Wednesday, June 29, 2011

yiN aNd yAnG...

Sometimes we don't know how strong we truly are until we are feeling weak. Sometimes we don't know how many people are around us until we feel alone. Sometimes we are not proud of our accomplishments until we feel like a failure. There's yin and yang.There was a time when I became very strong physically. I was 5 lbs shy of being able to dead lift double my body weight. My muscles were obvious and more defined. Strangers often asked me what competition I was training for in stores. Anyone that saw me could see with their eyes that I was strong and I was proud of that. It was a big part of my identity.

Life takes twists and turn that we don't always like and rarely expect. I'm no exception. If you asked me back then if I'd be facing what I am now in my life, I would've said "ABSOLUTELY NOT!" Lately, I've struggled. I've had personal issues that have kept me out of the gym...sometimes due to time and sometimes due to my mental state. Then, I hurt my back several weeks ago. I have gotten better and then re agitated it a couple of times since. I've gone from working out 5 to 6 times a week to doing about 5 workouts over the course of 3 weeks. The effects on both my mental state and my physical state are very apparent...just as apparent as my physical strength used to be.

I was a social work major when I dropped out of college. I knew I wouldn't make much money but I wanted to do something in my life where I could help people. I wanted to protect people that needed protecting and empower people that had been held down. I never wanted a job that didn't mean anything or where money was the sole purpose. I've always felt that I have gone through the trials that I have in my childhood and adult life so that I can have empathy and compassion and the drive to make a difference.I felt like I found that through my job as a trainer and then as a blogger and partner in the "Strong is the new skinny" Facebook page. I've put myself out there in ways that are not always comfortable and many times have felt very "naked" and vulnerable...not because I HAD to...because I WANTED to. I've received countless emails telling me how I've inspired people to be more healthy and fit and happy with themselves. Many women have generously shared their personal stories with me. Most of the feedback I receive is positive, but every now and's not. I don't expect that everyone will like me or agree with me and I actually get a giggle every now and then when people poke fun at me.

After receiving many questions and requests from people about the fit of the tanks I sell, I decided to put some pictures up of the new tops I received in the mail yesterday and try my best to describe the fit. I want people to be happy with what they order and be able to choose the correct size. So, I put up the pics. They were not artistic or of me in a cutesy pose. They were of the front of my chest to see how the tanks fit across the chest and middle and explain the differences. The ironic part is that I had a few full body shots, but I was surprised to see that my chest looked very thin in a few and was afraid that I would be put down for being "too skinny" or sending the wrong message so I chose the pictures that only depicted the top. Try as I might, I can't take a picture of me wearing a tank without my boobs being a part of the picture and so my boobs are prevalent in these pictures. At first the comments were positive and then came the negative.I received several comments about fake boobs and the message I'm sending. I was asked why I can't be happy with the body I was given and called names like ridiculous. The interesting part is that those things don't bother me near as much as someone questioning the integrity of what I am trying to do. I can't quote exactly what she said because after tearing me apart...and me responding respectfully...she deleted all her comments. I don't care to talk about her or anyone else that had a problem but I do want to say this...

My desire is not to advertise me or get more Facebook friends. It's not to sell shirts or promote fake boobs. I'm not trying to victimize women or make anyone feel bad about themselves. I haven't had professional photo shoots and splashed my pic all over the page for a reason. I wanted it to be about ALL women...of every race...from every country...of all sizes...and walks of life. I love seeing all the pictures that come in of women wearing the tanks and tees. I want women to feel good about themselves. I want women to know they can and should work hard to be the best they can be. I want women to know that you can keep up with the boys in the gym and still look like a girl. I want women to know that being strong and muscular is not masculine. It can be beautiful and we should be proud. I just want people to feel good about themselves and the work they do whether they are sporty or girly...whether they've accomplished their goals or have just started the journey...big boobs or flat chest...whatever.It wasn't fun to read those things but I accept it because I CHOSE to put myself out there and I'm an easy target. As much as I don't like to hear negative things, I am glad those things were said because I learned something very valuable today. I have been feeling bad because I don't look as strong as I once did and I'm carrying a few extra pounds. I have felt very alone and even had moments where I threw some serious pity parties for myself. So when I saw these comments and then the comments of other men and women defending me, I realized that as fragile as I have felt on the inside...I am unbreakable. As weak as I have felt on the outside...I have sturdy shoulders that can hold the weight of the world. And as lonely as I have felt at times, I am not alone. For every person that doesn't like me or agree with me...there are twenty ready to fight for me and defend me. I am not fragile or weak or alone. I am strong and I will be okay, because I can't have my yang without my yin.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

t-sHiRt dAy!!!

Today is international t-shirt day, so JUST FOR TODAY (June 21) there is FREE SHIPPING with NO MINIMUM PURCHASE !!! So if you don't have one of the official "Strong is the new skinny" tanks or tees...GET ONE TODAY! Click HERE to visit the store and use the code T-DAY2011 to get your FREE shipping today!Also, if you haven't "liked" us on Facebook, visit our page to read great blogs by us AND by many of our "SINS" friends, see encouraging pics, get great tips, and be a part of an amazing community of strong people!!! You can click on pics there to see many photos of beautiful, strong women showing off their tanks and hard work as well!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

...rEcOveRiNg fRoM pArALySiS..

I remember the day...a long time ago...that my trainer at the time (now friend and coworker/boss) tried to teach me an exercise...a lift...the Push Jerk. It's a complicated...advanced that can be difficult to teach and learn. Luckily I have since been to an Crossfit Olympic Lifting certification where I was taught by great coaches such as Mike Burgener, Shane Hamman, Dutch Lowy, and Sage Burgener (just to name a few). There I learned a much simpler approach to teaching this movement that has made it much easier to teach other people. Unfortunately, at the time, it was much more complicated. I stood there...feeling extreme pressure. I knew people working out around me were watching...and I had been given the instructions...over and over and over. I had failed...many times...and I was afraid. There are so many movements involved that my mind was racing as I repeated the instructions to myself that I had been given at lightning speed over and the hips...small jump...not too aggressive...pull yourself under the in a partial squat with a full extension of the arms...then stand. I just stood there...mind racing...staring at myself in the movement. It seemed like forever and I knew I needed to try move. Suddenly, I almost felt as though I had stepped outside myself. I had all these questions running through my mind... "Why am I just standing here?" "Why can't I move?" "What if I fail?" "What if I forget?" I could see my trainer's face reflected in the mirror...puzzled look...dead silence. He said to me "What are you waiting on?" I couldn't answer. I could only stand there frozen. Eventually I did try...again...only to fail...again. I am happy to report that I have long since mastered the Push Jerk and successfully taught it to many people.As I sat down to journal my training progress for the day...frustrated...I replayed those events in my mind. I tried to make sense of what had happened. I have never been frozen like that before. It literally felt like I was paralyzed...and in retrospect...I have come to realize that I WAS...paralyzed. I was thinking so hard and I was so scared...that I suffered from mental paralysis or what OLY lifting coach Mike Burgener calls "paralysis by analysis". I also realized that this was not the first time that this had was just the first time I had become aware of it.

I never finished it, but years ago...I started reading the book, "A Return To Love" by Marianne Williamson. I remember coming across a passage that I wrote down and it reminds me of this experience and helped give me some better understanding of why this had happened to me. This is what it said...

"A lot of us know we have what it takes-the looks, the education, the talent, the credentials. But in certain areas, we're paralyzed. We're not stopped by something on the outside, but by something on the inside. Our oppression is internal. The government isn't holding us back, or hunger or poverty. We're not afraid we'll get sent to Siberia. We're just afraid, period. Our fear is free floating. We're afraid this isn't the right relationship or we're afraid it is. We're afraid they won't like us, or we're afraid they will. We're afraid of failure or we're afraid of success. We're afraid of dying young or we're afraid of growing old. We're more afraid of life than we are of death."

I think I've been a bit paralyzed myself lately. I think and think and think about all the things I want and NEED to do, and then I become frozen and the millions of instructions and questions enter my mind. I want to blame my lack of progress on outside forces...people...upset in my day to day life...injuries...etc, but the truth's not the outside that is the problem. It's me doing it to being afraid.

I don't know. Maybe other people don't do this to themselves like I do, but in the case that some of you do, I want to bring it to your attention and tell you that you can recover. You can stop being paralyzed and start moving forward again. Sometimes there will be setbacks...that's part of progressing...but if you want to be better at Cleans or Snatches...or increase the amount you Squat or Deadlift...or improve your diet and get stronger and leaner...or run have to stop being afraid and "what if"ing yourself to death and be willing to try again and again. You can't stop when you fail and you can't be afraid or worry about what the people watching may think.

There are 5 things you can do to help you along the way to recovery.

1. Find people that are good at those things and trust them to teach you. You would not hire Michael Phelps to help you improve your Back Squat. Although he is a respected athlete and has probably seen or even done squats, that is not where his expertise lies. Hire a trainer or coach that can teach you and help you improve in a specific way that he or she is good at. Read books or articles online. Become educated in what it is you are looking to accomplish.

2. Practice...over and over and over until you begin to see improvement. Even the greatest athletes, have to practice and work to be THEIR personal best and many athletes that are considered great have not always been and have failed or been told they would never do the things they did. Michael Jordan is a perfect example.

3. Be willing to step outside of your comfort zone and do things differently. Everyone LIKES to do what they are good at. I'd rather deadlift than push heavy weight over my head ANY day, because that's where I struggle. I'd rather run than do a complicated movement that requires agility. The problem is, that if we only do what comes easy, we can't improve our weaknesses. It's that simple. You HAVE to do things that are hard if you want to be better.

4. Be consistent and have a plan. You cannot get stronger if you lift once or twice a week ever so often and you can't be prepared for a marathon if you only run whenever you feel like it and go as far as you want. You have to methodically work towards what it is you want to accomplish. You have to KNOW what you are going to do when you step into the gym and you have to stick to the plan on the days that you don't feel like it.

5. Set real, attainable goals with real time limits and hold yourself accountable. I once asked a client what her goals were. She said, "To get in better shape." I said "What do you mean?" She continued to give generic answers until I told her this. "You are hiring me to be your guide. To get you from point A to point B. I know where we are at. We are AT point A, but if I don't know specifically where point B is, I can't get you there!" You have to have a SPECIFIC goal. It can't be to simply "be stronger". Know what that means, whether it means increasing your deadlift to twice your body weight or running a half marathon. Then you MUST give yourself a time limit that is reasonable and make no excuses. You can't push back the date or lie about progress. You hold yourself accountable to your coach or through a blog...whatever...but don't take the easy way out.

Sometimes, progress is slow. But progress is just that...PROGRESS. If you've been paralyzed. If you've been holding yourself back or giving yourself excuses or lying to yourself...start today. You may not be able to jump up, but at least wiggle your toes! You can begin by taking small steps because as long as you can at least "wiggle your toes"'re no longer paralyzed.