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Category: General fitness

No Mean Girls Allowed Here….

So, here I am almost a year post-retirement from being a Pro bodybuilding competitor and I thought I’d let you know what that looks like. As a reminder for those of you that haven’t read any of my other blogs, (Shame on you! Go ahead and read them now, we’ll wait…….) you’ll know that I competed for years in natural bodybuilding, turned Pro and did pretty well for most of that. I didn’t start competing until I turned 40 so my longevity in the sport was shortened, however, I’m proud of what I accomplished during that time. That being said, I knew for awhile that my heart wasn’t in it anymore but once you’re in, it’s a hard thing mentally to pull yourself out of. I’ll never look at myself in the mirror the same way again, not when I’ve seen myself with single digit body fat holding a trophy and check in my hand with rock hard glutes and a 6 pack. That’s always going to be there. The good news is I’m 95% okay with not being there anymore. The only time I miss it is when I see pictures of myself, from last year going back over 13 years and get a bit nostalgic for that lean and shredded physique. But the reality is that it’s not really very healthy to achieve that nor is it a sustainable body for the long term. That body takes most of your daily focus, from every bite of food that you take and every workout structure and how you burn your calories. It leaves little to no room for things outside of that. It effects your time with your family and your friends, all of your social outings and every vacation you go on. My husband and I went on a vacation to the amazing island of Anguilla in July (just before the hurricane tore it apart, so sad) and he told me it was one of the best vacations we had ever been on because I just ate off the menu and I didn’t research every restaurant before we went to make sure there was something I could adapt to fit my diet. Seriously. I did that on and OFF-season for YEARS because even off-season means you can’t let things go too far. And I’ll admit, it was much more relaxing having that freedom and flexibility back. It doesn’t mean I went crazy and ate a bunch of nonsense, it just means I threw out the bodybuilding rulebook when it came to my food intake.
I know my journey through this sport and coming back out of it isn’t the same as everyone else’s. Everyone that competes has their own unique path that they take to their goal of stepping on stage. I lifted for 20 years before I ever competed, which meant that I was already in pretty decent shape. I’d never been on a diet in my life and I never did “cardio”. I worked my butt off in the gym every day but I did that because I LOVED it, not because I needed to look a certain way for some judges. So coming back out of being a competitor for me is just trying to return to the “me” I was before I started competing (albeit an older version). I had a pretty decent handle on being fit and living life without the parameters that this sport instilled in me. I know for many, your desire is to NOT go back to the way you lived your life before competing. Maybe you were an unhealthy weight, or you had a relationship with food that led you down the wrong path. Or maybe you got into the sport to make you feel better about yourself. I get that, although I would argue that this sport PROBABLY isn’t going to do what you thought it would in the long term when it comes to self-esteem. And no, I’m not being negative, just real. Self-confidence and self-esteem come from a very different place, and it’s not the mirror. Those insecurities will still be there under that 6 pack, even though you’ll be able hide it behind that body for awhile. I was always a really confident person. In reality, competing took away some of that confidence that I had because now I was basing things around my aesthetics. It was the entirety of my focus. No longer was I in the gym just because of the love of lifting, now every workout became the pursuit of the perfect butt, or having amazing delts, or a wider back, or an amazing quad sweep. Now I was breaking my body up into parts and it became blaringly obvious that some of those parts were lacking.
How do I come back from that? How do I get back to that place where I’m okay if my body isn’t the perfect “X” we strive for in the sport? One day at a time, that’s how. It’s funny because for years I worried how I would know when it was time to retire. Lucky for me that day came and without question I knew I wanted to be done competing. Happily that feeling has not changed. I tell everyone that I am very happily retired, no regrets. But that doesn’t mean that I’m suddenly okay with what I see in the mirror. I’m not sure I’ll ever really come back 100% to the way I felt before I competed. BUT, it does get better as time goes along. I see a little cellulite now and I don’t have that feeling of anxiety it used to give me. I don’t put on a posing suit and analyze my butt and how many pounds need to come off before I see the muscle. I don’t take off my rings when I weigh and then re-weigh after my shower in case body oil made me heavier. (yes, no joke, that happened more times than I’d like to mention). As a matter of fact, I haven’t even been on the scale in MONTHS. If my size 26 jeans don’t fit then I know I need to do something. That’s good enough for me. I’m re-learning how to eat intuitively, because that’s how I ate for the first 40 years and it worked just fine. I’m working out now because I love to lift. I’m spending less time in the gym each day but still working my butt off while I’m there. (Three hours in the gym isn’t the badge of honor you think it is. It can be terribly detrimental to your goal if you’re natural, but that’s a subject for another blog on another day.) And I’m learning to not be so mean to myself and how I look in the mirror. And yes, I meant MEAN. I was like one of those mean girls that bashes another girl’s imperfections except I was doing it to myself every day!    And I did ALL of that AND I have what would be considered a pretty high self-esteem! But that’s what spending almost 14 years in the sport did to me. And that’s NOT a good place. We are all wonderfully and beautifully made, even in all of our imperfections. (By the way, that does not mean that it’s okay to be an unhealthy weight. If you carry significant body fat then that will be detrimental to your health and longevity and needs to be addressed…period. That’s part of being a good steward with the body you’ve been given and it means that sometimes you need to just suck it up and do the work and stop complaining about how you got shortchanged in the physique department.) But what it does mean is that if you don’t look like you could be on the cover of a magazine when you put on a swimsuit, that’s okay. Most of those people can’t enjoy a good cheeseburger and sweet potato fries on an Anguillan vacation, at least not without suffering tremendous guilt. And I did and I felt no guilt and let me tell you how awesome that was to leave the guilt behind! Do I do that all the time? Nope, because I don’t need to or even want to. But it’s not off-limits and that is key to coming out of this thing on the other side. Letting go of the rules of the sport and learning how to live again.

I sound like I’m just bashing bodybuilding as a sport, and that really isn’t my intention. However, I will say that there are more and more people that stand on that stage that I feel shouldn’t be there. I’ve seen it really beat people down. People who started with low self-confidence or those that expected it to completely change them from the person they were into this person that they daydream about being. Competing was a huge learning experience for me. I learned a lot about myself. I learned that I could set a goal and not waver from it no matter what outside influences came flying at my face. I learnedthat I have incredible focus and drive when it’s something I want bad enough. And I learned how to be a better trainer having experienced a myriad of situations and obstacles in my own life and to those around me. For that I am grateful because it now means I can better help others. I see the red flags and I can steer someone in a healthier direction. So I will never regret the time I spent getting to that stage. Plus I’ll always have those pictures that will remind me what I accomplished, right?

So here I am a year out and it’s been wonderful and difficult all at the same time. I’ve come a long way but still have a ways to go. But I’m proud of myself because I’ve evicted that inner mean girl. (Some days she knocks on the door and wants back in so I’m looking forward to the day when I kick her off the planet!) I don’t count macros or weigh or log my food in an app. I don’t feel guilty or imagine all of my muscle disappearing and the fat packing on if I miss a workout one day. And I don’t freak when I see a bit of fat on my butt. This butt can hike me up a mountain or pedal my bike for hours while enjoying the great outdoors and this butt still press a fair amount of weight in the gym. I will always be a work in progress. I was before I started competing and I still am. But that progress is no longer with an end goal to impress 7 judges at a table. Now I’m back to just impressing myself. And at the end of the day, I’m the only one that needs to be impressed because no one else hears all of those inner voices in my head. I’ll know I’m back when the only voice I hear in my head says “AWESOME JOB!”

If you’re considering your next step either into the competition world or stepping out of it, whoever you may be, listen to your true voice, not the one that talks to you when you look at pictures of people on magazine covers or on their Instagram posts. Listen to the real YOU. And then whatever you choose to do, give it your all. If you choose to compete, then do it! Give it your all so thatyou can look back and say “I did that and I did an amazing job! (Just promise me you won’t cross that line into harming yourself to get there.) Right now, I’m giving retirement my all and I’m loving it. If you’re struggling to know what that is, send me a message. I’ll be happy to listen. Not to talk you out of or into anything, but just to help you find your own way. Every decision you make one way or another has life ramifications and sometimes what looks shiny and golden on the outside is actually quite rough and unfinished on the inside. At the same time, sometimes taking ANY step forward is positive, even if it means stepping out of the quicksand and into the storm. At least you’re moving forward, right?

Alright, now get back to the gym and pick up some heavy things, then go home and send that mean girl packing. YOU ARE EXCEPTIONAL and you deserve to be treated with respect, especially by your inner self!


I’ve read several posts recently from people that are new to diet and exercise and they all had the same question…how do you stay motivated to go to the gym and keep eating healthy? That’s a pretty tough question actually and the answer you’re going to get is going to be dependent on the person that you ask and how they live their life. Bob’s motivation might be because he’s trying to get off of his blood sugar medication, while Ann’s motivation could be to lose weight for a cruise in 4 months, and someone else might want to do a bodybuilding competition. We are all motivated by different things and we all have triggers that bring out certain feelings in us or cause us to work harder. And unfortunately, what motivates you today may no longer motivate you tomorrow.


I’ve given this some thought lately, and honestly, I’m not really sure what motivated me at the beginning of this journey. Of course I wanted to look fit and feel good and be strong and that’s still a pretty strong underlying motivation, but I think everyone feels that way even if they don’t express it out loud. But really I don’t think about all that when I’m driving to the gym each day. I first started working out over 30 years ago. I was young and didn’t need to “get in shape” necessarily. I started lifting because I got a job at the front desk of a gym and lifting just looked like fun, and it still is! Since that first workout it’s simply become a part of my existence. Have you ever been so deep in thought while driving that you get to your destination and you don’t remember driving there? Scary, I know. When that has happened to me, I ALWAYS end up at the gym, even if that wasn’t where I was planning to go! I’ve been doing this for so long that there would be an empty hole in my life if I didn’t workout.

But we still need daily triggers to get us moving. I love my gym and the people in it, so that’s always motivating, being able to see all my favorite gym people. Sometimes I’m motivated by a new exercise I want to try. Heck, I get a little excited to work out when I have on new workout clothes! I’ll actually feel myself slipping a bit, buy a new outfit and BAM, I’m back into the swing of things! And sometimes I’m simply motivated by my desire to get it over with that day so I can eat and then get a latte.

new workout clothes

My point is that my DAILY motivation is always changing and sometimes intangible and we all still have to take it one day at a time. That big picture goal is not necessarily going to make you want to get off the couch today and sweat or make you show some restraint and put down the pizza. We all have the desire to be fit, it’s what you do with that desire every day that sets one person apart from another. But here’s the big difference between how I get myself to the gym each day and someone that struggles with it constantly. Most days I WANT to go to the gym. I’m ALWAYS happier when I’m in the gym. I could spend hours just hanging out and trying new things. But I realize that not everyone feels that way. A person that is struggling is constantly having to talk themselves into it. They’ve been told to say positive affirmations such as, “I’ll feel better when I’m done”, or “I’ll give myself 10 minutes and if I still don’t want to be there, I’ll leave” or “You’ve got this!!” I love that last one. I’m not sure if that actually works for ANYONE or if it’s even helpful but I see it posted all the time in response to someone struggling. If being told that motivates someone out there, let me know because I’d love to hear about it.


Positive affirmations may not be enough for some people. Or if they’re enough to get you to the gym today, will it still be enough next week or next year? Exercise, regardless of your immediate goal, is still a lifelong necessity. And that means you need to pull up a new motivation EVERY DAY. Heck, the fact that some people have been told they’re going to DIE if they don’t start exercising and stop overeating may not be enough to get them to the gym. And if that’s not the ultimate motivation I don’t know what is! You have to find that answer for yourself and for some people it’s quite a struggle. But asking the question is never a bad thing. Maybe what motivates someone else will strike a chord with you and finally be the factor that spurs you into action and hopefully keeps you going for years to come.

I’m going to tell you a few of the things that I’ve told numerous clients over the years in hopes that one of these things might turn on the motivation light bulb within you.  When I’m training a client, my main focus is always to teach. I’m very aware that I won’t be your trainer forever so I need to pass along as much information as possible in the time that we spend together. You need to know why you’re exercising. You need to know what muscles you’re working. You need to know how to change things up on the fly depending on your circumstances. And you need to know how to keep that desire to be fit alive and burning inside of you. So, I randomly throw out bits wisdom or words of encouragement in the hopes that one day, one of them might light a spark.

One of the first things I tell every new client is that exercise and healthy eating are not optional. Period. You want to be fit and healthy, then you better get off your bum and do something about it because no one gets fit sitting around watching Oprah and eating donuts. NO ONE. And those electric ab stimulator things? Lies. They are crap and won’t give you 6-pack abs while sitting on your couch so stop being sucked in by ridiculous quick fix solutions. Getting fit is WORK and eating healthy takes THOUGHT and daily self-control. No pill or magical piece of equipment is going to change that and the sooner you stop shopping for a quick solution, the sooner you’ll get on the road to better health.

quick fix

The next thing I’m going to emphasize is that because exercise is not optional, then that means you need to do it regardless of what mood you’re in that day or what stresses and distractions come your way. You don’t have to love it, heck, you don’t even have to like it. (Although finding joy in it makes it way easier!). And just because you WISH that you had the metabolism of a 16-year boy, doesn’t mean if you mope about it long enough it might happen. Stop whining about how you drew the short straw and start using what you DO have.

And then we come to my BIGGEST piece of advice. This motivation came to me as I matured and hit a few speed bumps in life. But it’s by far the one thing that underlies all other motivations. At some point in our early days of training, when I feel you’re going to take this advice to heart and give it the respect it deserves, I’ll lay it on you. Are you ready? Be THANKFUL, always in all things be truly THANKFUL. Do you have the ability to exercise? Because there are a LOT of people out there that would LOVE to be able to walk into a gym and do those lunges for you, but they can’t. They may be too sick, or their bodies don’t work the way they would love for them to. But if you CAN exercise, then always remember that you are blessed. You have been given the beautiful gift of a functioning body and that is nothing to squander. Next time you don’t feel like working out, remember that and then walk into that gym appreciative and humbled by the fact that being healthy and fit is within your grasp.


So, until you find that one ‘thing’ that keeps that fire within you lit, keep pushing yourself to exercise. Keep talking yourself out of eating the whole bag of potato chips, and don’t allow yourself to get pulled into the quicksand of lame excuses. Who knows, maybe one day you’ll wake up and, lo and behold, you’ll realize that your personal motivation snuck up on you when you weren’t looking. You’ll be amazed that the pursuit of fitness actually makes you a better person and that you can’t imagine your life without it.   And that all that time you spent struggling to find a reason to exercise was totally and completely worth it. No one ever regrets getting healthier! And now it’s your turn to be a fitness ambassador and help others who may be struggling.

My last piece of advice? Don’t ever sugar coat what it takes to get and stay healthy. Don’t tell someone new that it’s going get easy or that there won’t be days when you have to pull every daily motivation you’ve ever heard out of your hat to get yourself to the gym. But do tell them that we’ve all struggled and if you want to turn something intangible into something real and lasting and beautiful, then it’s going to take desire, dedication, consistency, and hard work. Just as I’ve always done, keep it real, don’t ever promise a quick fix, and when it comes to what you’ve learned in your journey to fitness, always pay it forward…

you've got this


So let’s talk a little bit about how we treat each other at the gym, and out of it for that matter. Okay, so we’ve all had our laughs over the gif’s of people doing really bizarre things in the gym. I’ve had a few head shakes and chuckles myself when I’ve seen people in MY gym doing weird exercises that don’t seem to make any sense and I’ve admittedly gazed in awe over movements executed with incredibly bad form and even felt mild anxiety watching someone do something that could hurt them. But I have never, NEVER in 32 years of being in the gym, made fun of or even THOUGHT badly about someone that is in the gym legitimately working to better themselves.
It was brought to my attention recently that a certain individual secretly took a picture of myself and another member talking to each other while at the gym and they posted it on social media. I’m not a “friend” of this person on any site. I had never spoken to them or even knew who they were, much less their name, prior to someone showing me the post. Quite frankly, I laughed when I first saw it. Sadly, some people waste so much of life in their own little dark and hate filled world but it certainly has no impact on how I feel about myself. In this post this person called us some rather heinous names in amongst a whole lot of profanities. Classy, right? Now pay attention here…did I mention that the person that took the pic and posted it was an employee of the gym? Did I also mention that they were a TRAINER??? Trust me, you’re not as shocked as I was when I found out.
Now, to be honest, this didn’t put a dent or even the hint of a scratch in my self esteem as I’m pretty darn sure of myself and my place in this world. This sad person doing a petty and hateful post had no impact on me whatsoever, nor did it hurt the other person in the picture. What it did do is make me feel sorry for them and their not so bright future filled with ugly thoughts and actions. Unfortunately, social media has allowed people to hide major character flaws behind their words. What it DID do is make me terribly angry that this was a TRAINER receiving a paycheck from the gym.
Being a trainer is a profession I take very seriously. Someone is entrusting me with their desire to gain better health, fitness, and mental strength. That’s a huge responsibility and not all trainers are created equal in this, trust me. It also made me so disgusted that they felt like they had the RIGHT to attempt to belittle another person, albeit failing miserably in this case (they definitely picked the wrong girls to try to pick on). But not everyone who is in the gym, or outside the gym for that matter, is so sure of themselves. In fact, for many, just walking into the gym may have taken a strength that most of us may not ever understand. That first step onto the gym floor may be their very FIRST and very precarious step into finding their TRUE strength, physically and mentally. It’s in everyone, but some don’t ever push themselves enough to find it underneath all the painful words and actions of others that have impacted their lives up to that point. It’s my job as a trainer to help that client shovel out from under all those attempts to tear them down to find that indomitable spirit that is in each of us. And if you’re a trainer and that sounds overly dramatic to you, then you probably haven’t been training for very long and if you have then you haven’t been doing your job properly. Trust me, the more you care about what you’re doing and the people that you’re helping, the more you’ll realize what I’m saying is true. And even if you’re not a trainer, then you need to pay attention and understand this, too. We all have a responsibility both in and out of the gym and that’s to be ambassadors of fitness. That means we need to do our part to welcome as many people into the fold as possible, no matter their current level of fitness. For some that means offering help or encouraging words, and for others it just means not being a jerk and realizing that everyone who walks in that gym, no matter what they look like or what strange exercises they choose to do, has as much a right to be there as you do.
One thing is for sure, if anyone attempts to belittle someone on my watch, I will not just stand by and let it happen. So much good can be done with a kind word or action. It takes very little time out of your day to make someone else’s day just a little bit better. But by choosing to take that time to say hateful things or to try to make someone else feel “lesser than”, all you have done is add yet another dark cloud to your own life.
I haven’t personally come across this kind of thing very often, honestly, I just don’t hang around people like that and if it hadn’t been brought to my attention I would never have known. And in 3 decades it’s the first that I’ve ever heard of an incident such as this involving a trainer, so I suppose that’s a good thing, it’s a rarity to be sure. Hopefully it will be the last.
I do know, however, that this stuff happens to people everyday. Facebook and Instagram is full of childish and hurtful posts by people trying to bring others down in an attempt to make themselves feel superior. If it has happened to you, please don’t let someone like that make you veer off of the course of getting fit just because they have never matured past the 3rd grade. Make some good solid connections at the gym and by all means stand up for yourself.
I have a great jacket that says “KNOW YOUR WORTH” on the back. I think that says it all. YOU are worthy of whatever you want in life. YOU are worthy of a healthy and fit body. And YOU are worthy of being the person you want to be. We all have a choice in life to move forward, stand still, or sit down and watch everyone else pass us by. No matter what comes your way, keep taking those steps forward. Along the way people may attempt to derail you completely and sometimes it may even come from someone that is close to you. That is your time to show them you are worthy. Pick your head up, take a deep breath and carry on. When strength is what you seek, then strength you will find and it will fortify you in every aspect of your life.



Are you someone that turns your head to look at yourself whenever you come within a stone’s throw of a reflective surface? Do you gaze at your reflection as you walk by a plate glass window? (You know you do, you’re not as sneaky as you think!) Do you always, at some point while shopping for hair gel at Target, end up in the mirror section and find it a struggle to leave? Do you secretly check your teeth in the knife at a fine dining establishment (yes, my friend, that’s you!) or make sure your hair is in place while talking to someone wearing mirrored Ray Bans? If any of these scenarios sounds familiar, then have I got a dream destination for you!! A place where you can exist without judgment or shame! A place where you are, in fact, EXPECTED (gasp!) to gaze at yourself for extended periods of time! What is this amazing place, you ask??? Why, it’s the GYM, of course! It’s a magical place where you are literally surrounded by reflections of yourself. And these aren’t little mirrors where you only get snippets of your reflection at a time. No, these are gigantic mirrors where not only can you see yourself but literally EVERYONE ELSE in the gym, too! That dude picking his nose between sets on the chest press, we see you! How about that girl digging the underwear out of places it shouldn’t be? Yup, we see that, too! (We’ve all done that, by the way, wardrobe malfunctions run rampant at the gym and sometimes you just have to do what you have to do.) There’s nowhere to hide, no direction you can turn to escape. Your only hope of any semblance of privacy is to head to a bathroom stall to handle your business because in the gym, we see it all! HOWEVER, (and of course there’s a however) lest you think this is a narcissist’s dream come true, there is a darker, more nefarious reason for all those gym mirrors. Well, actually it’s not that dark nor is it nefarious but I liked the drama that invoked. The real reason for all those mirrors is so that people that actually GIVE A HOOT about proper form, albeit they can be hard to find some days, can make sure they aren’t doing something WEIRD that can cause muscle imbalances or injuries down the road. Like going knock-kneed when they squat, or doing lateral raises with one shoulder above their ears, or rounding out their back when deadlifting. Of course, there are plenty of people that do those things even with the benefit of a mirror in front of them, but at least they’ve been given the opportunity to pay attention.

Bad squat form

Now, of course this blog is about gym etiquette, but first I need to discuss something that is of the utmost importance that comes into play during a workout and then I will tie the two together. I like to call it GYM VISION. Just think about that for a minute. What exactly is gym vision, you ask? Well, let me explain. Gym vision, as described in the fitness section of Marlapedia, is one’s ability to know what’s happening in the gym at all times, thereby noticing what equipment is being used and by whom, and who’s doing what and where they’re doing it. I know, that sounds super creepy and possibly makes everyone think of the previous blog post and the “gym creeper” scenario. However, this is not the same thing. Au contraire, this is done for a number of reasons. One, so as not to STEAL someone else’s equipment. Two, to keep an eye on the next stop on your workout agenda. Three, to watch for an opening on that particular piece of equipment that is ALWAYS being used because there’s only one of them. And four, and this is a biggie so listen up, so as not to block the mirror being used by someone legitimately watching their form.

blocking gym mirror lady

(I’m also going to add another, but this one is simply because I’ve been a trainer more than half my life.) Five, to watch that person on the bench press that is extremely optimistic about the amount of weight they can lift and to be ready just in case they didn’t eat their Wheaties that morning. Yes, I have jumped in when someone is about to guillotine himself and I’ve saved them from what had the potential to be a truly horrific gym injury. Some have been quite embarrassed to be saved by a girl, but it’s better than being beheaded, isn’t it?

Now, there aren’t that many people that have gym vision. I’m not certain if it’s something you are born with or something that is learned from decades spent in the gym. Quite frankly, there are some people that are just hopeless, being so self-centered as to believe they are the only ones in the gym or at least the only ones that matter. The rest of us have to take up the slack created by these narcissistic individuals by mastering the art of gym vision. So, here’s how it works. In between sets, when you’re done texting and taking your selfies, look around the gym. Make a mental note of who is doing what. Like the dude over there handing his skinny little girlfriend a couple of 50’s and teaching her how to do shrugs. Cause that’s clearly what her physique is missing the most, traps. Sigh. Or how about the girl doing the abductor….umm….is she upside down? Wha? After you’ve noticed all the potential gym gifs, really pay attention to the equipment people are using, particularly where you’re headed next. Now do another set…we’ll wait……………good set!  Now, take a quick look around and see where those people were and if they’ve moved on. This really isn’t about creeping on people, it’s honestly just being aware of your surroundings. Kind of like Jason Bourne noticing everything in the restaurant in a few glances.  But maybe not quite as cool as that.

Jason Bourne

It gives you information to be respectful of someone else’s workout routine while also helping to make yours more efficient. It also helps you to avoid unfortunate run-ins with THAT PERSON. You know who they are, they’re in every gym and there are just some days when you’d rather not…

Now that we know what gym vision is, let’s use your newly acquired skill as you’re heading to the dumbbell rack to do some bicep curls. As you walk over there, you notice a guy doing front raises and watching his form in the mirror. Oops, change direction a bit, you don’t want to walk in front of him, that would be rude. So, going behind him, you then pass in front of a guy resting in between sets of curls, and head to the rack to pick up the 120’s. (Whatever, it’s just a pretend scenario so you might as well go for it, right?) Now, on your way over you noticed a girl doing some upright rows with the EZ curl bar. She’s standing behind the benches and not directly in front of the mirror but she’s still using the mirror to watch her shoulders. She’s right in front of the 120’s though!! OH NO! You’re super pumped for your curls! What are you gonna do?? You’re gonna wait a second, that’s what. Let her finish her set, then grab your weights and move to the side so as not to block her next set. Why? Because she was there first and that’s being respectful of her gym space. And if you’re freaking out about walking 5 feet with the 120’s, or you find yourself irritated that someone else is in the gym that day besides yourself, then you probably should consider moving down to something you can handle. Like maybe the shiny chrome ones over to the side, or the ones in the Group X room in the pretty colors or the ones in your garage…at home.  Seriously, it’s NOT YOUR GYM.

Blocking the mirror meme

Always be respectful of everyone else’s time at the gym. Your name isn’t on the door and you don’t pay the light bill. It doesn’t matter what you think of someone else’s workout, they have a right to do it even if it doesn’t make a darn bit of sense to you. And if your name IS on the door and you DO pay the bills, then that’s an even bigger reason to treat everyone working out with respect, right? There’s literally no scenario where being rude and self-centered looks good on you. And that’s a general rule in and out of the gym.
Okay, that’s enough for today. Off you go into the world to practice your gym vision. There’s probably going to have to be a Gym Etiquette Part Four by the way, this subject just seems to grow with every visit to the gym. Unfortunately, the ones that need to hear it the most don’t do much reading unless there are a lot of pictures so I’ll throw some in for good measure….Until next time!


I’m writing this while listening to the music of Prince…so sad. A true artist that will be missed.  Just to tie this in with the subject, it is okay to play the air drums, dance a little bit, or mouth the words to a song while you’re lifting. I do it all the time. Just don’t sing out loud, that falls under “bad gym etiquette”.

singing while lifting

Okay, where were we? Last time we covered sweat, re-racking weights, and equipment sharing. So, let’s start today with smells. Obviously, horrendous body odor goes without saying, they make soap and deodorant and toothpaste for that, so if this applies to you, please stop at the store today and get some. Also, if last night’s jalapeno poppers seem to be an issue this morning, let’s try not to gas the room and make us all regret coming to the gym today. On the other end of the spectrum is one that seems to take some by surprise, although I don’t know why, and that’s the abundant use of perfume/cologne. The gym, quite simply, is no place for those. Imagine this. You’re on the elliptical doing your HIIT training, running some fierce ‘I’m being chased by a bear” sprints and then desperately sucking wind in between them (that’s the worst part of cardio, although I hate all parts of cardio, trying to catch my breath is the WORST, but I digress….) and some guy gets on the elliptical next to you in FULL COLOGNE. Now, perhaps at the bar at midnight picking up babes smelling like the Macy’s perfume counter works for you, but not at the gym, my friend, not at the gym! Suddenly the clean air that I’m attempting to intake becomes clogged with the musky and artificial scent of Axe and I begin to choke and cough as the oxygen is ripped from my body. (Okay, slightly dramatic but you get the idea). This makes me want to grab Mr. Jersey Shore by the unmentionables and drag him from the gym and possibly throw him in a large body of water thereby ridding the world of that smell. I’m not typically a violent person, mind you, but strong cologne and perfume at the gym makes me very untypically angry. Hey, we all have our breaking points. Ladies, you aren’t exempt from this. And no, perfume doesn’t mask body odor, so do us all a favor and if the gym is on your agenda, please, PLEASE, don’t reach for the perfume that day!!!!
Okay, moving on, that one brought out some feelings of unresolved anger for some reason…whew.
So, I’d me remiss if I didn’t talk briefly about gym creepers. Every gym has at least one. You know who I’m talking about. He’s the guy that does his whole workout in front of the adductor/abductor machine. Or the one that follows you around and every time you look up he or she is leering at you. (Yes ladies, you can be considered a creeper, too.)

gym creeper

Because I’m not a psychiatrist I won’t go into all of the psychological ramifications of your issues. And yes, for some it’s a serious issue and you should consider some counseling. For the rest of you, I believe you are confusing the gym with Mr. Jersey Shore’s favorite late night hangout, the club. See, at the gym, we go to exercise our muscles, our heart and our lungs. Most of us have not entered the building just hoping and praying we see some action and get picked up that day. Because getting ogled by some drooling nutcase is everyone’s dream, right? If you did go to the gym that day, hoping and praying to hear an awesome pick up line, might I suggest leaving with Mr. Jersey Shore, thereby taking yourself and the pungent aroma of Axe Dark Temptation with you.
It’s been mentioned that there seems to be a lot of naked people in the locker room. (Gasp!) I don’t spend much time in the locker rooms as I don’t shower there or have a need to change clothes at the gym very often nor do I regularly visit the men’s locker room, but I have HEARD stories, strange stories, many of which I won’t repeat due to this being a PG blog. Now, let it be understood that I do realize that it’s pretty hard to shower while fully clothed. However, there are quite a few people that are SO unencumbered by society’s views of public nudity (and I make no judgment regarding the pros and cons of that subject, to each his/her own) that just perhaps they take it a BIT farther than necessary when in a public environment. Some respect might be considered when choosing to bend over to put your socks on while directly in front of the line of sight of another individual thereby leaving them with a visual image which is disturbing and possibly quite difficult to recover from. I think you understand what I’m saying without having to draw a diagram. Eeek. Enough said.
Lastly for today, we’re going talk about equipment hogging. This is the person that decides that they need to do a giant set involving 6 different machines, strategically positioning their towel, water bottle, hat, sock, and left shoe on the seat of each station not currently in use. This practice is very similar to a dog marking their territory by lifting his leg and peeing on what he perceives as his. I suppose we should all be thankful the gym hog isn’t a dog. Or how about that focused individual doing dumbbell drop sets with 5 different weight variances and they have them piled up around them for about 45 minutes?

equipment hog

Or perhaps the person that does a set on the chest press, then during their rest period, decides to write the sequel to War And Peace on their phone? (Now, I have to be honest, I have been known to text in between sets from time to time. I know, I know, but my music is on my phone and it’s right there so if a text comes in I hear it, sue me. That being said, it does NOT lengthen the amount of time I have already planned to rest between sets. This is quite different from the NOVELIST that I am referring to.) The more subtle form of gym hoggery is the dude doing BICEP CURLS IN THE SQUAT RACK. The initial perception isn’t of a typical equipment hog, however he IS successfully commandeering two different pieces of equipment, one of which has a use that is CLEARLY not necessary for performing a bicep curl. This individual is, quite frankly, just too LAZY to be bothered picking up the bar from the floor.

squatting in the curl rack

I’m certain we could probably put our heads together and come up with multitudes of other scenarios representing the equipment hog, but I think you get the idea. We all know this particular species of gym-goer and if you are one of them, just be aware that your shoe on a piece of equipment you haven’t used in 25 minutes has a good possibility of ending up in the men’s locker room shower and based on our previous discussion of what happens in there, retrieving it might not be pretty and perhaps even leave you psychologically scarred.
Alright, that’s enough for Part Two…stay tuned for Part Three, and possibly Part Four, based on my inquiry into things people consider poor Gym Etiquette. Apparently, there is a LOT of material to cover! Until next time, be respectful of others, share what doesn’t belong to you, and keep your clothes on. If you can’t do those things might I suggest Zumba home video workouts and Insanity in your garage?


If you’ve been in the gym for longer than 10 minutes you’ve probably experienced some form of bad gym etiquette. Whether it be heading to a bench only to find the remnants of a sweaty head left behind, or arriving at the leg press and in dismay, realizing that you apparently missed a Conan the Barbarian sighting based on the amount of 45’s piled on the machine. Clearly Conan was too fatigued from his presses to be bothered with putting everything back. Poor guy, sure hope he’s okay. Lack of gym etiquette is everywhere. But I’m going to give everyone the benefit of the doubt and assume that in all of their time spent in the gym, no one ever bothered to teach them proper etiquette. And if you’re new to the gym scene, I’m going to share some basics on how things should be done. This blog is going to be in several parts because there are simply too many things to cover in one post and you’d get bored and we can’t have that….


Let’s start with an easy one…sweat. We all do it, some more than others. Personally, I sweat A LOT. My gym provides towels, which is an awesome service by the way, so I don’t have to worry about forgetting one. However, if your gym does not, then you need to bring one. The towel is to put down on the bench, machine, whatever, to absorb your sweat and also to protect you from gym cooties if that’s a concern of yours. Any residual sweat should be cleaned up with the paper towels and the spray that the gyms provide. And please take the extra 5 seconds necessary to throw your paper towel away and not just leave it by the machine. Okay, easy one and that pretty much covers that subject in it’s entirety.
Next let’s discuss re-racking weights. It may come as a shock to you, but not everyone is planning on using the exact weight that you have on the equipment. I may want to use less, use more, or use none. I would like the option of starting with a blank slate, unless requested otherwise by me as you are abandoning the equipment. This often means that an additional amount of caloric expenditure may be required in order to return the weights you used to their proper place. Perhaps this needs to be worked in as part of your exercise program. If you were to figure out the calories burned while re-racking and multiply that times every exercise done throughout the year, I’ll bet it would add up to a fair amount and might possibly buy you some room for a couple of cheeseburgers during the year…just a thought.

messy gym

Now, let’s take that one step further and add that re-racked weights should be returned to their proper place. That means that the 120 lb. dumbbells shouldn’t be racked in the 5 lb. space. If those weights are too heavy to walk them back where they belong, then you probably aren’t worthy of them anyway. And if you’re simply not racking them correctly because you’re lazy and arrogant, then you need a home gym where your bad attitude needn’t affect others. You’re probably that person that is always posting about all their haters at the gym. (By the way, if you have that many “haters” it’s probably you…but that’s a subject for another blog.) Stacking the plates against the wall is not putting them away. Rolling the dumbbells under the rack is not putting them away. And perching a 45 lb. plate on that teeny tiny bit of space at the end of the storage bar is a bad and also a sign of laziness. Have you ever had a weight plate fall off onto the top of your foot?? I have. NOT FUN.

weighted leg press

Lastly, let’s talk about equipment sharing. This is one that requires you to be a little bit outgoing, which for some is a challenge. Some people prefer to stomp around the gym sighing loudly and throwing nasty glares at people on the equipment they want to use. (I’ll share a little story about this in a bit) Some hover….awkwardly. Some just take your weights when you leave to get a quick drink of water from the fountain, that’s always fun. It needs to be made clear that unless your name is on the door, it’s not YOUR gym. You are not special and just because you’re training for something doesn’t make your workout more important than anyone else’s. That being said, if you want to use a piece of equipment you have a few options.
1) Keep your eye on it and do other things until it opens up.
2) Do a different exercise. Sometimes I’ve discovered cool new things because I couldn’t get to a piece of equipment I usually use.
3) Ask if you can work in. Now, if some dude has 57 plates on the press and you want to load up a 10 on each side, that’s clearly not an option, I’ll refer you back to option 1 or 2, and hope he has read this blog and is mindful of the first 2 paragraphs above regarding re-racking. But if you see someone using a machine and they are doing sets with a couple minutes of rest/texting/newspaper reading in between, don’t be afraid to ask if you can work in.

hogging equipment

Here’s the clincher though…if they say yes, MEMORIZE their settings and if you change things for your set, return everything back to their settings before you get up. Why?  Because it’s the classy thing to do and the world can definitely use more classy people.  Wow, things just got more complicated right? (If they say no, then my only advice is to walk away and go back to option 1 or 2. They don’t play well with others and that’s their issue. No need to mess up your gym zen because of someone else.) So, if all of that is too much for you, then once again, refer back to 1 or 2. But, DO NOT be that person that asks to work-in, changes the settings and weights, sweats all over the equipment, then takes off. You want haters? You’re on the fast track for some new ones with that move.
We all have our moments, but most gym people are great, especially the ones that have been around a few years. And for a few of us, it’s almost a home away from home. I love my gym family and I also have respect for the equipment that is there and strive to do my part to make sure I take care of my own space. It’s like an eco-system all it’s own with a bunch of individual species trying to cohabitate in one small space. If we’re all respectful of the equipment, the other people, and our attitudes, then it becomes a haven. It’s one of the few places where you can go and it’s 100% okay to focus on yourself and leave the outside world and it’s stresses behind. Any kind of exercise can have that ability. But just because you’re in that place mentally, doesn’t mean that you don’t need to have respect for everyone else trying to enjoy the space, too.
Alright, enough for today, stay tuned for Part Deux of Gym Etiquette……

Motivation without a goal…


There’s a bit of a fitness epidemic going on these days. It’s running rampant through our gyms, but even more so, it’s running rampant through social media. We’re literally inundated with it. Pictures plastered all over our phones and computer screens of someone that went from horribly obese to standing on stage in a little bikini. Or crossing a finish line covered in mud or standing tall with a barbell of stacked weights overhead. Some have abs and glutes and pecs preordained to make everyone jealous, others just look like average people doing amazing things. All kinds of people from all walks of life with all different levels of fitness acumen have decided that in order to be truly “fit” one must stand and be judged on a stage in a skimpy swimsuit or run miles in a race, beat themselves to a pulp on a course or in the gym, or lift as much weight as they can in the shortest amount of time possible. Don’t get me wrong, I have absolutely nothing against healthy competition. I do compete in bodybuilding shows and I have run a Spartan Race and crossed the finish line by jumping over fire into a watery pit covered head to toe in mud.  (and yes, that’s me and my brother in my picture!)


I think those experiences are fantastic, for the most part, and I will do them again. But it’s not my motivation, at least it didn’t use to be. There was a time in my life before I ever started competing when I worked out just because I enjoyed it. Period. Granted, I still enjoy it, but my motivation shifted once I hit the stage and it became all about being more muscular and defined for the next show. Again, there’s nothing wrong with that. But the problem lies in once again finding my motivation sans competition. Will I always have to compete from now on to give myself that extra push in the gym? Because honestly, I don’t want to compete forever. Some do, and that’s just great, I do not. I want to get back to that place where I just love to workout. So, what I’m looking for is to rediscover my motivation without a goal. When the time is right, I’ll find it. I know this because for over 20 years that’s how I lived my life. But for the past 12 it’s been all about improving for the stage. That’s a long time for something to consume my focus in the gym but I know I can get back to that place before I competed. Well, sort of. I’ll probably always think my quads need to be bigger and my delts need to pop more. That’s kind of ingrained in me now, the search for symmetry. But I need to be okay with not dieting down to single digit body fat to see how far I’ve come.

The problem is that we’ve become so accustomed to seeing people getting ready for something, a race, a show, a competition, whatever it may be, that for some it almost seems that in order to validate the credibility of your workouts, that you HAVE to compete in some form or another. If you don’t, then you’re just adrift in the fitness world, destined to flounder around mindlessly with no direction. Right? WRONG! Here’s the truth, you CAN just workout without a publicly recognized goal ahead of you. It’s okay to workout just cause you want to be able to breathe when you get to the top of the stairs, or just because you want to be able to rearrange your living room without asking for help. It’s okay to want to run or ride your bike just because you enjoy the scenery, or lift just because you love how you feel when you leave the gym. Believe it or not, that’s enough. But too often, I see people that have literally JUST started working out and have never set foot in a gym before. And you know what they say? “I’m going do a competition! I want to be in the best shape of my life!” Okaaay, how about you workout in the gym for longer than 2 weeks before you plan on stripping down into your skivvies and asking a bunch of people you don’t even know to judge all your bits and pieces in fine detail and then point out all of your shortcomings? And if you’re competing in bodybuilding because you have low self esteem, then you’re more than likely in for some troubled waters ahead because once you’ve seen yourself at a low body fat, a non-sustainable low body fat level might I add, then “normal” will now look like “fat” when you look in the mirror. You will NEVER look at yourself the same way again. True story. Some people handle that transition just fine, but for others it leads them down a dark and rather unhealthy slippery slope.  And that’s assuming they actually ever see the stage and don’t throw in the towel way before they get there because they didn’t realize it was so going to be so HARD!  (contest prep, done correctly, is no joke!)

I’m a lifer when it comes to the gym. I’ve been working out for so many years that it’s just a part of my existence. But even I went through a down time, I think we all do at some point, some more serious than others. But mine came when I thought I wanted to be done competing but my body hadn’t been properly prepped for a return to my old “normal”. I found myself incredibly unhappy with how I looked and how I felt during those 3 years that I was pretending to be ‘retired’. Oh, I worked out the whole time, but my body just didn’t respond the way it used to. So here I go again, back on stage but this time doing it right, with food, with cardio, and with a renewed reason as to why I’m on that stage. I’ve got nothing to prove to anyone. I’ve done well in my competition career in the past, earning my Pro card at the age of 41.  I’m not famous or in the natural bodybuilding hall of fame or gracing the cover of magazines, but I’m happy with what I’ve accomplished. But my reasons were different this time. My plan was to just make this about dieting down and then reversing out of my diet post-show.   I was going to “reset” my body by building my metabolism up slowly so that I could enjoy just LIVING again without feeling like I needed to constantly count my macros. This wasn’t about winning a show, this was about prepping me for a return to my old normal. I hired a great coach, yes, even trainers need trainers, and I worked hard, followed the plan and with the help of my coach, I competed again. First time back on stage after 3 years, a work in progress mind you but still looking pretty good!  But guess what happens? I don’t do that great in either show. Ouch. I wasn’t pleased. I felt a bit bad about myself. I got caught up in the competition with others and forgot that this was supposed to just be a competition with ME. It’s tough to not get caught up in the hype, but I know better! So my point here is that when you start competing in bodybuilding, or in just about anything, you’re opening up a whole can of worms you didn’t know about. And if it’s just your desire to feel good, be healthy, breathe better and put on your jeans without checking your butt in the mirror, then DON’T think that you need to compete to have that. On the contrary, it would be best to NOT go down that road because you’ll be introducing so much more into your life that you may or may not be prepared or have a desire to manage. Seriously, it’s okay to have motivation without a goal. At least without a goal to publicly prove it to the world, or in this day and age, prove it to all your Facebook and Instagram friends, most, might I add, you wouldn’t even know if you passed them on the street! But, if you want to compete in bodybuilding, run a marathon or do a triathlon, then go for it! Don’t just put your toe in the water, DIVE IN! Because that’s what a true competitor does, they go all in. But don’t think for a second that’s the next logical step when you step into the gym for the first time or get on that new bike. Maybe you just need to do this for you. Not for Facebook, but just for you. I do understand the notion of “I just want to do it once to say I’ve done it”. But just be darn sure you’re REALLY doing it for yourself. Ask yourself some serious questions and give yourself HONEST answers. Do I still want to compete if I’m not allowed to EVER post a selfie of my progress, or ‘check-in’ at the gym or the track? If you’re not allowed to tell ANYONE what you’re doing, or what you’re training for, do you still want to do it? Do you still want to spend 1-3 hours in the gym every day working out if no one knows you’re there? Do you still want to weigh all of your food at every meal if no one knows about your sacrifices? Do you still want to stand on that stage if no one is there to tell you that you look amazing? Would you still want to take the whole journey, ALONE? (Because once the dust settles, it’s still just you standing in front of your own mirror once again searching for your self esteem.) But if the answer is yes to my questions, then by all means, do your thing because you’re probably going to be just fine. You’re doing it for YOU, and that’s all that matters. But if you can’t make it without the accolades and the attaboys, then it really doesn’t matter how many people you tell that you’re just doing it for yourself, that’s clearly not the case.

Our entire life should be led with the desire to be fit. Fit enough to go through life being able to do exciting things and see amazing sights because our bodies are strong and fit enough to take us where we want to go, that’s living! That’s a worthy goal in itself. There’s no way to take a selfie of that kind of goal because it’s not specific, it’s just LIFE. And life gives us it’s own challenges along the way. And quite frankly, the rewards of overcoming life’s challenges are far more precious than a trophy or a medal. And besides, you can always post pictures of your pets on Facebook instead.



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