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.
Has this ever happened to you? You worked hard on your diet all week, it's Friday and you're ready to step on the scale and celebrate a weight loss victory. You look down hoping for a certain number but what you see is not what you expect. Sh*t! You've gained 2 lbs! How could this be? The thoughts begin to rattle through your head "This isn't fair", "What's the point of even trying", "Ugh, I'm so gross" and suddenly a perfectly nice Friday is ruined! I could spend the next 1000 words telling you why the scale doesn't matter that much or explaining how it would take an excess of 7000 calories for you to gain 2 lbs of body fat, but these arguments aren't going to save your Friday. Let's focus on what you can do to recover as quickly as possible from this set back because if you're in this fat loss/health game for the long run, you're going to need to build some patience and resilience.
Take Six Deep Breaths
This may seem stupid to you, what could a few deep breaths really accomplish? You're body doesn't know that you aren't actually in danger and it will unleash a cascade of hormonal responses to help you survive the immanent threat. The only problem is, this isn't really a dangerous situation and you don't need those hormones to outrun a predator. What you really need is to calm the f*ck down. Take those breaths deep into you stomach and try not to let the shoulders shrug. Exhale slowly and fully. Repeat 6-10 times.
Take a Judgement Free Inventory of Your Actions
Look back at the previous week to month and honestly review your habits. Did you eat well at least 80% of the time? Did you get in at least 30 mins of light activity each day? How was your sleep? How were your stress levels? As you do this, try to avoid judging your actions. If you weren't active say: "I had 3 days where I sat at my desk all day and didn't walk or exercise" rather than "I was a lazy POS and I didn't go to the gym after work". If you were indeed very consistent for the past week, how about the few weeks before that? How did they look? Chances are you haven't YET strung together several weeks/months of positive habits. This isn't about spiraling down into a rabbit hole of shame and self doubt. It's just an assessment of your performance.
Choose a Simple, Easy to Implement Action
Now that you've assessed your behaviors and taken responsibility for them you can take action. If the scale has really upset you, you're probably considering implementing several strict food rules. It's Friday, so maybe you'll just enjoy the weekend and start them on Monday. This can lead to a cycle of overeating, deprivation, and more overeating. I can confirm that this pattern does not lead to long lasting fat loss but it does lead to a lot of hunger, shame and misery. Instead, focus on one simple thing that you can do today to improve your nutrition. Return to those big rock habits that create the biggest bang for your dietary buck: protein with every meal, vegetables with most meals, drink plenty of water, eat fibrous carbohydrates etc.... Choose one and use it with your next meal. Continue to focus on that one thing for the next several days or even week until you've strung together several successful days.
I get it, you're like Veruca Salt and you want your oompa loompa now, as in you want results and you want them fast! The problem is, you can control your actions, you cannot control your results. After a set back, remember to BREATH, ASSESS, and ACT. Limit the amount of emotional energy you put in to your weight and your perceived appearance because I'm guessing that you have other sh*t going in your life that needs your attention. After all, this isn't really about the scale is it? It's about feeling better about yourself. The best way to feel better about yourself is to take care of that body and mind of yours. Chances are the scale will reflect your efforts.
Some people assume that because I'm a Personal Trainer, I work out 6-7 days a week for hours at a time, maybe even two-a-days. It may come as a surprise to those people that I actually work out 4-5 days a week for about an hour each session. I'm pointing this out because I'd like to establish that I don't exercise obsessively. It is a small part of my day that I enjoy (most of the time) but I won't lose my shit if I miss a day or two. Although I'm not afraid to miss a few days of exercise, I do work out on vacation as well as over the holidays. My reasons for doing so may not be what you think. As summer approaches and many of us hit the road for vacation (I'm actually headed to Scotland shortly), it may be time to consider your fitness and nutritional goals for while your travelling. Here are a few reasons why I workout while on the road:
As I mentioned earlier, I don't work out every day, but I do CONSISTENTLY work out 4-5 days a week, every week, month, year for the past several years. It's a part of my life and I make sure it fits into my schedule because I've gotten pretty darn strong by sticking to it and I can't complain when I check out my glutes in a pair of leggings. When I go away on a trip or take time off for the holidays it's easier to continue to exercise because when I return home/to work there's no struggle to get back "into it". I was never "out of it". Have you ever returned from trip and struggled to get back to the gym? Sometimes it takes 3 weeks or more to get back to your routine, and how badly does the first work out suck? As you finish your first set, sweating and weak do you ever say to yourself "I'm so glad that I didn't work out a single day on my vacation"? Probably not. I may not do my programmed work outs and I could miss a few but I'll make sure that I get a few sessions in so that when I return to the gym at home I don't feel like it's my first work out ever.
Vacation is all about getting out of your routine. You can stay up as late as you like, sleep in and have a morning cocktail, and of course my favorite: naps. I usually find myself looking forward to vacation and then toward the end I'm excited to get back to my routine. Exercising provides a small enough semblance of routine so that I can enjoy the lack thereof for the remainder of the day. Everything else I do may be different from a "normal" day but getting a work out in will ground me.
It Relaxes Me
Sitting and doing nothing does not come naturally to me. I know that I need it but I can have a hard time settling down on vacation and getting over the fact that I don't need to do anything. Working up a sweat can help me get there faster. I'm at my most relaxed right after a work out, all other worries have left my brain and I'm just soaking up the glory of being done. I can carry that feeling straight to the pool or the ocean, take a quick dunk and I'm ready to chill out the rest of the day.
Try Something New
I love living in Vermont but it is a SMALL ass state! Our fitness options can be limited especially when it comes to up and coming trends or world renowned coaches. Last year I was in LA and San Diego where fitness options where varied and abundant! I was able to try out unique classes and work with a coach who had studied with Shaulin Monks in China. Although I was in an unfamiliar place, it was easy to find common ground with the other folks in the class. What better way to bond than cheering on a partner as they go through brutal battling rope intervals!
It is NOT Punishment
I do NOT work out on vacation to punish myself for over indulging. Exercise is a gift for my body, my health and my wellness and I refuse to sully it by making it a punishment. I don't feel like I need to do it, it's what I want to do.
Give It A Try
If you've never included exercise in your vacations, maybe it's time to give it a try. The work outs don't have to be long, even 10-15 minutes can be helpful. You may find you relax more and your re-entry into non-vacation life goes more smoothly. Here's a quick body weight workout to take with you on your next trip.
Push-ups x 10
Front to Reverse Lunges x 8 each
Skaters x 10 each
Inchworm with Toe Touch x 5 each
Single Leg Deadlift with Y x 10 each
Prisoner Get-Ups x 5 each
Do you struggle to come up with workouts while traveling? Click here for your FREE Road Kit guide to working out while on the road.
Today I'd like to talk about breakfast and maybe even touch on the subject of snacks. I jokingly tell my clients that "Muffins are just an excuse to eat cake for breakfast" but there is some truth there. The first meal of your day could be sabotaging your good intentions. Before I get up on my soap box and offend all of the oatmeal/granola loving folks out there, if you enjoy your breakfast AND it's working for you, then feel free to continue with your morning sugar infusion. Food is a matter of taste and you should never force yourself to eat something that you don't like. That being said if it is broken, it's time to fix it.
Most of us know that "Eating the Rainbow" does not mean scarf down a bowl of sugary food colored cereal however many folks are still treating their first meal of the day like a high sugar buffet. Bacon and sausage aside, many breakfast favorites are carbohydrate rich: granola, oatmeal, fruit flavored yogurt, juice, toast, English muffins, and cereal. I'm not saying carbohydrates are bad and I'm not saying don't eat them, however a typical breakfast usually combines several servings of carbs, very little protein and very little fat. I'm going to provide you some ways to upgrade your breakfast as well as posit a completely different way to look at your first meal. Waking up can be a jarring experience and if you need the warm hug of carbohydrates to usher you in to the day then here are few tips to keep it sweet AND achieve your goals.
#1 Add Protein
Whatever it is that you enjoy for breakfast, add eggs. Notice the "s" at the end of egg, that means plural please. We're trying to get that meal up to at least 15g of protein and one egg isn't going to cut it. If you're worried about cholesterol, the US government has acknowledged that dietary cholesterol does not lead to higher levels of blood cholesterol. Live a little, have some yolks folks! Sometimes I crack a few eggs into my stove top oats for the last minute of cooking. I simply stir as the eggs cook in and it makes for a hearty breakfast. Greek yogurt is rich in protein, but go for the plain and add your own fruit and a little sweetener if you need it. Some cinnamon will also bring out a sweeter flavor. You can also add protein powder to your breakfast; it goes well in oats or make some high protein pancakes and of course you can always start your day with a smoothie.
#2 Budget Your Carbs
As I said before, carbohydrates are not the devil. They're a great source of energy, especially if you have a very active day ahead of you. If you're going to sit in your car then sit at a desk for 6-8 hours, chances are you don't need multiple servings of carbs to fuel a fairly sedentary day. Choose high fiber carbohydrates such as berries, apples, whole grain breads and oats. Rather than having granola, sweetened yogurt, berries and a glass of orange juice, ditch the juice, swap the flavored yogurt out for plain and buy or make a lightly sweetened granola.
In fact, I may eat something like that any time of the day. People often ask what I eat for snacks, once again under the impression that snacks need to be sweet or small. I don't generally snack, I sit down and eat a moderately sized meal 4-5 times a day and it works for me. I enjoy a full-ish stomach and 6 almonds isn't going to cut it. If I eat something like this at 3pm, I won't inhale everything in my kitchen when I get home at night. Do you struggle with evening snacking? Maybe it's time for a mid-afternoon meal, or "Second Lunch" as I like to call it.
People have success with many styles of eating. If you're trying to lower your body fat you can keep your traditional breakfast with a few upgrades or you can take a walk on the savory side and try out last night's left overs. Breakfast tacos anyone?
Several years ago I had a serious conversation with my mother. I told her that although I appreciated the sentiment, I no longer wanted to receive cookies from her for Christmas. I know, I'm a cookie hating asshole. Actually I just don't like to have super tempting foods at my house and I don' t need a reason to have a chocolate chip brownie for breakfast. I try to make it as easy as possible to make good food decisions at home, it's a "safe" zone from temptation, minus the wine of course. This did not initially go over well with Mary Weiss, obviously if I didn't want her cookies it meant I didn't love her, maybe even hated her. And if she couldn't express her love for me through delicious baked goods, how would I know that she loved me? Being the resourceful woman that she is, my mom has found other ways to show she cares. Now my stocking (yes I'm 39 and I still get a Christmas stocking) is full of dark chocolate, spice rubs and Justin's Almond Butter. My mom is still the Cookie Lady for other family members, friends and co-workers but she doesn't have to be the Cookie Lady for me. There are two lessons here: it's okay to have a tough conversation with your loved ones about food and your goals AND you don't have to share your love through butter and sugar. Here are a few ways to change your holiday giving identity from Cookie Lady or Cookie Guy to Healthy Gift Giving Genius
Bring Protein to the Holiday Potluck
Inevitably there will be many social obligations between now and New Year's. You may even be required to bring food to said festivities. Vegetables and protein will be hard to find at these gatherings and you may find yourself wondering how you're going to keep up with your healthy habits with so many temptations. Be part of the solution instead of part of the problem; bring a satiating protein dish. This week I'm going to the holiday party at the pub where I work part time. We have a sign-up sheet for the potluck and it's full of cheesy dips and sweets. I'm sure I'll hit up the buffalo chicken dip and have a cookie or two but I'm going to make damn sure there are some protein and veggies available. I've braised chicken thighs and made a batch of homemade coleslaw for tacos. I'll enjoy some tacos and fill myself up a little in order to keep from over-indulging on the rest of the buffet. PS - the buffalo chicken dip didn't disappoint.
Share Your Recipes
This idea actually comes from my Cookie Lady Mom. She put together a binder of family favorites for my brothers and I. It's a project you could slowly add to throughout the year. My mom put hers in a binder but you could even have a book made or go paperless and send it as a PDF.
You're In Charge
It may seem like you're going to let everyone down if you don't bake 6 million cookies for Christmas but the truth is, you can become the Healthy Gift Giving Genius, you don't HAVE to be the Cookie Lady. There are other ways to share your love of food with friends and family. Hopefully this post will inspire you to step out of your traditional role and try a new one where you're the healthy role model that everyone strives to be. Who knows, maybe you'll inspire others in your gift giving circles to do the same.
It sounds nice right? Just do this specific exercises for 3 sets of 10 and BOOM! 6 weeks to 6-pack abs. Unfortunately our bodies don't work that way and we usually can't crunch our way to a thinner waist. Fat loss is about a calorie deficit aka burning more calories than you consume. Exercise can help you achieve a caloric deficit, it does not, however, dictate where that fat comes from. If you've ever lost even a small amount of weight, you probably noticed it came off in a specific order. Sometimes the first place you'll notice it is in your face and neck. Does this mean that you did special face exercises to slim down your noggin? Much to our dismay or joy, for us ladies we may lose body fat in our chest first. That isn't because we did breast reduction exercises, it's just how the fat loss cookie crumbled.
I could at this moment spout out the beloved personal trainer's cliche "The best exercise for fat loss is pushing away the plate." Of course nutrition plays a HUGE roll in fat loss, however, as promised I will provide you with ACTUAL exercises to increase your caloric deficit and burn some of that stubborn fat.
#1 Compound Exercises
Compound lifts include exercises using more than one joint and multiple muscle groups. For example, a chin-up involves the elbow and shoulder joints, and works your back, shoulders, biceps and core, while a bicep curl involves only the elbow and works mostly the muscles of the biceps. With compound movements you move more weight, engage more muscles and even get that heart rate up higher than with isolation exercises. We're always trying to optimize our time and if you want to make the most of your work out you'll focus on squats, deadlifts, chest presses, rows, chin-ups, overhead presses and lunges to maximize calorie burn.
#2 Combination Exercises
These are brutal...10 reps of squats to overhead presses can turn me into a sweaty puddle on the floor. You won't be able to lift as heavy as with traditional compound movements but you'll be using your whole body with each rep. Some examples include: squat to press, deadlift to row, lunge to curl or overhead press.
Personally I find steady state cardio terribly monotonous, especially when done inside on the gym's cardio equipment. Sprints are a great way to break up the monotony and increase the EPOC. Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption from high intensity bouts of effort can give your metabolism a boost for up to 24 hours after working out. I like to set the treadmill at a 5%-8% incline to simulate a hill and take some pressure off my knees and hips.
You don't have to incorporate all of these exercises in one work out, just make sure they're part of your program if fat loss is your goal. Here is a sample work out that includes a few of each.
The first exercise is a Compound Movement, the rack pull. Perform 4 sets of 5-8 reps resting 1-2 mins between sets. Focus on form while lifting as heavy as you can.
Next you'll move on to a circuit including lighter compounds lifts as well as some combos:
2a) Inverted Rows x 10
2b) Squat to Overhead Press x 10
2c) Single Leg Deadlifts x 10 each side
2d) Renegade Row w/ Push-up x 10
Rest as little as possible between exercises and rest 1-2 mins between full rounds. Complete 4 rounds.
I love to finish work outs with hill sprints on the treadmill. Set the treadmill for a 5%-8% incline, go for a 20 second sprint with 60 seconds of active recovery (slow walking). These sprints are SHORT so you should go for it with the SPEED.
Now go home and have some eggs, spinach and sweet potato because although you did your fat burning work out, abs are made in the kitchen!
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.
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."