Forget goals– Try This Instead.  

Last year at work, we had a staff retreat to start the year. You know those “retreats”; the name is misleading as it’s really just a day long meeting? Well needless to say, I wasn’t exactly stoked about the whole experience. But before the retreat, we were told that we were going to be taking part in the One Word program, and we would need to prepare one word on a sheet of paper for that day. The word was supposed to be ours — one word that we would want to embody throughout the year at work. My word for the year was Empathy, and I made a cute little arts and crafts poster to show it.

Now though, I’m not at work anymore. I practice empathy on a daily basis because it’s at the core of who I am as a person — I empathize even when I don’t really want to. But for some reason, I was recently thinking about this exercise and started thinking about what my word would be now. Life is different now, my priorities are different, I’m almost a completely different person than I was just a year and a half ago.

I also realized that at this point in my life, although I have things I want to work on, I don’t always have time to sit down and write down lengthy, specific goals for myself. Some days I’m lucky to just brush my hair, so a list of goals seems to be a little bit out of my wheelhouse right now. But one word? I can do that.

So I got to thinking. What is my one word? One word that encapsulates who I am, who I want to be and what I want to show Izzy as an example. And who knows — maybe my word will change next week, next month, or a few months from now, but at least it gives me something to focus on for the time being.

Presence. 

These are the months when Isabelle is growing and changing at a pace that I never thought imaginable. She changes seemingly overnight, and if I’m not present and aware, I’ll miss these subtle changes happening right before my eyes.

Likewise, little things I love that she does tend to disappear in the blink of an eye, and if I’m not present to notice them, they may disappear and be gone forever. Take, for example, when she was about 4 months old she had a span of about two weeks where she would do these loud, long, dramatic yawns that made me laugh every time. If I wasn’t paying attention and present during that time, I wouldn’t have those as a memory, because they’re gone from her ever changing vocal repertoire now.

But this word is not only important for my relationship with Isabelle right now; it’s important for my relationship with myself. I need to be present in the limited time I get for myself if I want to maintain some sanity and sense of self.

I need to be present during my workouts, because the time I have for them is so limited. If I’m off in La La Land, I’m not going to get done what I need to get done, and in turn, I won’t feel like my best self.

I need to be present during my limited time with Will, because my marriage is equally as important to sustain and flourish right now as my “me” time and my “Izzy” time.

I need to be present when on the phone with my family and friends — a feat that has proven to be very difficult nowadays, but those relationships deserve my time too, when I’m able to give it!

This one word involves so many pieces of my life, and it is equally important in all of them. Rather than make specific goals right now, which I realistically wouldn’t follow, I can easily think about this one word during my day and during my interactions with my loved ones, and my time by myself. I can try to incorporate it into different parts of my day, working on it a little bit more every day until full mental presence becomes my norm, and not something that I have to work on (hopefully, right?).

I’m feeling good about this, this one word. I’m feeling weight off my shoulders, not having specific goals to live up to right now, just letting things come as they will and working on each moment in that very moment.

If you’re feeling stressed or pressed for time, or unsure of what your goals should be right now, give this a try. Do some brainstorming, and figure out what words and themes are important to your life. You may find one common thread between them, and this may become your word! It’s much easier to focus on one word than several small steps, and it may give you something to focus on, which could in turn spur some inspiration or motivation for larger goals. (Along these same lines, my girl Monique recently wrote a great post about just doing something in order to get your inspiration flowing– check it out here!)

So if the thought of specific goals weighs you down more than it motivates you, take a few moments to think about one word. You may just feel lighter and more focused, without the stress of resolutions or deadlines.

What’s your word?

 

Wellness vs. Fitness: What’s The Difference?

A couple months ago when I completed my Health Coaching certification, I had quite a few questions about what that meant. What is a health/wellness coach? Is that like a personal trainer? Is it a nutritionist? Is it a life coach?

Well, the answer is none of the above, but parts of all of the above. A wellness coach is someone who helps their clients to find optimal mind and body wellness, often helping them with and focusing on inner behavior change. This can differ from a personal trainer or nutritionist who may just “prescribe” a workout or nutrition plan, with change coming from a strictly external source (the plan) rather than being driven by the client (changes in motivation, etc.)

And the truth is, neither of these are better or worse, but one method or the other does tend to work better for different people. Some have no trouble with the motivation or desire to modify their lifestyle, and for those people, a simple plan may be the best bet. But for those who also need a little bit of help finding their motivation, finding their drive towards making those behavior changes, and realizing that all of this lies within themselves, a wellness or health coach could be a wonderful fit.

Another question I get a lot is: So what does wellness mean anyway? Isn’t that just the same thing as fitness? To me, fitness is purely physical. It is the number of reps you can do, the speed at which you can finish a particular distance, or the number of pounds you can lift off the floor. It has to do with specific markers based on your size, gender, body type, training style, and training age. Fitness helps us to compare ourselves and others objectively, with hard numbers and data to back up those comparisons (whether we should be comparing at all is a completely different blog post!).

On the other hand, wellness encompasses so much more than the statistics and numbers that are utilized in fitness. Wellness incorporates certain things within yourself that can’t necessarily be measured in hard numbers or compared objectively to someone else. Your motivation, your past experiences with weight/fat loss, your attitude toward your ability to achieve your goals, your belief in your ability to stick with lifestyle changes in the future, and so on. There is so much that goes into wellness, beyond just how many pounds you can lift or how fast you can run hill repeats. When we’re talking wellness, your mind and your body are not mutually exclusive of each other. Instead, they work together, balancing each other on those inevitable days when you’ll have set backs or less than stellar performances.

what-does-wellness

So as you can see, while I do have my own answer to the wellness vs. fitness question, I also often turn it around on the question-asker. And that’s what I’m going to do today. What I want to know from all of you is what does wellness mean to you? And how does it differ from fitness (if you indeed see a difference?)

I will be taking a short break from all of my offerings on the blog (individual programs, personal training, wellness coaching) since I’m 40+ weeks pregnant at this point, but soon all of these services will be back in action! And during this time, aside from being a sleep deprived mommy monster, I want to reevaluate exactly what you all want to get out of this blog and coaching if you’re so inclined.

So please, in the comments below, let me know!

What does wellness mean to you and how does this differ from fitness exclusively?

What road blocks do you see in reaching optimal wellness for yourself?

What aspect of wellness do you find most difficult?

What aspect of wellness do you find most rewarding in your life?

Thanks so much for taking the time, and enjoy your day everyone! 

Work Your Hardest TODAY

Today I want to talk about something that isn’t talked about very often when it comes to fitness. We are often told to work harder, to “go hard or go home”. But what is often left out of those statements is that working hard looks different from person to person. Depending on the level you are at and what your specific strengths are, what is hard to me may be easy for you and vice versa. But beyond differing levels of fitness between individuals, let’s take a second to look at variables on a much smaller level: those within yourself on any given day.

Whenever I have a new face at bootcamp, I make sure to let them know a few things. One of those is that I’m not a drill sergeant, and it’s not in my DNA to be “in your face” with tough love or harsh critiques. Jillian Michaels, I certainly am not.  Along those same lines, I tell these ladies is that all that I ask is that they give their very best on that given day.

I add in that last qualifying statement because I think it’s important for people to realize that your best doesn’t have to, and rarely does, look the same on every single day. Do you think that Katie Ledecky has the best swim of her life every time she jumps in the pool? Do you think that Kerry Walsh Jennings hits the ball perfectly every single time she steps on the court? Of course not. We all have good days and bad days, and it’s important to not beat ourselves up over that very natural fact.

There are so many variables that can play into this. From the amount of sleep you got the night before, to what you’ve eaten the past few days, to the amount of stress in your life at the present moment, your best can look very different from day to day. Maybe you’re just distracted by that big presentation you have coming up at work, or your schedule has been thrown off for the last few days. Whatever it is, there are endless variables that can change how much we can give in a workout from one day to the next.

It would be easy for me to look at my bootcamp ladies and mentally put them all on the same level. It would be easy for me to just write up a work out and expect everyone to do it, no matter what. What takes time and understanding, though, is not only the modifications that might be needed from person to person, but the ability to notice the subtle cues that tell me where a person is at during any given workout.

If I have someone that can normally do 10 pushups with perfect form, shouldn’t I expect that every time I ask her to do push ups, she can complete at least 10? I know she can do it, right? Well, honestly, the answer is no. With all of the variables that change in our lives from day to day, expecting our bodies to behave exactly the same, day in and day out is actually pretty ridiculous. Think about how your car starts and runs on a bitter cold winter day vs. a warm summer day. The former usually takes a little longer to get going, things feel a little slower, and sometimes downright creaky. No, we are not machines and we are certainly not cars, but a similar thing can be said about the human body. Give it less than optimal conditions — be that stress, little sleep, poor diet, or any other number of things– and performance can be drastically changed.

Just as I don’t expect my bootcamp ladies to be able to perform at their peak every single Tuesday and Thursday morning, you can’t expect the same of yourself, either! So next time you are having a little bit of an off day,  can’t lift quite as much as usual, or your running pace is noticeably slower despite tremendous effort on your part, cut yourself a little slack.

As long as you are working to the best of your ability on that very day, that’s all you can ask for. Expecting any different can lead to disappointment and discouragement, two of the major reasons why people abandon fitness programs in the first place. Your best shouldn’t look the same on every single day anyway — if you’re truly that consistent, you’re probably not actually even hitting your peak. If this is the case, try taking a week to deload, to let your muscles recover a bit, and then get back at it. You might find that your best is actually better than what you imagined, and will give you new goals to strive for on those days when you do feel like kicking ass and taking names!

What it all comes down to is this: Your best today is all that matters in this moment. Don’t beat yourself up about a dip in performance from  yesterday, because it’s probably out of your control. Work in the present, appreciate your body for all it does for you, and treat yourself with care in order to reach your best potential. Give your best in this very moment, and you’ll continue to make progress. Beating yourself up for doing “less” than you think you should is just taking away precious energy from allowing you to reach your goals. Focus that energy in the right direction, and you’ll be surprised at the progress you can make.

 

 

Small Successes

We all want to see success in our lives, in our fitness routines, in our diets. But what happens when you get to a point, where for some reason or another, things seem to plateau? It can be hard to stay motivated when you feel like your hard work is getting you nowhere, especially if you’re someone starting out on a new routine or a new challenge.

But the truth is, in the world of health and fitness, big successes are often few and far between. It’s the daily grind, the tiny baby steps that bring us to our bigger goals, and those need to be celebrated just like the larger goals, or it can be difficult to realize that you are making progress, no matter how small.

This happens to all of us though — not only those who are just starting out on their fitness journey. For example, my workouts lately have been a little bit sub par for what I expect of myself. Work and life stresses, and a few random viruses here and there have meant that some of my training has taken a step back. My deadlift right now is not at my best, and I’m doing pull-ups in sets of 4 instead of 6-8. I went for a run last weekend that made me feel like I hadn’t run in years.

I could use these as reasons to hang my head and get discouraged, or I can decide to look at the whole picture and find the positives in all of this. The small successes that are bringing me back toward my goals after a little bit of an off time.

success_graph

This is one of my favorite graphics because it is SO true. Very rarely, if ever, does real life let you get to your goals in one straight shot! 

So what are the small successes that I’ve had lately in my training?

  • I pulled 185 on my deadlifts last week for sets of 3, sans lifting belt. Why is this a success when my 1RM is/was 235? Well, after not doing a ton of heavy lifting all summer, singles at 175 were really tough for me coming back in the fall. 185 is now starting to feel much easier, and although I’m not up to where I want to be in terms of strength, I am seeing progress and that’s what really matters right now.
  • I completed multiple sets of 4 pull-ups. Again, when I’ve done sets of 8 in the not-so-recent past, I could get discouraged with only 4. But pull-ups are something that I’ve found tend to decrease if you don’t do them very regularly, and I let myself slack on them big time this summer. A couple of months ago, I was struggling to complete multiple sets of 2, but now 4 comes pretty easily. I’ll be back in the higher rep range before I know it!
  • A great 5-mile run on Sunday. I’ve been running most Sundays recently, and while some days are certainly better than others, I tend to stick to around 4 miles. Yesterday, I went out with the intention of running my usual 4, but got to 4 and felt so great that I kept going to 5.3. I honestly felt like I could have easily run 6 or 7, but didn’t have time as I had to get to work. To my surprise, when I looked at my splits, mile 5 was my fastest mile! I’m no speed demon, but when I haven’t run 5 miles since last spring, I’ll take a great negative split, especially when I was running into a good amount of headwind. Small success yes, but for me, great runs like that are exactly what I need to motivate me to keep moving forward.

Runkeeper Splits

Mile 5 my fastest full mile? I’ll take it! 

None of these are groundbreaking. None of these will put me in the elite class of any type of fitness category. But they’re all successes for me, right now, and that’s what matters the most. Even if you just improve by 1 rep or 1 lb, that’s still 1 rep or 1 lb more than you could move last week. Small successes may not be flashy or get you a lot of outside attention, but they are the building blocks to get you to where you want to be. Recognizing these can keep you motivated to move toward those bigger goals, even when they feel so far away. Because every little step gets you closer, and before you know it, you’re exactly where you want to be.

Readers: What are some small successes you’ve enjoyed lately? Do you take time to recognize the small successes in your life or are you more focused on the bigger goals? How do you keep yourself motivated during times of plateau? 

Negative Inspiration Not Wanted

Motivation to exercise and to stick with a fitness routine can be incredibly hard to come by for some people. I have spoken to many people who have a hard time “convincing” themselves to go to the gym, or who feel like they have to “trick” their bodies into working out.

I feel fortunate, because for me, exercise comes naturally. No, I’m not saying I’m good at everything I try (not even close), I’m simply saying that the motivation for exercise comes naturally — it’s just a  part of my day, a part of my life that helps me to feel complete.  I know that I’m pretty lucky to feel this way, but why do I feel this way and others don’t? Is it something that I’ve created myself, or is it innate? I’d bet on the former, but let’s dig a little deeper.

So why is it that so many people have a hard time finding the motivation to move and to sweat?

That is something I don’t think we’ll ever completely know the answer to. But I do know one thing that doesn’t create good, sincere, long lasting motivation:

Negativity.

I was recently at a fitness class where the instructor told the group that we were working our triceps because “women want to wave with their arms, not with their flab”.

I’m not kidding when I say I almost walked out of the class right there. Inspired? No, I was infuriated.

There are so many wonderful reasons to move and to work out, so many beautiful reasons that do not include putting ourselves down. You know what? I’ve been working out for years, and I still get a little jiggle when I wave, unless I’m actively flexing my triceps as I do so (and that would look pretty awkward). But this isn’t something that bothers me, and it’s certainly not the motivating factor to my workouts.  I don’t work out because of parts of myself that I hate, I work out to improve the parts of me that are already pretty dang awesome.

positive

Every single part of you is what makes you You. You are not that photoshopped fitness model, you are not Gisele, you are not that world class Cross Fit athlete or elite endurance runner. You are you, and that’s what you have to work with. So your arm jiggles a little bit when you wave at someone? So what, you’re human. We aren’t all bronzed gods and goddesses made of 100% muscle.

You know what motivates me to work on my triceps? The fact that stronger triceps lead to better push ups, a stronger bench press, and more ease in my job which requires a good amount of physical activity and heavy lifting.

Would it have killed her to say something along those lines? “We’re working on our triceps to improve our strength for push ups!” motivates me a heck of a lot more than hearing someone put everyone down for something they really can’t control.

And maybe that’s the key. Maybe we need to look less at whether or not we are motivated, and more at what is behind our motivation. I’m no social scientist, but I have a pretty good idea that the more we use negativity to fuel the things we do, the less of a chance we have at making those things long lasting habits. The more you tear yourself down and punish yourself through workouts, I’d wager that you’ll be less likely to continue that workout or routine in the long run.

If you were forced to eat your favorite food every time you did something perceived as “wrong”, it probably wouldn’t be your favorite food for long now, would it? When it becomes a punishment, I don’t see how it could possibly be enjoyable long term. See where I’m going with this?

So if you’re working out, do so from a place of inspiration and potential progress, not from a place of hate and shame. And if you’re the fitness instructor who is shaming ladies into “better” bodies, what are you teaching them about how they should feel about themselves in the long run?

What if their arms always have a little “jiggle” when they wave — should they keep punishing themselves for eternity? What if they can go from doing 1 push up to 15, yet they still have a little wiggle — personally, I think we should be applauding that progress, not punishing the aesthetics (and genetics).

So it may be a long shot, but I really feel that someday we may be able to close this motivational gap when it comes to exercise. And I would bet that the key to that will be avoiding those negative spaces in our brains and embracing our potential as strong women (no matter which bits may wiggle or jiggle).

So tell me, why do You exercise? Where do you find your motivation?

Let’s Reevaluate

It’s the middle of July, the middle of the summer, and we’re smack dab in the middle of the year. Because of this, it’s the perfect time to take a step back and reevaluate where you’re at in terms of goals that you may have set for yourself at the beginning of the year, whether they were hard and specific goals, or just thoughts you may have had floating around  in your head.

I actually didn’t set any “resolutions” this year, or for the past few years for that matter. What I tend to do each year is take a little while to think about where I’ve been, where I’m at, and what I want to accomplish in the next several months. Sometimes I stick to these goals and make them happen, other times I realize at some point down the line that it’s not exactly what I want to be doing.

For instance, several months ago I set a goal, or an intention, that I wanted to at least entertain the idea of training for and entering a power lifting competition. Throughout this year, however, my fitness goals have shifted slightly, and I’ve taken on a few new activities into my repertoire. I have been spinning and running a lot more, in addition to strength training. This is great and has been making me very happy, but what it doesn’t do is make a good power lifter. I’m not at maximal strength right now, I’ll be the first to admit it, as I’ve realized that I’m just not interested right now in focusing my training on just one aspect.

This is also the perfect time to think about the goals that I am in the middle of pursuing, and reevaluating whether or not I’m doing as much as I want to be/should be doing. Now, this is a very subjective practice, so it’s important to understand that it’s not up to anyone else to let you know whether you’re doing enough. You have to decide what your priorities are, what you are willing to do to achieve the goals you have set, and if it is in fact something you wish to keep pursuing.

Take, for example, Rondeau Group Fitness. Starting this fitness group was one of my main goals this year, and here we are, in the 6th week of bootcamp already! Yes, I started the classes, and yes, I’ve continued to work on it throughout the summer, but is it enough? Am I doing enough to progress this goal even further? To be honest, I know I need to be doing more, and there are a lot of things on my agenda, but I am truly, honestly proud of what I’ve accomplished so far.

RGF

I’ll tell you one goal where I’m not quite up to where I want to be– and that is on this blog. I have not been writing nearly as much as I had hoped to this summer, and I’m not sure if that means that I’m busy having a wonderful life outside of the blog or if I’m just not putting enough energy into it? Maybe it’s a little combination of both, but maybe that’s not such a bad thing. I think that blogs are kind of like that in nature, unless it’s your full time job, they have a natural ebb and flow — well, this one does any way. But just because I haven’t been writing as much as I intended to, does that mean that I’ve failed my goals? Honestly, I don’t think so. There have been some other pretty incredible things taking up my time and my brain space, so I’m not going to stress too much about it.

Looking back over the last few months, and forward to the next several months, I must say that I think I’m in a pretty good spot even though I haven’t done everything I wanted to at this point. Goals change, priorities change, and life throws curveballs sometimes. The most important thing is just adapting and staying true to your long term vision of yourself, even if there are a few hiccups along the way.

Readers: Did you set any goals at the beginning of this year? Which of your goals have you accomplished and which are you still striving towards? Are there any that you’ve realized are not quite right for you?

Motivation Monday: Inspiration is Everywhere

I had a whole post planned for today — and halfway written — but then something really awesome happened to me this weekend that I just have to talk about.

Motivation and inspiration can come from the places you expect them to — inspirational quotes, your role models, movies, books, etc. But then every once in a while, inspiration comes along and slaps you in the face out of no where. For those who live in the Northeast, I’m sure you’ll share my sentiment that this was an absolutely perfect spring weekend: sunny skies, warm weather, and a Bruins win to top it all off!

Because of the weather finally being lovely, I decided to take my workout outside on Saturday evening. While out running hills, I was stopped on the side of the road by a complete stranger in her car. She introduced herself, and (in a totally non creepy way) let me know that she sees me out running hills often — and that my stopping point just happens to be at her driveway! Anyway, she wasn’t just stopping to let me know that she sees me out there running, because that would be a little weird. She actually let me know that she was motivated by seeing me, and asked if maybe she could run with me next time I was out there (I run hills on the same street once or twice per week).  Of course the answer was a resounding “Yes!”, and I honestly can’t wait to help this courageous person continue on her fitness journey.

The amazing thing was that she told me that she has already lost over 100 lb, and just wants to keep going, but is having a hard time staying motivated. After chatting for a bit about various things, we actually ended up exchanging phone numbers, with the promise that I’ll let her know the next time I’ll be out there pounding the pavement. I walked away from that conversation on top of the world. Here was a girl who has already worked her ass off (quite literally), but is hungry for more. She went out of her way to approach a complete stranger on the street, which is not something that many people would have the guts to do!

And the funny thing was, as much as she kept telling me that I motivated  and inspired her, she did the exact same thing for me.  During my last few repeats after our conversation, I had a renewed energy and was able to finish strong despite not feeling great during the beginning of my workout. Knowing that just by getting out there and busting my ass a couple of times per week, I played a tiny part in motivating someone to make themselves better — now that is something pretty special.

So today, or this week, or next time you see someone who motivates and inspires you, why not tell them about it? This beautiful woman made my day, and all it took was a little wave to get my attention. Motivation and inspiration can be hard to come by, so when you find someone who gives you a little nudge in that direction, let them know. You never know how much motivation you’ll give them in return, and that is an amazing addition to anyone’s day.

contentment

Readers: Have you ever approached a complete stranger to ask them about their workout? Do you think you would have the guts to do what this woman did? What are some strange or unexpected things that have motivated you lately?