Women & Weights- Part 2

In part one of this series we discussed why strength training was beneficial (If you missed that post click here)

Now lets talk about how to get started on your own personal strength training journey.

If strength training is completely new to you, then an ideal first step is going to be finding a coach or trainer to work with. Preferably in person, but this day in age online is also a solid option. One-on-one coaching will give you the most concentrated attention to detail, and you don’t have to do it forever. Long enough to get a solid foundation, twice a week for 12 weeks is the shortest time I’d recommend.

I’m going to take this opportunity to call out something that makes me just an angry as women being told not to strength train, and that’s people actually getting hurt working with a trainer. Accidents happen, but stupid shit also happens when people don’t pay attention or have an agenda that has nothing to do with you and your goals.
Here are a couple things you might not know if you are new to a gym setting.

Not all trainers/ coaches are created equal.
The barrier to entry in the fitness industry is pretty low, and in the online space it’s even lower. Credentials are an important thing to inquire about and even then some of those are better then others.
I am partial to NSCA, ACSM, and NASM when it comes to the “governing bodies” that oversee personal training and strength training. I can attest to the fact that in order to pass those tests you have to have a decent knowledge of how the body works. Also, most people that have a degree in exercise science or the like have at least one of those designations under their belts. Is it the end all be all? No, but it is a solid place to start.
If the trainer you are interested in doesn’t have a certification (which they may not), ask them about their experience. What do they do for continued education? How do they stay current on information? See if you can speak to one of their current clients. Look into it as deeply as you need to in order to feel good about the decision.

Trainers in “Big” gyms work on commission.
That doesn’t mean they don’t know what they are doing. There are many trainers in big-box gyms all over the country helping change people’s lives. But it can mean they are really good at sales and telling you that you need something significantly more then you actually do because they need to hit their numbers for the month. Sorry not sorry, I hate pushy slimy sales which is why I have never worked in a gym like that. I’m not going to tell you something you don’t need, the time in the gym is about YOU, not me, and that’s how it should be.

If the trainer you get set up with does more talking about themselves then listening to you, mark that a red flag.
As I said above, training a client is about their needs and goals, not what the trainer has accomplished as a trainer or athlete. You are hiring this person to teach you a new skill, something that can be dangerous if not advised in an intentional manner. If you don’t feel heard in that first meeting, it’s acceptable to ask for someone else.

There should be some kind of movement assessment and paperwork before you actually begin lifting anything.
Even elite level athletes have basic movement patterns they need to revisit, and a pattern that isn’t ideal needs to be addressed before a movement is loaded. Injuries happen when people get over zealous. In most facilities you will have to fill out some fairly extensive paperwork about your health (past and present). It is equally as important for you to disclose all information as it is for your coach to collect it. Injuries that may seem inconsequential to you, could be a piece of the puzzle that we need to know in order to plan accordingly.

You can fire your trainer/ coach at any time.
The only bad part here might be how much money you are out, but if at any time you are unhappy or just not jiving with your trainer you can cut the cord. As a trainer myself I hope if you didn’t feel like you were getting what you paid for that you would speak up. We are adults here, so conversation is a two-way street. But if even after you converse, you don’t feel heard #girlbye.

My point is discussing all of this is not to discourage you from getting started, quite the opposite really. If I had to sum it up in one sentence it would be this- make sure the person you are working with is someone you feel better being around. Your trainer or coach should be assisting you towards your goals, and overall it should be an interaction that adds value to your life, not sucks the life out of you.

If hiring a coach is not in your budget, there are many other options out there to get you started. Fitness apps abound, and there are some great coaches out there that put educational and helpful content out on their social media, blogs and websites. The internet can also be a black hole of less then optimal information so proceed with caution.
Besides my own content (found here and here) below are other resources I send people to when they ask about various topics and would like to do some reading on their own.

  1. Strong First
  2. Girls Gone Strong
  3. B!RTHF!T
  4. Ben Bruno Training
  5. Coach Karen Smith

To wrap this up, if you are new to strength training, one of the best things you can do for yourself is hire a coach or trainer to get you started. Having their eyes on you to watch for things you are likely not aware of, as well as use consented tactile cuing are attributes that you cannot get from going the journey on your own. Find someone you like and feel can help you to reach the goals you have for yourself.

If I resonate with you, then let’s connect. You can reach me me by leaving me a comment below, DMing me on social media, emailing me at sara@activelylivingawesome.com or you can apply for my coaching program here.

The third and final installment of this series will be things you should know about strength training to get the most out of your workouts. Have a great week!

~S

Women and Weights- Part 1.

Once upon a time women were told that they shouldn’t lift weights because it would make them look like men and thus be undesirable. They wouldn’t want to be bulky, and they could get hurt. More “feminine” exercise was encouraged and anything that looked like “strength” training was il-advised.

Aren’t you glad we don’t live in that world anymore?? Oh wait…

It’s not as bad as it used to be, and with the rise in popularity of things like StrongFirst, CrossFit, The Titan Games, Girls Gone Strong, B!RTHF!T, and social media, strength training for women is getting some great press.

There are still those out there that preach that women shouldn’t lift more then 2lbs (which is laughable if you carry a purse or have children) but somehow that rhetoric still sells.

There are many reasons why women should incorporate strength training into their health and wellness routine, and this is what I want to chat about today. General aesthetics won’t be mentioned, so while that may be a motivating factor to get started I promise that by the end of this you’ll have more information at your disposal.

Before I dive in I want to be clear on a couple things-
The information presented is done so from time spent reading research/ journals and data collected by humans much smarter then I, as well as my own journey in the world of strength training both personally and professionally.
My goal in how this is written is for those that don’t want to read super complex data, but want the information in an easy to understand manner. I am happy to share any and all of my sources if you are interested in reading more. But for the sake of the scroll-averse I’m going to make this as easy to digest as possible.

4 Compelling Reasons You Should Be Strength Training:

More muscle= More efficient body at rest.

The more muscle mass you have, the more efficient your body is at rest. A pound of fat burns 1-2 calories per hour while a pound of muscle burns up to 6 calories per hour. (1) I’m not a mathematician, but I like those odds.
The quality of calories consumed cannot be dismissed, you cannot out-exercise a bad diet. But for those that say they do cardio so they can eat… strength training is a better long-term investment.

Women begin to see a decrease in muscle mass at age 40.

For women, we begin to lose lean muscle mass at 40. To put that into perspective, that means you will lose 50% of your lean muscle mass by the time you turn 80. The magic number “40” doesn’t mean you can’t start strength training at any time, it simply means the earlier you start the more muscle mass you will start with when inevitable aging begins.

Weight training improves bone health.

This one requires me to get a little more science-y, but bear with me. Strength training stimulates osteoblast activity which are the cells that promote bone growth (3).
It is estimated that 80% of the 10 million people that live with osteoperosis are women, and that 50% of women over age 50 will break a bone because of osteoperosis.
If that isn’t terrifying, a woman’s risk of breaking a hip is equal to her combined risk of breast, uterine and ovarian cancer. (4)
YIKES!!!
Bottom Line, strength training makes your bones stronger so you don’t break them as easily especially as you age.

Being strong makes life easier.

Aside from being the Boss woman that can carry 25 grocery bags in one trip while also holding a baby carrier, when we are strong we simply FEEL more capable. It pisses me off when I can’t get the damn pickle jar open and I have to ask my husband. It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does I get real annoyed. The fact that you can do more for yourself doesn’t mean you don’t need a man (unless that’s your jam, whatever floats your boat) but it will make your life easier and more convenient.
Another example I like to use is being able to play with your kids at the playground. Lifting them up and tossing them around, hanging from the monkey bars and jumping off a moving swing. You become a more active participant when you are focusing on what you can do and instead of what you can’t. Strength training helps you do all the things.

The journey to strength training can be intimidating, which is why many women choose not to pursue it at all. That is why for the month of March on my Instagram and Facebook pages I will be going over the “Big 4” movements that are the foundations of strength training.

I’ll also be following this post up with one that talks about how to get started on your strength training journey. Stay Tuned!

~S

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2980962/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4066461/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2811354
  4. https://www.nof.org/preventing-fractures/general-facts/what-women-need-to-know/



What Makes A Good Workout?

I’ll start by answering that question with another question- what is your goal?

That is my answer for several questions that I get asked on a frequent basis. To me it seems like that would be a logical response, but often I’m met with a look of confusion.

As a trainer I would define a “good workout” as one that left you feeling better then when you started, one that helped you get one step closer to your goals, and one that pushed you out of your comfort zone without making you it’s bitch. Let’s break that down shall we?

“A workout that leaves you feeling better then when you started”
This doesn’t mean that you weren’t challenged or pushed. What it does mean is that when you finished you had a sense of accomplishment and were able to walk out of the gym being happy you showed up.
Movement should be making you feel better, not worse. Discomfort is part of the deal, especially for newbies. PAIN is not, and it shouldn’t be celebrated.

“A workout that helps you get one step closer to your goals.”
Those (your goals) should be clearly defined from the get-go. Are you working out to lose body fat? To build more muscle? To run your first 5k or Spartan or Triathalon? Are you returning to exercise after major surgery or childbirth and you’ve just been cleared by your doctor? Do you want to be able to chase your toddler or take your kids on a family hike? Do you want to stave off health issues that have plagued your parents or other members of your family?
Working out doesn’t have to be purely aesthetic. To be honest you’re likely to have more success if that isn’t your only driving factor. But also having a why and setting up goals along the way will also set you up for the long term.. Movement and exercise aren’t just short term solutions. They are lifetime choices that can and will set you up for a better quality of life, or a not-so-good one. That choice is yours to make.
When you show up to wherever you get a little movement in ask yourself- is what I’m doing today going to get me closer to where I want to be? If the answer is “No” then I’d suggest asking yourself why you are doing whatever it is that you are doing in the first place.

“A workout that pushed you out of your comfort zone without making you it’s bitch”.
So this goes hand in hand with the first point, and I mention it again to say that if you feel like you have been through the ringer every single time you go to the gym perhaps you need to do a bit of reflection.
As an athlete I love a hard workout.
As a mom, business owner, trainer and person that needs their body to function in order to make a living I don’t dig them all the time.
As a woman there are times during the month that all I can do is show up and be gentle. If this is the first time you are hearing this, here’s a secret- our bodies are cyclical in nature. We feel that way on purpose, and if you are tuned into it, listening to your body will be the biggest gift you can give yourself.

Resistance training, weightlifting, boot camp, whatever it is you enjoy doing is meant to be challenging. That is what allows progress to happen. Soreness is part of the game as well. When muscles are worked in ways that they aren’t used to, they become sore as a result. But if you finish your workout and have zero energy to take on the rest of your day, or if you are so sore when you’re done that moving through your normal day-to-day is a challenge, I’d encourage you to ask yourself WHY you’re doing it. What are you gaining by feeling that way all the time? If that is the only measure you have to feel like your workout was successful, I’d encourage you to really give that some thought. If you are surrounded by people that think the same way, I ask you what other positive attributes are they contributing to your health and wellness?
I used to wear this mentality as a badge of honor, I thought I wasn’t doing nearly enough if I wasn’t miserable until my next workout. That was all fine and good, until it wasn’t. Until injuries overtook soreness. Until my ability to be a mom became more challenging because I couldn’t move. Until my body loudly stated that it had “ENOUGH”.

Listening to our bodies can be a humbling experience. For many of us we were conditioned from a fairly young age to just get after it, no matter what. What if instead we gave ourselves the grace and courage to instead do things that make us feel good and also help us to move better and live better in the long run? Engaging in workouts that help us as opposed to hurt us is one way to do that.

Ask yourself next time you’re ready to hit the gym- is this workout going to make me better or not? Then proceed accordingly.

~S

Thoughts from a frustrated fitness professional/ A little personal history.

Working in the fitness industry is a rather polarizing endeavor. I’ve written about this a bit before, but lately I’ve found I’m having a hard time just “being ok” with it. I’ve said before I’m not for everyone. I’m cool with it.

Women are one of the most highly advertised to demographics, and while we are making strides in the body-positivity area the same shit still sells and it makes me REALLY ANGRY. Like Hulk-Smash level shit.

But for just a little history, I’d like to level with anyone reading this why I feel the way I do. See, I myself have a L O N G history with my body and my feelings about it. Put your seat-belt on, this will take a second.

I made it through middle school fairly unscathed. Once puberty hit my hips showed up and I have since carried quite a bit of my curve through my butt and legs. It just was what it was. I have also always been an athlete of some kind, so muscle and being able to be fairly consistent with my weight was fine.

In high school I experienced some devastating firsts that began to mold a not-so-great relationship with my body.

  1. I got cut from athletics for the first time in my life. First from basketball, then from volleyball. I was devastated. Completely crushed. For the first time I wasn’t an active particiapant, and I used food and a general lack of motivation to move very little.
  2. It was the first time my parents (who were completely well-intentioned so I thank them for that) suggested that watching what I eat become a priority. My mom helped me the best way she knew how packing my lunch and for a while it did help and some of the weight I’d put on came off.
  3. I started dating someone that would ultimately be emotionally abusive and that would take its toll. I ended up in the hospital for exhaustion, dehydration, consuming less then 1000 calories a day while in-season for a Varsity sport I loved, and then there was this guy that made me feel like I was special and at the same time like I would never be enough.

Eventually it all culminated, and for all 4 years of high school my weight went up and it went down. It changed based on whether I was in-season, post-season or preseason. I’ll also interject here that we did not lift weights during pre-season/ off-season. We didn’t want to be “bulky” so everything was body-weight, tubing and cardio based until we could get into the cages and begin batting practice.

Strength training already had a negative connotation after freshman PE class when my best friend and I both were able to bench our body-weight in class and the boys called us “Beasts”. Male fragile ego at 14-15 years old. (Insert vomit emoji here)

Also, I LOVED entertainment news. I was all about Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I wanted Britney Spear’s abs, and Blue Crush was my favorite movie for sure.

What no one told me about any of it was that I wasn’t built like that. I was not going to look like any of those girls, ever. But man is that what I wanted. Lots of cardio, minimal lifting, watch what I eat (to a point of starving then binge, then feel guilty then repeat). For years.

When I went away to college on a softball scholarship, I was introduced to the weight room, for a minute. It was expected but I don’t remember us actually doing it with any consistency. We shared the weight room with all the male athletes (IE the football and basketball team) it was gross and many of them were pigs so I don’t think any of us were in a big rush to run up there. Also, even then I had never been properly instructed on how to lift. I had no idea of mechanics or what I actually should be doing. We just loaded up the bar and gave it a shot. (Ugh, facepalm)
Also, in this delightful four years, I was introduced to BEER. I may have been a Div. II Collegiate Athlete but I was also a sorority girl and I could put it down with the best of them. That did NOT help me, especially my freshman year, but you live and learn.

Once I graduated I walked away from anything organized for a while. We had free gym memberships with our apartment so I’d dabble here and there but I was never able to be consistent. Cardio was what I knew and I’d try to do something here and there. I had a consult with a personal trainer and she gave me a very generic workout and told me to consume less then 100g of sugar per day. That was it.

One night my husband and I were watching a movie and the guys on screen were throwing kettlebells around in the “pump-you-up” training montage. I looked at NN and said “I want to do that.” He shook his head as he does and said “Ok babe”. But less then a month later we were both in our first class.

Meeting Dave (and his business partner at the time) changed my life. I was introduced to someone that actually gave a shit about how I moved. He helped me fix my squat (something I didn’t realize needed fixed), he showed me that load was important and that cardio or other measures of “a good workout” weren’t necessarily that great. He gave me so much from the beginning, and while it would take almost 3 more years before I would start coaching myself I was hooked.

DUring this time I also got pregnant with my first child. This is another post for another day, but I will say that pregnancy was a whole new struggle for me with body image. It’s something that should be talked about, but I felt so much shame that I didn’t know what to do. Postpartum, dear Lord that will be several future posts. But back to the actual story…

I was introduced to a community of professionals that took their job seriously. Yes, there are always polarizing opinions, and I had to learn some things the hard way. But at the roots, I’d had a long-standing viewpoint of my body that was driven by shame and by this ideal that I would never achieve. At 24 that began to change and I’ve spent the last 12 years trying to encourage a different dialog.

What I preach is wholly what I practice, and if I’m being honest it isn’t sexy or glamorous.

I don’t have a six-pack, I’m not a size 4, and I still hate long cycle cardio.

I move everyday. Even when all that looks like is walking. Some days that is all I’ve got in me. AND THAT’S OK. Other days I swing kettlebells (because I freaking love it) or I move weights around. I’ve started hitting up a Crossfit class a couple times a week. My relationship with that has been a moving target for years, but at the moment I’m in a good place with it.

I try to eat foods that come from the outside of the grocery store. Bread and pasta are delicious but they don’t agree with me and while I have always loved cereal and ice cream both make me feel like absolute shit. I very much have to weigh the pros and cons of consumption. I also love cheesecake. It is a non-negotiable in my life. The trick is not eating the whole damn thing, but instead a slice here and there.

I share all of this because it is a small example of what works FOR ME. It has taken me years to get a handle on it, and I am constantly tweeking and experimenting.

That mentality and approach is how I approach my clients as well. We establish goals, and then we reverse engineer how to get to them. It is a long road, if you’re being honest with yourself it is a lifetime decision. What you choose in your 30’s and 40’s will have an impact in your 60’s and 70’s. It’s never too late to start, but the sooner you do the better for YOU it will ultimately be.

I will continue to be annoyed and often angered by the bullshit I see people putting out about “30lbs in 30 days”, Detox Teas, Magic Wraps, and all the cardio. And while I sometimes feel like a broken record I will continue to educate, support, encourage, and hopefully inspire other women, especially Moms to find what works for them and allows them to live the life they DESIRE to live.

Thanks for reading Awesome Humans

~S

Seasonal Fitness

Working in the fitness arena, there can be incredible singularly focused and dogmatic approaches to working out. Some people believe in one method only, and THAT is what you must do. I had some of those beliefs when I initially started this journey, and for me it had more to do with not knowing any better. Time and experience are marvelous teachers.

I’ve now been coaching others (90% women) for about 7 years, and I’ve been on my own path to figuring out what the hell works best for ME since I was in my 20’s.

In this time frame I quit playing softball, graduated from college, got married, had two kids, moved across the country, and experienced mountain-high Highs to 10,000 Leagues Under the Sea Lows. To say that how I approach working out has changed might be the understatement of the decade.

Working out, like the seasons, is a very cyclical thing for me. On a large scale as well as on a daily basis. And while that may not be the case for everyone, I’m willing to bet that this may resonate with a few of you.

I love to lift heavy. I love high intensity. I love pushing myself to do better in my current workout then I did in the last. That’s the athlete in me. She may have “retired” from her sport in her early 20’s but she never went away.

My challenge these days is that working out that way often puts me on the sidelines for extended periods of time. I am still trying to learn my limits and there are times when I don’t throttle enough. It sucks.

I have had to learn to actually listen to what my body is telling me. That some days, walking and my functional progressions is all I’ve got in me. Some days it’s following an online Mat Pilates or Yoga Flow (or getting my butt into a class). Some days it’s going to Bootcamp or Cycle so that I can be pushed by someone else. Other days it’s picking up a kettlebell and seeing what feels good.

I don’t have a set routine. I also don’t have anything that I am specifically training for at the moment. My fitness goals are to feel good, to walk over 10k steps a day, and to be able to take on any activity at will (hiking, playing at the park, doing a mud run, epic failing at a Ninja Course, etc)

As a trainer, I’m not “motivated” all the time. Maybe some people don’t want to admit that, but I have no issues being transparent about it. I recognize that movement and food play a huge role in how I feel every day, so it keeps me traveling on a preferred path. But to say I’m all in 100% of the time would be me blowing smoke strait up your ass.

So what is that I want for you to take away from spending a few minutes reading this post? It’s that I want you to think about where YOU are right now. What season are you in? What are your goals as it pertains to fitness? WHY are those your goals? HOW do they feel to you? Once you can answer those honestly, then think about what it looks like to put that in action.

If you need someone to talk it through with, lets set up a consultation. The link is below and in my Instagram Link Tree. I’m not here to sell you on hiring me (though it is an option). I want to encourage you to have an open and honest conversation with yourself about your fitness, exercise, and how you treat your body.

Let’s Chat!

We as women are seasonal and cyclical creatures. Embrace that, and know that there is nothing wrong with you if being “hardcore” all the time about fitness isn’t your jam. Exercise and fitness should be about loving your body, not hating it. What does it look like to approach this aspect of your life from a positive angle as opposed to a from a negative view???

What the Hell is Actively Living Awesome?

 

Actively Living Awesome(2)

I’ve been talking about this idea for about two years now, but there has always been something that makes me stop and not DO anything but keep talking. (If you know me, then you know I can be a talker. It’s a gift and a curse but, take the good with the bad right?)

This past year and a half has included almost as much personal change for me as the big move three years ago that essentially re-hardwired my entire existence. I started training people in a gym environment (something I had been talking about for YEARS) and realized that I had a passion that I could make a living at simultaneously. But there is something else that I love just as much (sometimes even more) and that’s helping the person build their strength in aspects besides the physical. Helping build the person, all the way around.

But here’s where I’ve gotten hung up, and why this concept of Actively Living Awesome hasn’t left a very small and close circle. Here it goes-

I am not the picture perfect trainer/ coach/ mom/ lifestyle whatever-you-want-to-call-it that you see on social media. I’m not, I don’t want to be, and a filter or two aside on occasion, I’m never going to be. It just isn’t me. I don’t have six-pack abs, I don’t eat clean all day everyday, I barley make it out of the house with my teeth brushed let alone with make up and a matchy-matchy work out ensemble from Lululemon. I wear about 25 “hats” on any given day, and I don’t want to “sell” something that doesn’t feel real and natural to me.

The people that I want to work with are the same way,  they want to work together  because I have the ability to help them figure out something or accomplish something that they couldn’t do on their own. It does take a village, so let’s build one!

Maybe that something is develop a workout routine that fits in during nap time while still having the time to get housework done and enjoy 10 minutes of quiet. Maybe it’s developing a new habit that will be life changing but seems unattainable. Maybe it’s getting stronger so the monkey bars at the park aren’t just for kids. Maybe it’s just figuring out how to set up the day so at the end of it there’s guilt-free gratitude with a glass of wine for all that is awesome in life. I want to work with these people because it’s what makes me light up, it’s the very best part of what I do. It doesn’t have to be hard, for anyone, but that is what I’ve made it for far too long.

So what is Actively Living Awesome? It’s a space to go for health, fitness and general life tips that help you live YOUR most awesome version of life. That’s it. I can’t tell you much more then that right now, because there is a whole lot of AWESOME going on behind the scenes. But what I can tell you is to expect an authentic, sometimes random, but always honest voice from an imperfect human with a pretty awesome life.

Are you in?

Sara