The Woman I Am Today

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“The woman I was yesterday, introduced me to the woman I am today; which makes me very excited about meeting the woman I will become tomorrow.” Author Unknown

One of the things I have been enjoying these past few months is interviewing women of various ages and stages of life about fitness. It started out as simple interviews for my blog site but has come to mean so much more to me and many of my readers. I am learning something different from each and every story.  If you missed any of the former pieces on these incredible women, I encourage you to read through past blogs on this site. You won’t be disappointed.

One of the main things I ask the ladies to share is their personal fitness history- going back as far as they can remember. Were they active growing up? Did their parents encourage activity. How did their fitness interests change over the years and decades. What are their present views on exercise and nutrition? Has it changed? What are their fitness goals going forward? What personal struggles and health issues have they faced?

I recently asked one of my clients, 59 year old Ruth Schleifer to write her fitness story.  Ruth spent a good part of her life as a practicing Obstetrician Gynecologist and helped countless women deliver healthy babies. I absolutely love that Ruth gives candid, practical insights. During our sessions together, she often shares her ideas on health and fitness from the unique perspective of not only being a doctor but being a single woman doctor raising small children and balancing a challenging career. I gleaned 3 great lessons from Ruth. 

  1. Childhood experiences and feelings about fitness play a significant role in how we treat our bodies into adulthood. 
  2. You have to make a focused effort to make exercise a part of your daily life. It’s rarely convenient or easy.  
  3. It’s slowly changing but the time has come for western medicine to broaden it’s treatment approach and philosophy. 

Ruth’s first memory of any sort of exercise activity was when her Mom enrolled her in ballet and tap class at the age of 3. Ruth remembers how activity for children in the early 1960s was a normal part of life. “I had my first tricycle at age 3, and would perch my dog on the handlebars and ride off to the playground. My Dad got me my first real bicycle when I was 5 years old. Back in those days, school playgrounds still had actual swings, and 8 foot high monkey bars. The first time I was able to make it all the way across the monkey bars by myself (at age 5) was a momentous achievement that today’s children will not likely experience.”

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I absolutely love the last sentence describing a young girl having a life changing experience on the monkey bars. We tend to look back on past generations and assume that children and particularly young girls were very restricted. We are missing something.  The unabandoned, vigorous play of past generations has been replaced with rules, stipulations, controlled organized activities, and electronic devices of today.

Ruth was inspired when: “in the 1960s and 1970s, the Olympics began to slowly feature televised accounts of women’s gymnastics and figure skating…My (farfetched childhood) dream was to become an Olympic gymnast.”

She goes on to give an interesting perspective and criticism on physical education in the school during that period of time and how it potentially affected physical health:

“Back in those days, physical education and team sports played a prominent role in Elementary Education. I disliked all team sports at that age, and still do. Team sports do not position kids to take responsibility for their own fitness–someone else is telling them what to do. My observation is that former athletes are often in very poor physical health as they age, because they never gained mastery of those skills.”

At age 11, Ruth was “enjoying the solitary aspects of swimming and gymnastics. Even though many girls (and it was 100% girls back then) attended gymnastic practice several days each week, our school had no gymnastic team for competitive purposes. It felt so wonderful to gain mastery over standard gymnastic tumbling sequences. When I was 12 or 13, my Dad sent me to a summer gymnastic camp that was coached by a former PanAm gymnastic coach. That was such a memorable time.”

The stage for physical activity had been set, and Ruth carried these habits forward into her adult years with running, swimming, and aerobics classes. She even stayed active as an expectant mother in medical school taking 3 mile walks after leaving the hospital.

As I mentioned before, one of the things I respect about Ruth is her ability to cut through the noise and give some very clear insights. She openly shared quite a bit on the limitations of western medicine as it pertains to disease prevention and her own personal experience being the patient rather than the doctor.

“Medical school, residency and a small child presented many obstacles to maintaining a regular fitness schedule. Western medical education actually de-emphasizes self-care! Daily schedules with set sleep/wake times, regular meals and exercise are not a priority for medical students and residents. The obvious problem with allowing this culture to exist is that the providers can not model the foundations of proper health for their patients. Because Western medicine is focused on disease rather than wellness, the basis of health, and healthy living, has suffered under this culture.”

Over time Ruth was able to rebuild her fitness routine despite a demanding schedule and the lack of support from her peers.  She said, “The main challenges one faces in the practice of medicine is the institutional celebration of overwork, and self-neglect.” Again, I believe that the foundation she set for fitness in childhood was solid and was the catalyst to keep her on track through her adult years despite these obstacles. She understood the need to prioritize self care, physical exercise, and healthy eating; and wasn’t going to allow the ignorance of others or the demands of career to take that away from her.

In 2006, at the age of 48, Ruth had her first serious health scare. “A large mass was found in my right colon. This necessitated removal of my right colon and right ovary. While I was fortunate that the mass was not malignant, it was a big surgery with a long recovery time. After returning to activity too soon, I swiftly found myself with a large incisional hernia that required further surgery. After this surgery, it was very hard to select foods that I was able to digest…My surgeon was not at all helpful in recommending sound food choices. Again, the Western training does not emphasize diet and lifestyle as being preventative.”

Ruth continued to make exercise a priority throughout the years. However, as she entered her fifties she came to the realization that so many of us much face:

“By the time I reached my 50s, I was able to experience the limitations of the human musculoskeletal system. Injuries are very common at this time of life. My first injuries began to occur, and were mostly related to overtraining. After knee surgery in 2010, I stopped jogging entirely for several years. My concern about sustaining further injuries and ending up with more surgery, kept me from doing much of anything. This is likely a common phenomenon, but is definitely the wrong approach to take. Older individuals need regular activity to maintain mobility, aid in proper sleep, and maintain a proper body weight. The average adult American female gains roughly 2 pounds per year. This trend was aptly demonstrated in my patients.”

“Four years ago, I was diagnosed with a neuro-visual disorder that led me to discontinue all hospital services. Because there is no treatment or cure for my diagnosis, I was eager to explore other ways to optimize my health. After being drawn to Ayurveda, (a sanskrit word which means the “science of life”), I enrolled in formal classes to better understand this discipline. After graduating from the first year of studies, I was ready to close my practice and move West to continue Ayurvedic studies.”

Ruth goes on to explain the Ayurvedic approach. “Ayurveda emphasizes daily schedules with sleep/wake and meal times, and daily activity appropriate to one’s constitution, as the bedrock of health. After my life and career, this message resonated in a powerful way. Fitness schedules alone cannot create health when the diet and lifestyle choices are erratic and unpredictable.”

Through her Ayurvedic training, she learned to cook foods that worked well for her health. Ruth believes that while there are many “healthy foods”, not all of them are correct choices for each person. Ruth says, “This common misconception leads to the rampant popularity of food fads. Raw foods, juicing, the paleo diet are all examples of schemes that may be fine for some people, but actually can prove destructive for others. The notion of a person’s basic physical constitution, and how to manage the best dietary choices based on that, has not fully caught on in the West. But in Ayurveda, this concept is the mainstay of selecting the correct diet to optimize one’s health.”

This past summer, Ruth slowly returned to a running and training schedule but is much more diligent in making sure to listen to her body.

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“While my routines are shorter and far less intensive that the routines of my younger years, these are the routines that work with my constitution for this stage of my life.”

Ruth’s fitness goal going forward is one I think we can all embrace: “I certainly hope I can look back on being 59, and say to myself, Wow! I feel just as good at age _____ as I did at 59!”

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Break Through Workout Barriers

There is no fitness program or workout plan that will achieve results if we are unable to follow through consistently. It has to be something we can implement in our daily lives. When working with clients I have seen several barriers that can derail our best fitness efforts. I always like to focus on the positive. However, sometimes we just need to identify the obstacle, so that we can create and personally own realistic solutions.  Here are 5 of the main barriers I have come across in my own life and in the experiences I have had working with clients over the years.

  1. Time: I hear this quite a bit. People are so busy with work, school, and family. They are torn in several different directions at once. I have days where I feel like I am literally living in my car…moving from one appointment or obligation to another. I have found a few things that are critical for success. I plan the exact time of day when I will do my workouts and treat that time like I would an important appointment. I enter the gym with a specific but adaptable plan on the types of exercises I will do. I know exactly how many sets, reps, and how much time I will devote to cardio. On days that are extremely busy I streamline the plan if necessary. So I may still work chest, shoulders, and triceps but I use dumbbells instead of machines and set it up like a circuit where I move through 3 solid sets without resting. This saves time because you are not wandering around the gym trying to get on a specific piece of equipment.
  2. Exhaustion. I can really identify with this one. I have autoimmune disease and have found that mornings and evenings are the absolute hardest. If I am having a flare up, it is common for me to awake fatigued as if I have the flu. My joints are stiffer and more swollen in the early hours as well.  Just getting started is a battle. If I am having a flare up the evenings can be hard, because I have been challenging swollen joints all day and am physically drained. However, I have found that movement helps me feel better and raises my energy level. Your exhaustion may not be physical but is more emotional. You have had to deal with problems all day and have no energy to work out in the early hours or at night after a hard day of work. But, consider that exercise literally creates more energy in your body. I am going to get scientific for just a moment. It all happens on the cellular level, where natural energy production begins with tiny organs called mitochondria. They are located in our cells and act like tiny power plants to produce energy. The number of mitochondria you have is affected by daily activity. The body produces more of these power plants to respond to your energy demands.
  3. Boredom. This is a big one! Many people are bored with the type of exercise they have selected or their workout routines become mundane and stale. It has happened to me! This is a perfect time to determine what makes you tick. What motivates you? Is it group classes, circuit training, or having a specific goal to work toward. This is also a good time to introduce different training techniques to spice up the same old exercises. Let’s face it…at some point, a lat pull down is a lat pull down! A bicep curl is a bicep curl! Right? It’s just not very exciting. But what if you change the intensity in some small way with supersets, drop sets, or circuit training. The old can become very new again.
  4. Plateaus. These occur when someone has been training for awhile. Initially they saw great results and were motivated by the changes in their body. However, over time the body becomes accustomed to doing the same things over and over. It adapts and fails to respond in a significant way. This is a point where they are seeing little to no results from their time at the gym. Again, this is something I have experienced myself and try to help my clients overcome. Changing the order of the exercises, the intensity, and how muscle groups are combined can break right through those plateaus.
  5. Failing to start at all because of lack of motivation. I have talked a lot about this subject in prior blogs, newsletters, and my social media posts. In order to experience motivation, we must begin to act. This doesn’t mean we try to do everything at once, get discouraged, and give up. It is a process of taking small daily steps toward being fit and active.

When it comes to exercise, food, motivation, and mindset, we all face barriers or obstacles of one type or another. Identifying the challenges is only a first step. However, if we state the problem as fact and never search for a viable answer, we leave ourselves powerless. On the other hand, finding and owning the solutions to our problems is very powerful and allows us to create the type of fitness plan that is sustainable for life.

Becky’s 3 Part Plan to a Lifetime of Fitness

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Because of my background in running, cycling, and bodybuilding, I am often asked if I only coach fitness competitors or competitive athletes. Nothing could be further from the truth. Although I have worked with competitors and athletes, the majority of my business is women who want to look better, be active, and improve their overall health. Together we design a lifelong approach to fitness.

Over the past several weeks I have been asking women about their number one struggle with fitness, how they feel about exercise and food, and their main health goals. One of my clients, Becky Thompson, came to me last summer wanting to increase muscle conditioning and improve her overall eating habits. She has come a long way in a short period of time, and I wanted to get her unique perspective on living a fit lifestyle. As Becky and I were talking, three things came immediately to the surface.

  1. First, her spiritual faith plays a primary role in her health. She approaches everything through a heart of gratitude.
  2. Secondly, Becky emphasized the need for accountability. Whether you workout with a trainer, Skype with a coach, or head to the gym with a workout buddy, be accountable.
  3. Third, she explained the specific traits that she wanted in a fitness coach or trainer. They are different than what you might be envisioning.

Becky is a 61 years old retired occupational therapist, married 37 years, with 2 adult children, and 1 grandchild. The first thing that I noticed about Becky was her kind heart and strong faith in God. She grew up in a Christian family where both parents encouraged physical activity as a path to protecting and preserving the life that God has given. Becky combines her spiritual beliefs with her fitness journey and sees eating well and exercising as a way to live in gratitude for this precious gift of life.

Although Becky exercised some through her twenties, it was not until her thirties that she received a big wake up call to the importance of fitness. She was a busy mom caring for her young son, when she was suddenly struck down with a severe illness similar to hepatitis that lasted for several months. She became so sick, that her husband had to drive her and their young son to her parent’s home in Texas. Thankfully they were only living two hours away at the time. Her parents were then able to help care for Becky and her son during this difficult time. Over time her health was restored, and Becky embarked on a more serious lifelong path to staying fit. Rather than being bitter over her illness, Becky looked on this time with gratitude and saw it as an opportunity to move forward in faith. 

Because Becky was an occupational therapist, she had a keen understanding of muscles and anatomy which helped her when she went to the gym. However, she pointed out to me that everything fitness related (from workout clothing to exercise) has changed for women. Years ago there really wasn’t much for women to choose from, and it was primarily all cardio or aerobic based. There were some running tracks at local schools, Jazzercise classes, and Richard Simmons. Women were not really lifting weights, and if they did pick up dumbbells, the weight was extremely light. No one was talking about women gaining muscle or eating for fat loss. Rather everything was based around the scale and weight loss.

When Becky reached her 60s she realized that she wanted more accountability and to make some changes. This was the point where we met. I asked her why she chose me to be her coach, and she gave me some important insights. The truth is there are lots of trainers who can write meal plans or give exercise prescriptions. However, coaching someone to achieve a healthier lifestyle or to meet their fitness goals is an entirely different process. 

Becky said her biggest struggles with fitness were nutrition, breaking a sugar addiction, and pushing herself to achieve her best. She told me that was the very point where I came into the picture. So, I asked her what were the specific things she wanted from a fitness coach/trainer. Becky gave me 3 solid qualities:

  1. Someone who understands the effects of aging on the body.
  2. A trainer who safely works within physical limitations to achieve real results.
  3. A coach who would encourage her and show her change is a very real possibility at any age.

I loved this! If I were to write out qualities to look for in a trainer, I would most likely have listed some more general, common traits. This was a bit of a wake up call for me and made me realize the importance of asking your client what they want from a trainer. Through that process you can learn if that coach is in line with your expectations. So I would add one simple quality to Becky’s list. Choose someone who asks you the important questions and who has traits that are in harmony with your goals.

Each time I write these blogs featuring women, I am continually blessed, pleasantly surprised, and gain new insights that I can take with me and apply to my own life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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So Many Things to Experience. So Little Time: Gyda Climbs Mt Kilimanjaro

 

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Uhura Peak on Mount Kilimanjaro is the tallest peak in Africa at 19,341 feet. On this climb you will find yourself gaining a significant amount of elevation in a very short period of time. Altitude sickness is a real possibility and can range from being mild (such as headaches or nausea) to quite severe, causing excessive fluid on the lungs or even the brain. Because everyone reacts differently to altitude, all climbers must take measures to minimize illness, such as eating, sleeping, and staying well hydrated.

Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro is both physically and mentally challenging. The climb requires you to dig deep and set aside fears and doubts that you will not have the strength or endurance to make it to the top. Perseverance is the name of the game. You are literally positioned amongst the clouds and experiencing the journey of a lifetime.

Does this sound daunting, exciting, challenging? Well my client, Gyda DiCosola at the age of almost 60 years old made this journey and is planning Kala Patthar, at Mt.Everest base camp as her next adventure. Gyda was not always this physically active and shares how she overcame a serious health issue and a lifelong struggle with weight.

There are so many simple but amazing perspectives that Gyda gives, and if you read through too quickly you will miss the wisdom and clarity in her words. So I invite you to just pause, and take a little time to ponder. She adopted a simple 3 step fitness plan that led to a healthier lifestyle and her ability to conquer challenges like Mt. Kilimanjaro. Even if you have no desire to scale a mountain top, these 3 steps are applicable for most of us.

Two of Gyda’s phrases particularly caught my attention. First, she changed her entire attitude and outlook on fitness and life as a whole. She said she wanted to be different but realized this was not possible if she kept everything the same. This is part of the personal development philosophy that I try to incorporate in my own life and hopefully encourage in others. Everything begins and ends with our attitude. We all face challenges and sometimes circumstances beyond our control. However, I know that I personally do so much better, when I proactively choose positive actions, reactions, and thoughts.

When it comes to attitude Gyda has it all going on. This woman never complains, and she is definitely not a quitter. There is one part of her fitness story that she does not share, but I feel it truly demonstrates the importance of an attitude shift. Gyda had to have both of her hips replaced about a year ago. When I questioned her about the procedures, she never once complained about any part of the recovery process. I have only heard her express how grateful she is to be able to move and do all the things she loves. Gyda is regularly walking, spinning, hiking, snowshoeing, kayaking, and busy planning several new adventures such as Batton Memorial March in White Sands, New Mexico on Sunday, March 19, 2017. Just this morning she told me that a woman approached her in spin class saying, “Most people that have that kind of surgery are doing water aerobics!” Well there is absolutely nothing wrong with water aerobics. All exercise is good exercise! But, I have to say that I am entirely inspired by this woman.

The second perspective Gyda gives is something I find to be truly beautiful. She was talking about how much she came to love hiking and being outdoors but more importantly that she realized along the way that she liked the person she had become. This is not something born out of arrogance or pride but rather a feeling (as Gyda words it) of “being strong and comfortable in your body.” I say this often and believe it to be true. When you are living a healthy, fit lifestyle you receive a special gift, self-confidence. And, this confidence transcends to other areas of your life.

Here is Gyda’s story and how she is achieving fitness at this stage of her life:

My fitness epiphany happened at age 50 when I was diagnosed with a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in my leg and put on blood thinner. Fortunately, the clot dissolved, numerous tests determined I was low risk for a repeat clot, and I was able to stop medication. But the potentially serious clot was a wake up call and caused me to re-evaluate my approach and commitment to fitness, and life in general. I had been heavy all my life and although I loved to hike, backpack and be outdoors, I had relied on youth not fitness to pull me through. I went through the typical bouts of aerobics classes, jogging, and dieting with varied success, relying on “magic” combinations of foods and restrictive eating for short periods to reduce my weight, which always came back. Of course my goal was to look a certain way, not to be strong and comfortable in my body.

After my illness, I adopted 3 new simple attitudes. First, to simply make healthy choices in everything I ate. No foods were preferred, no foods off limits. I just chose whatever healthier alternatives were available. If I ate bread and had an option for whole grain, that was my choice. If I could have brown instead of white rice, that’s what I chose. There wasn’t anything dramatic, just a commitment to be aware of how I was fueling my body.

The second was a new mantra- moving is always better than not moving. If I could take stairs instead of the elevator, I chose stairs. I parked my car farther away from my destinations to allow for some walking. Again nothing dramatic, just if I had an option to be moving, I chose that instead of being still.

The third change was in attitude. This involved a willingness to shake up how I acted, to just do something or respond differently than my norm, to be open to try anything once. I wanted to be different and how could I accomplish that goal if I kept everything the same? These three things altered me both physically and emotionally. I shed excess weight without dieting. I discovered I really like vegetables. I tried new experiences, taking drawing and horseback riding lessons even though I was not very good at either!

Moving to New Mexico from New Hampshire expanded my hiking opportunities, and I loved exploring the cultural and ecological diversity here. I realized I really enjoy being fit but more importantly, I like who I am. I also discovered I like physical challenges. In September of 2015 a few months shy of my 60th birthday, along with my sister (in her 50s) we summited Uhuru Peak on Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest peak in Africa at 19,341 feet. There we released our mother’s ashes into the wind over a blue ice glacier.

I’m now planning a trek in 2018 to Everest Base Camp, climbing to the peak of Kala Patthar at 18,514 feet, with my New Mexico hiking bestie and fitness training partner, Clarissa. So many things to experience, so little time.

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And there you have it…“so many things to experience and so little time.” This, my friends, is the truth. Let’s not allow fears and doubts stop us from experiencing all the wonderful blessings of this lifetime.

Fitness for Every Stage of Life: Tybi Shares Her Path

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When I was reading through Tybi’s perspective on fitness, one word really hopped off the page at me. Balance. It is an aspect of her personality I don’t think I fully grasped when I was working with her. In our sessions we were always focused on the workout, gaining strength, and helping her implement some nutritional strategies. I really missed how good she truly is at achieving and maintaining balance, something I constantly try to emphasize with women I am working with.

Tybi is busy with family and career, but she has managed to find a fitness plan that is working for her. She is honest when she shares that exercising is not her passion, and she doesn’t have hours to spend at the gym. Her passions lay elsewhere with motherhood and teaching science to mid school children. However, she does want to look good, feel good, and stay healthy.

The first thing I noticed when reading her story was her healthy relationship with food. She is not afraid to eat nor is she depriving herself. Rather, she is practicing portion control and making good eating choices most of the time. The second thing I noticed was her great attitude about exercise. She is not worrying about how many minutes she is exercising or whether it is enough. She is doing what she can each day and enjoying the feeling of being outdoors and moving her body. Third, Tybi practices consistency when and where she can. When it comes to staying fit, every little bit makes a difference. That walk at lunch, leaving a little food on the plate at the end of a meal, or having a healthy snack all add up to big changes over time.

I know that there are those who would disagree and maintain that certain cardio and strength programs would be better for Tybi. They may indeed be right on some levels. However, I would argue that any plan you cannot implement in your lifestyle is the wrong plan. We are in this for the long haul and it’s really about finding consistency in the areas that you can on a daily basis.

Here is Tybi’s perspective on staying fit and maintaining consistency in her own words.

As a young child I grew up in San Francisco and our family walked everywhere. After I moved to Albuquerque, I danced for a few years, but I never considered myself athletic and neither did my parents. However, they did teach me the value of home cooking, portion control, and balanced, healthy eating habits. We ate very minimally processed food and small portions.

During my twenties my weight was never a problem. I worked out sporadically but kept within my ideal weight range. I ate what I wanted but never overindulged. When I became a teacher I never had time to go out to lunch. So I got in the habit of packing small portions and healthy snacks.

At the age of 36 I had my daughter. During my entire pregnancy I frequently walked and taught an after school yoga class for parents and people within the community where I worked. I was also careful with my eating habits. My husband is a great cook and that has made it easy to stay on track with home cooked, well balanced meals. Because of the consistency with my activity and eating habits, I did not gain an excessive amount of weight during my pregnancy.

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In my forties things began to shift, and I really started to notice the weight creeping on. I also noticed a loss of muscle tone. My husband and I recently bought a boat and reached a point in our lives where we are able to frequently travel to warm places. This meant I would be spending more time in a bathing suit. I signed up to work with a personal trainer, Carol Covino in January of 2016. I have to admit that one of my main goals other than staying healthy was to feel good in a bikini. I worked out with Carol 2-3 times per week for six months. It was a wonderful experience and I learned so much about nutrition and fitness. I lost ten pounds and have kept it off. I am much more toned, feel stronger, and am comfortable in a bikini. Yet I feel there is always room for improvement.

One of my biggest struggles with exercising is finding time in my busy schedule. I don’t hit the gym as much as I did when I was working with my trainer, but I have kept fitness as a big part of my weekly routine and try to make finding time in my schedule a priority. I attend the gym about two to three days per week. I power walk a mile every weekday during my 30 minute lunch and eat a light lunch that I have packed during the walk. Someone might think five miles a week is not that much but it is so much better than nothing and it feels great to be outdoors. When I go to the gym, I lift and do 30 minutes of cardio. If I can’t make it to the gym, I work out at home. With the help of the internet you can find so many ways to work out at home with minimal equipment.

As far as eating goes I limit portions and simple carbs but don’t deprive myself. I do struggle with staying consistent with both food and exercise when we are traveling. We are taking more vacations, and I am still learning how to moderate my eating and make time for working out when I am out of my daily routine. A cruise need not turn into a week long binge session.

My thoughts about health have really changed as I have gotten older. I look at people in my life who have embraced aging, remained active, and are more fit than those who are decades younger. I am inspired by these women! I will never be a fitness fanatic but I aim for consistency with my current “fitness plan,” and am determined to remain active and healthy as I age. With this frame of mind I believe I will be looking forward to the next decade and beyond instead of dreading it. I hope that someday I will be lucky enough to chase my grandkids!

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Fitness for Every Stage of Life: Meet Amberlyne

I started Carol Covino Fitness because I wanted to promote the idea of women being fit at every age and stage of life. Over the next few weeks I will be presenting the stories of women in various age groups and how they are living active, healthy lives despite the challenges they have had to overcome. This week I want to introduce Amberlyne Malecki, a beautiful, young woman in her mid-twenties.

I first met Amberlyne several years ago when she set foot in one of my strength and conditioning classes. This was the start of a friendship that initially revolved around fitness and later became so much more. Amberlyne has matured in every way possible-from career and fitness goals to self acceptance, confidence, and love.

Here is Amberlyne’s story in her own words.

Throughout my life, the term “fitness” has always been around, but I never really understood what it actually meant until these past few years. Growing up, sports and physical activity was always something that was present and top priority. The physical aspect of “fitness” was the easiest part and that came natural. I have always been that girl who played sports, went to the gym regularly, and was naturally strong and athletic.

I started playing softball when I was 8 years old and officially stopped playing fastpitch softball in the middle of my freshman year in college. Softball was my life. It was the one thing that made me feel free, and I was able to be my true self. I began pitching when I was 9 years old. Between little league, club softball, and high school softball, I ate, slept and dreamt of softball. My dream was to be in the Olympics and play college softball. I trained and worked so hard to get to a place where I could prove myself to anybody who would watch and listen. Throughout all the training, there were plenty of injuries that ultimately left their mark on my body. Junior year of high school was one of the hardest years I ever faced physically and emotionally in my softball career. I injured my ankle in the beginning of the season and was out for awhile. I pushed myself to extreme limits, because I was not going to miss my first game of junior year. I played that first game, but because of that my ankle has never been the same. In the middle of my junior year softball season, another injury sidelined me for a longer period. I collided with a player on the opposing team and ruptured my bursa sack within my knee. I was devastated and scared that my softball career was over.

After the season was done, I took the time to heal my body so that I could do the things I needed for softball. Within this time and heading into my senior year, I made a decision that this was going to be my best year as an athlete and that I was going to play college softball. I trained everyday and had my own pitching coach that I worked with multiple times a week. Throughout this training, I pushed my body to its limits and it paid off in the short time. I decided to attend college in New Mexico, tried out for UNM’s softball team,  and made the team. I was beyond excited and so happy that I was able to show my abilities and my hard work. Well, all of the training and pushing my body to its limits finally caught up with me right after the fall training season. I had to make the hardest decision at that time of my life. I decided that I had no choice but to walk away from the sport, the thing that I loved the most. My body physically could not handle it, and I was also not mentally and emotionally strong enough. It was devastating but I made the choice that if I could no longer play at a competitive level, I would coach and teach young girls how to fall in love with the sport of softball. I have coached on and off since my freshman year of college, and I currently do private softball lessons.

As I mentioned before, the physical aspect of fitness was always the easiest for me to achieve. The hardest part of fitness and the real struggle for me was the eating. From the time I was in middle school until a year ago, I was that girl that had been on every diet possible. You name the diet, I can guarantee you I have done it. Unfortunately they failed every single time. Living in a world where you felt like you were never good enough, pretty enough, or skinny enough really takes a toll on your perception of “fitness.” Within this world, the idea of being healthy and fit included unhealthy behaviors and habits that ultimately caused damage in many different areas. There was a sense of being out of control when it came to eating, and I needed to find a way to get in control. Unfortunately, finding control sent me down a secretive dangerous path for 7 years. It was and is a daily struggle and constant reminder, but where I am now has allowed me to see the eating aspect of fitness as a positive rather than a negative.

In 2015, my perception of “fitness” began to change. I was approached by two very influential individuals in my life about competing in a fitness competition. This was by far the scariest thing that I have ever been approached with. I made the decision to try and do this. I used it as my goal for the New Year. Throughout the first few months of 2015, I turned my whole fitness journey around and did things I did not think I was capable of doing physically and within the eating aspect of this journey. While all of this was happening I was in the midst of getting my Masters in counseling. I thought I could do it all. Train for this fitness competition, go to the gym for hours, eat every two hours, go to my classes, and see clients. Well, unfortunately I was wrong. I was not able to do it all. I had to put aside the thing that I wanted most in order to finish school.

After I walked away from the training, I began to fall back into old unhealthy eating habits, and I ultimately stopped working out for a period because I was so engulfed in school. Somewhere in the middle of 2015 to somewhere in 2016, I lost myself and who I was and what I wanted to accomplish. At some point in 2016, I got the motivation to get back on track. With my newfound motivation, I found a love for paddle boarding. It is an outdoor sport, a great workout, and it makes me feel free. Paddle boarding also gives me a sense of safety, where I am able to release all my thoughts and clear my mind. The motivation factor goes hand in hand with the eating aspect of fitness which is my weak point. But, fast forward from the past to now. I have the knowledge that I have gained throughout my life and most importantly these past few years. I know what is good for me, what I struggle with, and how I can conquer those bumps that seem to randomly appear.

I feel like my fitness journey is constantly changing and that’s okay. It allows me to grow and see what is right in front of me. Currently, my greatest goal for this year is to take the word LOVE and put that in every aspect of my life and in every part of who I am. This includes health and fitness. Instead of focusing on how much I weigh or what I look like, I want to be able to love me to the core. I want to be healthy, fit and ultimately one day do a fitness competition. But, in the mean time, I need to utilize love for myself.

In achieving this, I am currently trying to find the balance of fitness with my work, family, and social life. I make it a priority to meal prep every Sunday in order to get prepared for the week ahead. However, I am allowing myself to make mistakes. Mistakes are a part of life. Instead of me hating myself or being negative, I put the mistake behind me and start again. I also am currently going to the gym 5-7 times a week. My ultimate goal is to go once a day every day. Some days, due to life and work, I do not make it. Yet, again, I am working on accepting that it is going to be okay. Each day is a new day to show up and do something different and with the love that I am working on to show myself, I know I can accomplish bigger and better things.

My view and understanding about fitness is very different than it was in the past. Fitness is not necessarily just physical or all about eating. It includes those things, but it also includes emotional and mental health, and overall mindset. Everyone’s life looks completely different and because of that our fitness perspectives are different. For most, like myself, my “fitness” varies everyday. My work consumes me physically, mentally, and most of all emotionally. So, I really have to be aware of where I currently am each day and do frequent check-ins with myself. Understanding my limits and what I am able to do in a workout for that particular day is a huge component to staying fit. Again, each day is different and some days I can handle more than others. I am completely okay with that.

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In the past, I would have beaten myself up for missing a workout or not eating what I was supposed to. I have and still am slowly learning to be gentle with myself. When I do go to the gym, I use this time as time for me. I am the first person to tell everyone around me that they need to take care of themselves first. However, sometimes, I lack in listening to my own advice. My “me time” allows me to de-stress, unwind and get back in center with my own self.

Throughout my fitness journey, I am still learning and wanting to grow as much as possible. Overall, who I am is one of the most important things, as well as allowing myself to accept mistakes and create a healthier mindset. My ultimate goal this year is to prove to myself that I am ME. I do not know what that looks like or what that means, but I am excited to find new and old things about myself.

 

THE PATH TO A HAPPY, FIT LIFESTYLE

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We are coming into our third week of 2017, and January is already flying by. I thought this would be a good time to talk about the fitness lifestyle, self acceptance, and breaking the guilt and shame cycle.

I know what this time of year can be like. We start the new year excited with plans to eat better and workout regularly. Life gets hectic and we start to slip a little on our nutrition goals or miss a few workouts. This is often where the guilt creeps into our thoughts and leads to an “all or nothing attitude.” Rather than guilt spurring us to be more consistent, it erodes our motivation by telling us we are not strong enough. This leads to more skipped workouts, less consistency with our eating habits, and even giving up entirely.

I had a client once tell me “Carol, I just need to be stronger and stop making excuses! I tell myself that I am going to do better but am just not motivated and I can’t seem to get my act together. But I need to do it!” As she was saying those words, I could see a look of shame and distress cross her face. The look was saying, “I am not good enough or confident enough to make changes.”

Fitness is a lifestyle, and one you are good enough to achieve! Fitness is not a single 8, 10, or 12 week program. It is not the diet in the latest best selling book. It is not just one transformation program. All of those things have a place, and I use those methods to help women learn lasting nutrition and workout habits. But, fitness really begins with our attitude and how we feel about ourselves. We have to break the cycle of shame and the “all or nothing” mindset. Shame will never create the type of body you desire. Guilt will never create confidence. It simply breeds more guilt. Working out is a process where we learn our bodies, become increasingly comfortable with who we are, and build confidence. We don’t need to achieve a total transformation to begin this process. We can start today changing how we see ourselves.

Here are my three ways to begin a fitness lifestyle that is joyful and shame free.

Practice being judgement free – If you skip a day of working out, don’t judge yourself. If you had less than a perfect meal or day with your eating plan, don’t dwell on it. You can always get back on track tomorrow.

Focus on one simple nutrition or workout habit at a time rather than trying to tackle all the changes at once -Try choosing just one action you can consistently do, such as having a healthy breakfast or working out 3 days per week for 20 to 30 minutes. Then stay consistent with that one thing. Keep it as simple as possible in the beginning. You can always build on the positive routine you have set.

Journal for fitness – I recently wrote a newsletter on this subject that I encourage you to read. It is a practice I started last year and am finding to be beneficial for me with my fitness, business, and personal goals. When you write down your thoughts without judgement, it helps you to be fully present in the moment rather than stressing out about what needs to be done next. It also give you insight into deeper feelings that may be interfering with your fitness path. I like to start with a prompt such as “today I feel…” or “today I have a big idea…” I always include a section for gratitude, because living in gratitude helps me be joyful and content. I then write my schedule for the day using the insights I gained from journaling.

This year let’s focus on a different type of transformation – one that occurs from the inside out.