I am a wife, mom, grandma, business owner, and former professional “diet and exercise hopper" who understands the challenges of being 40lb overweight after giving birth and the damage repeated sense of failure could cause in your confidence and self-esteem.
I was never much of a “fitness” person as a child or an adult. I was actually the chubby kid in school and for many years, I was bullied because of it. I never played sports unless forced to. PE was the worst, no?
I have battled with my weight and body image for years. I hated going to the gym because people would judge me. I've been on numerous diets from diet pills as a teen to Jenny Craig as an adult.
Believe me when I say I know how you feel. CAUSE I DO.
The fitness industry was failing me. It's failing all of us. Unless your goal is to be supermodel thin with diets and extreme measures, there isn't much out there for the average Jane.
And by no means are you average.
But I'm sure you want to:
- Feel really good about yourself and your health
- Be able to keep up with your kids
- Have more energy
- Not stress about clothes shopping
- And eat gelato without someone giving you the "a moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips" speech
And so Ripped by Rycroft was born through my drive to create a space that my past self and those like me would want to be, a place that makes the journey one of hope and success, not of shame and defeat. My mission is to help women gain strength & confidence through strength training & habit-based nutrition practices that keep them off the diet cycle so they can go from deprivation to moderation.
I have a passion to show other women how it’s possible to make long-lasting changes to their lifestyle and feel good in their own skin. Sustainability and balance are key. I hold my client's hand through this process to help them create good nutrition habits that are sustainable for a lifetime.
I pride myself on focusing on their individual needs. Based on their current nutrition habits, fitness level, and goals, I create a plan that is tailor-made, fits within their lifestyle and is flexible enough to adapt it to unexpected schedule changes. Enjoying the journey is a very important part of the big picture; you won’t be able to sustain your fitness routine if you hate every minute of it.
When I think of the term Alpha Maiden, I think of a woman who is empowered, strong (mentally and physically), bold, and a leader. She is courageous and stands up for those around her. She is the ultimate girl boss in every sense of the word.
Make sure to follow Michelle and check out her 30 Day Planner below!
30 Day Planner
There are so many quotes out there that talk about body positivity, self love, confidence, etc.
I saw one today that said,
“Stop trying so hard.”
I get the message. Stop trying so hard to be perfect. Stop trying so hard to meet others unrealistic expectations. The message can be useful to those who always feel like they're trying to live a perfect life and appear like everything is perfect too. This can lead to a cycle of pretending, comparing your bad times to others Instagram highlight reels. And that can lead to feelings of inadequacy.
Learning confidence and self acceptance is huge. Learning to hold value in yourself without the need to "prove yourself to anyone," is also huge. But in our society today we’re all about that mentality of “everyone gets a trophy for existing” because we’re so worried about shattering peoples self esteem.
Self confidence is important. Valuing ourselves is important. But it’s also something that comes from within, not how many participation trophies you got when you were 5.
In our society we have so many destructive coping behaviors like drugs, opiate addiction, alcohol, food and even relationships that we know aren’t good for us. They make use feel terrible, but we get addicted and don’t know how to deal with life any other way. We become addicted to external validation when we haven't built our confidence from within first.
If we follow the advice above, “Stop trying so hard,” it’s not actually going to get us anywhere. It’s going to lead straight to the “giving no fucks” mentality, which might seem to help at first but in the long run leads to lack of passion, perpetual apathy and laziness.
Instead of following the “stop trying so hard,” quote, we need to look inward and assess WHERE we’re putting all our energy, then re-direct it if needed.
Maybe you’re trying too hard to get as many likes as possible on social media, so all your pics are half naked and suggestive. The attention makes you feel better about yourself because you place your self-worth in getting validation from strangers. It might make you feel better, but only temporarily, until the need to post another pic emerges.
Or maybe you’re trying too hard in a relationship where the other person treats you like shit and you think that maybe if you keep trying and putting everything you’ve got in it plus some, that maybe he’ll finally appreciate and start giving back (trust me, I’ve been there before and he won’t).
Instead of “stop trying so hard,” think about refocusing your energy. Ask yourself where you’re expending energy and identify if it’s constructive or destructive. Then, redirect it if it’s bad for you.
Here are ways you can redirect your efforts:
Redirect it. Find purpose. And try hard with that instead.
We hear both of these words a lot and often lump them together in the same category. Especially now days when we see so much online about self love, acceptance, having a positive mindset and so forth.
But these two words actually mean different things and aren't mutually exclusive.
Let’s break it down.
Mindset is your interpretation of the world, and your thoughts/feelings behind events and other life situations.
We've all heard the line, "Do you see your glass as half empty or half full?" This is a representation of mindset and whether or not we interpret things in a positive or negative way.
Do you believe that you are set in your ways and 'you are who you are’ and there’s no changing that, even your shortcomings? Or, do you perceive things in a way where you see opportunity, where it’s always possible to grow and become a better person?
This is a fixed versus a growth mindset.
Mindset is also how we perceive events. Are you in a victim mindset where the world and bad things always happens
to you? Where there is constantly drama in your life and you are always thrown under the bus by someone else?
Where someone else is always out to get you?
Or are you the type where you realize things happen and the cards fall as they do, but you’re not going to let it stop you from moving forward, growing and making a difference in the world and becoming a better person?
This is a victim versus growth mindset.
Mental Toughness is developing the tools to operate better in the world, become a more resilient human being and as a result create healthier relationships.
Mental toughness can be learned over time. It’s developing tools that will take time to learn, dedication to solidify, and constant practice to maintain. Just like lifting weights in the gym, it takes time to build muscle and consistency to maintain.
These tools include things like
It's the beginning of the month and here on Alpha Maiden, we have a monthly feature highlighting another strong woman who is doing great things in the world! I am honored to announce the Alpha Maiden of November, Taylor Gage!
Taylor a Crossfit and weightlifting coach, and she owns and runs her business, She Thrives, where her mission is to make others feel strong, capable, healthy and confident in their own skin. She is also an extremely talented photographer, and is the behind-the-camera woman who took all the photos to date for Alpha Maiden!
Who is Taylor outside all the amazing stuff she does on the daily? Check out her responses to the questions I asked her below:
Q: Please tell me about your story and what got you into health and fitness:
1. Write about your story and what got you into health/fitness
A: I was a competitive swimmer in my youth and enjoyed it until I didn’t, and then quit swimming around the age of 12.
I dabbled casually in workouts throughout my teens and 20’s, but never became fanatical about health, fitness and overall wellness until I discovered CrossFit in 2012. When I worked out before CrossFit, it was usually doing either group classes at the gym or at-home style workout videos, because I always hated the 24-hour fitness style gyms; where you go alone and put your headphones on and jog on a treadmill until the end of time. No thank you.
Finding CrossFit reignited my competitive nature while simultaneously putting me in a room with dozens of peers and coaches who were eager to see me succeed and improve, and that feeling was (is!) intoxicating. The drive to get better took hold of me, and instead of trying to burn off last night’s pantry raid on the hamster wheel, I was interested in becoming stronger, fitter, and a better all around athlete.
Q. When was a time you felt weak and what did you do to feel strong again?
A: As a person who loves (needs?) to be in control and in charge, I feel my weakest when I’m either not taking purposeful action in a direction I want to be moving, or not taking action at all. Whether that’s being perfectly “busy” and “productive” and moving along, but all under someone else’s terms and expectations and not my own, or feeling paralyzed or stagnant and not taking ANY steps at all, (or both): not being at the driver’s seat of my own life is when I feel most powerless.
And it can be a tricky one to navigate sometimes, because it can feel safe to sit around and contemplate your next move, to plan, to plot, to mentally prepare. It can even feel productive! But I know that the best way out of these moments is through actually taking action; by doing one thing; by taking one tiny step.
Sitting around and waiting for the right time to arrive, or the perfect conditions to appear, or a lightning bolt of inspiration to hit in order to finally take control of your own life is a dangerous way to live.
No matter what I’m currently struggling with, taking action right now is what puts me back into my power, every time.
Q: What is your passion, purpose and the She Thrives Mission?
A: My mission with She Thrives is a simple one, but the paths to get there are often complex and varied in nature. I want to help women find their strength. This comes in many flavors: I want women to feel their physical strength and get to see their body as a powerful force of nature. I want them to feel strong in spirit and in mind, and feel capable of handling not only everything that life throws their way (defense), but able to take meaningful action towards what they want most in life (offense). I want us all as a society to stop shaming women over every damn thing and to stop worrying about our bodies and how we’re being perceived and the list of trivial bullshit that we’re told we should be caring about or doing. You’ll never see a “tips for fat loss” post from me, but instead tons of words on how to embrace the skin you’re in, stop fighting with food and your body, and how to have a fulfilling, balanced, fun life— all while feeling healthy and strong.
I also do my best to let my readers know that whatever hardship they may be facing, they are not alone. And feeling like the grass is always greener, or that she has it easier, or that her life is perfect, is normal, but also a product of the social media age. I don’t advertise myself as an expert, or as someone who has it all figured out. I am just a girl with a passion and an instagram account, doing my best and making it all up as I go. I try to be as real as I can about the peaks and valleys of my own journey, and hope that my openness and honesty about my moments of weakness and strength and everything in between, helps someone else tap into their own power.
If I can help one woman, even in the tiniest way, end the pursuit of “perfect” and embrace the messy journey; let go of what she thinks she SHOULD be (to herself or others or society at large), and start to feel in control of her own life, more happy in her own skin, more focused on what fills her up, and like she’s finally giving a f*ck about the stuff that actually matters to her, my mission is accomplished.
Q: Here on Alpha Maiden we support our officers in blue, firemen, military and other service members. Can you tell us what it's like being married to a Police Officer?
A: It’s interesting because we are both in the business of helping people, and also both in the business of teaching adults new skills (he is also a field training officer, teaching new hires the ropes). We have a lot in common with our work, and I truly do always worry about him— but find that I have to just not think about it in order to not lose my mind over it all the time. I think the thing that stands out to me the most (in that thought’s place, perhaps), is the fact that I could never do what he does. I am so emotional, and quick to react, and I take things to heart, and am generally a sensitive person. He, on the other hand, is methodical, patient, level-headed and even keeled. Not only are these qualities necessary for his job, but they challenge ME to practice patience and the art of letting things go— things I can always use more of.
He embodies strength in a whole different way than I do, and I think that’s a beautiful thing: both for my personal journey and growth, but more so for the people in this world that he has opportunities to help on a daily basis.
Q: What does being an Alpha Maiden mean to you? What makes you an 'Alpha Maiden?'
A: To me, when I hear “alpha”, I think leader. Someone who is in charge. And not in the sense of bossing others around or holding the rule book, but actually the opposite: someone who throws OUT the rulebook in favor of their own rules, and someone who lets others speak and live their truth in the same way.
While I thrive when I’m in control or in charge, my mission is to help women step fully into their OWN life and their own strength: not fit the mold of mine or anyone else’s.
You’re taking the bus home from work. It’s winter so it’s already dark. You’re waiting at the bus stop, and someone walks toward you asking for money. You say you don’t have cash on you. Instead of leaving, the person gets too close, pulls out a knife and stabs you in the side, then runs off. The wound is deep. The pain is overwhelming. You press your clothing to the wound to try and stop the bleeding.
You decide to just go home. You don't call the cops. You go home and stuff a ton of paper towels in the wound, and even though it’s throbbing like mad, you go to sleep. You toss and turn all night.
You wake up the next morning and sitting up in bed makes the wound start to bleed again. But you have to go to work, so you cover up the wound and go to the office anyway.
You ignore the pain.
You don’t look at the wound to see how bad it is.
You don’t tell the cops.
You don’t go to the doctor.
You don’t tell your friends or family.
Every day that goes by, the wound gets more painful and more infected.
You finally tell a close friend that you got stabbed long after the fact. You show him the wound.
Your friend yells, “You need to go to the doctor right now!”
And you say, “Yeah, it hurts a lot and I think it's infected. But I’m okay, I’ll be fine...”
Now, does this story sound realistic?
I certainly hope not. If this happened to you, I hope you'd call the cops, report the crime and see a doctor to get medical attention. I hope you'd get help.
Unfortunately, we treat sexual harassment and assault exactly like the story above.
We get hurt and we don't speak up. We internalize our pain for weeks, months, years and in many cases a lifetime. As a result of not talking about it, we pass the pain and victim-based-mentality onto the next generation.
The criminal isn't held accountable. We don't get help. And it keeps happening.
But that is changing.
The campaign ‘'Me Too’ has swept across social media by storm. So many women have pulled the curtain back and revealed that sexual harassment or assault has also happened to them.
It was your sister, your mother, your wife or girlfriend.
Even your daughter.
It was you.
So many of us have posted ‘'me too,’ in the hopes of bringing awareness to the astronomical number of women who are affected by this. To no longer conceal the truth.
To no longer view even talking about it as hush-hush taboo.
However, after this social media storm rolls through, what’s going to happen after the fact?
So many women are coming out about this to show the severity of the situation,
but then what?
Do we quickly forget the severity of it, and go back to liking puppy pics and hashtagging #PumpkinSpiceEverything?
I hope not.
I understand, and deeply empathize how difficult it is for a women to come forward about being harassed or assaulted. When it happens, we often don't know how to handle it, especially in the moment.
It’s scary. It is downright frightening.
And my heart breaks for every woman who has had to endure this.
When it happens, we wonder if anything can really be done about it anyway.
Or if we do say something, what if he retaliates and makes our life a living hell?
What if it’s a co-worker or boss who already holds power over us?
We think, maybe we should just internalize it and ‘'not make a big deal out of it.’
We're afraid. We're confused.
These fears are not helpful to our healing. They are not helpful to protect another woman from going through it too.
Even though coming forward is hard, and dealing with deep emotional pain and trauma is terrifying- if you’re a woman who has experienced this, you must ask yourself NOW WHAT if you want to get better.
You must ask yourself NOW WHAT if you want to heal.
You must ask yourself NOW WHAT if you want to make a difference in changing our culture for the better and making sure this doesn’t happen to someone else.
Dealing with pain and trauma is not easy.
It’s certainly not as simple as only ‘'thinking positive thoughts.’
We must allow the reality and pain to surface. We must cope with it. Ignoring our pain will only drive it deeper down, and we will adopt destructive coping behaviors as a result, such as turning to alcohol.
Seek support from family and friends, get support from a therapist.
Please, don’t ignore it.
If this has happened to you, please file a report. Tell someone.
Do something about it.
If we ignore it we are protecting the abuser. Simple as that. We are protecting his behaviors, saying what happened is acceptable. If he’s not held accountable for his actions, he’ll do it again, to you or someone else.
Being victimized is horrible. It gives you a deep pit in your stomach, and a crushing weight on your shoulders.
As victims, we are not to blame for what happened "to" us.
But, we are responsible for what happens next.
It is up to us to deal with our trauma and emotions. To not stuff it down and resort to destructive behaviors.
Ignoring it, stuffing the emotions down, and not speaking up keeps us victims.
It keeps our future generation victims.
I am not saying you must make a public Facebook announcement, but I am encouraging you to deal with the pain, speak up (however that means to you) and take steps to get better.
In order to truly heal and live an empowered life, we must face our pain and we must take action.
So, Now what?
***please note that I realize this conversation is bigger than a 'man versus woman' issue. If you're a male who has been victimized, the same encouragement applies to you. In my writing, I use the word woman as the victim and man as the abuser because it holds true for my personal experience.***
I went on my first diet at the age of 13 which led to years of eating disorders. I was never happy with my body nor appearance. When I was in my early twenties I lacked the confidence to truly be myself. I would dress according to the way I thought my boyfriend at the time wanted me to dress. I would diet in order to fit into what society was telling me I should look like. It has taken me many years to build up my confidence to where it is now.
4 years ago I decided to try something different and lose weight in a healthy, sustainable way. I wanted to find a form of exercise I enjoyed. Not knowing what to do, I bought an exercise DVD. After completing the 2 month program I decided to hire a personal trainer. The rest is history, and I am now a personal trainer myself. I'm most passionate about helping women find enjoyment in exercise and empowering women to train for strength.
One of the most empowering decisions I ever made was starting that strength training program.
Being strong physically has had enormous benefits and transferred directly to my mental toughness!
I feel my strongest when I look back and see the transformation I've gone through. I've gone from being insecure, slightly overweight, and having no goals in life to being a role model to my younger sister, to my clients, and hopefully to women who have read my chapter in the book, 'When You're Stuck in a Rut and Need a Motivational Kick in the Butt Vol 2”, by Jennifer Nicole Lee.
I'm passionate about empowering women to be strong instead of weak or skinny.
I'm passionate about helping women find enjoyment in exercise, and exercising because they love their bodies. I'm passionate about showing women that a number on the scale will not bring them happiness, but progress towards their goals will. Your body does not need fixing. Take care of yourself, step into your power, and you can take on the world!
My favorite saying is, ”People often say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I say that the most liberating thing about beauty is realizing that you are the beholder. This empowers us to find beauty in places where others have not dared to look including inside ourselves." - Salma Hayek
To me, an Alpha Maiden is a woman who doesn't depend on anyone for her happiness. She is confident in her skin, and knows that strong women lift each other up.
What makes me an Alpha Maiden is that all of my choices are governed by the question, 'How will this make other women feel about themselves?’.
My passion is empowering women to feel and look their best through strength training and focusing on what their bodies can do (instead of fixating on their perceived flaws). My preferred training modality is my own body weight, and of course, kettlebells.
Certified Personal Trainer
Specialist in fitness nutrition
SFG1 Kettlebell Instructor.
Connect with Katherine!
by Elina Skripochnik, PT, DPT
When many women become pregnant, they are bombarded with tons of information about what they should and shouldn’t do:
“Eat for 2”, “Gain 20-30lbs”,
“Don’t lift heavy weights”,
“Take it easy as much as you can”, etc.
What women rarely hear is “If you haven’t been exercising already, now is the perfect time to start!”
While every woman’s body is different and every woman will have different needs (not everyone has to gain 30 lbs, eating for 2 is an over statement, and you don’t necessarily need to be on bed rest throughout your pregnancy as long as your doctor says you are ok to stay active), the fact that you should be active during your pregnancy rings true for most women.
Exercising during pregnancy is not only recommended, but it is encouraged by most doctors, even if you weren’t active before becoming pregnant. Staying active is not only healthy for you, but it is also healthy for your growing baby. Exercising during pregnancy not only strengthens and prepares your body for all the changes it will go through while your baby is growing, but it will also prepare you for the birth, and help you return to your normal activity level after giving birth and help you keep up with your child.
Exercise helps with:
While exercising and staying active during pregnancy is often encouraged, it is important that you check with your OBGYN first; especially if you have a high risk pregnancy or have not exercised prior to becoming pregnant.
Take caution when exercising if:
If you normally get little to no exercise, walking 30 minutes a day is a good way to start getting active. Walking is usually safe because it does not put too much pressure on your joints and still gives you a full body workout. Once you feel as if you can walk for 30 minutes and maintain a conversation without becoming out of breath, you can start looking into other forms of exercise:
While exercise is good for you, make sure you are not overdoing it, ALWAYS listen to your body. Do what feels good, and if something feels painful, uncomfortable, or does not feel right, then stop what you are doing and re-evaluate.
What to avoid during pregnancy:
Important to remember:
Don’t be afraid to start exercising if your doctor says that it is ok for you to do so. Most likely, you will find that you feel better, stronger, and have more energy after exercising. Being pregnant should not be a deterrent from becoming active; it should help push you to be the best and strongest woman you can be for not only yourself, but your baby as well.
- Elina Skripochnik PT, DPT, CSCS
It would be easy and inspirational to say that I am now fully cured of anorexia and bulimia. Or, with the snap of the fingers, my life was suddenly perfect again! Unfortunately, you can't take a magic pill to undo your eating disorder. There is so much more involved than most of the general population understands. What I can say is that I no longer revolve my life around food and negative body image thoughts. Do I think about those things from time to time? Of course! I am human, and I am a woman. It is nearly impossible to escape the standards of "beauty" and expectations of how we should look and act as women. However, after doing some major soul searching, getting professional help and implementing the skills I learned daily, my eating disorder is no longer in charge of my life.
I am in charge of MY LIFE!
About 6 years ago, when my eating disorder was at its worst, my now husband and I finally decided that I needed to get professional help. I began seeing a therapist. She gave me all sorts of things to work on. Every time I would feel the urge to binge, I began finding some other distraction to take my mind off of it - I would call a family member, go for a walk, journal, call friends to go hang out, anything to minimize the thoughts about bingeing. I also had the most amazing support system of close friends, my family and my husband to cheer me on and help me discover my healthiest self again.
Little by little, these actions took hold started to work, but what was one of the most life changing moments for me is when I decided to pursue a certification in health coaching. I knew I had a story to tell and wanted to actually help individuals going through similar battles. This program changed everything. It ignited a passion in me to pursue, live and breathe health and wellness. I learned the things that truly feed your mind, body and soul are relationships, finding your passion (career), physical activity and spirituality. Then, the food we eat will come secondary. If only I would have known about this simple yet genius concept 10 years ago!
I am now able to spread this message and help women find real balance and happiness in their lives. Although my story is a difficult one, I wouldn't be where I am today without it. I now know that all my clients also have their own, unique story to tell, and it is a privilege to get to listen and be a part of their health journey. I am blessed to be doing this as my job and I love witnessing my clients achieve goals they never thought possible!
Like I said, you are never cured from this disease. It is now a part of me that I cope with every single day. However, the difference is I don't let it control my life anymore. I don't revolve my life around thoughts about my food, or gaining weight. I revolve my life around strong relationships, my work (which is fortunately my passion), my spirituality and getting outside, enjoying nature and being active. By being my happiest, strongest, most balanced self, I am much more able to ignite that same fire in my clients.
You learn my example, and I strive to be the best, most authentic example every single day for my clients.
To me, an Alpha Maiden is someone who radiates strength, both mentally and physically. An Alpha Maiden is not afraid to get knocked down, because she has the grit and drive to get back up, overcome adversity and achieve her aspirations.
Make to sure follow Sally here:
How to Design Your Own Workout
Weekly Burn Workout: Legs & Shoulders
Weekly Burn Workout: Upper Body
On Suicide and Living with the Black Dog
What to Never Ask Someone Who's Been in an Abusive Relationship
Are Domestic Abusers Mentally Ill?
Tom Coffey- 5 Tips to Increase Mental Toughness & Develop a Winning Mindset
Alpha Maiden of the Month
April: Kate Whetsel
May: Janelle Teta
June: Debbie Hatch
July: Camy Kennedy
and living with the black dog.
Yesterday morning, Chester Bennington of Linkin Park committed suicide. I never knew him personally, but I am sure millions of people will agree that Linkin Park's music touched our lives in some way. I am sure their music helped countless people wade through deep waters when they felt like their heads were just above, struggling to keep it up with every gasping breath.
Music has a fascinating thing about it, doesn't it? It has such a huge impact on our lives. We associate music to our memories, to what we were going through in our lives at the time of listening to it. We turn to music because we relate to it. It moves us, inspires us, and helps us navigate the darkness. It can even save lives because it makes us feel like we're not alone.
When I read this news, and kept turning it over in my mind again and again, I couldn't help but feel the tears well in my eyes, I couldn't help but feel the pit in my stomach, the choke in my throat. Because even though I didn't know him personally, I can relate to what it's like to struggle mentally and emotionally. I can relate to feeling like there's a heavy shadow casting over, that doesn't ever truly disappear.
It makes me remember the times where the tidal wave of depression would hit at its worst. The times where I'd inflict pain on myself with razor blades in hopes to relieve the emotional despair. It reminds me of the times I'd just sit alone, listening to their music, to Disturbed's music, to countless other bands that made me feel like I wasn't alone. It reminds me of the times when in desperation, I'd turn to drinking.
Depression, cutting, self-medicating....suicide.
These are all serious and are not simply bouts of sadness or phases someone will
Over the years I've known dozens of people who struggle with depression.
Several of them are gone now, having ended their own lives as well.
Suicide is heartbreaking- but it is real. It's not something to take lightly or dismiss.
I needed to write this post today to spread awareness, and hopefully help someone.
Here's the thing. I am a personal trainer, yoga teacher, health and lifestyle coach who constantly educates on how to be physically and mentally strong. And I also live with depression and anxiety. There have been times in the past where it has been debilitating. Times where I've contemplated suicide, but thank the gods did not attempt to act on it. However. there are many people who do, and many people who succeed.
Long ago before my career had even been a mere idea, I dealt with the depression by inflicting pain on myself, then pretended like everything was okay and kept it hidden. In the past there were times where I resorted to drinking.
After building my career in health and fitness, I no longer self-inflicted pain or self-medicated, but the depression was still there. Sometimes it was too hard to even get out of bed. Times where I easily slept for over 12 hours, got up to eat, then slept for 5 hours immediately after. Times where it was too exhausting to even shower, let alone write any health and fitness articles.
I felt shame for a long time around having depression once I got into the fitness industry. I told myself it was contradictory to write and teach others how to get healthy, if I was struggling. I told myself that depression is a first world problem, where it's a luxury to wallow in our privileged misery. I told myself 'I just needed to stop being sad.'
(Even though depression isn't sadness.) I caused myself more suffering with these untrue, debilitating thoughts.
They certainly did not make the depression go away, they absolutely made it worse. But unfortunately, there's a lot of shame associated with depression.
Once I told myself I needed to be open about it, that it wasn't contradictory or wrong, things started to change.
Even if I didn't 100% believe it at first, I realized I could in fact help someone else by telling my story. To hopefully bring awareness to the hard reality of depression and suicide.
And that's why we do this, right? To help people. It's something we can't not do.
But...the black dog is still there. The shadow still hangs above. For me it comes and goes in waves, waves that can last for months on end for better or worse.
Something Chester has solidified in me today, is how huge of an impact we can have on someone's life without ever actually meeting them. Millions of people mourn his death, the loss of a great person who influenced so many. His suicide shows that this really can happen to anyone, and drives home the seriousness of depression, the seriousness of those who contemplate and commit suicide.
Whether we're musicians, coaches, fitness professionals, public figures... we show up and provide to people that we don't even know. We have the ability to teach others how to live healthier lives, how to do the best they can. We create communities and supportive environments. People look up to us.
Our job is important.
If you're reading this, I want you to know that when you struggle, and when all seems lost, that it isn't.
I want you to know that even if depression doesn't ever disappear, that there is still light at the end of the tunnel. That when you talk about it, and seek support, you can develop resilience and get stronger.
I want you to know that if you're struggling,
That you are not alone.
In memory of Chester Bennington.
An Alpha Maiden....wow, such a powerful description of power and strength.
Growing up I was always a tomboy. I played with the boys. I shot guns, I caught snakes by the canal, and my dog ran behind the 4 wheeler when I went down to the river to fish. I caught frogs in the pond, shot my bow, jumped in muddy puddles and never cried when I fell down.
What I love about Alpha Maiden is that although you can be a tomboy at heart, there is still a woman's beauty and an elegance in being a female. It's unspoken in the way she keeps it all together, balancing a career with strong relationships, and constantly striving for better, while having gratitude for what she has.
How can we do this...actually embody this strength?
In my experience, it is accepting yourself right now as you are. There is nothing you NEED to change.
We are strong, we are beautiful and we are loved.
And we can speak that mantra daily to empower our lives.
For me, growing up I was insecure, super tough, and always played sports with the boys. Around middle school time was when I realized that I was bigger than most girls, and that I had some "baby fat" - and that was the time when I started to really watch what I was eating -- cutting out sodas and milkshakes. I'd like to say it was healthy, but really I was depriving and taking in too few calories.
In college, I was a volleyball athlete and I could eat what I wanted. Until sophomore year when I stopped playing volleyball and put fitness on the back burner as I got my undergrad in molecular cell biology.
After college is when I really got serious about fitness and nutrition again when I started working at a gym. But I got extreme very quickly, losing and gaining back the same 10-15lbs though a binge and deprive cycle -- constantly beating myself up in the process.
And then I heard that still, small voice: "You CAN'T hate yourself into a fitter body".
My journey of self love started when I hurt my back and put on 25lbs in 2 months. I was down and out, and couldn't workout. It was during this time when I vowed to come back in a balanced way and teach women how to STOP trying to be perfect and start breaking the dieting rules.
Balance is not a destination. It's not like "okay, I'm finally balanced". It's like a sea-saw, and on the fulcrum is self-love. Everything you do and every choice you make is for your highest good, and if you have an unconditional love for yourself, you will come back to making the RIGHT decision for your future goals, not just what makes you feel good now.
I like to share my motivation with you, because that Is the number one thing that my clients ask me. How do I stay motivated? It's all who I surround myself with. As a military girlfriend of a high performing enlisted man, being physically fit and mentally tough is the only option. When I'm not feeling like doing something, I remember that each day my man does something 100x harder than what I'm about do to. I surround myself with people who hold me to a higher standard, and call me out on my stuff.
People who truly love you will tell you the truth in love. When you are headed down the wrong path, they are there to re-direct you.
Right now, if you know you are not where you want to be, the time is NOW to make a commitment to yourself and take a massive step towards your goal. Don't wait. Dig deep into your soul, and pull out that piece of you that you know is there. Put positive thoughts, images and sounds into your brain each day. Repeat.
To be an Alpha Maiden, you have to know what you want, and take action towards achieving it. Some people freak out because they don't know what they want. Calm down. Just take the next step towards what really excites you, fires you up, and makes a positive impact on those around you. You've got what it takes to be an Alpha Maiden!
- Camy Kennedy
BSci, ISSA, INBFC,
Diet Recovery Expert, Trainer, Writer, Network Marketer, Rulebreaker
Camy is a Diet Recovery Expert, Fitness Coach, Writer, and Network Marketing Pro integrating Fitness & Faith into her lifestyle programs and confidence coaching. As a recovering perfectionist, a born-again morning person, tom-boy and #rulebreakerforlife, Camy helps women on their health journey by releasing them from expectations of perfection and allowing them to embrace a non-dieting lifestyle. She is passionate about designing a life you love and took the leap from the corporate world in 2015 on faith that the people, resources and opportunities would present themselves as she pursued her highest calling. Her alpha-ness and faith allowed her to take big risks with grace and confidence, despite many voices telling her that there was a safer route. Now, Camy uses her experience with extreme dieting, body image issues and negative self talk to coach women through their transformations by giving them what they think they want, and guiding them towards what they really need.
Camy B. Kennedy
Nutrition & Fitness Coach
Camy Kennedy Consulting
Cell: (919) 443-0738
Mary Winston Jackson
You might recognize Mary Jackson's name from the movie Hidden Figures. If you haven't seen this movie yet, stop what you're doing right this second and go watch it. You watched it? Great. Now you can finish reading this article.
The movie is based off a book, which is based off true events about intelligent African American women who were known as 'computers' and did mathematical calculations by hand for NASA. These women not only faced adversity as African American's living in a time where segregation was a part of every day life, they also faced adversity as women who worked in a male-dominant environment, where the 'glass ceiling' of promotion was the rule. Not only did women not get paid the same as men, African American women did not get paid the same wages as Caucasian women.
During her life Mary had several career changes. When she graduated from Hampton Institute in 1942 with a dual degree in Math and Physical Sciences, she accepted a job as a math teacher at a black school in Calvert County, Maryland. After a year of teaching, she returned home and found a position as the receptionist at the King Street USO Club. She also worked as a bookkeeper, had a stint at home following the birth of her son, and later worked a job as an Army secretary. She did all this before she landed at the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory’s segregated West Area Computing section in 1951.
She worked at the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory's segregated West Area Computing section for 2 years before accepting an offer to work for engineer Kazimierz Czarnecki. He offered her hands-on training experience conducting experiments in the facility and ultimately suggested that she enter a training program that would allow her to earn a promotion from mathematician to engineer.
However, the graduate level math and physics classes that were required for the promotion were held in after-work courses managed by the University of Virginia and held at then-segregated Hampton High School.
But Mary Winston Jackson didn't let that stop her.
Mary had to get special permission from the city of Hampton in order to join her white peers in the classroom. She completed the courses, earned the promotion and in 1958 became NASA's first black female engineer. She enjoyed a productive engineering career for nearly two decades and during her career authored or co-authored a dozen or so research reports.
But as time passed, promotions slowed and she became frustrated at the glass ceiling being the rule for preventing female professionals from advancing in their careers.
She ended up taking a demotion and dramatic career change to fill the open position of Langley’s Federal Women’s Program Manager. In this new position, she worked hard to impact the hiring and promotion of the next generation of all of NASA’s female mathematicians, engineers and scientists. She believed in the service of others and took a demotion so she could directly help advance and impact the women who were beginning their careers.
Mary Jackson is an Alpha Maiden through and through. She was born in a time where segregation, racism and sexism were a part of every day life. She faced many challenges and obstacles that could have made her quit, or choose a less challenging path. But she never quit. She took on the challenges, and no matter how hard things got, she prevailed and kept pushing on. To add, she also believed in improving the lives of others and even took a demotion so she could help impact other women and help them advance. She was intelligent, contributed to scientific advancement at NASA, was a humanitarian, worked hard and stood strong in the face of challenges while helping others along the way.
If you want to read more about Mary Jackson click here.
We hear about domestic violence.
We hear about a boyfriend choking his girlfriend until she can't breathe.
Or a husband coming home and murdering his wife.
We get sad. We get angry. And sometimes we claim that he was mentally ill.
We say he did those horrific things to his spouse because he himself was abused as a child and isn't mentally stable.
We say it was a crime of passion and he lost control.
We say he must have just snapped.
In reality, the numbers are statistically very small for a perpetuator to have a mental illness.
The man who is domestically violent thrives from being in control. And he gets control by putting the "loved" one in a state of constant terror. He keeps his control by not taking accountability for his actions, but rather blaming her.
He says, "Well if you didn't push my buttons so much I wouldn't have hit you."
He exclaims, "I love you so much that I slapped you because you were acting stupid. I wouldn't slap you if you weren't such an idiot."
He gaslights her and says he never pushed her against the wall last night, and that she must be losing her mind. He is so in control, calm and speaks with such certainty that she begins to think she really is going crazy, or that perhaps she is being dramatic.
The abuser the vast majority of the time isn't ill or unstable.
The abuser is entitled.
The abuser is a chronic narcissist.
The abuser thinks he has a right to
treat her how he wishes.
He thinks she belongs to him.
He believes he has a right to her very life.
Most of the time it is not a mental illness.
It is control, terror tactics and entitlement.
At times drugs and alcohol can play a role with domestic abuse too.
If you wish to learn more about that, read here.
Terror and abuse is happening right in front of us
and we don't see it.
We idly chat with our neighbors.
We pass by people in the grocery store.
We take a yoga class.
And it can be right under our nose, undetected.
As individuals, we need to change our script. If we detect violence, instead of asking whether or not the perpetuator is mentally ill- ask how we can help the victim.
Or after it's too late...instead of exclaiming that the abuser was depressed out of control/ill....
or completely ignoring it altogether...
ask yourself these questions:
How can we change the script so we can talk with our communities about the seriousness of domestic violence?
How can we help?
How can we prevent this from happening?
This post was written in memory of Sabrina Titus.
I met her last Wednesday, June 7th 2017 briefly in a yoga class. We were two out of three total students in a home-based small group class. She and I didn't speak much, but we shared a yoga practice together. Getting the news of her tragic death less than a week later... I ran up to my room and broke down sobbing.
I didn't know her or who she was. But I briefly encountered her. I remember she said she felt relaxed after the final meditation in the yoga class. I remember she smiled and was on her way.
Domestic violence can be so close to us and we don't even know it.
I did not know her personally. I do not claim to know whether her husband was among the small percentage of the mentally ill- or like the majority of the others who are not. I can't claim to know the details but only base my opinion off the research I've done and the psychology books I've read.
But I do know that my heart aches for her death. That my heart aches for her family, for her children. That my heart aches because someone lost her life due to an abusers will. That abuse awareness isn't talked about enough.
So please remember, be extra kind to those you encounter.
There might be a great struggle going on behind those you meet briefly.
And if someone needs to talk or needs help- listen to them.
If they need help from a professional resource, tell them to call The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233.
If you're interested in donating to her family, please email me.
To be honest, I’ve had a difficult time with the title “Alpha Maiden”.
Am I one? If so, why? What makes me so?
Oh, there are the “obvious” things I suppose.
Those things on the surface that people like to look at.
Between 45 and 52, I’ve competed on the figure stage several times. I finished my master’s degree: was certified as a holistic health & fitness coach, in nutrition from two different agencies, and as a mindset specialist. I’m closing in on a 300-pound deadlift and I will have that by the end of this year.
I am managing two very successful consulting businesses and spending a couple hundred days each year on the road. I published two books and started practicing Krav Maga. I have been a military spouse for over 22 years; a military mom for 15. Neither is a job for the weak. I’ve kissed my husband and both of my children as they headed off to war. I cried, at some point, every day they were gone.
I have a lump in my throat just typing that.
I continue to ride my dirtbike and chopper. I’ve flown half-way around the world to scuba dive. I did a 26.2 mile ruck, wearing combat boots, and carrying a 52 pound pack. I am smarter, stronger, more physically fit, and more confident than I have ever been in my life. I am a grandmother to 5.
To be sure, it’s a decent list with some pretty bad ass accomplishments in a relatively short period of time.
None of these define “alpha ” for me, personally, though. It has to be more than that.
I am a survivor.
From the time I was 6 months old until I was 26, I was physically, sexually, and emotional abused. I was told routinely that I brought such things upon myself; that they were my fault. At times I believed it.
They really weren’t my fault, though.
I know that now.
I kept quiet for too long. I refuse to be quiet any longer and let other women feel like they are the “cause of their abuse”. I won’t let them think it’s “their fault,” they “deserve it,” that they are “alone” or “the only one”.
This has happened to many women. It’s happening now. Maybe to your sister, mother, or friends. Maybe to you.
It’s a discussion we need to be willing to have.
If someone else can use my voice as a beacon, I provide it. There is hope. I’m here.
I am a warrior.
I have been a warrior from the beginning (a name my sister gave me) and I carry this shield with pride. My battle has frequently been for others. I have, quite literally, taken the hit to save someone else. I was the person who broke the cycle of abuse at home, not because of what happened to me but because it had started to happen to my sister. I was a single mom for a few years after finally getting out of a physically abusive relationship. We lived on welfare and food-stamps. I remember one time when my son and I had nothing but a 50-pound bag of potatoes to eat. I fought, not for myself but to make a better life for my children.
I have struggled with self-confidence and shame my entire life. I struggle to feel good enough - in my skin, in my head, in this world - to feel like I'm "worth it"...even still, sometimes.
I refuse to accept limits, though, and it doesn’t matter if those are placed by someone else or self-imposed. I was afraid of public speaking; now that’s what I do for a living. I’m afraid of heights, so I climb.
If anyone else can use my strength as an example, I offer it. I’m here.
I am an Alpha Maiden
because at no time, have I ever considered myself a victim. I refuse that label and the limitations it would imply. I went through some stuff but even when life was horrible, I knew somewhere deep in my soul that I would get out. I didn’t know how but I knew I would. I vividly remember laying on a grassy hill when I was 12 or 13, dreaming with my eyes open, that everything would be okay…and it is.
Remembering where I came from, and that many are still in that place; I am obsessively passionate about living every single second of life and about coaching others on possibility. I’ll try just about anything but I don’t just want to learn.
I want to teach. It’s at my core. When I learned to scuba dive, I continued until I was a Dive Master, certified to teach others. I’ve taught basket-weaving, human resources, conflict management, leadership, scrapbooking, retirement & financial planning, and even taught a couple of people to drive motorcycles.
Family & FIT is an online community where I teach people how to embrace life by setting an example through mindset, sustainable nutrition, and movement. In that order.
Mostly mindset is a tagline I frequently use. #MostlyMindset
Mindset really does matter most. Mindset, more than physical strength and toughness is what makes me an Alpha Maiden. It was mindset that allowed me to survive the situations I’ve been in. Mindset that kept me going. Mindset that refused the title of “victim”. Mindset that drives me to share with others.
Let me be clear, mindset isn’t a bunch of meaningless affirmations. It isn’t perpetual optimism. It’s not “being happy all the time”. Mindset isn’t feeling one thing but telling ourselves we should feel something else. It is about doing the best we can, with what we have available (time, money, strength, fortitude, energy) at the time.
Mindset is realizing we are in control.
I couldn’t stop people from hurting me when I was a child. I could escape into the safe recesses of my mind, though.
I could make myself physically tough so the abuse wouldn’t hurt as much when it did come. I could hide. I could plan.
I could wait. I could, eventually, speak.
We are stronger, smarter and more capable than we give ourselves credit for. Mindset matters most.
If anyone can refer to my mindset as their inspiration, I give it freely. I’m here.
Make sure to follow Debbie and check out her books too.
Facebook: Family & Fit
Books: FERS Simplified: Finally Understand Federal Retirement. Volume 1
I've heard this a lot.
"I don't know what to do when I get to the gym and I don't want to look stupid,
so I just get on the treadmill for 45 minutes then leave."
I hear you. You want to get in shape. You want to get strong. You want to be ready for summer.
But you don't know what to do. You're worried other people at the gym will look at and judge you.
Being a first-time gym-goer can be scary and daunting. And more often than not, your intimidation results in you either hiding on cardio equipment while reading a magazine, or simply not going at all.
That's why I wanted to write this simple guide to help you design your own workout so you know exactly what to do when you're going to the gym. In order for you to succeed, you have to have a plan.
You'll set yourself up for success if you know what you're doing before you get there.
To plug in a full body workout, we want to categorize large muscle groups and small muscle groups.
Large muscle groups:
Chest, Back and Legs.
Small Muscle groups:
Shoulders, Biceps, Triceps
Then, add on abs as an accessory to round everything off.
You can also get in a lot of core work by doing full body exercises.
In other words, you don't have to do crunches to get strong abdominals.
More on that later...
When you're first starting out, it's important to keep it
You don't need to sign up for the '30 DAY XTREME SHRED' program that requires you to balance on your head and juggle flaming kettlebells with your feet in order to get in shape. Just no.
Okay, now that we've cleared that up, let's learn how to structure a workout. Since you're just starting out, we're going to keep things simple by structuring a full-body 'circuit.' A circuit is several exercises performed in order, and you complete all exercises before starting the next round.
We want to start off with the large muscle groups. Therefore the first exercise can be picked as either a chest, back or leg exercise. Let's choose a chest exercise first, back second, and legs third.
Chest exercises include:
Next up are back exercises. Back exercises include
Leg Exercises. There are so many leg exercises, so for the first round lets keep the options simple by choosing between a
Last, choose an ab exercise. You know, for fun. 😉 Try out
Once you plug in the 4 exercises, that makes a circuit. Aim to perform 10-12 reps per exercise, and rest 90 seconds in between rounds. Perform between 3-5 rounds of the circuit.
Depending on how you feel after that, you can either call it a day, or you can plug and play another circuit with different exercises. If you choose to do a second circuit, you can do chest and back again, or since you targeted those muscles already, you can choose shoulder or arm exercises like a dumbbell overhead press, bicep curls and tricep dips!
If you're doing a second circuit, you can also choose a single leg or stabilizing exercise like lunges or single leg Romanian deadlifts.
Same rep-ranges apply.
Alright. So now that you know how to structure a workout, make a plan for yourself. Get a piece of paper and write down which days you can go to the gym this week. Let's say you can go on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday.
Write it down, then underneath write:
Then plug in the exercises you want to do! Remember- start out SIMPLE. Start out with what you feel comfortable with and you'll get more confident in time. Remember to warm up and cool down too.
As always, if you have any questions, leave a comment or message me.
Women are so insanely beautiful and powerful. By nature, we are more analytical and intuitive. We are better multi-taskers. We are empathetic, nurturing, creative thinkers and communicators.
I am often baffled at what little regard we give to ourselves and how often we let the world dictate who we should be.
I’ve had a fairly juicy life sprinkled with some gut-wrenching traumas. I’ve struggled and overcome and struggled again.….and overcome. It may sound odd, but I expect that it will always be this way and I’m grateful. My most challenging hardships have always been wellsprings of opportunity, learning and growth. I see them more as “learning places” now.
There are many people who have had it far worse than I, yet they consider my story inspiring.
"...one of marked resilience."
"The ability to turn the tragedy of abuse and addiction into triumph."
There is no doubt that physical & emotional abuse, eating disorders and addictions are high on the scale of soul-crushing experiences, but I think inspiration is found in the parts of my story where I had a choice-
either resign myself to circumstance or harness new strength from it.
It sounds so matter-of-fact saying it that way, and I realize it isn’t. It wasn’t!
We are rarely taught the skills and practice of things like self-awareness. Or how to build up our emotional intelligence, cognitive flexibility, and resilience.
There certainly isn’t a shortage of “quotes to live by” and entrepreneurs shouting at us to just “do what they do and chase the dream” to be happy and financially free. All well-intended, I’m sure, but very few are teaching us how to develop new thought habits, build confidence, or why we need to understand vulnerability and shame before we can even dip our toe into things like courage and toughness.
That’s why I love coaching and what has inspired me to create #resilientAF. Because realistically, we can’t chase after any new thing if we don’t have the know-how to stop chasing our own tail, first.
The ease and happiness of deep love, fulfilling work, a body we feel confident in and a life that feels abundant, don’t happen by chance, or luck of the draw. We earn them. And we don’t get very far without making self-development a priority.
Eventually we learn how to make the right investments and we continue to do the work long after the “sexy” wears off. We earn it when we have the willingness to eat dirt, play the fool, and do the uncomfortable work of unlearning beliefs that don't serve us in order to become the person we want to be and live the life we imagine.
When we start doing the right work we realize how uncomplicated life actually is and how free and powerful we actually are.
My life has given me undeniable proof of 2 things:
I’ll close with this…
What we think, believe, perceive and how we choose meaning is not only our freedom but also our responsibility.
How WE choose to define and utilize our experiences is the recipe for an inspired and meaningful life.
Gratitude and Love for You, and to all the Courageous Women who continue to Rise Up and open their hearts even more.
Learn more about Janelle Teta and what she is doing with #ResilientAF HERE.
Upper Body Workout
Most people who have worked out with me know that I say the word, "Fun" a lot. I have been accused of having a different definition of the word fun than most people... They think I'm crazy. I think it's just a good'ole time.
Here's a "Fun" workout to brighten your day.
Remember to choose a weight that is challenging, but one you can control.
Stretch the pecs and back. Foam roll the lats. Use the band to warm up the shoulders with IR/ER (Internal/External Rotation. Tutorial video is here.)
4 x 10
(4 Sets of 10 reps for each exercise.)
(Use a band for assistance if needed.)
2A.) Cable Chest Fly
2B.) BB Bent Over Row
3B.) Cable Lat Pulldown
4A.) Sled Push
4B.) Renegade Rows
Downward Facing Dog, Puppy Pose.
Stretch Chest and Back
Don't forget to have FUN!
And what to say instead...
Over the past year I've become open about my past. I've embraced the idea of transparency and vulnerability in the hopes to help other people who have gone through similar experiences. The vast majority of people never knew about my past until recently, even my closest family members. Since I have opened up I have received some consistent reactions and questions.
First, I've heard disbelief. Denial.
I have heard questions along the lines of,
"Well, are you sure it was really abuse? I remember you being angry and throwing your phone at him that one time..."
(P.S. I am also writing a blog titled "What if She Strikes Back?" There is so much taboo about these topics that they need light shed on them.)
Aside from occasional disbelief, I've heard one question more than any other.
"Why didn't you just leave?"
Sometimes followed by,
"I was around you at this time, why didn't you tell me?"
"I should have noticed."
"I feel terrible for not noticing. If I noticed maybe I could have helped."
These are common reactions. Each person who reacted this way did so because it was the best way they knew how.
They love and care about me and tried to show support and understand the best way they could.
That is why I am writing this blog - is to help those who don't know how to respond to understand better and know what to say (or not say) instead of what's listed above.
Abuse is surprisingly taboo in our culture, despite the popularity of tv series and movies blatantly showing physical and sexual violence. It's like we're so preconditioned to seeing it on television, that when we hear about it actually happening- we don't know how to deal with it.
I think denial is a common response because
A. People don't want to accept hard truths but rather continue like everything is FINE, (fear of the repercussions and potential retaliation or
B. Because of potential cultural or religious expectations of doing everything to make it work. (Being anti-divorce.) or
C. Because many people don't understand the variety of ways a relationship can experience abuse, that it can be beyond physical.
Note: There can be many other reasons.
Refer to this National Domestic Violence Hotline article to learn more here.
There are several kinds of abuse. Verbal, mental, emotional. physical, and financial, just to name a few. Abuse can be perpetuated by cultural or religious beliefs, dependency, fear, not knowing anything different and much more.
So it's easy to see why people don't know how to respond, because if we don't know all the ways abuse can show up in the first place- how can we respond tactfully?
1. How to respond to someone who told you they've been in/are in an abusive relationship:
(Hint: It's NOT reacting with disbelief or denial!)
If a close friend or family member has been courageous enough to open up to you about the truth of what's happened/happening to them, it can be extraordinarily hurtful to hear you react in disbelief and denial. Sure, the information can come unexpected, and no one wants to accept that a person they care about has been hurt.
But if you react with disbelief, that will immediately break trust with the person who is trying to confide in you.
If someone has opened up, exposed their vulnerability and trusted you enough to talk about it, the best thing to do is:
If you have never been abused yourself, please don't say "I understand."
If you simply don't know how to respond but want to be supportive, you can say just that:
"Honestly, I don't know what to say, but thank you for trusting me enough to tell me."
Express empathy. Not sympathy. Refer to this video by Brene Brown to understand the differences.
Now that we've covered that base, let's move on to the most common question I've heard on this subject:
2. Why don't (didn't) you just leave the relationship?
If you're tempted to ask this stop yourself right now.
There are so many reasons someone won't or can't leave an abusive relationship. Much of the time fear is a big factor. When I left the abusive relationship I was in way back when, I was stalked and sent harassing text messages for almost 2 years after I left for good. I was sent messages such as,
"I know where you live. We're going to end up together no matter what, wait and see."
He was spotted loitering around my parents house on occasion, just to name a few things.
Much of the time women won't or can't leave for fear of their own lives or their children's safety. Or their partner is so manipulative that she believes what he tells her, that she feels she isn't able to survive without him- there's a sense of emotional-codependency. Maybe he has contributed to her having such low self worth and believes everything he tells her. Maybe she's financially dependent on him. Maybe she can't leave due to her culturural upbringing or religious beliefs. There are so many factors to this that simply leaving isn't always a viable option.
I would say that Listening is also the best case here. If you're speaking to someone who has gone through this and gotten out of it- just listen.
If someone is telling you this that may be in present danger, please refer them to the National Domestic Abuse Hotline
The Hotline has resources and a number to call for those who may be in immediate danger.
Click here for more info.
If the person is open to it, perhaps ask open-ended questions such as, "How can I help?," and perhaps offer to read and do research together on The National Domestic Violence Hotline's Website. There is a TON of valuable information on there.
Also, an incredible book that is a valuable resource is called,
'Why Does He Do That?
Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men.'
Get the book on Amazon HERE.
I hoped this blog helped shed some light on the inner workings of being caught in or surviving an abusive relationship.
*Also, if you're in certain professions like teaching, coaching, medical and child care providers, there are laws in place mandating you to report abuse if the person confiding in you is in immediate danger. For more information about the professions and legal requirements please refer to this link HERE.
*Abuse can happen across all genders and relationships. It can happen male to male, female to female and also female to male too. Note that I write the male as the abuser and female as the victim of abuse due to my personal experiences.
Legs & Shoulders
This workout requires some grit, and maybe heavy metal blasting through your headphones too.
But it's SOOO FUN, I SWEAR! 😉
This is an advanced workout so I am assuming you have fantastic form and know how to take care of yourself!
Stretches: runners lunge, runners lunge with added quad stretch, split leg psoas stretch.
(refer to youtube videos here if you don't know what these are.)
Warmup: Lateral and Monster band walks for glutes, SL band hip extension, band tears for shoulder blade retraction, and 2-3 sets of Dead Bugs to warm up the TVA.
Warmup with Bar.
Set 1: 10 Reps at 50% of 6 Rep Max
Set 2: 6 Reps at 75% of 6RM
Set 3: Max Reps to failure at 100% 6RM. Number of accomplished reps determines how much weight you go up in the 4th set. If you achieve 5-7 reps, the weight stays the same. 8-10 move up 5# TOTAL (2.5# each side), 10-12 reps move up 10# TOTAL (5# each side).
Set 4: Max Reps to failure with newly adjusted weight.
The format for the above reps and sets is taken from the ARE6 training model. It's been one of my favorites for developing consistent strength, tracking progress, and pretty much kicking ass.
If I have extra time I like to add in 2-3 extra sets at 6x80% of the APRE6 weight to increase overall volume.
2.) Barbell Hip Thrusters. WITH a band above your knees. Obv!
Set 1: 10 Reps at 50% of 6 Rep Max
Set 2: 6 Reps at 75% of 6RM
Set 3: Max Reps to failure at 100% 6RM
Set 4: Max reps to failure with adjusted weight
(2-3 extra sets at 6x80% if you have time!)
3.) Barbell Strict Press and Barbell Reverse Lunge Superset
Set 1: 10x50% of 6RM
Set 2: 6x75% of 6RM
Set 3: Max reps at 100% 6RM
Set 4: Max Reps with adjusted weight
Reverse Lunges: 4x8
All Sets: 8 Reverse Lunges for each leg. Since we're not using the 6RM protocol with this exercise, it's up to you to find a challenging weight for 8 reps.
Superset the BBSP with the Reverse Lunges.
Rest 1:00 min after the first set, 2:00min after the second, 2:30 min after the third.
4.) Bent Over DB Reverse Y's and T's and SL Romanian Deadlifts with the Cable
20 reps total for Y's and T's
10 reps each leg for the CBL SL RDL. Superset them for 4 sets total.
5.) Finisher: 8 Rounds Tabata, 20" on/10" off.
Make sure to cool down adequately after with the foam roller and stretch!
We often hear people talk about mental toughness. Having a strong mind, overcoming life’s obstacles, and being strong for the people you care about are all manifestations of mental toughness.
The idea of mental toughness has been around since the time of the Spartans (and probably before). But, just how do we develop mental toughness? Can it be learned and taught or is it something you are either born with (or without)?
Spoiler alert: Mental toughness can be taught and developed.
In this article I provide you with five tips to increase mental toughness.
What is mental toughness?
In a broad sense mental toughness is the ability to face and overcome an obstacle in life. Situations may vary widely, but through practice you can develop the mind to overcome anything.
Why is mental toughness important?
Developing a strong mind is important for accomplishing goals, being productive, and being there for people who depend on you. To borrow a quote from legendary strength coach Mark Rippetoe “Stronger people are harder to kill and more useful in general”. This extends to mentally tough people as well.
Tip #1- Focus on the Present
“The journey of 1,000 miles begins with the first step.” This famous old Chinese proverb is true. Focus on what you can control in the present moment. You can’t control the past. No matter how much we try, whatever happened 5 years ago, 5 months ago, or 5 minutes ago already happened. There is nothing we can do to change that. Remembering the past is important, but wasting energy trying to change it is useless. Learn from the past so as not to make the same mistakes in the future.
Planning for the future is certainly important, but it hasn’t happened yet either. The only thing in our lives happening right now is the present. Like the journey of 1,000 miles if you focus on taking one step at a time you will get there. There is no sense in worrying about mile 100 if you are only on mile 1.
Tip #2- Stay positive
I personally like to use affirmations to stay positive. An affirmation is a saying that you repeat during times of turbulence. Keep them positive though.
The affirmation that I have developed is “I will be successful!”
Constantly repeating positive affirmations makes it hard for negative thoughts to cloud our mind.
How to develop affirmations…
In my experience I’ve found hard physical work to be the best conduit for ingraining positive affirmations. Performing hard physical work is a great way to build mental toughness. Use those workouts (or hard life events) as an opportunity to repeat and ingrain an affirmation. When my heart rate is jacked and I feel like my heart is about to explode I can always fall back on “I will be successful.” Positive affirmations serve to keep you in the present and not allow any room for negative thoughts to manifest.
What is your positive affirmation?
Tip # 3- Keep calm and remain calm
Remaining calm is necessary to make smart decisions under pressure.
Two great ways to develop an inner calm are through meditation and breathing techniques.
Meditation can be as simple as sitting in silence for 5 minutes per day. I do this all the time to help calm my mind. Sitting in silence is a great practice to build an inner calm and stillness.
Our breath can be used to up-regulate or down regulate the nervous system. When someone jumps out from behind a wall and scares us, our heart rate goes up. This is a normal response, but how can we train ourselves to remain calm in these situations?
By practicing breath control you can train yourself to remain calm in any situation. The technique that I like I learned from Coach Mark Divine, former Navy SEAL and founder of www.SEALFit.com. His technique is called box breathing. The idea is to slowly inhale for 2-5 seconds, hold for 2-5 seconds, slowly exhale for 2-5 seconds, and hold again for 2-5 seconds. Repeat this cycle of slow controlled breathing for 5-10 minutes.
Kill two birds with one stone by sitting in silence and practicing box breathing techniques.
Tip #4- Develop productive rituals/habits
A ritual is something we do everyday that becomes a habit.
A habit is something we do everyday without thinking.
According to research new habits take 21 days to develop.
Habits can either be productive or destructive. A productive habit is reading 10 minutes every night. A destructive habit is smoking 2 packs of cigarettes each day. However, both are habits.
Choosing to develop productive rituals/habits is a great way to build mental toughness. Let’s take our affirmation example from earlier. What if you got into the ritual of repeating your positive affirmation every time you opened your car door? Could you do this for 21 days until it became a habit?
Other examples of productive rituals (that become habits) include:
•Waking up and drinking a big glass of water
•Reading for 5-10 minutes before bed
•Finding a reason to get 1 hearty laugh per day (even if it’s fake)
•Making your bed every morning
•Cleaning the dishes immediately after dinner, before doing anything else
The point of these seemingly mundane rituals is to build discipline.
Discipline leads to habits and developing positive habits leads
to a mentally tough and sound individual.
Tip # 5- Surround yourself with winners
Motivational speaker Jim Rohn said it best:
“We are the average of the 5 people we hang out with most!”
Negative people lead to negative thoughts. Negative thoughts lead to the dark side (you’re welcome for the Star Wars reference). One thing that we can all control is who we allow inside our inner circle. Hanging around negative people leads to negativity. Negativity hinders progress and productivity.
Surround yourself with people who are go-getters, positive, and productive and I guarantee you will rise to their level. Take a good hard look at who you spend the majority of your time with.
Are they helping you or hindering you?
Final thoughts on increasing mental toughness
To quickly sum up my 5 tips for increasing mental toughness:
Post them in the comments section below.
Thanks for reading!
Inspiration for this article:
Personal life experience (Training for and completing the SEALFit Kokoro Camp 26 in October of 2012.
As well as serving four years as an Army Ranger.)
•Articles/teaching from www.SEALgrinderPT.com (my coaches website)
•Jim Rohn- You’re the average of the 5 people you hang out with most
Header image: https://pixabay.com/en/karate-martial-arts-training-1343889/
Yes image: https://pixabay.com/en/yes-letters-tablets-arrangement-1137274/
I sometimes kid that I push myself so hard in workouts and choose physical challenge after challenge because it gives me the endurance, and keeps me mentally tough enough, to deal with the rigors of parenting, being an Army spouse, and living overseas.
I kid…except I don’t kid.
I dabbled in fitness all through my 20s as a way to lose weight—like many women, but I didn’t become passionate about fitness until my 30s.
After messing up my low back, hips, and breaking two ribs in a 2006 horse riding accident, I needed to get serious about getting stronger and truly physically fit.
It was either that or stay ‘broken’
and in pain.
During the year it took me to recover, I went to physical therapy for treatment, but I also started lifting weights regularly with the guidance of a personal trainer to help me get stronger, too.
Getting physically stronger and having less back pain was really exciting, but the part that got me hooked was how much more stronger I felt on the inside. Through fighting to regain my health, mobility and fitness, I discovered a new level of confidence and resilience.
In the years after my recovery, I realized that running and lifting weights created in me an ability to endure and persevere, even when things were really painful and difficult.
I realized that pushing my physical abilities–how much I could lift, how many reps I could do, how many rounds of a conditioning workout I could take–created a trust in my own strength, my own ability to make things happen when I felt like there was nothing left to give.
And that’s huge.
There’s nothing wrong with working out to achieve a different body aesthetic, but for me the real depth and power of exercise is how is builds your character.
How it builds your self-trust. How it builds your ability to endure.
While you’re busy challenging yourself to run a little farther, do a couple more reps, take on a more challenging exercise, or lift a weight you never thought you’d be able to handle, you’re also building the muscle of your character.
Through consistent strength training I learned to believe that I could do hard things, that I was stronger than I’d ever given myself credit for, that I could change my life for the better.
Becoming strong and fit--and staying strong and fit has dramatically improved my quality of life, and that’s what’s kept me hooked.
It’s also what made me choose to become a personal trainer and group fitness instructor: I wanted to share with other women, especially military spouses, the strength, confidence and resilience that can be ours when we work to build a stronger body.
Women who are strong hold themselves differently. We stand tall, move with purpose, and know our value. We are confident in our abilities; we know what we can do—and this confidence has the tendency to bleed into all the different parts of our lives.
Through building stronger bodies, we build stronger spirits, and that’s what makes the difference between surviving and thriving, no matter what life may throw at us.
The goal of my Real Life Fit, Happy and Healthy FB group is to connect women from all over the world as we work together to become the best version of ourselves.
We do this through fun and effective workouts, cultivating stronger and healthier mindsets, and improving nutrition and eating habits, one step at a time. We focus on taking action each day and each week to conquer fears, follow our dreams, hit new PRs, discover strengths we didn’t know we had, and to live full, happy and healthy lives.
You can check it out here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/RealLifeFitHealthyandHappy/
Through my online coaching business, Real Life Fit by Kate, I help busy women learn to eat better, get stronger and stay in shape for life—without making themselves crazy.
Through customized fitness plans that are tailored to meet the needs of each individual’s body and lifestyle paired with personalized coaching, I work in partnership with busy women to support their unique needs and help them get the changes they’re after.
And if you’re in need of a little push and plan to get yourself back in action, then my 5+ Step Back on Track Plan is just for you. Sign up here to get your copy today! https://forms.aweber.com/form/78/103546278.htm