“I Exercise to Look Good Naked”: Good Reasons to Exercise

How many times have you heard this? I’ve heard it. A LOT. I’ve seen it plastered on the walls of gyms, I’ve seen it on more social media posts than is possible to count and I’ve heard it said to me. A lot.

And I totally hate it! It’s not wrong to want to look sexy — yes, I get it. But there are so many other reasons to exercise that will actually sustain you for a lifetime. Because I can guarantee you that looking sexy is the last reason you’ll get out of bed to workout on a cold and rainy day when you’re lying next to someone you love that, get this, probably loves you just as you are already.

So, what are good reasons/motivators to exercise?

  • Well, for me, it’s a time when I’m in a flow state. Meaning, it’s time where I’m not thinking much about the rest of the world. I’m not thinking about what I need to do, where I should be. I am in the zone. This has an insanely calming effect on me.  Which is to say, exercise is stress reliever for me. I let go, I breathe, I lift, I run, I ride.
  • Knowing that it allows me to play, be free and have adventures has a powerful effect on my motivation. I want to be able to do things and not have my body hold me back. Last weekend I went snowshoeing in Yosemite. We went around 6 miles. There is no way you can do that much activity if you aren’t exercising on a somewhat regular basis. These are the kinds of moments that bring magic into my everyday life. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I mean, how can scenes like this not feel magical?!

Remember:   extrinsic motivators are far less likely to keep your routine going for the long-run. Finding intrinsic motivators, things that fuel your spirit, things that quite literally give you a spring in your step? These are the things that will make you leap out of that cozy bed in the morning.

Own Your Shit

Yesterday one of my class members thanked me for the great workout that burned over 400 calories (she wears a heart rate monitor).

“Well, you did all the work, I just told you what to do.”

“But telling us what to do is more than half the battle!”

Yes, I think I’m a good coach, that I plan an excellent workout and, of course, I am very grateful to be thanked for my efforts. That certainly feels good. But their workout is not about me. It’s their time. I think it’s important to be aware that I am a facilitator for my clients.

Because I will not always be there for them. Life situations, jobs, schedules — these things all change.

get unstuck cat image

What doesn’t change is knowing that you are in charge of you, your life, your body. You are in charge of choosing how and if you will exercise.

And if I won’t always have my clients in my stead, I want to give them the tools for keeping up their exercise routine for life. Those tools aren’t simply how to swing a kettlebell, but knowing that they can.

That is all to say — intrinsic motivation is what will serve us in the end. Doing something “for” someone else is a fleeting kind of motivation:  getting in shape for events, “looking good naked” so that someone will find us sexy? These things won’t get us unto the gym for years to come — for now, maybe, yes. But not forever.

And the thing about giving someone else credit for your workout? That fuels a pipeline of not giving YOURSELF CREDIT. You need to give yourself credit for what you are doing. You need to acknowledge that you showed up. You hauled your ass up and down the stairs, you picked up the kettlebells and your coach simply told you how to do it and gave you a pat on the back.

You’re doing it. Step up to the plate and own it.

2016 Give Me Your Magic

Being that it’s the New Year, I’ve done my fair share of reflecting on the past year and looking towards the future year. As I’ve been thinking about where I am, been and where I want to go, two words that keep coming up for me are adventure and magic.

I’ve realized they are each in their own way, core, guiding values for me. That is, it’s important for me to live life in a way that puts these values as a priority.

For me I practice adventure and magic in these ways:

TRAVEL: To see the world is an important way that I experience the world — to be humbled, to be charmed, to have my horizons broadened both literally and figuratively, to try new things, to meet new people — this is the ultimate adventure in my book, which so often leads to **magic**.

TALK TO STRANGERS: Talking to people when I’m out and about — you find out the most amazing things about people don’t you? I’m not perfect with this, but I try. And being that I’m a natural introvert, for me, trying is part of the way I have an adventure.

TRY NEW FOODS & THINGS: This is something I naturally do and want to do. I will try weird things on a menu, I will try combinations in my kitchen, even if they sound weird to others, if I’m intrigued, I go for it. One example:  brown rice noodles + lemon juice + 1 canof Italian tuna in olive oil drained + mayo + salt + parsley. Now, this isn’t the weirdest combo:  it has it’s roots in Italian cooking, for sure. But you have to admit it’s a little weird — but I made it one evening out of desperation and I love it. It was a magical little culinary adventure! And now it’s one of my favorite go-to dishes on a busy night when I want something relatively healthy and easy-peasy.

Auntie Mame

TRY NEW MOVEMENT: I try new exercises all the time. Just ask my clients that are like “UGH, what’s this new one she’s having us do today?!”. I like to move my kettlbells and weights in new ways, move my body in new ways. It’s exciting to see what it can do! And this upcoming weekend I am going to try snow-shoeing! Wee! To me, new movement, it’s always an adventure. Even if it means falling on my butt. Which I am sure I will do this weekend.

LAUGH: To me, this is a kind of everyday magic. The kind of magic that you can experience anywhere, anytime. No matter how small, how big, it’s special and worth noting in my opinion.

LOVE. Sometimes it’s easy to go along in life and just ho-hum along, but when you stop to realize how much love is in your life, how many people care for you and will help you out? That is a kind of magic that I never want to end.

Why is this relevant? Well, I think it’s hard to feel magic and to be adventurous when you’re not feeling healthy. It’s hard to run, it’s hard to breathe, it’s hard to feel the kind of peace that allows you to feel magic or try new things, when things are weighing you down (both physically and metaphorically).

I have never been healthier in my life or happier than I have been in the last few years. And I can safely say that I’ve had way more adventures and felt an extraordinary amount of magic, too. It’s hard to not see them as intrinsically connected.

I believe that magic is mostly a state of mind, though. It means you are able to see the world through a positive lens. You’re able to see what’s special about people. You’re able to see the little things in life that make this journey that much more special.

So, are you with me? Let’s make 2016 a year of magic and adventure!

 

 

What Not Chewing For Six Weeks Taught Me

Last Thursday was a very happy day — my braces came off! If you’ve been following along, I had braces to assist in the process for a jaw surgery I needed. In honor of this momentous day, I wanted to share with you the lessons I learned during the acute recovery when I wasn’t allowed to chew for six weeks. Yup, no CHEWING for six weeks! It was quite a ride…

bracefree

{brace-free, post dental cleaning!}

On May 7, 2015 I checked into the hospital for what would be a five and a half hour surgery to correct some deformities in my jaw. You can read more about what led to that decision here and read here how I felt about 1.5 weeks into recovery. I was excited to get the surgery done, but I knew even going in that the recovery would be a challenge. The hardest part? Not being able to chew for six weeks. Six weeks! The first week I was on a purely liquid diet that I ate through a syringe. Yup, that is not a typo — a syringe.

After that I was allowed to eat any soft foods I could handle that didn’t need chewing. To say it it was a test of will and spirit would be an understatement. I definitely learned a lot of lessons along the way that I wanted to share with y’all.

Lesson 1:  Carbs and Ice Cream Don’t Make You Fat.

I love ice cream — because I’m human and have a pulse. However, it’s not something I buy often in everyday life. During my recovery, though? I probably ate more ice cream and gelato than I have in the entirety of my adult life. And for the record, the Salted Caramel Gelato currently at Trader Joe’s is the best I had.

I also ate tons carbohydrates, and not the complex ones I preach about either. I was eating *lots* of white flour pasta. Why? Because it was easy to swallow. Ravioli was something I ate almost every day from the end of week 2 until week 6.

Hell, I had cheesecake for lunch one day.

Of course, during most of this time I was losing weight, or maintaining a weight lower than I’ve been in months. That’s right, ice cream and white flour were my major food groups and I was thinner.

The lesson? Calories matter. Overeating matters. I do believe that it’s important to have quality calories and to pay attention to nutrients, but at the end of the day your weight is directly correlated to calories first.

Lesson 2:  Chewing is a Gift.

You know what they say, right, that you never know what you have until you don’t have it anymore? That rings true for chewing more than I can ever properly elucidate to you. Being able to eat texture, to experience crispness, to chew kale leaves — it’s not something we should take for granted. It sustains us and allows us to have diverse diets.

One the things that was quickly apparent to me was that a liquid diet is instantly limiting in terms of fiber, particularly non-soluble fiber, which is an important part of a well-balanced diet. It helps keep you full! It keeps you regular!

Lesson 3:  Life Without Enough Calories is not Fun and Can be Scary.

Feeling dizzy when you stand up? Not fun. Waking up in the middle of the night because your stomach is growling? Not fun.

There were days where as much as I tried, I couldn’t get enough calories in. This happened closer to the beginning of my recovery because adjusting to eating out of a syringe was really, really challenging at first. Figuring out ways to get enough calories in to keep my body happy was hard — enter the intense amount of ice cream I ate! But before I figured all that out, I had a few moments where I nearly passed out. Moments where I was winded from walking up the stairs in my house.

None of this is appealing to me. Calories fuel us. And restriction to this point is scary and possibly dangerous — falling is kind of the last thing you want to do when you’ve just had major surgery on your face.

Lesson 4:  Losing 13 pounds in 5 Days Does Not Give you Six-Pack Abs.

At one point in the first week of recovery I realized I was down 13 pounds from my starting weight. As a fit gal, I always assumed that if I lost enough body fat that my abs would be super ripped — because suddenly they’d be visible!

I’m kind of embarrassed to admit this, but I was honestly a little surprised that this wasn’t the case for me — it made me realize that I’d have to lose a heckuva lot more weight to have a washboard stomach and work even harder in my workouts that I already do to shred my rectus abdominus.

And kiddos, I am likely not going to do that. It’s clear that I don’t have the genetic proclivity for those kinds of abs without a ton of work.

Lesson 5:  Mindless Snacking Packs a Caloric Punch.

Once I got to the point where I could swallow more substantial foods like ravioli and I simply got used to drinking more smoothies, I was finally getting in enough calories. When I did rough calculations, I knew I was getting enough calories in to sustain me. But, eating was such a process I certainly wasn’t going out of my way to eat snacks or mindlessly snack throughout the day. This all made me realize just how many calories can be taken in from snacking and mindless eating throughout the day. I am no bastion of perfection and am just as likely to you to munch on almonds as I work and will sometimes forget what I’m doing. It made me consider that for so many of us, these are truly the excess calories.

Lesson 6:  It is Possible to Change Your Habits So Much That You Honestly Crave Healthy Foods.

This is something I’ve thought about before, but in an intense way this lesson was made ever more true to me. Over the past ten years, I’ve adapted so much to a healthier lifestyle that I genuinely missed my kale salads (just ask my orthodonist and surgeon that I joked about with this constantly!). I missed meals centered around proteins like chicken thighs or wild-caught salmon. I missed feeling energized from what I was eating.

I certainly did my best to power up my smoothies with as many superfoods as I could, but it was in no way the same as my everyday diet.

Lesson 7:  I am Now, More than Ever, Anti-Juice Cleanse.

I have never been on the juice cleanse bandwagon, but now more than ever I am against it. There is just simply absolutely zero reason to subject your bodies to this kind of stress unless it’s medically advised. It’s not worth it! If you want to cleanse, eat clean:  center your meals around protein and veggies and choose low-glycemic carbohydrates. Eliminate alcohol and reduce added sugars. Exercise more.

Trust me when I say your body will appreciate this kind of treatment more than starvation. And heck, if you’re anything like me, a juice cleanse won’t even get you six-pack abs…so really, why even bother? 😉

Now that I am on other side of this process I can tell you it was definitely worth it. While those six weeks definitely felt like the longest of my life, in hindsight it already feels like a distant memory!

The biggest lesson of all that I learned…or rather I re-learned? We can do hard things as long as we keep perspective in mind. 

Is Self-Care Just an Excuse to be Lazy?

Self-care is one of those terms that five years ago I had never heard of. But in my corner of the world, these days I hear it all the time. I use it all the time. I’m still not sure how prevalent it is in the mainstream, but it’s safe to say that it’s a booming concept in many nooks and crannies of the world.

Self-care as an act is doing things to take care of yourself. It can be anything from getting massages, doing yoga, meditating, exercising or even just reading.

It’s your time away from your responsibilities to relax and restore.

It’s a concept I love.

But I was reading some internet commentary recently that said that self-care was an excuse to just be lazy and that it was a sign of an over-privileged middle to upper middle-class needing yet another way to justify pampering themselves.

😦

It made me sad. But I truly get it. I am single lady that has no children, I work for myself and thus choose my own schedule. I work from home often. In reality I have so much damn privilege — right?

The thing is? Taking care of yourself shouldn’t be a privilege left to just a select few. It’s something that we all need.

  • It makes us better humans. Endstop.
  • It gives us a chance to re-connect with what we truly value in life. If we are constantly going from one thing to the next, there is no time to evaluate if we are actually living a life that matters to us and reflects our own values. Basically, it increases your own mindfulness about your own life.
  • Engaging in self-care acts reduce stress, which of course contributes to overall health and well-being.
  • It makes us better workers. As a society, via labor laws, we acknowledge the power of taking breaks from work, yet we put in high-esteem those that are constantly “busy” and never take breaks. Why do we do this? It doesn’t make us better at our jobs to work non-stop. I personally find that I run my gears when I do this and don’t actually accomplish as much as when I work in small, dedicated, bursts.
  • In my opinion, it sends a powerful message to yourself and those around you:  that is, that you matter enough to be taken care of.

You matter. That is what self-care is all about, in my opinion. It is not a selfish act. Prioritizing your health matters.

At the end of your life will you be happy that you accomplished everything on your to-do lists and were so busy you barely had time to catch your breath? Or will you be happy that you took time to smell the roses, watch the view or take a bath? I can’t answer that question for you, but I know how I’d answer that question.

I love my little corner of the universe 💕 #thatsky #bayarea #sunset #landscape

A post shared by Catherine Wohlwend (@coach_cat_) on

I Wish I Could Do That!

“I’m not the kind of person that works out.”

This is a thought I had in college and my early 20s.

“I wish I could do that!”

This was said to me when I was doing a workout last year on Thanksgiving morning.

It *really* struck me. The person that said this to me was in reality no different than myself. She had time, access to fitness equipment, and no children. A lot like myself.

For a moment I felt a slight sense of shame — was it bad that I was choosing to spend some time working out on the morning of a holiday instead of leaving early to spend more time with family? was it selfish? was it vain?

Given I’ve been working on my mindset practice for quite some time, I knew how to turn my shame triggering thoughts around. Because I exercise for so many reasons, I knew that I would not only physically feel better going into a huge Thanksgiving meal, but that I would calm any anxiety I had (family, traffic, cooking, etc.).

Here’s the thing: you get to decide what kind of person you are.

You get to decide to exercise. “I wish I could do that.” Is language that takes the power away from you. Linguistically, you are saying that you have no choice in the matter.

But the beauty of being an adult living in the free world? We choose our path.

There is not one kind of person that works out. There are people that run, people that lift, people that swing kettlebells, people that go to spin classes, people that go to yoga, people that do pilates, people that run 100 miles in the desert, there are people that ride bikes, people that hike mountains

Exercise is simply movement. The human body is, in fact, designed to move. For realsies. There is no one kind of person is allowed the privilege of being the “KIND OF PERSON THAT EXERCISES”.

You ARE that kind of person.

You ARE the kind of person that chooses to do something you love.

You ARE the kind of person that can decide to be joyful in your movement.

You CHOOSE to be that kind of person.

You choose to be this kind of person by the everyday small choices that you make. You choose to be this kind of person by developing habits. The difference between myself and the person who made the comments to me?

  • I wake up early and have a structured sleep schedule that I prioritize.
  • I don’t negotiate with myself about exercise, I simply do it.
  • I have found movement that invigorates my soul.

In life, we can be “victims” of circumstance or revel in the joy that is the wide open path of choice.

What do you choose for today? Remember, it’s the small choices that add up to something amazing.

We Are What We Speak.

In the winter of 2001 I had a lot of firsts:  my first love, my first experience with snow in Seattle, and my first time being truly enveloped in an academic pursuit. I was a sophomore at UW, taking second-year German, an expository English writing course and a literature class. My life revolved around words:  love, Leben and English.

Expository writing needs a topic, a theme. That particular quarter, my instructor chose medical language — the way we talk about illness, the way we write about it, the general zeitgeist of our speech choices. Initially I was bummed — this topic was most definitely not in my wheelhouse of expertise at the time. As the quarter passed, we looked back at how tuberculosis was romanticized in westerns, then we started to look at contemporary pieces about the “fight” against cancer and the military-esque metaphors we all regularly use to describe disease. And I was sort of, well, hooked.

When put plainly in front of you, it was pretty shocking. Why do we do this? These are our bodies that we are discussing, yet when it comes to disease we suddenly use words that imply we are raging against them. Our bodies that we know and love are suddenly part of the enemy. It’s not this simple though: the answers of why we speak like this are impossible to lay out simply and plainly in front of you.

And this was my biggest first of all that winter:  it was my entry into truly understanding and feeling how and why the words we choose, matters. From the very first email I sent for BCSF, I have always had this in the back of my mind and have been applying it to the language we use around fitness. Because, words mean things.

And yet, so often the words that are chosen to represent fitness are aggressive and negative. About our own bodies. About our own minds. On the one hand we say we are working out for our health, to live longer lives, to run around with our kids and grandkids — all positive and noble reasons to exercise. Yet, a quick search on Pinterest for the top fitness pins give us “9 Moves to Shrink your Muffin Top”, a “Saddlebag Sizzler”, “5 Arm Workouts to Teach you How To Look Good in a Tank Top”. We buy books that tell us how to get “Killer Abs with a Killer Body”.  We want workouts that “torch” calories, we want to burn, burn, burn. Calories are an enemy in the fitness game. I would file most of these words as negative. When you look at them, most inspire judgment, shame, self-loathing and condescension.

But, aren’t our bodies are precious? Isn’t it awesome that we have the power to do so much with them? Isn’t it awesome that we have bodies that allow us to deadlift, run, do push-ups, do pull-ups? Isn’t it awesome that even when we can’t do something that we really, really want to do, we can almost always do something rather than nothing?

Aren’t calories the means that allow us to do all the above? Because last I checked, calories are what give us the energy to chase after our kids, to walk with your significant other on the beach, to chase your dog, to run up that hill.

Why did we decide that these things our enemies?

Why do we allow people to cut us down with shameful sounding workouts right out of the gate?

We can do better this.

We can fix this.

encourage mint

And it all starts with how we speak about our workouts. It starts with owning your badassery out of the gate. It starts with being proud of what you did, not what you didn’t quite get right during your workout. Recognizing mistakes is not the same as tearing yourself down for making mistakes. It’s not about feeling guilty about having “excuses”. It’s about being realistic and remembering your “why”. Your “end game”.

My why:  life-long health and pursuing something I love with passion and all I’ve got.

My “end-game”:  to exercise until I’m 85 (or longer, hell, who knows what’ll happen) and to do so safely.

This starts with honoring the process. By having goals but not determining my self-worth by said goals. I.e. I have a goal of training for StrongFirst right now, but that doesn’t supercede my priority of training safely, to mitigate injury and to be able to do this all for years to come. The SFG cert is like a cherry on top of a cake that I have working on for years, building layer by layer.

So, try it. Try only using positive words to talk about your workouts and fitness goals. Try avoiding plans that use shame right out of the gate. And let’s just see what happens.

Mindful March: Your Challenge Begins Here.

It’s March! What does March mean to you? For me, it’s the start of spring. And while in California we have a very loose definition of seasons, I yearn for this time of year when the days start to get longer and I’m not teaching BCSF in the dark. Waking up to the sun, rather the dark is a powerful, positive omen for my days.

March can be a ho-hum month. Short of St. Patrick’s Day, there are no holidays. No 3-day weekends, perhaps if you’re in school your Spring Break falls this month. But otherwise, it’s an intermediary to get from winter to summer, right?

It’s also the time that most of us have fully given up and forgotten about our New Year’s resolutions, which to me makes it a great time to re-jigger things in our life. To take a little time to get a little more mindful.

Mindfulness to me is a slowing down. It’s taking time to become aware of things. And in becoming more mindful we allow ourselves to get to know ourselves a bit better. We connect more. We slow down and the path becomes clearer. We are more confident in who we are and the choices that we make everyday.  Being more mindful has allowed me to become clearer with my goals both professionally and personally. I’ve taken the approach to my own fitness and have gone further than I thought was possible — because I slowed down, I’ve lifted heavier things in ways than I didn’t think I could. It’s allowed me to post more authentic and truthful things on this blog.

 

Mindfulness is about small actions that lead to something greater. Throughout March I’m going to post one action each weekday on my Facebook and Instagram pages that you can do to become more mindful. Most of these will take less than 10 minutes and many are things you can do in the midst of your workday, commutes, etc. It’s designed to make you slow down and connect with what you are doing. We all go through the motions of everyday life. It happens and no one can be mindful but 100% of the time. But let’s slow down and see what will happen if you take small actions every day for a month. What could change in your life? The possibilities are limitless, truly.

I hope you’ll follow along and take part! #mindfulMarch begins today. Watch for the first #dailyaction this morning!