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Pursuing Conditioning: Top 5 Cardio Moves that Require no Equipment | In Pursuit of Balance

In one of my recent posts “Balancing Time: Better than Nothing”, I spoke briefly about how to set up a full body workout that you can perform at home with little to no equipment. In my post today, I want to expand on how to structure home workouts in order that to help teach you how to effectively pursue your fitness goals even if you’re not in a position to get to a gym. Machines are certainly convenient to use, but they are not necessary to get a thorough workout. When it comes to increasing strength and power, some equipment will be necessary, but for conditioning, all you need is your body and a plan!

Part of balancing your life, responsibilities and goals is being realistic about the 24 hours you have available every day and finding a way to pursue each of these practically. If you are pursuing fitness goals within the 24 hours that are available to you, that can sometime mean that you won’t be able to make it to a gym environment in which you have access to equipment. This can make it difficult sometimes to get a proper workout, but it’s not impossible! Although I am a big proponent of mental health and taking the necessary steps to rest and mentally recover from life and it’s demands, but I also firmly believe that each of us is responsible for ourselves and taking an honest account of how we are pursuing our goals for our lives. If fitness is one of your goals for your life, then you must take the initiative for yourself to take steps towards that everyday. You must be honest with yourself about the food you eat, the sleep you get, and the movement your body gets to do. If your goal is better mental health, you need to be honest about the steps you are taking towards that as well. Are you taking your meds, talking to the important people in your life, taking care of your body (seratonin and dopamine manufacture are linked to exercise and good nutrition), and sleeping enough? It applies to any goal you have for yourself. It’s important to be honest with yourself with the effort you are putting in to the steps you are taking towards your goals.

So how do you take steps towards fitness if you don’t have access to a gym? Below, I will outline my top 5 favorite conditioning movements along with their benefits and tips on proper form. At the bottom of the page, you will see a link to my Instagram page, where I have posted videos of proper form for each of these exercises. If you have questions or concerns about these exercises or need modifications for them, feel free to fill out the contact form and ask away! It may take me a day or two to get back with you, but I’m here to help!

Squat Jumps or Box Jumps

Box jumps would be a more advanced option and require something sturdy to jump onto. Something as simple as a step would suffice, though, especially if it’s your first time attempting to jump onto something that is raised. Squat jumps will be the easier of the two, although they are no less demanding. Anytime you are doing a lower body exercise, it’s important to focus on shifting your weight into your heels when you squat (or lunge) down. Doing this heel shift will help engage the proper muscles in your hips and glutes to give you the best strength and power for the movement. Very often, people tend to shift their weight into their toes, which puts extra strain on their knees and can disengage glutes completely. So, to protect your knees, back, and use the correct muscles for lower body movement, teach yourself to heel shift when doing squats and lunges.

Touchdown Squats

These can be a good beginner to intermediate exercise. They increase your heart rate, but can still be done in high volume without wearing you out quite as much as more advanced moves like burpees. You start with feet together, hop your feet out into a sumo squat, touch the ground, then hop your feet back together in the center! It sounds more complicated than it is, once you’ve got the hang of it. Touchdown squats are a great way to make regular squats more interesting!


Skaters can be tough for people who have issues with knee pain or past knee injuries. However, if you do not suffer with knee pain, skaters done correctly can not only get your heart rate up for effective conditioning, they can also help to strengthen your knee stability and prevent future knee injuries. This can especially be helpful if you (or your kids) like to play sports that require quick directional changes, like soccer, basketball, and baseball. One thing to always be conscious with this exercise is to always focus on balance and stability every time you land. Every time you land, you should feel your foot, ankle, knee, and hip come to full stability before hopping back sideways. I recommend using targets to hop to side to side, like towels, cones, or the width of a yoga mat. Having targets helps with form as well as challenging yourself to hop the same distance every time!

Lunges or Jumping Lunges

Although lunges are considered to be a basic strengthening exercise, if they are performed in high volume sets, they can be very effective in spiking your heart rate up high. Add in some dumbbells, and you’ll be working on strength and conditioning simultaneously! Anytime you perform exercises that target one leg at a time, you will be engaging your adductors (or inner thigh muscles) whether you feel them or not, Their main function is to stabilize the hips and knee during single leg movements. So if muscle tone is on your list of goals, lunges can be a good option to incorporate regularly to achieve well rounded muscle development.


The first thing you need to know about burpees is that they suck. They’re tough physically and they’re tough mentally to get through them when you’re fatigued. But anything worthwhile is never easy. When you break down the movement, it’s basically a push-up that turns into a jump squat. Burpees are great full body conditioning because they incorporate so many big muscle groups in the movement. They incorporate your chest, shoulders, and triceps every time you push up from the ground. They engage your core as you push up into a plank. And, of course, they work the tar out of your legs with that ending jump squat. Put it all together, and you have an exercise that will effectively get your heart rate up high and work on muscular strength and endurance.

Structuring Your Workout

Ok, you have a few different exercises to pick from, now it’s time to set up your workout for the day! I tend to get bored with doing the same things the same way over and over, so I try to be creative with my set-ups. Sometimes I’ll stick to consistent sets and reps. Sometimes I’ll add a few reps every round to make things interesting. Regardless of what I choose, I try to pick something that will keep me mentally engaged in what I’m doing, so that I avoid becoming robotic or automated with the work. For me, personally, becoming automated is a quick way for me to get bored, and therefore make it that much more difficult to stay motivated and challenged. Trying different sets and rep schemes can be helpful in keeping things interesting for you mentally as well as physically. Think about it terms of spices in cooking. If you use the same salt and pepper for every chicken recipe, things can get bland very quickly. Trying out or researching different combinations of spices can make even the most common dishes taste different and new! The same theory applies to working out. Try new approaches when one structure becomes stale or boring. Because there is never a reason to get bored with movement and exercise! Pick one or two conditioning exercises that I listed above. Next, pick a core exercise like a plank or crunches. Then set a timer for at least 20 minutes. Now you’re ready! Do each exercise for 20-30 repetitions each and see how many rounds you can do! Or start with 5 reps of each and then add 5 reps every round you get through.

That’s it! If you incorporate these into a daily workout routine, you’ll be able to get in a great workout anytime you’re stuck inside. If you have questions regarding these exercises I’ve listed, feel free to contact me using the form below!

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In Pursuit of Yourself || In Pursuit of Balance

“I am, somehow, less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops.” -Steven Jay Gould

In Pursuit of Nutrition Balance: Why am I eating AGAIN? || In the Pursuit of Balance

I’m sitting on the couch and constantly finding myself wondering what I can eat next…. Sound familiar to anyone else? Please tell me I’m not alone on this! I’m usually on the go and busy with work so now that I am at home looking for things to occupy my time with, I feel hungry all the time. Is it because my body needs more food? Hell no!

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In Pursuit of Potential: Finding and Growing your Strengths || In Pursuit of Balance

I was having a conversation the other day about people’s genetic potential and how different people are according to their genetic strengths and weaknesses. This is something I’ve thought a lot about because it’s something I’ve struggled with over the years. My genetics don’t necessarily lend itself to a body type/look that I had wished that I had, and for a long time, I struggled to attain that body type. Spoiler alert: I never attained it. And I was always disappointed with myself for not achieving it. But, as I’ve gotten older and more experienced, I’ve seen the same pattern with many people expressing that they wished that they looked like me. And some of these people saying this actually had the body type that I wished for! Weird, right? So what’s the conclusion? Why are so many people so hell bent on looking a way that is opposite of what they are? I think he answer is complicated and absolutely varies from person to person, but here are my theories. I think “the grass is always greener principle comes in to play in major way. I also think that society preys on our insecurities in order to profit from our drive to be excellent or feel wanted. We want to emulate what we admire, because we wish to be admired also. But the reality is, is that we are all so different that it would be a shame to squander what we are gifted with in search of possessing what someone else was gifted with.

There are countless strengths and weaknesses in a person’s makeup. Personality traits, intellectual strengths, creativity, work ethic, drive, and coping mechanisms all significantly shape a person’s overall strengths and weaknesses. My experience lies more with physical strengths weaknesses, so I will stay in my lane and explore what I know more about. Correct action can take you places and lead you to progress, but simply wishing things were different, especially wishing your genetic makeup was different, is a waste of your precious energy and life. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. And yes, that even includes those genetic freaks you see that are perfectly suited for their sport. I guarantee that they have weaknesses, but theirs might just not be physical. So I think it’s incredibly important to take stock of your strong suites. Now, because I’m a trainer and this is a blog about health and wellness, I’m going to focus on the physical side of these genetic strengths and weaknesses.

We have all heard the saying “the grass is always greener on the other side”, right? I think that this is a common reason that people are not happy with the genetics that they have been gifted with. It’s that same principle that even leaves us wishing we had the same material possessions or relationships that the person next to us has. It’s easy to idealize something we don’t have because we don’t know all the pros and cons associated with with that thing we are idolizing. It’s easy to look at things we don’t have through rose colored glasses and ignore all the complications and challenges that come packaged with it. And that can apply to more than just body type or genetics. That can apply to relationships, careers, children, material items, etc… It’s easy to wish for it because we don’t fully understand the challenges and downsides to having what they have. In my personal experience, I have had women tell me that they wish that they had my legs. It takes effort for me to not tell them that the only reason that I have the body that I do is because I live with some nasty depression and one of my primary ways to manage it is to train hard to manufacture serotonin and dopamine for my brain to stay somewhat stable. They see the end result of that training, but they don’t see or feel the mental/emotional work I have to put in to stay sane for my family and job. So hey, you can take my legs, but you”ll have to take my depression along with them in order to maintain them! But that same thing can apply to any athlete we admire, can’t it? It’s difficult to see the process through which they have attained the skill or strength or body that they have. Some people work and struggle and sacrifice for years to be able to look or perform at a certain level. When we see a great athlete smiling on a podium, all we see is the end result. We see the fruits of their labor, not their years of labor that lead them to that destination.

I believe that part of this wishing that we do is because we look up to our role models. We find people we admire because it helps us define or goals and gives a direction to our motivation. We want to emulate what we admire because we also want to be admired. Now, using people and defining goals is absolutely helpful. Without being specific about our goals and what we want in life, we would wander aimlessly and it would be next to impossible to accomplish the things we want. But there is a thin line between using an athlete or some other figure as a tool to define your own goals, and idolizing them to the point where you neglect to see your own magic. Because everyone has their own magic. I’ve seen some people run so effortlessly and easily that it makes me feel like a hippo racing gazelles. I’ve seen some people flow like water through yoga poses that would make me collapse like a crushed pretzel. And don’t even get me started on dancers. I’ve worked in gyms for fifteen years and not once have I ever done a zumba class. No way. Give me a barbell and I’ll be fine. But there are so many people who breeze through those things because they found their magic. They found their strengths and their happy place, and they pursue it! Their strengths look completely different than mine, and that’s beautiful. Now, that’s not say that I shouldn’t ever work on my weaknesses or never try new things. I may discover that I have more magic in me than I thought! So exploring everything is important!

With the revolution of social media and constant connectivity, I think a lot of people fall victim to that “wishing” because of targeted marketing. It’s not secret that facebook and google sell every bit of your data to companies worldwide that use it to tailor advertisements and recommendations to you personally. If you put on your facebook that you are engaged, advertisements for wedding dresses and venues will absolutely start popping up all over your phone. Even if you talk about certain topics with your phone nearby, google and youtube will listen in and use that information to tailor advertisements for you. If you don’t believe that, I encourage you to experiment with it. You’ll notice it immediately. If these companies do that with just mundane information, you can bet they do it with your health and body image as well. On TV, in social media, and every advertisement, we see images of beautiful people who have nice bodies. We are conditioned from childhood to see that as being normal even though most of it is altered and photo-shopped. And when we see that we don’t live up to their so-called normal standards we are inundated with, we are given advertisements for products and services that will fix us. We live in a society of corporations that manipulate us into having insecurities and then sell us cures for the disease that they created in your mind. It’s a huge business and unplugging from it completely is as difficult as living without internet these days. Being aware of what the media is doing and how it is trying to manipulate you into being a consumer for these things is the first step. Limiting your exposure really helps. But I understand all too well that avoiding all exposure is impossible if you plan on functioning in society with other people. I don’t plan on being a hermit in the near future, so all I can do is take everything I am fed through social media and other forms of media with a grain of salt. I ask myself this question, “Who benefits from me believing this or thinking this way?” If the answer to that question is anyone besides me and the people I care about, it usually means that a corporation will benefit from it.

I understand that this all may seem a little paranoid or you may think that I go around wearing a tin foil hat. But I challenge you to start challenging the ideas that you are exposed to on a daily basis. Is it actually healthy to give 100% of your energy to a workout every day? Is it really a good idea to chase your fitness goals at all costs, even if that cost includes your loved ones? Is it really beneficial to your life to beat yourself up for missing the gym because you were recovering from a panic attack? There is a balance between chasing your goals and what you have determined you want for your body and living your best life. You have different strengths than the person standing next to you. It would be a disservice to you both to compare your strengths and weaknesses and to each of you to reach the same goal the same way. So we must approach it with a balance. We must pursue our strengths with gratitude and be mindful of our weaknesses.

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In Pursuit of Potential: Finding and Growing your Strengths || In Pursuit of Balance

There are countless strengths and weaknesses in a person’s makeup. Personality traits, intellectual strengths, creativity, work ethic, drive, and coping mechanisms all significantly shape a person’s overall strengths and weaknesses. But it would be a disservice to you to compare your strengths and weaknesses with others and to expect you to reach the same goal the same way.

Balancing Time: Better than Nothing

Not everyone has the same 24 hours so it’s unrealistic to compare your journey with someone else’s. Family, mental illness, career, and access all have huge impacts on your pursuit in balancing life with fitness. Pursue new strategies to help you take steps towards your goals if balancing time or energy is an issue for you!

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In Pursuit of Health: Balancing Your Mindset Towards Food

This is your gentle reminder that there is no moral value attached to food! There is no food that is morally bad or morally good. There is just food that can help you and food that will hinder you from your goals that you have chosen for your health and for your life.  You didn’t eat “bad” on the weekend. You simply consumed things that were counterproductive to your goals. And because there is no moral value to food, you certainly should never “punish” your body for what you ate. You simply need to get back on track and make the decision to pursue what you want in your life. Working out or eating healthy foods should never be a punishment for what you ate or how you feel about how you look. Exercise and movement should always be a celebration for what your body is capable of. Choosing to eat healthy food will simply be the most effective fuel for your body expanding it’s capabilities.

Usually when I hear people saying they “ate bad”, they’re usually referring to the weekends, and they use Monday as a fresh start to getting on track with their goals. Weekends can be a tough time to stay on track with your goals. It is for me as well! Usually people’s schedules are completely different on weekends versus weekdays, which can make it difficult to eat or move the way you want to or should. Planning ahead can help–meal prepping healthy meals to have ready and available can help create healthy convenience for busy schedules. But sometimes there is only so much you can plan for when it comes to weekends or special events. I have always believed that fitness exists to enhance people’s lives, not to control them. On everyone’s journey, there will be occasions where there will be overindulgence or counterproductive foods. We all have one life and it is meant to be lived to the fullest. So worrying about an occasional “cheat day” on your fitness journey can sometimes be more counterproductive to living your full life. Having said that, I do also believe we need to be honest with ourselves in our pursuit of our goals. Whether those goals are fitness related, mental health, career related, or with our relationships, we need to take an honest account of our efforts towards our goals and our consistency with that effort. Everything worth having requires work. All of our goals in life will take consistency and effort. But being honest with ourselves doesn’t need to result in feeling guilt if our efforts are less than perfect or just straight up bad. Feeling guilt or shame is fruitless and will get you nowhere and will benefit no one.  So go ahead and do a self check. What are your goals exactly? What specific steps are you taking today that will take you closer to that goal? If you don’t know the steps required, educating yourself on those first steps is your first step!

Ok, back to the morality of food and health…. Just like healthy food versus unhealthy food, people are not inherently better than others for being healthy either. That’s right. People who eat healthy all the time or work out all the time are not inherently more moral or valuable or better than people who don’t. Low body fat does not grant anyone moral superiority. Their physical strength does not add value to their soul. That mindset can be very profitable to certain people in power and companies trying to capitalize on everyone’s internal desire to be seen as being valuable. But this is toxic thinking. Not only is it mentally toxic to approach life and other people this way, it just isn’t true! As a society we need to move away from assigning value to people based on how they look. At the end of the day, your body isn’t actually you; it’s simply the physical house for your soul anyway.

At the end of the day, guilt and shame should never be attached to what foods you consume or did not consume. Knowledge about how what you are consuming can help you or harm you is important. Understanding and being honest with yourself about your decisions for yourself is important. Self assessment regarding your actual efforts you put towards your goals is important. Guilt and shame will get you nowhere. Knowledge and self honesty can help direct your decisions to align more with where you want to be in your life. So instead of wasting your energy feeling guilty about “eating bad” use that energy instead to do better! Turn your negative feelings into positive action with a positive mindset! 

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There’s a cliche image in my head whenever I hear the word “meditation” : it’s a perfect looking, perfectly zen looking woman sitting with perfect posture and meditating…perfectly. You know the one I’m talking about. She has a perfect body, a really nice yoga outfit, and lush hair that’s blowing ever so slightly in the […]

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Meal Prep for the Lazy Cook: Balancing a Busy Life and Nutrition

OK, so the truth is, is that I’m not lazy. I’m just tired from a busy life. Trying to balance a full time job where I’m on my feet the majority of my day followed by kids, homework, working out, etc… My body has just had it by the end of the day and I don’t want to expend more energy on cooking. I want to sit down. I want to recharge because I know that before I blink, I’m going to wake up and do it all again. Sound familiar?

Healthy eating doesn’t have to be hard, if you’re interested in more information about healthy, clean eating, check out my post, Stop Dieting, where I talk about the all the basics. 

So how do I find the balance between recharging and making the time to cook healthy meals? To be honest, sometimes I don’t! I do my best, but sometimes life has a way of kicking my ass and I find myself serving mac n cheese for dinner…again. But I still have to try, right?  The best way I have found is to try to set myself up for success. When things go according to plan, I meal prep only on select days, and on those days I try to cook enough to last until the next day I know I’ll have the energy to cook again. I pick easy things that I can set to cook, then go sit on my keister until it’s done. Crock-Pot recipes are golden! Big batches of soups (bone broth soups are soo good for you)  are great too, especially in colder weather. My personal go-to’s are typically chicken (baked or sauteed with a little coconut oil) cooked with a few bell peppers and rice. I have red meat once or twice during the week to give my body a little extra fats and a different source of protein, but I usually stick with eggs, chicken/turkey, and an occasional protein shake for most of my day to day protein. If you subscribe to my blog, you’ll receive a free guide to clean eating!

I know that with my personal schedule, I’ll have the time and energy to meal prep on Sunday and Wednesday evenings, so that’s when I cook my meals for the week. Any other day of the week, I’m too rushed to get to work or busy with family stuff to cook healthy meals for when I’m at work. I know many people who choose to cook everything for the week on Sunday. Taking on the whole week in one go ended up being to overwhelming for me, so I adapted and did something different. It may take a while to work out what days and times work best for you, so I would advise trying to find the most realistic days you will be able to stick to. 

Meal prepping doesn’t just set you up for success with pursuing health, it helps out financially as well. Instead of paying $5-10 once or twice a day eating out, I can eat 4 times a day for about $10 total. So if finances are something you are pursuing as well, meal prepping just makes sense. It takes a little more effort and energy and trial and error, but in the long run, it pays off big time. 

Meal prepping is key on those busy days when fast food would otherwise be tempting. If you have a full meal waiting for you at home or in the fridge at work, it makes it significantly easier to stick to pursuing your nutritional goals. So if you can, take the time to cook while you have energy so you can recharge later, and not have to worry about sticking to your plan!

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On Rest, Healing, and Health…

I rested a full week after having the flu–that means no crossfit, no intense cardio, just some light lifting. I barely cooked at all, much less healthy meals. Canned chicken noodle soup and Gatorade pretty much kept me alive during that week. The flu kicked my ass. For some reason, I don’t remember the flu being so bad when I was a kid. It’s one of those experiences that fades with time I guess. But I was wrecked for a solid week and I never want to be wrecked like that again. All the temperature fluctuations and body aches were crazy. My bones were achy and my muscles were exhausted from existing. I might wish it on my worst enemy, but they would really have to be on my bad side for me to wish that on them. I managed to stay hydrated for that week and recovered from the worst of it. The week afterwards, though, I was still extremely fatigued and I chose to take naps instead of going to crossfit like I normally would, for some heavy lifting and high intensity metabolic conditioning. I chose to sleep instead and I slept hard.

Rocking the Sith Lord robe…

I was surprised when I  received some criticism for not getting back into crossfit immediately. Like, as soon as I was able to stand on two feet, I was supposed to pick up where I left off as if I never stopped. I shouldn’t have been surprised though, because that’s pretty normal for today, right? After we have babies, we’re supposed to snap back into our more youthful bodies as if we didn’t just create a human from nothing with our bodies. If we are expected to pick up where we left off with fitness after having a baby, the flu should be nothing right? Nevermind that the flu, unfortunately, still actually kills some people. Nevermind the fact that a hundred years ago, this flu I had might have managed to kill me without access to modern medicine. Heaven forbid I take my time getting over being sick.

I didn’t cave into the pressure to get back into intense workouts immediately. I took my time. I listened to my body and worked on movements that felt good. And I took time in between sets. My lungs were still very congested with mucus ( it sounded like I was hacking up a lung every few minutes), and I needed time to breath. I was not worried about improving my fitness level or getting stronger right during that time. I was simply focused on muscle activation and blood circulation. I was concerned with getting my heart rate up enough to get my lungs working, but not enough to have them strain to keep up with the work. I was moving, yes, but I’m listening to my body and only working within the limitations it was adamant about. Overworking your body while it’s healing is just asking for trouble. Whether it’s in the form of an injury or, more likely, a secondary infection, over exerting your body while it’s vulnerable won’t get you far in the long run.

I’m a big proponent for listening to your body and staying in tuned to what it needs and doesn’t need. At some point I realized that there isn’t actually a rush to “get somewhere” in my fitness journey, because it’s only that–a journey. It’s easy to get caught up in the rush of things, with deadlines, shelf life, and social media. I think it’s easy to fall victim of this mentality when I was younger, but time and experience are tough teachers. So I’ve learned to take my time and to rest when I feel like my body or my mind needs it. I’ve learned that when it comes to things like health and fitness, those deadlines and pressure that you feel is all made up. It’s all literally invented to feed the machine of corporate materialism. The need to rush things leads people to buy additional supplements and workout gear to speed them towards their goals. Supplements and shortcuts may help shave off fractions of time, but trusting the process and being consistent with your effort will take you just as far without the pretend pressure. I decided a while ago that I’m not going to be a gear in that machine of materialism, nor do I want to be. Choosing not to be in this social climate is a consistent, conscious choice. Sitting out and not participating in the fray is going against the grain, and it’s sometimes lonely, but I know it’s the right choice for me and my inner peace. So instead of exhausting myself before work with crossfit, I slept on the couch after I put my son on the bus. I knew I was going to have a long and tiring day and I knew my body needed an extra boost before I got going. And I didn’t feel guilty about it.

Thus far, I’ve just been talking about physical health and the need to rest from exercise periodically. What about mental illness and rest? What about depressive episodes and anxiety attacks and rest? How often are we pressured to power through these aspects of our lives and still work, still work out, still cook, still parent, still be a good partner? This is a subject I would like to dive in a little deeper and talk about more because I think this subject deserves its own post. I think that mental health is still very much stigmatized, and the effects of depression and anxiety on people’s physical health still largely goes unaddressed. The truth is, is that depression and/or anxiety is exhausting. It takes huge amounts of energy to go about daily life while depression is weighing on your mind and your body. Going through daily life tasks while struggling to keep anxiety at bay is exhausting. The energy it takes to live with mental illness should never be underestimated. While it’s true that some days are easier than others to manage symptoms of mental illness, it doesn’t mean that it’s effortless. This is something to seriously consider when we’re talking about physical health and exercise. Because some days are almost impossible to get out of bed, let alone going to work and interacting with people. The effort it takes on those days to exist sometimes depletes us, and exercising on top of it all can be out of the question. Finding a balance between having enough energy to manage mental illness and finding the energy to workout can be difficult and for some it can be unrealistic. I was fortunate enough to develop coping mechanisms for my depression and anxiety using exercise when I was younger. Having that coping mechanism established, has really helped me through every serious depressive episode I’ve had in my life. The serotonin and dopamine that dumps into my brain after a crossfit session is unreal. I feel high; my body and mind are too tired to care about little things that can trigger my depression or anxiety.

But I realize that I’m one of the lucky ones. I realize that not everyone has the same access to the environment of working out, the knowledge of how to best go about it, or the time to spend in the gym. I realize that so many people could benefit in the same way that I do from exercise, but they face huge obstacles that could make it impossible for them. But even for people who have that access, being consistent with exercise can be difficult if mental illness starts rearing its ugly head. That’s why sleep is so important. Sleep is important for everyone who is trying to reach goals for physical health or performance. But sleep is even more important for people who deal with mental illness. Your brain and your body needs rest to heal. And dealing with depressive episodes and/or anxiety attacks is enough to need extra rest to heal from it. So, yes, exercise is important. Consistent effort in the gym is important. But if you’re dealing with symptoms of mental illness on a daily basis, sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is rest. Unapologetically rest.

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Pursuit of Motivation

Tis the season to get in shape! Usually at the beginning of every year, countless people resolve to lose weight/get healthy/ improve their body. And, unfortunately, most of those people don’t follow through with pursuing their goals. Life can get in the way or, more often than not, they just get discouraged by their slow progress, or lack thereof. 

Curiosity can be a big motivator… Aren’t you curious what your body is really capable of?

I’ve been a personal trainer for almost 15 years, and though I am by no means am expert on motivation and sports psychology, through my experience, I have seen tendencies and trends with a lot of people in the arena of health and weight loss. What I’ve seen is that most people begin their health journey out of a negative relationship to their body–they don’t like their body, they don’t like how they look, and it makes them feel negatively about themselves. So they try to lose weight to feel better. Well, this is a very negative view on fitness–it seeks to subtract from your life (deprive yourself of food, reduce your weight, shrink your body, etc…) as opposed to adding to it. People use this negative mental state as motivation to change their body. But this motivation only lasts as long as they are in that unhealthy/negative headspace. As soon as they get in a healthier mental state, that motivation to improve their physical disappears. 

Then so begins a toxic cycle of self loathing, wanting to get healthy, getting healthy, and then losing the motivation to be healthy. It can be followed by physical regression, which results in self loathing, yet again. I’ve seen the cycle repeat itself over and over again in people and it gets them nowhere. If you are interested in a video where I speak about this very topic, motivation and fitness, you can check out this YouTube channel run by my good friend Misti. If you’re looking for videos on manifestation and positivity, definitely check out her videos!!  She is an incredibly inspiring individual who helps people every day bring positive thinking into their lives. 

I often hear people referring to working out as a punishment for the unhealthy food they ate over the weekend, or for being too busy to work out the week before. That can be a very negative frame of mind with which to approach exercise. Moving and weight training should be a positive journey, whether you’re trying to make yourself stronger, faster, or for more endurance. It should be a discovery of what your body is capable of accomplishing day in, and day out. I’m not a competitive powerlifter, but I can deadlift 315 (conventional, not sumo, for those keeping track), and I’m very intentional in never training, lifting, or eating healthy as a punishment to my body. I’ve gotten very strong out of celebration of my body and out of curiosity. I celebrate when my body can do a certain amount of work, and then I get curious…let’s see what else it can do? I’ve trained many women over the years and within a month I have them pushing and pulling weights that they never thought they would do. They became more capable than they imagined they would and it made all the hard work fun! With that, losing weight and losing inches came as a bonus!

It’s very easy to get caught up in the aesthetic aspects of working out, even for veterans in the gym. I think that social media is responsible for a lot of the pressure we face in recent days to look a certain way or maintain a certain lifestyle. There’s more pressure than ever to look perfect and look like you have your life together. But that’s not reality, is it? Perfection can never be attained. Using that for motivation is futile and only leads to an unhealthy view of yourself and others. The pressure that you put on yourself to look a certain way can be very toxic. There are a myriad of different body types, which makes it impossible for some people to achieve a certain look or shape in a physically healthy way. So before you start comparing your body to those Instagram models we all see every day, think about your genetics and see their unique potential. My body type will never allow me to look like any of the Kardashians, so it’s pointless for me to waste my energy trying. My natural genetics make me tend to gain body fat on my stomach, not my butt or my legs. Think Spongebob… So to achieve the narrow, six-pack-abs waistline with a huge bubble butt, would only lead me to failure. Big failure. But…My genetics allow me to get strong, and that’s what feels best for me to pursue. My body feels it’s best when I’m challenging my strength and performance because that’s what my body type lends itself to. So take a moment to see the potential in your own genetics. I guarantee that your potential is much greater than just how you look in a pair of leggings!

Instead of relying on a negative state of mind to find and maintain your motivation, look to add positive things to your life! Add strength and endurance. Add years to your life. Make a goal to walk/run races with your kids or your friends. Join a martial arts class. Check out a dance class for adults. Try crossfit or yoga. There are countless communities to get involved in and they have the potential to be an incredibly positive force in your life and your future health! So instead of hating your body, begin doing things to add to your life, because your body isn’t actually you, right? Your body is just the physical representation of you. Who you are has always been and always be fluid. Everyone grows and changes over time, and that’s a good thing. It only makes sense that your body will be a fluid representation of you as well. So adding positive things to your life will have a healthier impact on you and your body than a negative punishment. Positivity will take you further than negativity every time.

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Stop Dieting! Have a Health Approach to Eating Habits!

There are fad diets and different eating plans and advice on nutrition everywhere you look. Especially at the beginning of the year, there are individuals and businesses trying to capitalize on people’s resolutions to get healthier. Throughout the year, they prey on people’s insecurities to convince them that buying into a diet will provide the magic cure for their body image issues. Does it work? Does any of it work? Statically, no. Obesity is at an all time high in America. An estimated 40% of American adults are battling obesity these days and it looks like those numbers are on the rise. Although I could write whole articles of the causes of obesity/ being overweight and the populations that are more at risk and why, today I’m going to write about simplifying nutrition. 

Along with a sedentary lifestyle, an over busy work schedule, and the incredible convenience of unhealthy food choices, mis-information about nutrition contributes in a big way to people being unable to stick to habits of healthy eating. So what’s the secret? Honestly, the best nutrition plan is one that you can stick to–even if it’s imperfect. It’s true! Turning your life upside down and changing everything in pursuit of a healthier body is usually unsustainable for the long-term. The most balanced solution is finding one change you can implement at a time. Take one meal in your day and change it to something healthier that you can reasonably stick to. Be consistent with that change Remember! It takes 21 days to create a habit. After you created your new habit, it’s time to take the next step! One baby step at a time can lead to huge progress over time.

Consistency will always outweigh intensity when it comes to a healthy body and a healthy mind. That goes for everything, not just nutrition. Whether it’s your eating habits, exercise, or meditation, being consistent with the steps you take will take you further than burning out with high intensity. If you’re looking for more information on exercise, check out the fitness section of my site or enroll in my online training!

An important thing to always keep in mind is how crucial it is to get “back on the wagon” when you fall off. And we all fall off sometimes. I, personally, try to eat well, eight out of ten times. And that’s good for me! Some weeks it’s more like five or six out of ten. I’m never 100% on point with my nutrition and I have no intention to ever be perfect with my it. I’m not a bodybuilder trying to get on stage . I’m not a professional athlete. I’m not a public figure with a team of people helping me live my life. I’m just a woman who has a full time job helping people. I’m a mother. I’m a wife. I’m a friend. I struggle with depression. I struggle with social anxiety. I don’t have the time or capacity to be perfect with my nutrition or my workouts and I never will. And I’m willing to bet that nine out of ten people are just like me. Which means falling off is part of the journey, right? Just like getting back on track–it’s all part of the process. 

So expect to fall off! Expect motivation to come and go like waves at a beach. Expect real life to kick your ass sometimes. It’s okay. It’s not a failure. It’s just part of the journey that we’re all on. Just don’t give up. When you can, get back on track. One step at a time. Getting back on track might look different every time, and that’s okay too! The important thing is that you show up to your own life and you try.

That being said, eating healthy does not have to be complicated. Granted, eating healthy can be repetitive, especially if you’re on a budget like I am. But, if it doesn’t work for you or your life, you don’t have to make it complicated with carbohydrate cycling, or the keto diet, or intermittent fasting, and all that stuff. All of which are viable eating approaches if they work for you! But if we’re talking about just the basics, clean eating is actually pretty simple. Your body needs protein regularly throughout the day. This is really important if you’re working towards more muscle tone and you’re lifting weights.

Clean eating doesn’t have to complicated, it just has to be consistent.

It’s good if you eat veggies every time you eat as well. I, personally, get too full/bloated if I eat veggies every time I eat, but veggies are great if you feel like you’re used to eating bigger portions and need to feel more full. For most people, it will be carbs that will make or break their ability to lean out or not. Most people need one serving of carbohydrates before they work out and one serving after they workout. Carbs are your fuel! If you’re going to be using fuel, you”ll need some! If not, you don’t really need any. Most of us don’t burn a whole lot of energy with our day to day life, so more often than not, you just need good protein and some veggies. If it’s a rest day, one serving of carbs first thing in the morning is all you really need. I you want your very own Clean Eating Guide, subscribe to my blog and I’ll send you one for free!

This cheat sheet breaks down a simple list of options and serving sizes of lean proteins, high quality veggies, and good choices for carbohydrates. Now keep in mind that every person is different. Everyone is a different size, has different genetics, different body chemistry, and different schedules. So my guide is really just meant to be used as a tool to help you set up a plan that works for you. If you feel run down and out of energy, you may need to tweak how much protein or carbs you take in, so tweak away!! 

You’ll notice, though, that most everything on the lists are whole, raw foods. That’s not by accident! If health is a pursuit of yours, trying to incorporate real foods (not just food products) is crucial to improving your health. Our bodies were not designed to process or use the preservatives and chemicals found in ready-made food products. Even if you didn’t change portions or timing of your meals, if you just changed from processed foods to real foods, your body will function more properly and you will feel better. Simply because your body won’t be slowed down by the artificial chemicals and preservatives!

The great news about my food guide is that it’s not a diet! That’s right! You’ll never have to diet again. It’s just clean eating knowledge that you follow as much as you choose. Like I mentioned earlier, a good goal for me is eating clean 8 out of 10 times. If I wanted to lean out (or make up for a week when I followed it five out of ten times) I would follow it more often. I’ve had so many clients that had great results with this approach to eating because it works! 

Nutrition doesn’t have to be complicated for it to work, and definitely doesn’t have to be expensive. Good nutrition just needs to be consistent for it to work. Choosing small steps that you can realistically make into a habit will help you out more in the long run than a short lived diet plan. Just keep taking the right steps for you!

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Pursuing Strength: Top 5 Back Pain Prevention Techniques

Let me just start this off by saying that I am not a physical therapist, so if you have access to healthcare and need a diagnosis for your back pain, GO DO IT! Seriously. Get off your keister and do something about it instead of suffering. However, if you’re like me, health insurance and doctors […]

In Pursuit of Health: Balancing Your Mindset Towards Food

This is your gentle reminder that there is no moral value attached to food! There is no food that is morally bad or morally good. There is just food that can help you and food that will hinder you from your goals that you have chosen for your health and for your life.  You didn’t […]

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