How do you improve? Step out of your comfort zone. That’s just what I did.

This past weekend I stepped entirely out of my comfort zone.

I felt like throwing up the entire time.

When was the last time you pushed past your comfort zone?

When was the last time you pushed past your comfort zone?

You see for months, my husband and others have been advising me to do online videos of exercises and post them.

I’ve resisted. I didn’t want to be on camera. I didn’t think the amount of time it would take me to film, edit and post would provide me a return on my investment.

But after attending a weekend fitness conference I realized that if I am going to grow my business, I have to be willing to step outside of my comfort zone and try new things.

So last weekend we filmed a series of 25 exercises, with the intention of posting 5 every day along with guidance on how to complete the workout.

Will my efforts pay off? Will people actually benefit from the videos? Will they not only benefit from them but see the value in attending my classes or hiring me as a trainer? It’s entirely too early to answer any of those questions.

But what I can tell you is I’m willing to take a chance, at least for a while, to see how this might help me grow as a person and as a trainer and instructor.

I’m passionate about health and fitness and for me to succeed I’m going to have to be willing to take a risk.

So I ask you, what are you passionate about? What risks are you willing to take to be successful?

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Personal Training By Jenn Market Research

I recently finished reading the book called, ‘Do the Work,’ by Steven Pressfield and my mind hasn’t stopped reeling ever since.

In some ways, the book put me on blast. If fitness is truly my passion, and helping others discover healthy living is my mission, then it’s time to ‘Do the Work’ to start helping and serving more people.

So in moving forward, and discovering how I can better serve both those in my community and beyond, I want to strategically plan my next moves so that they match the needs of the people I want to help most.

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Take a few moments to tell me how I can better help you.

In looking at my target audience I have to be true to myself and to those I can best serve which are busy women. After all, am a busy woman! I know what it’s like to run out of the house for work and look back only to see dishes piled high and laundry needing to be put away. I know what it’s like to try and get in a workout between helping with homework and diffusing sibling disagreements. I know what it’s like to realize I haven’t planned a single thing for dinner and it’s already 6pm.

And while I can identify with women on so many levels, we are all unique individuals and we all have different priorities and roadblocks that keep us from our goals.

I’ve worked with a partner to design this survey in the hopes that it will help gather the important information beyond just the fitness. True health involves so much more than just being able to put in time at the gym.

This survey contains some quick questions about you and your health priorities. It will only take a few moments to complete and will greatly help me in determining next steps for helping women become stronger in all aspects of their lives.

Click here to complete the survey.

If this survey sparks something in you and you want to talk personally about your goals and roadblocks, drop me an email or give me a call. I’d love to chat with you about your unique needs and desires and what the first steps might be in helping you achieve them.

5 Steps to Achieving Change

Not that long ago I decided it was time to go old-school again when dealing with my schedule. As a group fitness instructor and personal trainer I have pockets of ‘free-time’ throughout my day. It’s not necessarily ‘free-time’ because there’s always laundry to be done, rooms to be cleaned or vacuumed, articles and fitness related materials to sift through, etc. But I was finding that those pockets of time would pass and I would be left wondering what happened to my day.

In addition to what happens in the gym, I need to devote time to writing blog posts, learning new choreography to workouts, marketing my classes and services, studying for my nutrition certification, writing class sets…I’m sure you get the idea.

So off I went to the office store and bought myself one of those hideous planners. Mine breaks down each day of the week from 7am to 8pm and has monthly calendars to see the big picture. At the beginning of each week I sit down and write in my class schedules, along with any appointments and what I’m left with is my ‘free-time.’

Now certainly, I will have no problem filling those time slots. I’ve got more than enough ‘to-do’ items to keep me busy beyond the hours in the day. But I was recently challenged during a message at church about how to fill those time slots.

Let me take just a moment to share that message with you, and then I will give you the 5 steps that will help you to get serious about what is on your calendar and how you can make changes.

It’s not mystery that we are all too busy. In fact, ‘I don’t have time,’ is one of the biggest reasons I hear from people who don’t exercise.

But the challenge set forth in this message was, ‘Who do you want to be?’ Do you want to be a better mom? Do you want to have a closer relationship with God? Do you want to kick an addiction? Do you want to get fit?

Whatever that is, whatever person you want to be is going to take commitment, it’s going to take time, and it’s going to require changes. You can’t expect to keep doing life the same way you have been and instantly be a better mom, who has a closer relationship with God and has kicked an addiction all while getting fit.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not suggesting that you tackle that many things at once. But I do want to take you a bit through how to get real about your calendar and your commitments so that you can start to become that person you most want to be. I will be using fitness as an example, but you can use these same 5 things to assess where you are and how to get to where you want to be.

5 Ways to Change

Don’t blow off important changes because you don’t have time.

1. Who do YOU want to be?

This is a question only you can answer. What is it about your weight or your fitness level that you want to change? Throw out all the images from television and magazines, take some time and look in the mirror and decide what will make you happy.

2. What’s the first step?

Don’t get caught up in the details, every journey starts somewhere. Maybe the first step for you is finding a time everyday to take a 30 minute walk. Maybe your first step is raiding your pantry to dump the junk. Maybe your first step is to take a fitness class or hire a trainer. Identify what the first step is and give yourself a deadline this week to get it done. You might not be able to actually accomplish that first step this week, but you can certainly assign a deadline.

3. What sacrifices are you willing to make?

Change is going to require sacrifice. You can’t expect to get fit by working out 2 times a week for 30 minutes. You can’t expect to drop weight eating junk food late at night. Be realistic, but recognize that you are going to need to make changes. Whether it’s modifying behaviors to drop old habits, or carving out time in your schedule to develop new ones, something is going to have to be different from today on.

4. What stands in your way?

Truly identify what your biggest excuse is…money, time, other people? If it’s money, look at your budget. You might be able to cut costs. If you can’t, check out YouTube – there are a ton of free workouts available that you can do out of your own home. If you have cable, flip through OnDemand, again plenty of choices. I can’t guarantee the quality of them, but my point is you don’t have to have an expensive gym membership to get fit. In fact, check out how many body weight exercises you can do without ANY equipment! Maybe it’s time. Listen, the fact is you are going to have to make time for yourself if you want to become that person you defined when looking in the mirror. There is no way to get around it – you have to put in the time to see the results. And if it’s a person or group of friends that are holding you back, evaluate those relationships. Are they healthy for you? I’m not saying dump them all together, just make sure you surround yourself with people who build you up not tear you down.

5. Write it down and make it happen!

Whether it’s an old-school planner like mine or on your phone, start making appointments for how you are going to get there. Write your goals down and map out your success. And don’t just pencil them in…use permanent marker! If it’s time to help you become a better you, there is nothing in the world more important than setting that appointment and following through with it.


 

I want to emphasize to you that while I used fitness as an example in this blog if there is something in your life pulling at your heart, figure out how to change it and start to schedule it! One person I know just set a date night with his wife for every week, another person I know started a morning coffee one time a week with her girlfriends, and someone else decided the most important thing was to spend individual time with his children.

I write this blog because I want to encourage my readers. Not every day is going to be perfect, and for me today was a great example of that. This blog was supposed to be written about 8 hours ago according to my ‘schedule.’ It didn’t happen at the exact time it was supposed to, but I committed to myself that I would write it today. Writing this to share with you is part of what is helping me to be who I want to be, and I’m cheating myself, and maybe others, if I just blow it off because I didn’t have time.

Who do you want to be?

Finding My Way (Again)

Life has a funny way of taking unexpected, yet appreciated turns.

If you read my blog you probably know that just over a year ago my family relocated to a suburb outside of Chicago. In an effort to get the family settled, I took time off and focused on being a wife and mom. I was free to hit the gym anytime during the day and often put in two workouts a day. It was kind of a nice break from the hectic schedule of training and teaching I left behind when we moved. While the break was nice, I was getting anxious to again have something of my own. Shortly after picking up some classes and rebuilding my ‘work’out wardrobe I got a call from a recruiter. ‘I found your resume online and I was wondering if you would be interested in a position as a Production Manager with a local e-Learning company.’ 

After a couple weeks of great contemplation and numerous discussions with friends and family, I decided returning to a more traditional job was the best choice for both me and my family. It’s now been almost two months since I started working in an office and I’m finding my way back to making health and exercise a priority.

I always thought I could identify with my clients because I was a working wife and mom too. But having a career in fitness, as opposed to a traditional office job makes you take a number of things for granted:

  • Getting 10,000 steps in a day – it was incredibly difficult for me to understand how people couldn’t meet this threshold number. Now that I sit at a desk all day, I have to intentionally work to get my 10,000 steps.
  • Drinking water – it’s pretty difficult to chug down coffee or a soda in the gym but when sitting at a desk they seem to be the best source for giving the extra charge needed to get through the last tough project of the day.
  • Getting to the gym – When you work at the gym, it’s clearly never a problem to stay an extra 30 minutes or an hour to get in a personal workout. After a long day at the office, it takes some convincing, some willpower and a whole lot of determination and planning to fit in that 30 minutes or an hour at the gym.
  • Making good food choices – Similar to drinking water, it’s pretty easy to down a healthy meal/snack at the gym. The last thing anyone wants is unhealthy food weighing down your body and energy while trying to encourage others to ‘step it up.’ Food is fuel to keep going through training sessions and classes. But when sitting at a desk, food is either an afterthought because of the bustle of meetings and projects or another trip out to lunch with co-workers.

So while I am no longer training and teaching full time, I’d like to shift the focus of my blog to help support the vast majority of women out there who are struggling to find balance with it all. I recognize what I took for granted and I now understand better than ever the struggles many of my past clients faced.

So from one overscheduled working mom to my audience of overscheduled lives, here’s my advice:

  • 10,000 steps – yes, the number of steps you take a day does make a difference so pick up a pedometer or use something like a FitBit to track your activity levels. It’s important to start with an awareness of your activity levels so that you can make the necessary adjustments. I’ve discovered the most efficient way for me to get my steps in is a 30 minute run. Running may not be for you, and that’s okay. Take a walk with a friend, join a step aerobics or Zumba class, play a game of basketball with your kids – be creative and do what it takes to meet that 10,000 step mark each day. 
  • Drinking water – hydration is a major contributor to weight loss and overall health. The standard is to consume the equivalent of half of your body weight in ounces in water each day. Believe me, there are many days that I would prefer a coffee to water, but I am finding that staying hydrated is a great way to maintain my energy levels. If I am properly hydrated the caffeine isn’t as crucial. Get a refillable water bottle that you like and keep it on your desk or near you wherever you are. I’m not a fan of drinking out of plastic so I found a glass water bottle that I love.
  • Getting to the gym – I always advised my clients to put their workouts on their calendars. You wouldn’t skip a meeting or lunch with a friend, so don’t skip gym time you have scheduled for yourself. I am finally taking my own advice and have all of the classes I plan to take on my calendar. When I miss a class it is staring me right back in the face. Another thing is to recognize what the most appropriate time of the day is for you to exercise – if you aren’t a morning person, don’t expect that bouncing out of bed at 5am to hit the gym before work is going to come easy. Be realistic about the expectations you set for yourself with exercise. I’m learning a ton of lessons in the ‘getting to the gym category’ but I’ll stop with this last one for now – something is better than nothing. If you only have 10 minutes, then do a few push-ups, crunches and jumping jacks. Just do something!
  • Making good food choices – planning and preparation are key to good food choices, both during the work day and at home. I’ve found that bringing healthy options to the office is a great way to ensure I don’t skip lunch or make an unhealthy choice. I don’t always have time in the morning so when cleaning up from dinner I take a few extra moments to make a lunch. When heading out to lunch with co-workers I make sure to first check out the salads or light plate offerings and always ask for dressing or sauces on the side. Week night dinners are often now crockpot meals or easy recipes and I’m saving the more time consuming cooking for the weekend. And hey, there’s nothing wrong with heating up leftovers for dinner. 

I’m enjoying my job and while it’s been a bit of a struggle to maintain my focus on health and fitness while transitioning back to an office environment, I’m embracing the journey. By trading my gym shoes for high heels I’m gaining a better understanding of the reality of working moms everywhere. 

I’m confident I’ll find my way and hopefully I can help inspire others along the way too.

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Why I Stopped Counting Calories

Even before I was a trainer I believed in the value of logging calories – and I still do. Before the days of smart phones I would keep track of everything in a notebook. Then along came great apps like LoseIt and MyFitness Pal which made it much easier to log my caloric intake. 

Because I still believe in the value of food journals I want to take a few moments to share with you the benefits of keeping one of your own.

Food Journals Create Awareness

Many times we aren’t aware of how much we are actually consuming. By keeping a record you can take an honest look at your caloric intake for the day. This can be extremely eye opening and can raise your awareness to areas you may be able to cut back. For instance, many people don’t recognize the calories associated with beverages because it’s not a meal. Eliminating juices, coffee drinks with heavy syrups, and reducing alcohol intake are an easy way to cut back on unnecessary calories.

Food Journals Establish Accountability

When I logged my food I paused to think about every food choice. Did I really want Hershey kisses bad enough to account for 200 calories of my daily allowance? Probably not. By tracking your food intake you are much more likely to think twice about a food choice rather than just mindlessly consuming it.

Food Journals Reveal Patterns

There are a number of things you can learn about your eating patterns through food journals. Do you snack more at night if you skip breakfast? Are you always looking for something to snack on at 3pm when the kiddos are getting home from school? Do you crave junk food after consuming alcohol? These are just a few examples of what you might discover through food journaling. We all have our own patterns and food journaling is a great way to learn more about your own.

Food Journals Reflect Nutritional Deficiencies

Many times we are not getting the proper balance of carbs, proteins and fats and through food journaling you can discover which areas you may be under or over-consuming. Thankfully most of the apps available now will give you a breakdown of your nutritional intake. In general this is what you should be consuming:

  • Protein: approximately 50 to 70 grams (depending on body size) or 12 – 20% of your caloric intake
  • Carbs: a minimum of 125 grams, optimal 350 to 400 grams or 55 – 65% of caloric intake **NOTE: these are healthy carbs from fruits and veggies, NOT processed carbs found in pre-packed and processed foods
  • Fat: approximately 30 to 65 grams depending on caloric consumption, or 25 – 30% caloric intake

If you want to read more on the benefits of Food Journaling take a look at couple of my previous blog posts, ‘Keeping a Log‘ and ‘Keeping a Record.’

So with all of these benefits why in the world would I stop counting my calories? I’ve been working towards clean eating for many years. In fact, my daughter Ella once told me that I must have different taste buds from the rest of the family since I chose carrots over chips for a snack. 

I’ve recently discovered that for me, food journaling makes me overly obsessed with calories. As a result I make some very poor and damaging choices.

For instance, I am so fearful of going over my calories that I am likely to skip a meal (maybe even two) to compensate for the pizza I am going to eat for dinner. I’m so obsessed with staying within my limits that I limit my protein intake to avoid the extra calories. So in my effort to be healthy, I’m achieving the exact opposite: a screwed up metabolism and a body vulnerable to sickness and injury. 

So I stopped journaling and started focusing on three things:

  1. Recognizing Hunger
  2. Portion Sizes
  3. Smart Choices

Recognizing Hunger

I’m no longer bound to meal time because the clock says so. I am listening to my body and eating when I’m hungry and stopping when I’m full. Sometimes that means breakfast is only a green smoothie. Other mornings it may be a smoothie and egg whites. Which brings me to…

Portion Sizes

I am concentrating on staying true to portion sizes. Anything, even pizza, eaten in the proper portion size and moderation can be a part of a healthy lifestyle. So now instead of starving myself all day for pizza, I make sure that I also have a salad with my pizza.

Smart Choices

Having a salad with my pizza is just one example of making smart choices. I’m far less likely to eat 4 slices if I start with a salad. Not only will the salad help to fill me up but it is a great reminder of what good food tastes like as compared to fatty processed food.

So I’ve stopped counting calories because for me it was becoming a destructive behavior. Rather than feeling oppressed by food, I feel empowered to make the right choices.

My goal in sharing this with you today is to empower you to discover what works best for YOU. Life is not a one size fits all. For some, food journaling is the exact tool that empowers them, if that’s you – I encourage you to keep it up! I whole-heartedly believe journaling can be an integral part of a healthy lifestyle, however, it is just not a tool that works for me.

When it comes to living a healthy life take time to consider what helps you to feel the best about yourself – if something makes you feel worse about yourself, find a new way. 

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Focusing on the Gains not the Losses

Prior to our move I spent on average 6 hours a day, Monday through Friday teaching and training. I was at my peak condition and never felt better. It was probably the first time I can remember in my adult life where I stopped critiquing myself in the mirror. 

But it wasn’t just all about my physical appearance. It was also one of the first times that I felt like I had a good handle on dealing with stress. There is so much truth to the release of endorphins when working out. That’s not to say I never got upset, but I was much more likely to let things roll than to react to something I had no control over anyway.

I slept better, I consistently ate better, I was generally a happier and more positive person.

Now don’t get me wrong, we couldn’t be more thankful for our move and my husband’s new career. It’s been a true blessing to our entire family. But as with all changes, there is a transition period. While I was focused on getting everyone settled here I kind of lost sight of who I was and what I needed to be whole.

I joined a gym near our house but struggled to get into a consistent routine. I’d have a good week, then a bad week, a good week, then two bad weeks. I just couldn’t find a rhythm. 

I was able to keep us eating generally healthy until summer hit and then fattening BBQs and eating out were so much easier after a long day of lounging at the pool. Notice I wasn’t swimming at the pool – just lounging.

The more inactive I became the worse my sleep patterns were and while I can’t say I was stressed out, I certainly didn’t have the calm I had come to know.

All of these things contributed to my clothes fitting tighter and tighter and longer periods of examination in the mirror. I reverted back to that girl who tried on 5 different things before deciding on an outfit that I hoped would hide the imperfections I couldn’t stop staring at.

I had not only lost all of the progress I had gained physically, I had lost the confidence and the happiness that had previously defined me.

My husband had a long week of travel which left me to do some deep soul searching. It was during that week I realized it was time to find myself again.

With the kiddos back in school and our family operating on a more normal schedule it’s been much easier for me to consistently hit the gym and make healthy meals. 

I’ve discovered that while the gym I have belonged to is close and cheap, I don’t feel challenged by their classes and I’m likely to make excuses for not going. On the other hand I’ve discovered both a Boot Camp and a Boxing gym that I can’t get enough of!

The past two weeks have been a great reminder of who I was and why I loved being in the fitness industry. It feels good to have sore muscles, I like pushing myself so hard that I have to catch my breath and being drenched in sweat is the best remedy for stress or a bad mood.

The numbers on my scale haven’t really changed, and my clothes aren’t yet fitting that much different but I’m not going to focus on that – all of that will come with time. What I am choosing to focus on is that I am getting stronger and healthier with each workout and healthy meal. I will not let my return to health be defined by watching the numbers on my scale go down, I will define myself and my success by shutting down the negativity and self-criticism and replacing it with confidence and courage to keep going.

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Move the Candy Dish

This was the first year that I committed to giving something up for Lent. Once the 40 days were over I began thinking about how I could continue to use 40 day fasts to improve different areas of my life.

Now if you’ve read my past blogs you know that I am not a fan of adopting diet plans that involve complete deprivation. While totally eliminating certain foods can be a contributing factor in achieving positive results, I find more often than not when faced with total deprivation it becomes more of a test of your willpower than learning appropriate portions. That said, a controlled fast may offer you a great opportunity to learn more about your controlling your cravings or managing your time.

Let me share with you my 3 (or 4) step plan for controlled fasts…

Please note that the information included in this blog entry is specifically targeted at modifying a single behavior. If you are interested in doing a complete fast that involves removing entire food groups or food all together there are a number of serious considerations and you should consult with your doctor prior to beginning a fast.

Recognition

The first step is taking some time to acknowledge unhealthy habits. I encourage you to think of this from both angles because modifying behavior isn’t always about removing something.

Make a list of those things you do too frequently and those that you don’t do frequently enough. Here’s two sample lists to give you an idea…

Too Frequently

  • Eating candy
  • Drinking soda
  • Going to bed too late
Not Frequently Enough
  • Reading
  • Praying
  • Drinking water

I discovered that I was developing an unhealthy craving for candy. During the Lenten season jelly beans were abound and what started as 1 or 2 was turning into handfuls at a time. Not good. So the day after Easter began my ‘candy fast.’

Removal

The next step is to remove the temptation. It sounds easy enough but in reality this can be difficult. For me, I have 3 children who had just received Easter baskets filled with candy so locking the house down from candy wasn’t an option.

Since I couldn’t physically remove the temptation I moved the candy dish. I cleaned out a junk drawer in our kitchen and moved all of the candy from its previous home on the counter into that drawer. Did I know it was there? Of course. But without the candy sitting on the counter it was no longer a consistent temptation every time I was in the kitchen.

So find a way to release yourself from the temptation. If you are trying to refrain from Starbucks maybe you will have to adjust your route a little so you aren’t tempted each time you drive by, or maybe you are trying to refrain from watching too much television so put the remote up and away so it’s not as easy to turn it on and surf the channels. There are plenty of ways you can ‘remove’ the temptation so be creative.

Now if it’s a behavior that you don’t do frequently enough find ways to make it part of your daily schedule. Let’s say you want to spend more time reading. Instead of waiting until right before bedtime when you are already exhausted, select a time during the day to sit and read. You may want to only start with a 10-minute commitment and then build on it each week. Or if you find that nighttime is the best for reading make sure you head to bed earlier. This will help you to get in your reading time before your lids get heavy and you have to read the same sentence over and over again.

Replacement

Step three is where willpower comes into play and I’ll be honest with you willpower sometimes just isn’t enough so you need to find a replacement for the behavior you are trying to avoid.

My cravings weren’t necessarily rooted in desire for  ‘candy,’ but more that I wanted something sweet. For me that’s fixed easy enough with a piece of fruit.  But what if you are trying to give up drinking soda and you rely on that caffeine? Try unsweetened tea instead and add only enough sweetener to make it palatable to you.

This approach is also effective when trying to increase the frequency of a behavior. For instance, let’s say you don’t drink enough water. So grab yourself a cool refillable BPA-free water bottle and set it on your desk. Instead of heading to the coffee pot to refill your mug throughout the day drink your water. Or if you are trying to eat more vegetables eat them first off of your plate rather than leaving them for last when you have already filled up on your protein.

Whatever the behavior is you can find a healthy substitute that allows you to either replace the behavior or increase the frequency. After the fast you may actually find you like the substitute better.

Replacement is slightly different when you think about behaviors that require time. Any modification that requires an adjustment in the use of your time will also require you to identify ‘wasted’ pockets of time during your day that can be better used to accomplish the tasks. Just as with the removal of the behavior, scheduling and planning is integral in your ability to replace wasted time with productive habits.

Reintroduction (if appropriate)

Not everything should be reintroduced back into your life. If it is a habit that is harmful to your health like smoking or staying up too late or driving too fast the controlled fasting period should be seen as the first phase of eliminating the behavior all together. You may need to continue to work through the removal and replacement phases for years in order to gain control over the behavior.

But if you have elected to fast from something like candy it may not be necessary for you to give it up for the rest of your life. Believe me, I’m not willing to go my remaining years and never have another jelly bean. However, when I do reintroduce them back into my diet I will need to consider portions as well as my other options.

When you reintroduce something I would suggest you ask yourself the following questions:

  • How bad do I really want it? (scale of 1 to 10)
  • Knowing all of the options I have to choose from do I still need it or can I be satisfied with a better option?
  • Is it really worth it? What is it going to take for me to ‘work it off’?
  • Do I have control over my desire for the item? Will having a little only make me want more?

Certainly there are a number of other questions that you can and should ask yourself. The key is to introduce the item slowly and to truly think about your desire for the item, your ability to control the craving and your continued will to keep your desires in check.

So what’s on your list?