How to Become Unf*ckwithable in 5 Easy Steps

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Yea, that’s right. UNFUCKWITHABLE. Otherwise known as: Unshakeable. Confident. Resilient. Unbothered by the opinion of others. Ambitious. Fierce. Happy in your skin. Self reliant. Self assured. Unapologetically you. True to yourself in every badass way. Living the life you’ve always wanted. Basically, the Beyonce of your own life. 

How does one become an unfuckwithable woman, you ask? In these 5 easy steps.

 

 

1. FIND YOUR STRENGTH

More often than not, finding your physical strength acts as a catalyst for finding your internal strength. Getting the opportunity to put value in your body’s function rather than form can be a life altering experience for most women. The legs that you hide in warm weather because of lumps and bumps take on a whole new meaning when they are deadlifting twice your bodyweight, running you across a finish line, or jumping you into a feeling of accomplishment in the gym. Your broad shoulders that you cover in tee shirts become precious assets when they are pulling your body up over a bar, busting out push ups like you never thought possible, or stabilizing an impressive handstand hold.

While everyone’s flavor of sport varies (#doyou), something must be said for the magic that happens when a woman picks up a barbell. It’s like she immediately rebels against the society that is asking her to be smaller, daintier, quieter, and is instead intent on being bigger, louder and stronger. This act in itself can set off a domino effect of badassery, making you immediately one step closer to being unfuckwithable.

Move. Push your limits. Get strong. Challenge your body and blow your own damn mind. 

SheThrives unfuckwithable

 

2. TAP INTO YOUR POWER

Too often in life we walk around feeling like we’re the victim of bad circumstance and we just throw our hands up in resignation and say there’s nothing we can do about it. That shit is a cop out, and you can’t be unfuckwithable if you’re living in a victim mentality, period. It’s time for us to make an important distinction. Take a close look around every corner of your life. Everything will fall squarely into one of two categories: the things we can change, and the things we cannot. And if you’re honest with yourself, the things in the Can Change bucket is probably upwards of 90% of what you’re looking at.

We do not give ourselves enough credit for the control we have over our own lives. And the place that control is hiding? Your mindset. You’ve got more power sitting in your own damn mind than you could ever realize, and we’ve got to tap into that well. Don’t like your job? Quit. Don’t like your neighborhood? Move. Don’t like how your clothes fit? Do something about it. Don't like your mood? Change it.

Some changes require more work (and risk-- we'll get to that in a minute) than others, but don’t let the excuses and overwhelm confuse anything here: your life is up to you. And only you. No one else is going to make a change for you, so take responsibility and step the fuck up. And don’t be scared, because it’s the most liberating feeling you could possibly hope for. This is where confidence gets born. Oh and those things you can’t change? Stop fighting with them and embrace them. There’s power there, too.

Own your choices. Take the wheel. Step up to the plate of your own life. Feel the rush that comes when you finally tap into your internal power. 

 

3. KNOW WHO YOU ARE

You might think I’m full of it to sit here and recommend you spending time in the self help corner of your local bookstore, but the wealth of knowledge you will find there is unparalleled. Doing research into who you are can have one of the biggest payoffs in not only your relationship with yourself, but your relationship with those around you: from your mailman to your colleagues to your partner.

How do you respond to conflict? Expectations? Rules? Set backs? Being told no? Do you know the difference between what you actually love doing and what you think you should love doing? How do you show love? How do you tackle to-do lists and deadlines and big scary goals? How do you cope with stress? How do you react to challenge, curiosity, control? How about competition or recognition? Are you intrinsically or externally motivated? Are you drained or renewed by alone time? I could go on. (The Queen of Kingdom Know Thyself, IMO, is Gretchen Rubin, and her books can be an excellent starting place.)

You might just find that you've been more focused on trying to be who you think you should be than who you truly are. No matter what you discover, it's a goldmine.

Research your own damn self. Take every quiz (The Four Tendencies, Myers Briggs, Strengths Finder, Love Language, zodiac, whatever!), read every book, be honest with your introspection. This data is invaluable and can change everything in your ability to enact change, pursue goals, and build an unfuckwithable life.

Closely related and worth noting: know who the people around you are. They impact you in big ways, and as Maya Angelou once said, “when someone shows you who they are, believe them”. In other words, know who’s worth your precious time & energy, and vet your inner circle with care.

 

she thrives unfuckwithable

 

4. STOP APOLOGIZING FOR ALL OF THE ABOVE

Have you ever stopped to count the amount of times you say the word “sorry” on any given day, for any given reason? The average woman is apologizing for everything, all the time: for reaching for the same thing at the same time as someone else, for not hearing someone when they’re mumbling, for being bumped INTO (wtf?), for speaking up, for having an opinion, for taking up space, for existing. Can we fucking stop apologizing already? 

Not only do we NOT need to apologize for the awkward moments in our day that do not warrant an apology by ANY stretch, but it’s time to stop issuing apologies for our strength, for our bodies, for our internal power, for our intelligence, for our ambition, and for knowing who we are. Stop apologizing for living the life you want, and stop handing out your precious fucks to things that don't deserve them-- save them instead for what truly matters. Bending your life over backwards to accommodate someone else's idea of success, beauty, or happiness is no way to live. Do you, unapologetically. 

Anyone who takes issue with the stereotype you’re breaking, the status quo you’re ignoring, the rules you are rewriting, and the noise you are making along the way, is someone who should be schooled, not apologized to. Believe that.

Own your voice. Take up space. Be proud of you. Stop. saying. sorry.

 

SheThrives unfuckwithable

5. BET ON YOU

When it’s time to take a risk, make a change, go out on a limb, face a transition, or gamble on a decision, where are you putting your money? To be unfuckwithable, it’s got to be on YOU, every. damn. time.

Having faith in your ability to succeed, adapt, or ultimately make it through any sort of risk is paramount to an unfuckwithable life. Sure, the what-ifs can go on for days, and the consequences could be dire, and the loss could be great. You might fall. But, what if you fly? When it comes down to the wire and it’s time to take a leap, you’ve got to jump, and know that no matter where you land, you’re going to be fine (in fact you’ll probably be exactly where you need to be). There will always be a safety net to your leaps of faith, because YOU, my dear, are the net. 

Trusting your gut and believing in yourself enough to take action can be scary at first, I’ll grant you that. If you’re not there yet, simply repeat steps 1-4 until you start to feel it. (Or read this great list of tips for getting out of your comfort zone). And when you feel it, you’ll know.

You’ll have a deep rooted confidence in who you are. You’ll feel empowered and know you can pursue anything you want in life, no matter how scary, daunting or risky. You'll listen less and less to the naysayers and the haters and more to your own mind and your own gut. You’ll understand that no matter what the outcome may be, and no matter what you may lose, you will never lose yourself, and that is your superpower. 

 

You’ll be confident. You’ll be strong in every sense of the word. You’ll know what’s worth giving your fucks to and what should roll off your back. You’ll be a leader. You’ll have harnessed your power. You’ll be a force to be reckoned with. You will be unfuckwithable. 


PSST

THESE 5 THINGS ARE THE BACKBONE OF WHAT I TEACH. If you like what you’re seeing and are ready to go from a passive consumer of this information, to actually IMPLEMENTING it in your life, come join me in She Thrives Academy:


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Is Happy Hour Holding Your Fitness Goals Hostage?

How alcohol is holding your fitness goals hostage

I feel like the parents who just came home early from vacation to find their teenager hosting a super fun party at their house. I'm SO SORRY to break up the party, but if I've gotta be the uncool buzz kill in order for you to better understand how to reach your health goals, so be it.

I get it. I love a good drink too. I REALLY do. But before you start sending hate mail, hear me out. I do want to make it perfectly clear up front that YES, it is absolutely possible to drink occasionally and be a fit, healthy, happy person. I'm not trying to scare you or send a single tear down your cheek in mourning of your nightly glass (or 2) of wine.  

What I am trying to do is bring a little tough love and information to the table here, and let you know that if you have serious fitness, body composition (read: fat loss), or overall health + wellness goals that you're intent on actually reaching, this is something you're going to need to hear. And please note that I would NEVER want to tell you that you have to live a boring, unfun life in exchange for your fitness goals. Forcing yourself into a shitty, unsustainable life for the sake of a few lbs is never a good strategy. I am merely bringing some hard facts to light that you can choose to do what whatever you please with.

Because the truth is, for an incredibly large population of people, cutting back on the booze for a stretch of time is the single most effective thing they could do to catapult them towards their goals. I'm always a little surprised when I find out just how much most people drink on a regular basis, and while I always say YOU DO YOU BOO, I also want be sure that you know exactly what it is you're actually doing when you crack a beer at the end of your work day or down more than 2 drinks more than 2 or 3 times a week, especially when you're training hard and/or looking for some results.

So take a seat, brace yourself, and read about how that happy hour might be working against you. (And be sure to make it all the way to the bottom because I'm sharing some exciting news with you!)

is alcohol holding your fitness goals hostage

 

HEY METABOLISM, YOU'RE DRUNK

Here's the deal: that glass of wine is royally fucking with your body's metabolism and it's ability to burn fat. Your body can't store booze, so it prioritizes metabolizing it at the cost of everything else. It messes with your blood sugar regulation and its ability to create and maintain healthy levels of glucose in your blood stream, which isn't really helping the situation either.

Basically your body becomes completely obsessed with being able to metabolize (and ultimately get rid of) the booze as fast as it can; this takes top priority and your normal fat burning gets completely stopped during this process. Which makes it pretty easy to see that if you are having cocktails or IPAs a few nights a week, you are literally putting a freeze on your fat loss efforts

Not only are you keeping your progress firmly where it is, but you are likely actually moving the needle in the opposite direction altogether. The calories per gram in alcohol is 7, which is (if you read my post about macros, you'll know is) close to same amount of calories per gram as fat. Except that fat comes with real, vital nutrition for your body, and alcohol comes with nothing except for high quality texts to your ex. (No thank you).

This is where the term "empty calories" comes from. You're taking in a pretty substantial amount of cals and absolutely zero nutrition to accompany it. In fact, many of those mixers and juices that you're mixing with your booze is only adding (LOTS of) sugar to the equation, so you can really begin to see how fast these things add up-- and ultimately cost you your ability to lose body fat.

(And I haven't even touched on the fact that drinking also makes you hungry and lowers your inhibitions all at once, setting you up for less than awesome food choices on top of all of this metabolic disfunction, cuz you already knew that).

In short, each drink is basically a Snickers bar going down the hatch. Is there a time and place for Snickers and drinks? Um, duh. But:

There's no two ways about it, friends. If you're trying to lose body fat, going dry -- or damn near! -- for a stretch is your golden ticket. Period.

 

OH MUSCLE, WHERE ART THOU?

(AND WHY AM I SO SORE?)

Booze is a diuretic which means that it not only gives you a headache and makes you pee 84 times an hour (TYSM), but it subsequently dehydrates your body. And you know what really doesn't like to be dehydrated on a regular basis? Those guns. Your muscles need to be well hydrated in order for protein synthesis to go down. Otherwise, just like those fat loss efforts, this process gets completely put on hold.

The other thing that drink is doing, whether you realize it or not, is interfering with your sleep. By now we ALL now how absolutely earth-shatteringly PARAMOUNT sleep is to your recovery, right? Right?! Not only does it make your actual sleep less sound in general, but it interferes with the natural muscle repair process that's supposed to happen during that time. 

BUT WAIT THERE'S MORE. The way alcohol fucks with your metabolism, hormones, sleep and protein synthesis, can also make your energy levels crash faster than Friends spinoff show, making it way harder for you to perform your best and give all you've got in your training sessions.

If you're putting in the time and the effort in the gym, but not seeing or feeling the results that you feel like you should be, this could be the culprit. And if you're training especially hard, and are making a bee line for a fitness or strength goal, booze not only isn't helping you-- it's actually holding you back.

alcohol and fitness

 

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT HOW YOU'RE USING IT

Aside from all the physical components to regular drinking that are contributing to either stalling or reversing your fitness and health goals, we need to look a bigger issue in the eye here:

What role is alcohol playing in your life? Is it filling an emotional void? Is it a coping mechanism? Is it your go-to way to deal with stress? Is it the only way you can feel comfortable in social situations? Is it an outlet for something bigger than you're not properly addressing?

Because chances are good that if you have a hard time limiting this behavior, it's not just because you "really enjoy it". It could be covering up, feeding into, or compounding a much bigger issue. 

If you take the time to ask the hard questions here and look at what might be really going into WHY you feel like you need to reach for a drink as often as you do, you'll be one BIG step closer to being able to find yourself an alternative that will actually support your goals. And likely make you a whole lot happier, to boot.

***If you need help asking or answering these questions, I've got some good news for you!  THE NUTRITION LAB kicks off on Monday, 9/11, and we are facing these questions and lots more. It's a 5 week, in depth, step by step program to get you to stop guessing and fighting with food, to finding you totally happy place, freedom and balance. Learn more here:

Registration closes on Saturday 9/9, so don't miss out!

 

So party people, the bottom line is this: Is there a way to enjoy alcohol as part of a happy, balanced, healthy life? Hells to the fuck yes. And I've been known to throw some tequila + sodas back like it's going out of style, myself. But I do it with intention, with the knowledge of how it's affecting my body, and with enough rarity that I don't let it squash my wellness goals.

And hey, if you're content trading in your fitness goals in exchange for happy hour, the more power to you, and far be it from me to say that's not ok! Seriously. Because again, I'm not trying to get you to trade in the enjoyability of your life in exchange for those last 5-10 lbs (did you read this post I shared on my IG?). But I hope you'll be honest with yourself how and WHY you're using it, and remember that if you're on a mission, alcohol is not helping you hit your goals, plain and simple. And the more you drink (both in frequency and in volume), the more you actually risk undoing all your hard work.

Do with this information as you will, friends. Cheers.

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The KB Swing Mistakes I See All the Time & How to Fix Them

Kettlebell work (and especially the swing) is pretty mainstream these days, and people everywhere are doing them-- from the 24 Hour Fitness goers, to CrossFitters, the at-home fitnessers and everything in between.

It's sort of a misleading move because it seems intuitive and simple (just use your hips to swing the bell up as high as you can, right?), but there's actually a few important components and tweaks that will ensure you're not only doing this move SAFELY, but efficiently.

As a CrossFit coach, I tend to see the same handful of mistakes over and over again with athletes, so I wanted to address the top 5 here today. And full disclosure, after filming the errors for this video, my back hurt for about 2 days. (It's fine it'll be ok I promise!) But that's a huge sign that if you're making any of these mistakes, chances are, your back isn't happy about it.

Are you making any of theses mistakes? I hope this video helps make your KBS stronger than ever, and if it helps at all, please leave a comment and let me know!

And hey ps: thanks, fam, for your patience as I learn how to make these how-to videos for you! I'm learning as I go here so I appreciate you comin' along with me! :)

 

 Watch this video on YouTube (ideal for mobile viewing)

And if you haven't yet, please SUBSCRIBE to my YOUTUBE CHANNEL!

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Do Gyms Intimidate You? They Used to Scare Me Too

If you told me 5 years ago that the gym would be my place of both work and play, that I'd spend my days throwing barbells around and teaching people how to move well and get strong, all while wearing spandex day in and day out, I would've laughed right in your face.

Gyms made me wildly uncomfortable. If I had to go, I'd wear the baggiest stuff I owned, and I certainly wasn't anywhere *near* knowing what I was doing. I'd hide in the corners and untangle my headphones 40 times and maybe run on the treadmill for a little because that's what the girls always seemed to do, but only if I could find one in the back of the room where no one could see how much my body jiggled when I ran. The whole experience front to back was scary, stressful, far from fun, and clearly not for me. Man, how times have changed.

Ladies, I need you to know this. 👉 The gym IS FOR YOU, if that's where you want to be. Though it can be intimidating at first, I don't want you to ever believe that this space can't be yours, for any reason. That you can't someday learn how to barbell and feel comfortable (confident, even!) walking around in yoga pants, or even teach other people how to do the same, if that's what you want.

Never let anyone make you feel like you aren't ready, worthy, or welcome in these spaces, no matter where you're coming from or what you look like. Keep showing up and own that shit.

 


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Fitness & Beyond: The Secret To Finding & Keeping Motivation

The Secret to Finding and Keeping Motivation for Health, Fitness + Beyond

Making it to the gym regularly. Reorganizing your office. Choosing to eat better. Making that dentist appointment you’ve been putting off.  Starting that business.

We all have these things that seem to live perpetually on the bottom of our to-do lists, and never actually ever get done. Whether they’re big projects or tiny tasks, we find them entirely overwhelming and sit around waiting for motivation to hit us before we attempt to tackle them. 

Sometimes those things require overwhelming upkeep need to be added into our daily or weekly habits and routines, like regularly making time for the gym, meal prep, or self care. Sometimes they are overwhelming one-time to-do’s like cleaning out the garage, writing that overdue thank you note (why does that one always seem so daunting?!), or donating those old clothes. And sometimes they’re both - something that takes both a big initial kick and regular upkeep, like finally creating and maintaining that blog, or starting the new side hustle you’ve been dreaming about, which can seem doubly overwhelming.

With all the responsibilities, stress and directions we get pulled every day, between work, kids, home, family, friends, money, health, pets, housework, and so on, most of the time we barely have our head above water and are struggling to keep up as is- let alone have time or energy to give to learn Spanish. If you’re anything like me, the more to-do’s pile up, the more behind I get, and the more stressed out I become, I tend to shrink away, shut down, do less, and become almost paralyzed by ALL THE THINGS. Which then becomes the feedback loop from hell, as more things pile up and all I can do is watch with anxiety and horror, motionless, with eyes like saucers as the stress level rises and rises. Then I’ve really gone and fucked myself. Sound familiar?

So. Whether you’re pinned under an ALLTHETHINGS 21 car pile up, or you have things generally under control but just can’t seem to ever get yourself to do that one thing you’ve been wanting to, where do you find the motivation to make a change?

Finding focus can be a struggle- we've all been there.

Finding focus can be a struggle- we've all been there.

 

Here’s the truth, and it’s probably one you don’t want to hear, but it’s important: the lightning bolt of motivation will not appear out of blue sky and strike down upon you the will to make a change. Though every so often, a rogue spark of inspiration may hit (maybe from reading a book or seeing something that triggered an action or idea), if you are living your life scrolling instagram for that one inspirational post to catapult you into lasting action, you’re making a grave mistake, and here’s why. 

Motivation doesn’t appear until action has been taken. Yeah, let that one sink in. Read it again, say it out loud, write down, and believe it, because it’s science. (But really though: Newton's first law of motion is the concept of inertia: bodies at rest tend to stay at rest and bodies in motion tend to stay in motion). You know before when I talked about that really shitty do-nothing feedback loop? Well it works the opposite way too. When you take action, whether it’s big or small, the feeling of reward and accomplishment is almost always great enough for you to want to take another step or do it again. Taking action is where you find motivation. It doesn’t come from nowhere, it comes from you.

 

One of my favorite takeaways from Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Happiness Project, was her idea that before she started anything, she needed to “tackle a nagging task”. (Read: that thing that’s been full on squatting on your to-list for so long that’s thisclose to actually owning it). What you’ll find is that when you just WOMAN UP and tackle that oh so annoying task, you’ll feel rejuvenated and immediately think, “ok, what next?”, ready to take on the next thing. It won’t be long until you’re a full blown productivity Sharknado, knocking out all those emails, chores, and errands you’ve been putting off for months.

You want to make it to the gym 4 days a week but where do you find the motivation? Do you sit around thinking about when to do it, and then dance around deciding if you feel up to it today? NO. You lace up your walking shoes and put a leash on your fur baby (or strap on your human baby, or put a leash on your human child or strap on your fur baby, I mean really, no judgement here) and you get outside. (And then do it again tomorrow, and the next day)

Wish you had the motivation to work out? Step one is going to the gym.

Wish you had the motivation to work out? Step one is going to the gym.

The sweet, sweet wave of momentum here will be instantly noticeable, and you may decide to turn those walks into longer walks or runs, or trade in that time for the gym, now that you know you can carve out 60 minutes to make it happen. And what you’ve managed to do then, is make it part of your routine- you’ve made it a habit, which is exactly what you want.

People ask me all the time where I find the motivation to work out and eat well. On the workout side, I do it because it’s simply habit for me at this point, plain and simple. It’s what I do. I wish I had something more romanticized to say about that, but this is the secret about motivation: it doesn't last forever. I'm rarely "motivated" to go to the gym every day. I started CrossFit one day, fell in love with it, went 3-4 times a week, and it became my routine. I’ve been doing it so long now that when I have a week where I don’t go as much or at all, I feel off, my mood sinks, my sleep suffers, and I get into a funk. So my "motivation" for continuing to go, you could say, is to not feel crappy. (Have you seen my Snapchat chat on this topic? It's over in the VIDEOS tab!)

And when it comes to nutrition, I choose food that will support me feeling good in the gym- so it’s no surprise that when I’ve been out of the gym for a while, I don’t make the best nutrition choices. Because when I eat well, I feel strong, and feeling strong in the gym makes me feel unstoppable, and that feeling gives me life, and so on (the positive feedback loop). And it all began with me just taking action, taking a risk and walking into a gym one day.

The point here is that the concept of motivation is a slippery one to grasp, because not only do you have to create it yourself, but it doesn't last. When you've created the spark and the will to make a change, you've got to act on it to get momentum going, and then actively work to keep it up. The "motivation" may fade away in time but what you're hopefully left with is a lasting habit, mindset, routine and lifestyle.

And here’s the best part: more often than not, these action steps are transferrable! Meaning, cleaning out your closet or painting your living room may VERY WELL grant you the motivation to lace up those running shoes or do a meal prep sesh, and vice versa. Because the fastest way to feel like you're in control and on top of your shit and doing the things you want to be doing, is to get on top of your shit and do the things you want and get in control. ACT and then ride the wave of momentum.

 So no matter what you are hoping to tackle or accomplish, here are some action steps to do right now to start making some shit happen:


Do this:

 

  1. First things first. If you’re stuck under the ALLTHETHINGS stress accident and need some time away, take it. Take a weekend off of everything, clear your mind, delete social media apps, take baths, etc. Take the time to tune out the noise, reclaim your headspace, find your energy and refresh your life. This is important.
  2. Next, use that clarity to decide what you really want to do. Do you really want to CrossFit 4x a week or would you rather take a hip hop class? Are you needing more time away to decompress on the regular? Are you really excited about starting a blog or is it just what you think you should do? (A whole post on "shoulds" coming soon). What is it that you want? 
  3. Write out your to do list(s) and the things you want to accomplish in no particular order- just all the shit that needs doing. If it helps you to write separate lists from each area of your life (housework, work, side hustle, etc), do it. Just get it all out of your head and to a place you can see it.
    • Comb through your list and rewrite it based on priority. If you know a few tasks are time sensitive, push those to the top, and the things that can wait go to the bottom. (Take a hard look at the things “that can wait”. Are any of those things that you’ve already been putting off for a long time?) Figure out what's important, and then:
  4. Tackle a nagging task. The thing that you think about and groan over while you’re trying to fall asleep, the thing that gives you anxiety when you remember you’ve been ignoring it, the thing that full on nags you, stresses you the fuck out and you really, really don’t want to do. Think like Nike and just FUCKING DO IT. (Sorry for yelling I’m just getting excited here ok?) 
    • If getting active is on your wishlist, tackle a nagging health task too. Lace up your shoes, pop in P90X, join that gym, sign up for that dance class you’ve been dreaming about, arrange for child care to allow the time for it all, etc. Just take one step, do one thing, no matter how small.
  5. Book it in. So now that you've got the annoying stuff out of the way and you have some order to your life, make the appointment, schedule in your gym days, reserve your spot in class, clear a morning for decluttering your office, etc. Actually put this stuff into your calendar and respect it's place in there. This time you're not pushing it off for later- it's booked in, you've made the time for it and you're getting it done. (Bringing a friend along for the ride can up your chances of sticking to it).
    • Keep putting these things on your calendar for at least 8 weeks- by that point things should become routine, but until then, make sure you create the time and respect your promise to yourself.
  6. And when you whittle away that to-do list, rinse and repeat. 

A good reminder

 

Cuz here’s the bottom line: it can feel oh so convenient and cozy and easy to think that these things are just out of our hands- that we have no say or control until the elusive Motivation Fairy chooses to bestow us with a sprinkle of go-get-‘em dust, but that’s just not how this works. The things we want in life become ours when we choose to make it so, and then take action. When we look them right in the face and attack them head on, when we step out of our comfort zone and make a change (cue Man in the Mirror). Action first, motivation second.

So here’s your go-get-‘em dust. What are you going to do with it?

XO,

Taylor

 

 

 

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Your Stories: In Depth With Elisabeth Akinwale

If you're a CrossFitter, Elisabeth Akinwale is a household name. She's a five times Games competitor and qualified for her first Games a staggering eight months after discovering CrossFit in 2010. It comes as no surprise that she's been an athlete all of her life, starting as a gymnast at the age of 4, and has collected an impressive array of distinctions and awards in various sports.

She lives in Chicago with her partner and her son, and I was thrilled when I found out that she would be attending the Girls Gone Strong Women's Strength and Empowerment Weekend here in Seattle. I have always been a huge fan, and admired her grounded and thoughtful approach to fitness, culture, body image and life. I jumped at the chance to be able to interview her, as she is always sharing such insightful and inspirational words on her social media platforms that impact thousands of women, in hopes of sharing more of her personal story with you here.

She is currently rebuilding her site and creating lots of great content over at ElisabethAkinwale.com, so be sure to check that out, and for all of the images from our photoshoot, head here. Let's get right into it!

 

 

YOU'RE CURRENTLY NOT TRAINING TO COMPETE IN CROSSFIT. WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO SIT THE SEASON OUT? WILL YOU COMPETE AGAIN IN THE FUTURE? WHAT DOES YOUR TRAINING LOOK LIKE NOW?

There were a number of factors that contributed to me deciding not to compete in CrossFit this season. Overall, I try to be intentional about the direction I’m taking in my life. But there was a period of time I was competing in large part because of inertia. It was something I had been doing and I just kept doing it because I love training, and competing had become a natural part of the yearly cycle. It was important to me that people of color be represented out on that Games floor, so I carried that torch for some time. When I took a step back and assessed the whole picture, I realized that there were a lot of exciting things that I’ve wanted to pursue, but haven’t because of the demands of competition and training.

I want to challenge myself in other ways, and make more concrete contributions to the world around me, which requires time and effort committed to those endeavors. I’m not a fan of the idea that you can have it all. I don’t believe any one person can do it all, do it well, and do it at the same time. All of us have a limit to our resources, and competing in CrossFit doesn’t hold the same meaning for me that it once did, and therefore doesn’t deserve the commitment of resources that it takes to compete at a high level. It’s all about being clear with what I value in my life and making decisions accordingly.

ONE OF THE THINGS YOU SPEAK A LOT ABOUT IS YOUR MOTHERHOOD. HOW DOES BEING A MOTHER INTERPLAY WITH YOUR CAREER AS AN ATHLETE? ARE THERE CHALLENGES? HARMONY?

My life as a mother, and a co-parenting mom specifically, is essentially why I became a competitive athlete again in my mid-thirties. I started CrossFit in the wake of a divorce and really threw myself into it as a coping strategy to manage the pain and empty spaces when I didn’t have my son with me. Spending time at the gym, building friendships, working on skills, etc., was a great distraction at the time, and grew into something much more.

Being a mother and competitive athlete was a gift to my son in that he had a front row seat to my process of setting and striving to achieve goals. He probably has a better sense of everything that goes into being a CrossFit Games athlete than most, since he’s been part of the 24 hours a day, week in and week out commitment for years on end. He’s seen me live an empowered and self-determined life, and he most definitely views women as strong and capable. 

Being a mother made me a better competitive athlete because he’s always kept me well grounded in what is most important. I’ve been incredibly disciplined with my time, energy and focus in order to keep my competitive life rolling, while trying not to make it the focus of his life.

There are absolutely challenges with being a mother and a competitive CrossFit athlete- that’s why there are decreasing numbers of mothers reaching the highest levels of competition. The nature of the training is very time and energy intensive. Many high level coaches want their athletes to crave being in the gym more than anything else. As a mother I can say upfront, that never has been and never will be the case for me. I’m also the head of my household, and have responsibilities like putting food on the table, paying for tuition and activities, being present and having energy for my son. These things can difficult when you’re spending hours upon hours training every day. Frankly, training makes me a better mother, but training to compete, at this point, doesn’t.

I LOVE THE WAY YOU CELEBRATE YOUR BODY FOR IT'S CAPABILITIES, ADAPTABILITY, STRENGTH, AND POWER. WAS THERE A DEFINING MOMENT THAT ALLOWED YOU TO SEE YOURSELF THIS WAY? WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE WOMEN WHO ARE STRUGGLING TO SEE THEIR BODY IN THIS LIGHT?

There are lots of cultural elements involved with the idea that women would be viewed as anything but capable, adaptable, strong and powerful. In some ways, being boxed in as frail or less physically capable is the battleground of middle class white women, and femininity itself has been defined within those constraints, which is why we see Black women who display strength, physical and intellectual power (Serena Williams and Michelle Obama come to mind) being called masculine. 

My perception of the female body was first shaped by my image of my mother. Growing up I saw my mother as endlessly strong, and the furthest thing from frail, or any other dominant image of how femininity is displayed. For my entire childhood my mother worked overnights on her feet as a machine operator, and usually had one or two additional part-time jobs. The idea of a woman being strong and physically capable was never a question. I have an older sister who is my sports role model and we were both encouraged in our physicality. Based on this foundation, I’ve escaped the hang-ups some women have about claiming their strength.

We grew up in a sports centered household, and I started sports when I was 4. And I loved it. I like to feel my body move, I like feeling myself breathing, feeling my muscles work. During my childhood I had numerous surgeries for a health condition. My athletic career as a gymnast included seven knee surgeries. So I've had some experiences that make me appreciate my body for just existing, being able to move and take me through activities I enjoy. 

Just living life has shaped my perspective, as it does for any of us.  After I had my son I went from being a gym rat to focusing on being a mother and not so much time on my fitness. My initial venture back into training was just going on walks twice a week. It wasn't intense, but after not being as active walking just felt good.  We should allow ourselves the simple joy of feeling our bodies and experiencing the world in them. I think of women who want to stay covered at the beach because they don't think their body is fit to be seen.  I’m like, you know what feels great? The sun on your skin. You know what feels good? The wind against your skin.  Your body exists for reasons more than what it looks like. This is part of fully experiencing your life. 

Seeing yourself as what you fully are, or what you are fully capable of as a human being, requires that you be willing and brave enough to step outside of the box that’s been devised for you. These boxes are constraints, but they can also be comforting because if we fit ourselves inside them we think we’ll be more accepted, less judged, freer from the critique of others. Leadership comes from those who define themselves outside the pre-conceived notions about who or how they are supposed to be.

 

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO BE A STRONG WOMAN OF COLOR? WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO USE YOUR VOICE FOR MOST ON THIS TOPIC, AND WHAT IMPACT OR MESSAGE DO YOU HOPE TO SPREAD? 

I don’t think I would characterize myself that way. In my life, strength and resilience have been expected and demanded of me. I think for Black women, finding spaces to be strong in isn’t the challenge—it’s finding space and support in vulnerability that is less common. I’m not strong all the time, I experience the full spectrum of human emotion. I need support and affirmation, and it’s that type of support and affirmation that I strive to create for others in my social media space. Being vulnerable enough to show our true selves across that spectrum is push back against the mainstream imagery created around Black women, and I think that’s important for everyone to see.

People reach out to me on a regular basis to share that seeing me in the predominantly white world of elite CrossFit competition has made a difference to them. It’s makes a difference to people to see themselves reflected in me. More than just being out there, I’m working to make a more direct impact, specifically around communities who are underserved when it comes to access to fitness and wellness resources, information and facilities. If there’s any single message, it’s that we can participate in any activity we choose. We belong everywhere, and that includes where we might be a minority, or in spaces of our own making, designed to meet our specific needs.

 

YOUR LAST NAME TRANSLATES TO "THE WARRIOR HAS RETURNED". (PRETTY BADASS). IN WHAT WAYS DO YOU FEEL LIKE A WARRIOR? WHAT GIVES YOU STRENGTH TO FIGHT FOR WHAT YOU WANT IN THIS WORLD? 

I feel like a warrior in that I prepare myself both physically and mentally to be ready for whatever comes my way. I don’t seek conflict, but I’m capable of holding my ground. I seek not only outward strength, but inner knowledge and peace. When I think of a warrior I think of balance—both a weapon and a shield—and I try to embody that.

Standing up for what I believe in, and what I want to achieve in this world feels like a forgone conclusion. Based on how I was raised, the people who came before me, and most powerfully in my life, as a mother. Giving up is simply not an option. My son’s presence in my life has kept me going more times than I’d like to admit.

 

IN WHAT WAYS HAS YOUR OWN SELF IMAGE EVOLVED, MATURED? WHAT'S ONE PIECE OF ADVICE YOU GIVE TO YOUR 20 YEAR OLD SELF?

My self image has become increasingly internally driven over the years. Like anyone else, I’ve been subject to the programming of the culture around me. There was a time when those values had more impact on the way I felt about myself and the image I wanted to project into the world. I’ve come to reject a lot of those external pressures and embrace who I am at my core.

My training and fitness focus has shifted from aesthetics, to performance, to simply valuing how I experience life living in this body. The experience includes how I look, as well as what I can do with my body, but it centers the being in the body.

My advice for myself 20 years ago? Have compassion for yourself, and be where you are. There’s nothing in this world that’s not for you, if you want it. Stay in tune with your intuition, and trust that any obstacles will be overcome, broken through, worked around, or used to build you for your next step.


If you'd like to see all the images from our shoot, head over to the Taylor Gage Photography blog to check it out! 

A huge thank you to Elisabeth for her time! Be sure to follow Elisabeth on her Instagram @eakinwale and her Facebook page, and check out her programs at ElisabethAkinwale.com


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The Bigness Project

If you follow me on any of my socials, you know that I just started a new exciting training program! So many of you have been asking about what it is, where to find it, and why I'm doing it that I decided to put together a little post for you with all the deets. Hope this helps, and be sure to let me know if you join in on the fun!

 

WHAT IT IS

The Bigness Project is a hypertrophy training program designed by Kourtney Thomas and Jen Sinkler that they released for a short period earlier this year (and will rerelease again very soon!). Hypertrophy training is basically any training designed to increase muscle size, and is often used to manipulate the shape and size of one's body. Think bodybuilder, bro-sesh, bicep curls, and globo-gym style weight training.

It's the thing that CrossFit is the unofficial counter-program of, trading the single joint, small range of motion movements designed solely for size/aesthetics, for functional, compound movements designed for overall physical fitness. So is it a little bit of a departure from CrossFit? You betchya. Will it ultimately help my CrossFit performance and strength? Hells to the yes! Even though the purpose of this program is aesthetics, at the end of the day, muscle is muscle, and adding more of it will only make me stronger. 

Kourtney designed this program specifically for women who are interested in building muscle and looking and feeling strong. The program is 14 weeks long, offering periods of ramping up, higher volume, lower volume, and a deload week. Some phases will have you training 4x week, and some phases go up to 5. 

I am continuing to train CrossFit simultaneously and am still working out the balance with this but hope to find a rhythm soon!

 

WHY I'M DOING IT 

Firstly, coming out of the CrossFit Open every year I always feel a little lost, like, ok, what now? After all that focused effort I usually need another project or goal to work on or towards, and this program caught my eye BIG time when it was first released a few months back. It seemed like the perfect amount of NEW and FUN, while also being something that would almost certainly deliver results. I want some big muscles!

Also, raw strength has never been my real forte, so I'm looking forward to seeing improvements not only in my strength but in my balance. I have scoliosis, so my body is all sorts of funky, twisted, and unbalanced, and I can't help but feel like all these slow and controlled movements will help. 

Lastly, why not? The concept of building muscles just for decoration seems like a pretty fun one to me, and I'm curious and excited to see how this all plays out!

And while I love that the pendulum of society has swung in the "focus on what your body can do and not what it looks like" direction, I sometimes see it taken WAY too far, so much as to suggest that if you have any aesthetic goal for yourself at all, you're obviously not accepting or loving your current self. I could not disagree with this more, and while I feel like this concept is blog post/rant unto itself, I will say this: you are allowed to have ANY goal you want for your own self, and just because it might be for "vanity" or "decoration" does not mean it's invalid or you do not love yourself enough. K? Having goals for yourself and loving yourself are not mutually exclusive. 

Note: I will update this post again as I move through to keep you up to speed!

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WHAT I LOVE SO FAR

The mind-muscle connection is a new one for me and I'm digging it. These movements are NOT about speed (unlike CrossFit), but instead about control, connection, and burn. Tempo is the name of the game here, with slowww, eccentric movements, with reps consistently in the 10-12 range. The weights aren't particularly heavy either, but man alive do they get SPICY when done right!

And what's not to love about learning something new? A lot of these moves are ones that I've never, ever done (weighted calf raises, anyone?) but I'm loving the learning process!

 

MORE INFORMATION ON THE BIGNESS PROJECT

Want to join me and get yuge?! Here's some places to learn more about the program and purchase it for yourself!

 

Word on the street is that this program will be available for purchase again VERY soon, from May 2nd to 5th! 

HEAD HERE TO PURCHASE THE PROGRAM OR GET PUT ON THE NOTIFICATION LIST

Read the FAQs to The Bigness Project here.

Check out the hashtag #bignessproject on Instagram!

I am doing the program with my friend Kristin of The Girl With the Butter (#bicoastalbigness), and we spoke about it a bit in her latest podcast episode, where we also recap the Girls Gone Strong Women's Strength and Empowerment Weekend in Seattle, and talk about SO much good stuff. Listen to the Is This Podcast Paleo episode here!

And of course, follow along with me on my Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat


P.S. Stay tuned for my amazing interview with Jen Sinkler, coming very soon!

 

Disclaimer: this post may contain affiliate links, which pay me a small percentage if you purchase the item. These links allow me to run this blog, so I appreciate your support!

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Macros 101: Everything You Need to Know

If you’ve spent any amount of time in a gym, you’ve probably heard the word “macros” thrown around, and you may be wondering what it all means, what the fuss is about, and if tracking your macros is right for you. Well my dear, let’s dig right into it!

 

WHAT ARE MACROS?

 

“Macros” is short for macronutrients, meaning the three main building blocks of calories (read: food): protein, fat and carbohydrates. While calories are just the generalized amount of energy you consume, each macronutrient plays a very different and specific role within your body, and especially more so for athletes. 

1g protein = 4 calories  /  1g carbs = 4 calories  /  1g fat = 9 calories

When you are tracking your macros (AKA Flexible Dieting), you are doing precisely that: tracking and counting every gram of protein, fat and carbs that you consume on a given day. Why would anyone go through this crazy tedious process of weighing, measuring, tracking and mathing every single thing they eat on a daily basis, you ask? Good question!

While it’s true that you may drop a few lbs on a consistent caloric deficit, you won’t have any control over where those lbs are actually getting pulled from (fat stores vs muscle stores) unless you are strategically manipulating your macro intake. More often than not, caloric deficit weight loss isn't simply body fat- it's usually muscle mass too (buh bye gainz). So, if you are an athlete and want to maintain or grow your lean muscle mass while dropping some body fat or your overall bodyweight, whether for a competition or your own personal goals, this is the only way to have precise control over your body composition. 

Bodybuilders and Weightlifters have been using this system for ever ever for it’s precision of functionality and aesthetics alike: bodybuilders seek a very specific body composition for shows, and Weightlifters compete in weight classes, so they must be very in tune with their strength output to bodyweight ratio. In the last couple years, Flexible Dieting has also taken the CrossFit world by storm, and as Coach Greg Gassman once said (and I'm paraphrasing here), put two athletes side by side, equal in every single aspect, and the one who will win is the one who weighs and measures their food. Precision is Queen.

 

IS MACRO TRACKING FOR YOU?

 

Like any other nutritional template or guideline out there, I firmly believe that there is no one program that will work for everyone. Finding what works for you (and most importantly sticking to it!) is the name of the game, and there’s a real chance that Flexible Dieting might not be your cup of tea. But, it could be just what you need, and you’ll never know until you try! Here are a few situations where this might just be your jam:

 

IF YOU'RE A SEASONED INTERMEDIATE EXERCISER

If you’ve been CrossFitting, weight training or otherwise fitnessing at high intensity for a while now, you’ve probably gone through various stages of your own nutritional habits. If you are still finding yourself at a plateau, either on the bathroom scale or in your PRs/performance, tracking your macros can be the missing link to fine tune your nutrition further. 

You may have noticed how new CrossFitters will hit PRs left and right, sometimes even by accident, as their newness to the sport leaves tons of opportunity for breakthroughs. If you’ve been doing this for a while though, your PRs become few and far between, with much more work needed to attain even the smallest improvement. The same is true for nutrition and bodyweight; often times those just beginning any health journey will likely see the most dramatic results as they shift to a new nutrition program and the pounds fly off, while those who have been carefully minding their nutrition for a long time can find that they need to work incredibly hard to make the scale budge a measly 5 pounds. If this latter person sounds like you, macros can be the game changer.

 

IF YOU'VE EVER WONDERED, "HOW MUCH PROTEIN SHOULD I BE EATING?"

Here’s the truth: even the people who think they are eating sufficient protein to perform well and hit their goals in the gym can be shocked to see how low their daily intake actually is when they weigh and measure. (And imagine where you are if you already suspect that you’re not getting enough protein!) The RDA is .4g of protein per pound of body weight, which is flat out NOT sufficient if you are doing CrossFit or any other type of high intensity exercise, trying to gain lean muscle mass, trying to lean out, or any combination thereof. 

Getting the proper amount of protein of 1g per pound of body weight (yes, that’s right! Head to my post all about protein to read more!) on the daily can be straight up impossible to do without weighing, measuring and tracking. Once again, enter Flexible Dieting.

The same can be said for carbs and fat; people often have very little concept of not only what they should be consuming, but what they are currently consuming. Macro counting can straighten all of this out and give you an exact picture of what your daily intake should look like.

 

IF YOU'RE DEFINITELY NOT GIVING UP CHOCOLATE

If you wouldn’t touch the idea of a Whole30, sugar detox, or other elimination nutrition program with a ten foot pole, you may benefit from tracking macros. (Though for what it’s worth I do have to say that I think everyone -everyone- benefits by experimenting with a Whole30 or Paleo style elimination program at least once, to discover any food sensitivities, reset gut health, and lots more). 

One of the most often cited flaws in Flexible Dieting is that food quality is simply not a consideration. The theory behind it being that your body will get exactly the same end product out of an organic sweet potato as it will from a handful of Skittles: glucose. (And while that may technically be true, there is of course more to health than that “end product” and/or your body fat percentage; micronutrients like vitamins, minerals, fiber, nutrient bioavailability, digestive health, gut health, brain health, etc etc etc I do not have enough time for this list people you should know why an apple is better than a doughnut ok!)

Back to the point at hand: you can mathematically figure in treats for yourself so that you can enjoy that nightly piece of chocolate, or wine and dine yourself on a special night out, or whatever else your heart desires, so long as you are still hitting your prescribed carb, fat and protein number (just don’t overdo mmmkay?). If you know that going cold turkey just isn’t for you, this is a great way to practice proper serving sizes and allow yourself to enjoy treats in moderation, while still moving steadily towards your goals.

 

IF YOU'VE GOT A COMP ON THE HORIZON

If you’re training for a very specific purpose or goal like a competition, and have a bodyweight goal in mind, this can be the most efficient track to get you to where you need to be. Whether you’re competing in a Weightlifting meet and need to make weight, or you just want your body weight to be a little lighter so you can maneuver bodyweight movements like pull-ups or muscle ups a little easier, Flexible Dieting will allow you to drop your body weight while maintaining or building lean muscle mass.

 


THE CASES IN WHICH I'D BE CAUTIOUS TO RECOMMEND THIS ARE:

Anyone who is brand new to nutrition and/or fitness. I highly (highly!) recommend starting with the big nutrition guidelines first, understanding how various foods affect you personally and impact your workouts and energy (start here), making sure you’re getting enough sleep and managing stress well, soothing any autoimmune conditions, learning about quality of ingredients and servings sizes, etc etc. Study how food affects you, then dial in the details, and your success rate will quadruple. Promise.

Someone with a history of eating disorders. I’ve seen mixed reviews from people with a history of disordered eating and Flexible Dieting: some have seen huge success and find the regimented approach keeps them right on track with a no questions asked mindset, and I’ve seen others who find it throws them back into obsessive patterns, which can be dangerous territory. Please be careful with this and seek professional guidance if needed.


 

OK, LET'S DO THIS. BUT HOW?

As with anything else, there are a bazillion variables at play when setting your macros, and it should be noted that I am not attempting to set your macros for you here (you can find loads of free online calculators, though those will not be as precise as a coach), but just giving you the very generalized idea behind it all!

 

PROTEIN

Your protein goal should be roughly 1g of protein for every pound of body weight. So a 140 lb woman would eat 140g of protein every single day. Aiming for about 20-30g of protein per meal, plus a post workout snack/shake and a couple high protein snacks will get you there easily.  Remember that 130g chicken breast does not equal 130g pf protein- there are tons of online resources and apps to help you determine the correct macros for your serving size if it doesn't have a nutrition label.

FAT

Fat is your friend! It is so so important to health in myriad ways, but since it is the most energy dense macro at 9 cals per gram, it can be all too easy to overdo it without realizing it. Keeping your fat intake somewhere around .5g per pound of body weight is a good starting place, and remember to get that all from the best quality sources you can. Think avocado, grass fed butter, nuts, pasture raised beef, etc.

CARBS

While it may be true that carbohydrates are the only macro we can technically live without, if you are CrossFitting, strength training or working out at high intensity, carbs are the fuel to your fire (any Broad City fans here?). While it may be true that your mostly sedentary cousin or neighbor lost 30 pounds a on a low carb diet, if you’re an athlete, your needs are very different, and you need to eat as such!

If you are not eating sufficient carbs, your body will pull from your muscle stores to get the energy needed for the task at hand (read: lose your gainz). So how much is right for you? Generally speaking, aim for 30% of your daily caloric intake to be from carbohydrates, but remember that your goals, training style and a million other factors will change this number.

WHAT IS A REFEED DAY?

The thing about our bodies is that they are endlessly and tirelessly adaptable. If you've been on a small caloric deficit and training hard in the gym, after a while your body will adapt to this regimen and stop burning fat. A refeed day is generally one day a week (though it can be two days a week or once every other week depending) where you eat way above your normal macros. Some people don't track at all, some people only adjust their carb number, but the goal is the same: to trick your body. The influx of calories triggers a lineup of hormones that get it out of it's "save for emergency" mode and back into fat burning mode. 

THE DEETS

You will need to buy a food scale, and apps like My Fitness Pal can be extremely helpful. Finding yourself a coach who can accurately prescribe a macro profile specific to you, your needs, your goals and your lifestyle is the best way to have success; Working Against Gravity and Renaissance Periodization are two of the current industry titans, and I'd be remiss to not mention that my friend The Girl with the Butter also offers a macro-based program! Krissy Mae Cagney is also well known for her Macro ebooks if you're interested in learning more.

 

Tracking macros is a lot of work, requires precision and patience and therefore might not be for everyone. And it is certainly not the only way to achieve your goals- there are tons of elite athletes who do not track their food, and I don't want to suggest that this is the only way to be a badass! But how will you know what works for you if you don’t give it a try?

Remember that the key part to ANY nutrition or fitness routine is consistency. Trying this (or anything else) loosely for two weeks will not get you results. Find what works for you and stick to it, and you’ll hit your goals in no time!


UPDATE: After publishing this post, I was invited to guest host an episode of "Is This Podcast Paleo" with Kristin of The Girl With the Butter, where we expanded on this and chatted about macros for the entire episode! Listen to the Podcast here.

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Give Yourself a Break: Embracing the Seasons of Your Health Journey

This summer was an "off-season" for me. Did I see it coming? Not really. I had other goals and plans. But summer travel, weddings, house work, family visits and something called life took over, and my training and diet took a backseat to other things. If you've bee following She Thrives for a while, you may remember a Periscope we did on this concept of "seasons" a while ago, and I recently spoke about it again on my Snapchat- I received such an overwhelming outpouring of feedback that I decided to write a whole post on this topic to get all my thoughts out more eloquently (or try to, anyway)!

If you’re a human with a body, the scenario I described above might sound familiar, like you’ve been here before yourself. These cycles and seasons of our lives are perfectly normal, and today I wanted to talk about the reasons we should embrace them instead of fighting them. Because of the last couple months, I am currently not my leanest or strongest or fittest, and I may be a little “fluffier” than I have been in a while, but you know what? Ain’t no thang. In fact, I love it. I love the summer I had; the amazing memories and meals and parties, and I even love my slightly softer body. I mean, what’s not to love? I also love that it granted me the ability to get excited about fitness again. Instead of feeling burned out and like I’m spinning my wheels, I now feel rested, reenergized and pumped to start setting and chasing some goals in the gym again. Let's dig in:

You’re on a roll. You’ve been making it into the gym regularly, been keeping a close eye on your nutrition, and you’re starting to feel the results of your efforts. You wake up with “Eye of the Tiger” pumping in your head, and then organize your entire day around the things that will get you closer to said goal. You prioritize it. You give it your 100%. As you should! It’s your goal and you’re almost there! You are unstoppable! You are a rockstar! Fuck yeah everything is awesome! 

Then, injury strikes. Or school starts. Or a trip happens, or you get pregnant, or work takes over, or a family situation arises. All of a sudden your diet and fitness start to take a backseat. You can’t train like you used to, your nutrition isn’t as dialed in as it once was, maybe you even put on a couple lbs. Oh, the horror. Now what? 

Are you getting after it or taking a breather? They are both valuable.

Are you getting after it or taking a breather? They are both valuable.

Here’s the truth, friends: we cannot (I repeat, cannot), be “on” 100% of the time, all the time, day in day out, until the end of time. There is bound to be an ebb to our flow. We cannot hit our peaks without wandering (happily) through some valleys, and we cannot expect our bodies to support our all-out effort all the dang time. In fact, if you repeatedly ignore your body’s request for rest, it will remind you who’s boss and force a rest upon you with an injury. Or as my friend Steph Gaudreau says, “sometimes you have to go slow to go fast”.

We all have these off-seasons- whether they are optional (feeling burned out or stressed and opting to step back) or forced (injury, work), they WILL happen. And in my opinion, they are just as awesome as the Eye of the Tiger on-seasons, and can be just as powerful, special and loaded with personal growth.

Every body is different and the length, style and definition of your “off-season” will be unique to you and depend heavily on your own personal journey and what your body needs. Maybe instead of weighing and measuring all your food you estimate your portions or eat intuitively for a while. Or instead of lifting heavy you spend a couple weeks stretching and doing yoga. Or instead of running a few days a week you just walk a couple days. Or maybe you don’t run or train at all for a couple weeks!  (Gasp!)

There is no right or wrong way to take some downtime- it’s your life and you get to live it however you see fit. Just be wary of slipping into these mindsets while you reset:

 

THROWING YOUR SELF WORTH OUT WITH THE TRAINING BATH WATER

When that deadline or injury or schedule-change throws you off course, do you feel defeated? Like you failed, like you’re a loser, like your dreams are crushed, like you don’t even know why you tried in the first place? If so, let me then ask you this: is there a chance that you might be tying your self worth to your gym attendance, your nutrition choices, or your sport?

When we’ve been on a roll and hitting those goals and dancing to Eye of the Tiger all damn day, some of us take this feeling of rock stardom and morph it into: I am worthy, I am lovable, I am perfect. Which, at a glance seems harmless and even good (what’s wrong with some self confidence?), but you can start to see the issue with this when all of a sudden that sport or diet or fitness gets taken away or compromised. That feeling of worth goes with it, since it was superficially tied to it. So with your sport gone and your worthiness gone too, you sink into a funk and stew here for a while.

Tough love time: stop the moping. Stop complaining. Realize and appreciate the fact that you are simply in an-off season, and utilize this time to do some soul searching. Spend this time refocusing on yourself find your value in traits that can never be taken away from you (like your good heart, or your strong will, or your loyalty, for example). Your worth and happiness should be firmly grounded in the authentic and intrinsic qualities that make you YOU, not what you ate for dinner or how many times you trained this week or your current dress size. 

 

Sometimes you're on...

Sometimes you're on...

And sometimes you're not.

And sometimes you're not.

 

THE "USED TO" TRAP

Ok. Fine. You accept where you are right now, that you’re in an off season... but do you really? Because every time you’re in the gym, you comment or think about all the things you used to be able to do at the height of your last on-season. In the name of avocados, stop! Stop comparing yourself to a previous you and feeling bad about it. See what happens when you start living in the NOW. Be grateful and happy with where you are right now, at this moment, today.

Because after all, aren’t we all just doing the best we can, with what we have, where we are? “I used to be able to..” is so out. “I am grateful for..” is in. Get with it, sistah.

 

YOU'LL NEVER GET MOTIVATED AGAIN

Are you worried that taking a break will throw you off track for good? Like you’ll never be able to find your motivation again? I would actually argue that in fact, welcoming and embracing these seasons of life will make you MORE likely to be able to succeed and stay healthy in the long run. Getting bummed or depressed about your knee injury or pasta-heavy vacation and feeling like you failed, it’s over, and why bother, will do nothing but put you in a negative headspace, stress you out, and make you resentful.

If instead, you embrace it for what it is, knowing that this is simply a season of life (that you likely needed, anyway), you’ll have a lot easier time kicking it into gear when you’re ready to go again. Stop associating these off seasons with “failure” and see how much easier it is to excitedly dig into your next on-season. 

 

THE YO-YO

It is important to note here that I am not advocating a full-on, month long binge-eating fest. I’m also not advocating a yo-yo dieting habit, or anything else that will fuck with your mental and emotional health just as much as it will your metabolism. This is not a “I hit my goal weight now I can quit the gym and eat a case of Oreos every night” kind of pass. After all, training and nutrition should never be a punishment - it should be a celebration of your body, and you should always remember that.

I’m simply suggesting that taking a little pressure off yourself or taking things down a notch on occasion can be valuable, and is part of honoring your body, not punishing it.  I hope you can see the distinction. After all, health and fitness and “living your life” are not mutually exclusive. It shouldn’t be an all or nothing type of deal, but rather a gentle give and take and pursuit of balance.


So. Blast Eye of the Tiger, get focused, give all you’ve got, and chase the hell out of your goals when it feels right. Push yourself, crush it, dominate, and feel the power of a woman on a mission. Or, don’t. Spend time with your family, enjoy that vacation to the fullest, choose happy hour over the gym, earn that promotion or degree, rest your body and mind.

Whether you’re on a roll or taking it easy or somewhere in between, thoroughly enjoying and embracing whatever iteration of life’s seasons you may be in at the moment will ultimately make you a happier, healthier person.

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Let's Talk About Supplements, Baby

If you're training with intensity on a regular basis, chasing some serious fitness goals, or otherwise hoping to improve your performance in the gym, adding some supplements into your routine might be a good idea.

For whatever reason, I feel like most women are either intimidated or simply unaware of the world of supplements, and are unsure where to even begin with it all (Creatine? Protein? Poutine? Maybelline? What?), and for good reason- it can be very overwhelming! So I just wanted to offer inquiring minds a little write up of the supplements that I think are worth trying out.

It should be noted though, that this post comes along with a huge disclaimer! Supplements are designed to be just that: supplemental. So be sure you're giving your body a good balance of macro and micro nutrients on the reg, and recovering and caring for yourself properly. It should also be noted that you do not have to take supplements at all to be a fit and healthy woman! Plenty big time athletes forgo them entirely, and not every body responds to everything the same way (read: what works for me may not work for you, and vice versa). And duh, consult with your doc first to be sure it's a smart and safe move for you.

Now let's get into it! [Or go shop my favorite supplements and more on my SHOP page!]

 

PRE & POST WORKOUT

 

CREATINE MONOHYDRATE

Creatine is probably the most common supplement for most gym rats and performance chasers. It's a naturally occurring amino acid found in the human body that helps to create a substance called adenosine triphosphate, or ATP. ATP is the thing that provides the energy for your muscle contractions. Your body creates creatine but it also absorbs it from protein rich foods like meat and fish (game meat, lean red meat, salmon and tuna are the best sources). 

Creatine might also be the most studied supplement out there, and most studies have shown that it can significantly help to increase muscular performance and power for most people, and especially so for high intensity and short-duration exercise (CrossFit & weightlifting generally fit into that category). It hasn't been proven to much for more endurance-type exercise.

On training days I split my creatine dose into my pre and post workout drinks, and on rest days I put the whole dose into a protein shake. Creatine should be taken on both resting and training days to keep the level in your body steady, and the dose is generally around 5g a day. When shopping for creatine powder, look for one that lists only creatine monohydrate as the sole ingredient. Optimum Nutrition makes a simple and straight forward one.

You'll also see a lot of products that are a hybrid of creatine and another supp, and  Blonyx makes one that I think is worth exploring with their Creatine + HMB! (They also have a great breakdown of the science on their site that's worth checking out). I have also been taking Blonyx's HMB Sport alone and been enjoying it so far.

 

 

BETA-ALANINE

BA is also another naturally occurring amino acid that impacts muscular endurance and performance, namely by fighting muscle fatigue due to acid build up. The idea is that if it can help you get 2 more reps or go 30 more seconds without a rest, then your muscles will get that much stronger over time. BA is also a pretty popular and commonly used supplement, and is usually consumed in conjunction with creatine to help push that muscular endurance to the limit. And, similarly to creatine, BA is most efficient with shot term, high intensity exercise.

Read all about beta-alanine and it's impact on our bodies here.

Much like creatine, BA has been a staple in my supplement pantry for years. It should be taken on both training and off days to keep your body's level steady, and when training I split my dose into my pre and post drinks. It'll probably give your skin a tingly sensation when you start taking it, but this is totally normal and will dissipate with time! 

I've tried quite a few different brands of BA and have found myself really loving Blonyx's version lately, as it's squeaky clean and super high quality. Highly recommend!

 

L-GLUTAMINE

Yet another amino acid, glutamine is actually the most abundant amino acid in the human body and is stored in muscles. Our bodies create it but we may need more that we can create when under extreme stress (like exercise). "Studies have shown that L-Glutamine supplementation can minimize breakdown of muscle and improve protein metabolism. Glutamine plays key roles in protein metabolism, cell volumizing, and anti-catabolism. Glutamine also increases your ability to secrete Human Growth Hormone, which helps metabolize body fat and support new muscle growth." (via bodybuilding.com) Glutamine also plays an interesting role in our body's immune system and is thought to help reduce intestinal permeability, protect the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, and improve gut health.

Due to my personal struggles with leaky gut, and my propensity towards high intensity exercise, I opt to add powdered glutamine to my post workout shake on training days. 

 

PRE WORKOUTS & BCAAs

Another product you've probably seen a lot of are powdered mixes that call themselves "pre workout" drinks. The quality and ingredients of these mixes can range hugely, so be sure you read all of your labels! (Some of them contain creatine and BA already, so again, read your labels). Pre workouts are just designed to give you a boost of energy before your workout, and some even contain caffeine.

Some pre workouts contain a mix of BCAAs (branch chain amino acids), and that's what I tend to drink as part of my routine. BCAAs stimulate protein synthesis, both by increasing the rate of protein synthesis and your cell's capacity for protein synthesis. (Read more about it here). 

Equip Foods makes a clean and tasty pre workout mix that contains amino acid mix that's also squeaky clean.

 

 

RECOVERY

 

PROTEIN SHAKES

Though real food will always be a better option than a shake or supplement, it's always a good idea to have a bag of protein powder in your pantry so you've got an alternative in case you're running low of the real deal, or need something you can drink on-the-go. 

If you're training hard, protein is an essential part of your diet, and shakes can be an easy and great way to get those extra grams of protein in right after a workout or in place of (or in addition to) a meal.

I personally am faithful to only one brand of protein, both for it's taste, ingredients, and the quality of the company behind it: Equip Foods. (Psst enter discount code SHETHRIVES at checkout).

 

MAGNESIUM

Magnesium is a mineral that is crucial to TONS of stuff in that body of yours. "Magnesium plays a number of roles in the body, being required for more than 325 enzymatic reactions, including those involved in the synthesis of fat, protein and nucleic acids, neurological activity, muscular contraction and relaxation, cardiac activity and bone metabolism." (via bodybuilding.com). 

Again, while whole foods sources are always better than a supplement, it can be too easy to fall deficient in this valuable mineral. It's for that reason that I end every single day with powdered magnesium mixed with warm water. Some people swear this elixir is fantastic for getting into that pre-bedtime sleepy mood, as it has calming and relaxing properties. I use Natural Vitality's unflavored powder and love it!

Another way to get your magnesium in is with a soak in a long, hot Epsom Salt bath! It's a favorite way of mine to relax and help sore muscles recover and heal. 

 

 

CURCUMIN/TURMERIC

Curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric, which we all know by now is a powerful source of anti inflammatory antioxidants. Curcumin helps your body repair damage (sore muscles) among other things, and therefore I love to include it as part of my workout recovery lineup. 

 

OTHER SUPPLEMENTS WORTH NOTING

Just because I don't personally take these on the regular doesn't mean they aren't great! Some other supplements that many people swear by and could be worth looking into for you are: 

 


I hope this helps you next time you're navigating the aisles of the supplement shop! And remember that different strokes work for different folks, so just because your training partner is or isn't taking something doesn't mean you have to, too. Make sure your doc clears you first, do some of your own recon in your gym and on the webby web, and then try experimenting with some of these to see if they make a difference for you! Or, not. It's up to you. :)

Wishing you all strong muscles and improved work capacity!


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