Hips Don’t Lie

And they get incredibly bitchy if you don’t pay them the attention they feel they deserve.

The number of injuries, tightness and general discomfort that come from having tight hips is more then I’m willing to bet you even realize.

As women we carry stress and trauma in our hips. How interesting between our hips is where we carry babies, where our reproductive organs live, and is also where we as women are most grounded/ rooted. That isn’t coincidence friends, that is how the creator intended us to be.

Low back pain, knee pain, guess what often (not always, but often) plays a roll? You guessed it, all the muscles around your hips.

Ok, fine, so what am I supposed to do about it?

Ahh, I’m so glad you asked! (Yes, I have these types of conversations with myself often.)

There are TONS of exercises that you can do, but today I’m going to show you just one that I try to spend time in every day. I notice when I don’t take the time, so I have to assume that it’s working even if it feels only marginal.

The z-sit or 90/90 sit is Queen in my book. You sit with your legs in a “Z” or both at 90 degrees. Rocking and moving around in circles will help the hips loosen up. Not going to lie, the position can be a bit uncomfortable at first. If it is, that’s a subtle (or not so subtle) indication that more time in that position will be beneficial.

Starting with a couple minutes while scrolling your phone or watching Netflix is perfect. Increasing the time and eventually the range of movement will come as you get more comfortable in the z-sit.

Give the z-sit a try, and let me know how it goes.

SG

Motion Lotion

Man if you have even a little bit of a sense of humor that title has endless possibilities for ridicule. It’s a good thing I’m aware I do these things to myself.

I love movement, I don’t think I could do what I do if I didn’t. I like to lift heavy things off the floor, and sometimes over my head. I want to still be doing my thing when I’m in my 80’s, and I know movement plays a roll in the goal.

I also know that quality of movement begets quantity in the long run. Hear me out.

Exercise and movement are good for all the parts- muscles, bones, joints, heart, lungs and brain. When we move we almost always feel better. But one could argue that some movements are better then others. On top of that, it’s not the shiny objects that tend to give you the most bang for your buck.

I’ve had to learn the hard way (IE by beating up my own body) that going hard and fast all the time is going to wear you out sooner. At 38 I deal with a couple of chronic issues that I may have been able to prevent if I’d allowed myself to slow down more often and listen instead of drown out what my body was trying to tell me. I am grateful that I did finally listen before something as serious as surgery was thrown out there, and I will do EVERYTHING I can do avoid having any kind of procedure done.

So what does that look like? This puzzle has MANY pieces, so today the one I’m going to share is walking and tomorrow it’s hip mobility exercises.

Walking- Yes, you read that correctly. Get outside and go for a walk. 10, 15, 20 minutes. Use your arms, turn your face towards the sun. Listen to your favorite song or a podcast. Listen to nature. Breathe through just your nose (inhale and exhale). Can you do it? Give it a try, it’s harder then you might think.

Walking is a form of “cardio”. It’s not high impact or high intensity, and that’s the point. Running, biking, jumping, and rowing all have their place. All of them can be hard on your joints when done for an extended period of time at a moderate to high-intensity. So instead of doing one of those 5-7 days a week, add in some extended periods of just walking.

We have been conditioned to think that if we aren’t working HARD, breathing heavy and breaking a sweat that we aren’t doing enough to make a difference. That my friends is where we’ve got it all wrong. Our bodies spend an exorbitant amount of time in fight or flight. That is our natural stress response, and unless you’ve been living off the grid for the past few years, there’s a high likelihood that you’re running at a high frequency more often then you should.

Exercise is a stressor, walking is a way to utilize movement while not tipping the scale too far in the stressed-out direction. So if today isn’t snowing, raining buckets, or so windy you’re questioning whether or not you’re in Kansas anymore, get outside and take a walk. With the dog, with your kid, by yourself. Whatever it takes. And if that’s all the movement you get in today because life has other plans for you then congratulations. You can check the box and keep on moving right along.

SG

What kind of exercise is the best kind of exercise?

A frequently asked question and one that has a varied and nuanced answer. One might assume my answer is going to be strength training, and they’d be partially correct.

The answer that I often give and will continue to stand by regarding this question is- The best kind of exercise is the one you can show up and do consistently.

Yes, I would be lying if I didn’t say that using weights in your training is beneficial for pretty much everyone when done correctly. It’s what my clients do, and it is 100% what I do personally. It also comes with some caveats.

I don’t want to work out for hours. I can, I DON’T WANT TO. If my programming takes me longer then 30m to complete I will lose interest and not finish it. I learned a lot about how I view my training in the past year and half and efficiency plays a big role. That being said my big lifts aren’t going to increase by leaps and bounds, and my mobility is not going to improve if I don’t give it at least 5 minutes (more like 10-15) each day. I know that, and I’m ok with it.

But enough about me, what about the women that trust me with their journey? My new clients don’t have sessions longer then 40 minutes. That includes their warm up and their cool down. We focus and we are efficient with our time and movement. We utilize big full-body exercises that focus on several systems/ parts at once. We start where we need to start and we increase load as needed. Some days we stretch and spend time on the floor, other days we swing kettlebells and push the sled. My goal for every sessions is that you leave our time together feeling better then you did when you arrived.

So yes, weights are MY favorite. I have kettlebells and a couple badass strong women to thank for that. But at the end of the day the best exercise is something you can show up and do consistently. Lifting, Zumba, Pilates, Yoga, taking a walk with the dog, or a group fitness class at your local Rec center. Whatever it takes, movement is movement and that’s how you begin. From there you get to dive deeper and cherry-pick a bit more but that’s a post for another day.

I’ll end with saying- If you want to make changes to your routine but feel like you don’t know where to start I do consultation calls to see if we would be a good fit. Leave me a note here or at sara@activelylivingawesome.com and lets chat. We all start somewhere.

Let’s get intentional

If you have followed me for any amount of time then you know how I feel about New Years Resolutions. The whole “New Year, New You” thing is overblown and quite frankly it sets you up to fail before the new year even begins.

It is also an excuse.

Instead of making changes NOW, people wait until the New Year and then when it goes to hell in a handbag (as is usually the case) people throw in the towel and wait until next year. It’s such a waste.

When it comes to celebrating the new year I personally use reflection to measure where I’ve been and how close I got to whatever my goals were last year. Then as I’m looking towards what I want to accomplish this year I set a theme or word of the year.

My word of the year is my guide. I have it placed prominently in places I’m going to see/read it everyday. It is a reminder of my goals and what I want to achieve in the days, weeks and months to come. Sometimes it changes, but most of the time whatever word I begin the year with is also the one that will close the year out.

In 2020 I chose the word Connection and Lord how necessary was that when lockdowns started? I wanted and needed to feel apart of something even when we were told not to physically interact. That word became a lifeline I didn’t know I would need when setting it.

In 2021 my word was Intention. To go through my year doing all things with intention. More then once I found myself asking why I chose that word and those were the moments that I knew I had chosen well. It’s hard to do things with intention if your way of life doesn’t always align with what the majority believe. I married a contrarian and I don’t like to do what everyone else is doing, so acting/thinking/living with intention is a must.

Even with Intention, as 2021 wrapped up I found myself feeling trapped and small. I felt like I was too comfortable and I felt lazy. I was content to just coast, and that seemed fun until it wasn’t anymore. I wanted to be pushed. I wanted to be forced out of my comfort zone. I wanted to be sure that I was not in the same place in December of 2022 as I was in 2021.

So my word for the new year is Growth.

2022 Word of the Year

Growing is my focus. Personally, professionally, and though the path is still unclear spiritually as well. Embracing discomfort is a significant step in growing, so taking the time to wrap my head around being uncomfortable on purpose. It scares me a bit. I know there are things I’m not going to enjoy, but in the end how much better off will I (and those closest to me) be because I embraced the “suck” that most people are not willing to face.

Might sound a tad arrogant, but if it pushes me out of that space of “meh” that I was feeling at the end of 2021 it’s worth it. Regardless of the things around me that are out of my control (of which it seems there are many) I’m going to make the best of 2022.

I hope you’ll join me!

SG

One Day at a Time

When I chose the name Actively Living Awesome for my business, the phrase “One day at a time” went with it. Somehow it has always just fit.

Fitness and wellness are things that I am passionate about, they are an integral part of my personal value system. But this has never been just about me.
ALA was created to share my experiences, my mistakes, what I’ve found works and what I’ve found to be bullshit with others looking to live their most awesome life.

In order to get there we have to approach it One Day at a Time.

With everything going on in the world right now, and getting through this pandemic everyone has found the life that they live turned upside down. Myself included.

I’ll be the first to say that I hate this new normal. I hate that I can’t see my clients in-person. I hate that we are all stuck at home. I hate that other people not using their brains leads to empty grocery stores. I hate that people are losing their jobs and many people are scrambling to figure out how to make ends meet. I hate that there is going to be some massive long-term fallout from this whole experience.

But I hate living in that mindset more then I hate the time we find ourselves in. I have a choice, and for me that choice is One Day at a Time.

Some days will be great days for everyone in my house. Others are going to suck the life right out of me and I’m going to be glad when they are over. But I’ll continue to approach them One Day at a Time.

This won’t be the most Awesome chapter in my life, that I am confident in saying. But it will be a time of immense growth and patience. It will force me to keep showing up, for myself and for those that I am privileged to work with. It will force me to travel inward (a scary place for many of us) and question what I believe and how I want to come out of all of this.

Already these past 2 weeks have shown me how much I can live without and how much time and money I spend on things that are nice but definitely not necessary.

It has reminded me that a shower can absolutely change the outlook on your day, and that too much time with phone in hand or eyes on a screen makes you feel lazy and slothy while craving the connection and instant gratification at the same time.

It has made me appreciate walks around the block by myself and laying on the patio in the sunshine more then I ever thought possible.

It has reiterated that books are usually better then movies/ screen adaptations, and when you have the time you might as well enjoy the longer, more detailed version.

It has forced me to be patient when I want to scream, to laugh when I might otherwise cry, and to give more hugs to my kids then I would have ever guessed I had in me.

This time we’re in, this adventure we are on will lend itself as a lesson and one day we will look back and say “Remember that time….” But until then, I’m going to continue my quest to Awesome, even in this less then optimal setting One Day at a Time.

Are you in?

~S

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???