Once upon a time I did something crazy

All throughout middle school and junior high I disliked gym class. I was the competent bystander (I term I later earned in my Teaching Methods in Physical Education course): I would get to the front of the line and all of a sudden have to tie my shoe and then quickly scoot my butt to the back of the line. I wasn’t an athlete and I avoided competitions based on athletic abilities. I had decided I wasn’t an athlete, mostly because my gym teachers decided I wasn’t. My mother recently gave me my elementary school report cards and every year the comments under physical education indicate I was a good student who participated regularly and learned the skills. What the hell happened between grade 5 and grade 6? Again, I had decided I wasn’t an athlete, mostly because my gym teachers decided I wasn’t. (One person can make a huge difference.)

I avoided gym throughout high school but when I went to university, specifically in my second year at Acadia University, things changed. I discovered the science of physical activity and I was lucky enough to get special permission to take two kinesiology courses. Once I sat through my first athletic injuries lecture I knew something needed to change. I was currently enrolled as a psychology major but I still wanted to avoid the physical activity courses that required me to athletic (which Acadia required to be a Kinesiology graduate) so a quick internet search led me to the University of Ottawa’s Human Kinetics program. That was the day I did something crazy: I applied to a physical activity based program at a totally different university in a city I’d never even been to.

Guess what? That was the first best decision I made. It was risky and terrifying and exhilarating all at the same time! My Acadia friends weren’t sure why I had decided to transfer and I couldn’t even really put it into words back then, but I understand now. I was just starting to learn then that to get where you truly want to go, where you are meant to go, means you’ve got to do some crazy things.

Since then I’ve done some more crazy things: move to Georgia to work at a school for at-risk youth; go back to university to get my education degree; join a fitness class that required me to run up Citadel Hill at 6am with the sun blinding me every step of the way; accept a first date with a divorced military man with three children; willingly pay to run through mud; walk into a room with heavy bags and throw my first punch, start my own business..all of these crazy things led me to more crazy things which have led me to here at my computer typing this.

Maybe these things aren’t crazy to you or maybe they’re so wild you’d never even imagine yourself attempting them. I never thought I could feel good about being physically active and here I am. I never imagined myself running 5k let alone 10k, but I’ve done it more than once. There are so many amazing things about my life that I never even could have dreamed of back at Acadia when I took that risk to do something crazy and change my path.

My life is on the verge of another great change and it’s scary looking into the unknown but I know that to grow as a person and for great things to happen, we sometimes have to blindly run uphill with the sun in our eyes.

do the crazy thing

 

Who trained your trainer?

Have you ever asked if your personal trainer or fitness instructor is certified? Who are they certified through? Are they required to take courses on a regular basis to make sure they’re up to date and knowledgeable about new practices? Are they certified in CPR? A fit pro I work closely with says no one has EVER asked if she’s certified.  I doubt anyone would take a Lamborghini to Walmart’s garage for maintenance and repairs? So why are so many people willing to trust their health and fitness to just anyone?

There is more than one reputable organization that educates personal trainers and fitness instructors (CanFitPro, CSEP, NSCA, etc.) and they require their members to pursue continuing education regularly. Their programs have been determined to be safe and actual scientific research plays a big role in their programming. These training programs are well known and easily accessible but creeping into the market from the back door enter sneaky, slimy organizations like the one my job hunting friend came across.

“Personal trainers wanted:No certification necessary!”  She figured “what a great opportunity”! She’s not certified yet, but is very interested so she contacted the email provided and the reply she received fueled this post! They said that due to overwhelming response to their job ads (they advertise all across Canada), they are conducting the first part of the interview via email (kinda weird, but ok.) They asked several questions but the VERY FIRST thing they requested was a photo to prove the applicants’ dedication to diet and fitness. WHAT THE HELL? A PHOTO? My friend wasn’t born yesterday and knew the request sounded ludicrous and decided not to continue pursuing this opportunity. I decided to explore this organization and alarm bells kept ringing!

First off, I am angry and frustrated and disappointed and angry again that someone touting themselves as a fitness business considers a photo as proof of fitness! What day and age are we living in where this is reasonable? You could live off Red Bull and Cheetos but look fit. What the hell does a photo prove except that maybe I have access to a great PhotoShop program? or starve myself to look thin? or inject steroids to get bigger muscles? I have finally entered a community of fitness professionals that believe in smashing the scale and ditching the shakes and embracing who you are and how you can be fit by being yourself and yet this shit is still out there?!?

I scrolled through their “interview” and discovered that part of the job training is in how to advise clients on supplements: my fury meter rose again!Oh no they didn’t! Throughout my university degree, my time as Certified Kinesiologist (yes I had to apply and take courses and achieve certain stantards to hold that title), and my CanFitPro Personal Trainer Specialist training we were reminded time and again that unless we are a physician, naturopathic doctor, or registered dietitian we LEGALLY  CANNOT recommend supplements as part of our job. Yet here is a personal training company making that part of the job!

Guess what else? They don’t require you to be certified because they want to train you themselves! Why could this be? Could it be that other, REPUTABLE, nationally recognised programs adhere to safety and legal standards? (I do not know what this organisation’s specific standards are but I’d have serious qualms about working with one of their “trained” professionals.)

This organisation is everything that is wrong in the fitness industry today: superficial standards of what fitness is and what fitness should look like; recommending supplements that aren’t proven safe and effective by peer-reviewed scientific research; and creating and promoting their own standards and guidelines in an industry where people’s health is at stake. I want nothing more than to see this organisation go down in flames and I just hope that they don’t take any trusting clients with them.

True professionals invest in their education to ensure clients are receiving safe and effective instruction. Please, do yourself a favour and verify that your fitness professional really is a professional!

 

 

 

Guest Post! What #IAmStrong means to me

Today’s blog post was written by a member of my fitness tribe, Fitness Junkies, based in Windsor, NS. She’s everything #IAmStrong celebrates!

 

I am strong. It’s something I used to resent hearing. I thought it was a backhanded compliment, like when someone called me cute. To be strong meant I wasn’t thin, or I wasn’t beautiful. I wasn’t the ideal.

I played sports my whole life and never felt like an athlete. I was never the fastest or the most skilled. I had talent but I didn’t stand out. I didn’t want to either. Then in university, after sports fell away, anxiety and depression surfaced. I have a terrible memory for that time in my life but I clearly remember my first anxiety attack. Not being able to breathe, I just sat, soaking in thoughts that I would later come to realize were stories I was telling myself. Stories of “I am not smart enough, not independent enough, not disciplined enough, not pretty enough, not good enough. I am not enough.” I sought help and began taking medication.

It was around that time I started going to the gym. My partner and I would workout together.  It helped but I didn’t really know what I was doing and it was intimidating. Eventually, I joined Curves For Women. It was basic circuit training in a non-threatening environment and I could do it. I worked hard and I got results. I lost weight, my energy increased, my mood improved and I was able to come off the medication. Working out was my new medication, something to check off my to-do list once a day. I was still telling myself stories. “I am being active to counteract my lazy nature and to help keep me from having panic attacks.”

When I moved to Windsor I was invited to Kathy Johnston’s Fitness Junkies class and it was the exact right thing at the right time. It was a community of like-minded people working out at our own individual levels, pushing ourselves beyond our self-imposed boundaries. I would attend twice a week, Sundays and Thursdays, because I needed the three days in between to recover. It became a routine, and I continued through my pregnancy and postpartum as well. My body appreciated the physical challenge but my mind required it. I give full credit to this level of physical activity for sustaining my mental health. Over time, I was able to come to more classes and take on new challenges more easily. I was still telling myself stories. “I may be lazy but if I keep working out, I can lose some weight, I can get stronger, I can be happy”

 Fitness Junkies is aptly named. It is addictive and transformative. The community aspect draws you in. It is so much more than a workout. Its members support each other through difficult times with meals, money or help moving house and through celebrations of birthdays, babies, cooking classes, creative outlets and achievements. We share core values and it spreads outward to our local community by supporting great causes like Relay for Life, Terry Fox Foundation, the TrALE Run for Search and Rescue and many more community based initiatives. It has been amazing to watch Fitness Junkies grow and I have been so proud to not only call Kathy my friend but also to witness the journey she has been on. She has helped me, and so many others, to change the stories we tell ourselves by modelling what it is to live authentically, embracing the life you have now, to be the best you can be in the present.

It is from Kathy’s journey that the #IAmStrong event was born.  The event took place in a middle school gym, with people from all different backgrounds and levels of fitness. It was an incredibly diverse and challenging workout organized by Meraki Event Planning and Fitness Junkies, highlighting local fitness businesses Fitness Junkies, AppleValley Crossfit, Kettlebell Krushers and The Yoga Hen. What struck me that day was a familiar feeling. It settles somewhere between my chest and my gut. It is that same feeling of anxiousness I experienced back in University. I now recognize it as Energy. An energy we were all sharing. What has changed as a result of being a Fitness Junkie are the stories I tell myself to harness that energy. “I am fit, I am healthy, I am active, I am creative, I am myself, I am love, I am kindness, I am a helper, I am a friend, I am a daughter, I am a sister, I am a mother, I am a wife, I am enough and I AM STRONG!” YOU ARE STRONG!

 

 

How to be more attractive

Over the last 6 months or so, I’ve been crossing paths with some amazing people. These crossed paths have opened my eyes and my mind, and I credit my growing success to these interactions. (I got my first and only tattoo in October to symbolise the importance of  crossed paths in my life. The significant people I’ve crossed paths with include my husband, my friend and colleague Kathy, all of the motivating friends I’ve made in my fitness tribe, and the list continues to grow as my business grows and as I grow.)

I attended a fitness conference in the fall where Todd Durkin (http://todddurkin.com) was one of the presenters. He came out in his signature grey Under Armour hoodie and proceeded to “motivate” a room full of fitness pros in the way only Todd Durkin can. He talked about his rules for himself and his credo and I walked away with a page full of notes and with the impression that he is undeniably himself in every aspect of his business and life.

I was fortunate enough to work with a business coach (www.eleanorbeaton.com) in January who I had attended high school with and has since grown a very successful business coaching some amazing women leaders to achieve amazing things. (And yes, I am counting myself among those ranks.) She was a successful student when we knew each other in our previous lives and I am happy to say that she is still very much herself. Her laugh has that same infectious sound, she still exudes the same confidence, and it feels good just to be around her. She continues to be successful because she knows who she is and embraces that with every step she takes.

I mentioned my colleague and friend, Kathy (http://www.fitnessjunkiesns.com) who I have been working out with since March 2015: I walked in to her class that first evening and knew I had found a special person. She led and still leads, her boxing-based bootcamp class with enthusiasm decorated with colourful language, energy, and a sincerity that instantly attracts people to her. I have watched her business grow from an extra-curricular activity to a full-time business. She has received awards and recognition from the media because her business reflects her as a person and that person is someone everyone wants to be around. Her business is a success because she has not wavered from being herself.

As my path continues to cross those of amazing people, I find I’m discovering more and more inspiring and authentic entrepreneurs and trendsetters. A short list of these folks are Jill Payne (http://www.spiritualathlete.org), Taryn Brumfitt (www.tarynbrumfitt.com), Stacy Chesnutt (https://stacychesnutt.blogspot.ca), Lindsay Gee (www.lindsaygee.ca), Chandra Crawford (www.fastandfemale.com), 

and even Tony Robbins (www.tonyrobbins.com). I am inspired by all of these folks because of their success and their message, but most importantly because they are all very much themselves. Seems like that should be a given, right? Who else could you be? Anyone who has spent any time in the fitness industry knows that being true to yourself and staying authentic can be challenging at the best of times. I am finally embracing who I am and what I’m most passionate about. I walk around with butterflies in my stomach because of the excitement I’m feeling as a result of this shift.

I started my business in September 2015 as a wedding and party planning service (who doesn’t love a wedding?) The area where I’m currently living is a little slow to see the value of a wedding planner and my clients ended up coming from the fitness industry. My business coach asked me why I wasn’t focusing solely on fitness and wellness? Good question! I have a human kinetics degree and I’ve been a certified personal trainer for 12 years. Why had I ignored that? Fitness is fun and health and exercise get me all jazzed up! Eureka! I feel like the moment I embraced my niche in the event planning market great things started to happen.  I had decided to be myself in a world where I was working so hard to be what everyone else wanted me to be. Work doesn’t feel like work anymore and most days I have so many ideas and inspiration flowing through me that I feel like I could burst!

As fitness and wellness professionals I encourage you to be yourself in everything you do. If you don’t believe in energy drinks: don’t include them in your events. If you feel like being healthy is more than a number on a scale, then throw it out. If you want to eat fast food every now and then, do it. Clients will recognise your authenticity and there is nothing more attractive than that. Our clients are looking for permission to love themselves and we can only give that to them by loving ourselves first. Love yourself enough to be who you really are. It looks good on you;-)

Can you trust the Internet for health and fitness information?

Good morning! I’m sitting here at home, multi-tasking as usual. My 3 year old son is beside me, I’ve got “The Perfect Physique” (“documentary” on male fitness models) going on Netflix and I’m blogging.  I decided to watch this film because I’ve recently been exploring the world of women’s body image and our difficulties with loving ourselves. I thought I needed to take a balanced approach and not forget about the guys: do they pick themselves apart as much as we do?

That was my goal, but during the opening credits I became focused on something else. The credits revealed that MetRx (www.metrx.com) was a sponsor of the film. Their involvement is why I put the word documentary in quotations above. How honest or unbiased could this film be when it’s sponsored by a supplement giant? The male models featured freely admitted that what they do and how they look is NOT NORMAL. If that’s true, how does the industry get away with using them as representatives of what men should look like? How can we trust the information presented to us? Can we trust the information at all?

That leads me to what I’m writing about today. When we want information on how to get six-pack abs (or 8 pack or 10 pack) where do we go? Where do we find information on creatine or energy drinks? I would hazard a guess that most people turn to the Internet. I’m lucky enough to come from a background built solidly on science and I understand the value of peer-reviewed research (this means that scientists who have conducted the research have had their results reviewed by several other scientists, and their work was determined to be reliable and well-researched according to established procedures and ethics). I know what to look for in an article and what to question in terms of “scientific evidence”.  Do most fitness fans? I’m sure many people have invested hours and hours in educating themselves but for the most part people know only what the industry tells them. That worries me.

I have attached a peer-reviewed research study  provided to me by a university professor and former human kinetics classmate of mine, Dr. Erin McGowan of Memorial University. This study looked at the accuracy of cancer-related exercise information available on the web.  Buote et al 2016 Wouldn’t you hope to find the most reliable information regarding the health of a loved one? Patients and physicians are turning to Google to help guide them towards healing and improved health, and we can’t trust what we find!

We’ve all been hearing about fake news lately, so question the “science” published on the Internet just like you’d question what Sean Spicer says (I like to call him Spicey and I can’t help but picture Melissa McCarthy). A perfect example of what I’m talking about is when I asked a friend who sells supplements and shakes and detox cleanses for the research on her company’s products, she sent me a “study” that was fully funded by that same company! How can you call this reliable and accurate information when it’s really nothing more than an advertisement disguised as science?!? Would a business actively distribute information that suggested their product was useless? No, of course not! They want your money (and lots of it), and they get it by masquerading as reliable and scientific. They prey on your desire to improve yourself with promises of quick results. (By the way, I have yet to come across reliable scientific evidence supporting cleanses or detox products. If you have, please forward it to me.)

I could go on and on about different products and fads and advice that I’ve seen floating around in cyber space that should never even exist, but I will encourage you instead to educate yourselves. It can be overwhelming, I know, so enlist the help of a certified health and fitness professional. Befriend an educated professional (kinesiologist, naturopath, registered dietician, trainer or instructor) or even send your questions my way and we can work together to sort out fact from fiction.

Here are JUST A FEW things to consider:

  • most family physicians have only a few hours of nutrition education.Physical education teachers receive more nutrition education than they do!
  •  fitness models and celebrities are paid to look the way they do! They spend hours in the gym and then hours in hair and makeup. They are NOT normal and their lifestyles are NOT normal.
  • if an athlete or celebrity is endorsing a product, remember they are being paid to do so! Except for the odd few, they are NOT educated or trained in exercise physiology or nutrition, and therefore in no position (legally or medically) to give advice on this stuff
  • most exercisers do not know whether or not their trainer/instructor is certified and never even thought to ask
  • if a fad or product promises you will lose more than 1.5lbs per week, be sceptical
  • even natural products and herbs have side effects, some of which may be negative (any medications you are taking may interact with natural products)
  • what works for one person may not work for you
  • you can’t exercise and eat like shit and expect to be healthy. You can’t eat well and not exercise and expect to achieve optimal health, either.
  • if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is
  • LOVE yourself enough to make the best choices about what you do with your body and what you put into it