How much time do you spend on the floor? The pelvic floor, that is.

This is the first post of a two-part spotlight on the pelvic floor. This post is geared more towards fitness professionals, while the next post will be addressed more to fitness and wellness clients.

 

I’m a mother of two so I’m well acquainted with my pelvic floor. It’s one of those areas that by the time you realize how important it is, it’s usually because something has gone awry and you’re in rehabilitation mode not prevention mode. Lots of fitness professionals remind you to “engage your pelvic floor” and make sure that pelvic floor is strong” but what does that even mean? As a fitness professional I know what it feels like and I’m sure personal trainers out there are familiar with the  “pulling your elevator up to the next floor” analogy but do we even fully understand what’s truly going on in there?

RyanGoslingPelvicFloor

I thought I understood until one of my sisters (also a mother of two) recently discovered her issues were exacerbated by the ever so popular kegel exercises. After hearing about her experiences I asked her to write down why she decided to seek treatment and what that treatment is like.  Having a healthy pelvic floor is about more than kegels…so much more! Fitness professionals need to re-educate themselves on this deep issue that may be keeping potential clients away from fitness classes and working out. How fit pros are addressing this may even be making things worse!

*This portion was written by Jenn Richardson, BSN, RN

I became pregnant with my oldest daughter in December 2013, after a bout with anovulation and what we thought was infertility. My pregnancy was fairly healthy, though I suffered with bilateral separated SI joints (where your sacrum meets your hips-you have a joint on each side of your lower back). I had an induced labour which lasted just under eight hours and after having pushed for only 30 minutes, I delivered a beautiful, albeit wee, baby girl. I had no tears and no episiotomy. As soon as she was delivered, my back pain went away!
Fast forward to her first birthday, I was just a week pregnant with my second baby girl. This pregnancy was not so easy and I had hyperemesis gravidarum for the entire pregnancy, pretty major diastasis recti, as well as separated SI joints again. I went into labour at 39 weeks and barely made it to the hospital because she was in a hurry to get here. Again, I pushed for just 30 minutes, after just 3 hours of labour, and gave birth to a chubbier baby girl with no tears or episiotomies. This time, my back pain never went away.
I am now one year post partum (can I even call it that at this point?) and still suffering with pain. My lower back is in a constant state of cramping and I have pelvic pain that feels like menstrual cramps 2-3 days a week. I even had a couple days with pain so bad that it brought me to the floor. My pubic bone feels like it is constantly bruised (read: feels like I’ve been kicked in the crotch) and I have this hard-to-describe heaviness in my pelvis.
I have a runner friend who recently made a post about pelvic floor physiotherapy and how it has helped her after having two babies with even faster labours than I had. If it is helping her, maybe it could help me. I checked out a few clinics online and decided on Choice Health Centre in Bayers Lake and physiotherapist Stephanie Brown. She is specially trained in pelvic floor physiotherapy and has even used it as a patient herself.
I had my first visit to her clinic this week.
If you’re shy about professionals touching your lady bits, you’ll have a hard time with how hands on the assessment is. This part lasts a half hour or so and involves two fingers in your vagina the whole time. Ok, not the whole time. The first 4 minutes or so, she evaluates external pain trigger points and reflexes. Then the next 26 minutes involved an internal assessment, where she manually manipulates the muscles of your pelvic floor to find where your pain is coming from. I kid you not, at one point it felt like she had grabbed a hold of my pelvic floor and squeezed it as hard as she could. She told me she was just barely touching it. That is how injured my pelvic floor is. She continued this with all the muscles, finding wonderful pain trigger spots, sending shooting pain down my glutes and into my hips, with just the light touch of a finger. Hypertonic, she says. My pelvic floor is way too tight. She told me she could feel my muscles twitching and throbbing as she touched them. No wonder I have been having pelvic pain.
Part of this assessment is to evaluate for rectal prolapse (rectocele) and bladder prolapse (cystocele). She immediately caught my grade 1 cystocele just by having me cough. The anterior (top) wall of my vagina had weakened enough for my bladder to dip down just slightly. I had no idea I had a bladder prolapse! Thankfully, a grade 1 prolapse is nothing to worry about and it will likely not cause me any problems.
After a half hour of being internally massaged, for lack of a better description, Stephanie informed me that with a hypertonic pelvic floor, Kegels can make it worse (don’t tell her I really hadn’t been doing them anyway, like we are all told we should). My muscles were so tight that they were closing off my urethra (tube from bladder to outside of body), causing me to have to push to finish peeing. Many of them were spasming and twitching, causing cramp-like pain. It all makes sense!
Because my muscles are all so tight, I am working on reverse Kegels to relax those muscles. It is a hard as it sounds. I have to relax the pelvic floor without pushing it outwards….? It takes a lot of concentration and focus and I don’t even know if I am doing it right half the time. Stephanie has told me that she can do biofeedback, whereby they place a probe in your vagina and connect it to a computer. When you contract and relax your muscles, it presents as a graph on the screen (similar to cardiotocography, which monitors baby’s heart rate and mom’s contractions during labour) so you can learn how to effectively control those muscles. That sounds fun…

After having two children, one miscarriage ending in a dilatation and curettage and several visits to the emergency room during recovery, I’ve had enough hands up my vagina so I admire my sister for being willing to endure the discomfort and intrusion necessary to heal her lady bits. She’s a public health nurse who teaches sex ed to teenagers so nothing really phases her, but why is what she shared so important to fitness professionals?

Remember where she said the assessment revealed that her muscles were too tight and that “with a hypertonic pelvic floor, Kegels can make it worse”?Stop and think for a moment about how many times you’ve recited the “do your kegels!” to clients. Be honest…it’s probably a lot, right? Now, think about how many of those clients may be in the same situation as my sister. How many of you are feeling embarrassed right now? (As embarrassed as having a physiotherapist’s hands up your hoo haa?) When we know better, we do better, right?

pelvicfloorkermit

I wonder how many women are avoiding running clubs, bootcamp classes, and fitness in general because of incontinence or discomfort? This is where potential clients are hiding! Knowing this presents a fantastic opportunity for you as a professional and for women in your area:

  • get educated! Read up on the topic
  • connect with a pelvic floor specialist in your area (I found several by typing “pelvic floor physiotherapist” into Google)
  • if you’re a pelvic floor specialist, connect with some fitness professionals
  • co-host an education seminar on the pelvic floor and educate women (and other fit pros! Remember the events you host don’t have to all be workout-related!)
  • encourage your clients to seek the advice of a specialist

I’m glad my sister endured the discomforting hands-on (hands-in?) so that we could then share this information with you and hopefully improve the lives of many women.

Stay tuned for Part 2 where we continue to chat about the floor with potential clients!

Something worth getting excited about

I just got home from a busy day and I’m feeding the kids, feeding myself, dealing with the issues that came up during the day, and surveying my social media when I saw that a fellow military spouse had just posted her elevator pitch on a Facebook group I’m part of. Turns out she’s involved in fitness and wellness so I decided to reach out.

This lovely lady is about to pursue yoga teacher training and through chatting I discovered a kindred spirit: someone who wants others to appreciate what their body can do and embrace their health and fitness! YAY! A like-minded individual who is seeking support and encouragement!

I find it amazing when we connect with people who totally get who we are and why we do what we do. It feels energizing, doesn’t it? Like we can take on the world! Guess what? WE CAN! I’m sitting here practically buzzing with excitement at the possibilities that lie ahead! There is so much opportunity to welcome people into our fitness communities and grow, grow, grow!

I encourage you all to seek out people who share your vision and connect with them, whether it be in person, on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Support the work they’re doing (’cause we’re all working our butts off here) and start growing that fitness community from the inside out!

 

Bedtime

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

 

 

My name is Shannon and I’m a size 10.

I recently had headshots taken (by the wonderful Kristen Dunlop Photography)to use for my business and they turned out beautifully! I shared them on Facebook and of course, my family and lovely friends flooded my wall with compliments and for the first time in my life I tried really hard to accept them. I tried not to minimize the beauty of my blue eyes or argue the effect my sincere smile had in lighting up my face. I tried to accept each compliment gracefully and to do my best to ignore the bits I usually dislike about myself in pictures.

In the world of fitness, being anything but a size 2 is oftentimes ignored. Fitness magazines encourage us to have Barbie doll proportions and to be sun-kissed all year round. Well, this body boasts a 34F bust, a 30 inch waist, and a complexion that requires 24/7×365 SPF 30. You will never see me in a fitness competition because the industry just isn’t ready for me to strut in a bikini, heels, and a spray tan. I have friends who do compete at this level and they are beautiful and wonderful, but they’re definitely not a size 10.

In one of my headshots, I’m wearing my power colour royal blue dress but as I look at it, I struggle to see beyond my own boobs. I’ve got curly hair and my hairdresser (thanks, Nadine) does a fabulous job with my highlights. I’ve got those beautiful blue eyes and strong arms. But I zoom right in on my ample bosom. A lot of people zoom in on my boobs, though. Last summer, my photo appeared in our local newspaper and a “gentleman” messaged me to comment on how “impressed” he was. I immediately assumed he was referring to my breasts. Was I supposed to feel flattered? Instead, I felt like hiding and camouflaging my chest from the world. (At this size, though, that’s pretty difficult to do.) It’s hard for me to find clothes that fit properly in most stores and it’s something I’m constantly aware of. But I’m fit and healthy. They’re cumbersome but it doesn’t stop me from doing burpees. They jiggle but I’m still out training for an upcoming 10k race.

This body has been pregnant 3 times and birthed 2 beautiful children. These boobs fed those children, too. Yes, I require an industrial-grade sports bra to contain my lady lumps when I go for a run, but this body is fit. It’s fit enough to run several 5k races each year. It’s fit enough to attend boxing bootcamp classes several times a week. It’s fit enough to inspire my children to run and workout and do yoga with me. It’s a size 10 and I am healthy.

Should I have waited until I toned up a bit more and lost a little weight to get professional photos done? Hell no! I work hard at my business and I work hard at my fitness. My education and experience say I have a valid role to play in the fitness industry, regardless of my size. I want people to see me and know that fitness comes in all shapes and sizes, and strength comes with a healthy state of mind, not a small bikini size. The strongest women I know are not size 2! They are mothers and career women and entrepreneurs who live real lives with real demands. If I had 8 hours a day to workout, I might fit that industry mould, too. I’m a mother and a wife, and a member of a community. I have people who count on me and my size is irrelevant.

I will continue to run and workout and make an effort to focus more attention on clean eating. My goal is health and fitness not a certain dress size or  weight on the scale (I don’t even own a scale!) I am proud of how far this body has carried me in life and I will graciously accept any compliments thrown my way;-)

 

Coping with negative feedback

I consider myself a work in progress. That applies to every aspect of my life: my fitness, my mindset and self-perception, my roles as a wife and mother and friend. I’m not perfect and I’m learning as I go. Aren’t we all? So if this is true, why do I have such a hard time with negative feedback?

I reached out to the Twittersphere last night after receiving some particularly negative criticism. Turns out, I’m not alone in the struggle to overcome it and move on. People responded with their own experiences and it appears to be common for us to hang on to negative comments more than positive ones. (Addressing the need for social media to ease up on the negativity is material for a future post.)

I decided to do a little reading on the topic and stumbled upon a NY Times article addressing this very notion. (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/24/your-money/why-people-remember-negative-events-more-than-positive-ones.html). Turns out we’re wired to linger and ruminate about negative comments directed towards us; a survival tactic apparently. The author says “Oddly, I find this research, in some ways, reassuring. It’s not just me. I don’t need to beat myself up because I seem to fret excessively when things go wrong.” I agree. I tend to find solace in knowing I’m not suffering alone, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to do the work necessary to learn from it and move on.

How do we move on? A tweeter suggested acknowledging the emotions involved before trying to get on with it. Someone suggested venting about it, being present in those emotions for a bit to express them and release them which I’m glad to say I am fantastic at! I am also acknowledging that there is some significant personal bias and subjectivity on the part of the individual who provided the feedback I’m currently processing. I willingly accept the areas I need to improve upon, but I’m confident enough in who I am to recognise what is false and what I refuse to accept. Just because someone else offers an opinion doesn’t make it true.

Doesn’t this apply to all aspects of our lives? Just because I didn’t finish the 5k race in first place doesn’t diminish my achievements as a runner. In fact I have yet to even place in a race but I keep running them! Just because I am not a size 2 doesn’t mean I am not a fit woman. I’m quite comfortable working towards a comfortable size 8 pair of jeans. I’m learning to acknowledge who I am, what my strengths and talents are, and to celebrate those every.single.day. It’s not easy but necessary for me to be a successful mother, wife, and human being.

So, now that I’ve expressed my distaste at the negative sludge hurled in my direction, I’ve reached out to my strong support system to help me process and I’m ready to move on. I’ve taken from it what I needed to learn and I aim to put more kindness out in to the world in response.

#IAmStrong Sunday

It’s Sunday which means it’s time to acknowledge the girls and women in our communities who celebrate their strength with the world. This week I’m honouring the strength of my 6 year old daughter, Aurelia.

Since day one this kid has been a force of nature. She weighed less than 5lbs at birth, and while she’s still smaller than all of her classmates (and her 3 year old brother is already wearing bigger shoes than she is), her personality and joy for life are larger than life. She already has an extensive medal collections from her kids runs, and she has informed me that her goal for The Bread Run Kids Run (May 12th) is ” to be the best me I can be”. How awesome is that? Shouldn’t we all be the best mes we can be?

She tags along to the outdoor summer bootcamps I attend (and participates whenever she can), she loves doing yoga, and at school she writes about how she loves getting fit with mom. Her confidence in her ability to take on anything is inspiring and she also shows confidence in everyone else’s ability. She is a pint-sized cheerleader to everyone she sees (including complete strangers we see out running and being active.)

Of course as her mom, I’m amazed by her spirit and everything she does but she doesn’t let her size limit her and she’s quick to (happily) prove people wrong. I am inspired by her attitude and I want to be just like her when I grow up.

 

Whose strength are you celebrating this #IAmStrong Sunday?

Aureliaboxing (2)

AureliaBread Run (2)