I look at that photo and read that quote, and all I can say is FUCK YES! Actually that's not ALL I can say. I have many things to say (surprise, surprise). This is one of my favorite parts of introducing women to strength training. Many women, (myself included) spend most of their adult lives attempting to take up less space. We are constantly trying to weigh less, fit in to smaller clothing, to burn off unwanted parts of ourselves, all for the sake of getting noticed more. We squeeze our flab and pull our sagging skin taught. We cry in the dressing room and we bully ourselves into thinking we're not enough.
I'm shocked and saddened that new/prospective clients continue to worry about getting too big or too muscled if they pick up strength training. I'm probably supposed to say that every woman has a right to pursue whatever physicality they choose, but I really just want them all to choose strength.
Since I've started lifting weights I've been able to focus less on what I'm not and more on what I've built. I'm proud of my legs, glutes, back and shoulders just as Lindsey is proud of her arms. She used to hide them, fearing summer and wearing tank tops, now she's happily standing on a beach showing off her hard work.
Sure, dropping body fat can have a positive impact on one's life, but there are many ways to get there. If you've been trying to lose weight for years, even decades, maybe it's time to take a break from the goal of losing and focus on the goal of building. Put your effort in to getting stronger. Fuel your body and pursue recovery to support that goal. The first time someone notices the curve of your tricep, or you see your quad muscle pop in a photo will be a revelation. Yes, we'll always have aspects of ourselves we critique, but wouldn't it be nice to also have something to admire?
If any of this resonates with you, consider signing up for my weekly emails where I'll provide more no-nonsense information about exercise and nutrition.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I was working with my client Sarah the other morning and she was telling me about her co-worker who can do 38 push-ups in a minute. It's hard to not get caught up in the comparison trap which will quickly lead to feelings of inadequacy and I could tell Sarah was heading down that rabbit hole (lol bunny pun). Sarah does elevated push-ups from the smith bar and hasn't done a push-up from the floor....... yet. On one level, it's great that this woman can do 38 push-ups, I'm all for supporting my fellow women in our strength endeavors. However I also want to call bullshit. I looked over at Sarah and said "I can't do 38 push-ups either". I'm not ashamed that as a personal trainer I can be so easily out-push-upped because I'm proud of the push-ups I can do. Here's a video of my current max push-ups:
I wonder what Sarah's co-worker's push-ups look like. I see it at the gym every day: hips sagging, neck craning toward the floor, elbows flared and partial range of motion. You could ask, does it matter? I'd say that yes, it does. Doing correct push-ups demonstrates good core stability, shoulder mobility and upper body strength. I am sure there are women out there that can perform 50 beautiful push-ups in a row, but there are many men and women claiming credit for bad reps. If you want to know how your push-ups measure up, the easiest thing to do is to video them. Take a long honest look at the video and if you see some of the form mistakes from below, it may be time to pull back and do an easier version, progressing from there.
In the video on the left, my head is pushing forward, elbows are flared and the core is unstable. On the right, my head is up and my back is arched.
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."