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What is “Correct” Form, Anyway?

Imagine for a second that you’re shopping for jeans. You want something comfortable, that you can move in, and looks good. Not too much to ask, right?

Ok, now imagine that you go to the Levi’s store, and there is one style of jeans, in one size.  That pair of jeans is most likely freaking perfect…for someone. The rest of us chumps will have to keep looking, and keep trying stuff on, until we

  1. Find that perfect pair of jeans we’re looking for,
  2. Get mad and go home empty-handed, or
  3. Start crying in the dressing room because the lighting is so unflattering that it makes us hate ourselves, and then retreat to lululemon for leggings instead because fuck jeans.

The other day one of my clients was doing a bilateral upper body exercise. She had her feet in a split stance for balance’s sake – I hadn’t cued that but I wasn’t going to mess with it (yet) because it wasn’t detrimental to the effectiveness of the exercise. When she got to the second set, she put the other foot forward in a very different split stance. But – again, she got the work done and how her feet were set up didn’t affect the quality of the work she was doing with her upper body. After the second set I asked her if she realized that she had switched feet and that the set up was different on either side. “No,” she said, looking somewhat surprised. “Which way is correct?”

The answer to that question is…neither. But also both. They’re just different and I thought it was worth noticing. “Correct” is a weird and nebulous term when you apply it to the way people move. I don’t like it because it implies that there is one right way to do things, and while that’s all very nice when you’re doing math problems, it just doesn’t work when you try and apply it to human beings.

correct

[kuh-rekt]

adjective

conforming to fact or truth; free from error; accurate: a correct answer.

in accordance with an acknowledged or accepted standard; proper: correct behavior.

So let’s dissect this idea of “correct” a little bit, shall we? You don’t have to look too hard to find a virtual ton of information on how to exercise “correctly”. Handy little infographics detailing how to squat, how to deadlift, how to row, plank, run etc are everywhere – but here’s the thing: they won’t work for everybody. Our bodies are wonderfully varied as far as shapes, sizes, angles, and (most importantly) mileage are concerned, and trying to cram our bodies into someone else’s idea of a perfectly correct squat is just not going to go well. It’s also one of the reasons that people get weird about going to a gym and exercising where other people can see them – I mean, what if you’re doing it wrong? Are other people watching and laughing? (No they aren’t, they are busy doing their own workouts.)

To set the record a little straighter, here’s a checklist to refer to in case you’re worried about exercising “incorrectly”:

  1. Does it hurt? If the answer is no, then you’re doing ok. If the answer is yes, something needs to change.
  2. Is it effective? Are you seeing the results you want from it? Whether it’s weight loss, strength gains, or just a sick arm pump, if you’re getting what you want from your workout, then you’re doing it right. If you aren’t getting the desired results, then some course correction is in order.

Now that we’ve laid the groundwork, let’s look at the stickier stuff.

There are lots of fitness professionals out there who make a living by making sure people feel like they can’t do it. I’ve been through corporate sales training that teaches trainers how to prime new gym members to make them feel completely helpless and incompetent before hitting them with a sales pitch. I’ve been in courses that teach new trainers that their clients must execute exercises in the ONE CORRECT WAY and that you can’t possibly continue with that movement pattern or load it until it is textbook perfect. While in some cases (and to varying degrees) that’s true, most of the time you can just go ahead and train, because exercise is a skill, and skills take practice (some good instruction is also helpful if you need it). If you practice exercises consistently, you get better at them. You get stronger. More confident. You gain a more acute understanding of what your body needs and is capable of, and you grow more efficient at executing the movement patterns. So lift some weight, have some fun, get strong…and while that happens, our bodies will usually sort themselves out without exploding. Strength is corrective!

Case in point: one of my clients who started fairly recently has been posting about her (considerable) progress on social media. A personal trainer in her social network has been responding to her posts with increasingly nasty comments about her squat form and perceived incompetence on the part of her trainer. Now, because she is a human and her body has some mileage on it (as most do), she needed some practice in certain areas – squats weren’t hurting her; they were just not as effective as they could be in relation to the goals she had set for herself (remember the checklist?). She also needed to build some confidence and belief in her abilities in order to lift more weight. So, we started with an empty barbell and we’re slowly increasing the weight on the bar as her squat pattern gets better. And the best part is that she’s having fun with working out and enjoying documenting her progress….which is a huge step forward for her.

Here’s what I think: part of what’s fun and awesome about being a personal trainer is finding what WILL work for people. It’s about being creative and striking a balance between what needs work and what leaves our people feeling successful, fulfilled, and capable of handling whatever life throws at them. So what if you can grab that one pair of jeans off the rack and wiggle into them? If they gape at the waist and flatten your butt and squeeze in all the wrong places you aren’t going to want to keep wearing them – so it’s a damn good thing there are lots of different jeans out there. It’s worth holding out and looking for the ones that fit!

The Competence Conundrum

Well fam, my last post sparked some really great conversations and part of me is tempted to just go ahead and post what I had originally written about…but another part of me is despairing that the world has gone completely mad and I should just stay in my own goddamn lane and stick to writing about health and fitness. So to that end I’m gonna save the inflammatory post and write about my ass. Because write about what you know, that’s what all the books and instructors say! Ready?

My ass hurts. My ass hurts because I fell on it multiple times the other day, and for extra fun I had the video camera running so I made a compilation of wipeouts and posted it on Instagram.

I posted it BECAUSE I look kind of ridiculous…which is good, and here’s why:

About three years ago I thought it would be fun to try Olympic weightlifting. I hadn’t done it up until then in spite of always having had a kind of morbid fascination with it – I mean, here were these nervy and amazing athletes that threw hundreds of pounds up over their heads with strength and power and control and speed and technique and…and TRUST in themselves – I mean, weren’t they worried about dying? It didn’t seem like it. I had to give it a shot.

Turns out that weightlifting is hard. Really fucking hard, especially when you decide to start doing it at the tender young age of 38. But I had this weird short circuit in my brain where the more I failed at it the more I wanted – needed – to be good at it. I mean, I’m a personal trainer for chrissake, I have a pretty solid background in strength training and body mechanics…but understanding and doing are two different things, so here we are three years later and I am still not good at it. Which is why I love it: anything that’s worth doing well is worth trying and failing and trying and failing ad nauseum. All you can do is keep a sense of humour and laugh at the fails, because if you’re pushing yourself to keep getting better, they are going to keep happening!

When you start something new, failure is a risk you sign up to take. I posted that video for two reasons: because watching grown ups fail and fall on their asses is funny, but also because there’s this illusion out there that trainers just naturally do everything well in the gym…and that’s baloney – the impressive stuff only happens after hours and hours and hours of practicing and failing and slowly working toward success in baby steps. I’ll get better at Olympic lifting eventually, but in the meantime I don’t feel any guilt or shame or embarrassment over the bloopers.

As adults we come to enjoy and expect a certain level of competence. I mean, we’ve gotten ourselves this far; we’ve done pretty well, so we know how to do life. Right? And the higher the level of competence we’ve achieved (maybe it’s professional, maybe academic, maybe financial, maybe all of the above), the harder it becomes to start something new. The harder it becomes to wrap your head around being an amateur. Nobody wants to suck at stuff – we were forced to do it as kids but once you reach adulthood there’s no need for that bullshit….unless you want it, in which case you have to seek it out.

A while back I was explaining an exercise to a new client (a professional guy in his fifties) and I made a lighthearted comment about moving like an animal – it was a crawl pattern; a motion that we tend to lose in adulthood if we don’t continue to use it (seriously, when was the last time you had to crawl anywhere? Try it. Right now – I’ll wait). Crawl patterns are great for many reasons and lots of my clients have them in their programs.  He gave me the over-the-glasses stare and said, “I’m not here to embarrass myself.” Whoops. Ok, there are two problems with that statement.  One is that actually yes – he WAS there to try something that he’d never done before; that’s the point of getting some instruction, but number two is that why does that have to be an embarrassing and uncomfortable thing?

The thing about being a good beginner is that it’s a skill just like anything else – either you use it or you lose it. The more we learn, the more we seek out opportunities to better ourselves, the more we improve our capacity to keep an open mind, learn new skills, and have some fun in the process. Sounds great, right? Here’s the catch: you’re going to fuck up. You’re going to make mistakes and you are going to look stupid –  but I’d submit that it’s worth it. Worth it a thousand times over because no matter what happens, you’ll learn and grow from it, and in most learning situations the consequences for failure are virtually zero. A bit of butthurt, maybe, if you really failed spectacularly in a public setting…but even then – is that so bad? I mean, nobody is going to club a baby seal if you accidentally say something dirty while you learn a foreign language.

Want to know what’s awesome about starting out? The newbie gains, that’s what’s awesome. No matter what you start at, the learning curve is steeper at the beginning and you make progress relatively quickly, which means that you’ll see improvement from practice session to practice session…so even if getting used to new activities sucks a little bit, seeing that rapid improvement makes that new habit easier to stick to. When you’re new to exercise, the benefits are twofold: while you’re building up your muscles, your work capacity and physical resilience, you’re also building up your nerve cells and developing better neural connectivity. So when you’re learning new skills, you are also practicing the skill of learning…which is pretty cool! Conversely, if you stop seeking out new skills to acquire, your brain will eliminate those neural pathways, essentially “pruning” away those connections that it’s not using.

I had a conversation with a prospective client a couple of years ago about starting to get fit and strong. She was a musician – an accomplished, intelligent woman, and she was visibly uncomfortable with being in a situation where she wasn’t an expert.  “I feel like I should just be able to do this”, she said, “and paying for help with fitness seems ridiculous.” I’m a jerk so I turned the tables on her. “Ok,” I said. “What if I were to say to you that I wanted nothing more than to be a good singer? But since everyone has a voice, singing in the shower should be good enough and paying for instruction is ridiculous. Would you agree with that statement? Or would you tell me that getting really good at music is a skill that requires some instruction?”

The weird thing about getting fit and strong is that there’s this stigma around developing skills. I mean, everyone has a body – shouldn’t we just know how to use it? Well…that’s a lovely idea, and maybe we should just know how to use our bodies, but most of our lifestyles are not conducive to, say, chasing down food, carrying our belongings on our backs, or jumping or swimming or climbing…so we don’t. And it’s not a character flaw on anyone’s part that we forget how to do some basic (evolutionarily speaking) tasks; we just need to adjust our expectations.

So all smartypantsness aside, let’s lose the judgement around being a beginner in the gym – there’s no reason why you should just *know* how to exercise if you’ve never done it before. And also? Being perfect is not a prerequisite. Nobody’s going to pay you more if your knees stay behind your toes when you squat (that’s not even a thing anyway unless the force is strong with you… but that’s a rant for another day) or if you forgo dessert at your staff Christmas party. Might as well try something new. Play. Have some fun being a beginner.  I promise it’ll be worth it.

Bring the Discomfort!

Earlier this week I spent a good couple of days writing a piece on a contentious subject that’s been bugging me…but I didn’t post it. I can’t post it, because I’m afraid my views will offend some people. And you know what bugs me even more? Offending people used to be a good thing – in my liberal artsy-fartsy background, we were taught that if you created a piece of work, whether it was writing, music, art, theatre, or whatever, a strong reaction was a good reaction. Good or bad, the goal was always to make people feel SOMETHING. Not so much anymore; these days we are all about keeping people “safe” in their little bubbles and protecting ourselves and each other from ideas that might challenge or offend us. Sounds like some boring bullshit to me.bd1

I go out of my way to read things that challenge my ideas and make me look at problems in a different light. And hell, if I’m wrong about something, let’s have a discussion about it! Try and change my mind – maybe it’ll work, maybe it won’t, but these kinds of conflicts are good because we get practice at criticizing ideas. Challenge is healthy.

True story: recently I was told, by someone for whom I have a great deal of respect, that I was on the right track…but I was still sucking. He didn’t stop there, either – he went on to detail HOW I was sucking and what ideas I was missing. Hearing this diatribe was hard – it stung because I thought I was doing pretty well. It made me angry. For a couple of days I stewed about it, justifying in my head why I was right, but I just couldn’t dismiss his point of view because…well, because what he said made sense. He had a list of good reasons why he was right, and on some level I knew it. I wasn’t angry because he was being a jerk, I was angry because I was wrong and I felt stupid. So I set about being better. What else do you do in that situation?bd2
I don’t like feeling stupid. Not really – but here’s the thing about feeling stupid: it’s an opportunity to learn and grow. It’s the universe stringing a trip wire across your road to make you fall on your face, maybe cry a little bit while you wipe the dirt off your skinned hands and knees, and then continue on – this time, paying more attention to your surroundings. And seriously, if the worst possible consequence of being wrong about an idea is looking like a newbie, is that so bad? Are we so afraid of losing the facade of being competent that we can’t stretch out and learn and experiment  in case we make a mistake? Look, if that facade is so fragile that it shatters at the first sign of an error then it wasn’t worth much anyway so we might as well just embrace the mistakes and enjoy the learning process.

Learning hurts sometimes. As kids we did it all the time; it was just part of life. Do you remember that kid who nobody liked playing with? You know, the one who was always insisting that everybody play their way, and when they didn’t get their way they got mad and went home to their mommies? What happened to them? They either ended up with no friends, they learned when to compromise and try someone else’s ideas, or they learned to sell their own ideas so convincingly that nobody even wanted to argue with them. As adults though? We develop an alarming tendency to close ourselves into places where we feel comfortable, competent, and safe…and then we stay there.bd3

It’s alarming because in order to learn and grow we NEED to be able to admit that we don’t know things. We need to develop the skills that allow us to discuss ideas, poke holes in them, to see multiple viewpoints, to quell our gag reflexes when we are forced to swallow spiny little concepts that challenge the way we see things. If we don’t, we develop a fucked up case of Stockholm Syndrome where we prefer to seek out people who agree with us, read literature that reinforces what we think we already know, and obstinately and bull-headedly cry foul against those who dare disagree with us. Wouldn’t it be more fun to learn something from them instead?
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So today, I challenge you to seek out something that makes you uncomfortable. Learn something new. Feel stupid. Challenge yourself. Read something that you disagree with and take the ideas apart without writing off the person they came from as an asshole. Practice a skill that you aren’t good at. Play devil’s advocate. Go toward things that unsettle you, because here’s what I think: the world isn’t safe. It’s spiky and sharp, and navigating it can be challenging and scary…but getting through the scary stuff is what gives us a sense of accomplishment; like we did something that mattered. The only way to develop the skills – the sense of self-reliance or confidence to get through the really scary stuff – is to practice them at times when the worst case scenario is that you look dumb. Because that isn’t so bad.

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When Training Hurts

(Disclaimer: I am not a doctor and this is not medical advice. Training always has some risk attached to it – use your brain and make good decisions. Mmmmkay?)

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A while back, I had one of those workouts that make me question why I do this shit to myself. I was getting ready to compete at the time, and if your body feels stiff and sore and beat to shit two weeks out you’re timing it about right. I was wallowing in some self-pity because my hips hurt and my knee was tied up and my shoulders felt strained, so I took some extra time warming up and started each set a little lighter than usual, just, you know, because I wasn’t willing to drop the workout entirely…and I couldn’t help but notice that when I did that, eventually things started to feel a little better. And the lifts that I did make at the prescribed weights for that day didn’t make anything feel worse. By the end of the workout, I was sweating and my muscles felt tired but ultimately i felt better than when I started. Mission accomplished.

Did I get 100% of the workout done as I had planned, at the intensity level that I wanted? No. Did I have to modify some things? Absolutely. Did it take a little longer than usual? Yup. Did I do any further damage to my stressed-out body? No. Was it better than throwing in the towel and then feeling mad at myself for bailing? HELL YES.

Everyone has a threshold that they’re willing to push themselves to in the name of getting stronger, fitter, losing weight, gaining weight, etc. One of the most important parts of my job as a trainer is figuring out where that threshold is so that I can get the best results for each client, and that needs to happen early in the trainer/client relationship (like, on day one). This takes a commitment to open, honest communication on both sides so that we can build an atmosphere of trust and accountability. A trainer can have all the exercise science pedigrees in the world but if they don’t have good communication skills, they don’t have much.

Finding the discomfort threshold is important because MOST PEOPLE, when they walk into a gym to start working toward whatever their goals are, have some idea that they’re going to have to do some work. “Some work”, however, is a very fluid concept – the amount and brand of discomfort an individual is willing to put up with varies greatly from person to person. Case in point: every year I do some guest presenting at a local college. Every year I have the same conversation with a group of young guys (ages 19-21ish) where they ask how it’s possible to work out consistently over the long term, because every time they decide to start, they go do one workout…and then they’re incapacitated for two weeks and can’t face going back until the trauma fades. The problem? They don’t feel like they’ve gotten a real workout until their limbs turn into quivering sacks of goo. Those guys need a responsible adult to keep a foot on the brake pedal so that they learn to work at an intensity level that’s sustainable over the long term. On the other end of the spectrum are the people who quit at the first sign of discomfort – this stems from a variety of reasons but more often than not, they just haven’t felt the “right” kind of discomfort before and they’re afraid of getting injured. Those people need a coach who can walk the fine line between teaching them how to push themselves in a way that will get them the results they want/need, but who will keep them just comfortable enough that getting fit (whatever ‘fit’ entails for that person) is a fun, relaxed experience. Progress for those people is usually slower and it’s important to have a conversation about that so everyone’s expectations are on par, otherwise the experience will be nasty for all concerned. See? Communication skills!

Ultimately though, it takes a little bit of practice and experience to know what pain or discomfort belongs in the right box: in order to get results from a fitness program, there’s going to have to be some discomfort at some point.  Whether it’s “help I’m outside my comfort zone and I don’t like it” pain or “I’m injuring myself” pain can be hard to discern, so I talk a lot with my clients throughout their workouts about the sensations they’re feeling in the interest of keeping them safe and making progress. It’s important to know the difference between pushing through some muscle burn and pushing through pain from a potentially catastrophic injury.
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“I hate to tell you this, but..”

One of my clients a couple of days ago gave me the over-the-glasses stare – you know that stare, the one that you got from the principal after you and your friends systematically flooded all the toilets in the school at recess time and then got caught after the water ran into the boiler room and knocked out the power to the whole school and you alone were caught red-handed clinging to the top of the bathroom stalls because there was a foot of water on the floor and you couldn’t get down because it was also pitch dark in there? No? Just me? Ok then, you bunch of fuddy-duddies…anyway.

“I hate to even tell you this, but it definitely feels like the good kind of pain. I can’t believe I just said that.” My client was at the very end of his workout. It was one of those great sessions where he had noticeably turned a corner. Resistance training, although it’s hard and it sucks sometimes (it isn’t called path-of-least-resistance training for good reason) gives you a rush that you don’t get from other places in life. You have to push through some physical discomfort – the fatigue-related burning and aching and cardiovascular demand – but also the mental discomfort that rears its ugly head when you look at a heavy weight and think, “I can’t do that”, but once you get used to all the bad feelings and you KNOW you can push through them and prevail, it feels awesome. And it makes you stronger in more ways than one.

After a really good workout, especially if you’re new to it, there is going to be some soreness. Muscles that will let you know, in no uncertain terms, that you used them more than they’d like and they are not happy about it. This is normal, it’s part of getting stronger, and it should get lots better within a couple of days. If you are hurting too much – you can’t do things that you would normally do, or it’s not significantly better within 48 hours, then you probably pushed a little too hard and you will need to adjust the intensity of your next workout. If your pee changes color to dark red or brown, or you get nausea or vomiting with the muscle pain, it’s time to seek medical attention.
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While most muscle aches and pains, if they are fatigue- or exertion related, are a good thing, there are instances where pain is a sure sign to stop what you’re doing and hit the showers. A good way to gauge whether the pain/discomfort is fatigue- or injury-related is the touch test: happy muscles usually like to be touched. So, if you’re working out and you’re feeling crampiness or tight or sore somewhere but you think, hey – it would be nice if someone came and massaged that out right now, then generally that’s healthy tissue complaining because it’s tired and you’re asking lots of it – more than it’s used to, anyway. Injury pain, on the other hand, does NOT under any circumstances want to be touched. If you’re hurting somewhere and the thought of someone touching it makes you snarl, it is definitely time to stop for the day (and maybe get that injury checked out by a healthcare professional).

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So, while it’s ALWAYS a good idea to get some help with your exercise programming from a qualified professional and talking to them about how you’re feeling is the best idea, here is a handy road map if you’re flying solo and not sure how to deal with pain or discomfort that crops up in your workout. Ready for your H-bomb for today?

STOP your workout and seek treatment if you feel:

  • sharp or stabbing pain
  • pain that makes you catch your breath
  • pain that you don’t want anyone to touch, move, or even look at
  • muscle failure or loss of control

*SLOW DOWN and spend some extra time and attention if you feel:

  • joint creakiness or achiness
  • muscle cramps or tightness
  • recurring pain that is due to technique error
  • pain that you think could be massaged out

*IF it doesn’t get waaaay better with a good warm-up and some light exercise, stop. You might be under the weather or you might be exacerbating an injury.

EMBRACE THE PAIN and finish your workout if you feel:

  • discomfort that is due to fatigue or exertion
  • ”burn” in the muscles that you’re working (as long as you still have control over the movement)

hbomb

Go forth and dominate, y’all!

Here’s what I want for you.

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About a year after I finished college, I bought my first gym membership. The gym was close to work, a friend from work was a member there, and I had been promising myself that I would do something about my weight for a long while by then…so it seemed like the thing to do. When I walked in and bought my two-year membership (which was a huge expenditure at that point in my life) they asked me to come to a new members’ orientation at the end of the week, where they took all the new gym members and put us through the (TRIGGER WARNING!) Canada Fitness Test. If you’re old enough to remember doing those in school you may be twitching a little bit or having a full-on anxiety attack right now, but don’t worry – we’ll move on in a second. Anyway, I did the thing and bombed it in all sorts of ways, so when they gathered us all up and READ EVERYONE’S RESULTS ALOUD, I realized how bad things had gotten: Cardiovascular Endurance: POOR. Upper Body Strength: POOR. Speed, Power, Agility: POOR, POOR, POOR. Abdominal Strength: POOR. Flexibility: EXCELLENT. (What can I say? I’m hypermobile.) I’d like to say that that experience fired me up and inspired me to get to work on everything that needed improving, but instead what happened was that I walked out of that place feeling judged and mortified and I never went back. Not even once.

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Fast-forward about five years to where I actually did start feeling inspired to get moving but didn’t have a clue how or where to begin: do you think I was going to join a gym? HELL NO. There was no way I was going to walk into a gym and get humiliated again. At that point my weight was hovering just under 300lbs, I had two tiny daughters, and I was exhausted most of the time. The last thing I needed was for someone to tell me my physical condition was shit; I was telling myself exactly that (and worse) every damn day.trainer3

One more story! Fast forward another couple of years to where I had lost over 100lbs and was doing sales training at my first job as a personal trainer. We were taught to take new gym members through some movement screens, get them on the scale, test their body composition…and then sit them down and highlight all the things that were wrong, impressing upon them that they were simply not equipped to get going on an exercise program alone; they needed training. “Make sure they know how much they suck,” I remember the facilitator saying. “They won’t get it done on their own.” No matter how many grains of truth there were in that statement, its callous and meatheaded delivery turned me right off. It seemed like a backward approach to me; that’s exactly the mentality that had scared me away from gyms and the people in them. I expressed as much to my boss at the time, who said, “don’t worry – just jump through the hoop and then figure out what works for you.” He got it – not many others did.

Experiences like that are the reason why I’m never really shocked to hear people say that they need to get in shape before joining a gym, or hiring a trainer – and I know that my experiences are not unusual. Still, the fact remains that of the people who do join gyms or fitness facilities in order to make a tangible change in their lives, very few (something like 10% or less) of them succeed.  As an industry, we just don’t do a great job of drawing in the people that need our help the most.trainer4

So, here’s some real talk about getting going with a personal trainer. This is how I want your experience to go, and I’d submit that if this ISN’T how it goes then you should probably find someone that you can better connect with.

The Initial Meeting

Your trainer should be enthusiastic about meeting you. They should be interested in you as a whole person – not just a body that needs fixing or altering, that is unfortunately attached to this brain that holds everything back by, you know, being a human being. They should want to know about WHO you are, what you want to accomplish, why you want to accomplish it, how you want to feel about yourself, and what you are willing to sacrifice to feel that way. They should be flexible and realistic about putting together a plan that fits around your life – not the other way around.  When I meet with you, I want to know what your life looks like right now, so I have a good idea of where we’re starting from. I also want to know what made that tipping point happen – why you suddenly decided it was time and sent that message or picked up the phone. Those little moments count – they can change the course of a life if they’re given the chance. Also, I want you to enjoy this journey – because once you reach your destination, you have to keep doing what you did to get there. The changes that you make won’t stick unless you actually LIKE how you live.

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Goals

Most of the time, if you’ve decided to make a change, it’s because you’re unhappy with some part of your body’s performance. Now, no matter why you’re in front of me – whether it’s because you want to lose weight, or you’re tired of hurting all the time, want more energy, etc. it is going to take time. It’s important that we’re on the same page about that – lasting change does not happen overnight; we’re in this for the long haul…so, lean in because this is important: even if the physical changes take a little while to manifest, I want you to feel better about yourself NOW. I want you to take a moment to appreciate that you took that first step, because I get it – that’s one of the hardest hurdles to get over. You’ve opened yourself up and admitted that you need help and that’s some hard shit to do – it takes courage. You should walk out of the gym feeling like now that you’ve got a good coach in your corner, you’ve GOT THIS. The ball’s rolling – all you need to do is build some momentum.

Dream Big, Set Goals, Take Action, concept, tags on the table.

Health History

I’m going to ask you a bunch of questions about your health history. Some of them are going to sound pretty weird and you may wonder why I’m asking them; I promise there are reasons why I need to know whether or not you poop every day or if you’re on medication for anxiety or depression or if you’ve sustained musculoskeletal  injuries. If you are uncomfortable sharing information or want to know why I’m asking you something, I’m always happy to offer a deeper explanation. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve noticed something a little funky in the first workout with a new client, mentioned it, and had them say something like, “oh, I had an injury/surgery/etc but I didn’t tell you because I didn’t think it made a difference.” IT’S ALL IMPORTANT because YOU are important and I want your program to be a perfect fit. trainer7

Movement Assessment.

Generally in an initial consultation, you’ve probably done most of the talking up until now, and it’s time to go move around a little bit. What we’ll do, as far as screening and assessments are concerned, is going to differ wildly from person to person based on the information I’ve collected up until now. If you’re new to exercise, or are coming back from a long hiatus, or are nervous about this part of the consultation, do not fear: this is not going to be too much work. I want to see how connected you are to your body, if you’re limited or hurting anywhere, and get a snapshot of your cardiovascular fitness, strength, and mobility. No judgement here – again, I want your workout program to meet you where you are, so the more honest you are about how things are feeling, the better. No need to try and tough it out today (the time for that will come) and if something hurts, don’t be a hero – I need to know about that stuff so that you stay safe.

Hey, you made it through! Now the fun part starts. We’ll book your first workout and when you show up for that, I will have your program ready to go for you. You’re on your way!

 

Veto Keto

Ok. So at least once a day somebody asks me what I think about the ketosis diet and whether I think it’s a good idea…keto1Here’s the short answer: it’s bullshit, and no, it’s not a good idea for most people. However, in the interest of being a thorough and somewhat balanced source of information, I’ll delve a little deeper into the keto mole-hole. Pull up a chair and get comfy because I’m gonna go into some detail here and give you the long answer now.

I suppose it’s a good idea to start at the beginning: what exactly is this magic load of spunk that people seem to be guzzling up so enthusiastically? It’s very, VERY low carb spunk for starters. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, adequate-protein, low-carb diet. Its guiding principle is that our brains – our bodies’ biggest consumer of energy (about 30% of the fuel we take in is used by our brains) can run on either glucose (carbohydrates’ simplest form), or ketones. If we don’t take in enough carbohydrates to fuel our brains, our livers will start producing ketones by breaking down stored fat into ketone bodies – which the keto-converts will tell you, makes it possible for your body to switch its prime energy source from carbohydrates to fat, thereby burning through the fat stores in your body like gasoline in a fire. AND you get to this magical bio-hacked state by eating lots of all the delicious food that most of the other diets tell you to limit: butter, whipping cream, peanut butter, cheese, bacon…easy!

Seriously why are we not all doing this??

Here’s why. Most of you are familiar with the three macronutrient groups (if you aren’t you can learn about them here) and you know that the three need to be somewhat balanced in order to maintain optimal health and performance. The balance is a little different for everyone based on body type, activity level, and personal preference, and it also may be a little different from day to day, but in a nutshell each macronutrient has a job to do: carbohydrates fuel your brain and your physical activities, protein helps your body repair itself and build muscle and other lean tissues, and fat is important for catalyzing nutrient absorption, reproductive health, and joint health. (That’s an overly simplistic Coles Notes version but it’ll suffice for our purposes here. If you’d like more detailed information, here is a good place to start) Now, the primary goal of a ketogenic diet is to effectively eliminate carbohydrates for long enough that the liver starts producing an alternative fuel source that the brain can use to continue functioning during periods of starvation. Sounds sort of like an emergency life support system, right? Right.keto4

So in order to activate this alternative-fuelled life support system, you have to first get rid of the stored carbohydrates in your body, and the quickest way to accomplish that is – you guessed it – starvation. Or fasting – whatever you want to call it. (Ever fasted for more than 24 hours before? It’s not that fun.) If you don’t want to fast, you can stop eating carbohydrates – it takes a little bit longer but at least you get to distract yourself by exploring lots of tasty options that were not available to you on other calorie-controlled diets: peanut butter sandwiches with slices of prime rib where the bread used to go? Yay, sign me up! After about five days of this, the exhaustion and hangriness and brain fog will go away and you’ll start to feel pretty good again at which point you’ll pee on a stick to see if your body is producing the appropriate level of ketones and congratulations, you’re in a ketosis state. At this point you will have dropped some weight as well, simply because without carbohydrates stored in your body, your body won’t be able to retain water either, and you may feel like the water you drink is just running right through you. Your body can remain in this ketogenic state for as long as you can live without carbohydrates…but as soon as you go over the recommended 20g of carbohydrates in a day (for reference, a medium-sized apple has about 22g of carbohydrates), your body will revert to its natural carbohydrate-burning state and you’ll have to go through the five days of misery again in order to re-establish that ketosis. Bottom line: the keto diet is a commitment. It’s a full-time job to maintain. If you are peeing on the stick every day to make sure you’re remaining in this keto state you can make it work, but don’t think that you can have a life outside of your diet plan – no eating out, no going for a beer here and there, no special occasions unless everyone around you is doing keto too.keto2Why on earth would you do this to yourself? Well, lots of people look at the ketogenic diet and think it looks awesome because you can eat lots of fat – specifically lots of fatty foods  that would otherwise be something to avoid most of the time. That’s a big selling point…but here’s a bigger one: the keto diet gets you weight loss results really, really quickly. Now before you drop what you’re doing to fire up the fryer and cook that bacon that’s been in the fridge calling your name, keep this in mind: it’s not actual fat loss that shows up right away; it’s water loss. See, for every molecule of carbohydrate your body stores, it has to store four molecules of water. If you use up your carbohydrate stores and don’t replace them, you will have to drop water weight too. (This is usually what happens when people start just about any diet, because most of us eat more carbohydrates than are good for us.) And speaking of carbohydrates…it’s worth considering that lots of foods that are fatty and delicious are also very high in carbs – think chocolate, doughnuts, etc.  And lots of high-protein foods like greek yogurt, cottage cheese, and even some protein powders have more carbohydrates than is recommended on the keto plan.keto3

How to execute it then? There are lots of online support groups out there for people who do the keto thang, or if you want to get started on it. There are websites that include meal plans, subscriptions, macronutrient calculators; everything you could want as far as support is concerned. And let’s not forget supplements! There is big money to be made off the people who are trying to simulate normal life while in ketosis and pretend like they are enjoying all the same carb-o-licious foods that the rest of us are.keto7I tried some of the online keto macronutrient calculators to see what they’d recommend for a relatively large 40-year-old woman who has an active job and works out regularly just for comparison’s sake – and I came up with pretty close to the same recommendations every time:

Protein: 129g

Fat: 162g

Carbs: 20g

Total Daily Energy Intake: 2054kCal

To compare, the macronutrient split I use right now looks like this, to accomplish the same result:

Protein: 155g

Fat:70g

Carbohydrates: 200g

Total Daily Energy Intake: 2050kCal

Notice any similarities? The daily kCal total is pretty close to the same, but on one plan I can live relatively normally, enjoy a wide variety of foods, and indulge/celebrate/walrus out from time to time. On the other one I’d have to stick to a short, strict list of foods lest I let myself slip out of ketosis and back into my body’s default, carbohydrate-burning state.

Show of hands: how many of you have tried a diet before? If you’re old enough to have been around in the 80’s and early 90’s you’ll remember that most of the “healthy” diet plans recommended a high-carbohydrate, low fat diet – in fact, there are lots of people out there clinging to the idea that eating fat is terrible for you – but if you ever actually did it, do you remember how you FELT? Not awesome, probably…because any diet that advocates for eliminating or drastically reducing any macronutrient is hard to maintain and not going to make you feel very good. Now, people who have accomplished ketosis will tell you that they’ve never felt better…and that may be true, in the moment. But 100% of those people (give or take a fraction of a percentage point MAYBE because I don’t know a single person who has actually done it) end up giving up on it before too long because it’s a veritable tonne of work.

keto5Bottom line? The Keto diet seems easy because it’s simple and it eliminates some of the decision making we have to do from day to day. Unfortunately ‘simple’ and ‘easy’ are not the same…and in almost all cases, the keto diet ends up on the list of stuff that we tried for a while, spent too much money on, lost a bunch of weight really quickly, and then gained it all back (plus a few extra pounds) as soon as the diet was over. DIETS DON’T WORK.keto8

Here’s what I tell my clients about weight loss: if you want to lose weight you have to change how you live. If you want to keep the weight off, whatever you do to lose the weight has to be something you can do FOREVER. There’s no going back to ‘normal’, so you have to find a new ‘normal’ – and the best way to do that is to focus on small habit changes you can maintain for life.

It’s Mothers’ Day!

I’m feeling a little undone here so bear with me while I spout a little bit of craziness at y’all. Ready?bar1

I started getting really serious about strength training about four years ago. At the time, my life was a mess – I was at a really low point professionally, I wasn’t sure if my physical health was going to hold up over the long term, and my mental health was, well, hanging by a thread on a good day. More about that another time. To make a long story short, I started powerlifting as kind of a stopgap project because I couldn’t do what I wanted to do – I thought, might as well learn something new while I work on getting better. Instead, I totally fell in love with it and never looked back. A year or so later I thought I’d give olympic weightlifting a shot and the same thing happened.bar2

So, I owe what my life looks like now (which is pretty awesome and a stark contrast to where it was four years ago) to barbell sports…which is weird because I grew up in an environment where women were not encouraged to strength train. We’ve all heard that stuff, right? Don’t lift heavy weights or you’ll look like a man, you’ll get all hugified and gross looking, blah blah blah. Women should lift light weights maybe and do lots of cardio and focus on losing weight, getting smaller, sexier, prettier, more delicate…anyway, fuck all that noise because today?

Today is a pretty amazing day to be a woman in strength sports. This weekend, at the Kern US Open Powerlifting Competition, not one, not two, but THREE women broke the all-time world record Wilks score (Wilks, if you’re not familiar with it, is the scoring coefficient used in powerlifting that is based on your total squat, bench press, and deadlift in relation to your body weight) for ALL HUMANS. Not just women, but for men too. Isn’t that freaking amazing? I think it’s amazing. I’m just going to carry that around with me today because it’s insanely inspiring. The world is eventually going to have to take notice of the fact that women have the potential to be just as strong as men. We have the same muscles in the same places, and if we train those muscles in the same way (ie with big, compound lifts) we’ll get stronger. And it will definitively not turn us into giant beefy muscle-bound monsters.

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On a selfish level I wish that as a society we had figured that out sooner, so that I could have had a shot at starting earlier. Instead I’ll be content to do what I can to help blaze the trail – to coach, train, educate, and lead by example so that the young people in my daughters’ generation grow up without ever being told that they can’t do something because they’re girls. The tides are turning and it feels pretty freaking good. Happy Mother’s Day to all the strong women everywhere!!

 

Do as you’re told.

You know what feels freaking amazing right after a hard workout?

socks6I’ll tell you what feels amazing: putting on fresh socks. I know what you were all thinking, you sick little monkeys. Focus! Focus on my socks!

So a month or so ago, after I finished a good hard workout, I was changing my clothes and I realized that I had forgotten to bring clean socks with me. I was faced with a problem: do I spend the rest of the day in clammy socks, or do I take 5 minutes to scoot across the way to Sport Chek and buy some new ones? Needless to say it didn’t take much deliberation to make that decision, but also time was short so away I went. I didn’t spend a lot of time making my selection; I went straight to the sale rack, grabbed a package of three pairs of Nike socks, paid for them, and went back to the gym where I work. I changed my socks (hell yaaaasss) and went about the rest of my day.

Amazing story, right? Stay with me here; I promise there’s a point coming.

Later, when I got home, I noticed that there was a small letter ‘L’ printed on the sock, right above my right big toe. That’s weird, I thought. The sizing is knit right into the sock. In a visible place, even – maybe that’s why they were on sale. Because, you know, why does anyone need the sizing of any garment on the outside where people can see it? I know I have big feet. Don’t judge me, I’m a big person. I looked at my left foot to see if the sizing was on that one too. There over my left big toe, was a small letter ‘R’. What? I pulled the other two pairs from the package out of my gym bag. All four remaining socks were labeled with an ‘L’ or an ‘R’.socks2

I looked back at my feet. Nothing felt weird. Somehow I had managed to finish my day with the left sock on the right foot and the right sock on the left and nothing bad had happened. Just to see, I took my socks off and switched them so that they were on the right feet as labeled. No perceptible difference.

I felt a twinge of irritation. Way to try and micromanage me, Nike, I thought as I switched my socks back to the wrong feet. Take that.

Because, you know, we’re adults, right? I get pissed off when somebody sanctimoniously insinuates that I need help dressing myself; I’ve been doing that on my own since I was thirty. I feel like most people have a similar reaction when they’re told what to do or how to live when they haven’t actually asked for help. For example, we’re bombarded from all sides by messages from various camps in the health and fitness industries about the diets and workouts and fitness fads du jour:

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Lots of the messages are in direct conflict with each other and lots of them are downright ridiculous. So how’s anyone supposed to weigh the good information against the bad? Most people either end up with a bad case of analysis paralysis and continue the way they were going, or they vascillate between this extreme diet or that extreme exercise program, don’t execute them well (because they’re unsustainable), don’t see results, and end up bitter and resentful of the whole process. They stick their socks back on the wrong feet and think ‘fuck you’ and continue with what worked until the next quick fix comes along.

We don’t like being told what to do.

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Problem is, the more moderate, kinda common-sense healthy lifestyle ads, the Canada Food Guide, initiatives like Participaction (remember them? Hal Johnson and Joanne MacLeod?), and Weight Watchers are delivered in such a syrupy Barney-the-purple-dinosaur tone that it’s hard to swallow at best, and patronizing and insulting at worst. But that knee-jerk fuck you reaction becomes especially dangerous when some guru or other sticks his stupid nose out from under the rock where he lives and says “hey! Fuck the establishment! Who’s with me?” because then, somehow, that guy manages to gather a more rabid following than Hal Johnson and Joanne MacLeod ever did. And obviously, as people are eager to point out, the Canada Food Guide is paid for by Big Dairy and Big Wheat so screw moderation – cut out dairy and grains and go Paleo! You’re gonna tell us too much bacon is bad for us? Screw you, we’re going keto so that we can live on cheese and bacon and peanut butter, motherfuckers! AND we’re gonna get all hot and jacked and sexy while we do it…until our hearts explode all over our chest cavities.socks3

The health and fitness industries need to be better at getting information across. It’s not even the delivery of information that’s the issue; we KNOW damn well that we should eat more green things and we KNOW that too many refined carbs are probably going to end up causing weight gain and we KNOW that we should move our bodies every day…the problem is not that people don’t know what to do. The problem is not information,  the problem is execution. HOW to change for the better. Like, how much extra work/money/time/effort will it take to make better choices and how long will it take to pay off? What will I have to give up to get the body I want or feel the way I want to feel? How do I make myself feel better if I don’t have hyperpalatable food to distract me or make the bad feelings go away? And if I define myself by my body type/pain/nerdiness then who will I be if I change how I live? Those are big questions.

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Now, how to make real change happen? And I’m not talking here about any bullshit skinny tea cleanses or elite athlete Xtreme workout programs; I’m talking about real, sustainable change for the better. Change that doesn’t happen quickly but change that sticks. Here’s what I think: I think everybody needs some help. EVERYONE. Whether it’s from a family doctor, counsellor, dietician, coach, or (you saw this one coming, didn’t you?) personal trainer that you can trust – everyone needs a nudge in the right direction sometimes. Some people need more nudging than others. But we have to help each other and INSPIRE each other to be our best…or we can fold our arms and keep putting our left socks on our right feet.

6 E-Z ways to get better Z’s

Imagine for a moment, that it’s approaching midnight. You have an early appointment in the morning. You went to bed an hour ago and you have been alternately staring wide-eyed at the ceiling and tossing and turning and your mind just won’t. Shut. up. You count backwards from 100. You count your breaths. You do everything you can think of and the longer you stay awake and the more you try and relax, the more stressed you feel about that appointment and your inability to get to sleep.

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Sound familiar? We’ve all been there. In our house we call it Monday Night Syndrome because for many years my husband left for the airport at 4:15 every Tuesday morning to fly up to Fort McMurray to teach at the college there for the day. It was a long, packed day of teaching and while both of our kids were under 2 and I was in school it was our house’s biggest and most reliable source of income. If he missed that flight we were hung. So, nobody slept on Monday nights and we both tackled the longest day of our weeks on minimal sleep.

But who cares? Because as far as I can see no one gets good sleep, or almost no one. When I’m doing initial consultations with new perspective training clients, I always ask about sleep quantity and quality, and almost invariably I am regaled with stories about how tired they feel and how they are hopeful that getting a workout in first thing in the morning (effectively cutting out one more hour of sleep) will help with their saggy energy levels. Adulting is bullshit sometimes.

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We’ve all heard that to have optimal health and productivity and shiny happiness we need about eight hours of sleep on an average night. Right? Some people do just fine on seven, some people feel like rusty buckets of bumholes unless they get nine, but for most people most of the time the magic number is about eight. I talk to lots of people who claim that they don’t need more than five or six hours’ sleep but they are lying. They are not functioning as well as they could during the week, their immune systems crumble at the first lick of a doorknob (handy tip: don’t lick doorknobs) and they fall asleep on Friday night at 10pm and wake up at noon on Saturday feeling terrible. Less than seven hours’ sleep at night is a losing proposition over the long term.

So, since we all have 24 hours in the day and not one minute more, and since we usually have to be functional human beings whether or not we got decent sleep the night before, let’s talk about ways that we can get a few more winks without compromising our productivity or having to bring an air mattress to work so that we can reinstate afternoon nap time like a bunch of kindergarten kids (although the widespread institution of mandatory nap time is not a bad idea at all).

  1. Set a reverse alarm. This is the single habit that has made a huge difference to me over the last year or so. A reverse alarm is an alarm that tells you when it’s time to get ready for bed. I get up at 4:05am just about every day so if I’m going to set myself up to survive the week it’s important that I get to bed around the same time as your average seven-year-old. I tend to act like a seven-year-old too, when that reverse alarm goes off and my phone starts pinging out lullabies at me at 8:30pm, telling me that it’s almost bedtime and it’s time to get ready. I grumble and swear and hop up and down and…then I get ready for bed. Which leads me to number 2:
  2. Getting ready for bed should look basically the same every night. Okay, I know I’m starting to sound like I’m writing a how-to for getting your kid to bed, but seriously – the same shit works for the grups too. If we can manage to set our egos aside and just embrace the fact that yeah, we are petulant and miserable people if we are too sleep deprived, we’re better off. So suck it up and stick to your bedtime routine.
  3. Take a 10-minute dump. And what I mean by that is, get a notebook and a pen (NOT a tablet or laptop or phone or anything with a screen – we’ll get to that in a minute), set a timer for 10 minutes, and write down whatever’s in your head. Grocery lists, to-do’s for tomorrow, meal plans, whatever irritated you today that you’re still stewing about, a story about Bruno the Hairless Bear – anything that’s rattling around in your little melons and likely to keep you awake. And then, before you put that notebook away, write down what went well today: maybe you totally nailed everything and feel awesome, maybe you just barely made it through the day without throat-punching anyone. Something good happened or you wouldn’t be at home getting ready for bed.sleep2
  4. Exercise. Exercise. Get some exercise every day. Not right before bed. But take time out of every single day to move your meat sack around. I promise it’ll pay off. PROMISE. Enough said about that. Next?
  5. Don’t eat right before bed – in fact, stop eating at least two hours before you want to go to sleep. A few years back Oprah spouted some nonsense about never eating after 7pm and that little gem just won’t go away no matter how much people with some form of nutrition education hop up and down and scream about it…because there is a grain (and only a grain) of truth to it. Imagine the last time you went out for nachos and beer late at night. Did you go home tired, fall into bed, and then spend the night dancing the hula with giant pink polkadot slugs playing ukeleles until you slip in one of the slime trails and fall off a cliff for miles, falling, falling, falling until you get swallowed by a whale and end up floating through outer space on the back of a unicorn? You don’t remember that dream? Anyway. Eating right before bed doesn’t really make for a good night’s rest, and it’s not awesome for your physique goals either. Eat lightly late in the day; you don’t need much fuel in you to sleep. As David Goggins, my absolute favorite Navy SEAL** said once, “Go to bed hungry, wake up hungry.”
  6. Now comes the tough part. This is the one that most people won’t do because it’s stinking hard, but it’s a game changer, so I propose that we all do it together. For the first 30 days – after that, you’re on your own to be an adult as you see fit. Okay, are you ready? Deep breaths.

Turn off your screens ONE HOUR before you go to bed.

Why? Because the blue light that is emitted from those little devices that we are so attached to interferes with our brains’ ability to produce melatonin – the hormone that prompts our bodies to close up shop for the evening. When you stare into your tiny little screens until you’re cross-eyed with fatigue you’re setting yourself up to fail at sleep. That’s no fun.

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So here’s what I want the last part of your day to look like: two hours before bed, no more eating. Trust me, you don’t need it. One hour before bed, plug in your phones and tablets and pingy things – extra points if you put it on ‘do not disturb’ from here on in. (You can allow calls from certain numbers so that if your grandmother’s cat gets stuck in a tree you are as accessible as you want to be – emergencies happen after all). 30min before bed, your reverse alarm goes off to tell you that it’s time to start your bedtime stuff – I don’t need to tell you what that should be, right? Right. Once you’re scrubbed and brushed and clean, get horizontal and do your brain dump/daily wins. All done? Turn off the lights and have a good sleep.

**Enough of you asked so…I follow quite a few military and ex-military types; I really find the whole fuck-you-and-your-feelings mindset refreshing and entertaining, but also motivating. It’s a good foil for my usual soft-touch take-care-of-everybody approach to coaching but unfortunately for me I also tend toward laziness and having their barky uncompromising voices in my head keeps me going sometimes. Go GET IT!

Going Gray (sic): On being an aging woman in the fitness industry

 

It’s almost easier to see the negatives in most situations – to pick at the things that are wrong instead of celebrating things that are right and appreciating that progress that has happened. Open any social media platform or any centre-to-left-leaning news source and you’ll be mercilessly bombarded by armies of self-righteous social justice warriors raging against whatever is the cause du jour. Which is not to say that we as a society don’t have a lot of ground to make up in most cases, but we have come a long way in terms of becoming a tolerant and inclusive people. On social media in particular the pendulum has swung so far that the people on the left are the ones labeling their fellow humans and putting them into little boxes. It makes me long for a simpler time – like when you could open up a browser window and be pelted with nothing more acerbic than Pokemon Go.

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Anyway, I had planned on bitching and complaining today; the flu has knocked me on my ass so hard that I have missed everything I was going to do for the last two days and the only thing keeping me awake is whininess and righteous indignation. But, I can’t help but think that there’s a silver lining to be appreciated here as well – pun intended for the silver lining thing. Yeah, I know that joke is bad and makes no sense now, but it will – hear me out.

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So. I work full time in the fitness industry, a microcosm unto itself that would claim to be making people better – healthier, stronger, longer-lived, happier…and it’s getting better at that. What is infinitely more pervasive though, is its tendency to worship youth, beauty, physical perfection (whatever that means; it’s dictated by fashion most of the time) and sexiness. And as such, it can be an unforgiving place to be female. It’s even more unforgiving if you’re susceptible to this stupid thing that happens to most people who don’t have an endless medi-spa fund: aging.

 

I’m over forty now and one thing I notice more and more is that on days that I don’t put makeup on or put extra effort into my appearance to go to work – which is, let’s face it, most of the time (hey, I get up way too early for that nonsense) I get treated differently. There are comments – you know, little expressions of concern, sometimes disdain, always with a pointy little stabby part –  about looking tired or looking drained or drawn. What to do about these? Where do I put them? Because on one hand, yes, they’re true: I start work early in the morning, I don’t usually get enough sleep, and by the middle of the week my face is showing signs of hard mileage. On the other hand, I’m a middle-aged woman – if and when I do wear makeup and put extra effort into my appearance I feel like I’m trying too hard and anyway,  why should I give a shit what people think?

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But. When I do put the effort in I feel better. More awake, more confident, more professional. More worthy of respect. And then I think, fuck you and you and you and everyone else because why should I have to wear makeup and invest all kinds of extra time and labor(and let’s not forget the colossal expense of beauty products, nails, eyelashes, tanning etc) to garner professional respect? To look desirable in some way? To lead by example as a fit, healthy, person? The answer is pretty simple: because  women are expected to look a certain way.

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And it’s not the same for men. None of it is. Some of you guys may be arguing in your heads here that the guys are expected to be buff, lean, hairless (except for a big-ass beard lately) and yes, there definitely are those pressures for men but it’s nowhere near as pervasive.

 

There’s this niggling fear in the background, that as a forty-year-old woman who has been doing this personal training gig for many years now and I have never been better at my job, I can feel my ability to make an impact slipping away because I’m getting old. But here’s the silver lining you’ve all been waiting with baited breath for: there has never been a better time to be a professional middle-aged woman in the fitness industry. Or any industry, for that matter. Us older gals who do our jobs with passion, enthusiasm, and respect for our stations have a unique opportunity right now to smash down some of those barriers that may have held people back as little as five or ten years ago. Things are changing, and we can put our energy into building that momentum, or we can sit on our butts and pick at how far there is to go. I know which side I want to be on. So tomorrow I’m gonna slap some makeup on and keep fighting the fight.

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