Don't be left out!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Mom Guilt: 4 Ways to Work Through It

Yesterday as I walked up the gym stairs to pick up my son from the nursery I noticed another mom doing her best to entice her little one up the stairs in hopes of a quick workout.

Once inside the nursery, the little girl clung for dear life with crocodile tears flowing.  Despite the welcoming gym staff noting that she quieted down quickly yesterday, I could just see the heart break on the mom's face.  She did her best to soothe the little girl, peeled her off and quickly exited the room.

When I left a few minutes later, I found the mom just outside the door listening to hear if her daughter had calmed down yet.

I gave her a smile, patted her on the back and wished her a peaceful workout, but man, my soul hurt for her.

Mom guilt.  It's a b****.

Whether you're a stay at home mom, work outside the home mom, part-time working mom, new mom, or seasoned guilt sucks.

When is comes to health and fitness mommy guilt runs especially rampant as, to many mothers, workouts and self care time can feel indulgent, frivolous and can infringe already tight schedules.

I get it.  I really do.  I have left crying babies in the nursery to make it to a yoga class.  I've left my husband with a tantrum throwing toddler so I can take a walk.  I have gotten up before dawn (many times) to lift.  And even been in the gym as late as nine pm on a Saturday to destress.  To say I can sympathize with other guilt stricken moms is an understatement.

But ya know what?  Those workouts aren't indulgent or frivolous for anyone- especially for mothers.  Study after study have shown links to increased mother's activity levels to increased children's activity levels [1], lower stress levels, improve mood, and positively impact body image, all of which greatly impact not only yourself but your entire family.  Remember the saying, "If mama ain't happy, no body happy!".  There really is some truth to that.  It's not just for you, it's for your family too.

It's easy on paper to schedule 4:30 am workouts so you're finished before the first kiddo awakes, and I applaud those who have made that commitment but sometimes you have to part ways with the family to get in activity during the day. Plus, 4:30 is really early.  Ugly early.  

But regardless of why, if you're struggling with mom guilt over taking time out of the day for workouts, here are a few tips to help you get moving guilt free.

They will survive with out you:  Deep breathe, take the super woman cape off and hand it over to dad (or grandma, etc).  I know us moms tend to think the kids may starve, the house will fall apart and homework won't get finished if we don't do everything ourselves, but try putting some faith into whomever is responsible for the littles while you squeeze in some exercise.  More than likely, the to-do list won't be tackled exactly the way you would do it but they will survive while you're gone, and so will you.

Write down your why:  When you're met with resistance at the first drop of the words "Mommy's going to go workout.", it can be easy to just say screw it, and throw in the towel.  But don't give up just yet, write down your "why" on a piece of paper and stick it somewhere everyone can see.  Why is it important to include exercise in your weekly routine?  What are you goals?  What feelings are you after?  Put it down on paper.  When contemplating skipping a workout in attempt to avoid troubling your family, remember your "why".  Keep the big picture in mind.

Surround yourself with support: If you haven't already, fill your inner circle with people who support your exercise efforts.  Find other supportive, gym going mamas at the gym, preschool, even on Facebook.  Those judgy moms who feel superior about spending all their time and energy on everyone else but themselves…you don't need those ladies around.  In fact, putting ourselves last on the to-do list has almost become a competitive sport many women brag about. Ain't nobody got time for that!  Build your tribe with people who support your healthy habits.     Be

Do something together: If all else fails and for whatever reason, you truly can't detach for your family, find something you can do together.  Family walks, bike rides, yoga, playing tag and even calisthenics in the living room can lead to great health benefits.  Your workouts may be interrupted or less than picture perfect but ultimately, it's a chance for your children to see you making your health a priority.  Now that's, time well spent.

Your turn:  Do you have children?  If so, have you been able to maintain an exercise routine?  What's your best tip?


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

5 Daily Rituals To Improve Body Image

**This article was written by me for a self-embrace series for the Des Moines Moms' Blog.  You can read more from the series here.  

Ask any adult what they would change about their body and most of us will be able to give you a long list of dislikes and areas needing improvement. Even celebrities most would deem as perfect, like the long legged Taylor Swift and wildly successful Katie Couric, have openly admitted struggling with body image issues. 

I am no stranger to body image struggles myself.

Memories as early as middle school come to mind. In 7th grade I quit the volleyball team because I was too self conscious about wearing the short shorts. From there, it was a spiral downwards filled with workouts titled “thin thighs”, stressing over my weight, my curly hair, stretch marks, cellulite, and anything else I viewed as flawed.

Even as an adult, my perception and concern over others perception of my body controlled my world. I dodged full body photos. I started a new diet every other week. I was highly critical of not only myself, but other women as well. I let the jealousy of “fit” women eat at me to the point that I temporarily removed myself from Facebook and cut ties with a good friend just because she had lost weight, and I had not. I am certain most of my friends saw me as a confident individual but on the inside, I felt paralyzed by jealousy and dissatisfaction.

Eventually, after too much time spent worrying about my weight, huge quads, and thick calves, it came to a head after I had my daughter. I hit rock bottom. I was at my highest weight and lowest self-esteem ever, but with little baby eyes and ears on me I knew it was time for a change.

I am no body image expert, just a typical girl with a lot of personal experience in this department but looking back at my transformation from sad and insecure to confident and happy, there were a handful of practices I put into action.

The good news is you can make these changes too, right now. Feelings follow behavior. The simple, but not always easy, act of behaving in a body positive manner often leads to body positive feelings, even if you have to fake it ‘til you make it. 

Exercise: People who exercise tend to have a more positive body image than people who don’t exercise. I am not just suggesting this because I am a personal trainer either, it has been studied over and over again. Anecdotally, I have seen the focus, for many, of exercise shifts from what you body looks like to what your body can do. Today, I am adore my “huge quads” because they allow me to squat a crap ton of weight. (Yes a crap ton is a unit of measurement.) Beyond that, Elle Woods was right, exercise increases production of endorphins. And, we all know endorphins make you happy.

Stop using the F-word: Fat. I am talking about the word fat. Just throw it out of your vocabulary, especially if you have children. Stop calling yourself fat. Stop calling others fat. When we use negative descriptions (both in our heads and out loud) enough, true or not, we eventually start to believe them. When you feel the urge to use “the f word”, replace it with something you love about yourself.

Stay off the scale: Many of us give the number on the scale way too much power. Down a few pounds? You are thrilled, it is a great day! Up a few pounds? You are depressed, time to start dieting and exercising. Sound familiar? It can be difficult, if not impossible, to build a solid foundation of self love, respect and acceptance when you’re frequently seeking validation from the scale. Toss that sucker in the trash, or at least under the bed if you really can’t part with it. You can choose to have a great day, any day, regardless of what you weigh.

If you’re working on losing weight, weighing yourself once a week should be plenty. Remember, the number on the scale is not always representational of a healthy/unhealthy body.

Focus on the positive: Even the smartest, most confident, Katniss Everdeen-ish of women have their off days. You are going to have moments when you feel insecure, anxious, jealous, dissatisfied, and even angry with your body. Be ready. Arm yourself with positivity. Keep your attention on what is going well and what you love about yourself. Think of it as two voices. The voice of positivity has to be louder.


Sure, the famous Saturday Night Live character, Stuart Smalley, was hilarious but he really was on to something with his well-known mantra, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough and doggone it, people like me.”. Have a mantra ready in your back pocket. Heck, steal Smalley’s if you want! When you are tempted to critique, pull out that short saying full of positivity and repeat as many times as needed.

Treat your body like it belongs to someone you love: You know all those negative things you say to yourself? Write them down. Look at them. (Do not read any further until you are done)

Now, let me ask you this. Would you say those things to your child? To your mother? To your sister? To your best friend? I did not think so. Now tear those bad boys up.

Even if you are not in love with your body, treat it like you are. Remember, feelings follow actions. Act out of love towards your body and with time you will feel love towards your body. 


Years ago, I would have been beyond embarrassed to share my struggles in private, let alone in a public forum. Today, I see them as the peaks and valleys I worked to conquer on a road that ultimately led me to a profession I am passionate about. I have realized that my perception of my body had very little to do with my physical appearance and tons to do with the dialogue taking place in my head. I continue to practice these five changes because I believe self love and acceptance is a skill that should be exercised daily in an effort to reach optimal potential. Just as my big thighs are nothing to be ashamed of, neither are my battles with body image. I am proud to say that through many storms, I am comfortable in my own skin, flaws, and all.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Get More from Group Exercise Classes

Group exercise classes come with a long list of benefits- a consistent class schedule, a safe and effectively designed routine, accessible to most gym members, and an opportunity to spend quality time with friends just to name a few.

I couldn't help but notice since New Year', group exercise classes at my gym have been filled to the brim.  As a former group exercise instructor, this warms my heart as I've seen many transformations (inner and outer) take place and friendships develop in group classes.

Whether you're new or old to group exercise classes here are five insider tricks to getting even more from your group exercise classes.

Don't follow the crowd:  While everyone in the class may be asked to perform the same movement, you're not all on the same fitness level.  If there is one downfall about group exercise classes, the pressure to "keep up" with your peers is it.  Just because the woman next to you is able to push the pace or perform perfect push-ups, doesn't mean you have to as well.  The same holds true on the opposite end of the spectrum.  Maybe you are the girl who can do perfect push ups on her toes but the instructor has recommended performing them on your knees.  Keep in mind, instructors have to teach what suits the majority of the class, and that may or may not include you.  Whatever the situation, stay focused on what you can do well and build from there.

Come early or stay late:  If you're new, have questions and/or are curious about modifications come early or stay a few minutes late to pick your instructors brain.  When you're in the middle of teaching a 20+ person class it can be hard to give personal recommendations without singling a member out.  Don't be afraid to ask for a quick form check or regression/progression if needed before/after class.

Find out what other classes your favorite instructor teaches: If/when you find a favorite instructor, ask him/her if they offer any additional classes.  More often than not, group exercise instructors teach multiple classes at the gym. If they don't mind, ask them to contact you if they're substitute teaching for another class or adding additional classes to their roster. You just might find yourself expanding your horizons in a new class with the same instructor you love.

Find a buddy: Just like any other workout outside of group exercise, everything is more fun with a friend.  But fun factor aside, friends can also help hold you accountable to your exercise routine, especially when that friend is Susan, who you just met but always on time to class and gives it her all.  Don't be afraid to introduce yourself to veterans of the class and swap emails or phone numbers, to help keep you honest.  

Look at the big picture: Many group exercise programs are structured to offer both cardio and strength based classes at similar times everyday of the week to help you included both aspects into your routine.  For example there may be cardio kickbox class at 9 am on Monday, Wednesday and Friday while at the same time on Tuesday and Thursday a dumbbell strength class is offered.   If you enjoy group exercise classes and are able to visit the gym at a similar time each day, this may be a great way to get in both cardiovascular and strength workouts.

Your turn:  Do you attend group exercise classes on a regular basis?

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Tips for Making (Better) Resolutions

I never fails, as each year comes to a close, I can't help but notice bookshelves, television advertisements and new feeds are filled to the brim with self-improvement and weight loss products, and inevitably my husband and I get into a "discussion" over the effectiveness of making New Year's resolutions.

My husband, a self proclaimed "TCB-er" (taking care of business), hates resolutions.  From his perspective, if something needs changed, he just decides to change it, and it's done.  I, on the other hand, love resolutions and realize that if making changes were as easy as my husband makes it sound, more than the estimated 8% of resolution makers would reach their goal.  I love the idea of a fresh start, a clean slate, the new faces at the gym, and find the motivation from  new comers to exercise contagious.  

The truth is, resolutions do have a bad rap.  People often make lofty, elaborate goals without giving any thought to the who, what, why, when, and how they will get there.  But really, that's true about goals in general, not just New Year's resolutions.  Whether you're heart is set on making new goals for 2015 or you're you plan to wait until later in the year, here are four tips for making (better) resolutions.

Get rid of the "shoulds": Things you think you should do are not a resolution make. If you want to reach your goal, you have to passionately believe in it.  For example, I probably should cut out my beyond excessive use of coffee creamer.  But ya know what?  I don't really want to.  I like my coffee creamer.  I might be able to muscle my way through a few days without it but the minute that my will power weans, I'm certain I'd easily fall back into my old ways.   If you're beginning sentences with "I should…"  or "My husband thinks I should…." or "My mother thinks I should….", ask yourself if this is a goal you really want to work towards or as Carrie Bradshaw said, "are you shoulding all over yourself?".

Don't bite off more than you can chew: I'm going to lose weight, eat better, join crossfit, run a marathon, do a Tough Mudder, attend yoga once a week, utilize daily affirmations and eat only organic produce.  I am exaggerating a tad, but it's not uncommon for many to make a resolution list a mile long.  While all of those are worthy goals, your time might be better spent focusing on one or two main goals and layering in a new ones as you go.

Think of it like juggling.  When learning to juggle you start off with just a few balls and add more as you improve your skills.  Keeping ten balls (goals) in the air is difficult, and often when you drop one, you drop them all.  Pick a few resolutions to work on first and as you build confidence and momentum slowly add in more.

Focus on how you want to feel: In her book, The Desire Map, Danielle Laporte says,
"Knowing how you actually want to feel is the most potent form of clarity that you can have.  Generating those feelings is the most powerfully creative thing you can do with your life."  
So often we make goals, hoping in the end we feel more confident, happier, etc.  Sometimes that works sometimes it doesn't.

Focus on how we want to feel, instead of what we want to do, and you might find your goals change.   Ask yourself how do you want to feel  in 2015. Now, what do you need to do to feel the way you want to feel?  Chase a feeling, not a goal.

Consider what you're willing to sacrifice: Everything, EVERYTHING, in life is a trade off.  No choice comes without a price.  Everyday, I choose to workout instead of have free time, I blog during nap time instead of cleaning the house, and at night I play Trivia Crack on my phone instead of going directly to bed.  As a result, I'm short on free time, I have a less than clean house, and I could use an extra 15 minutes of sleep, but these are the choices I've made and I'm willing to go without these things in pursuit of my priorities.

Most likely, your goals will be no different. You will have to sacrifice something whether it be in the form of free time, sleeping, or nights out with friends.  As your plan your road map to success, look down the road to anticipate what working towards these goals might "cost" you.  Be honest with yourself.  If you're not willing to pay the price, this goal may not be for you, and that is ok!  Find something you are willing to sacrifice and work from there.

Your turn:  Do you "do" New Year's resolutions?  Share yours! 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Things I learned from my first years as a trainer

I am approaching the two year mark as a certified personal trainer.  I've been "in the industry" for almost five years as a group exercise instructor and wellness coach, but becoming a personal trainer has been the most rewarding experiences of my professional life.  There is nothing more enjoyable then watching people change not only their lives, but the lives of their family members as well.

While in the grand scheme of things, two years is minuscule, I've grown so much in that short time.  I've made plenty of mistakes and learned some lessons the hard way.  Here are the top five lessons I've learned in my first years as personal trainer:

The learning doesn't stop when you pass the test:  You spend all your free time reading your text book, doing the practice tests, going to workshops, and asking your personal training friends questions but that's just the beginning.  It's more than just signing up for continuing education classes to keep your certification current.  People pay a lot of their hard earned money to spend time with you and tap into your knowledge.  Take it seriously.  Read books, watch videos, observe others in your field.  Do whatever you can to help yourself help your clients.

Don't comprise your best judgement for what you think the client wants: Ugh, looking back at how I approached client programming (or lack there of) when I was just starting out makes me cringe.  I'll admit it, I was giving clients new workouts every single week because I thought that's what they wanted.  If I gave them what they wanted, they'd stick around right?  Not so much.  

The thing is, I knew better too but was too concerned with keeping a client happy.  Really, what makes (most) clients happy is reaching their goals and my variety workout of the week programming sure as hell wasn't going to do that.  The icing on the cake was that after four or six weeks they had six different workouts and stopped training with me because the message I was unfortunately sending them was that all you need are workouts.  Who cares about progression?  Improvements in form/technique/recovery?  Please don't make that same mistake.  

Trust your gut:  When that voice inside of you that tells you not to do something (or do something)- LISTEN.  One of my first clients came to me with a long list of health concerns, bodily aches and old injuries.  After an assessment, my gut was telling me to proceed with caution but as a new trainer I was so excited to help people, with their doctor's consent I pressed (gently) forward.  Despite giving them my full attention and writing their workouts to meet their current status to the best of my abilities at the time, they got injured doing one of the workouts. I felt terrible.  I should have called in reinforcements for a second opinion.  Thankfully they have recovered and are now progressing nicely.  

It's ok to say, "I don't know" and "no":  As mentioned above, it's ok to admit you don't know something and ask for help, especially when not asking for help means putting a client at risk.  Avoid answering questions you don't know the answer to with BS you made up or heard somewhere else.  I believe you can gain more credibility with clients with honesty than knowing it all.  

It's also ok to refer potential clients to another trainer who might be better suited to help them.  If your goal is to run a marathon, I'm not your trainer.  Of course I respect runners but I've never run a marathon and have no interest in running myself.  Trainers naturally seem to find their niche whether it's lifting, running. pilates or yoga.  You don't have to be a jack of all trades to have success.  Find what your passionate about that and spend your time and energy knowing everything about that topic.  

Other trainers can be a great resource, not competition: Granted I work at my local YMCA where we don't work on commission or have sales goals to reach but some of the best information I've received has been from other trainers sharing what they've learned with me.  It can be as small as a cue to use when coaching clients or as big as allowing you to intern with them.  Find the best trainer in town and ask to observe them with clients.  These people have been where you have been.  They're in the trenches with you, trying to help people reach their goals. And if helping you means you can better helping people,  then most trainers are willing to help.

I'm sure in another two years time I'll be sharing a whole new set of lessons learned.  Until then….
What lessons did you learn in your first few years at your job?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Sports Drinks: Pros and Cons

Walk into any gas station and you're sure to find rows upon rows of sport drinks.  Designed to be consumed before, during and after intense workouts, the well known Gatorade was first to the market in 1965 and since then, many have followed their lead.

Almost 50 years later, and the sports drink market has come a long way.  Thanks to various studies over the last few decades, we have a better understanding of what athletes should be drinking, when they should be drinking it and how much they need to drink.

Most of us know that we should consume plenty of liquids throughout the day especially before, during and after exercise to keep us hydrated.  But what if you're not in the NBA, NFL or an IronMan triathlete?  Does the average gym goer need a sports drink during activity?

The answer is…it depends. It depends on the length of your workout, outside temperature and how much you're sweating.  For exercise over 60 minutes, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends, "drinking one-and-a-half to four cups per hour (more if you have heavy sweat losses) will provide you with both the fluid and carbs you need for endurance."

(Keep in mind, 60 minutes of activity means you're actually active the entire time.  Doing a few exercise, chatting with some friends, going to the bathroom, then doing a few more exercises for a total of 60 minutes doesn't meet the requirement.)
Like many of us, my activities don't usually qualify me for needing a sports drink but I'm not really a fan of just plain water during workouts (or anytime really).  Because I don't need all the extra carbs/sugar, electrolytes, or calories to support my workouts, adding in a traditional sports drink will most likely just result in unnecessary calorie consumption.

In fact, some traditional sports drinks have so much sugar in them they are often classified as "soft drinks".  Multiple studies, like this one from the American Academy of Pediatrics have concluded that, "...frequent or excessive intake of caloric sports drinks can substantially increase the risk for overweight or obesity in children and adolescents. "

I recently had the opportunity to review one of the hottest newcomers to the sports drink market,  pHenOH 7.4 (pronounced fee-no).
A superior, healthy, ALKALINE alternative to conventional sports drinks. Phenoh has redefined the concept of a “sports drink” to reflect the needs of athletes and active individuals alike. Phenoh 7.4, with just 7 naturally healthy ingredients and a pH of 7.4, is everything that your body needs to stay balanced during stress and exercise. This is not an ade, this is pHenOH.
What I really like about pHenOH is how it stacks up against other sports drink competitors.  I looked into how pHenOH compared to comparable "reduced calorie" beverages, when it came to calories, electrolytes (sodium and potassium), carbohydrates, sugar and vitamin C per 8 ounce serving.

PHenOH is served in convenient 16oz bottles for easy on the go hydration.  Beverages like Gatorade and Powerade bottles often are available in 32 ounce bottles.  It's important to keep in mind that while I broke the drinks down into 8oz servings for comparison reasons, if you were to drink the entire bottle of Powerade or Gaterade you'd be consuming closer to 100 calories and 17 grams of sugar.  While pHenOH's sugar content is similar to that of some of the other drinks, it's derived from the lower glycemic sweetener- organic agave nectar.

PHenOH has a wonderfully refreshing taste, plus it's jam packed with actual vitamins.  Each bottle of pHenOH has as much potassium as two, TWO bananas.  Potassium aids heart function, muscle function, blood pressure and a whole lot more.  PHenOH also contains aloe vera which claims to aid digestion and provide antioxidants.

In addition, pHenOH is the ONLY sports drink on the market with a pH level of 7.4 which means it's an alkaline solution.  Unlike other soft drinks and sports drinks with a highly acid base (as a reference Gatorade and Powerade have a pH of 2.4-2.7), pHenOH supports my dental health.  Demineralization of tooth enamel begins at a pH of 5.5.  With a pH of 7.4, I don't have to worry about this drink eating at my teeth.  (Nice visual isn't it?)

As I mentioned above, my activities typically don't necessitate a traditional sports drink.  I appreciate drinks like pHenOH because I can enjoy them without worrying about consuming unneeded sodium, carbohydrates and calories.

You can find PHenOH online or use their interactive map to locate a retailer near you.

Your turn:  Do you drink sport drinks?  If so, what are you favorites?

Monday, December 1, 2014

Core Stability for Moms

***This post was originally written for and posted on Des Moines Moms Blog***

Whether you hit up the gym on a regular basis or not, it's safe to say that being a parent requires you to be in shape- a try to close the trunk, and carry a child on one hip with grocery bags in the opposite hand, while wearing a diaper bag type of shape.

Even if you aren't interested entering in the next big fitness competition and could care less about a six pack, increasing core stability can make tasks like swinging a baby carrier or loading a double stroller into the trunk easier.

Core stability is one of those fitness buzz words that's often used interchangeably with core strength but it's different than throwing in some crunches and bicycles at the end of your workout.  In fact, core stability exercises often don't look like you're even training the abdominals.  It refers to the ability to maintain proper positioning of your spine and pelvis throughout a movement despite what your extremities may be doing.  To do keep stability in the spine, the muscles that compromise your core (abdominals, back, hips and pelvic floor) work together to resist movement.

Adding just a few core stability exercises into your weekly routine can help prevent injuries, reduce back pain, improve posture, increase balance, as well as make many exercises and household chores easier.  In other words, it will make picking up an overtired, tantrum throwing toddler up from the floor less strenuous.  And let's face it, our kids aren't getting any smaller.

It's no secret that pregnancy can leave your entire core feeling like mush and whether you're a new mom*, a gym going veteran or somewhere in between try performing a few of the exercises below (listed in order from beginner to advanced) twice a week to increase your core stability.

*Please get your doctor's approval before returning to exercise

Your turn:  What are you favorite core stability exercises?