Joining a gym was worse than four years of high school combined. How I harnessed the power to overcome my insecurities.

When I was a kid, physical critiques were not an issue other than the occasional “you are looking too skinny”, yelled at me while mom prepared meals.  My adolescent insecurities did not stem from body image or wanting to “look” a certain way.  I struggled with fitting in and I constantly worried about “acting” a certain way in order to be liked.  As you can probably guess, despite my struggles for acceptance, rejection followed me everywhere.

I wanted to be the cool kid but discovered that I was destined to be the “weird” kid.  Suffering from ADHD and constantly getting overly excited made keeping my enthusiasm and energy in check nearly impossible.  I tried everything to be liked.  I constantly wished that someone or something would rescue me.  It would take me years to find that one thing that would change my life.

It wasn’t until high school and through the ever appreciated encouragement of others, that I began to view myself as a wimp and weakling.   This new insecurity began when I discovered how all the jocks had muscles and got all the attention.  The awful truth was that I could never excel at sports or athletics.  I began to dislike my body and with the help of my classmates, this self-loathing was magnified.  I had sprouted long limbs and my metabolism was out of control burning everything I consumed.

In the summer of ’88, I  moved to a new city, got a job and hoped that my move would bring a positive change.  I was one of many young adults who yearned to be noticed in a world that places far too much importance on good looks and toned physiques.  I was self-conscious and afraid to take my shirt off in public for fear of judgemental eyes. I found it easy to shy away from the public and believe that I was not attractive enough or deserving of others attention.

One evening, after completing a typical work day, I walked home and nearly fell flat on my face when an object stepped in front of me.  This “object” was the fittest man I had ever encountered.  As I shook his hand, my body quaked, and I felt faint.  I knew right then and there, I wanted to possess this amazing strength and build.

Our personal views are not entirely correct, and if we could step back and appreciate what we can achieve instead of how crappy we feel and look, our motivation would be healthy not harmful. Unfortunately, I chose to change my body instead of my attitude and whip it into shape no matter the cost.  I joined a gym.

Joining a gym was worse than four years of high school combined.  Everyone on the gym floor was staring at me as I strolled past the front desk, and I nearly turned around and ran out.  I eventually mustered up the courage to make it to the locker room.  I took a deep breath, found a locker and got ready for my first workout ever.  Stupid, I thought to myself, what do I do now?  After pacing the gym floor for what seemed to be hours, and feeling like a fish out of water, I decided to park myself on a treadmill that was pointed directly onto the gym floor.  This was my safe haven for weeks and served as my observation perch.  Each day, I would locate the most muscular guys and take notes on what they did.  After my test subjects had completed their routines and left the gym, I took my note pad onto the gym floor and, to my best abilities, I copied everything they did right down to mimicking their grunts.

Little did I know, I had it all wrong.  I went to the gym to change my body in hopes that it would quash my insecurities.  I failed.  It would be another 20 years before I realized it was not the muscles that would change how I felt.  I would learn that I first had to change my personal viewpoint before I changed my body.

In 2016, following the summer Olympic games in Rio, I had an aha! moment.  My students and I were debating on which Olympic athletes had the best physiques.  I suggested it was the gymnasts while others voted for the swimmers.  In that moment, I realized Olympic training had it right!  The answer was so obvious!  How had I missed it all these years?

It’s simple when you think about it.  When you have a kid who is good at something, the parents or caregivers typically push them into a sport or activity that will offer them a skill in which they can excel.  Kids begin the intense training to be an Olympic gold medal winner with the goal of winning the gold medal, not to look good.  Kids train and fail time after time and struggle to be reach their personal best.   Years later, after training their asses off, they have an amazing physique and the confidence to back it up.

Over the years, I have acquired helpful tools to locate the underlying cause of my insecurities and instead freaking out and losing my sh*t, I now can spot the triggers and make adjustments to my attitude.  I always joke that during a full moon, my childhood fear of rejection can rear it’s ugly head and cause me to regress.  I can tell you that switching your personal view point on what defines health is paramount.  If we continue to join gyms to look good instead of learning to be great, we will always fail.

With that said, I am less inclined to read articles on how to love yourself and steer clear on topics that span the metaphysical spectrum.  Rather, I read science articles and love them.  I have grown to understand that “healthy” is more than your perception, it is your approach.

If you focus on being your best and winning your personal “gold medal”, you will be rewarded with a physique that matches your confidence.

As always, thanks for reading my latest blog.  I greatly appreciate your feedback on this topic and any future or past topics.

 

 

 

 

No one wants you to get off your ass more than your ass itself. Too harsh? It’s time for a #truthbomb

When examining your life, how would you described yourself?  A fat ass or a hard ass? 

Yes, I actually ask my clients this question and I get the same expression you just had while reading the first sentence.  I profess to my clients, with a uncontrollable tone of sarcasm, that reaching your personal fitness goals and maintaining them is rewarding and tough.  This is typically followed with a disapproving look and me apologizing for something.

Like many others, you may have experienced the dread that creeps into your workouts when they become monotonous.  Or on a typical weekend afternoon, after a week of hitting it hard, your body may even scream, willing you to stop.  The important point to focus on is that you are creating a strong, flexible and toned body that will thank you in you later years.  I wont lie, it is a slow and arduous process that luckily has more benefits than drawbacks.  As you know, or should know, results do not come overnight.  “If you want a hard ass, you have to work hard on said ass.”  That is a tongue twister that I don’t recommend using in public.  I always mess it up.  LOL

Disclaimer: If you have an aversion to hard work, discipline and commitment, I recommend that you try the top three fitness approaches that every fat ass in America has done over the past two decades.

1. Google the latest exercise fad that guarantees you sexy and ripped abdominals overnight. 

2. Find the newest and coolest piece of fitness equipment that will revolutionize your body in 30-days. 

3. Read the proven diet that finally guarantees results while still eating donuts every morning for breakfast.

If you decide that choosing the top three choices is perhaps not the best idea or you’re reading this and thinking to yourself “I’ve already done them and failed.”   It’s not too late.  You can do the same thing everyone with a rockin’ body has been doing for decades.  FYI, it’s not a secret.

The easiest and most powerful piece of advice I can give you is the following: “Get your fat ass in gear and prepare your body and mind for the most rewarding and challenging journey you’ve ever taken.”

Here’s the #truthbomb, it’s called hard work. Remember, hard work and getting a hard ass isn’t really all that hard. All you need to do is listen the old adage, “take it one step at a time.” You’ll need to know, you’re going to trip and fall down the stairs hundreds of times but all you have to do is get your ass moving again. Personally, I’ve done this since I was 18 years old and I have more trips and falls than anyone I know.  Luckily, I’m still going strong at 48.  I’ve been teaching Pilates and physical exercise for many years.  I have had the pleasure to work with multiple different personalities, body types and personal fitness goals. The one thing that I can tell you is that it’s all the exact same sh*t. No one is unique when it comes to getting your fat ass on track. 

If you’re not interested in hearing the hard truth, may I suggest that you find a fitness blog tailored to the reader that promises rainbows will shoot out of your ass when you complain about how hard your life is instead of how hard your ass could be.

Thanks for reading and I hope that I can somehow help put some fire under your ass.  It is important to know that I am experienced in fitness education and not quite adept at writing.  I welcome any edits and comments on my writing and hope you will follow me and keep up with the ramblings that flow out of my mind.

Let Go to Gain

 

Almost eight years ago, I lost something that had been with me from my early 20’s and it defined me. Like many other people, I was addicted and couldn’t go a day without it. It felt strange to give it up and trade it in for something new; however, I gained something more valuable as I let go of what I had held on to for far too long. Here is how it all went down.

On a fairly typical day, I placed my water bottle and towel on my favorite piece of cardio equipment. I was determined to spend another mundane hour of healthy indoor living while staring at multiple TV monitors. After spacing in and out for an hour, I tuned back to reality when the treadmill stopped. Time for me to move on. I grabbed my water bottle and wiped the sweat off my face and walked onto the gym floor. I was warmed up and ready to move from one exercise machine to another.

I spied someone new from across the gym floor. She caught my eye as she began her exercise routine. Innocently, I found myself staring at her chest. As awkward as it was, I simply wanted to get a closer look at the words on her t-shirt. After a few innocuous glances, I saw that it read, “I Don’t do Cardio!”

I wondered how she was able to maintain such a phenomenal physique? Was it purely genetics or did she know something that I did not? Her body was toned, defined and muscular. The question on my mind was, “How is it possible to have a ripped physique without doing any cardio?” As I was leaving, I spotted her chatting with the counter staff. I waited for the right moment to swoop in and ask, with a subtle undertone of resentment, “How are you are so lean when you advertise that you don’t do any cardio?” “What is your secret?” She leaned in and whispered the words that changed the way I exercised from that point forward.

After that day, my time spent exercising changed forever. There would no longer be two-hour routines consisting of cardio and strength training on machines. I streamlined my workouts to less than an hour. She introduced me to a form of strength and conditioning exercise that built the cardio aspect into the workout. I found it to be equally challenging and enjoyable. For the first time, I exercised without the use of fitness machines and loved it! Functional strength training is one of the most efficient forms of exercise bridging the best of both worlds into one incredible workout.

Sustainable Fitness

“Well now” my doctor murmured. He lowered his eyes to his clipboard and raised them solemnly. His look said it all. With just one glance and for what seemed like an eternity, he finally spoke. I wasn’t surprised to hear what he had to say nor was I in any position to debate the facts. For years, I lived with pain as the result of a skiing accident. I was plagued by chronic low back and knee pain as well as relentless shoulder joint achiness. After countless attempts to find the one method of exercise to cure what ailed, I found myself back at square one.

My quest to unearth one single method of exercise that kept me active, injury free and motivated was elusive. My first attempt was running. Over time, running compounded my injuries and created additional long-term knee damage. Soon after, I lost my motivation to run and became a prisoner to my stationary bike. My second attempt was bodybuilding. I was convinced that strong muscles would resolve my situation. Years later, still tormented by pain and completely defeated, I was determined to find a cure once and for all.

Finally, my doctor suggested that I combine different methods of exercise into my weekly fitness routine. I discovered that adding Pilates and hiking to weight lifting was the key. As a health and fitness professional, I concluded that integrating a variety of disciplines into working out was the most sustainable approach to keeping my joints healthy, my body strong and to remain motivated. As a result of combining a variety of disciplines into my exercise routine, I have renewed strength, flexibility, enthusiasm and a significant decrease in chronic pain. I am stronger than before my accident and can enjoy my favorite activities to the fullest.

For many people, exercise routines are sacred and the idea of change can be intimidating. Giving up my current exercise routine was the last thing I expected to do. The idea of starting a new fitness regime and jumping head first into a group class full of unfamiliar faces can seem overwhelming. Personally, I exercised alone for many years, with headphones as my only companion, so I wasn’t convinced I could easily make the switch. Honestly, embracing change was the best choice I ever made and I have never regretted the decision.

Adding multiple methods of exercise has made exercise fun in a way that it never was before, and I truly love the results. I feel better, I look younger, and I am definitely healthier overall. Adding Pilates to my routine helps keep me flexible and has eliminated my aches and pains. The Pilates reformer reduces joint and spine pressure and easily adjusts to target every body part.  The best part is that Pilates is sustainable for any age, body type and fitness level. As with any fitness program, it is important to have fun, stay engaged, remain motivated and achieve results.

Get Eight! Sleep, the overlooked component of total health

When it comes to health, exercise and healthy eating are fundamental to living a long and vital life. However, there is a key element that is often overlooked and instrumental with respect to supporting a healthy lifestyle repairing your body and optimizing its functionality. What is it? Read further for the answer.

It takes more than sound nutrition, state of-the-art supplements, optimal protein levels, proper hydration and varied workout programs to continually meet the physical demands placed on your body. Adequate sleep is an often-neglected aspect necessary for optimum muscle growth and tissue repair. The importance of quality sleep cannot be negated when trying to improve overall health. While you sleep, your body repairs and rebuilds muscles and tissues. Good sleep really is that important! Most adults dismiss the importance of sleep and its effect on rebuilding healthy muscle tissue. Often times, as adults, we accept that sleep interruptions are “normal” and that only getting 5-6 hours of sleep is a part of the fast paced, multitasking world we live in today. If you don’t allow your body to rest, you have the potential to negate all of your efforts to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Current scientific research indicates that consistent sleep interruptions can reduce your ability to cope with daily stressors, accelerate the aging process, and ultimately shorten your life expectancy. According to Dr. Michael Irwin, professor at UCLA, “Even a modest interruption to sleep cycles increases the inflammatory response in the body, which can inhibit the body’s ability to repair tissue.”

Experts suggest that you get 7-8 hours of good quality deep sleep. Unfortunately, light sleeping, where you toss and turn or wake up throughout the night. prevents your body from reaching the deep stages of sleep where repair occurs. Eight hours of sleep is ideal. However, consistent deep sleep cycles are just as important as the number of hours to aid muscle recovery. The majority of all cellular regeneration and growth happens during deep sleep. Deep sleep is very important to the release of a growth hormone that our bodies use for tissue repair. According to Dr. John Zimmerman, PhD. in Biological Psychology and Neuroscience, “We release growth hormone from the pituitary gland into the blood stream. Growth hormone has the beneficial effects of building up lean muscle mass and burning fat.” Without adequate hours of deep sleep this process cannot take place. Quality of sleep must improve in order to meet the physical demands of daily life, work, relationships and exercise.

Lack of good quality and consistent sleep habits will eventually catch up with you and cause serious health problems in the future. You may not always get the perfect night of sleep; however, creating an environment where you can get the best possible rest is a step in the right direction. Achieving quality deep sleep can be different for everyone. Factors that contribute to a good night of sleep include:

Television, computer and electronics: The light emitted by computers, TVs and electronics may lead to insomnia. According to sleep experts, artificial direct light from electronics inhibits the body’s secretion of melatonin, which signals the brain that it is dark, and time for sleep. Remedy; turn off the computer and TV an hour or more before bedtime.

Caffeine and decaffeinated drinks: Countless studies show that caffeine disrupts sleep even if consumed early in the day. It is important to know that decaffeinated drinks are not caffeine-free. They contain roughly 15% of caffeine that, in many cases, is enough to disrupt sleep. Remedy; discontinue or significantly reduce your caffeine intake and consume caffeinated or decaffeinated beverages prior to lunch.

Pain, Anxiety, and Other Medical Conditions: A wide range of medical conditions can impact and disrupt sleep. Remedy; consult your physician for advice on how to minimize physical discomfort while sleeping. Helpful ways to reduce anxiety/stress such as “journaling, breathing exercises, meditation, reading, hot bath etc. can be helpful in mitigating painful symptoms.

Light: Too much light at night can shift our internal clock and makes restful sleep difficult to achieve. Remedy; sleep in the darkest room possible.

Noise pollution: The TV on in the next room, the neighbors barking dog or that annoying car alarm that always goes off right before you fall asleep can prevent peaceful sleep. Experts say that indoor and outdoor noises affect our ability to fall asleep and remain so. Remedy; wear earplugs or use a white noise machine to reduce the sounds that surround you.

Room temperature: Temperature extremes can affect our comfort when we sleep. Research shows that the ideal temperature range for sleeping varies widely among individuals. Therefore, there is no prescribed “best” room temperature that produces optimal sleep patterns for everybody. Remedy; find a temperature that feels most comfortable to you and stick with that year round.

In the end, what matters most is considering all components of a healthy lifestyle, including sleep. If you experience ongoing sleepless nights and find that you are not getting the quality of sleep you need, get creative and research ways that will help develop and maintain healthy sleep habits. Remember, good sleep doesn’t always have to come from a pharmacy. You can maintain a healthy lifestyle and gain the benefits of your hard work with the help of a good nights’ rest!

Complimentary Movement Therapies

Today, more than ever, we need a sustainable healthcare system.  One that implements complimentary movement therapies in conjunction with the “pill-it”, “cut-it” methods.  We can provide a more balanced therapeutic approach to pain management with the addition of complimentary movement therapies.  Movement therapies that teach the “power of the mind” and how the mind influences all bodily functions is a cornerstone to a sustainable healthcare system.  The power of the mind is inexplicably connected to every functioning part of the body and the mind influences the healing process on countless levels.  Therefore, it is so important that complimentary movement therapies teach this powerful connection between the mind and body.  How the mind effects attitudes, emotions and behaviors can be useful in the field of medicine, mental health, physical therapy and alternative movement therapies such as Pilates.  Complimentary therapies, such as Pilates, that treat chronic pain but neglect the mind-body connection is often times less effective and hinders the patient’s ability to facilitate healing.   Methods that include relearning different responses to pain, utilizing touch therapy and mind-body awareness can significantly alter the outcome of movement therapy and improve recovery.

Complimentary movement therapies have the greatest potential to improve treatment when traditional therapies are unsuccessful.  It has been well documented that patients who opt to go without pharmaceuticals and who use alternative movement therapies such as T’ai Chi, Yoga and Pilates, reported decreased pain symptoms and improved over-all physical well being.  How one feels about the therapy is as important as the therapy itself.  To find a movement therapy that works for each individual is extremely important in the success of that therapy.  We live in a society where “lack of movement” is the elephant in the room and a large majority of treatment protocols are designed simply to address the symptoms and not the underlying problem, or issue. Altering the accepted beliefs to therapy and embracing new approaches carries limitless possibilities and should be considered.

Your perception or opinion of your state of health is a greater predictor than the actual state of your health.  As a movement therapist, I have grown to understand the importance of that statement.  It is remarkable to discover the power of energy medicine and the incredible importance that the mind-body link holds to a person’s and recovery.  When the concepts of these methods are discussed with the patient, the success ratio increases.  A healthy “minded” individual has greater potential to view movement therapy with excitement, enthusiasm and confidence, which combine to effect better health and movement potential.

Commitment to an individual’s health both mentally and physically is the root of improved performance in life.  The importance of providing a proper foundation to the concept of mind-body learning and the use of energy medicine and instilling their values cannot be underestimated.  The drive to live life to its fullest is an important element to feeling healthy, fit and happy.  Often times, individuals who live in a body that functions poorly just want a way out and need proper guidance to find a healthy path.  When an individual discovers the mind-body connection or link is the “way or path” to living a healthier life, they will discover decreased pain symptoms, both physically and mentally.  Learning the skills that improve over-all health starts with the mind-body connection.  When the current, traditional mainstream healthcare industry embraces the concept of integrating mind-body connection and complimentary movement therapies, we will make monumental forward progress toward better health!