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.

Three Tactics to Meet Your 2016 Goals

Ten years ago when I started answering the phone for my fitness company I remember being struck by how much people wanted to talk before registering for classes.

After several months of 20 to 30 minute long phone calls, it dawned at me what was going on with most of these folks:   they felt vulnerable about joining an intense fitness program. And when we feel this way it’s often helpful to talk it out.

Realizing that changed the way I viewed fitness as an industry, forever.

brene brown vulnerability quote

No longer was the way I viewed the business of fitness as a cheesy, soulless and vain quest to get people better abs, but, for me, it became a quest to take people by the hand, give them good information, quality workouts and respect their feelings.

See, here’s the thing. Fitness is in logical terms, simple. We all know that working out is good for us. We all know that potato chips aren’t so good for us.

But that doesn’t make our feelings about these things simple.

It doesn’t make getting out of bed to get a workout in before a long commute, simple.

So, while I know that this is the time of year when many of us feel the need to go on a strict diet and be really, really hard on ourselves in the pursuit of fitness and health, I urge you to re-consider how you’re approaching your fitness and health goals as we head into 2016 using these three principles to guide you:

  • Acknowledge Your Vulnerabilities. It’s okay if you’re intimidated by the gym. It’s okay if you’re not sure how to use a machine, do a push-up properly or the best way to get more veggies in your day. This is all just information. You can figure this out. You can hire a coach (ahem!). You can talk to a gym-going friend. But acknowledging your feelings will help you. Trying to pretend that you don’t have insecurities will likely only get in the way of success. Because when we are putting our ego at the forefront, we are less likely to ask for help. And it’s my opinion that you are less likely to make true change without some help — be it via information gathering, coaching or support from a family member for things like childcare.
  • Practice Self-Compassion. You are going to have set-backs. You’re going to sleep in and miss your workout one day, you’re going to have a slice of pizza for lunch when you intended to have a huge-ass salad. The question is, how do you handle these situations? What isn’t going to serve you? Beating yourself up for these slip-ups. What will serve you? Realizing that you are in a bigger-picture scenario — that is, what you do most of the time defines your physique, your fitness and health, not what happens on a day when you didn’t get enough sleep.
  • Be Realistic With Your Goals. Don’t set yourself up for failure. Don’t decide that you are going to run a marathon in 4 months when you haven’t ran in 8 years. Sure, you might hear of people doing such things, but that is a rare case, not the norm. One of my goals is to be active and fit well into old-age. This guides me well because it means that I don’t do stupid things — I don’t train through injuries and I don’t try things that I know I’m not ready for.

You can definitely do this! Don’t let your vulnerabilities stop you. Don’t let your setbacks set you back 😉 And be honest about what is realistic for you, right now. You are worth this journey.

Here’s to healthy, happy and magical 2016!

P.S. If you need help with information gathering, don’t forget that I send out weekly workouts to my email list each Sunday. Sign up for my list here.

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.

Moving Forward: Using Your Past as a Tool

Yesterday I was looking through some files and came across a swathe of my old workout plans. These were plans for classes I taught about 4 years ago. Looking through them it was fun to see how I’ve evolved as a trainer. I laughed because I have exercises that were used over and over again and I don’t even know what the exercise IS! A froggie? What is a froggie? What is an Anna sit-up? And other questions, like why haven’t I used an Indian run in my class for what feels like 2 years?!

workouts Continue reading “Moving Forward: Using Your Past as a Tool”

Is Exercise a Punishment?

This summer I went on a date with a very normal San Francisco guy. He worked in tech and really was hoping to make the leap to his own start-up — so yes, he really was that typical of SF. As we talked he bottom-lined me and asked: “So, tell me, could you actually date someone that doesn’t workout?”. I truthfully answered that I don’t need a partner to be as enthusiastic as I am about kettlebells and perfect squat form. If anything, it’s nice to have someone at home that wants to talk about something other than workouts since it’s pretty much what I think about 40+ hours a week. And I’ve dated men that were competitive with me when it came to fitness knowledge and application – to say that was frustrating would be a vast understatement.

 

The tech guy went on to tell me that he had a personal trainer a few years back and was in the best shape of his life due to the grueling workouts he went through. But he was no longer interested in working out, pretty much ever again. Not sure if he was joking or simply trying to get a rise out of me and always willing to give someone a chance, we texted throughout the following week to set up another date. At one point he sent me a message complaining about walking up Potrero Hill to his apartment at the top. I tried to make a joke to really suss out how serious he was about this and to nudge him with the idea that going uphill is something I enjoy a lot. But his heels were dug in: this was something he clearly felt was worthy of a complaint. At this point, I was certain that we wouldn’t be a good match.  To have the health and ability to be able to do this sort of thing is a true gift that not everyone has.

view potrero hill

Because to me, exercise is actually self-care. Movement is something we need to do to take care of our bodies to live healthfully and happy for the entirety of our lives. It is a gift we are endowed with to do things like hike up Potrero Hill or Macchu Pichu, but, it is also something akin to brushing our teeth, flossing, doing our laundry, going to the doctor for regular check-ups and so on and so forth. That is to say, it’s necessary, not optional. As with any commitment, sometimes we may enjoy it, sometimes we may not. But it is never something that should be a punishment. And if you don’t enjoy the way you are exercising, change it. If your needs change due to illness, injury or disability – change it, don’t give up, just know that sometimes in life you will have to adjust the way you workout. Women have babies, people get hurt, we get older. It happens and we simply need to adapt.
Continue reading “Is Exercise a Punishment?”

Is Your House on Fire?

A few weeks ago I was at my dog park and it was later at night, around 9pm. I’d had a long day and felt my pup deserved an off-leash romp, even if that meant going in the dark. I didn’t expect anyone to be there, but an older woman was there with her two rascals. We started talking and before long I learned that as a young adult she had been a nun. It made sense, actually, she definitely had the demeanor of someone that had listened a lot in her life. The kind of listening were the words don’t matter so much as the space between the words.

Before you know it, she was telling me a story of someone she knew that was getting a divorce. She said that it seemed clear that the marriage had been over many years before, but that her “house wasn’t on fire yet” but that recently it had gone down quickly, all the way to the ground.

This concept of a house needing to be on fire before someone is motivated to truly change really struck me.

In terms of health and wellness many people don’t change until their house is on fire. They wait until their cholesterol is so high that it requires medication. They wait until they can’t climb a flight of stairs without losing their breath. They wait until the 5 pounds of holiday season weight has become 20 the next July.

And this makes sense. Life is busy, complicated and sometimes just getting by feels like you are winning at life. Treading water is better than drowning. I heard that and I feel that, too.

But we all know that it doesn’t have to be this way. Is there an area of your life that feels like that? Are you barely keeping your head above? Let’s focus on that and let’s try to change before your ship is totally sunk. Let’s stop before your fire begins — it’s so much easier to re-decorate a house than it is to re-build it, right?

If your area is fitness and healthy eating and you are just keeping your head above water right now, let’s do these three things this week to ensure we catch you before your house is engulfed in flames:

1. Focus on ADDING in one healthy eating behavior. That could be eating one huge salad a day with a lean protein. That’s it. Don’t change anything else in your diet, just ADD this salad.

2. Add in a high-intensity-interval training session to your workout week. Don’t change anything else you’re doing workout-wise. Just ADD this in. This can be some sprint repeats, hill sprint repeats and anything Tabata-style, like intervals on a spin bike. Shoot for a 20-minute session. Yes, that’s it!

3.  Spend one hour a week doing a relaxing self-care focused thing for yourself. This could be a leisure walk, a yoga class or podcast, or meditation — you can break it up into 10 minutes 6 – 7 days a week, too. 

Commit to this House on Fire Challenge for one week and tell me how it goes! If you need ideas on some high-intensity workouts to try, just ask!

kettlbell

Dear Jillian Michaels : The Size of My Jeans Doesn’t Matter to Me.

For the last year or so I’ve listened to Jillian Michael’s weekly podcast. She is by many accounts a derisive figure in the fitness community. I would say that most coaches that I generally associate myself with would be inclined to dislike her and most kettlebell coaches really dislike her or maybe just strongly disagree with her techniques. Even though I was skeptical too, for some reason I decided to listen to one of her podcasts awhile back and I actually kind of appreciated the mindset conversations she does on them, so I continued to tune in many weeks. So, I’m saying this all to be clear from the start:  I went into this podcast very much liking Jillian Michaels.

But something really caught me off-guard in her podcast from July 14, 2014, titled “Fat Shaming”, when Michaels was talking about the fat acceptance movement. To be fair, I believe this is an incredibly complicated topic/movement that I am not sure I would ever be able or want to tackle, frankly.

As Michael’s went on to talk about this movement, she was saying that you need to love yourself at all body weights (agree), but that being able to have healthy biometrics (cholesterol, blood pressure, etc.) should always be your baseline measure of health. Great, I’m down with that — it is undoubtedly a challenge to have healthy biometrics when you’re obese, so I see where she is going with that and then…she went on to say that “I’ve seen many healthy girls in…size 8s, maaaaybe size 10s. I don’t generally see it in 12s. 14s. Don’t see that. Have yet to see that.” And my jaw was on the ground!

Because, here I am. A fitness trainer. Someone that helps literally hundreds of people get their workout in every day (about 25 of my own students daily, the rest throughout my company). And I’m, no joke, wearing a size 10 jean as I’m listening to her. Which means that I may or may not be healthy according to Jillian Michael’s standards?!

Let’s be clear:  I’m not overweight. My blood pressure is typically in the “athlete” range. I have healthy cholesterol numbers. My body composition is also in the athletic/fit range. I recently had an annual exam and my doctor commented on how “lean” I was (which for this exam, unfortunately made her job more difficult, #irony). I can both squat and deadlift more than my bodyweight and then some. I teach 9 bootcamp classes a week. I recently have been working on Turkish Get-Ups and get a kick out of using a 16KG (35-ish pounds) kettlebell for these. I say none of this to brag — and, frankly, I am still striving to improve on many of my lifts and areas of fitness. But what these are, are facts and effects of a lifestyle that I choose a long time ago. One that I love, I might add and one that is about WAY more than what size of jeans I fit into on a given day.

And yet, Jillian Michaels thinks that I should at least be a size 8 to prove that I’m healthy. I mean, is this real life? Are these things fitness “experts” should be using as a metric for being healthy?

belfie me

(Embarrassingly, yes, I recently took a #belfie. But at least now you all know what my butt looks like. And that is a butt that will likely never fit in a size 8 pair of jeans.)

Let’s start with the obvious flaw in this metric:  clothing companies have wildly different sizing standards. You don’t need to try hard to figure this out:  every time I order clothing online, a sizing guide inevitably pops up. Because they all have different sizing standards. And clothing brands know and get this. So is Jillian suggesting that I let Gap and JCrew decide if I’m healthy? Because that is what we are doing if we’re using clothing size as a healthy metric.  The bottom line is that even if you don’t like the rest of what I have to say, I think we can all agree that a clothing size is a very arbitrary measure to use for health.

I’m quite confident that your average American woman has a range of sizes in her closet even if her weight has stayed constant in the past 5 years, since most of us buy different brands and even brands are known to change their own sizing standards. I know in my case that besides those size 10 jeans I was wearing the other day, I also have some 12 jeans in my closet right now. I also have small tops, medium tops, size 8 pants, medium-sized pants — I even have a pair of size 14 shorts. THE HORROR! How could I possibly think I was healthy while wearing a pair of shorts with a number 14 on the tag?!

I’m 5’11 and weigh 165 pounds, give or take.

selfie outfit

 (size 12 crop pants, medium top)

I’m not overweight. And yet, I have a pair of size 14 shorts. Yup, there, I said it! The world knows my awful dirty, little secret. Should I be ashamed, Jillian? Should I crash diet so that I can fit into a “healthier” size 8 short?

My best friend is also 5’11, but she is a long-distance runner and is less muscular than myself. Even at 150 pounds, squeezing her hips into a size 8 pair of jeans would prove challenging and you’d likely consider this woman a beanpole.

 lindseywedding(she’s on the far right)

 

Another close friend is 6’2 and was a competitive Division I rower in college. The girl is gorgeous and athletic.  If you met her, I doubt you would consider her unhealthy or overweight…you might actually think she’s a badass and possibly wonder if she plays for the WNBA. It is laughable to think wearing a size 8 jean is a metric she should have to worry about.

rachelle

A trainer with a large online following, Molly Galbraith is gorgeous and basically my body twin at 5’10 and in the same weight range as me, 165 pounds-ish per her recent posts.

mollygalbraith

Do you think Molly is unhealthy? Do you think Molly wears a size 8 jeans? Um, no and no.

I decided to Google a few known tall celebrities and Venus Williams sprung to mind. She’s both athletic and tall and at 6’1 is reported to be between 159 and 165 pounds. I highly doubt she wears anything less than a size 10 jean.

venus williams

But….look at her. Do you think she cares about fitting into a particular size of jeans while she is winning matches? I doubt it. Do you think she frets that her butt is too big? Maybe. I mean, all women have their body image battles, right? But do I think that Venus Williams loses sleep over the state of her cardiovascular health? I would guess, a resounding:  no.

I would actually bet that Venus has her jeans tailored for her, since she spent years building her legs on the tennis court and those of us with legit leg muscles have a really tough time squeezing our glutes and quads into smaller jeans, even if our waists are smaller. Sidebar:  this is actually a known problem among lifters, which has caused some people looking to profit from this niche market, such as Barbell Denim that raised $735,000 for start-up costs on Kickstarter this spring.

You might be asking yourself:  why does this matter? Of course, we don’t need a trainer to tell us what size jeans to wear, Cat, DUH! Well, here’s why it matters:  as I was growing up, I didn’t really have many people to “measure” myself against to know if I was normal or not. I was taller than both my mom and sisters by a 3 – 6 inch margin. I didn’t know that wearing size 10 jeans was okay — especially for someone of my height. I remember being at the DMV for the first time and feeling so weird for having to say that my weight was in the 160s. As far as I knew, “women” were supposed to weigh in the 130s or so. I can only imagine if I had heard something like what Jillian Michaels said in her podcast when I was 16.

What if when I was 16, I had had CONFIRMATION from a celebrity expert that a size 10 was unhealthy? I likely would have been devastated and ashamed, even though I was actually normal and healthy. This is why what we say matters. And especially why someone that is a public figure, like Jillian Michaels, should be especially mindful of what metrics she is throwing around. Because young women are looking to us to understand their place in the world. They are looking up to us and they need to understand that yes, they are okay and that yes, we don’t value them simply for the size of jeans they wear.

How did I come around to realizing that I was indeed healthy just as I was and decide to not place value on the tag inside my jeans?

 

1. I talked to other women. I asked them about these things. I realized that these women (some of the above) were healthy and gorgeous. If THEY wore size 10 pants, it was probably okay that I did too.
2. I found exercise that I loved. That I couldn’t do without. And in turn learned to love my body more for what it could do, rather than what other people thought of it.
3. I worked on my posture. Being a tall girl that was unsure of herself growing up, my posture was the pits. I still catch myself rolling in the shoulders from time to time, but the key is that I catch myself now and correct it. Hearing this TED talk about power poses has really solidified to me how important this is. It’s okay to take up space in the world — and you’ll probably like yourself more when you do!
4. I make an effort to buy clothes that FIT me well and flatter my figure. DESPITE the size on the tag. We all have our disadvantages and advantages when it comes to fashion. Own ’em and move on.

5. I’d be remiss to not address that working in the fitness industry has made me so keenly aware of the messages we send each other about body image. I believe it has caused me to delve into these issues far more deeply than I ever would have, had I not been a part of it. It made me consider if encouraging people to get shredded for bikini season was something I wanted to be a part of — spoiler alert, it’s not. It made me realize that words matter and that ultimately, if I didn’t walk to the walk, I would never be able to help the clients I work with in the ways that matter to me most:  to get and/or keep them healthy, to make sure they know how amazing they are, to help them be stronger, faster and ready to take on the physical and emotional challenges of everyday life.

I suppose if I were able to surgically alter my hip bones to be slighter narrower and stopped exercising in the hope that my glutes could possibly atrophy (though realistically, muscles wouldn’t do this easily), I could fit into smaller jeans. Right? I mean, that sounds reasonable doesn’t it Jillian?

It couldn’t possibly be that if I went to such drastic measures that, in fact  it would be a sign of some serious self-loathing and disordered thinking would it Jillian?

Folks, please. We don’t need anyone, not Jillian Michaels, not your co-worker, not a sales clerk in a clothing store, not the folks at the Gap that work on sizing, our mother, our best friend or strangers on the internet telling us what size jeans we need to wear to be healthy. Spoiler alert:  your jeans size tell you nothing about your biometrics. So, please, please, please talk to your doctor about whether you’re healthy or not. Get blood work done if it’s been awhile. If you don’t like your doctor, find a new one.

And Jillian? Please find a better metric to help the public determine whether we’re healthy or not. Because frankly, I don’t give a damn what size my jeans are. And neither should you.

Coaching & Training: On Motivation and Critique

Lately I have been thinking a lot about what it means to be a trainer or coach. In our current landscape it is an evolving role and there is so much to say about it all. And I’m not the only one that thinks so. I’ve read probably 8 or 10 write-ups in the last 3 months alone! It has given me enough ideas for at least four posts, but I’m starting here today.

A few months ago  I came across an article that caught my attention, gave me pause and I really wanted to write a response to it because I just had SO MUCH TO SAY. I think it only represents a small part of the fitness industry and I want to show you a broader spectrum. I want to show that there are a lot of ways to do this and a lot of ways to think about teaching group fitness that are, in my opinion, more beneficial to the people we serve.

The way my company teaches is different than group fitness in a gym, which is what I feel that this article is geared towards. Mostly I have the same people showing up day in and day out, only adding new people when a new session begins. And our groups are typically less than 12 participants. So yes, it’s a very different environment — one which I prefer! But that doesn’t mean that your standard gym classes aren’t good and can’t be better. They are and they can be!
Continue reading “Coaching & Training: On Motivation and Critique”

“Counting” workouts

If I had a dollar for every time a client or friend asked me if something “counted” as a workout, I would definitely have a few extra hundred bucks in the bank. And just this week I read a fitness piece by someone that I truly like and respect. In the program, there was a guideline for not counting certain types of movement as your exercise for the week. I get the point of this:  you want your clients to actually do the workouts you write for them. You want them to achieve the results you’ve promised them and that won’t happen if they don’t do the workouts. I truly understand this perspective.

But the idea of not counting things like soccer games or hilly weekend hikes as part of your weekly exercise? To me, that’s the wrong tone to set. Because to me that sounds like we’re telling people that what they are already doing isn’t good enough. And that’s just not my style. Because for those people that are doing that kind of stuff? Keep going, buddy! I don’t want them to stop. I want my workouts to complement their life as it is, I don’t want them to prioritize a workout over a hike. There. I said it. My workouts are a piece of the puzzle to make those things more fun, so you are stronger and have more endurance, not replace something you already enjoy.

As for those times when we ask someone this question of, “does this count?”, it’s because we feel the need to have validation, right? I get it, we want to know that it counts, damnit!? But here is the truth:  no one is keeping track…no one except you! Trust me, whatever your beliefs are, there is no God of fitness keeping hash marks of your workouts.

You might be saying to yourself:  what the hell kind of trainer says this kind of stuff? The kind of trainer that doesn’t believe in using shame tactics, that’s who. Because putting pressure on yourself to measure up to some arbitrary measure is a really awful way to feel. Trust me when I say that the only people that need to worry about whether a workout “counts” are competitive athletes (that likely do have a coach keeping track) or perhaps those that have a very specific goal in mind, like completing an Ironman. If those don’t apply to you, shouldn’t your goal simply to be healthy and happy? Shouldn’t your workouts simply be a complement to your busy life and not be yet another thing that makes you feel bad yourself? There are many battles to fight in life. This isn’t one of them.

If you moved into a new house this weekend and lifted boxes for 48-hours, you better believe I would validate the hell out of you and understand if you didn’t fit in a run or trip to the gym. Not because I want you to be lazy, but I don’t believe in creating an exercise obsession either. Yes, there is always “time” to fit in a workout. Hell, I’ve used this logic with clients and on myself. There are times when it is worth it:  like the time I did Tabata sprints in a hotel parking lot at 7am in 25-degree weather with my dog before spending 9-hours in the car. But is actually  necessary to kill yourself to get up at 5:30 to fit in a workout on already very active day, e.g. moving? It’s definitely a question that is worth asking yourself.

tabata and stella

(Stella wasn’t super stoked about the sprints being so early…but she warmed up quickly!)

So if you find yourself asking someone else if something “counts” as a workout, step aside and ask yourself a few things:

1. Does whatever you’re doing meet your goals? (If you don’t know what your goals are, this question doesn’t even apply to you because your goal is then to simply be healthy and happy.)

2. Are you moving?

3. Are you sweating?

4. Does it make you happy?

If you can answer at least 3 of those things, then yes, here I am to say that it “counts” as a workout.

It’s okay to want validation. Particularly if you are paying for a trainer, whose advise and expertise is what you are looking and paying for. But let’s ask ourself why we are asking this kind of question:  is it because you’re actually looking for a technique, exercise-science based opinion? I.e. can I count this as my “arms” day, etc. Or is it because you want someone to tell that what you did was good enough? If it’s the latter, then let’s go back to our checklist above. Because I am here to tell you that you are good enough. You don’t need someone else to tell you that. Trust me…you are good enough!