I AM A WOMAN

At the end of my teenage years, as those around me started to refer to me – out loud – as a “woman,” I started removing myself from that term.

“I’m not a woman, I’m a girl.”

“Don’t call me a woman, I’m only 22.”

“I don’t like when people call me a woman, it sounds weird.”

I associated the term “girl” (which was what I truly preferred being called) with cute, innocent, young, playful, and dependent.  It sounded easy.  Light-hearted.  Free.

I associated the term “woman” with strong, independent, gorgeous, confident, experienced, put-together.  It sounded… scary?  Too uptight?  Bossy?  Full of responsibility?  Unrealistic?

The bottom line is that I was intimidated by the word “woman.”  If I was going to be a woman, and not just a girl, I had some big shoes to fill.  My grandmother, my mother – they are women.  My aunts – they are women.  The female leaders I looked up to – they are women.  But me?

Fear is a powerful thing, and it tries to make us believe all kinds of lies.  So I accepted a lesser version of myself for a long time thanks to the fear I had associated with stepping into the power of being a woman.  It was a fear of being “too much” or “too successful” or “too opinionated” – or a million other qualities that aren’t always fully appreciated – or accepted – when they describe the female collective.  I wanted to be the “accepted” version of a woman, which was what I called a “girl.” 

But being a woman doesn’t mean that I can’t be playful or light-hearted.  Just like being a woman doesn’t have to mean that I am uptight or bossy or perfectly put-together.  Being a woman is being empowered to be whoever I really am, despite what other people think or say.  Being a woman is being empowered to show up in the world, despite being scared out of my mind to do so.  Being a woman means I can take really, really good care of my husband, without being afraid to have expectations of him and stand my ground when I need to.  Being a woman means I can be gentle, caring, and nurturing to those around me, without being a pushover.

Being a woman means a lot of amazing things, and at 28 years old, I am ready to step into that role… the role of being a woman.

7 Reasons to Exercise That Have Nothing to Do with How You Look

I’ve finally recovered from a nasty sickness that has plagued me for the last week, and to say I’m grateful would be a huge understatement.  Being out of commission for that long is tough!

I was always very aware of the non-physical benefits of exercise, but I was reminded of just how awesome they really are during this past week.  There were a few things in particular that I missed as a result of being stuck on the couch that I will cover here; although my list definitely doesn’t cover ALL of the amazing non-physical benefits of exercise, because there’s just so many.

Exercise is an amazing way to improve daily life, which is exactly why I am so passionate about fitness and movement.  Take 20 minutes (or more!) of your 24-hour day to get active, sweaty, and stronger, and you’ll get some of these great benefits – in addition to being a more fit you.

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7 Reasons to Exercise That Have Nothing to Do with How You Look

 

1. Mental Recharge

Burning physical energy during a workout is one the best ways I get myself recharged mentally.  This is vital as someone who has a mentally-draining day job but needs the capacity to get creative and think outside-of-the-box in the evenings, when it’s time to switch my focus to coaching.  Add in any amount of relationship time (with my husband, family, and/or friends), and there’s even more reason to get mentally reenergized throughout the day.

I didn’t actually understand the importance of this concept until pretty recently, when reading The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr & Tony Schwartz.  While I could always get through a day that included everything I just mentioned, I didn’t realize – until reading that book – that my engagement was suffering.  Being fully engaged keeps us present and increases productivity, among many other things.  It’s the difference between writing a blog in 2 hours instead of 4, and the difference between me actively participating in a conversation with my husband versus letting my mind wander to my to-do list while he tells me about his day.  It’s an integral part of living an intentional life.

This is one of the reasons why I love training in the afternoon or early evening, usually shortly after I get home from work.  It’s like plugging in my iPhone for 30 minutes, getting the battery fully charged for the second half of the day.  Without the mental recharge, my patience, productivity, creativity, motivation, discipline, and willpower are not at their best.

 

2. Boost in Mood

I rarely end a workout in the same state-of-mind (or should I say state-of-emotion?) that I began.  In fact, even when I start off in very low emotional state (I’m talking being super irritable, mad, sad, overwhelmed, etc.), it’s extremely rare that I’m not back to neutral (or better!) at the conclusion of the workout.

There are many physiological factors that contribute to this phenomenon, hormones and endorphins that play a role in affecting our mood, making us lighten up.  There’s also the satisfaction of fueling a workout with emotion, laying everything in the open from a mental and emotional standpoint in order to be very intense from a physical standpoint.

Need an attitude adjustment?  Exercise!

 

3. Stress Relief

Recharging your mental battery and boosting your mood can only have a positive impact on stress relief, am I right?

I used to tell myself that finding an additional 20-30 minutes to carve out for exercise when my schedule is packed is more stress-inducing than skipping the workout altogether.  Totally false.  A quick sweat session will clear your mind, boost your mood, and often helps bring clarity to the things that have you totally stressed out.  It’s a non-negotiable for me when I am extra busy and extra stressed!

 

4. Increase in Self-Esteem

Working out – especially weight training, in my opinion – is crazy good for self-esteem.  Now, this only works when we exercise for the right reasons and in the right context, so don’t go into this thinking you need to “punish” yourself for overeating or because you hate your body.  Nope, none of that.  Movement that is fueled by a love and appreciation of your current (and future!) body, and a respect for your health and abilities, is movement that will increase your confidence and help you hold yourself with high regard.  The best part about this is that it tends to happen even if/when there are no noticeable physical changes occurring at that time!

 

5. Better Sleep

No explanation needed here, because there’s lot of science (and personal experience!) to back this one up.

 

6. Motivation to Eat Well

One of the reasons I am very committed to regularly being active is because when I’m not, I find myself slipping into poor eating habits.

I am very in-tune with my body after spending the last few years paying close attention to what it’s telling me.  And when I’m eating poorly, I can feel it – especially during my workouts.  While my workout itself may not suffer (meaning I can still lift the weight I anticipated lifting, or bust out the number of reps I was expecting), poor nutrition makes the workout feel awful.  I’m lethargic, lacking energy, and everything feels twice as hard as normal.  It’s a huge motivator for me to keep up with a healthy diet that nourishes my body and fuels my workouts.  I know many people who agree!

 

7. Get-It-Done Attitude, aka Ambition

While I can’t say this is always the case, I usually end a workout thinking, “Ok, what’s next?”

The combination of stress relief, boost in mood, mental clarity, and feeling great physically gets me amped up to take on more of my to-do list or tackle the day’s next project.  I feel good, I feel accomplished, and that motivates me to keep going and get stuff done.

On day’s off, I actually prefer to exercise around 1-2 pm, you know that magical hour when we’re all of a sudden tired and productivity is low.  Much more effective than an energy drink or cup of coffee!

Side note: In the past, when I viewed exercise from a negative perspective (“working off” food and calories to make myself smaller and lighter, etc.), I required myself to complete long, high-intensity workouts every single day of the week, and sometimes twice a day.  This did not result in ambition – in fact, I usually wanted to lay around for the remainder of the day after beating myself up.  But now, understanding how to use exercise to compliment my life and realizing that insane daily training is not complimentary (or necessary) to living my best, the aftermath of a workout (and my attitude during the time) looks much different.

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Enjoy this post and want more?  Each week I send an email with insights and strategies to help women build their bodies, transform their minds, love themselves, and strengthen their spirits.  It’s only for my insider crew, so get yourself on that list and never miss an opportunity to learn more about creating an extraordinary life.  Sign up here!

The Workout You Need for Holiday Stress Relief (+ Fat Loss!)

Leisure walking is a form of exercise that is often overlooked in the fitness world and may not have been on your workout agenda.  I thought this was a great topic to cover during the month of December because as we all know, the holiday season can be a bit stressful.  While leisure walking is not only an opportunity to get your body moving (movement = ✓), it also has stress relieving properties and has positive effects on our stress hormones.  Leisure walking for even short periods of time (20-30 minutes) is a benefit to both our physical and mental health, so it’s definitely something you’ll want to add into your weekly routine, especially if you’re feeling a bit high-strung.

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Leisure walking is exactly what the name implies – walking at a leisurely, relaxing pace.  I’m talking about 2.5 mph (or less) on the treadmill, to give you actual numbers.  It’s nothing that will get your heart rate elevated or leave you out of breath.  Which is good, because it’s not supposed to.

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When I first started leisure walking, going at a slow and relaxing pace was very difficult for me.  As someone who likes to be efficient and who takes pride in being able to push herself through intense workouts, leisure walking just wasn’t very sexy in my mind.  But, the reality is that leisure walking can do just as much for our bodies as the tough workouts, and depending on other factors, there are times when leisure walking is better for you than a hard workout.

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The Role of Cortisol

Cortisol is a steroid hormone in the body, created from cholesterol in the adrenal glands that sit on top of our kidneys.  With the natural (and completely normal) rise and fall of cortisol levels, our bodies are able to function properly and maintain homeostasis.  While an elevated cortisol level is normal in many circumstances (cortisol rises when we wake up in the morning, when we are scared/in danger, during exercise, when we are fighting an illness, etc.), there are issues that arise from having elevated cortisol levels too often.

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What’s the all-too-common reason for why we would experience abnormal elevated cortisol levels?  Stress.

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When we are stressed out, overwhelmed, sleep deprived, sick, or worrying incessantly about something or someone, our levels of cortisol spike and wreak havoc on our bodies.  We are not meant to live in this constant state of elevated cortisol – it’s not normal, and there are consequences.

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Cortisol prepares our bodies for “fight or flight” – so as a protective mechanism, our body focuses on doing only what we need to survive.  It doesn’t want to use our energy reserves for anything else.  And by focusing on doing only what we need to survive, the body puts a lot of important responsibilities on the back burner.  I won’t go into the science of it all, but here’s what you can expect when you have elevated cortisol levels more frequently than you should:

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  1. Your body will hold onto the fat you already have.
  2. Your body will store more fat.
  3. Your blood sugar will trend upwards, putting you at risk for diabetes.
  4. Your immune system will not work as well as it should, making you susceptible to getting sick.
  5. You can experience GI issues, because your body is not interested in “wasting” energy on proper digestion.  (This is why people with pre-existing bowel issues tend to have even worse bowel issues when they are under a lot of stress.  Or, the reason why you may experience diarrhea when you’re nervous about something.)
  6. You may feel fatigued.
  7. You may have trouble sleeping, despite feeling fatigued.
  8. You may feel depressed.
  9. And lots more, including potential cardiovascular, fertility, and thyroid issues.

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To reiterate: an elevated level of cortisol is not always troublesome.  In fact, it’s normal.  If you complete an intense workout, for example, cortisol will be released and its level will be increased in your body.  The issue arises when cortisol levels are increased for too long and too often.

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When I am going through stressful periods in life, which is definitely possible during the holiday season, leisure walking is a non-negotiable part of my exercise and self-care regimen.  I don’t want to run around with elevated levels of cortisol in my body, storing holiday treats as fat and feeling tired and moody.  Prioritizing a leisure walk – even over an intense workout some days – is a must.

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A few leisure walking tips:

  1. Like I said before, go slow.  The pace needs to be leisurely and relaxed.  If you were walking with a friend and talking, the talking would be easy and would not cause you to feel out of breath.
  2. Try to walk outside, if possible.  (It’s wayyy too cold for this warm-blooded chick, but some of you may be more daring.)  Nature adds to the stress-relief factor.
  3. Bring something to listen to if you’d like.  I usually stick to podcasts and books on Audible, something motivational and inspiring.  I personally use leisure walks not only to lower my stress levels and stress hormones, but also as a time to transition my mindset from one thing to another (like from work to creativity and writing, or work to family time.)
  4. 20-30 minutes is great.  This is a scenario in which more IS better, so if you do have the extra time to devote to your walk, take advantage of it.
  5. If you are also doing an intense workout that day, save your leisure walk for afterwards (if your schedule allows, of course).  Cortisol increases in response to an intense workout – so a leisure walk afterwards will assist your body in lowering it back down to normal.

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I know successful business people who leisure walk almost 2 hours each day, that’s how important and effective it is from a mental/emotional standpoint.  And it’s not only a matter of stress relief, but also a matter of priming your body for fat loss.  For many women who struggle with fat loss, this time of leisurely movement is the missing – and often overlooked – piece in their plan of action.  (Even dieting and lowering your calorie intake increases cortisol, so there’s a fine line to walk when it comes to fat loss.)  There’s often a “do more” mentality when it comes to fat loss and losing weight, but that approach will fail miserably if it’s not coupled with frequent opportunities for the body to rest, recover, and destress.

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Do your mind and body a favor this holiday season by taking advantage of the benefits of leisure walking!

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Each week I send an email with insights and strategies to help you build your body, transform your mind, love yourself, and strengthen your spirit.  It’s only for my insider crew, so get yourself on that list and never miss an opportunity to learn more about creating an extraordinary life.  Sign up here!

A Must-Read: 2 Keys to Fitness Success

Want to find success in fitness, sooner rather than later?  Follow these two rules, always.

 

#1.  Do what you like to do.

It sounds simple, I know.  But how often do we get so caught up in wanting results that we forget to actually enjoy what we’re doing?

There’s something really powerful about moving and exercising in ways that we truly love.  It shifts our mentality about exercise, making it something we get to do rather than something we have to do.  Exercise becomes a feel-good hobby rather than a chore.

I’ve been a goal-oriented fitness freak for about 5 years, although I’m now much better at remembering to look at the big picture, instead of focusing all of my attention on one or two current goals.  Don’t get me wrong, being goal-oriented is a great mindset to have, but it can totally fuel that I-only-care-about-getting-results mentality that tends to be an enjoyment-killer.  For example – in the past I found it difficult to do the kinds of exercise I simply enjoyed doing; because if it didn’t help me make progress towards whatever my top-priority goal was at that moment, I felt like I was wasting my time.  In a similar manner, I often forced myself to do a lot more of the kinds of exercise I didn’t like, if it meant I could reach my goals faster.  While I loved achieving my goals, I didn’t always love the process, so I was doing myself a huge disservice.  (The process is the fun part!)

Finding exercise we love to do – and then doing those types of exercise, often – is the way to find freedom in our fitness journey.  By doing this, exercise becomes an all-around positive part of our lives: we enjoy doing it and we like that it makes us feel great… so we find ourselves doing it willingly and consistently, allowing us to achieve our goals AND have fun along the way.

Find exercise you like to do and start doing it more often.  This doesn’t mean only doing what’s easy; you still have to challenge and push yourself if want to get healthier and more fit.  But it does mean doing what genuinely interests, excites, and satisfies you!

#2.  Do what works for you.

We are all unique individuals.  Our metabolisms are different.  Our genetic makeup is different.  Our body structure and body composition is different.  Yet, we often try to fit our unique, individual selves into a one-size-fits-all exercise and/or eating program. 

I spent a lot of time trying to get other people’s workout programs to work for me, especially when I first started getting serious about exercise and lifting.  I’d search the internet for so-and-so’s diet and exercise program (and usually found it because I was searching for famous fitness models or athletes), and then follow that programming to a T.  I was always under the impression that if it worked for them, it would work for me.  Right?

Unfortunately, that’s not how it works… or at least not how it works best.  It took some serious time and experience with exercise, changing my diet, and learning all I could about fitness, to realize that I had it all wrong.  While learning all I could about fitness and experimenting with the many methods other people were using to get healthy and fit was great and very informative, I was leaving out a key component: tweaking what I learned to fit ME.

For many people, this is a frustrating part of fitness.  It’s much easier to say “Tell me exactly what to do to get in shape” – and then follow a detailed workout program and diet – than it is to get a diet/exercise program and use it as a guideline, while also being a detective on what works best for your body.  We don’t want trial and error.  We want results, and we want them fast.  (And I totally get that because that was, exactly, my old mindset.)  But, if you can just trust the fact that getting really in tune with your body will lead you to a long-term knowledge and understanding of what you need as an individual, health and fitness ultimately becomes much less complicated.  (And, you stop wasting time doing things that you know don’t work for you and your body!)

Accepting this key point was a game changer for me.  I still researched different fitness methods and tried the exercise programs of famous fitness experts, but I was aware of how everything affected me and my body, and made adjustments as needed.  Sometimes it was frustrating, and sometimes it came easy.  But now, after giving myself some time to figure it all out, I am very much aware of how I should eat and exercise to get the best results.  And don’t worry, it will change over time (thank you hormones and aging and the cycle of life), so you might as well get good at being a detective of your own body. 

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Want some help in applying these keys to success?

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Your Monday Wake-Up Call: Stop Doing Stuff That Doesn’t Matter.

Want to immediately live a more purpose-filled, inspired, and meaningful existence?

Stop doing stuff that doesn’t matter.

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If you’re anything like me, sick and tired of living a passionless, soul-sucking, I’d-rather-be-home-in-bed existence, you need to stop wasting your time on things that don’t matter.

Sounds harsh, I know.  But it’s real, and it’s going to change someone’s life like it has mine.

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I finally feel like I am starting to flourish and that I am well on my way to living an extraordinary life.  I’m dreaming lofty, almost-unbelievable dreams; dreams that have me anxious for my alarm clock to ring every morning, so I can get out of bed and make them come true.  I’m taking action and overcoming obstacles, trying new things and seeking out opportunities.  My insides are on fire, being fueled by a passion and a drive that I’ve never felt before. 

Basically, I’m doing big things.

Big things require a lot of my time and my energy, and that’s in addition to the other priorities I make time for everyday.  So in order to fit it all in, I’ve got to eliminate something, somewhere.

And that’s where the “stuff that doesn’t matter” fits in.

I’ve heard statements like this before, and I know you have too.  Statements that remind us that we “make time for our priorities,” that we “always find time for the things that are important to us,” and that we are “never too busy for something that takes precedence in our lives.”  And yes, I’ve been through that realization and agree with those statements.  But this statement, “Stop doing stuff that doesn’t matter,” is a bit of a twist on those commonly heard quotes I just recited.  While it has a similar message, it sort of takes on the negative version of those “we make time for our priorities” statements, because it’s focuses on elimination.  Elimination of the stuff that doesn’t matter.

I found this to be much more motivating.  It gave me the SHOCK factor.  Whoa.  If I want to be able to take on opportunities that fuel my passions and create my dream life, and not totally shut out the rest of my world as I know it, I have no other choice than to stop filling my day with meaningless, uninspiring junk.  Because if the meaningless junk stuck around, something else would have to go.

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Doing big things requires high levels of fortitude and – especially for me, I have found – high levels of motivation and inspiration.  If I notice my motivation and inspiration draining, I’m in trouble.  I get lackadaisical, tired, and uninterested.  I put my dreams on the back burner, simply because I’m too worn out to care.  And that attitude is completely unacceptable if you really, and I mean really, want to live your dreams.

So, the cure to the waxing and waning of my motivation and inspiration has come through eliminating that stuff – ya know, the stuff that doesn’t matter.

When you stop doing stuff that doesn’t matter, you free up mental, physical, and spiritual energy that can be put to better use.  You free up time.  You put your energies towards the greater good of your life, your dreams, your goals, and your relationships.  Basically, your priorities get the best of you, instead of only getting the time you’ve set aside for them.  Powerful, right?

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There’s one more thing to add in all of this.  When you start to eliminate the “stuff,” therefore freeing up your energy and mental capacity for the things that make your world turn and make your heart burn with excitement, you end up stumbling upon even more of those things that give you a sense of purpose, fulfillment, and meaning.  The good kind of “stuff.”

Let me explain.  As I stopped doing things that don’t matter – a.k.a. checking Facebook countless times each day, checking Instagram even more, worrying about ______, gossiping and talking about what so-and-so is doing, reading about celebrities, wishing for ______, tracking my food and calories, trying to build an unrealistic physique, pushing snooze 3 times each morning, doubting myself, talking down to myself, getting upset with my husband for not doing _____ without ever telling him I’m upset, etc. etc. etc. (there’s a whole lot more I could list here) – and instead focused my attention on things that do matter, I found myself with the time and energy to take on even more of the good stuff – a.k.a. the things that make me grow and learn, that fuel my passions, that help me live purposefully, and that help me find meaning in my life.  So, although it seemed that I had more on plate than ever before, I still found myself signing up for my church’s women’s conference, participating in a small group, giving my time to help someone who needed it, praying more, reading more, going above and beyond for my husband, etc.  A domino-effect, you could say, in a positive way.

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I don’t have an easy-to-do-in-5-simple-steps approach for you to implement this concept in your life.  (At least not yet anyway, right now I’m just furiously writing so I can get this all out before I lose my thoughts and emotion.)  What I can tell you to do is this:

  1. Identify the “stuff that doesn’t matter” in your own life.  It won’t be the same for everyone as we all have different cares, passions, bad habits, and vices.  Stuff that doesn’t matter to me may be of utmost importance to you, so you have to discover these things for you personally. 
  2. Take action.  Spare the time and energy you spend on that “stuff.”  Today

Trust me, it’s uncomfortable at first.  It’s hard to refrain from picking up your phone when you see a Facebook notification.  It’s tough to ignore the meaningless, mind-numbing conversations of your peers and instead think about something positive and up-lifting.  It’s not always easy to say no to parties or gatherings or events that you don’t really want to attend, but feel obligated to be a part of.  Do it anyway.  Take action… now, today, as soon as possible.  Stop doing stuff that doesn’t matter and you’ll be empowered to find (and create!) a purpose-filled, inspired, meaningful life.  An extraordinary life.

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Start creating your extraordinary life, today.  I’ll send you weekly emails to help you build your body, transform your mind, love yourself, and strengthen your spirit.  Sign-up here.

Getting Fit Isn’t as Complicated as You Think

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Complex, overwhelming, difficult, complicated.  All of those words were said this morning as I spoke to a friend about what it takes to get in shape.

 

I had asked her to ask me one specific question she had about fitness or the process of getting fit.  I was hoping that my answer would encourage her to get started on the journey that I know she so wants to begin, and relieve some of her anxiety of the unknown.  But, she couldn’t come up with one specific question – she had too many and didn’t know where to start.  This led into a conversation of her telling me that fitness seems too complex and complicated to be doable, and me trying to get her to believe otherwise.

 

I originally wanted to title this blog Getting Fit Isn’t as Hard as You Think, because I actually said those exact words to my friend during our conversation.  But the more I thought about it, I realized that “hard” wasn’t really the word I wanted to use.  Because getting fit, losing weight, building muscle, becoming strong, or any other fitness goal you may have, is not necessarily going to be easy to achieve.  In fact, it’s going to be hard, at least some of the time.

 

I know that’s a brutal truth, but honestly, if it were easy, wouldn’t you have done it by now?

 

I have worked hard, and even harder, to achieve the majority of my fitness and physique goals.  So I didn’t want to mislead anyone by using the original title I had come up with.  What I was really trying to say is not that getting fit isn’t hard, but that getting fit doesn’t have to be complicated.

 

I do believe that far too many women are allowing that myth to keep them from getting it done, and my conversation with my friend reinforced that to me.  She is someone who wants to get into better shape, but has overwhelming thoughts of what that will entail; and I know she’s not alone.

 

We all have barriers and obstacles that we have to overcome when we want to make fitness a part of our lives.  Time.  Energy.  Busy schedules.  Beliefs about ourselves.  Knowledge.  Access to a gym.  Affordability of having equipment to use at home.  Injuries.  Life.  All of that, compounded by the fact that most women don’t know what they should be doing to actually get fit, is enough to make someone’s head spin.

 

But I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way.

 

Below are 9 principles that, if you understand and implement them, will make your journey to getting fit much less complicated.  This doesn’t make the workload any lighter or make the leg work any easier; you have to know that getting fit requires hard work, and it’s tough sometimes.  But, by following these principles, you’ll be doing what’s actually important when it comes to the process of getting fit, eliminating a lot of guesswork and confusion, and getting good at the actions and behaviors that are going to accelerate your progress and keep you moving forward.  I’m talking fitness success… simplified!

 

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9 Principles to Simplify the Process of Getting In Shape:

#1. Know your goals and review them often.

Well-defined goals are kind of like a GPS.  They keep us on track and are great at re-routing us back onto course after we make a wrong turn.

Don’t underestimate the power of having goals, especially when they are well-defined (get specific!) and are frequently visited (daily is ideal).  They simplify the journey to getting fit because they:

  • help us stay on course
  • are strong motivators
  • create a clear plan of action (achieving short term goals that lead to the achievement of the long term goal in mind)
  • help us regroup and move forward after a setback

Set a few goals.  Define them.  Write them down.  Read them often.  Say them out loud.  Picture yourself achieving them.  Don’t skip this step!

 

#2.  Stop rushing.  Getting fit, the sustainable way, takes time.

It would be wonderful if getting fit could happen in a matter of weeks.  But the truth is, unfortunately, that it’s not a super-quick process.  It’s when we believe that it is, however, that we make things complicated.

Every time I wanted to get fit in a short amount of time (30 days was my usual go-to timeframe before a special occasion), I would try to do a million things at once.  Every fad-diet and crazy workout plan sounded perfect, so I would set out to do it all.  At once.  Because I was rushing.

Think about that scenario and what it would be like to incorporate several different, usually conflicting, diets and workout programs into one huge plan.  Then compare that to the idea of adopting one healthy, “get-fit” habit at a time.  (Even two or three at a time could be pretty manageable!)

If your goal is totally transform your life, body, and lifestyle, drop the expectation that you will be able to do that within a few weeks’ time.  It’s not realistic, first of all, and it will only make your journey to getting fit very complicated and likely unsuccessful.

 

#3.  Get direction with your training plan.

Hire a trainer, buy a DIY program, or learn some fitness principles and concepts on your own – but don’t go at it blind.  Fitness, and getting fit, is way more complicated when you have no idea what to do.  And, the results you want are probably not going to be achieved by randomly stringing together workouts that showed up on Pinterest.  (I know that sounds harsh, but workout programs are written the way they are written for a reason!)

Having a prescribed plan of action for 4, 6, 8, or 12 weeks can be the difference in seeing lots of progress or little-to-none.  My first 3 months of lifting were spent with me wandering around the gym doing the stuff I liked or wanted to try or saw my dad doing – but there was no purpose or direction to my workouts.  When I started my first DIY, written-by-a-professional lifting program, I was absolutely stunned by how quickly I saw my body changing and how strong I got, in just a matter of a couple of months!

 

#4.  Get consistent.  It’s an absolute must.

I cannot stress this enough.  Second to training in a way that is actually appropriate for your goals, consistency is the most important factor in getting fit.

Progress is made – and sometimes at unbelievable rates – when we prioritize consistency and do what it takes to get our workouts done.

As an added bonus, being consistent over the long term means that when you have periods of time when you are more inconsistent than consistent (like the whole second half of my summer), you don’t totally lose your fitness gains.  In fact, you get to remain fit, with much less effort, while you convince yourself to get back into being consistent again.  It’s actually kind of amazing.

 

#5. Progressively challenge yourself.

Our bodies adapt, and they do it quickly.  Getting fit requires us to constantly challenge that process of adaption, which is another reason why it’s important to have a plan of action in place for your workouts and training program.  Acquire the drive and motivation – and the grit – to constantly push yourself past your limits and refuse to get lazy, comfortable, or stagnant.

 

#6. Don’t ignore your eating habits.

I know, I know, you were probably hoping this wasn’t going to show up on the list, but I couldn’t leave it out.  If you really want to get fit and get in shape, and make the process much more simple, you have to be mindful of your eating habits.

This does not, by any means, mean you have to follow a restrictive diet, eliminate your favorite foods, eat only chicken and broccoli, etc.  In fact, you don’t even have to follow a diet or meal plan.  You simply have to become more aware of how and what you’re eating, and make sustainable adjustments to improve that over time.

 

#7. Understand that rest, recovery, and de-stressing are just as important as your workouts.

Such a simple concept, but one that can be super difficult to implement.  Getting enough rest and recovery is a must, especially if your goals include building muscle or strength, or toning up.  Or if you have performance goals.

Our bodies need the delicate balance of intense training vs. rest and recovery.  Without it, you’ll end up burned out by overtraining, which prolongs the time it takes to achieve your goals.  You’ll be tired, lacking energy, and have no motivation.  Worst case scenario you’ll screw up your metabolism, which really complicates things.

Get enough sleep, take rest days, do restorative activities like light yoga and leisure walking, and take time for yourself to just relax.  The word recovery also means getting proper, adequate nutrition!

Also, find some stress-relieving activities that you enjoy.  (Working out may even be one of them!)   Get familiar with what works best for you when you need to relieve some stress, and make sure you do it, as often as needed.  Being stressed elevates our cortisol levels, which causes a domino effect of negative responses in our body, including holding onto fat and making us crave junky foods.  Getting good at de-stressing will not only make getting fit less complicated, but will be a useful habit for the rest of your life!

 

#8.  Know that getting fit does not have to consume your entire life.

Really, it doesn’t.  You can get fit – very fit – while living and enjoying your life, and without becoming an obsessed maniac.  It takes hard work, consistency, grit, perseverance, tenacity, self-motivation, a strong plan of action, and getting in tune with what your body wants/needs – but you do not have to uproot your life in order to be successful.  Isn’t that refreshing?

 

#9.  No matter what, show yourself a whole lotta love.

This makes getting fit an enjoyable, rewarding, successful process. ♥

 

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Want more insights & strategies to get in the best shape of your life, transform your mind, & become an even more amazing version of yourself?  Add your name & email address here.  Every week I’ll show up in your inbox to inspire, motivate, & guide you into living a remarkable, purpose-filled life. #thegoodlife

A Quick & Personal Story About My Start into Best-Self Living

Sometime over the last couple of years I realized that striving to become the best version of myself was an excellent way to live life.

It’s not that I was ever trying not to be my best self, I just wasn’t really thinking about it or aware of it.  I was usually caught up in the routine of daily life, with the obligations and to-do’s that we are all too familiar with.  I was excited for the weekend, anxiously waiting for my next vacation, and always had my mind on the next thing I could look forward to.

I feel very – dare I say fortunate? – to be someone who has been plagued by the questions “Why am I here?” and “Why am I doing this?” for most of my adult life.  While I frequently got caught up in the routine of life, I also very frequently faced hard moments of wondering why I was on the Earth and whether or not I was doing something meaningful.  This was especially true as I fulfilled some of my big life goals (get a degree, find a career, etc.), because I found less purpose in my everyday life when it felt like I wasn’t working towards achieving something big.  It was tough!

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The Idea of Best-Self Living is Born… Through Lifting Weights?

I had started lifting weights shortly after graduating from nursing school, and it became a gateway into the transformation of myself as a whole, and my entire life.  The mental transformation that came with building physical strength was amazing and, to my surprise, enlightening. 

As a lifter, I was always trying to lift more weight, do one more rep, or master another skill.  This naturally pushed me and motivated me.  I constantly strived to be the best I could be as a lifter, and it didn’t matter to me how long it took, as long as I knew I was moving forward.

This concept carried over perfectly into everyday life, but it took me a while to realize that.  If I was so focused on progressing towards being better in my workouts, why not do that in other areas of my life as well?  When this hit me, it was definitely an Aha! moment.  Focusing on “getting better” seemed like the perfect way for me to “spend my time” while I figured out exactly why God chose to put me on Earth when He did.

This was essentially the start to best-self living, although I didn’t come to that realization, or have a name for it, for a couple more years.  The important point of this idea was that I began to take steps towards improving my whole self – no longer only physically, but also mentally, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, relationally, etc.  It prevented me from getting too comfortable in the routine of life and all of its obligations.  Getting better, every single day, gave me something to work towards, which gave me purpose and direction.

The interesting thing about my story is that I’m not alone.  I’ve heard and read stories similar to mine, from other lifters and from some of the fitness professionals I adore, who found that fitness and weightlifting ultimately encouraged them to work harder towards becoming the best they could be as a person, not just as an athlete.

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Best-self living is awesome.  It absolutely takes devotion and hard work at times, but it’s worth it.  For me, it gives purpose and meaning to the things I do everyday, and acts as a navigator in what I choose to do and not to do on a daily/weekly/monthly/yearly basis.  Best-self living is naturally motivating, excitingly challenging, and very fulfilling.  Quite frankly, I think that if everyone chose to live in this manner, the world would be a better place.

I have found that helping others in their own journey to becoming the best version of themselves is part of the purpose and calling on my life.  To me this means sharing my story, teaching what I know and learn, and encouraging others to see the benefits that come with this way of life.

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Best-self living, and the steps we must take to become our best selves, cannot be fully explained in just one short blog.  This is why I’m dedicating the month of October to talking about it on my blog and on my Facebook page.  I will also write about best-self living on a more personal level in the weekly emails I send out to my inner circle crew, which you can sign up for here.  I’m so excited to share!

A Simple Key to Living the Life You’ve Imagined

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A little over a year ago I was struggling with feeling a severe lack of purpose and direction in my life. I found myself saying, almost every day, “Is this as good as it gets?”

 

I lived a very blessed life, don’t get me wrong. But I knew I wanted, needed, and was capable of more in my life. I was tired of just going through the motions, day after day, with no passion or excitement for my daily life.

 

Fast forward to now. Although I am nowhere near having it all figured out, I can truly say that I live a life of passion, inspiration, and purpose – almost every single day. A lot went into that transformation of course, but there were some keys to success in getting me here.

 

One of the huge differences between then and now is that I am blatantly aware of my comfort zone, and the importance of stepping outside of it.

 

I began to force myself outside of my comfort zone on a very regular basis, and I continue that process, even more so now.

 

I say yes to opportunities that scare the crap out of me.

I make myself have the tough conversations that I’d much rather avoid.

Any time I feel like taking the comfortable way out, I make myself do the exact opposite.

 

It’s actually rather simple, although it takes guts to do it, because staying within the boundaries of our comfort zone is safe and feels good.  That’s why so many people reside there!  (Which I am totally guilty of.)  But, we miss huge opportunities to grow and develop as a person/woman/coach/mother/sister/friend/spouse/daughter/etc. when we choose to stay in those confines.

 

I urge you to join with me in this process, especially if you are struggling in the same manner I was just one year ago.  And even if you’re not, this practice is must if you want to continue to take every aspect of your life to a new level.

 

Start by taking one small step outside of your comfort zone.  (I’m betting you’ve already had something come to mind that you can do!)  Embrace the awfulness of it, feel every bit of discomfort, and then be so super proud of yourself once you’ve done it.

 

I won’t lie and say that the more you do it, the easier it becomes, because that hasn’t necessarily been the case for me.  Instead I have found that although getting uncomfortable hasn’t become easier, it has become something I am able to do without a lot of deliberation and weighing the options, like I did before.  I know what I have to do and it doesn’t feel easy, but I now have the drive to get. it. done.

 

There’s no better time to start than right now…Your best life is counting on it!

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Want to know more about how to start living you best life now?  Join my inner circle and receive exclusive emails filled with tools, tips, & insights to guide you in becoming the best version of yourself – both inside and out.  I talk fitness, nutrition, self-love, transforming your mind, and so much more!  Sign up here: http://bit.ly/laceyw

It’s Good to Be Back! (Getting a little personal…)

Well… I’m back!

I’ve had some unplanned time off from my coaching, from writing new content and new blogs, and from working on anything fitness and nutrition related to publish for others.  Essentially, for the last two months, I’ve acted as if I’m a fitness coach as simply a hobby or something I am only semi-serious about.  As much as I hate to say that, because I don’t want people to think I’m flakey or unreliable, I now see that it was an unavoidable period of time – but a period of time that was ultimately for the better.

During my time away I did a lot of soul searching, a lot of praying, and a lot of brainstorming.  I also started a new nursing position, planned the best day of my life (my wedding!), and for once, allowed myself to have some “free” time.  Although I kept my standard (and sometimes too strict) expectations for myself, I focused my “work” and my downtime on personal development, reading inspirational books, and figuring out what the heck it is that I am meant to do with my life.  Trust me, I was busy.

I have felt for a long time now that my coaching needed to be pulled into a different direction, into one of helping others create amazing, purposeful, inspired lives.  While I do feel this new direction is one of my life’s callings, I realized that I am doing a disservice to people by not also pursuing my fitness coaching as well.  I have a lot of knowledge about fitness and nutrition, as well as loads of personal experience from my own fitness journey.  These are things that I can share to help women get more fit, get healthier, get stronger, become more confident… and maybe even change their lives (like fitness did for me).  This is why I feel that, although I have another direction that is calling me, I cannot quit fitness coaching.

I believe that my coaching will always be evolving, and I’m okay with that.  The key is this: fitness and nutrition enhance our lives, but there is more to inspired, passionate living than being in shape and being physically fit.

In an attempt to be less long-winded (which is something I am working on when it comes to this blog, I promise!), I want to relate this recent personal experience of mine directly to fitness:

Your fitness journey is as ever-changing and evolving as everyday life.  What excites you and motivates you won’t always stay the same.  Your abilities, your obstacles, and your strengths can change almost daily.  The type of exercise you enjoy may take a new direction.  The amount of exercise that fits into your lifestyle will change as life happens and circumstances arise.

Much like my personal journey during the last couple of months as I took time off from coaching, there will be times when your fitness journey may require some reflection, evaluation, and quite possibly, some solid prayer.  😉  The good news is, if you take the time to figure out what the heck your new fitness direction may be, you’ll set yourself up for success, and probably learn a thing or two about yourself along the way.

The 5 Things I’m Currently Doing for Fat Loss

Throughout each year I go through a few different fitness phases.  At times, usually during the winter months, I am training (and eating) for increased strength and muscle growth.  At times, usually when life is hectic (or when I find myself celebrating my birthday for an entire month, like I did this year), I am less focused on my workouts and nutrition, being totally satisfied with maintaining instead of working towards a specific goal.  At times, usually mid-summer and pre-vacation, I am focused on fat loss.

Last week I set out to begin a fat loss phase.  I don’t tend to start this process until I really have an urge and motivation to do it, otherwise it usually won’t work.  (Because honestly, fat loss does require a certain level of willpower and discipline.)  But, after coming off of two months of doing what I needed just to “get by” and maintain, I had the desire kick it up a notch.  I felt like setting some goals, and crushing them.  And, I was feeling excited about following a more structured plan around my eating and fitness.

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Increased ab definition in August 2015, after about 6 weeks of focusing on fat loss before a beach vacation.

I had two successful fat loss phases in 2015 that were neither unhealthy or misery-inducing… which is exactly how fat loss should be.  It doesn’t take turning your world upside down to shed some fat or get more lean.  It does take a little bit of effort and being more conscious of your eating and exercise habits, but it’s totally worth it.  Using my success strategies from last year, I am off to a good start with this go-around.  In addition to putting an end to my nightly ritual of eating Ben & Jerry’s in bed (so depressing), here’s what I’m doing:

#1. Making protein and veggies non-negotiable.  I am literally eating protein and veggies at every meal and snack.  Yes, this is a practice I like to do regularly, but when I’m aiming for fat loss, it’s non-negotiable.  (Right now I’m eating about 20 grams of protein and 2 cups of veggies 5x/day.)  The fact of the matter is this: when cutting or dieting or eating for fat loss (or whatever you prefer to call it), calorie intake is going to be at a bit of a deficit, so volume of food is important.  Although I am not significantly cutting back on my calories, it’s still enough to leave myself too hungry if I don’t make good choices when it comes to eating.  It’s like this: I would much rather get my calories from eating a large serving of grilled chicken and a large serving of asparagus (high volume), than a small slice of pizza (low volume).  This doesn’t mean that I won’t indulge when I’m eating for fat loss, I just tend to prefer eating a larger amount of nutrient-dense foods than getting a small amount of junk food.  When it comes to cutting back on calories, high volume foods are the ticket to curbing hunger.

#2. Eating smaller, more frequent meals.  Although protein and veggies makes me feel full and satisfied, a couple of hours go by and I’m ready for more food – it’s just the nature of eating lower calorie (and often lower carb) meals.  So smaller, more frequent meals are excellent for that reason.  Also, leaving larger gaps of time between meals leaves me vulnerable, and I am more likely to let myself get too hungry (which can lead to bingeing) or more likely to let cravings get the best of me.  When I’m eating for fat loss I monitor the time between my meals and don’t usually go more than 3-4 hours without eating my next meal/snack.

#3. Adding metabolic conditioning.  I’m a lifting kind of girl, so running and jumping and other types of cardio are just not my preferred types of exercise.  Nevertheless, when it’s time for fat loss, it’s time for some metabolic conditioning.

I continue my current lifting program, but add two or three 15-20 minute sessions of metabolic conditioning each week.  That’s an extra hour of exercise each week, tops.  Any more than that and I find myself to be way too hungry and struggle to give 100% during my lifting sessions.  (Plus, if 45-60 minutes is giving me results, there is no need to do more.)  My metabolic conditioning workouts are often in the form of intervals, like this one.

#4. Not skimping on rest and recovery.  Right now I’m ALL about the naps and early bedtimes.  When food, our fuel, is slightly decreased (aka cutting calories), or when training is increased (as it is for me during fat loss phases because I am adding metabolic conditioning), rest and recovery cannot be sacrificed.  Lowering calorie intake or increasing exercise, especially simultaneously, requires more effort and energy expenditure from the body.  Failing to compensate the increase in activity and/or reduction in food with adequate rest and recovery is a terrible idea.

Cravings, bingeing, and mood swings are just a few of the awful side effects that come from poor rest and recovery during times of intentional fat loss.  Do yourself, your body, and your friends and family a favor: get enough (or additional) sleep, and allow ample time for recovery activities.  For me, personally, this means I’m napping more often, getting to bed a bit earlier, leisure walking frequently, and taking rest days from lifting as needed.

#5. Keeping it all in perspective.  Yeah, I want to look lean and muscular and like I should be competing in the Crossfit Games, who doesn’t?  But, although I will work hard and put lots of effort into this endeavor, fat loss is not the most important thing in my life, nor should it be… and I will keep it that way.

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Disclaimer (for those who want to use these tips for fat loss): If you turn your focus to fat loss because you hate/despise/loathe your current body, your attempt will most likely leave you insecure and miserable.  I know this from experience.  Now that I know the importance of loving and appreciating my body – at any point in time, at any weight, during any phase of my fitness journey, and despite the fact that I am carrying around extra fat or not – I can go through periods of time when I focus on fat loss and nothing dramatic happens.  I lose some fat, and life goes on.  Or I don’t lose any fat, and life goes on.  It’s really that simple.  Love and appreciate your body now, because you won’t be any more worthy, awesome, beautiful, or amazing with any less or additional body fat than what you have on your body now.

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Want more tools for success in fitness and nutrition, as well as insights into how you can become the most amazing version of yourself and live a life of self-love, fulfillment, and happiness?  Sign-up for my email list so you can receive exclusive content every week.  Click here!