A blog covering all things fitness...

Happy 2020!!

Well, it’s that time of year.  Everyone is deciding that this will be the year they turn everything around.  It happens this way every January.  Couch potatoes become gung ho dieters and gym goers, full steam ahead, jumping from doing nothing to daily exercise and extremes on food intake.   The percentage of people that the New Years Resolution works for is laughable, however, every good thing begins somewhere doesn’t it?  So let’s figure out a way to make it stick this time.  I have a few suggestions. 

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Do not go from 0-60 overnight.  If you’ve been a zero exercise person, do NOT start working out every day.  You WILL burn out and start feeling sorry for yourself.  You will end up miserable and sore and irritable.  If you’ve been sitting on the couch and behind a desk for 6 months, a year, ten years, whatever it is, then taking a walk around the block will be an improvement and your body WILL NOTICE!  Remember that whatever you choose to do, your body will adapt to it and at some point you will plateau.  Do a slow build.  If you’ve been a hit and miss lifter, then start with going once a week consistently and without fail.  Then you can add on when you’re mentally and physically ready to do so.

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DO NOT go on a diet!  Just say no to any diet that has a name.  There is no diet out there, NOT ONE, that is the magic cure for fat.  Barring a physical ailment, you got fat because you ate too much and didn’t move enough.  Period.  Carbs are not your enemy out to ruin your life.  A healthy and fit lifestyle is quite simply a daily practice of self-control. These are the questions that you need ask yourself every time you sit down to eat.  “Will the content of the food on my plate make me stronger and healthier?  Is it nutrient dense, full of things that will help me have strong muscles, a clear mind, abundant energy and strong bones?  After all, the real purpose of food is to fuel your body so that you can keep your engine running all day long.  Don’t fill your engine with things that slow you down.  “Is it more than I need to eat at one sitting?”  Guess what, you can eat too much healthy food and gain weight too.  If you’re unsure how much to eat then cut what you typically eat by ¼ or ½, eat it slowly (set your utensil down between every bite) and don’t eat in front of the TV or computer or your phone.   Focus on enjoying the food.  Then see if you’re still hungry.  (I doubt you will be).  Eat mindfully but have something fun every now and then because life it too short to never have ice cream and those occasional treats will keep you focused on eating healthy the rest of the time.  And I’ve said this before but it bears repeating over and over again.  NEVER punish a perceived food indiscretion by beating yourself up in the gym or on the treadmill.  Exercise is never ever to be used as self-punishment. 

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I don’t care what your friend, your neighbor, your husband, your wife, your trainer or that person you follow on Instagram does.  They are not you.  Let me say that again, they are not YOU!  You are a unique individual with a physical and mental makeup like no one else on the planet.  Your life is different, your responsibilities, likes and dislikes, aches and pains, tolerances and intolerances, hopes, desires, drives and dreams.  Don’t try to be someone else, focus only on being the best you.  What works for you will look very different from what works for someone else.  At the same time, don’t use your circumstances as an excuse to not try.  We all have things we have to overcome.  Some have bigger things to overcome than others, but no one that’s successful has ever let those things hold them down. 

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Exercise takes time out of your day.  No way around it.  It doesn’t have to take hours out of your day as some would have you believe, but it will take consistent time dedicated to doing the work.  And I have only come across one person in my training career that I couldn’t help figure out the when, why and where it was going to happen.  This is a true and unexaggerated story for you…many years ago, in a galaxy far far away in a place called MISSOURI, a woman in her mid 30’s came to me because she wanted me to train her.  She brought herself to the gym and we talked for over an hour about her desire to get in shape and eat right, how that was going to look and what it was going to take.  She agreed with all of my assessments of her current condition and knew she needed to make a change to feel and look better.  We got to the part where I ask a new client how often they are going to come see me, how much time will they devote to exercise on their own and what time of day would best for them.  After much time going back and forth, me offering suggested times and her shooting them down, (her quick negative responses to all of my suggestions was not unlike skeet shooting) I finally told her that I had no idea when she was going to workout as it appeared that she had no time available in her life, not even three 10 minute mini sessions 3 days a week (no joke and no exaggeration, I’m very thorough in my ways to make exercise fit) and that she needed to come back to me when she made exercise a priority because I could not help her until she made exercise more important than folding laundry.  Then I very nicely escorted her to the door and never saw her again.  I’m not sure what she expected me to do, I’m not a genie, I’m just a trainer, albeit a trainer that tries my hardest to help figure those things out for my clients.   So the moral of that little story is, DON’T BE THAT LADY.  We will always have time for things we deem important.  ALWAYS.  Every time someone tells me they don’t have time to exercise I do a mental eye roll and think of that woman 20 years ago that didn’t have time to do squats while she was brushing her teeth because that’s when she was making sure her kids were getting dressed.  Where there’s a will there’s a way….

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Last but not least, diet and exercise results take patience. All good things take time.  I tell every client I’ve had over the past 35 years the same thing.  Make sure that every time you leave the gym you can say, “today I changed my body”.  If you can say that then you know you did the work.  Make sure you go to sleep at night and can say, “today I fueled my body and made it healthier.”  Now, put those two things on repeat and keep playing them for the rest of your life.  This is your responsibility as the steward of your own body.  Avoid extremes, quick fixes, and promises of a dancers body in 10 minutes a day (yes, that is a real one going around right now).  Stay away from weird supplements, injections, and 500 calorie diets.  Stop volunteering to be a lab rat for every new fat loss promise out there.  And most importantly, never forget that you are amazing no matter what you think you look like on the outside. Never call yourself a failure.  Every breath you take is a new beginning and offers a new opportunity to move forward.  So no matter how long it takes or how many hills and valleys there are on the journey, just keep moving!!!  Don’t allow your feet to be stuck in this place a year from now.  Remember, hindsight is 20/20!!  Happy New Year!!

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PS, If you need help figuring out how to get started, how to find the time or you just need a word of encouragement, message me!  

Maintain Your Home

Let’s talk about home maintenance. If you drive around your town enough, you’ll see it. A cute house that someone didn’t take pride in and let it go. Maybe there were circumstances beyond their control that led to the disrepair, and that’s so very sad, and yet understandable. But for many, it’s quite simply a lack of pride of ownership and laziness. These are the situations I’m addressing today. Overgrown yards, peeling paint, broken fences and piled up trash, you get the idea. The homeowners didn’t do their due diligence in daily maintenance and now all of those small fixes and 30 minute clean up jobs have escalated into an overwhelming amount of work and a fortune in repairs. You get a roof leak, which when ignored leads to water damage. So what once was an hour job of replacing shingles, which costs very little, has now become a huge job of mold mitigation, drywall and floor replacement, and repainting, and when added up, proves to be extremely costly and time consuming. Proper daily maintenance is the key to a home that will provide you shelter for a lifetime. You spent the money to buy it, do your part to make that house a home and show it some love! That way, when you come home and open up that door, you feel happiness and peace, they way a home is supposed to make you feel! 
Okay, so here’s the point of this whole thing. And no, I’m not really starting a blog on home maintenance. Just like a home that is ignored and falls into disrepair, our bodies will do the same. I believe that we all have a DAILY responsibility to do the work to maintain our health and fitness through proper nutrition and exercise. That means making good choices at mealtime and providing your body with adequate and well-rounded nutritional choices. That means daily movement and full body muscle stimulation, however you choose to do that. These things are not wants for our bodies, they are needs. Without them, things stop working properly and it leads to a cascade effect of malfunctions, just like a home that is ignored. So, do the work and take care of yourself. That does not mean we are all perfect everyday, by the way. It just means that you continue to take steps forward with the goal of maintaining that beautiful gift of life, YOUR home, that you’ve been given. If you stumble, you get back up again, period.

Now I want to speak about another side to being happy in your home. There are a lot of styles of homes, cape cod, saltbox, tudor, craftsman, tents, yurts, igloos, high rises, and cabins. The list goes on and on. If every house was the same all over the world, things would be very, VERY boring. Imagine driving down the street or traveling the world and no matter where you went, every house was the same style. So let’s say you are gifted a home. Let’s say it’s a cape cod style home. Someone hands you the keys and the garage door opener and says, this is now your house, free and clear! Wow, what an amazing gift, right? You look at it and have this incredible feeling of ownership and pride and imagine all the possibilities. But then you start looking at other people’s homes and you think, “I really wish my free home was a mid century modern”. And then every time you come home, all you can focus on is the fact that your house isn’t all sleek lines and angles. Suddenly that free gift feels like a cumbersome load. That peace you should feel when you walk in the door is gone. And all because you decided that you drew the short straw. Someone else got the mid century modern that you wanted and you were given this crappy little cape cod. Life just isn’t fair, right? I’m sure you know where I’m going with this, I’m not that sneaky.

We have all been given the keys to our own home, free and clear, and that’s this body that we live in. But what happens when we decide that someone else’s body is the one we’d rather have and suddenly, what we have isn’t enough? If you wake up every morning, look at yourself in the mirror and get frustrated and angry and sad that what you see isn’t what you desire then where does that leave you? If you spend every day struggling to become something you aren’t how does that shape your life? Living with those feelings takes away that sense of peace within yourself and removes the happiness from every part of your life. It creeps into everything, time spent with your family and friends, vacations, or just sitting quietly at home. The thought that you aren’t good enough takes over completely and overshadows that beautiful gift you’ve been given. The fact of the matter is, there is no perfect body. We’ve been programmed to believe perfection is a certain look, but that’s not reality. We are all designed to be different and unique and thank goodness for that because it’s variety that makes life interesting. So you need to find your peace and happiness again. If looking at social media posts only leads to you feeling bad about yourself then stop following them. Do the work to maintain YOUR home and stop comparing it others. Focus on the daily maintenance, movement and sound nutrition, and then learn to rest in the knowledge that you are doing your part to keep your home in good working order. And then spend the rest of your time embracing the things that make you different because those things that separate us from someone else aren’t flaws. Being different from everyone else is a gift in itself! You have a completely unique experience and voice to add to this world and the truth is, being happy and healthy and leading a meaningful life doesn’t only live in one body type just as there is no single perfect style of house for everyone. True happiness starts at home, so treat it with respect and love. You have a responsibility to let your light shine, because you’ve been given the gift of YOU. ❤️

Operation Exercise Part I

We all have things we have to do that aren’t our favorites.   For me, it’s housework.  I’m certainly not one of those people that likes to clean, not by a long shot.  I strongly dislike it all; laundry (mostly the folding and putting it away part), dishes, de-cluttering, bathrooms, changing bed sheets, the list goes on and on.  I honestly can’t think of one thing that involves cleaning that I enjoy.  I take that back, actually I really like what my house looks like when it’s over.  But, we all know that lasts for about 5 minutes (especially when you live with two boys and 4 dogs like I do) and then it starts all over again.  And it gets especially bad if I let it go for a few days like I did over the holidays.  It feels like an uphill battle to get things right again.  But, as much as I dislike doing it, it has to be done.  So I suck it up and clean. 

 I know that going to the gym, and exercise in general, is like this for some people.  I can’t say I relate to that because for me the gym is a haven.  But whenever I hear someone say how much they hate exercise, to put myself in their place I interject “housework” in place of  “exercise” and suddenly I can relate.  Honestly, they aren’t that much different.  We don’t like doing it, we get no satisfaction while doing it, the only part we like is when it’s over and we see the results, we don’t look forward to the next time, and in both cases, the next time is inevitable because the effects of that one clean/workout don’t last long.  And the longer you neglect both the worse things get.  

When I have a clean house though, it seems like I’m more relaxed.  The clutter in the house is directly related to clutter in my head.  And even though I know this and understand this on an intellectual level, it doesn’t change the general feeling of dislike I have for the task, every single time.  You’d think it would, right?  In the same way, people who exercise and dislike it may feel and look better when they’re consistent, but it doesn’t change the fact that they don’t enjoy it.  I get it, and in my own way I can relate.  (And for the record, I’m not a hoarder and I don’t have a filthy house.  I do clean, I just don’t enjoy doing it….ever.)

There is one very major difference between the two, however, that simply can’t be ignored.  I can have a pile of discarded clothes hanging over the side of my garden tub (isn’t that what tubs are for?) and still walk out the door and go throughout my day and function normally.  No one ever knows the truth about my disregard for hanging up clothes I’ve tried on and decided not to wear.  Unfortunately, that isn’t the case with exercise.  Physiologically, exercise and movement is required for a healthy body.  It’s the way we’re designed and when we ignore such a big part of our existence, things start to fail.  Exercise is simply not optional if you seek a healthy life.  Putting away my clothes, on the other hand?  Completely optional.  If I want to pick out my outfit from the side of my tub every day then I can do that, it doesn’t affect my long-term physical health.  (I know, somewhere out there is a clean freak that’s about ready to write me a scathing reply explaining how wrong I am.  Save it.  I’m trying to make a point here.)

So, we’ve now established that you hate exercise, the gym, sweating, whatever.  And you have a right to those feelings just as I have a right to dislike cleaning.  But we all have to do things we don’t like and the consequences of not exercising are dire.   So, it looks like we need to work on finding a way to make exercise more palatable.  Not so you’ll do it, because again, that’s not optional for a healthy life, but in hopes that some day in the future you may do it without the internal struggle that you have today.   I continue to try to organize my life in hopes of making the cleaning process easier.  I recently added some cool organizers in my closet, which makes putting my clothes away much easier.  That’s a win for me.  In the same way, you need to continually seek out different forms of movement in hopes that someday, one of them will light a spark in you.  I don’t know you, so it may take months, or years.  Heck, it may never happen.  But I think the benefits of continuing to try are worth it.   

The best advice I can give you is to keep seeking out new ways to move.  Even if you find something you like, still keep looking for new things.  There are so many ways to exercise and putting all of your eggs in one basket is less than ideal.  Variety is great not only mentally, but for your body as well.   Next time, I’m going to help you figure out what works for you and give you some tools to help make the gym a place you don’t hate.  But at the end of the day, much like cleaning, some things just have to be done, like it or not.   Now, I’m off to empty and reload the dishwasher, AGAIN, and fold more laundry, AGAIN.  Let’s make a deal, I will endeavor to NOT throw my clothes over the tub today if you will do your best to move your body, sweat a little, and make sure those muscles get some action!  Stay tuned for Part II!

Cheating, Guilt, and Fear

Let’s talk about cheating, guilt, and fear. Sounds awful, doesn’t it? I mean really, nobody wants to experience any of those things, much less talk about them. Chances are if you’ve ever cheated on anything, guilt and fear weren’t far behind. (Unless you’re some kind of sociopath, and if that’s the case you need to find some professional help, and quickly!) But for the rest of us, cheating on anything leads to guilt. The burden of guilt tends to stay with us, throwing a shadow over everything else in our lives. I’m going to be very honest and share a deep, dark, guilty secret with you. One time in high school, I cheated on a geometry quiz. Yes, it’s true, I’m terribly ashamed to admit it, but I did. I hated geometry and I’d say I didn’t understand it but truth be told, I doubt I did the work necessary to actually learn it. I went through a time where I thought math was stupid and a waste of my time. I do not believe that now, however my teenage self had other ideas. So anyway, back to my cheating incident. I wrote some formulas (or whatever it was) on a piece of paper that was in my sleeve and set it on my lap under my desk. Here’s the kicker, I’m 100% sure my teacher knew that I was cheating while I was doing it. However, he never called me on it, which I always wondered about. But I had so much shame after that test I couldn’t look my teacher in the eye after that and I have NEVER forgotten that day, so I think his decision to let me self-punish was a good one. As a matter of fact, I had anxiety and fear every time I saw him or set foot in that geometry class. I never cheated again, deciding that flunking a test was much more palatable than the feeling of guilt I had cheating. And I’ve never ever forgotten that feeling. It’s almost 40 years later and I still feel guilty about that and if I ever saw that teacher again, I’d apologize for cheating on that quiz.   So, I can definitely attest to the fact that cheating leads to guilt and fear. Remember that…

Now we’re going to apply that lesson to the way you approach nutrition and exercise. There are some common phrases that you have probably used or been told to use that I think need to be changed TODAY.

Let’s start with the phrase CHEAT MEALS. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I despise this term. The science of proper nutrition and hormone fluctuations during weight loss has proven that having at least one higher calorie/carbohydrate day built into your fat loss program actually helps your body to continue to burn fat. As you diet, and your calories become lower and lower, your body starts protecting itself against starvation and slows down your metabolism. As a counter for this decline in metabolic activity, stoking the fire, so to speak, on a regular basis is not only a good thing, but a necessary part of your program. Not to mention the boost to your mental health. So I propose that we stop calling it a CHEAT MEAL and instead call it a FUN MEAL. It may seem like a small thing, however, the words we choose to use can have a detrimental effect to not only our progress, but also our perception of the choices we make. Calling it cheating infers that you are doing something bad, something that you should be ashamed of or regret. I propose that we get away from looking at food as inherently bad, and instead look at it as GOOD, IMPORTANT, NECESSARY, and ENJOYABLE! So much of our eating these days is based around what’s right and what’s wrong. With the multitude of diets on the market, foods have been categorized into either good or bad and everything that doesn’t fit in the good category is considered cheating. Psychologically speaking, that’s a very dangerous place to reside. But, if we call it a FUN MEAL, and it’s in the plan, then we aren’t doing anything wrong. We aren’t CHEATING, we are doing exactly what we need to do to keep our mind and bodies functioning optimally. We have re-stoked the fire of our metabolism and of equal importance, we have granted ourselves a mental reprieve, because, quite frankly, there is nothing wrong with enjoying a wonderful meal. By allowing ourselves to have these meals and calling them FUN, we are creating a healthy food relationship that can last a lifetime. People get on and off the diet wagon constantly. Strict diets will always fail in the long term. I wish I had a dollar for everyone that has told me that they’re doing the “X” diet again because it always works for them. Guess what? If you’ve had to do it more than once it never actually worked in the first place. You may have lost weight but you were unable to keep it off, therefore it’s another failed diet. Perhaps you should STOP dieting and learn how to actually eat and stop telling yourself that you’re cheating when you eat something that actually tastes good. Yes, eating nutrient dense foods that will fuel your body and create an environment for abundant health and continued strength is absolutely important. But does that mean you can’t have a piece of cake on your birthday without feeling guilty about it afterwards? Does it mean that you can’t enjoy going out with your family and splitting a pizza on a Saturday night? Absolutely not! It is possible to stay on the path of a healthy lifestyle your entire life and still enjoy many wonderful things along the way. Your body will be just fine with it, trust me. And by allowing yourself those enjoyable moments, your desire to completely jump off the path and set up camp at the first bakery you pass by will be greatly diminished, if not disappear altogether. But once you’ve given in to the notion that you’ve cheated, then just like my geometry quiz, what follows is guilt and self-punishment and fear. Fear that you are incapable of ever being successful, fear that others will see you as a failure, and fear that your unhealthy relationship with food will always control your life.

So that moves us into the next phase of self-punishment, the GUILT workout. I’m going to give you a little scenario. So, let’s say you are on a diet to lose 25 lbs. You’ve been very good for a whole month now, not straying even a calorie from your plan and you’re so proud of yourself! You’re down 8 lbs. so far and feeling great. It’s your birthday and your best friends come over to help you celebrate and they’ve baked you your favorite cake! At first you say, “No, I can’t have that! I’m not allowed to eat that on my diet!” But as the night goes along, the willpower gets weaker, and you get a little bit mad that you CAN’T have things that taste good until you finally give in a get yourself big slice of cake and eat it. It tastes great, but as you’re eating it, the guilt starts to set in. You can almost feel the fat forming on your body with every bite. After your friends leave and you see the leftover cake, the self-punishment begins. You were weak and you failed. Instead of remembering how great that cake tasted and how awesome your friends are, instead you start focusing on how that slice of cake probably ruined your whole diet. So you decide that you’ll have to head to the gym tomorrow and work extra hard to burn off that cake and hopefully mitigate some of the damage that was done. And maybe it would be a good idea to skip breakfast, too. When you get to the gym you do twice as much cardio and work 3 times harder than usual, but get discouraged by the relatively small amount of calories the treadmill actually says you’ve burned off! The GUILT workout is in full force.

Let’s review what just happened. First, you let your fear of food take over the enjoyment of your time with your friends. You started the whole evening off with I CAN’T and all it did is make you feel like you’ve drawn the short straw when it comes to your metabolism. When you finally give in to the cake, you’re hit with a feeling of anger that you’re overweight and one of failure because you cheated and are incapable of sticking to a plan. Then you used the gym as a punishment for your failure. Sound familiar??? This. Needs. To. Stop. It’s a vicious circle with no successful outcome. Don’t EVER go to the gym as punishment for something you ate. Let me say that again. Don’t EVER go to the gym as punishment for something you ate. All you did was associate the gym with failure. Just as the phrase CHEAT MEAL associates eating something you enjoy with cheating, working out under the guise of burning off that so called cheat meal now associates the gym as a place to punish yourself. Here’s a fact. Going to the gym is a gift. If you have the ability to walk into a gym, then you are blessed. There are a lot of people that would give almost anything to be strong enough to go to the gym and exercise. Instead, go to the gym because it will make you stronger and healthier. Go to the gym because you LOVE how it makes you mentally stronger and because it gives you a healthy outlet for your stress. But DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT go to the gym to punish yourself. This is so incredibly important because how we label these things in our lives greatly affects our perception of them in the future. And adding a negative connotation to exercise and food will only lead to feelings of frustration and guilt, and a fear of ever reaching our goals.

Even some people in the fitness profession feel the need to justify eating something that is in the BAD column of foods. They’re eating something decadent on vacation and post it on social media, but make sure to tell everyone that it’s cheat day lest anyone be led astray by their questionable choice to eat a pastry. Guess what, that one pastry isn’t going to break them or you! In fact, what it will do is keep the desire to overindulge at bay leading to a lifelong healthy relationship with food. It’s IMPORTANT and NECESSARY to enjoy small pleasures along the path of a healthy lifestyle.

Enjoy your cake, take pleasure in time spent with friends and family and don’t let your fear of food control the situation. Exercise your body because it’s a gift to have the ability to do so. And run away from diets that have strict GOOD and BAD labels when it comes to food and exercise. We are all individuals, unique in our strengths as well as our weaknesses. It doesn’t matter what your fitness journey looks like, protecting your mental strength is the key to success. Understanding why you need to eat healthy foods the majority of the time, but also understanding how very important it is to allow yourself to enjoy the wonderful things life has to offer in order to keep moving forward is crucial. Being mindful of the things we say, our governing thoughts and the labels we put on things is so important. We must learn to be respectful of the process, forgiving of our missteps, and above all, focused on starting each day with a step forward and a thankful heart.

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 haven’t written a blog in a very long time. I’m not sure why exactly other than perhaps I lost my inspiration. More on that in a bit. But it has been an exciting year. First, my son Mitch graduated from college. Wow! That’s both kids now that are college graduates with honors, no less. Also, just a few weeks ago, my daughter Samantha got married to an amazing man. I spent the past year planning that wedding and it was an absolutely perfect day. Now I know why people hire wedding planners because it’s a LOT of work coordinating all of those moving parts. However, I have a bit of a problem relinquishing control of things I have a big stake in, so I wouldn’t have done it any other way. Good stuff and I couldn’t be more proud of both of my kids.
During this past year I also prepped for and competed in my final 2 bodybuilding shows. For those that compete, you know how much prep controls your day from your sleep to your food to your time spent with family and your time spent in the gym. Even on vacations you don’t want to stray too far off course so you make choices with that in mind. The tentacles of bodybuilding reach into every part of your life. Dramatic? Yes, but unfortunately true and anyone that claims otherwise AND does well in the sport isn’t being honest with themselves or you. So let’s consider that I have, essentially, been either on-season, pre-season, or post-season since 2004. (There’s no such thing as OFF season when you compete, is there?) Now I know a lot of people that have competed for much longer than that but for someone with a relatively short attention span like I have, that’s a LONG TIME!
I always wondered if I would know when it was time to retire from competing. Would it just come to me one day or would I have to force myself off the stage? I even asked several happily retired people how they knew it was time to be done. Two of them wanted to have kids (my kids were 10 and 15 when I STARTED competing so that didn’t apply to me), one said he was very happy but that he wouldn’t rule out getting back on stage in a few years (um, that’s not retired, that’s taking a mental health break) and one said he wanted to be able to eat whatever he felt like eating. All of these were altogether completely unhelpful. So I continued to compete, hoping to get to the point where I felt okay with letting it go. The problem with competing after you’ve BEGUN to think about stopping competing is that your motivation is a little on the thin side. On a scale from 1-10, 1 being no motivation whatsoever and 10 being so motivated that you put everything else on the back burner so you can focus solely on winning your next show, I was at about a 5. Now, let’s be honest here, a 5 on the motivation scale isn’t stellar. Don’t misunderstand me though, my diet was spot on and I RARELY, if ever, missed a workout and if I did miss one it was for a good reason and I always made it up the next day. But even though your physical self is at a 9 or 10, if your mind is only at a 5, that’s a problem. Attitude plays an ENORMOUS part in the success of anything that you set out to do. And like it or not, my heart just wasn’t in it anymore. There are multiple reasons that led me to that place which I will not delve into because this already wordy blog would become a novel, but suffice it to say my desire to be on that stage was losing steam.
I’m a bodybuilding judge and MC and I remain that to this day. It’s great fun for me and I’m honored to do both. I seriously appreciate all of the hard work that goes into getting on that stage for a show and I want to be the best judge possible to honor that commitment that’s been made by every competitor up there. But when you find yourself behind that microphone saying “quarter turn to the right” and one of your thoughts is, “wow, I’m really glad that I’m at this table and not on that stage right now” well, you know the writing is on the wall. Fact is, I competed 7 more times over the next 4 years AFTER having those thoughts. Crazy, right? But this sport gets a hold of you because we all have a desire to be better than we are right now. And bodybuilding is a visual manifestation of that goal achieved. But here’s the problem. ‘Better’ doesn’t have to mean more muscular, leaner, or more symmetrical. Most of the time better has absolutely nothing to do with being on stage. And that’s what I finally realized standing backstage at my last show. I wanted to be better at a lot more than just the way I looked. Now, if you’re still competing, don’t take offense because everyone could argue that there’s so much more they are gaining from the sport than just aesthetics and I will agree, to a point. But this blog isn’t about where you are in your life at this moment, it’s about where I found myself and what I needed to do for me. Let’s be clear, lifting weights and exercise has been in my life for 33 years. I was lifting weights for 20 years BEFORE I ever started competing. That will never change. I LOVE being in the gym and I love challenging and pushing myself when I workout. As a trainer my goal is to help others to find that same feeling when they step in the gym. Lifting weights will always be a part of what makes me strive to be a better person. But I’m no longer walking into the gym with the guiding force to make myself look better to a panel of judges. I’m ever so slowly returning to my gym roots of simply loving to lift just to be healthier and stronger. It’s a challenge to be sure because competing has definitely changed the way I look at myself. But I’m working on it and in the meantime learning to be less critical of my imperfections. It’s a slow process because I have and always will have a desire to be fit. But fit doesn’t have to mean 5% body fat with striated glutes. I was fit before I ever had that and that’s where I want to be again.
So there I was, backstage at that last show on the east coast, all tanned up, wearing a very expensive velvet bikini covered in crystals and rocking 5-inch heels. I had a grip on my bands and was getting pumped up to go out on stage. I looked around at all the other ladies doing the same thing and to be honest, one person who had been staring at herself in the mirror and taking selfies of her booty for about an hour and it hit me like a ton of bricks. I absolutely don’t want to be here doing this anymore! BOOM! Hallelujah, I just KNEW! What a relief that I wasn’t going to have to force myself to quit and always wonder if I made the right decision. Whew! I finished up that show with a few more signs from God that this was absolutely the right decision and walked out of that place with a smile on my face and called it a career.
Ever since I made that decision, slowly but surely my creative side, which had been neglected for so many years in lieu of competing, started reawakening. It sounds dramatic because there are a lot of people who compete and stay creative at the same time, but everyone’s journey is unique. And for me apparently, it was one or the other.
So, there you have it. I’ve found my creative inspiration again. Without the all-consuming presence of competing in my life, I’ve discovered that I love to make bracelets. I’m pretty darn good at wedding planning, and I’ve always loved to write, on my own terms, of course. I’ve missed training clients. I love teaching people how to lift and be stronger and just feel better about themselves. And most of all, I’m inspired to work on being the best version of me. Not just the outside, but all of me.
I have some pretty strong opinions about the place fitness needs to have in your life. But I’ve found that I also feel pretty strongly about the importance of balance. Unfortunately, I think I painted myself into a corner for 14 years. So, I’m going to work on regaining some perspective that’s been lost along the way and I’ll try to keep you updated on how that’s going so that maybe, just maybe, I can help one other person find that balance that is so necessary to being the best version of you.

Not everything you touch needs to turn to gold, but the minute you stop reaching out towards new things, even the gold around you will tarnish….


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.



We’re going to take a break from the ever-growing array of Gym Etiquette faux pas that we encounter any given day at the gym and talk about diet faux pas instead. If you’ve spent ANY time Googling diets or how to lose weight you’ve encountered literally THOUSANDS of hits. Anything from low carb and paleo, to high fat, prepackaged foods and shakes, to fasting. There’s no shortage of know-it-all’s in the diet marketplace. Interestingly enough, if you already have an idea of which one you want to do, you’ll most likely be able to find multitudes of very scientific sounding articles supporting whatever you’ve chosen. I Googled Cabbage Soup Diet, (did you even know that one is still out there?) and found all kinds of things supporting it. Thank goodness there are also a multitude of sites debunking it.


My point is, the Internet is full of complete and utter nonsense and rubbish and it takes someone with knowledge and discernment to see through the often times erroneous information they’re feeding you. And as everyone who has been in the fitness industry long enough knows, what’s good for you today may end up being detrimental to your goals tomorrow, so think twice, maybe three times, before you jump on ANY bandwagon.

There are some hard and fast truths when it comes to your nutritional choices, and after that, it depends upon you; your metabolism, how your body functions, your activity level and what you’re needing to fuel (think desk jockey vs. Olympic sprinter), food allergies or intolerances, disease processes (diabetes, for example), lifestyle and, quite frankly, determination, focus and DESIRE. All of those things taken into consideration are necessary in figuring out YOUR best course of action. Do you think, in reading all of those articles on the amazing and jaw dropping benefits of DIET X, that they are talking directly to you? How could they? They don’t even know YOU! They have statistics supporting their plans and it all sounds very legit to the average person. But how many of you have actually gone in search of those studies and read through them to determine the factors and parameters used in order to judge the efficacy for yourself? VERY FEW to none would be my guess. And yet, someone throws some case studies at you and BAM, it’s a nutritional truth! And even if the stats are from a credible source, is it the right choice for you based on the parameters I’ve listed above?


And testimonials? There are millions of testimonials.! You’ve read them…”Miracle diet!” “Nothing else worked until I took this pill and now I have the body of a supermodel!” “I lost 57 pounds in 3 weeks and have kept it off and I don’t even have to exercise or change my lifestyle at all!” Complete and utter HOOEY.

So, I mentioned some hard and fast truths when it comes to diet. Here they are, and forgive me if I’ve missed a few, this is a blog and not a thesis, but you get the idea…
1) You must eat to survive; food is NOT optional.
2) Your body requires a multitude of nutrients in order to function, and the right balance of nutrients in order to function optimally.
3) The more processed foods you eat, the unhealthier you will become. It may not show on the outside, but it WILL wreak havoc on the inside. And quite frankly, if it’s full of chemicals and hormones or is made in a lab, it’s not good for you.
4) Exercise is not optional in the quest for a healthy body. Like it or not, our bodies are DESIGNED for movement and in the absence of movement, dysfunction begins. And like a domino effect, one dysfunctional process leads to another and another….It may begin with a few aches and pains, but it will lead to a complete breakdown of functional movement which in turn leads to disease.
5) If you eat far more calories than you burn, you will gain body fat.
6) If you don’t eat enough calories every day, your metabolism will slow to a crawl and you will hold onto body fat.
7) Water intake is absolutely necessary for proper metabolic function.

Healthy Life

Now, let’s take this short list and match your diet du jour against it and if it fails in any of these rather obvious dietary necessities, RUN AWAY. The Cabbage soup diet? FAIL. Eating 500 calories a day? And I don’t care what magical formulation they give you for weight loss to ingest along with this extreme calorie depletion, its terribly UNHEALTHY and a definite FAIL. Anything that says that exercise is unnecessary? FAIL.
ALL of the extreme diets out there fail this first test miserably!

Once you’ve weeded out the obvious culprits to an unhealthy weight loss plan, it’s time to put the others to the next test and see they fit your lifestyle and goals. And here’s a very important question to ask of your self. Can I do this diet FOREVER? Is it maintainable and will it provide me with a lifetime of dietary health? Can I manage this on my own on a daily basis? Now we’ve eliminated a few more, haven’t we? You see, people have gotten away from a diet of long-term health and wellness and we’ve become a society of REACTIVE diets. Instead of a nice steady current of food management, we’ve taken it to extremes. For example…”I’m so tired of dieting so I’m going to eat everything in sight, then when the fat gets out of control I’ll starve myself and run everyday for weeks until the weight is gone. Then I’ll go back to eating whatever I want until the fat takes over again!” We’re not living a continuous life of good nutrient intake anymore, now we’re just attempting to counteract our consistently poor nutritional choices. Our bodies get tossed around violently going from one unhealthy situation to another, and yet we expect it to continue to keep functioning properly for us! In my humble opinion, the diet that will take you through life giving you the absolute best chance at long term health is quite simply this; consistently eating healthy and nutrient dense foods that you tolerate well while allowing for special indulgences along the way so as not to develop an unhealthy need to binge on things you believe to be “bad”, all the while keeping your heart, lungs, and muscles in top shape. There it is. BOOM. I don’t even need to link to any statistics or scientific studies! And it wouldn’t even fill up the first page of a book!  It’s time to get off the diet rollercoaster, stop being REACTIVE and start treating your body like the beautiful and incredible gift it is.

Diet rollercoaster

If you’ve gotten yourself into a situation where food is controlling your life and your self-esteem and consuming your thoughts, then you have a problem and you may need to seek outside help. And the help you need is out there! But you need to look hard to find someone that isn’t endorsing a particular product to give you the direction you need to live the life you deserve. Find someone that spends the time asking about YOU! Someone that listens to what you’ve been through and not someone that is thinking the whole time how to make their product your savior. And once you’ve found that person that you know truly cares about your future, has the knowledge to help you overcome the obstacles and not just in the next few months, but in the long term, then listen to them. That person should be willing to admit they don’t know everything. They should leave their ego behind and admit if something is beyond their scope of knowledge and point you in the right direction. And if you find that person, then let them be that ONE VOICE. Stop listening to your friends and colleagues raving about their latest magical fat cure. It doesn’t matter if they lost 15 pounds in 2 weeks and they can fit in their skinny jeans, it’s not forever and I guarantee a few weeks or months from now they’ll be on the next magical diet bandwagon. Don’t be that person! Treat your body with respect EVERYDAY and I guarantee that it will thank you!

tortoise and the hare

The old story of the tortoise and the hare rings very true in this case. And if you’re too young to have heard that story while growing up, or if it’s been awhile since you’ve read it, then I suggest you spend time Googling that instead!

Until next time, eat well, laugh often, exercise your body, and most importantly, be thankful for the gift that looks back at you in the mirror everyday!



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!

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