Erin

What I Wish I'd Known

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Well, that title could apply to so many facets of life, am I right? But in this case it's what I wish I'd known before I became a full-time(ish) freelancer. You all know that I work for the studio part-time as an employee. But I make the rest of my living freelancing, which means I essentially have my own business and I work from home. A friend and I were talking recently about the joys and struggles of freelancing recently, and it got me to thinking about some of the things I wish I'd known before I took the leap. And since we're expanding the blog this year to include topics related to the non-fitness areas of our lives, I thought I'd share. So, here we go...

Know Your Value. I was very lucky that the second freelance job I took was in partnership with a former colleague who had much more experience freelancing than I did. When the client asked for our rate, my colleague immediately responded with a number that was nearly three times the amount I had charged in my one previous foray into contract work. I thought the client would laugh us out of the room, but he didn't. He paid it. And it made me research how freelancers set their rates; all of the factors they take into account. I had been setting it based on my hourly rate at my full-time job, but that was a big mistake. Now, my rate is based on what I know to be the market rate and one that is fair, when my additional costs are factored into the equation.

Don't Make Rate Exceptions. This may be controversial--I don't know whether every freelancer will agree with this or not--but, for the most part, I don't discount my rate. Ever.

Invest in a Good Home Office. This is one I put off for a long time because of the cost, I guess. But my dining room table and the couch ended up not being great places to work.

It's Easier to Overeat. This may be totally random, but when I first started working from home I ate way more than when I worked in an office. And I thought it would be the opposite. My last office job was at a college and they made it really achievable to eat like a college student--and I did :-) Unfortunately, even though I could eat like an 18-year old, I couldn't metabolize like one. I thought when I started working from home I'd have way more control food wise. But for the first few months I found myself eating way more because it was there and it was just steps away from my desk. Those of you who work from home--have you found that to be true?

I Miss the Social Part. Sometimes. I am a total introvert and I love quiet time, but sometimes I miss being around people. That surprised me so much, I can't even tell you. When that starts to happen, I text Nikki and tell her we need an in-person meeting :-) I always leave those meetings with renewed energy.

There are Trade-Offs. I think it's very human to romanticize what we don't have, especially when we're unhappy in our current situation, as I was in my old job. The truth is that I love my work now, but it's not stress-free. However, I guess I just prefer the stress I have now to the stress I had before.

You'll Become (Best) Friends with Organization and Time-Management. I would have described myself as those things before I started freelancing. But holy moly, do you have to get really good at managing your time and sticking to a schedule. Because there are no immediate consequences if you don't. There are so many distractions at home!

Enjoy the Perks. No one cares whether I wear the same thing today as I wore yesterday. (No one cares whether that thing was leggings and an over-sized sweatshirt either.) If I decide I want to move to a new city, I can keep my job and work from wherever I want. I can sometimes trade time-off for my workout in the morning, for an hour more of work after dinner. There's a ton of flexibility. But I was so anxious when I made the switch, that for a long time I didn't allow myself to enjoy the best things about being my own boss. Now I do.

Any of you work remotely? What do you wish you'd known before you jumped in?  Share below!

My Pre-Trainer Life

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Last week Nikki and I returned from our first annual management retreat. We went down to Cannon Beach and spent three days making a plan for the next year of the studio's life. Haystack Rock

In July of 2015, I sat on a similar stretch of sand to the one where we stayed at Cannon Beach, just a little bit further south. At the time I was about ten years into a career in nonprofit fundraising. It was a good career, but one I kind of fell into because I didn't really know what I truly wanted to be doing. I'm guessing some of you can relate.

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Bonus fact about me: I hate the word passion. I think it's overused. The prospect of finding my passion and translating it into a paying gig was overwhelming. It paralyzed me for a long time, actually.

So, I prefer the word engaging.

I digress.

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Anyway, by the time I was sitting on that beach in 2015, I knew I wanted to be a personal trainer. The why is a long story. Maybe for another day. But here's the story about how.

On that trip I spent a lot of time meditating/thinking/praying (insert your verb of choice here) about what was next for me. I knew where I wanted to be, but not how to get there.

One Way

When I got home I found a course at the local community college, designed to help people study for, and pass, the personal trainer certification exam. I signed-up, ordered my (enormous) study manual and waited. Seriously you guys, that manual is a monster. I truly believe it could be certified as a weapon. I wouldn't want to be hit over the head with it.

The class was to start in September and I thought it would be a good idea to hire a trainer for myself, to help me get as fit as I could before the class began. I called several trainers and made appointments with a few of them.

One was Nikki.

We sat down for a consultation and she asked me why I was there. And I don't really know why I said this, because I didn't share it with the other trainers I met, but I told her about my goal of becoming a personal trainer and wanting to get physically ready for my certification class.

We spent at least an hour talking. Talking about why I wanted to be a trainer. Talking about Nikki's philosophy about health and fitness. Telling our respective stories.

And then Nikki made me an offer. She and I could work together as trainer and client for the next six weeks and get to know each other. During that time I would start working though the study manual and evaluating whether or not I thought I could study for my exam independently.

If I thought I could, we would transition to a mentoring relationship and I could save myself the cost of tuition for the course. I'd study for the exam on my own, supplementing with formal in-person classes with Nikki. She'd share what she'd learned over twelve years as a trainer and she'd provide some practical training skills in addition to the theory I was learning through studying for the exam.

Then, assuming all that went well, she would hire me as a trainer at her studio.

Sweet deal, right? I thought so too, so I jumped in.

Work Harder

The 12 weeks between when we started what we came to refer to as, "Trainer Training," and when I passed my certification exam were intense. I worked 40 hours per week at my day job. Twice a week I would get up and make the 60 minute drive from my house to the studio for 6am. Nikki and I would then do two hours of trainer training and then I'd head for my office. I'd get off work, make the hour-long drive home, eat something and then study until my eyes wouldn't stay open anymore. Weekends were more studying.

But it worked. I  passed the test on a Friday afternoon and the following Monday I gave notice at my day job.

It is Well

And then, a little over a year later, there I was. On the Oregon coast again, with a life that looked totally different than the one I had during that trip in 2015. Sometimes I really do pinch myself about it all. That I wake up every day excited about work. That I get to live and breathe health and fitness. That I have a job that offers me a way to balance work and life. That engaging in healthy behaviors is not something I do if I have time outside of work, but rather, something I do so that I can do my work and do it well.

It's awesome and I am so thankful for it. I wish that kind of joy for everyone, whether it comes from your work or from something in your personal life.

Okay, that's my "how" story. It was fun to think about it again.

'Til next time...

Studio News Alert!!

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We have been really busy over the last several months (the last year, really) planning for the next phase of Lean Body Lifestyles' life as a business. It's been really difficult to keep some of this stuff under wraps! So, I am thrilled to be able roll out the first of several of those new projects on the blog today.

Drum-roll please........

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We are launching our Love Your Body course at the studio this spring! This is a class Nikki has wanted to offer for a long, long time. Those of you who know her, know that body image is an issue she is passionate about. I sat down with her a couple of weeks ago to learn more about what inspired her to create this class and her vision for how it will work.

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Erin (EP): Why did you decide we needed to offer a class about body image?

Nikki (NS): The short answer is because everyone has body image issues. The statistics on the percentage of people, women in particular, who hate their bodies are frightening. I've worked with clients who weigh under 100 pounds and I've worked with clients who weigh 400 pounds. They all have had body image issues, which tells me that the issue isn't really about the number on the scale; it's psychological and emotional. So the bad news is that if you hate your body, you're doing that to yourself. And that's sad. But the good news is that you have the power to change it. And you can.

EP: A myth about personal trainers is that, it's because we've always had positive body image and always been physically fit that we got into training in the first place. That's not true for me and I know it wasn't for you, right?

NS: Absolutely. I spent part of my adult life doing all kinds of physically unhealthy and damaging things to my body. I was diagnosed with Binge Eating Disorder and Food Addiction at one point, so when clients come to me struggling with those things or with weight or whatever, I totally get it. I am at a place now where I am completely confident in my body. I love my body. But it took work. I tell clients, and I'll tell you: I weigh 50 pounds more now than I did at my lightest, but I feel better than I ever did then. I'm happier. I'm stronger. It's important to me to get the message out that you can be 100% comfortable in your own skin, even if your weight never changes.

EP: So, how would you describe a healthy body image?

NS: Okay, one litmus test for a healthy body image is being comfortable looking at your body in a full-length mirror. When I look at myself, I notice the parts that are larger or rounder. But there's no judgement behind it. I don't think it's bad or wrong. It's just information. I'm just seeing me--not cataloging things I need to change. That's what I want every woman to experience. So one of the things we'll be doing in class is following a proven method for getting comfortable in front of the mirror. The class is going to be full of tangible, practical steps people can take to address the emotional reaction they have to their bodies. There are truly things we can do to get happy in our own skin.

EP: Talk to me about the class a little bit. What are some of the big themes or topics you're going to hit?

NS: I'm really packing a lot of content into the class. We'll be spending a big chunk of time in the beginning working on connecting to our bodies. I think many of us separate our "selves" from our physical bodies, to the degree that we aren't noticing the things it's trying to tell us. That disconnection manifests itself oftentimes in a discomfort with normal physical contact. So we'll be working on ways to build those connections between our "selves" and our bodies. We'll be working on defining happiness, increasing confidence and looking at behaviors around food and exercise.

EP: How are you structuring the class--is it a lecture format?

NS: I will definitely be doing a lot of talking, but we'll also have some group activities and, I hope, some amazing conversations. I have a curriculum planned, but am open to the reality that the content and format will be driven by the students and their interests or areas of focus.

EP: Let's talk details. What's the 4-1-1 on the class?

NS: I'm still working out some of the details, but I can tell you that it will be a 6-week long course, held in the evenings at the studio. I'm going to cap enrollment at ten women, just because I think that's the maximum number I can have and still give the kind of individual attention to everyone that I want to.

EP: So, what next? Where should people go if they are interested in more information? 

NS: Anyone who thinks they're interested in attending should contact me by email or phone and let me know. (Visit our website here to find our phone number and email address.) I'll be starting a list of potential students and they will be the first to know when the class dates, times and price are set. They'll get priority registration before we open the class up to the general public.

EP: Any other classes or events on the horizon?

NS: I have always wanted to teach a relaxation or stretching class at the studio and there has been a lot of interest in that recently from clients. So, that will probably be next. The other thing I've been thinking about is having an event series, where we would do group hikes or a bunch of us would take a dance class or something. Things that people might be intimidated to do on their own, but would love to do if they had a fun group of women to go with them.

I would honestly love to hear what kinds of classes would be most valuable to the women in our community. So, maybe if our local readers have class ideas they could leave their ideas in the Comments section of the blog or shoot us an email.

If you are interested in the body image class or in providing feedback on other classes you'd like to see at the studio, please contact us by phone or email, or you can submit your comments by filling out the form below.

[contact-form][contact-field label="Name" type="name" required="1" /][contact-field label="Email" type="email" required="1" /][contact-field label="Comment" type="textarea" required="1" /][/contact-form]

 

 

The Problem with Numbers

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I don't own a scale. Haven't for years. And the reason I don't is because the number has too much influence over my happiness. It's not something I’m proud of.

I was especially reluctant to write a post about it.

I wish it were different.

But it's not.

That number, whatever it’s been over the years (and it has been many things) has never just been an objective fact. It has always been tied to emotions of shame, if I thought the number was too high; or tied to pride, if I managed to get the number low enough.

I remember clearly the moment I became aware that it mattered how much I weighed. I was fifteen and a doctor looked at my chart, said my weight out loud and then said, “well, you’re a big, strapping girl, aren’t you?”

And I knew it wasn’t a compliment. Not the way he said it. I knew he wasn’t saying it in a good-for-you-you’re-so-strong-kind of way. He was saying I was too big.

He was saying I was fat.

And so began my obsession with weight. Not an obsession with getting healthy, mind you. Those are two very different things.

It was an obsession with making sure that the number on the scale was something I deemed acceptable.

And how did I figure out what was acceptable? Well, I turned to the media. Where else should a teenage girl go for perspective on a healthy weight, if not to women’s magazines and television?

The answer is: almost anywhere else. Truly. The acceptable numbers I came away with were low. Really low. Too low for my height and body type. Too low to achieve through healthy diet and exercise.

I have been real close to that weight over the years. I’ve also been many tens of pounds more than that. And here’s what I can tell you.

There were times when I weighed that little and felt physically weak and sick.

There have been times, like now, when I’ve weighed more than that and felt strong and healthy.

I have also been lighter than I am now and still felt good, and I’ve been heavier than I am now and felt physically awful.

So, the truth is that my weight at any given time is not the best indicator of my health. It just isn't. And weight loss has never brought me long-term, soul-deep happiness. Ever.

I know this intellectually.

But knowledge can be easily overtaken by emotion. Numbers can become more than numbers—they can become measures of your value as a person. Women are especially vulnerable to this false association.

I am.

And so, I don't expose myself to it. Because as long as I have an emotional reaction of any kind to the number on the scale. As long as it is anything more than an objective fact. As long as it would become the metric of my health, over and above how strong I am and how good I feel. As long as all of the healthy things I do for my body would be forgotten in the seconds it took for the scale to do its calculations.

It's not worth it.

While the scale is bad for me, it is not bad to want to gauge my health or to be aware of the state of my body. So, I check it in other ways--in ways that don't have the same emotional resonance.

To any of you who relate to my disordered relationship with the scale, here’s my advice: break up with it. Seriously. Setting a specific weight as a goal is a recipe for frustration, because you are tying your achievement to a result—to something over which you do not have control.

I could pick any weight I wanted and my body might never get there no matter how many healthy (or unhealthy) things I did. And if that number is my goal and I don’t reach it, then I tell myself I’m a failure.

But…

If my goal is to increase the amount of weight I can lift. Or if my goal is to hold a plank for ten seconds longer 30 days from now than I can today. If my goal is to exercise for 30 minutes, five times this week. I can reach those goals. I know how to do that. That’s about things I do. Choices I make. There are proven paths to success I can follow. Those things are about getting stronger. Healthier. Those things can happen if my weight never changes.

See the difference?

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The theme for this month is loving your body as it is now. So, we are going to spend the next several weeks talking about variations on that theme, and later this month I’ll have an announcement of something new happening at the studio. Nikki’s going to make an appearance on the blog for that. So stay tuned and I’ll see you back here next week.

 

January In Review

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Nikki and I have been working on a new project, which we are hoping to launch in the next couple of months. In the process of getting some feedback on that project, I've been talking to people a lot about their experiences working with personal trainers. I've heard stories, from people I know well, that they hadn't shared with me before. Stories about not being understood.

Stories about being asked to do exercises that were doable for their fit trainer, but frightening for them.

Stories about doing lunges across a crowded gym and feeling like everyone was watching.

Stories that, to them, might have felt like stories of failing, or of not measuring up. But to me, they were stories of bravery. It's hard to walk into a new experience; like going to a gym; like hiring a trainer. It takes guts to do something that you don't think you're good at and to keep trying until it gets easier. It takes honesty and self-reflection to notice that something in your life isn't working and it takes courage to make changes.

So, for this last post of January--of this month where we've focused on adding good things into our lives--I want to give you all a virtual high-five. If you did one new thing this month. If you focused on taking good care of yourself. If you did your healthy activity points journal. If you gave yourself permission to say no; to say yes; to sleep more; to move more; to stretch more; to eat good food; to go at your own pace.

If you did any of those things you should be proud.

And if you missed any of the posts that explain why all of those things are good, you can find links to them below. Take care and I'll see you in February!

We kicked off 2017 with our Healthy Activity Points Journal project. I gave you my Rules of Stretching. Sleep took its place as our first Healthy Activity of the month. I advocated for water. My three favorite stretches for the leg muscles got their time in the spotlight. I shared my monthly list of favorite things. And we brought it all home with a post about how to make friends with exercise. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Favorite Things

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Every month I like to compile a list of my favorite things, mostly health and fitness-related, but not always. None of the people or companies listed below paid me to try their product or to say nice things about them. If that ever changes, I will let you know. Okay, here we go. Last month I featured Nikki's favorite workout pants. This month I'm featuring mine. I love these workout capris from DYLN. They are yoga pant material, with a cute flared leg opening. I know lots of people love compression pants, but I never feel comfortable in them. They just don't look good on me and I am forever tugging at them. These, on the other hand, are perfect for me--fitted but not too tight.

This story about not letting your clothing size determine your self worth. Amen to that. Made me think about how many different sizes are represented in my wardrobe.

This recipe for brussels sprout chips from Delish! I know, I know. Brussels sprouts as a favorite thing? Really? Yes, really. These are crispy and savory and really, really good. Even without the cheese.

And if you need a sweet reward for eating your veggies, there's this Banana Cherry Garcia Soft Serve from The Simple Veganista.

Any fellow bookworms looking for a vacation destination? Check out this hotel in Portugal. It boasts a library of 50,000 books!

Speaking of books, my cousin bought me Voracious, by Cara Nicoletti, for Christmas. She shares the stories and recipes inspired by her most beloved books. It will make you nostalgic for the books you remember as a kid, and also maybe a little hungry.

I love lunch/dinner bowls and I love this article about how to put them together. Simple. Healthy. All your basic food groups covered. All in one bowl.

Anyone else struggle with removing makeup at the end of the day--especially eye makeup? It seemed like no matter what I used, my mascara and eyeliner refused to go away completely. My best friend recommended micellar water to me a couple of months ago and now it's the only thing I use. I don't use a separate cleanser or rinse my face--just this stuff and some moisturizer after. It's awesome.

Coconut oil is my go-to facial moisturizer, body lotion, frizzy hair remedy and chapped lip soother. It's like $5.99 for a huge jar at Trader Joe's. It works just as well or better than anything I've bought at Ulta and, because you don't need to use much, it lasts for a really long time.

Happy Thursday, friends! I'll be back next week with new posts.

 

Water

water-title Okay, so week two of the healthy activity points journal is under our belts! How did it go? Did 25 points seem difficult or did you smash through that goal and set a higher one for yourself this week? I tied one of my healthy activities to another and bought myself some new music on iTunes to listen to during my workouts.

Last week I wrote about sleep. Wrote many, many words about sleep. I am going to write far, far fewer words on the why and how of this next healthy activity: drinking water. But it is no less important.

Ready for the 4-1-1 on water? Here we go.

Our bodies are about 60% water and every part of your body needs that fluid in order to do what it does. Water gets rid of the toxins that build up in your organs. It is the conduit for bringing nutrients to your cells, including those muscles you target during exercise. Water keeps the parts of your body that need moisture (ears, nose and throat) hydrated. It's a multi-tasking powerhouse.

As you deplete your internal fluid reservoir through activities like breathing and perspiring, you need to replenish those fluids to avoid dehydration. Dehydration is not good. Dehydration is bad times. Dehydration = tired and sick.

So how much is enough? Well, how much you need depends on many factors. The Mayo Clinic has an article about recommended fluid intake, which you can read here.

I wanted to focus more on the “how” of getting your recommended fluid intake in this post, than on the "how much." So here are my tips and tricks for happy hydrating:

  • Invest in a stainless-steel water bottle like this one, or this one, designed to keep water cold for long periods of time. Cold water just tastes better to me than room temperature water. I keep a bottle at work and at home—basically I have one in sight all the time to remind me to drink but also to make it really easy to do so.
  • Notice that the recommendations now are for “fluids” not “water.” This means that not just plain tap water counts. You can count tea, sparkling water, soda, coffee, juice, etc. for some of it. But be careful about how much added sugar and caffeine you’re ingesting. Oh, and you'll get some fluids from the foods you eat too.
  • Add some flavor. I like plain water. I especially like it during and after a workout. But sometimes I get bored. So if you’re tired of plain water, add a slice of lemon or lime to your glass of ice water. You get the flavor of it in the water, but you also smell that fresh citrus-y smell every time you take a drink. It’s kind of a nice pampering thing to do for yourself. You’ll feel like you’re in a fancy restaurant.
  • You can use an infused water bottle like this one. These are water bottles that contain little internal baskets into which you can place slices of citrus, sprigs of mint, or berries. As you refill the bottle with water throughout the day, whatever you put in the infuser will add a bit of flavor to your water.

The goal for this week is to figure out your daily fluid goal and reach it. Make a plan for success (i.e. buying some reusable water bottles to keep in the places you spend the most time, slicing up some lemons or limes, or keeping some sparkling water in the fridge to reach for when you need some variety).

Let's bump up our healthy activity points goal to 30 this week. Add a couple of new healthy activities to your list if you want some more things to choose from. Take good care of yourselves this week and I'll see you back here Thursday!

Oh, I need to add that none of the companies whose products I linked to above have paid us to promote their products. Just wanted to give you some examples to get you started.

Healthy Activity 1: Sleep

sleep-title How did your first week of the Healthy Activity Points Journal project go? Did you find yourself struggling to reach your points goal? Were there activities that felt especially relaxing, joyful, or empowering? Did you think of new activities to add to your menu of options? Take a moment to evaluate how this first week went for you.

Remember that I asked you to include the following four things on your list: exercise, stretching, water and sleep? I think of those four things as the foundation of good health.

Historically those things have been a struggle for me to incorporate into my own life. That was especially true in the year before I became a trainer and started working for Lean Body Lifestyles. I was under a ton of financial stress; I had a job that drained me and left me exhausted at the end of the day; I had no time or energy for exercise; I rarely got more than 5 hours of sleep a night; and I was gaining weight and couldn't stop.

I didn’t feel well.

I probably wasn’t very nice to other people.

I know I wasn’t very nice to myself.

I was overwhelmed by how far I was from how I wanted to feel—from my idea of what a healthy, balanced and happy life looked like. I didn’t know how to even begin to get there. But then…

…I went in to see my doctor. I told her how frustrated I was with how I felt and how much I weighed and how impossible it seemed to do the things I knew I needed to do to fix it. I told her all of the things I just told you. And I waited for her to say the doctor version of “suck it up.”

But she didn’t. You know what she told me to do?

Sleep. She told me my only job right now was to make sure I got 7-9 hours of sleep every night. That’s it. I didn’t need to worry about changing my diet. Or getting up at the crack of dawn to exercise.

Just sleep.

And when I had done that consistently for a few weeks, I could add in one other healthy activity. Kind of like what we’re doing here with the journal project.

She gave me a tremendous gift in that moment—the permission to be kind to myself. I am telling you, when she said “just sleep” I felt like crying, I was so happy. And relieved.

Sleep? Sleep I could do. Take everything else off the list for now and just focus on sleep? Yes. Yes, please.

I had to trust that if I did that one thing, that I would know when I was ready to add more.

And I did. One day I woke up and felt like trying to exercise again.

I had to reset a couple of times. I tried to do too much, too fast. But I caught myself each time and went back to the basics. Back to sleep. Then adding one thing at a time.

There are good reasons why my doctor had me focus on sleep first. There is not a single function of the body that does not rely, in large or small part, upon getting adequate sleep. Here are just a few:

  • Sleep helps to regulate your hormones, including the hormone that generates feelings of hunger (ghrelin) and the one that gives you the signal of being satiated (leptin). If you don’t get enough sleep, the former goes up and the latter goes down. So, you feel hungry more often and have trouble feeling full, both of which can lead you to eat more.
  • Your body repairs itself during sleep. Your muscles, blood vessels, heart and other major organs use the time when you are asleep to fix damage and (in the case of your muscles) increase mass. If you exercise, sleep is when that microscopic damage you did to your muscles during your workout gets repaired and additional muscle fibers are generated.
  • Your immune system relies on sleep to function at its optimal level. Inadequate rest leaves you vulnerable to infections like the common cold, but also to chronic disease. Studies have found a relationship between insufficient sleep and an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure and stroke.
  • Your ability to complete basic and complex tasks at work, school or at home is compromised. Things can take longer, and you are more prone to making mistakes when sleep deficient. The National Institutes of Health reports that, “after several nights of losing sleep—even a loss of just 1–2 hours per night—your ability to function suffers as if you haven't slept at all for a day or two.” Your memory, athletic performance, creative powers and the ability to learn new things are all improved with adequate sleep.

Okay, so how much sleep is enough and how do we make sure we are consistently getting enough sleep? For adults ages 18-64, the National Sleep Foundation (yes, sleep is so important there are research foundations dedicated to it!), recommends between 7-9 hours per night. For adults 65 and older, the recommended range is 7-8 hours. They have a sleep duration recommendations chart, which you can access here.

The foundation also has tips for ensuring a good night’s sleep, including: sticking to a sleep schedule (even on the weekends); exercising regularly; avoiding caffeine, alcohol and using electronics in the hours before bedtime; and making sure your bedroom is dark, quiet and not too warm or too cold.

The healthy activity points task for this week is to find your ideal number of hours of sleep in that 7-9-hour range and make sure you are getting that much each night. Come up with your own bedtime ritual to follow. Maybe you light your favorite scented candle and read for an hour before sleep. Maybe you do some yoga (there are some great evening yoga dvds out there). Maybe you meditate, or journal or just sit and think about your day.

And let’s bump up our points goal to 25 this week. I know you can do it!!

Our Favorite Things

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Today seemed like a good day to share some of our current favorite things. None of the companies mentioned below know us, asked us to promote their product, or has paid us for doing so. These are just things we like and wanted to share with you. Nikki loves these Old Navy Compression Cropped Pants. They come in loads of colors and fun patterns and you can generally scoop them up for around $20 a pair.

This Spark People Total Body Sculpting Workout DVD is my favorite workout DVD of the moment. I modify it a bit to make it work for me. You can read my post with tips for making the most out of your workout DVDs here. They do a good job of providing modifications and created a nice mix of upper and lower body exercises. Oh, and they incorporate balance challenges into each of the three workouts on the DVD.

I splurged on some Zoya Natural Nail Polish this month. I love colorful nails, but am not thrilled about inhaling scary, toxic chemicals. This is a reasonably priced, natural brand, free of toxic ingredients such as toluene, camphor, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin and DBP (dibutyl phthalate).

This video from actress Danielle Brooks.

This cozy blanket by Sonoma. I got this as a Christmas gift this year and I am now dragging around my house with me, like Linus from the Peanuts cartoons. I'm always freezing and this thing keeps me warm while I do important things like binge-watching The Crown on Netflix. Anyone else watching that? It's so good!

Loving this pink(!) stainless steel cold cup from Starbucks. It's pretty and it keeps water cold for a really long time. They have it in a couple of other fun colors, including iridescent!

Holiday Wishes

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tree-with-lights-close-up Quick post from me today before I head off to visit family for some pre-Christmas festivities.

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From all of us at Lean Body Lifestyles, we wish you the happiest of holidays and look forward to seeing you either at the studio, or here on the blog in 2017!

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We have so many exciting things on the horizon for next year, so be sure to watch this space.

All our best,

Erin, Nikki and Sarah

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Making Friends With Exercise DVDs

Okay, so I love working out to exercise DVDs. Always have. The Kathy Ireland Total Fitness tape, in all its 1990s glory, was my first introduction to exercise and it retains a special place in my heart twenty-plus years later. Not kidding.

I know that thing backward and forward.  When VHS became obsolete, I bought it on DVD. It’s like my workout comfort food.

Familiar.

Safe.

Beautiful in its straightforward choreography—perfect for someone with my general lack of grace and coordination.

I was working out this morning to one of my current favorites, modifying it to compensate for pain from a knee injury. And it occurred to me that I always, always modify a workout when following along to a DVD.

No matter how good a workout is, no matter how much I might love it, I never complete it exactly as directed. I do this because no DVD is perfect and it is impossible to make one that works for everybody.

So, I change it to make it safer. To make it more effective. To increase or decrease the intensity. To compensate for current injuries, pain or limitations.

And I encourage you to do the same. So, below are some tips for getting the most out of your DVD workouts.

Tip #1: Watch it Once & Make a Plan

Seriously. Please do this.  Just sit down and watch it.

Remember how I said earlier that no workout is a perfect fit for everyone? Well, this is where you assess the parts of the workout that aren’t a good match for you and make a plan to modify it.

Come up with a couple of exercises you can use to replace the ones that seem intimidating, or too difficult, or that might be painful. Because of my knee injury, certain exercises are out.  If I see lunges or plie squats in a workout, I know I have to come up with alternatives.

There are lots of ways to work a muscle, so there is no reason to do an exercise you hate or that is painful. Research alternatives. Or, meet with a personal trainer once a month. Ask them to help you learn some new exercises to incorporate into your workouts, or tell them about the exercises on your favorite DVD and have them go through those exercises with you. They can coach you on proper form and give you some ideas for modifications.

You can also just repeat other exercises from the DVD that you like better. Try to pick something that works the same muscle group, but you can really replace it with anything you want.

And if all else fails, march in place. It will keep you moving until the DVD moves on to something else.

Tip #2: Slow It Down

Almost without exception I think the pace of strength training DVDs is too fast. I generally take 4-6 seconds to complete one repetition of any exercise. One tip to help you slow down is to pause for a second at the most challenging part of the exercise before returning to your starting position. For a squat or lunge that would be at the bottom of the movement; for a biceps curl or lateral raise it would be at the top of the movement. Pay attention to the return phase of the exercise and move slowly and with control. Work is happening in the muscle during that return phase too!

Tip #3: Take Breaks

Rarely, if ever, do I come across DVDs that include breaks in the workout. But the great thing is that you have a built-in break system—the pause button on your remote. Take breaks when you want to. Have some water. Walk around a bit. You don’t want to take a break that’s so long that your muscles get cold, but taking a minute or two as needed is important.

Tip #4: Leave Out the Weights

If the DVD includes exercises with hand weights or resistance bands, do not use them the first several times you do the workout. Focus on mastering the form for the exercise before adding weights into the equation.

Tip #5: Skip the Plyometrics (For Now)

Plyometrics, also known as jump training, is an example of advanced exercise. You should be very careful with incorporating it into your workouts. I would have to have a very good sense of a client’s fitness level before I even considered including plyometrics in a workout, and then I would be keeping an eagle eye on their form as they did them. A simple way to modify a plyometric exercise is to do the exercise they are asking you to do, but without the jumping part. So basic squats as opposed to jump squats, for example.

Tip #6: They Are Not the Boss of You

Just because someone made an exercise DVD does not mean that you must do everything they tell you to do. You know your body better than anyone. If something doesn’t feel right for your body, don’t do it. If something is painful, stop. There is a difference between the discomfort that goes along with exercise, and pain that indicates something is wrong. Trust yourself and listen to your body.

 Tip #7: Do Not Skip the Warm-Up or the Cool-Down

Often these are separate chapters on the DVD, so it’s easy to skip them. However, they are both important elements of a safe workout. The warm-up will typically include movements that work the same muscles you are about to train, but with a smaller range of motion. The cool-down will be designed to bring your heart rate back down to a resting pace and to stretch the muscles that you just trained. Muscles shorten and tighten during exercise. Stretching helps to elongate the muscles and restore them to their normal length. Stretching should feel good! You should never force a stretch. You should allow your muscles to relax into a stretch, but not to the point of pain.

 

 

 

 

Fitness Tip of the Month

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Quick check-in for me today. Every month I’ll be sharing a fun little piece of information or a new exercise, designed to help you along in your fitness journey. I learned this a couple of months ago, from a barre instructor and thought it was a cool little tip.

You know how when someone is instructing you on proper form for squats, they say “feet underneath your hips,” or “feet hip distance apart”? Well, it’s hard to know what that is since you can’t really see yourself, right?

So, the tip of the month is this: if you hop up and down three times, wherever your feet land after that third jump will be the proper distance for squats. It will be your natural “hip distance apart” stance. You don’t need to jump very high at all for this to work.

I do it all the time now before squats.

All I can say is that it’s a good thing that I don’t care at all about looking cool anymore, because I’m pretty sure I do not.

But I do look like I’m having fun.

And I am.

Things Change

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Several years ago I was OBSESSED with Pilates. The kind you do on those crazy-looking machines.

I loved how it felt.

My favorite thing was when we got to put the jump boards on the bottom and hop around.

It was a tough workout, but…

…You got to work out lying down. And that was all kinds of awesome.

The only thing I didn’t like was how expensive it was. Ultimately, I had to give it up for budget reasons. So, when I could afford Pilates again last year, I was so excited. I booked a whole bunch of sessions and headed in for my triumphant return. And…

…I HATED it. Like really hated it.

I hated how it felt.

It was tough in all the wrong ways.

I couldn’t wait for it to be over.

There was about a half a minute where I thought maybe I could talk myself into liking it again, but here’s the thing: my body was telling me that this form of exercise did not work for it right now. That’s all.

I hadn’t failed. There was nothing wrong with me or my body because I didn’t like it. I didn’t need to talk myself into anything. I just needed to move on.

It simply was not the right match for me anymore. And while I have some theories, it doesn’t really matter why. And that’s my message to you. Whether you’ve never worked out before, or are returning after a break, or are a regular exerciser who’s looking for a new kind of workout—if you try one form of exercise and it doesn’t feel right, try something else.

There is nothing wrong with you. There is nothing wrong with your body. The simple truth is that you haven’t found the right method yet. A form of exercise can be wrong for your body. Your body is not wrong.

Don’t give up. Keep trying. Go to a class that sounds interesting. Put that Amazon Prime membership to work trying out different exercise DVDs. Call a personal trainer and try working out with him or her. One of the great things about personal training is right there in the name—it’s personal. Trainers have an exercise library in their brains and can help you try different kinds of movement until you find something you like.

Depending on the demands being placed on your body, or the kind of workout program you’ve been following lately, certain kinds of movement will feel better than others at a given time. Pay attention to how you feel and to what your body is trying to tell you. Don’t force it to bend to your will. Give it the opportunity to exercise in a way that makes you feel strong and healthy.

Group Exercise Classes

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It’s totally normal to be intimidated by exercise--especially group exercise. I say that as a personal trainer, but also as someone who has taken a variety of classes over the years. I thought it would be a good idea to write a bit about strategies for confronting potentially intimidating exercise scenarios, starting with group classes.

Meet the Instructor

Before signing up, ask to come by the studio or gym and meet the instructor. Ask as many questions as you need to feel comfortable. Let he or she know about any concerns you have. This is not an inconvenience. Any good trainer or teacher will want to meet you in advance too. Their job is to create a safe and effective experience for everyone and they cannot do that if they don’t take the time to get to know you. If they don’t ask you about your exercise history, any injuries or illnesses in your past or present, or about any limitations your physician has placed on your physical activity, do not sign up to work with them. If they seem uninterested or annoyed that you want to meet, find a different instructor.

Show Up Early

Arrive 5-10 minutes early and re-introduce yourself to the instructor. Remind him or her that you are new and ask them where they’d like you to station yourself for class. Often, instructors want you up front when you’re new so that they can keep an eye on you, check-in with you periodically and assist you with form or modifications if necessary.

Scope Out Your Surroundings and Make an Exit Plan

Another reason to show up early is so that you can get comfortable in your new environment.

Find the water fountain so that you can get water when you need to. Identify the exit nearest you so that if you need to take a bathroom break or if you need to leave during class, you know the route.

And know that it is okay to leave. No one knows your body better than you do. No one. Not a personal trainer. Not a group fitness instructor. Not the person next to you in class. If you are in pain. If you are physically or emotionally uncomfortable. Leave.

You don’t need to explain yourself. You don’t need to feel guilty. If a class or an exercise feels wrong to you, it’s wrong for you. It doesn’t mean that you failed or that exercise isn’t for you. It just means you need to find something that’s a better fit. That’s all.

Take Breaks

A good instructor will work breaks into the class. But you are the boss of you, so you can take breaks whenever you want, as often as you want. No matter how long you’ve been taking the class, no matter your level of fitness, you decide when you need to stop, rest or have some water.

No responsible instructor will be upset with you for taking a break. They will be relieved that you are listening to your body and will empower you to continue to do so. They want you to have the best possible experience in their class so that you come back again and again.

Bring a Buddy

Having a friend with you can be a great way to dial down the fear of doing something new, with a bunch of strangers, in a new place.

Most People Are Focused on Themselves. Really.

One of the things that causes anxiety around exercise, whether it’s joining a gym or signing up for a class, is the idea that other people will be watching and judging you. But here’s the thing: most people are so focused on what they’re doing that they aren’t paying any attention to you. Truly. No matter how long they’ve been taking the class, everyone is probably learning something new and worried about doing it right. If you find that someone is looking at you, chances are they aren’t sure whether they are doing the movement correctly and are looking to you for guidance. I know I’ve done that!

Group classes can be a great source of community—lots of people take them for that very reason. We all need a support system, especially when it comes to healthy behaviors. If you have the support of your family and friends, your classmates can add to your cheering section. But many people don’t get the encouragement they need from the people closest to them, so classmates become a vital source of encouragement.

One Last Thing...

One day, probably much sooner than you think, you won't be the “new” person anymore. You’ll walk into class and see an unfamiliar, maybe slightly apprehensive-looking, face in the room. Please introduce yourself. Offer some tips or practical advice based on your experience. Tell them something you love about the class. Be one of the reasons why they have a great first day.

You’ve been that person. You’ve been new. You’ve been intimidated. You can relate.  It’s a powerful thing and something you can use to help others.

 

Photo Shoot Day!

Hello again! Hope you’re having a great week. It’s December already. How did that happen? There are some exciting things on the way for the studio! And in preparation for that, we did something I had certainly never done before…

We had a photo shoot! With a professional photographer and everything. She had fancy lenses. And one of those shiny silver foam boards that does something very important—filter the light maybe?

Anyway, Nikki, Sarah and I had a great time, despite our limited nonexistent experience being professionally photographed. I captured some behind-the-scenes images and thought you might want to see them.

Enjoy!

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Our craft services table (cue the fancy showbiz terminology!) and the spread from the event we hosted last month should explode the notion that personal trainers don’t eat. These personal trainers LOVE food.

We may have slightly overpacked. I think we each had like six changes of clothes. I didn’t change at all, save for having some photos with my jacket on and some with it off. Nikki changed once. But I guess it’s better to have too many outfits than too few.

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See, fancy lenses!

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And fancy, silvery board thingy!

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Fun fact one: doing a squat is a far, far less awkward experience than having someone photograph you doing a squat. Nothing makes you more aware of every single thing your body is doing at a given moment than having a camera pointed at you while you do it. That's Nikki up there on squat number 212, demonstrating bad squat form and probably wishing she had drafted Sarah or me to model for that shot!

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This is our awesome photographer, Willow, explaining to Sarah and Nikki how important it is that however awkward they feel they must try to look like they have never had more fun in their lives.

Fun fact two: no matter how long you’ve worked with someone, it is always weird to spend extended periods of time looking at each other and smiling. I don't have a photo to illustrate that. I just needed to say it. Awkward.

And finally, a few more of the photo shoot. Above you see Willow doing triple duty as photographer, choreographer and hair stylist.

The photos from this shoot will be appearing on the website soon. I'll try to give you a heads up when that happens. I've seen them and they turned out great!

As always, we welcome your comments or questions in the Comments section below.

Have a great weekend, friends!

Erin