sure where to start? Share your change in the comments and I'll help keep you accountable and don't forget to sign up for my weekly emails where I'll help keep you motivated.
Did you know that the more you talk about a problem the more likely you are to stay fixated on the problem?
And the more you talk about change, the more likely you are to actually change.
Ever since high school I noticed that I wasn't built like many of my friends. I had a short torso a wide waist and narrow hips. I've gone back through old journals where I lament to my boyfriend at the time about my strange shape (and he agreed with me!) Sometimes I wish I could go back and hug 16 year old me and tell her not to worry. It didn't stop when I got out of high school and it carried on for years. My rolls, my stomach, I obsessed over them. If only I had wider hips, if only I had different genetics and this went on and on.
I see it with my clients often. They look in the mirror at the gym and take stock in their flaws.
"These saddlebags off of my hips are gross".
"Ugh, I hate this roll in my stomach."
"I missed my workout yesterday, I'm so lazy".
First of all it saddens me to know that we're picking ourselves apart like this. It causes so much stress and it doesn't help anything. By continuing to focus on what's "wrong" we can never move forward. It's like "Inception" when Leonardo DiCaprio's character ends up back in the same place with every dream meanwhile frustrating the hell out of everyone around him. Your supposed flaws, that's Mal, telling you to stay in the nightmare of self-consciousness and self loathing. You're "incepting" yourself.
So how the heck do you move on, start actually taking action and making a change?
First of all, it helps to look at the meaning behind the words. You're saying you hate your love handles or saddlebags but what does that really mean?
Well, Jen, it means that I'm fat and gross, right? Yes, and it probably means you're a terrible person too. I'M KIDDING! I don't really know what it means but I can take a few guesses and you can dig a little deeper to find out what it means for you.
Sometimes it helps to skip ahead to the person without said supposed flaws. What's she like? She's probably, happy, confident and healthy. She doesn't waste her time worrying about her body because she's too busy living her life.
On the surface, you're focused on changing your appearance, but really it's out of a desperate desire to FEEL differently. Once you've visited your future self, focus on the changes that you could make to become that woman. If you pass the mirror in the process, resist the urge to be mean to present you. You can cheer present you on, or you can turn your ass around and go find something more productive to do.
Remember, the longer you sit there staring at what you don't like about yourself the longer it'll take to change.
Focusing on the problem = stagnation
Focusing on actions and change = progress
Easier said than done, right? It's true, these changes are simple but not easy. Start by being aware of when you're fixating on a problem. Whenever you notice it happening, pivot and think about what changes you'd like to make.
Too tired to go to the gym? Focus on getting more sleep by making sure you put your phone away 1 hour before bed.
Don't like the way your clothes fit? Maybe it's time to address foods that might be leaving you feeling bloated or maybe it's time to buy clothes that suit your body type well or both.
That's all I have for you today. Go forth and kick some butt!
I have to admit, sometimes I'm embarrassed to work in the fitness world. Many of the messages put out there by other fitness professionals although well intended are quite frankly fucking with people. It's a slippery slope because we're here to help people and in order to let them know we can help, we point out their flaws and play to their fears. Often we make the mistake of assuming that clients want/need to lose weight. As I've trained more and more people and reflected on my own struggles I've come to realize most people want to FEEL better and that may or may not mean dropping body fat. Recently I saw an Instagram post from a local gym that got me all fired up.
It was an infographic titled "WHY DROP 10-15 POUNDS". Reasons included:
1. You'll move better
2. You'll feel more confident about yourself
3. You'll have more energy to do the things you like
4. It's better for your joints and bones
5. You'll have better skin
6. You'll sleep better
7. Lower the risk of getting sick
8. It reduces stress and anxiety
9. It improves creativity and productivity
10. You might live longer
Perhaps at first glance this all makes great sense and maybe you agree with all of these statements.
I see it and I want to go all Xena Warrior Princess on whoever thought this was a productive message to put out into the world.
So many of the women I know and clients I train are in a CONSTANT struggle to lose 10-15 lbs. They get on the scale every week if not every day in the hopes of getting to a magical number that they have deemed low enough. They cry, they stress, they grab the rolls of their stomachs and dismay at the back fat folding over the top of their bras. They kill themselves in the gym, fight hunger all day, and spend hours if not days feeling guilty if they miss a gym session or overeat.
Maybe the author of this infographic ASSUMED that the people that didn't need to lose 10-15lbs would realize this message wasn't meant for them. He/she must've assumed that whoever they were speaking to would pursue weight loss in a healthy fashion. The reality is, if done without overall healthy and wellness in mind, weight loss isn't always positive. This message says to EVERYONE "You should lose 10-15 lbs" and then it doesn't provide any productive advice for how that is to be done. If you starve yourself, over exercise, deprive yourself of rest you may lose weight but you will not reap the benefits promised.
I have one suggestion that can unfuck the infographic: change the title.
"Why Prioritize Your Health"
This way we can focus on the actions that will help people thrive. Let's put our attention to practices that have a positive effect on our lives such as moving our bodies, sleeping, eating nourishing foods and doing things that bring us joy. Let's stop pushing fat loss as a solution to our problems and instead help people care for themselves.
Agree? Disagree? Please contribute to the discussion and post in the comments.
Several years ago I was in love with running. Half marathons were my jam! I loved plotting out winding 10 mile long runs through the White Mountains of NH and spending my Sundays running for a few hours followed by an epic brunch. I enjoyed the time outside, the satisfaction of finishing a particularly challenging run and the thrill of chasing a PR. There was just one problem:
I felt like a runner but I didn't look like one.
Through several half marathons and hours of training, my body didn't seem to change much. I've always held on to weight in my midsection and no matter how much I ran, that didn't seem to change. I noticed other runners around me looking lean and fast meanwhile I felt as if I looked like a pregnant spider, spindly limbs with a bulging middle.
I didn't know it at the time, but I was falling victim to a common misconception: participating in a certain sport will help you achieve a body type similar to other athletes in that sport. Under this assumption many of us chase certain types of activities while avoiding others all based on the appearance of the more elite participants. What I didn't realize is that some bodies are more predisposed to perform certain activities and people with those bodies will be drawn to what they're good at because being good at stuff feels awesome. Many of those runners that I was envying didn't run their way into those lean bodies. They didn't find running, running found them.
Eventually I came to the conclusion that although I loved running, it was not loving me back. Despite efforts to lose weight my body was not changing and I was plagued with back and hip injuries. I was at the chiropractor or getting a massage weekly. I was spending time and money in the pursuit of something that was constantly hurting me while not helping me achieve my goals.
The last half marathon I raced in left me hobbled for weeks. It was a heartbreaking choice but I decided to take a break from running. I was terrified that I'd gain weight and worried that I wouldn't find another way to get that "runner's high".
I turned to strength training because I missed how running made me feel and I was worried when I stopped running I'd gain weight
Strength training ended up changing my life.
Just as I had enjoyed improving my 5k time, I loved working to increase my weights. When I did my first chin-up I was ecstatic. Anyone can hobble their way through a road race, it took me a year to be able to pull my chest to that bar.
I went from near constant back/hip pain to an occasional flare up once a year (or not at all).
My legs which had always been lean, gained muscle and shape and for the first time in my life I had a booty. Instead of looking in the mirror and seeing all of my flaws, I had pride in what I was building.
When you think about it, it's odd that we somehow assume that performing a sport/activity at a novice level could get us the physique of an elite athlete in that sport. We hope that a few hours of Barre class a week will give us those "long, lean" muscles of dancers and we shy away from lifting weights because we don't want to look like a body builder. In both cases these athletes have devoted their lives to their sport. When you're considering how to exercise I encourage you to worry less about what people in the top 1% of that sport look like and instead ask yourself a few questions:
Do I enjoy this workout?
Does it cause me pain beyond some muscle soreness?
Is it moving me toward my goals?
Is it sustainable?
We get caught up in what we think we should be doing and what other people are doing, forgetting that each body responds differently to different exercises. Don't let the stereotypical body type of a sport/workout draw you in or deter you, give it a try for yourself.
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I recently had the honor of attending a party with a client and friend of mine. We were hanging out by the water chatting and she was smoking a cigarette when someone I knew came by. Introductions were made and my client proudly announced that I was her trainer and then proceeded to chat with someone else. My other friend leaned in and asked "You let your clients smoke?" I was a little taken aback at first because I honestly hadn't given a second thought to her smoking. We were out having a good time completely separate from the gym but even so, it isn't my job to stop my clients' actions and it certainly isn't my job to judge them. I told my friend as much and carried on with my evening.
I take issue with this guy's comments for two reasons. First of all, he assumes that I expect my clients to act perfectly. This is most certainly not the case. In fact I spend much of my time helping them face their own perfectionism. I've experienced it with myself and my clients, when our actions don't match our very high expectations we give up and fall prey to the infamous "Fuck Its". One "bad" meal can lead to days if not weeks of overeating before we finally pull up our big girl leggings and get back "on the wagon". Also, unless you're a professional athlete or bodybuilder and physique/performance are your main goals, no one really wants to be perfect all of the time, it sucks. I work with my clients to fit fitness and healthy nutrition in to their lives, ideally without making huge sacrifices or unsustainable changes.
My friend/client and I dressed as Wilma Flintsone and Betty Rubble: The Real Housewives of Bedrock
The second thing that bothered me was the idea that I would judge my clients. We are our own worst critics, we don't need to pay someone to judge us more. I don't judge my friend for smoking, and I know that she's made a ton of progress over the past few months, consistently exercising for the first time in a while. She's proud of her efforts and so am I. I remember when I first began training I would cringe when people sat on the recumbent bike peddling slowly as they read a magazine. I'm not going to lie, I judged. What's the point, they're barely even moving? One day a woman shared with me that she figured peddling and reading was better than sitting at home, reading and snacking. It opened my mind and forced me to assess my own notions of what exercise should be. You're moving, you're enjoying yourself, great! I've been coaching for almost a decade and I've learned that people approach things at their own pace. They may start with the gym and not be ready to look at nutrition right away. I'm there with my hands out to give them a boost when their ready to make that step, I don't push them into it.
People have preconceived notions of what a personal trainer does and how they coach.
If you're my client I am here to:
- Meet you where you are at
- Listen to your concerns and struggles without minimizing them
- Help you come up with solutions to your problems
- Know what your day looks like and what realistic expectations will look like
- Celebrate your victories with you because sometimes people in your life won't understand how exciting those achievements can be
I'm NOT here to:
- Make you feel judged
- Put you down
- Tell you what to do
- Write strict meal plans
- Lecture you
If that sounds like the kind of coaching you could get on board with, take a minute and fill out this BRIEF application for my 1:1 coaching program. I have 2 spots available for clients looking for simple, sane and supportive nutrition and fitness coaching. Feel free to contact me with any questions and I'm happy to jump on the phone and chat about any struggles your having.
Have you ever felt like you've spent most of your adult life trying to lose weight (maybe part of your adolescence too)? This article struck a chord with me and I'd like to share how it reminds me of my own story as well as offer some tips that have helped me stop obsessing about my body and start paying attention to some important/neglected areas of my life.
The first diet that I ever tried was Atkins back in 2001. I was lured in by the idea that I could eat all of the butter AND lose weight. Of course it worked......while I stayed on it but eventually potato chips and beer called to me. Since then there have been a series of diets, food rules, progress photos and food journals to mark my 15 years of dieting efforts. For most of that time I was also in a long term relationship. I was constantly working on my physical self but it never occurred to me that I was creating a mental and emotional deficit.
I've always been fairly even keeled, independent and strong so I figured I didn't need to work on other aspects of my wellness. Instead it was all about the weight and a near obsessive mission to eradicate my love handles. It wasn't until my marriage ended that I realized I had been neglecting myself and that my inner growth had been stunted for the sake of external goals. Looking back on it now I realize some of my more obsessive behavior started when my ex got sober about 6 years in to our relationship. It was a challenging time for both of us but I considered the alcoholism his problem and I was there to support him. It didn't occur to me that I needed support of my own and that I could use some self development. The dieting, boot camps and half marathons were a distraction from other issues that could've used my attention.
I see it often with my clients as they stress over their weight and appearance. They're overworked, overtired, and unfulfilled in their relationships yet they continue to focus on their bodies rather than pay attention to other aspects of their lives. It's as if they're putting off improving their situations or living their lives until they reach a subjective aesthetic goal.
B.D. (Before Divorce) I was a passenger in my life not really driving or making decisions, except deciding whether or not to have a "cheat" meal. The split pushed me to acknowledge my emotions, consider my career choices and think about what I really want from my life. Here are a few things that helped me both assess and enjoy my life beyond my fat loss goals.
Get A Hobby
Remember how I said I was a passenger in my life? Sometimes my husband was driving, other times circumstances were behind the wheel. I never took time to ask what I really wanted. In January I did my first year in review (this is the article I pulled it from). I realized that rather than finding a more traditional job I wanted to continue training because I love it and I vowed to take steps to increase my business. It's been simultaneously frightening, challenging and rewarding. Assessing what I really want has lit a fire under my ass and I'm so glad that I did it.
I will never forget a drunken fight I had with my best friend in college coming home from the bar one night. I must've been ruminating about my bad luck with men and she looked at me and said "Oh Jen, just get over yourself!" Any time I find myself feeling like a victim or in need of pity I think about those words. One way to get over yourself and stop stressing about your weight is to help others. This could mean helping a friend move, being a Big Brother/Big Sister or holding space for someone in your life who's having a tough time. Hopefully it will help you remember that your value as a human being on this planet is not tied to what the scale says.
The Secret Side Effect
Ironically, putting more attention in to your quality of life and less in to your body could actually help you achieve your aesthetic goals. Eating better and exercising are sooooo much easier when you're well rested and content with your life. If you've been obsessing over your weight/appearance for a long time (as I have) it may take time to refocus your attention. I still have moments when I think "I should do X diet, just for a few months to drop that extra 10 lbs" but I tend to have those thoughts less and less.
And anytime you're struggling you can turn to Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson :) I never knew he played the ukulele but now I know that we are totally meant for each other!
By and far the largest impediment to sticking to an exercise/diet regimen is time. We're all pulled in many directions, tied to appointments, meetings, kids soccer games etc.. Finding the time to meet with a trainer in person (when the trainer is also available) can be challenging. If you attend group fitness classes, you have to revolve your schedule around when they're offered and if you're running late or the class fills up, you may miss your work out entirely. When you work with a coach online such as myself, you work out when it's convenient for you. You can work out at home with dumbbells and an exercise ball, in a gym or even the park if you want be outside.
Location, Location, Location
When you train online you aren't restricted to going to a certain gym and you can even work out at home or in the park. You may live in an area where there aren't many options or maybe the hours at your local gym don't work with your schedule. As your coach I can tailor the work outs to your preferred location as well as the equipment you have available.
Next to time, people often say that lack of accountability is preventing progress. Via the Trainerize App I'm able to see when you work out, and follow you progress. There are options to share food intake, photos, as well as measurements.
Are YOU a candidate for online training?
Is Online Training NOT a good option for you?
Here's what my clients are saying about training online with me using the Trainerize App:
Using Trainerize and having Jen as a our virtual coach made all the difference when we went on a month long road trip. We didn't backslide!! My favorites: the customized workouts that Jen gave us through the app, having her celebrate us when we were doing well, and being able to chat with her at any point. Highly recommend!
What I like best about using Trainerze is having a way to interact with Jen out side of our regular sessions. Sometimes the gym can be overwhelming and I like that the app makes it feel like Jen is right there in the gym with me. She can send me personalized workouts and see each time I complete one. Using the app helps me keep myself accountable and stay on top of my fitness goals.
Road trips have never been the place I expected I'd keep up with my fitness goals, yet Jen's coaching, which skillfully utilized the Trainerize app, was a perfect example of a coach-away-from-home. The strong clear focus on key exercises every morning, along with timed intervals for extra self-challenge, kept us healthy, happy, and resistant to the twin challenges of ubiquitous fast food and extended sitting time. It felt like we brought Jen with us, and she was a fantastic travel companion!
I'm looking for 3 motivated people who want to get stronger, lose some body fat and feel more confident - and do it through online training at a introductory reduced rate.
Are you tired of working out and not seeing results?
Are you confused/frustrated with the conflicting information about nutrition and exercise?
Do you struggle to work out consistently?
Do you want a program specifically tailored to your time, experience, likes/dislikes and available equipment?
Do you like the idea of having access to an experienced compassionate coach anytime?
If you found yourself answering YES! to many of these questions, take a minute and fill out this questionnaire and then we can see if we'd work well together. I'll be accepting 3 new clients at a reduced rate so don't miss out on this great opportunity.
What my clients are saying about me:
"Now that I've worked with Jen I see the value of having a trainer. She helps keep me on track and focused. I'm a busy mom and it's nice to have someone I trust give me my work outs. No more researching workouts in magazines or instagram. I get my own personalized program that works with my schedule and helps me achieve my goals faster."